Our Church


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

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

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

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

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


Deacons

Tyler Ghast
David Stankus
Kent Klier
Adam Wolf
John Dryden Jr.

Steve Willis Sermons


Videos


Activities


Weekly Schedule


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

March Schedule


Sat Mar 9th
Change Your Clocks
Mon Mar 11th
Missions - 5:00 PM
C.E. - 5:00 PM
Trustees - 7:00 PM
Tue Mar 12th
Deacons - 6:00 PM

Pastor Steve Willis


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

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

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

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


Commentary


March 1st, 2018

I've always wanted to go to Chicago on St. Patrick's Day and watch them turn the Chicago River green. I have been in Chicago many times and walked along the river, trying to imagine what that must look like, but I have never been able to be there when green waters flow!

In the Bible we read of a time when a river flowed red. Now, I am not talking about the river that flows along the Texas - Oklahoma border (which inspired John Wayne's 1948 classic, Red River), but a time when an even larger river flowed red.

Moses had arrived back in Egypt to confront the reigning Pharaoh about letting the Israelites leave. One of the preliminary signs that God gave Moses to use was turning water into blood. We read about this in Exodus 7:20-21, "Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt."

This seems to be a rather extreme measure. However, it was just the beginning of the process that would eventually lead to the Israelites' freedom. God goes to any lengths necessary for his children, even making rivers run red.

Of course, the most extreme measure that God has gone to on behalf of his people was sending his Son to die for us in order that we might have the hope of eternal life. When Christ gave his life on Calvary, his blood formed a river of red that was created for our redemption.

Lent starts this month, a time when we remember his great sacrifice on our behalf. We are reminded that God will go to great lengths to free his people. Because of Christ's sacrifice, we know we can be free. A great price was eventually paid to obtain the freedom of Israel's children. Christ paid a great price to obtain our freedom. John 8:36 tells us, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." I hope you are free!

Pastor Steve Willis

Invitation


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

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

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

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


Devotionals


Tuesday March 19, 2019

A popular television show in the 80's and early 90's had a theme song that contained the lyrics "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." It is nice to be known, to have folks call you by name because they recognize you and know you. Anonymity is overrated. We are made for recognition. We do like being known by others, to have others call us by name.

God is aware of this, of course. This is the way he made us. And he doesn't disappoint us when it comes to recognizing us. The scripture says that the God of the universe, the one who is able to call every star by name, knows my name and knows your name. Isaiah 40:26 tells us, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." This same God who can call each star by name knows me and is totally aware of what is taking place in my life

If you want to go where someone knows your name, you don't have to go very far. God knows you and He is everywhere. That means there is actually nowhere you can go where your name is not known! . Matthew 10:30 tells us, "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." When you are faced with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy solution, remember God knows you and will be there to help. If he knows and takes care of stars, he can take care of you.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 18, 2019

I need to be careful when I speak these words, but it has been two years since I have been in the hospital. Well, as a patient at least. Recently, I read a post of a friend of mine who is a little older than me and was experiencing his first hospital stay. I thought that was marvelous. Not the fact that he was in the hospital, but that it was his first time. By the way, it sounds like all is going well for him.

I continue to have doctor visits, as most folks do, and I have one particular malady that needs to be monitored, but at least I have been able to avoid the place with the funny beds. As I stated earlier, at least as a patient.

One comment from my surgeon after one of my more recent procedures was, "I cannot make you a young man again." That is a true fact. We have surgeries and treatments and hope they will help us regain what we once had. In many cases, they won't.

For the follower of Christ, there is a promise that someday we will be better than we ever were. I John 3:2-3 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. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

I know physically I will never be as I once was. This is the nature of our existence. I know that more changes are in store for me in this regard. But God promises me a future where not only will I be restored to what I once was, I will actually be better than I ever was. That is our hope as believers. This spiritual surgery will take place at his appearance. To this I say, even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 17, 2019

Are you wearing green today? If not, you are in danger of getting pinched. I am not sure where that custom entered into the things done on St. Patrick's Day, but it sits on the shelf all through the year just waiting to be renewed on this day, just like turning the Chicago River green, or eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking green milkshakes.

I have heard that the "pinch" originated in America in the 1700's. Wearing green supposedly made you invisible to leprechauns, who had a penchant for pinching people (pardon the pun). The pinch reminded people of this.

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

These are pretty heavy ideals for a day usually marked with some lighter activity. St. Patrick manifested many godly traits in his life: forgiveness, love, patience, determination, singleness of purpose, and, above all else, a devotion to the Gospel. I don't know if this is entirely accurate or not, but it is almost as if the spiritual characteristics which he felt were the weakest in his life are those he worked the hardest to develop. These became his strengths and are the traits for which he is remembered.

The apostle Paul comments about becoming strong in our weaknesses in II Corinthians 12:9-10, "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. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Pinch yourself today even if you are wearing green. Let this pinch remind you to focus on the weaknesses you think you have in your character. Give them to God and allow them to become your strengths. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 116, 2019

It is one of the most joyous and terrifying moments of your life. Your mind races with fear, excitement, hopes, dreams, and plans. You are exhilarated and exhausted, paralyzed but purposeful. You have never known another moment that compares with this one. And as you look into the eyes of your newborn baby, you realize you never could have dreamed how amazing it truly would be. I had that experience for the first time 36 years ago last Saturday, which is the birthday of our oldest daughter, Stephanie.

In the same way, though John had seen the risen Lord before and had spent a lot of time with Him during His earthly ministry, nothing could prepare him for what the Risen, Glorified Christ would look like in all His majesty; it was terrifying and awe-inspiring. He wrote about this in Revelation 1:17-18, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 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.'"

Many of us have seen numerous images of what Jesus might have looked like during His time on earth and possibly what He looked like after the Resurrection, but just as John was paralyzed by the sight of the Risen, Glorified Savior, we too will find ourselves unable to comprehend the moment when we finally see what John saw.

Bart Millard, lead singer of "Mercy Me" does his best to describe that moment:

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of You be still?

Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing "llelujah!"?

Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, I can only imagine.

That may be all we can do for now, but someday we will do more than imagine.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 15, 2019

This is a repeat from last year, but because of the date, I am posting it again.

"Beware the Ides of March" is a line found in "Julius Caesar," a play written by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare's play is based upon the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. The date of his murder corresponds to the 15th of March in our current calendar, the "Ides of March." In early Roman calendars, March was the first month of the year, and the Ides of March was an important religious holiday.

According to the historian Plutarch, Caesar had been warned by a seer to be careful of the Ides of March. As he was on his way to a meeting of the Senate on that date, he passed the seer and said, "The Ides of March have come." The seer replied, "Aye, but they have not gone." At the meeting, he was attacked and killed by more than 60 conspirators, including his friend Brutus.

During the course of our lives, we will receive advice from a number of sources. Some of this advice is solicited and some unsolicited. Obviously, it is impossible to listen to all the voices and apply all of the suggestions and guidance we receive. Therefore, it is important to listen with discernment. We do need advisors - people whom we can trust to give us advice that will be in our best interests. We need people who will not just tell us what we want to hear. This is important personally, it is important in our vocational lives, and it is important in our spiritual lives. In addition, we should remember good advice can come from sources that are unexpected. So, don't immediately dismiss insights given from sources that are other than usual. Take some time to investigate and use some common sense.

Proverbs 19:20 tells us, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." Julius Caesar is a person who gives us a good example of what can happen when you don't listen to advice.

A biblical example of someone who failed to listen to advice is found in the life of Reheboam. Reheboam was the foolish son of King Solomon who caused a divided kingdom when he did not heed direction from sources not in his "circle." II Chronicles 10:8 tells us, "But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him." The results were disastrous. "Beware the Ides of March," may be good advice for us as well! Don't be afraid to listen to others!

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 14, 2019

Richard De Haan once wrote about Hudson Taylor: "During one of his sermons, Hudson Taylor, pioneer missionary to China, filled a glass with water and placed it on a table in front of him. While he was speaking, he pounded his fist hard enough to make the water splash onto the table. He then explained, 'You will come up against much trouble. But when you do, remember, only what's in you will spill out.'"

So, what spills out when you encounter a troublesome situation? Let's say you are mistreated or misunderstood, do you respond calmly with patience, or do you respond loudly with anger? Living under the control of the Holy Spirit can help us with our response when we encounter one of life's jolts. We are encouraged in Ephesians 5:18 to "be filled with the Spirit." When we are controlled by the Spirit of God, our response to life's little surprises will be dominated by patience and kindness.

We cannot control our situations, but with the help of the Spirit of God, we can control our response to our situations. Let your inner being be dominated by God's Spirit.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 13, 2019

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906. She was a follower of Christ who made a significant impact on 19th century life in the United States, so much so that there is a dollar coin which bears her likeness and there is a statue of her in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. One usually associates her with her efforts to obtain the right to vote for women, something that actually didn't take place until fourteen years after her death, but she was also an outspoken foe of slavery. As a result of her efforts, she faced a good deal of abuse including having things thrown at her, angry mobs, death threats, and even being hung in effigy.

Have you ever wondered what it is that motivates folks to vigorously pursue activities in spite of harsh, sometimes violent, opposition? Anthony tirelessly pursued freedom for slaves and voting rights for women in spite of what she faced. Most of us find such a mindset a little hard to understand.

We need to be thankful for those who energetically pursue avenues of change in spite of hardships. Without these brave souls, many needed changes would be delayed and might not even take place at all. Anthony's pursuit of equality was fueled by her strong belief of the words of the apostle Paul, another person well-acquainted with violent opposition. In Galatians 3:28-29, we read, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Let's be thankful for those who devote themselves to a needed change. Let's be willing to take a stand ourselves in order to see God glorified and bring about something to benefit others. Sometimes change comes with a price, and be grateful for those who are willing to pay.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 12, 2019
I remember an incident when I was a young boy in school when two of my classmates got into a scuffle during recess. I knew that if they continued, they would get in real trouble, maybe even be expelled from school for a time. So, I intervened and broke up the fight. Another of our classmates said to me, "Why didn't you let them fight? It was fun watching them!" I disagreed and, for some reason, quoted Matthew 5:9 to him. I think I had just learned it in Sunday School or our youth group or something. This verse says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." My classmate looked at me as if I had two heads or something and just walked away.

Those who seek peace in their lives, and do what they can to settle differences between others are truly blessed. Conflicts are inevitable, what we need are those with cool heads who can speak to situations where reason is needed to head off a problem. We have enough "hotheads" in the world. We need those who will keep calm when tempers flare.

Eric Liddell, after his Olympic championships, served as a missionary to China for 20 years. He died in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. During his time there, he made a profound impression on those in the camp because of his efforts to preserve peace in stressful times. Even the guards noticed his penchant for conflict resolution. One guard upon his death commented, "He was a Christian, wasn't he?"

Are you known as a peacemaker or a trouble maker? You and only you can determine what you make.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 11, 2019

One of the things I learned from my mother was this, "Your actions speak so loud, I can scarcely hear what you are saying." Now, Mom said that to me over and over as I was growing up; and she reinforced the importance of this principle through how she lived before me.

Maxie Vaughn was an NFL linebacker who played in the 60 s and early 70 s. He played for the Eagles, Rams, and the Redskins, and was voted All-Pro 9 times. He also played in 9 Pro Bowls. Once, while playing for Los Angeles, he came to the sidelines and slammed his helmet to the ground after a rather bone-headed play. TV cameras caught the action. Sometime later, he was watching his young son play Junior League football. After making a mistake on the field, his son came to the sidelines, took off his helmet and gave it a fling. Vaughn confronted his son about this after the game. "But Dad," the son replied, "I saw you do this on TV!" Vaughn's response was, well, actually, he had no response.

Make sure your actions back up what you say. It is so easy to talk one way while we are walking another way. You aren't fooling anyone but yourself when you do this. We need to "practice what we preach." James puts it this way, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? (James 2:14) Mom was right. Actions speak louder than words goes a lot further than "Don't do as I do, do as I say."

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 10, 2019

Many years ago, a charity fundraiser was held in Rochester, New York. Thirty people were involved in a "Touch-a-Thon." They were required to touch a red dot on a car. The person who kept "in touch" with the car the longest would win a new automobile. They could not break contact with the car at all, except during the 15-minute breaks they were given every four hours. After four days of competition, one woman and one man were left. The woman lost the competition when she reached into her purse to find a fingernail file. Once could say that she was "out of touch."

It is dangerous to become "out of touch" with God. Sometimes we let desires get in the way of our relationship with God. We let cares cause us to drift. We allow concern about trivial things to cause us to lose touch with God. Solomon warned against this in Ecclesiastes. There he writes of his own experience of losing touch with God because of his pursuit of all things worldly. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."

Losing touch with God led Solomon on a pathway of discovering the meaningless. After a while of this pursuit, he realized that the most important path for a person is the one which keeps us in touch with God. He writes in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." In other words, the best thing a person can do with his or her life is to make sure to keep in touch with God. We often say to someone "keep in touch" just as a parting gesture. When God says "keep in touch," he really means it!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 09, 2019

Behind every great discovery there is usually a story of great persistence, even when the discovery is "accidental." How many light bulbs did Edison make before he got it right? How many formulas did researchers go through before finding the most effective propellant for rockets? Did the Wright brothers fly on their first attempt? WD 40 is called WD 40 because it took 40 attempts to develop the right "water displacement" lubricant for aerospace applications. Persistence is an important quality when seeking the right result.

Another area where persistence is important is in our life with Christ. There are a number of examples of Christ honoring persistence among those seeking his aid. Some examples are the woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5:25-29); the centurion who sought aid for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13); and the Canaanite woman whose daughter was afflicted by a demon (Matthew 15:22-29).

Christ also spoke of persistence in our prayer life. Luke 18:1 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." The story that followed was of a widow who continued to pursue a decision from a judge about someone who was giving her trouble.

Christ tells us to continue to pursue him with regard to matters about which we are concerned. The process of asking, seeking, and pursuing provides benefits for us. Often, we don't understand the process or the need for such persistence, but we need to remember that Christ is working with us through this time. What is being accomplished in our lives through our persistent prayer is in our best interests. Never forget that Christ will always deal with us through grace and mercy in our time of need.

Christ asks for persistence as we seek him. We demonstrate this trait in many areas of our lives - make sure we demonstrate persistence in our pursuit of Christ's will.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 08, 2019

On March 13, 1964 in Queens, New York, Kitty Genovese was attacked and fatally stabbed. What made her murder so compelling is that there were at least 40 witnesses to the crime who ignored her cries for help and simply let her die.

History repeated itself in Queens on April 30, 2010. Hugo Tale-Yax stepped in to help a lady being assaulted on the street. The knife-wielding attacker turned on Tale--Yax, stabbing him several times in the chest. Both the assailant and the female victim fled the scene.

Twenty-five people walked by Tale-Yax as he lay bleeding on the sidewalk without stopping to help. A 911 call sent helpers to the wrong address. Tale-Yax died from his wounds and his body was eventually discovered by emergency personnel responding to another call.

Events such as this are simply inexplicable. Much has been written about "the by-stander effect" and why people don't respond. To me, the answer is simple - people simply do not care. Apathy towards the plight of others is a real problem in our society.

We need to pray and work to make sure this attitude does not infect us. We need take steps in our lives to make sure that we are caring people who demonstrate caring principles in times when others need attention. Turning your heads from others and simply "walking by" should be an action that is foreign to the follower of Christ.

We need to be caring people because we serve a caring God. I Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Indeed, He does. And since God cares for us so deeply, we need to emulate this trait in our lives and show deep concern for others. We need to show concern for others' spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.

Don't let the "by-stander effect" pollute your behavior when you see others who could benefit from your help. Proverbs 29:7 informs us of the caring attitude we should have, "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." Be righteous - show your care for God and for others!

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 07, 2019

Some years ago, I found out that our house needed a new roof. I was a little taken aback by this, as the roof was not that old. I remembered that the roof had a guarantee, so I talked to the merchant where the shingles were purchased. The company that manufactured the shingles had gone out of business. So much for the lifetime guarantee.

We encounter this circumstance many times in life. Human promises can only go so far. However, God's promises will go as far as they need. His word is secure and when He speaks of a guarantee, we know bankruptcy is not possible. One thing that God guarantees is our eternal life with Him when we have trusted Him. II Corinthians 5:2 says, "Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." Hebrews 7:22 tells us, "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant."

When God speaks of a guarantee, we know we can put this down as something that is already done. What God has promised will be the way it is because God will never go out of business.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 06, 2019

"If you don't use it, you lose it." I know you have heard this statement many times. And, for the most part, this statement is true. We may have abilities to do a number of things, but if we don't keep doing them, we tend to become less adept in our performance. This is true with playing an instrument, operating machinery, speaking a language, just about anything you can think of.

I can think of many examples for me, but one that comes to mind is my botany skills. My undergraduate degree was in biology. I really enjoyed botany. Once upon a time, I could take you through an area of woods, grassland, or other terrain, and could identify just about every plant we might come across. I could tell you the family of the plant, the genus and species, and in many instances, a couple of beneficial characteristics about the plant. Well, that was 40 years ago. I am sorry to say that I have let that ability slide. I didn't use it; therefore, I have pretty much lost it.

The same can be said about our spiritual gifts. God has given to each of us. Ephesians 4:7-8 tells us, "But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.'" Many of us fail to utilize our spiritual gifts, and are in danger of losing the benefit we derive from the gift. If we say we don't want to do something, or don't want to utilize the gift God has for us, God says, "Fine, I have other people with that gift. I'll use them!"

Don't lose your usefulness! Take the time to identify your gift and exercise your gift! God has given it to you not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of others. When you fail to utilize that which God has given you, you fail others! God gave you your gift, and he doesn't make mistakes!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 05, 2019

Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi because they had released an evil spirit from a young girl that had allowed her to be clairvoyant, thus eliminating her ability to make money for her master. They had been beaten severely, put in chains, and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-24). At midnight, they were singing praises to God when an earthquake was sent that opened all the doors and released all the prisoners from their chains. The jailer was about to take his own life when Paul intervened, telling him no one was gone. Not one prisoner had left his cell. All these events - the singing, the earthquake, the fact that no one ran - had an effect on the jailer because his question was, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)?" Paul's response was, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - you and your household (vs. 31)."

Those of us who are followers of Christ know the truth in this statement, yet we often allow the idea of belief to grow a little stale and cold. We almost take this act for granted. We take for granted the impact that our belief in Christ has on our lives. We don't allow our belief to grow and we forget what our belief means for us - we are saved! We are saved from a fate worse that what the Philippian jailer would have experienced at the hands of the authorities should the prisoners have escaped. We have become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

A Bible translator working in Africa was having a problem translating the word "believe." He achieved a breakthrough when his assistant from the tribe suggested he use a word that translated "the heat in my heart." This is how belief should translate in our lives - the heat in my heart. There should be a constant burning because of what our belief means for us, because we have been freed from sin and the chains are gone. There should be a burning to do God's will and to walk more closely to him. There should be a burning to see others come to Christ. There should be a passion for the Savior and for his ministry. There should indeed be "heat in our hearts." We need to be like Jeremiah when he said, "his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:9)."

Let the fire of belief burn brightly in your heart - so brightly that you cannot hold it in but need to let it out! Others need to feel heat in their hearts!

Pastor Steve
Monday March 04, 2019

A few years ago, summer road construction projects were in danger of not being completed. The reason for this was a shortage of the special paint that is used for road striping. To be more accurate, there was a shortage of the additives that give the paint its special reflective properties. Consequently, since the striping couldn't be done when the roads were completed, the projects were in danger of being shut down as it would be dangerous for folks to travel on unmarked roads.

We need to make sure that we don't have a shortage of reflective properties in our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to reflect the character of Christ in our lives. Sometimes it seems as if we have a shortage of that which helps us reflect Christ to others.

Make sure you don't have a shortage of these properties in your life. People need to see Christ. The way they see Christ on earth is through our lives. Paul speaks of living in Christ in Philippians 1:20-21, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ." I hope you live for Christ, and I hope that for you to live is Christ. In this way, you will reflect his life for others with no danger of a shortage!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 03, 2019

Some years ago, John Ortburg wrote a book entitled, "When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box." We used a Bible study based on this book at our church. In the book, Ortburg uses the game of Monopoly as a metaphor for life and out attitude about life. The point of the study is to show that a philosophy of life based upon the acquisition and accumulation of stuff is incorrect because when the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

As I was thinking about games that are metaphors of our lives, one that comes to mind reflecting the philosophy of life we should have is Dominoes. The point of Dominoes is to lose all of your pieces. The first player to nothing is the winner. It is not good to have "bones" at the end of the game.

This reflects more realistically the attitude we should have as followers of Christ. We should realize that, with regard to material things, we came into the world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. Job said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart (Job 1:21)." So, it is better to work on giving away what we have for the betterment of others. It is better to live to glorify God with what we have. The second part of Job 1:21 says, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

If we need an example of someone who gave it all away, we need look no farther than our Savior. Christ gave all for us, and he also tells us, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul (Matthew 16:26)." Live to give!

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 02, 2019

Did you ever see the movie "Somewhere in Time?" The movie, which stars Jane Seymore and the late Christopher Reeves, is about a man who goes to sleep in a room in a hotel. He wakes up and finds that he is in the same room, but it is about a hundred years earlier. He meets a young lady with whom he becomes quite intrigued. Of course, the problem is she is in one "time zone," and he is in another. This makes for some interesting situations.

We don't have any choice as to what time period in which we are born. However, we can choose how we are going to live during our time in history. How are you choosing to live your life?

Mordecai pointed out to Esther that she was born for the time in which she lived. Esther faced a great dilemma - a dilemma that called for her to literally put her life on the line for the sake of her people. Mordecai encouraged her to make the right decision when he said to her, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this (Esther 4:13-14)?"

Living close to God will allow us to find ourselves in situations where we may have the opportunity to intervene in a positive way. We cannot choose when we live, but we can choose how we live. And "who knows but that you have come (to this circumstance) for such a time as this?"

Pastor Steve
Friday March 01, 2019

Today is March 1 and, where I live, March seems to be coming in sort of on the lamb side, but it looks like it is going to get lion-ish this weekend. Speaking of March 1, I find it hard to believe it is March 1 already! Wasn't it just yesterday that we celebrated New Year's Eve?

Virgil said, "Time flies never to be regained." Isn't that the truth? Let me throw something rather cosmic at you. Today is March 1, 2019. Yesterday we anticipated tomorrow being March 1, 2019. When March 1, 2019 arrived, it would be a momentous event in that it would be the first March 1, 2019, to ever be experienced. We are experiencing it right now (If you are reading this on March 1, 2019). However, tomorrow will be March 2, 2019 and March 1, 2019, will have passed into history, never to be experienced again. We will never again have an opportunity to do something on March 1, 2019. No one will ever be able to do something on March 1, 2019. It is gone. So, how are we doing with the day we have?

Of course, what I just wrote applies to every day we have. Bottom line: do what you can to make each day count. Psalm 90:12 advises us, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Ephesians 5:15-16 says, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." Life is short - handle with care, or as someone further defined - life is short, handle with prayer. Have a happy day!

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 28, 2019

I have always heard that while Rome burned, Emperor Nero played his violin. Well, he more than likely played his lyre, as the violin was not developed until the 16th century. Why would he have been so nonchalant? Well, some historians think he may have set the fire himself. He wanted to burn the city so that he could rebuild the city and name it after himself. After the fire, he needed a scapegoat. Christians proved to be a convenient target for his false accusations. Nero was responsible for a horrendous outbreak of persecution against Christians. Christians were used as human torches, made to face wild animals in coliseums, and brutalized unmercifully. He likely was responsible for the deaths of Paul and Peter.

The results of the persecution were not what one might expect. In the wake of the incredible suffering, the Church grew, multiplying tremendously. Other times of persecution followed, each serving to cause the opposite of expected results. The message of Christ spread and thrived as a result of the persecution.

Historically, the church has thrived under persecution. God has a purpose for persecution. What would seem to be something that would destroy is used by God to bring growth. Yes, this is hard to understand, and this is why we need to look to God and not to circumstances in our lives.

Emily Sper wrote "The purposes of God are right, although we may not see, just how He works all things for good, and transforms tragedy." I Peter 4:12-13 says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." Persecution is not desired, but those who think it is a means to destroy God's work are clueless to God's design.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 27, 2019

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River near Minneapolis, Minnesota, was not able to handle the additional stress of rush hour traffic and collapsed. Thirteen people were killed and several more were injured. The stress was just too much, and harmful consequences were the result.

Humans face additional stress at times as well. We are designed to handle stress, but sometimes we may feel that we are approaching the point where we are exceeding the load limit. When this is the case, make sure you are doing what you need to deal with the stress. Get your rest, seek help from others, break the problems down into manageable events, and, most importantly, seek God's provision. God will allow stress in our lives, but trust in Him to not put more on us than we can handle. Trust in His provision, as did Paul. Paul referred to the promise of God, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9)

God will be there to provide strength when we face times of stress. Put the load on Him. Let God help you with what you face. In this way, harmful consequences can be avoided.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 26, 2019

I believe I have written about this before, but it bears repeating. We are good at transforming items that are supposed to be just a convenience in our lives into items that more or less command our lives. The telephone is a good example of this. Just a few short years ago, if someone tried to call you on a phone, you only knew about the call if you were physically present to answer it. Then came answering machines, followed by caller ID, and now, of course, cell phone usage is almost ubiquitous.

Cell phones were at one time an item of convenience, but now they rule our lives. No matter where we are or what we are doing, if that phone rings, we need to answer it. Recently, I saw an illustration of this in the parking lot of a food store. A man exited the store with a number of bags in both hands. As he got to his car, his cell phone rang. I heard him say something that I would not repeat orally or in print, drop all of his bags, pull out his phone and angrily answer the call. I thought, "Why did he have to answer the call?"

We have turned an item of convenience into something that dominates us. Why? Because we are good at doing this. We are good at taking that which should be a convenience or something that should be a relaxing pastime or simply a diversion, and making it the boss of us. What is bad is that we do this with just about anything except what, or rather who, should be the boss of us - God. And what have we done with God? We have turned him into a matter of convenience. We attend church, if it is convenient. We give, if it is convenient. We help serve in the church, if it is convenient.

The Pharisees did this. This may be an over-simplification, but they turned non-essentials into essentials and ignored what was truly essential when it came to the worship of God. In Matthew 23, we find a rebuke of the Pharisees given by Christ. In the midst of this rebuke, we find this statement that pretty well sums up the problem: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel." (vss. 23-24)

We need to beware of transforming an item of convenience into an item of command. We should concentrate on that which is truly important. Buck the trend - it's more than a matter of convenience!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 25, 2019

Heroes are people who respond to a period of great duress in a strong and aggressive way to prevent a wrong from taking place or to do what is right. Hebrews 11 records the names of several people we might consider heroes because of the way they responded to negative circumstances and made a real difference. A common element these people shared was their faith. This is mentioned several times throughout the chapter. By faith these people made a difference in their lives and in the lives of those around them. They had a profound relationship with God that drove them to act in a way they knew was in line with who they were as a child of God in spite of whatever else they experienced or encountered

What is especially compelling about this chapter is that as we look at those who are mentioned, we know what is written about them includes their failures as well as their successes. We see the bad and the good in their character and their actions. This is encouraging because we see that heroes are normal people that neither live trouble-free lives nor are perfect in any way. So, in other words, you can be a hero. Now, you really should not seek to be a hero, but you should realize that you should seek to live faithfully. As you do, you will find yourselves at times called upon to respond in an unusual way in a difficult situation.

God calls us to live by faith and realize that at times our faith will be tested. Our focus should be upon our life before God and following him, knowing that he will not be all that far ahead and is committed to leading you in the right path. Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." Follow the path of a hero; follow the path of faith.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 24, 2019

Do you like brain teasers? I sort of like them. Anyway, I came across this one from Mart De Haan : "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? Think about it." Yeesh.

There are riddles and brain teasers found in the scripture. Remember the story of Samson? He was into riddles. How about this on: "Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet"? Read Judges 14 if you don't recall this story. Of course, his thing with riddles was one of his habits that got him in trouble.

Another place in scripture where we find a riddle is in Nathan's confrontation of David after the debacle with Bathsheba. You can read about this in I Samuel 12. David demanded to know the name of the man that Nathan spoke about in his "brain teaser." You perhaps recall Nathan's blunt response to David's request for the man's identity: "You are the man!" (12:7)

Ouch. I would not have wanted to be the answer to this brain teaser. However, if you see yourself in some of the word pictures in Scripture, don't fume. Do something to make the necessary changes so you won't be the answer. The scripture has been given to show us what we need to do, how we need to live, and what we are doing wrong. If a scriptural teaching hits close to home, or "steps on your toes" as we sometimes say, then conform to the scripture! You don't need to be the answer to a riddle! By the way, the answer to the riddle in the opening paragraph is your hair color. Remember, you are the bus driver.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 23, 2019

I have had a few hospital experiences and remember a question I was asked often, especially after surgeries: "What is your pain level?" The home care people who treated me asked me the same question. They want to know this in order to determine if I needed any pain medication. Usually my answer to this was that I was not in any need of meds. My pain level was tolerable or absent altogether.

None of us like pain. However, pain is an important reality at times. Experiencing pain when we don't know why we should be in pain is an indication that something is wrong that needs to be corrected. The location of the pain gives us an indication of what area is affected. The level of pain usually alerts us to the level of response that is necessary. The continuation of pain in the face of treatment usually indicates the need to go a different direction in the treatment. We wish we did not have to experience pain, but pain is necessary and can be beneficial.

Sometime ago, I was experiencing numbness in my fingers. Before I underwent a procedure to correct this, my inability to feel pain meant I had to exercise caution when touching certain things. I could touch something hot enough to burn my flesh without being able to sense that my flesh was being burned. The inability to feel pain was a detriment in this case.

God allows pain in our lives for a number of reasons. We do not like to feel pain, but pain is what helps us determine that something is wrong. We sometimes experience pain because of what we are doing. If this is the case, the pain is useful to warn us that we need to make corrections. Pain can also serve to remind us of what we should remember. Pain can be useful to show us what we need to do to change our character to become more like the character of Christ. Pain reminds us that our current existence is not all there is, and we need to have our eyes on more than just what we see.

Pain can also remind us of the pain that Christ endured on our behalf so that we might have hope of a life with him. Peter speaks to the presence of pain, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you." (I Peter 4:12)

Remember, as much as we don't like pain, there are reasons for our pain and paths to be followed because of the pain. The pain you experience may help you guide someone else who is dealing with pain. Pain along our path is there to shape the path.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 22, 2019

On a number of occasions I have written that life has many "unexpecteds." Usually, I am referring to a negative event when writing or speaking about these incidents. However, they do not have to be negative. Often, they are of a positive nature, and often they are opportunistic. What I mean by this is an unexpected incident that gives rise to an unexpected opportunity for service.

Some time ago, a family on their way to services at our church had a flat tire, and didn't have a spare. I wasn't expecting a phone call of this nature that Sunday morning, but that phone call turned into an opportunity for service for the many that responded and helped the folks.

Philip wasn't expecting to encounter anyone when he, at the behest of the Lord, started making his way from Jerusalem to Gaza on the main thoroughfare (read Acts 8:26-40). On the way, he encountered someone who needed his explanation about the way of salvation. As a result, the day ended with a baptism.

We don't know what encounters we might have that will lead to an act of spiritual or physical service. We don't know what lives we will intersect by chance that will bring us an opportunity to help. We should pray each day, "Lord, help me to be prepared for those encounters I will have that I did not expect that will be an opportunity of service to others and to you." Titus 3:1 tells us, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good." Ask the Lord to help you to be ready!

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 21, 2019

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 20, 2019

Oliver Stone produced the movie "JFK" in 1991. The movie was controversial because Stone fudged on many of the historical details of John Kennedy's life and his death. When confronted about this, Stone replied that his attention to detail was not all that important. What he wanted to portray was the "mythic sense" of the details. This was his interpretation of what actually took place.

Now, there is a certain degree of poetic license available in the retelling of tales, but not when you supposedly intend to portray actual history, as did Stone. What took place happened in a certain way. Fidelity to the facts of what happened is the only way to preserve true history.

Paul struggled with this in the first century. Just a few years after Christ's death and resurrection, already many were starting to claim that it was not important to focus on a literal, bodily resurrection. According to some, one could maintain the event as a "spiritual resurrection" and be true to the event. I don t think so. When you want to portray historical accuracy, attention to what actually happened is important. This is especially true when you are speaking of the resurrection. In this situation, our future is entirely dependent upon an event of the past.

Paul maintains the truth of the resurrection in I Corinthians 15:3-8. There he writes, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

Our future hope is based upon the reality of this historical truth. If it did not happen this way, our hope is jeopardized. Paul maintains the historical accuracy of the resurrection event. It happened, and we can have confidence in our position in Christ. There is no room for a "mythic sense" here. As a former professor of mine said, "When the plain sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense." Makes perfect sense to me!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 19, 2019

I threw shot put and discus in high school. Now, I wasn't all that good, but I wasn't all that bad either. I usually placed pretty high in the meets and, occasionally, I would even win. When I first started, I was terrible, which is not all that unusual. I started getting stronger by lifting weights and practicing a lot. I started getting better with my throws. Then, there came a time with both endeavors when I sort of leveled off in my improvement.

I kept practicing, kept lifting weights, kept throwing, but nothing seemed to help me get any better. My coach (Lairmore Pearson - some of you may remember him) gave me some advice that proved to be beneficial at the time, and is something I have put into practice in other endeavors. He told me that when you get to a place where nothing in your routine seems to be helping you to move upward, you probably need a change in your routine. As a thrower, that meant I needed to change something about my technique to tweak my performance. I tried his advice, and it worked! Now, as I said earlier, I was never devastating in either of these disciplines, but following his advice, I did improve and became competitive.

I have put this advice in practice in other areas in my life, including my spiritual growth. When I feel I am getting in a rut and not progressing the way I would like in my spiritual development, I begin look for areas to make a change. For example, in my Bible study, maybe it means trying to get the meaning of a certain passage by looking at it from a different perspective. Sometimes taking on a new spiritual challenge, such as a new ministry endeavor, can be a change that can help break the routine and "tweak" my performance.

I encourage you to try this advice. Maybe there is some new service you haven't tried that you should. Maybe you need to change your prayer habits a bit to enrich your prayer experience. Perhaps you need to try a different pattern of Bible reading. Little changes can sometimes be the difference that will lead to big results! You know, even God speaks of doing "new things" for his people. Isaiah 43:19 says, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Try something new - you may be pleasantly surprised at the results!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 18, 2019
Amway has a slogan "If you look for something positive, you will create something positive." Now, I am not an Amway representative, but that is a really good attitude. Johnny Mercer wrote a song entitled "Accentuate the Positive." Some of the lyrics are: "You've got to accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative, Don't mess with Mister In-Between." That is sometimes a little hard to do when we are facing circumstances that are dark and bring us down. Yet the words do offer a line of thinking that can be of help in times when we are struggling.

What can help you do this? First, develop a positive outlook. You are in control of your attitude, so make a decision to take control. What can help? Well, cultivate a desire for happiness and be willing to make changes if that would be helpful. Don't look at the circumstances and think that is all you have. A second activity that can help is to smile. Smiling makes things easier to bear. Third, learn to laugh at troublesome circumstances rather than brood over what you face. Another thing is to realize you are not alone. There are others facing what you are facing, and there are others facing things much worse. Developing a support system is an important choice. Family, friends, counselors, a pastor, are some who should be in your system.

Finally, remember the greatest source of support you have in times of trouble is your Heavenly Father. Now, I have placed this advice at this point in the list for no real reason. Looking to God for help is something that really doesn't need a place - this is something that should be understood. God is always there for you and will provide strength. In the midst of his despair, Job affirmed, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (Job 19:25-26)

One other thought - look for others you might be able to help. Giving of yourself is a way that can help strengthen you. This will help you consider what you have and remember who you are.

An example from scripture of some folks who maintained a positive attitude through a negative time are the residents of Jerusalem in Nehemiah. Nehemiah 4:6 tells us, "So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work." This positive outlook helped them overcome the criticism and interference of their neighbors, the ridicule of their enemies, the great odds of obtaining the materials and accomplish all the work needed to build and be victorious.

Do your best to look for the positive - it will help you overcome the problems and accomplish your goals.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 17, 2019

A family was very excited about an upcoming trip to go visit an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts that were discovered in caves along the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They contain much of the Hebrew Bible and other texts and provide the oldest known manuscripts of the Old Testament in existence. They provide evidence of the accuracy of Scripture.

The family was thrilled at their upcoming opportunity to see them. They spoke of it often. Their little pre-school aged son got in on the excitement as well. He told a visitor, "We are going to see the Dead Sea squirrels!" Well, he was accurate in the excitement he conveyed in his announcement, even if he was not quite right as to what they would be seeing.

Do you convey excitement about God's Word to your children? We want our children to know God's Word and to use God's Word in their lives. One of the things we need to do in order to ensure that this happens is not only teach them what the Bible says, but show them how excited we are about God's Word. Values are transmitted to our children through not only what we say, but through the emotions we express. If we want them to have an excitement about learning the Word of God, our excitement about the Word of God needs to show.

Romans 15:4 addresses the importance of learning God's Word, For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Let's show our excitement about what has been written!

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 16, 2019

Artists amaze me in the way they can take lifeless materials and "create" life. They know just how to mix colors to give realistic effects. They know techniques that give a 3D effect on a 2D canvas. They can convey warm emotions through the use of materials that are actually lifeless and, in one sense, cold. Looking at the finished work of an accomplished painter is a moving experience, even though the object at which you are looking is stationary.

What amazes me even more is what God can do with that which is lifeless. Ephesians 2:1-5 tells us about his creative activity: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved."

We need to be thankful that we have been made alive with Christ. If not, we would be just a mass of stuff with no future. Even as an artist can turn benign materials into a timeless masterpiece, God can turn hopeless individuals into people with a very bright future with Him.

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day has been observed for a long time. The Church started observing St. Valentine's Day in A.D. 500. The day was established to honor Valentine, a cleric who was martyred by Emperor Claudius II in A.D. 269. According to many stories, he was executed because he refused to honor a ban on marriages declared by the emperor. The veracity of this is not substantiated, but Valentine was certainly real, and he was executed for some reason.

During the Middle Ages, the day became associated with romantic love. Later, lovers began sending love notes, i.e. "Valentines", to each other on St. Valentine's Day. Cards began to appear in the 19th century. Then, in the 20th century, Hallmark worked its magic on the holiday, and there you are.

Whatever the real story behind St. Valentine's death, it is indeed a story of love and faith. He was put to death because of his faith and his love for Christ, which made him a target of persecution by the political power at the time.

As you celebrate Valentine's Day this year, you can use it as a day to celebrate love for others, but also let the day be a reminder of the love God has for us. A love that was so great that he enacted an incredible plan for our redemption totally apart from our ability to do anything for him. In Psalm 31:21, David declares, "Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me." Indeed, God has shown his wonderful love to all of us. We need to remember that love and celebrate that love. David also wrote, " How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings." (Psalm 36:7) That is so true! Consider this as you celebrate today! Happy Valentine's Day!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 13, 2019

A copy of the first Action Comics comic book which featured the introduction of Superman once sold at auction for $2.16 million dollars. The scarcity of the book makes it valuable. There are only 100 of these still in existence, and only a handful are in good condition. Scarcity of an item is what often sets the value. Diamonds, gold, silver, and other "precious" metals and gems are valuable because of limited availability. This is the case with many commodities.

I can think of something that is extremely valuable and is not in short supply - the grace of God that provides for us a hope of eternal life. You could not even begin to estimate what God's grace is worth. I Timothy 6:17 tells us something about what is valuable and what our perspective should be regarding value: "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."

God provides for us abundantly. God's grace is very valuable, but it certainly is not in short supply. Romans 5:17 says it this way: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!" God's invaluable grace is never in short supply!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 12, 2019

Jesus was on the road to Jericho, just days before he would enter Jerusalem for the final time. He had an encounter with a blind man. We read of this in Mark 10:46-52: "Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means 'son of Timaeus'), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' Jesus stopped and said, 'all him.' So, they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He s calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see.' 'Go,' said Jesus, 'your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road."

Cloaked within the obvious elements of this story - the question Jesus asked, the answer the beggar gave, and the response of the beggar after he was healed - is something not so obvious. Note the change in the address the beggar used. First, he called Jesus by his name, and called him "Son of David." Then, when Christ answers, the beggar responds by getting physically, spiritually, and emotionally nearer the Savior. This is inferred in from the term he uses to address Jesus after Christ's question, "Rabbi." The use of this term implied that he wanted a relationship with him. He wanted to not only get closer to Christ physically so he could be healed, but he wanted to show his trust and faith in him.

We should have the same desire. Christ has called out to us through the cross. Our response should be one indicating our desire to develop a relationship with him and to show we trust him and have faith in him. Call to the "Rabbi" today to show your desire to know him more.

Pastor Steve
Monday February 11, 2019

For most of man's history, long distance communication was accomplished through written messages. Since the latter part of the 19th century, there has been an explosion of electronic communication methods that now include the ability to see each other while we talk regardless of where we happen to be on the planet. Vocal communication is superior to written for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is just good to hear someone's voice.

That is something we need to keep in mind as we think of prayer. Some often wonder "Why pray when God knows what we are thinking?" Well, to put it simplistically, God wants to hear our voice. A great part of the joy of communication is hearing one's voice and God likes to hear our voices.

This is why worship is not done in silence. We sing, testify, speak, and pray not just for us but to glorify God who wants to hear our voices. David makes a point of God being able to hear his voice when he writes, "In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." (Psalm 5:3)

Let God hear from you - he really likes to hear your voice!

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 10, 2019

It seems that you have to be careful if you are relying on a compass for a navigational tool. Since 1989, the earth's northern magnetic pole has been shifting towards Siberia at a rate of 34 miles per year. That has accelerated from 4 miles per year in 1904. So, one needs to be careful when using a compass. You might want to consider a GPS instead, as this device relies on technology that is a little more stable and therefore more trustworthy.

We have to be careful in our spiritual lives as well. We have to be careful with shifting values and standards. Society likes to adjust what is considered to be acceptable and right. We have seen a great moral shift in our culture in the last several years. We should not rely upon societal norms when it comes to what we accept as wrong or right. We need to trust something that is more accurate and not subject to change. God has given us a moral code in the Scripture, and we should rely upon what the Bible says when it comes to living a life that glorifies Him.

Living a righteous life is a sign of maturity. The writer of Hebrews says, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (5:14) Train yourself to distinguish good from evil. Follow the right instrument.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 09, 2019

Complete dependence upon God is an absolute necessity if we are going to experience his power and his provision. Often, we only learn about complete dependence though bitter experience. When George Muller, a minister in the 19th century, was informed by the governing board of the orphanage he oversaw that there was no more money for the orphanage, he rejoiced. He told them their utter helplessness would make them depend more upon God. They did, and God met their needs.

Jacob was completely terrified about a planned meeting with his brother, Esau, whom he had wronged many years earlier. He knew that Esau was coming with 400 men the next day. Fearful of the consequences, he devised a plan to ensure the survival of half of his family.

That night, he met a "man" by a stream. The "man," of course, was God in human form. Jacob wrestled with him all night until the "man" touched Jacob's hip and caused it to be dislocated. Exhausted and in great pain, Jacob could only hold on to the "man" and plead for his blessing. Free from his own efforts and after expressing total dependence upon God, God told him, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome. (Genesis 32:28) The change in name indicated there was a change in Jacob. He was indeed blessed by God, and went on from there with God's blessing and a perpetual reminder of God's intervention.

You don't need to wrestle with God all night to receive his blessing. All you need to is declare your total dependence upon him. Then you can receive his power and his favor.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 08, 2019

There is now available a talking Jesus doll. This sounds like an interesting product. According to what I understand, the doll delivers scriptural quotations and says things like, "I have an exciting plan for your life" and "Your life matters so much to me."

Now, there is nothing wrong with these statements. They are true, and certainly are some of the reasons why we need to follow Christ. But we grownups must remember that Jesus also said some things that are not all that "warm and fuzzy." Jesus also tells us, "It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:2) We read his words in Luke 9:62, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

There are many sayings of Jesus that are difficult. We need to make sure we follow the whole body of his teaching, not just what appeals to us or what we think sounds good. Sometimes his message is very challenging. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Don't seek to tone down what Jesus said. Don't be selective in what you study. We are often picky in what we use to meet our own selfish needs. True blessing is found only in total obedience. Pay attention to all of his words! I have nothing against a talking Jesus doll, but remember Jesus is more than just a "talking head!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 07, 2019

Jim Thompson was an American who founded the Thai Silk Company, reviving what was a moribund industry in Thailand and providing jobs for thousands. On Easter Sunday in 1967, he strolled into a Thai jungle while on vacation and was never seen again. To this day, his demise is a mystery. However, this is only part of the story of his life. Since his death, it was discovered that Thompson was more than just a silk entrepreneur.

Even more mysterious than his death was the revelation that Thompson was perhaps a "double agent." While providing information to the U.S. Government concerning Communist activities in Southeast Asia, he allegedly was something of a Communist sympathizer who was involved in aiding Communist governments in that part of the world. Where does the truth lie concerning his life? This may never be known.

While it may be possible to have an "unknown life" and keep secrets from others, we must realize we can never keep anything secret from God. God knows the inner thoughts of our minds and knows what lies in the depths of our heart. Don't ever labor under the assumption that you can keep something hidden from God. This is just not possible. Luke gives us the words of Jesus: "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (8:17)

The next time you think about engaging in an activity you think it going to be kept secret, remember these words of Christ. There are no Jim Thompson's when it comes to what God knows about us.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 06, 2019

God does the work of God and man does the work of man. When we keep this in mind, our lives can go much easier. God is the one who is responsible for results; our responsibility is faithfulness. When we think we are the one responsible for results, we can experience frayed nerves and a lot of stress. We will drive ourselves to an early grave with this thinking. God is the one who has the plan, our place is to maintain faithfulness as we live within his plan.

King Saul is a good example of someone who didn't understand these role distinctions. He constantly leapt ahead of God in his movements and decisions and this led to his demise. This led God to send Samuel went on a search for a new king. In reference to Saul, God told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

Keep the right order. Remember your "job description" as a child of God. Do what you know you should do and let God do what he does best.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 05, 2019

Many times when I am on a long drive and still have quite a distance to go before I reach my destination, I think of the words of Robert Frost's poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Frost wrote, "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

These words remind us of a character trait that is helpful in the completion of lengthy trips and tasks - perseverance. Perseverance is helpful in working through situations that are lengthy and may even be undesirable.

We often face tasks and experiences that require perseverance because they require time to resolve or complete. Driving a long distance is not one of my favorite things to do, but if I want to get where I want to be, I must be willing to endure the journey. Often it is that way with a situation in life. In order for the circumstance to be resolved, I must persevere.

Perseverance is also an important characteristic in achieving goals in life. Attaining a desired result often requires that we persevere. Markita Andrews was a young girl with a dream - she wanted to win a contest so that she and her mother could travel the world. At the age of 13, she set out to win the contest. She discovered that the secret of successful selling was perseverance. And persevere she did. Going door-to-door after school for hours each day, she shared her dream with potential customers and asked them, "Would you like to invest in my dream by buying one or two dozen boxes of cookies?" That year she sold 3,526 boxes of cookies and won her trip. Since then, she has sold more than 42,000 boxes of cookies, more Girl Scout cookies than anyone, ever. She realized she had "miles to go before I sleep," and sold cookies!

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul asks us to "Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" Paul taught that perseverance in important in our prayers and in our lives in general. Develop this character trait, and conquer those miles!

Pastor Steve
Monday February 04, 2019

In a TV special entitled "Child Hunger Ends Here," Al Roker reported that in our country 17 million children under the age of 18 go to bed hungry each night. This is happening all around us. This is happening in the richest country in the world. This is happening in the same nation that is struggling with an obesity issue. There are millions of children who are severely malnourished. Does this make sense to you?

I agree that there are a lot of issues and circumstances in our society that do not make sense but for me, this one, pardon the pun, takes the cake. As followers of Christ, we need to be concerned with such issues and do all we can to help others who are struggling to have enough food.

James tells 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?'" (2:15-16) The words of Christ should constantly ring in our ears, " Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'" (Matthew 25:44-45)

Numbers such as I gave above sometimes overwhelm us. So, don't look at the numbers - look at people around you. I guarantee that you will not have far to look to see where you can do some good. And when you see where you can do some good, be sure to do it!

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 03, 2019

Are you going to watch the Big Game tonight? The Super Bowl, which will be played in Atlanta, will determine the NFL Champion. This year's game features a bit of controversy. Many think that the wrong team is representing the National Football Conference this year. In the NFC Championship game that was played two weeks ago, there seemed to be an infraction that was missed by the referees that led to Los Angeles defeating New Orleans and gaining a spot in tonight's event. Towards the end of the game, Nickell Robey-Coleman, a cornerback for Los Angeles, seemed to have committed a pass interference infraction against TommieLee Jones, a receiver for New Orleans. The referees did not make a call on the play and Los Angeles was given the opportunity to win the game.

Now, I don't have the time or the space to describe or discuss this occurrence any further, and my purpose is not to debate this play, so that is all I am going to say about that (thank you Forrest Gump). The debate still rages, and you can discuss this all you wish with others. What I would like to do is focus on one thing - the response of Robey-Coleman after the game. I do this not to "clear up the controversy," but to make a point based on his response.

Robey-Coleman admitted that he did it - that he indeed committed interference. He said he did so because he was beaten on the play, and wanted to stop a touchdown. He said, "I expected to see yellow after I knocked him down."

What the cornerback did was something we need to do. No, I'm not talking about refraining from committing pass interference. I'm talking about admitting fault if we do something wrong.

We all know the uncomfortable feeling of suddenly realizing that mistakes have been made, and the mistakes were our own. That feeling is almost always followed by the realization that there's a choice to make. You can admit the mistake, and take whatever consequences might be forthcoming, or you can try to hide your culpability and hope that no one notices. The latter path often seems to be the easiest path to follow, but it is not the best path. Being willing to admit your error shows that your value truth above falsehood. Being willing to admit your error shows that you don't feel that an admission of wrong is a sign of weakness. These are important principles in building trust in relationships. They are important principles in our relationship with the Lord.

Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." Be willing to admit your wrong when you do something wrong. This will clear up a lot of controversy.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 02, 20192

Well, today is Groundhog Day. Isn't that exciting? If the groundhog sees its shadow, then it is six more weeks of winter. Usually, we would not want that. However, if we have six more weeks of what we are experiencing right now, that wouldn't be so bad. Of course, the first day of spring is March 20, so technically we would have six more weeks of winter whether or not Mr. Groundhog sees his shadow.

Groundhog Day originated in Europe and was brought to this country by immigrants in the late 18th century. Southeastern Pennsylvania was where it got its start here, and, as you might know, that is where the most famous Groundhog Day celebration is held each year in Punxsutawney. As with most traditions of this sort, it perpetuates because of our desire to know what is coming in the future.

Christ spoke to his disciples about times that were to come. He spoke of his return and the Day of the Lord that would be ushered in at some point in the future. He spoke of signs that would be harbingers of these events. He says in Matthew 24:32-33, "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door." We don't know dates, we don't know exactly when, but we do know Christ will return. Christ, Paul, John, and Peter all encouraged followers to be prepared for this. We do well to listen to them, and we do even better when we encourage others to prepare. It has nothing to do with seeing one's shadow, but it has everything to do with believing God's Word.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 01, 2019

Haddon Robinson told the following story: "A soldier was standing at attention during a parade drill when he waved to one of the spectators. The drill instructor went over to the young man and growled, 'Soldier, don t ever do that again!' But as his company marched past the reviewing stand the young man waved a second time. When the troops got back to the barracks, the drill instructor barreled in and barked at the soldier, 'I told you not to wave! Aren t you afraid of me?' 'Yes sir,' the private replied, 'but you don t know my mother!'

The Scripture tells us there is wisdom in a healthy fear of God. Solomon wrote: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." In Proverbs 15:33, "Wisdom s instruction is to fear the LORD."

Whom do you fear? We often live as if we fear people more than we fear God. We are more worried about our status with others than obeying God. Our fear of others often keeps us from speaking for Christ when we should, living for Christ in the way we ought, and standing for the Lord when the situation calls for us to show our faith.

Peter and John summed it up well when they faced officials who wanted them to keep silent about Christ. Peter said, "Which is right in God s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges!" (Acts 4:19) When our faith is challenged, we need to say, "You need to know my Father!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 31, 2019

A hunter came across a deer that was stuck in a mud bog. The deer could not escape on its own. Death was certain. Ironically, the hunter could not bring himself to squeeze the trigger on his gun to end the deer's struggle. He enlisted the help of some fellow hunters and through the use of a rope they freed the struggling buck. The hunter allowed mercy to govern his actions.

In I Samuel 24, David finds himself in a situation where he could use violence to end a problem or pursue a different path. He is hiding in the cave when the person who is hunting him to kill him strides right in. Here is the perfect situation to end his plight. All he has to do is kill Saul and his struggle would end. However, he didn't do it. All he did was cut off a piece of Saul's robe that he later would use to show Saul that he had spared his life.

David said, "The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord." (vs. 5) When David confronts Saul just after this incident and shows him the evidence, Saul replies, "You are more righteous than I." (vs. 16) David had allowed mercy to govern his actions.

Do you have a chance to "get even" with someone that has wronged you? It would be wise to use the example of David and show who is more righteous. We need to allow mercy to govern our actions.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 30, 2019

Over the years I have been in the ministry I've spoken with many people who say they feel as if God is far from them when they pray or that their prayers "don't seem to go above the ceiling." Well, God does not change and promises to always be with us. Why, then, does this happen?

Sometimes, if we are honest, there is an obvious reason for this experience. There may be some problems in our lives that are a hindrance to communication with God. Other reasons may be a vengeful spirit, pride, or even a stubborn attitude towards what we want. If these and other possibilities are eliminated, what then could be the issue with our prayer?

Start with recognizing and accepting the reality I mentioned above - God does not change and has promised to always be with us. Spend some time reading scripture that assures you of this reality.

One thing that you realize as you read scripture is that others had this struggle. Jeremiah cried out, "Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer." (Lamentations 3:8) So what did Jeremiah do when he had this feeling? He reflected on God's character and presence. Listen to what he says in 3:22-24: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Jeremiah reminded himself that it is good to wait on the Lord (vs. 25-26). Finally, he remembered that God has promised not to forget his children (vs. 31).

God is there. He has not left. Continue to be faithful and persevere in doing what you are doing. Continue to pray and seek God's guidance. You will experience a breakthrough.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 29, 2019
There will be no services Wednesday, January 30, 2019. Be safe! Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 29, 2019

If you have been blessed with an abundance of material goods, they aren't yours. The abundance we have is for others. This is an attitude that we rarely develop, but it would be nice if we did. Usually when we have abundance, we try to think what we need to do to store our abundance. Why not give it away?

Recently I heard a news story about the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor in our country. According to the report, the upper 5% of the population gained in wealth while the lower 5% sank even more deeply in their poverty over a certain period of time. This is a phenomenon usually observed in undeveloped countries. What does it say about our society?

If you have abundance, learn to share. If you have stuff you can't use or aren't using, who could use it? Christ told a story about a person who had abundance: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'"(Luke 12:16-20)

We often use this passage in an evangelistic manner to warn of the folly of not preparing for eternity. The story also warns of the folly of hoarding what we cannot use that would benefit others. Our abundance needs to be shared.

Pastor Steve
Monday January 28, 2019

Many years ago, a group from our church had bus trouble on the way to a Gospel concert. A call to the church that was our destination led to another bus and a van being dispatched to pick up our group and take us on. Thanks to help from the church, we got to eat and make the concert right on time. The church even loaned us a van when we found out our bus would not be repaired that evening. All of the help was very much appreciated and turned what could have been a very trying experience into a rather memorable evening.

Don't misunderstand me when I say that I really wasn't too surprised by the response from the church. I would hope our church would do the same. I don't want to sound as if I am taking what happened for granted because I am not, but this is as is should be.

Unfortunately, it sometimes is not the way it is. I remember reading an article about a church in Montana refusing help to a youth group that was stranded in their town when the group's van broke down. They wanted to bed down in the church - they had their own sleeping bags and all - but the leaders of the church wouldn't let it happen.

The group spent two nights in a motel while their van was repaired. The mechanic only charged them for the parts. A lady who owned a ranch heard of their plight and took the group to her ranch where they rode horses, ate, and enjoyed other activities while the van was being repaired. Ironically, neither the mechanic nor the ranch owner had any church affiliation.

That is a rather humbling story. We should be willing to help as best we can when circumstances arise. As God's people, we are to "do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10)." I speak as one who knows, you have no idea how grateful folks are when help comes along to change an unexpected mishap into an enjoyable experience.

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 27, 2019

The only time you read about any interaction from the Apostle Judas, the one who did not betray Jesus, he asks a question at the last Passover that is not answered. He asks Christ, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" (John 14:23) Christ continues his teaching, but does not answer his question. There is never any clear reason as to why Christ doesn't respond directly to Judas.

Judas is not alone in this experience. Many times, the question "why" comes up in our lives for which there is never any clear answer. Why do some people have to suffer? Why am I going through this experience? Why does God allow evil? Why doesn't God communicate with us the way he did with the saints in the Scriptures? We often have a hard time understanding "why."

Asking "why" is a natural human response to many situations. However, a more productive response would be willingness. We would do well to develop a willingness to follow the Savior even when we don t have an answer to the "Why."

This is not an easy thing. We want certainties and assurances. We can be so bold as to think we are entitled to explanations. But God sometimes chooses not to give us answers. Why? He wants us to be willing to use a faculty more important than reason. He wants us to use faith.

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 26, 2019

In 1966, The Beatles were riding a wave of unprecedented popularity worldwide. During an interview by a journalist in the United Kingdom, John Lennon proclaimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus Christ." The remarks were met benignly in the United Kingdom, but when they were published in the United States, the reaction was profound. Over three decades later, Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis made the same claim regarding his group.

These remarks do indeed warrant a strong response and criticism; however, at the risk of sounding heretical, could these gentlemen be right? Sad to say, among certain segments of individuals, Lennon's and Gallagher's comments may be accurate; however, we know that Christ is not involved in a popularity contest and there are consequences to this line of thinking.

As followers of Christ, we need to make certain this is not true in our personal lives. I am not referring to our opinion of Gallagher or Lennon, but to anything that we allow to vie for the attention we should be giving to Christ. It is one thing to say you are a disciple of Christ, but another thing to truly give Christ the place he deserves in your life. We may be appalled by the statements of Lennon and Gallagher, and we should be; but examine yourself carefully to see if this is true about other matters. Is there anything that keeps you from placing Christ first in your life? Is there anything to which you devote more time and attention than to the matters of Christ? Nothing in our lives should occupy the place that belongs to Christ. Our desire should be that of the apostle Paul who declared as his primary goal: "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (Philippians 3:10) Who or what occupies the principal place of popularity in your personal life?

Pastor Steve
Friday January 25, 2019

Many years ago USA Today reported on a mural that had been painted by two college students in Moorhead, Minnesota. The Mural depicted a school of fish all swimming in the same direction with one fish being painted going in the opposite direction. According to the students, the fish was a representation of Christ. The symbol of a fish has been used since ancient times to represent Christ and Christianity. The Greek word for fish is icthus and in the Greek, the letters form an acrostic for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior." The symbolism was not lost on the administration of the college and the students were forced to paint over the mural.

As followers of Christ, we will often find ourselves going against the flow of society. This is becoming increasingly truer in the United States, a country that was founded on the principles of religious freedom. More and more, we find those freedoms being encroached upon; therefore, we will find ourselves more and more "swimming against the grain." Add to this the decaying mores of our society, and we will find ourselves going in a different direction in many circumstances.

This is not a new phenomenon, it has always been true for followers of Christ. Peter wrote, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you." (I Peter 4:1-4)

Don't be surprised to find yourself marching to the beat of a different drummer. Christians are not meant to fit in with society, but to change society through the message of the Gospel of Christ. Don't be afraid to swim upstream!

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 24, 2019

I once read a story about a group of high school students who traveled to Jamaica to build a playground at a school for the deaf. Many of the students had visited the school before. However, on this trip there was one student who developed a special bond with the children at the school. Chelsea had been deaf until the age of 11 when she received a cochlear implant that allowed her to hear about 30% of the sounds around her. Because of her experience, she could understand the deaf children in ways others could not. She had true empathy.

Empathy is a strong emotion that can drive us along in our ministry with others and our relationship with others. The increased insight and understanding help us to serve others in ways that might not be possible otherwise. Empathy helps us to have a different level of care and concern for those with whom we share a particular circumstance.

Christ is able to share with us on this level of empathy because of his visit with us. John 1:14 tells us that he became one of us, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." He experienced our pain, our grief, our trials, yet lived without sin so that he could become our sacrifice. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin."

When you are facing a struggle, a temptation, a problem of some sort, realize you have someone who has been there and is alongside of you to provide you with the resources and the help you face your situation. Christ relates to us with the highest degree of empathy. In addition, experiencing his grace in our time of need can help us have more empathy for others so that we can stand alongside them in their time of need. Because of what you have received, you are able to give.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 23, 2019

The book of Proverbs is more than just a collection of clever sayings. This collection was meant to educate the young and the inexperienced and to shape them in right conduct. It is a book of spiritual and moral formulation. The wisdom of Proverbs was committed to memory to be summoned up in times of need and direction. Teachers could use them to give instruction and advice. Students might internalize them to as a way to grow in spiritual strength.

Proverbs speaks to life, and the issues they address are still issues in our lives today. Therefore, we would do well to use these statements of life to direct us and guide us as we experience issues today. If we read them carefully, the voice of God can break through to help us as we seek answers. The prologue reminds us, "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise." (Proverbs 1:1-6)

Want some advice? Now, this idea is not original with me I got it from my brother years ago. There are thirty chapters in the book. Why not make a decision to read through the book each month? A chapter a day will take care of this. You will benefit greatly from the wisdom you will find!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 22, 2019

I would imagine you know that "Mark Twain" is not the real name of the person who gave us such works as "Tom Sawyer," "Huckleberry Finn," and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." That would be Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Clemens adopted the pen name of Mark Twain from his experience as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi River.

"Mark Twain" was the cry of the leadsman on a river boat that meant the water ahead measured two fathoms - 12 feet - the required depth that allowed the boat to pass safely. Twain described his experience as a pilot in his book "Life on the Mississippi." He states that the pilot must have an intimate knowledge of the river - the currents, the shoals, the obstructions - in order to guide the boat through the channels and bring it safely to the desired port. Twain wrote, "The pilot needs to get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must...actually know where these things are in the dark."

That sounds like our experience in life in general. In our lives, there are "one-limbed cottonwoods" all over the place just waiting to snag us. How do we know where they are? Well, it helps to have a good Pilot. In order to navigate the river of life safely and find the proper channel, turn your life over to One who knows the way. Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Sounds like He knows the way. This means it would be a good idea to follow Him.

Pastor Steve
Monday January 21, 2019

How often do you let other people change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter/ waitress, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you are the Terminator, for an instant you are probably set back on your heels by the confrontation. One of the marks of a successful person is how quickly she/he can get back her/his focus on what is important.

It is so easy to let others "rule" our moods. What can help is to focus on the One who should rule our mood. Then, whatever others might throw at us, we can rest assured that we are in the care of someone who truly loves us and has nothing but our best interests in mind.

Paul talks about being content regardless of the circumstance, and I think this includes treatment at the hands of others. He says in Philippians 4:11-13, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

The secret is to focus on the One who can give you strength. Paul did this, and it allowed him to say, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice (Phil. 4:4)!" So, concentrate on what God has to say to you, on what He wants for you, on His plans for you. Then, when others have negative things to throw at you, you can rest assured in the knowledge that Someone who is a lot more important doesn't have the same opinion.

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 20, 2019
Folks - services have been cancelled for today, Sunday, January 20, because of road conditions. God bless you and be safe! Pastor Steve
Sunday January 20, 2019

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian doctor who survived the Holocaust during WWII. He developed a psychotherapy technique that became known as logotherapy, a form of existential analysis. Frankl wrote a book based on reflections on his experience during the Holocaust. "Man's Search for Meaning" is a perennial best-seller. In the book, Frankl writes, "There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one s life."

This is a true observation. The apostle Paul writes about the purpose he had that sustained him during his suffering. In Acts 20:22-24 we read, "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God s grace."

We may not face the hardships of Frankl or Paul, but when we dwell on the realization that our lives have meaning because of our relationship to Christ, we can find the strength to face whatever difficulties come our way.

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 19, 2019

One of the rules of golf is that you can't "ground your club" in a hazard. This means you cannot allow the head of your club to come in contact with the ground in any way when you are in a hazard. One such hazard would be a bunker, an area usually lined with sand. The powers that be have changed some of the rules of golf this year, but this one still applies.

A number of years ago, the rule about "grounding your club" came into play during the last round of the PGA Championship when Dustin Johnson, who was leading the tournament at the time, unwittingly grounded his club in an area designated as a hazard. It was hard to recognize the area as a hazard as it had been trampled by spectators. Nonetheless, the rule was enforced. Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty which kept him out of a playoff, ending his chances of winning the PGA Championship. There was no recourse, no way of avoiding the penalty or changing the ruling. This sounds a little harsh, doesn't it?

God's laws are just as strict. Christ said we are to "be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)." James 2:10 tells us, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." The big difference with God, however, is grace. Yes, God demands perfection. But, knowing that we cannot be perfect, His plan from eternity past was to allow His Son to come into the arena of human life to offer himself as a sacrifice for those of us who could not be perfect. Hebrews 10:14 says, "Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." This is grace.

There may not be grace in the PGA, but there is with God. Isn't that great? God is willing to "change the ruling" if we come to him through his Son. In this way, we can be winners in spite of the fact that we have "grounded our club" in the hazard of life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 18, 2019

I really do not remember the last time I used an alarm to wake me. I just get up every morning at about the same time. Scherry rarely sets an alarm anymore either, but for a different reason. She is retired and usually doesn't have any need to use one. When she does use the alarm, she has the habit of using the snooze button a couple of times before she finally rouses. I never saw the point in that, but, as the French would say, "a chacun son gout" ("to each his own").

A student at MIT has invented an alarm clock that would prohibit this practice. "Clocky" is an alarm clock with wheels that moves when it sounds. The movements are random, so the clock is never in the same place twice. Before you turn it off, you have to get out of bed to find it, so it inhibits the use of the snooze button.

Hitting the snooze button cannot stop the fact of time. Time continues to move forward and dictates to us so many activities, including the need to get out of bed to get the day started. Whether we get out of bed early or stay and sleep we are being carried along by the mysterious force called time.

Someone once said, "Time stays and we fly." David wrote, "Show me, Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure." (Psalm 39:4-5)

Our life is fleeting and time continues on. We must do what we should in the time we are allotted to perform our tasks. Make sure to spend time wisely. And remember, the snooze button does not give you more time!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 17, 2019

Love INC is a national organization dedicated to programs of assistance for a number of needs. Today, they have over 40 different programs channeled through 155 affiliates in 30 difference states. INC doesn't stand for the usual "incorporated"; rather it stands for "In the Name of Christ". This is a great and appropriate use of the name of Christ; however, there are a number of organizations that misuse the name of Christ, or to be more specific, the name Christian. Some groups have the name "Christian" in their title, yet they are committed to philosophies that are anti-Christian and use violence and intimidation as part of their methodology. This is certainly not a means of demonstrating the main character trait of a Christian - love.

If we are a true follower of Christ, we will manifest the love of Christ is tangible ways. Calling yourself a Christian and then demonstrating anti-Christian values and actions is abhorrent. The Word of God is saturated with teaching and demonstrations of love. The greatest demonstration is, of course, Christ's sacrifice for us that was motivated by love.

Jesus declared, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one s life for one s friends." (John 15:13) We should show love In the Name of Christ to a world that desperately needs love. The misnomers of many organizations demonstrate how strongly the love of true Christianity needs to be displayed.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 16, 2019

In 1989, a fire broke out at a recycling facility near Interstate 78 in New Jersey. The heat from the fire was so intense that it warped girders supporting the roadway. The interstate was closed for a long time as repairs were made. Three years after the fire, the owners were convicted of operating the facility improperly and faced jail time as well as heavy fines.

The state of New Jersey had been trying for years to impose sanctions on the facility because waste materials were not being disposed of properly. Debris including wood chips, yard waste, carpet, shredded metal, paper, and other trash had accumulated for years. This was the fuel for the intense fire leading to dire consequences.

This illustrates a basic story of life. Most of our problems don't just happen. They are the result of bad decisions that accumulate over time and eventually lead to dire consequences. II Chronicles 36 tells a tale of consequences brought about by the accumulation of bad decisions, "The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar." (vss. 15-17) Don't let your bad decisions accumulate. Deal with them, or experience the consequence.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 15, 2019

Jeb Corliss is perhaps the best-known BASE jumper in the world. BASE stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth. Jumpers such as Jeb jump off these structures (with a parachute, of course) just for the thrill of the jump. Corliss has made over 3000 jumps, including jumps from the Eiffel Tower, the New River Gorge Bridge, and the Empire State Building. Jumping from this latter structure was challenged by authorities until it was demonstrated that Corliss had the skill to do so safely.

My fear of heights assures that I would never make any kind of jump that Corliss has made, but there is one jump I may have made in common with Corliss. If he has ever jumped to conclusions, indeed I have made the same jump. Perhaps you have made this jump as well. And jumping to conclusions could be more dangerous than any sort of BASE jump that Corliss has ever attempted. Misunderstandings brought about by jumping to conclusions when all the facts aren't known can cause big problems.

An example of this can be found in scripture. In Joshua 22, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh took land on the east side of the Jordan River as their part. When they claimed the land, they built an altar there. The remainder of Israel gathered to go to war against them because it was assumed that the altar had been built for the worship of strange gods. However, a delegation sent to investigate showed this assumption was wrong. The correct conclusion based upon the investigation is recorded in Joshua 22:32-33, "Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived."

Taking time to gather facts prevented a costly war from taking place. Remember this the next time you are tempted to make a dangerous jump. Jumping to conclusions is like jumping without a parachute.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 14, 2019

I was somewhat concerned this year when my daily pocket diary was a little late in arriving. I was hoping that the current company from which I order the diary was not going the way of a couple of other companies where I purchased the diaries in the past. These one-time staples of folks who needed to keep a schedule are disappearing because of the rise of electronics. That's just the way it is, but this is one area where I still like to remain archaic.

One of the reasons I still like the old style pocket diary is that I use it more for a means of keeping reflections on what has happened rather than as a reminder of what is to happen. I enjoy sitting in a quiet moment and jotting down notes of events and feelings about what took place. This gives me a chance to catch up on what was accomplished and reflect of how I saw God intervene in the happenings of the day. This gives an opportunity to see where God supplied strength for the day.

That is what God does. In Christ's instructive prayer, he asks, "Give us day by day our daily bread.." (Luke 11:3) God does just that - he provides for us just what we need when we need it. Taking time to reflect helps us to see this. That is why I still like my daily pocket diary. How do you reflect on what God has done for you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 13, 2019

In 1962, John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. He did so at a time when the U.S. was facing some serious issues. Of course, there rarely has been a time in our nation's history when the country was not faced with a struggle of some kind. In a speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, he said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade. We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard."

When we are faced with a challenge, often we decide to follow the path of least resistance. Now, that may be an advantageous property for an electric current, but it is not always the best path for us humans. Many times, facing the challenge head on and going through the struggle is the most beneficial course of action. We live in an age when energy-saving and time-saving devices proliferate. Sometimes saving energy and time is not the right choice. There is something to be said for embracing life's challenges.

Paul spoke of this in II Corinthians 4. I encourage you to read the entire chapter. Part of what Paul said is "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (vss. 8-9) In many cases, it is the struggle that brings us strength. The goal is worth the struggle - don't shy away from a good challenge!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 12, 2019

We live in an age of "connectedness" unlike any other time in history. Through social networking, texting, email, the old-fashioned telephone, and many other means, we have the ability to communicate with others in ways that were at one time unheard of. Someone once said, "The world looks like it did ten years ago, but it really is a much different place."

Because of technology, our means and methods of communication and interaction have changed. However, while I agree that technology has changed communication, I would not say that technology has improved communication. I do not believe the changes have brought about improvements because the best method of communication does not involve any technological enhancement. The original still remains the best - nothing beats face-to-face.

The same is true in worship. Radio, TV, internet, or whatever, cannot replace face to face worship. We are created for face to face and this is nowhere truer than in our worship. The best way to encounter God is to spend time with God's people in interactive singing, praise, prayer, giving, and study. Jesus tells us, "Where two or three gather as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20)

Jennifer Schuldt wrote, "Worshiping God with other believers reminds us of our common purpose to glorify God (Nehemiah 8:6). It creates a sense of unity, which honors God (John 17:23)." If you want to remain connected - show up in person, don't just text or tweet!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 11, 2019

Sometime back I read a story about a 104-year-old woman who was forced to "lie" about her age to be on Facebook. When she tried to input her birth year of 1908 during the registration process, the date was changed to 1928. Facebook made her 20 years younger. The social networking site apparently couldn't accept her true age. So, in essence, she had to pretend to be someone she wasn't in order to be accepted.

Many people are walking around thinking they have to pretend to be someone they are not in order to be accepted. This seems to be one of the characteristics of our society. This is why it is so important for us to understand in whom our true identity lies. The identity of a follower of Christ is determined by our relationship with Christ. We don't have to pretend we are someone we are not when we are followers of Christ. Why should we want to pretend? It is also important to remember we can't fool Christ. He knows who we really are. And when we come to him seeking his forgiveness, he accepts us as we are and gives us a true identity.

John writes, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." (I John 3:1) Unlike Facebook, Christ knows exactly who we are. We don't have to lie about our age to be accepted by him all we need do is follow him in faith.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 10, 2019

God goes right to the heart. He is interested in and sees right through to the core of our being. Usually, we are caught up with externals. You really can't be too hard on us because we are as that is all we can see; however, what you see on the outside is not who we really are. God sees right through what we see to what is actually going on with us and who we truly are. The heart is what guides us to be who we are.

A cursory glance at the Bible shows this to be true. God doesn't look at external appearances but at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He despises religious acts devoid of worship from the heart (Isaiah 29:13). God searches our heart (Psalm 139:23) and wants us to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5). Christ said that where you find our treasure, there you will find our heart (Matthew 6:21). The essence of His law is to love Him and others with all of our heart (Matthew 22:37-39).

Jesus most scathing rebuke of the Pharisees involved their hearts - what they were really like on the inside. He said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

Guard your heart so that you will not be like the Pharisees. Make sure that the beautiful part of you is your inside. This is what is pleasing to God and makes your truly beautiful.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 09, 2019

Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca came to blows at an alumni banquet. The 73-year-old former Canadian Football League players fought over an incident that had taken place more than 50 years earlier during a game. They nursed a grudge against each other that led to this embarrassing confrontation. They were urged by those who witnessed their exchange to "let it go."

The Bible has many examples of people who needed to "let it go." Cain held a grudge against his brother Abel that culminated in the first murder because Cain wouldn't let it go (Genesis 4). Esau held a grudge against his brother Jacob because of Jacob's actions. The scripture says, "Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him." (Genesis 27:41) Joseph's brothers held a grudge against him because of his favored status with their father Jacob (Genesis 37). Saul held a grudge against David because of David's popularity with the people (I Samuel 19). All of these people needed to let it go.

The scripture tells us what we should do when we have a beef with someone. We need to squash the beef! Romans 12 gives us this exhortation: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. Christ tells us how we should respond to those with whom we have a grudge: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Vss. 17 - 21) Squash the beef!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 08, 2019

Many of us have periods of our lives we wish we could reclaim - periods when we were living in disobedience, following an unprofitable path, pursuing a way of life we thought was what we wanted without giving God or our relationship to God much consideration. Joel refers to these as "years lost to the locust." In the book of Joel, the people are warned about impending judgment because of their waywardness.

The imagery of an impending invasion of locusts is used to describe the coming judgment. Yet, in the midst of the warning about judgment because of their disobedience, God gives them a promise for restoration. This is a common scenario throughout Scripture: God warns of judgment, but along with the statement of judgment there is a promise of restoration. We see this in Joel 2:25 where God says, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten--you will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed."

God states that there are consequences to disobedience. These are the "years the locusts have eaten." You may feel that you have "lost years to the locusts" because of a time in your life when you walked away from God. When we turn to God, He promises restoration. God promises to repay us for the years the locusts have eaten. He promises to forgive our past and fill our future with hope. He promises to work with us to help us be productive for Him. We may have lost some time because of bad choices, but the year ahead is full of hope when we determine to follow Him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 07, 2019

There has always been a little bit of mystery surrounding the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was a wooden chest overlaid with gold that was about four feet long, two feet wide, and two feet high. It had gold rings so that wooden poles overlaid with gold could be inserted for carrying the chest (Exodus 25:10-22). It was placed inside the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle after it was constructed, and later in the inner sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem. Inside this golden box were the stone tablets of the ten commandments, Aaron's rod that budded, and a jar of manna (Hebrews 9:4). The mystery of the ark has even captured the imaginations of secular study, media, and entertainment. The existence and location of the ark were at the center of the 1981 film "Raiders of the Lost Ark." What happened to the ark, where it might be, or even if it still exists, is certainly an enigma.

The ark was to be a symbol of the presence of God. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would meet with God before the ark. This was the only time anyone could enter in the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle called the Most Holy Place. (Hebrews (9:7) The ark was a symbol of the fact that God wanted to have a relationship with humans.

To me, this is an even bigger mystery than the existence of the ark. To me, the great mystery is the fact that God would want to have a relationship with humans at all. Why does He want to do this? We turn aside from his ways, we spurn his advice, many even deny God's very existence. Still, He pursues us. He wants to be among us. He wants us to live with him and enjoy Him. This is a big mystery which I know I will not understand on this side of eternity.

God is working within us for the conclusion described in Ezekiel 11:19-20, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." This is God's desire. It is a mystery to me why God relentlessly pursues us in light of our rebellion. I am glad he doesn't ask me to understand this great love, but he does ask me to accept this great love.

It is a mystery to me why God loves me the way he does, but I have always enjoyed a little bit of mystery. What I do know is that He does love me, and I love him back. I hope you do as well. I'll leave the mystery for later.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 06, 2019

I would imagine you have heard the phrase "use it or lose it." This statement refers to the need of exercising a learned skill to prevent the possibility of coming to the point where you can't apply the skill because it is "lost" through a lack of use. This can apply to many things learned or acquired. We get rusty at woodworking if we don't keep working with wood. We can get rusty at playing an instrument if we don't keep up playing the instrument. We can get rusty at using a language we have acquired if we don't keep speaking the language.

The same principle applies to our spiritual lives. If we don't keep doing what needs to be done to hone our Christian character, we regress instead of progress in our spiritual development. If we don't keep working with the Scripture, we lose what we have learned. We need to continue to grow in our prayer life. We should focus on acts of kindness and generosity so that we will become more generous and kinder. We should be active in our deeds so that we don t become complacent.

James, the brother of our Lord, knew this and he wrote, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) Don t lose it when it comes to God's Word. Let your actions speak loudly about what it says!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 05, 2019

Something that fruit growers used to do to promote fruit production on their trees was to whack the trunk of the tree a few times with a board or a bat. Supposedly, the trauma caused the tree to produce hormones that stimulated growth and an increase in fruit. This practice has been discontinued as the benefits are questionable. However, pruning is another procedure that is still done in order to maximize the tree's potential to provide fruit. The benefits of pruning are without question. Both of these operations cause "pain," but the product justifies the practice, especially with the pruning.

Sometimes we feel like we have been "hit by a bat." We find ourselves dealing with painful circumstances and struggle to find meaning in the experience. Often God allows us to experience painful circumstances in order to produce fruit in our lives. Hebrews 12:1 tells us "Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it."

God sometimes uses painful circumstances to get our attention and teach us valuable lessons. Psalm 119:71 says, "It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes." Facing times of struggle is not easy, but if we let God take care of the circumstances, we will see growth as a result of the pain.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 04, 2019

A helpful exercise that is followed in many high schools across the nation is that of job shadowing. This is where a student spends some time with an individual at their job so that the young person might have an opportunity to see if the profession is something they would like to pursue. It can be a worthwhile endeavor. Both of my daughters were involved in job shadowing in high school and both were happy to have these experiences so they might make a more informed choice about job choices.

The apostle Paul refers to something like job shadowing in I Corinthians 11:1 where he says, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." In job shadowing, the person is looking for an example to follow. We should realize that we should be good examples for others to follow in order for them to see the benefits of following Christ.

What kind of an example are you as you participate in the process of "job shadowing?" We should show others what a life dedicated to God can be like. You may never know who is watching, so do your best to follow the example of Christ that others may see a good example of a follower of Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 03, 2019

There is a difference between knowing and doing. Sometimes ignoring the difference can be a real problem. There are some things I should avoid in my diet because they could cause problems. I try to limit my intake of carbs, trans-fat, and sodium. I also try to limit my consumption of caffeine.

Just knowing what needs to be avoided is not enough. I can recite all the problems with various diet items including what foods have elevated carbohydrates or sodium or whatever, but I will not benefit from this knowledge unless I actually avoid the foods. One source said that more than $1.8 billion in medical bills could be avoided annually if doing followed from knowing.

In so many circumstances, it is not what we know that is important, but what we do. Christ spoke a great deal about service, which is simply translating knowing into doing. Christ told his disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:15-17)

Let's make sure that we are translating knowing into doing in our lives. "Knowledge is power" is a quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon. The power is actually when what we know affects what we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 02, 2019

The month January is named after a god in the Roman pantheon named Janus. Janus was depicted as a being with two faces - one to look ahead, one to look back. Janus was the god of beginnings.

Looking ahead to new beginnings and new possibilities is a good thing. Being two-faced is not. Folks that speak one way and act another and cannot be trusted because you really don't know what "side" they represent are frustrating. James reflects the attitude of God about two-faced folks, "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:8)

Now, we have no control over others who manifest this undesirable characteristic; however, we do have control over our own behavior. We must make every effort to present ourselves as someone who can be trusted and is not two-faced. We want others to know that we don't speak out of both sides of our mouth, or speak out of two faces, as the case may be.

Proverbs 19:3 says, "Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." One face is enough - don't try to keep up two at the same time. You don t want to look like Janus.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 01, 2019

Maria Robinson has written many books in the area of child development. A statement she once made is: "No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." The scripture is full of stories of the lives of people who made new endings - some of them positive, some of them not so good. It would definitely have been better for Saul, Ahab, and Judas to have started at some point to make a new ending. However, they did not and they experienced the consequences. David made a bad decision but repented and the Lord was able to continue to use him (read Psalm 51). Saul was definitely headed in the wrong direction, but repented and became a powerful force in the hands of God (see Acts 9).

Are you heading down a road that isn't going to end well? Now is the time to make the decision to repent and make a new ending. Not just because it is the end of an old year and the beginning of a New Year, but because now is the time you have to make a decision to do something different. And we need to include God in our plans - we need to put him in the preeminent position in our decision making process. Proverbs 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Start today on that new ending - don't wait until tomorrow - that may be a little late! Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 31, 2018

There are many things in the world about which our opinion could be relative with no problem. Take the price of gas for example. My wife, Scherry, told me about a commercial she had seen on TV for a convenience mart where the price of gas was shown to be $2.76 a gallon. Now, from this we knew the commercial had been made recently, but not too recently. And, at this time, we would consider $2.76 a gallon to be pretty high. It was not all that long ago that we would have considered $2.76 for a gallon of gas to be an absolute bargain. Our thoughts on $2.76 a gallon for gas is shaped by the current trends in the oil market and is therefore relative.

Relativity in our opinion about the price of gas is not an issue and not something to create a problem. However, there are other areas where relative thinking is a problem. Relative thinking has crept into our attitudes about moral issues that are made plain in the scripture. Unfortunately, even in the church, there are many advocates who proclaim that our thinking about certain issues needs to change to "match the times." The changing of time may bring about alterations in many issues and not have any great consequence - hairstyles, music styles, and other such items. However, when it comes to areas where the Bible has made plain statements about behaviors and lifestyles, we need to realize the timelessness of these statements and take them literally. Theft is still wrong and always will be wrong. Lying is still wrong and always will be wrong. Adultery is wrong and always will be wrong. And so it is with other areas.

A New Year may bring in new ideas, but we must be careful which ideas are to be viewed relatively and which are not. Deuteronomy 6:4 reminds us of the changeless nature of God and that he does not change in his commands, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Malachi 3:6 tells us, "I the Lord do not change." God does not change and neither is there any change in his laws about human responsibility and moral righteousness. There is no relativity here.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 30, 2018

The vastness of the universe has always fascinated me. To look into the night sky and see the countless stars is really moving. To think that we are a little speck living on a larger little speck in this vast universe is really amazing and, at times, overwhelming.

Sometimes we get a little overwhelmed by size. Often we feel insignificant because of our surroundings and the number of people around us. Many wonder where they fit, what they can do, how they can contribute. Unfortunately, this can happen in our churches as well. Some may feel a little left out, or a little insignificant as they try to see where they can be used. What we must remember is that size does not determine value. We learn that as we grow. When I was a child, I always went for the big packages at Christmas or birthdays because I thought that the big packages must be the better packages. I would like to think that I have grown out of that thinking, as it is not correct. Which would you rather have, a 10 carat diamond or a ton of coal? "Well, let me think about that. . ." I don't think you would think long.

Size does not count when it comes to our worth towards our Father, in our church, or in life in general. We need to remember that, especially at times when we might be struggling with feelings of "I don't fit, I don't have anything to offer." We certainly do have worth - Christ thought enough of us that he died for us. I John 4:10 says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Don't belittle yourself with thoughts of inadequacy - you are special in God's eyes and you have much to contribute. Remember, size does not determine worth, use does. Allow yourself to be used of God and show your worth!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 29, 2018

What does the future hold? Every generation has asked that question, and every generation has the same answer, "We don't know." "US News and World Report" published an article in 1983 entitled "What the Next 50 Years Will Bring." Items such as the increase usage of computers, business trends, fashion trends and other things were discussed. For a very good reason, none of the predictions were really specific. The reason is that no one knows for sure what will actually happen in the future. A case in point is a show I recently watched on ESPN. The commentators were reviewing their preseason predictions to see how well they had done. A more appropriate statement is to see how poorly they had done. In most cases we need to realize we can't be too certain about prognostications.

There is an exception, of course. When we read a prediction about the future in the scripture, we can rest assured it will take place as it was written. Almost 25% of the scripture is prophetic in nature. About 75% of that 25% has taken place just as it was written. For Old Testament prophets, the test of there authenticity was that they were 100% accurate. Any less was a demonstration that they were fake.

We can trust what the Bible says. If you have some doubts about the reliability of scripture, spend some time reading and studying the prophetic statements. You will see that what has been given is real and true. Start your New Year with a study of what God predicts. You will come to the conclusion stated in II Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 28, 2018

Eighteen years ago at this time I was in Chicago. The reason I remember that so well is because my youngest daughter, Megan, was in an all-state theater production of "The Pirates of Penzance." We were in Chicago with a number of our family taking in the performance.

I am always amazed at theatrical productions. It takes so many people for these performances to take place, many more than you actually see on the stage. Beside the principal actors, there are those that make up crowd scenes and other roles. There are many people backstage besides the director that work to move scenery and props, take care of special effects, lighting, make-up, and many other details. The success of the show depends upon every person doing their part. There are always roles to fill at every level. Sound familiar?

This is just as it is in the church. There are always roles to fill. Paul tells us. "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:16) Re-read that last line: "as each part does its work." Yes, you have a role to fill, and yes, what you do is vital! Maybe in this New Year, you will have a new role to fill! What will it be? Everyone must do their part in order for the work to be done! What part will you play? What job will you do? NO ONE gets a bye! So, pitch in and help!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 27, 2018

Much has been written about post-Christmas depression and how to beat it. You can find a bunch of articles on the internet about this. Of course, it was a topic long before there was internet. Many experience an emotional let-down after Christmas is over, and for some it can be quite a problem. Experiencing a time of emotional let-down is not just associated with Christmas, it can happen at other times and for other reasons.

Let-downs can follow other times of celebration or events, or we can experience this when someone does something to "let us down." This is, unfortunately, part of our experience as people because people can bring about bad times for us, either intentionally or unintentionally. We can bring about bad times for others - we can be mean at times, or we can simply let someone else down through an unintentional flub on our part. The only one we can trust to never let us down is the one whose birth we celebrate - our Savior. He came to lift us up - to provide a way for us to be able to escape the morass of sin in which we were mired. When we place our faith in him, he gives us hope - hope of eternal life and of so much more.

Christ said, "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) If we focus on the Savior and his provision, we will not only be able to conquer those post-Christmas blues, we will be able to experience a richer life that is full of joy and contentment because of what he provides. Trust him and experience the life he has for you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 26, 2018

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 25, 2018

The year was 1921. The Taggert Baking Company of Indianapolis was about to launch a new 1coming up with a name for the new product. While attending the International Balloon Festival at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he received an inspiration for a name. The sight of all the multi-colored balloons filling the blue sky filled him with wonder - why not name the new bread "Wonder Bread?" He did, and the rest is history. If you are familiar with this product, you know that yet today the packaging includes several multi-colored circles, evoking the image Cline saw on that day in 1921.

Today, you should be filled with wonder. Not because of some incredible scene that you have witnessed, or because of some feat of greatness you have just read about, or because your team made it to a bowl game, but because of whom we celebrate on this day. The story of Christ coming to earth should evoke wonder within you. You should never get over the incredible nature of the Gift we celebrate.

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:16-20) The shepherds were filled with wonder, everyone who heard their story was filled with wonder. We should be filled with wonder as well - and I am not talking about the bread. Merry Christmas!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 24, 2018

I read about a lady who ripped off a family by taking packages from their porch. This is a common occurrence. The packages were Christmas gifts for the children who lived in the house. A comment by the folks was that "Christmas could be ruined" by the loss of the gifts.

The theft of the gifts is indeed a bad thing - and it is a shame that it is tied to the celebration of Christmas. The theft shows the depravity of humans. This was why Christ came - "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God", Romans 3:23 tells us. By our reckoning, we might not consider this theft the lowest of the low, but it is indicative of the problem that humans have we are sinners and are capable of doing really mean things.

Besides the theft, I found myself bothered by another issue that was revealed through the statements of the family. According to them, the loss of the gifts would ruin their Christmas. When I read this, I thought, "So, if you don't have gifts, then you don't have Christmas." Now, I do not want to downplay the disappointing nature of the incident, but I think it is a shame that this is the essence of Christmas for so many. For many, Christmas is gifts, not the Gift.

A Christmas song recorded by Alabama years ago included the lyrics, "It's not what s in your hand, but what is in your heart." That should be our attitude towards our celebration. If our focus is on the Gift, then the gifts don't matter. Our mindset should be like that of Paul expressed in II Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift." For which gift are you most thankful?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 23, 2018

I remember in the first grade that we made silhouettes of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in February to commemorate their birthdays. You may be wondering why I am bringing up these February presidential birthdays in December when we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ. Follow my thinking a bit.

The silhouettes I made of the presidents were of their adult likenesses. As we think about the birthday of Christ, what do you think of? We think of him as a baby. This is something unique to Christmas (among many other things). Rather than picturing Christ as an adult when we celebrate his birthday as we do for others, we focus on the actual birth and picture him as an infant.

It is altogether right that we do this, given the scriptural accounts regarding his birth. For the most part, we don't have birth details about others whose birthdays we acknowledge. With Christ, we have details given in Scripture regarding his birth - where he was born, the conditions in which he was born, the angelic announcements of his birth, and the visitors who came just after he was born and those later on. Don't you find it fascinating that all of these details are given about his birth? They were given because we need to marvel at his birth. This was God coming into the world as a human. The baby would grow into an adult and die for us; however, we still need to honor the baby - God in flesh, Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 captures the magnificence of this, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What a wonderful birthday - celebrate the Baby who is our Savior!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 22, 2018

Russell Nagy wrote a song entitled "The Promise." Part of the lyrics are:

Silently by night,

in mortal flesh enshrouded,

He who framed the mountains

draws first breath.

Far from human sight,

the Promise ne'er forgotten

Is in love begotten

to conquer death.

What a beautiful expression of the provision of God through the birth of his Son! This was a Promise first given to Adam and Eve just after the Fall. The Promise was actually contained in a statement that God made to Satan: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 1:15)

Knowing that humans would fall, already God had a plan in place to provide for our sin. With the creation of humans came a Promise to provide for us. I sometimes wonder why God created us when he knew full well how needy his creation would be, but then there are a lot of things I don't know about with God. I know he decided to create us and decided to provide for us. Celebrate his Promise, made for us before we were even created.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 21, 2018

On the hills just outside Bethlehem, angels proclaimed to a group of astonished shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14) This was the promise given over 2,000 years ago, yet we have not experienced that promise. Current conflicts cannot compare to the scale of the ones that marked the 20th century, but there are still wars and there are still people dying in combat. In addition, domestic violence is on the rise, marriages fail at an alarming rate, lawsuits proliferate court dockets, and violent crime of all sorts is on the rise. Even churches are not immune to conflict. So, where is the peace?

Peace will come. Regardless of how much a lack of peace prevails, our future holds peace. Isaiah 2:4, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." God made this promise almost 3,000 years ago, and it will happen. In his time, according to his will, this will take place.

As we wait, we have two choices, we can either despair because of the lack of peace, or we can do our best to make certain that peace prevails in our immediate experience. Do your best to live at peace and model the peace that Christ promises in your life every day. We know that the larger stage of world peace is in the hands of God, and he will accomplish it in his time. Continue to look to the Prince of Peace and know that His plans will be accomplished.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 20, 2018

Some years ago, our webmaster, Kenny McCall, found a song and included it on our church web page as part of the Christmas offerings you heard when you visited the site. A few weeks ago, something caused me to think about this song and I asked him if he remembered it. He did, and has included it on our site again this year. The title of the song is "Where's the Line to See Jesus?" You may be familiar with it either from hearing it on our website or somewhere else.

I did some looking around and found that the song was based upon a true incident where a little boy did indeed ask his mother "Where's the line to see Jesus?" The question was raised during a visit to a mall, and upon seeing the line of kids waiting to see Santa, the 4-year-old asked his mother, Where s the line to see Jesus?

To make a long story short, the boy's grandfather wrote a poem, some music was composed, the little boy's aunt recorded it, a webpage entitled "Where's the Line to See Jesus?" was created, and listeners are challenged to answer this rather profound question - Where IS the line to see Jesus? The chorus of the song is:

Where's the line to see Jesus?

Is He here at the store?

If Christmas time is His birthday

Why don't we see Him more?

Do I need to offer any commentary on this? Enjoy all the trappings of Christmas the gifts, the tinsel, the get-togethers, and even Santa just don't forget to get in line to see Jesus.

That little boy hit the nail on the head with his question, didn't he? We shouldn't be surprised by this. Remember the words of Christ about children, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matthew 19:14) We need to exhibit the wisdom of this child as we celebrate Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 14, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 13, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 08, 2018

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 07, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 05, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 03, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 01, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 30, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 28, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 27, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 26, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 25, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 24, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 23, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 21, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 20, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 19, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 14, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 13, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 12, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 08, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 07, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 05, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 04, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 03, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 02, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 01, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis