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

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

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

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

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


Our Staff

Pastor
Dr. Steve Willis

Deacons

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Dr. Steve Willis

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

Sam & Karen White

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

 

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
Sunday May 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 24, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 23, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 20, 2018

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

Christ said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) From this statement, I understand that debt is not inherently bad. There are times when debt is justified; however, reason needs to be applied when it comes to the amount of debt one acquires.

A basic fact is that you cannot spend more than you have, You need to keep your wits about you when you are making financial decisions. Seek out good advice in money matters. Keep your "want" list under control. Seek God's guidance in managing your money. Remember that "the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7)

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 08, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 07, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 05, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 03, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 01, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 30, 2018
In the 1996 film, Multiplicity, Michael Keaton is featured as a construction worker trying to juggle fatherhood with his job and other demands. To meet these demands, he is cloned with hilarious results.

Trying to keep up with all the demands on our time is usually not so hilarious in real life. It can be a serious struggle that sometimes leads to health issues and problems with stress. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to "Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." We are encouraged to make sure that we are in control and managing our schedule and not let our schedule manage us.

We are told to do this because of the "evil days". That is, in the wake of the sinfulness that exists, and the presence of temptation, we need to be cautious that we don't allow pressures brought about by time issues to get the better of us so that we fail.

There are many reasons why we need to be careful with our time. If you feel under pressure and that time is in control, you need to take steps to turn this around. This may require hard decisions, but in the end, it will be advantageous. You cannot clone yourself, so learn to do what you are able to do and learn the art of saying "no!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 29, 2018

Many of us have had the experience of walking into a room and knowing that someone has been there, or is still nearby, even though we did not or could not see them. We have that knowledge because we detect the familiar smell of their favorite cologne or perhaps we detect by some other means that they were there. "Now, wait a minute," one might ask, "How do you know this since you can't or didn't see them?" Well, there are other lines of evidence that validate their presence.

Many argue against the existence of God because he cannot be seen; however, just because we cannot see him does not mean he isn't there. There are many other lines of evidence that point to his existence. Of course, it does eventually come down to faith. One must believe that God is even though he or she has never seen God.

Christ told Thomas in John 20:29, ""Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Hebrews speaks of believing without seeing as being the definition of faith. We read in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

The old adage "seeing is believing" does not apply here. We believe even though we have not seen. Faith is the ability to "see" the spiritual world, to "see" God. As George MacDonald wrote, our goal then is to "grow eyes" to see the unseen.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 28, 2018

Today we lay to rest a lady that was, is, and always will be one of the most significant people in my life. My Aunt Freda, Meemie to me and my family, had a huge role in my becoming who I am. I gave her the name Meemie many years ago before my verbal skills had progressed enough for me to say "Freda." That was an important development as it gave her a unique name that set her apart from all the other Freda's of the world. It certainly did for me and for many others.

Meem has always been there in my life. She was the only surviving sister of my mother who had lost three sisters and a brother by the time of Meem's birth in 1932. To say that my Mom and Meem were tight is sort of an understatement. Of course, this is the case with many sibling relationships and certainly was the case with them.

Meem was there the day I was born and it seems that I can almost remember my Mom saying to me on that day, "I love you beyond reason, and let me introduce to you someone else who feels the same way." My earliest memory of Meemie was watching her wash my brother's diapers with a garden hose and a wringer washer on the back porch of the house we lived if for the first 5 years of my life. She had helped Mom with this task after I was born as well. To me, someone who is willing to wash diapers is saying, "I will do what I need to in order to be involved in your life." And indeed, she was more involved in my life than just taking care of my diapers.

As I said earlier, she was always there, even though marriage and family took her to another part of the state just before I started school. I moved away years later, but we still kept in touch through being together on holidays, family trips, and other ways. Meem moved back to southern Ohio a number of years ago, so that meant I got to see her more frequently when we came back to Ohio for visits. After my Mom fell and broke her leg, Meem cared for her the last 2 ½ years of Mom's life.

I am going to miss her terribly, but I trust in the hope of being with her again. I am happy for her as I know that her struggle is over. I firmly believe in the hope that we read in II Corinthians 5:1, "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands."

I am glad for this truth for my Aunt Freda. Her "earthly tent" had certainly deteriorated over the past few years. Now, she's got something better. I am in no hurry, but I look forward to the time when I get my "new tent," and get to see Meem in hers.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 27, 2018

I read about a little boy who said, "Thinking is when your mouth stays shut and your head keeps talking to itself." What you think about when you are not talking reveals a great deal about your moral and spiritual character. The Bible has a great deal to say about thinking and about what we should be thinking. We need to guard our thoughts and make sure we are thinking about things that are beneficial and avoid thought exercises that would hinder our walk with God.

Psalm 63:6 tells us that we should think about God at all times, "On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night." We are encouraged to meditate on God's unfailing love (Psalm 48:9), his deeds (Psalm 77:12), his precepts (Psalm 119:18), and his Word (Psalm 119:97).

Thinking about these things when we can will guide our thoughts when we need to concentrate on other matters. When our head "talks to itself", it should be a good conversation!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 26, 2018

The city of Philadelphia was surprised to receive a check for an unpaid parking ticket. Why was there surprise over a usually common occurrence? The check for $15 was from a man in England who had received the ticket while visiting the City of Brotherly Love in 1954. John Gedge wrote, "I found the ticket while going through a drawer and wanted to pay it. Englishmen always pay their debts." This stands out as an interesting example of integrity.

In Psalm 101, King David talks about his commitment to integrity. He knew what is was to be disingenuous, and he learned from his mistakes. He says, "I will be careful to lead a blameless life (vs. 2)." His integrity was to extend to his house (vss. 2-3), his associates and friends (vss. 3-4), how others treat others (vss. 5-7), and anyone with whom he has any dealings (vs. 8). He will demand integrity of others as well as demonstrating integrity himself.

Integrity is one of the most important hallmarks of a follower of Christ. We need to display integrity in our personal and business relationships. Others need to know that they can trust what we say and predict what we will do in given situations. Strive to be a person others can trust.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 25, 2018

When my girls were growing up, never once did I give them a piece of leather to chew on if they asked for something to eat. I did not give them sawdust when they asked for money to buy lunch, or candy, or whatever. I never even thought about doing something such as this. Christ talks about this in Matthew 7 where he says, "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?" (vss. 9-10)

Christ used this example of absurdity to show that God has nothing but our best interests at heart, even as a good earthly parent has nothing but the best interests of their children at heart. However, we sometimes think this "absurdity" is reality. We feel like we are getting stones from God rather than bread. We know this is not actually the case, but our human nature is sometimes hard to control. When this happens, let Christ s statements found in Matthew 7 roll around inside of your head.

Someone once wrote:

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn to obey.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power and the praise of men;

I was given weakness to sense my need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for;

In spite of myself, my prayers were answered

I am among all people most richly blessed.

Let the truth of this writing and the truth of scripture keep you thinking correctly.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 24, 2018

I enjoyed reading "The Three Sillies" when I was in grade school. This is an old folk tale about a man who goes on a search for someone sillier than the three people who make up the family of the lady he wishes to marry. The father, mother, and the daughter all have a crisis when they find an ax stuck in the ceiling of their cellar.

They become agitated as they imagine what would happen if the son of the man and the daughter (who is, of course, not yet born) were to grow up, go to the cellar, and be hit in the head by the ax as it dropped from the ceiling. The man couldn't believe the silliness of the family and showed that all they need do was to simply remove the ax. The man then states he will not marry the daughter unless he finds some sillier people, which he does.

We can be pretty silly as well. We worry and stew about things over which we have no control or things that really have a simple solution that escapes us.

Christ addresses the issue of worry in Matthew 6, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (vss. 25-27) Don't be a silly - get a handle on your worry!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 23, 2018

I have a real struggle with folks who are all about themselves and what they have or what they can do or simply just so "me-centered" that they don't see what is happening with others. Recently I read a humorous story about a fellow who had just purchased a gas-saving automobile. His incessant talk about his great car led to action among his friends.

They started filling his tank without him knowing it. This, of course, led him to the conclusion that he was getting really great gas mileage. He was trying to convince others that he was averaging almost 90 miles per gallon. After a time, the friends stopped adding the extra fuel, and his mileage dropped dramatically. He was totally exasperated, but also a little less boastful about his car.

Don't make your friends go to extreme lengths to shut you up about yourself. Show more concern for others and less concern about your own position. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips." An old adage states, "Less brag, more fact." That is a good line of thought. We need to be less self-centered and more motivated to focus on others. This will make you a little easier to live with.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 22, 2018

I struggled with the rusty nut for quite a while and finally came to the conclusion: this one is not going to loosen unless I give it some encouragement. And what kind of encouragement do you think I used? How many of you out there think I got a big hammer and started whacking the nut unmercifully? Well, if you thought this, you thought wrong. I sprayed the nut with WD40, waited a little bit, and guess what? I removed it with hardly a strain of my muscle. All the nut needed was a little encouragement.

Every time I perform a task similar to this, I cannot help but think of a sermon I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks preach many years ago. The message was titled, "Barnabas: The Man with the Oily Disposition." When you read about Barnabas in the book of Acts, you find out why Dr. Hendricks used this expression about him. Barnabas knew what type of encouragement to use - patient and effective, just like the WD40. His very name means "Son of encouragement." (Acts 4:36)

Barnabas was the one who introduced Paul to the apostles and he was Paul's companion on the first round of church-planting endeavors. Acts 13:2-3 tells us, "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So, after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." Later, he and Paul would have a disagreement about John Mark's attendance on the second trip to establish churches. Paul didn't want Mark (read Acts to find out why), but Barnabas did. They parted ways, going in different directions with Mark accompanying Barnabas. Whatever Mark's issues were, we read later that the "oil" Barnabas applied must have been effective as Paul tells Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (I Timothy 4:11)

How oily is your disposition? Are you good at encouraging others? When others need encouragement, we need to be like Barnabas. Don't use a bigger hammer, just patiently apply a little "oil" through effective encouragement and watch God bring about some marvelous results!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 21, 2018

Several years ago, the Orlando Sentinel wrote an interesting article about Moshe Ben-Meir, director of the dead-letter office in Jerusalem. Ben-Meir takes care not to make fun of the mail that ends up here. In an interview, Ben-Meir said, "You see the most - how shall we say it? - peculiar letters we get are addressed to God." Many letters addressed to "God" or the "God of Israel" or other ways end up in Ben-Meir's office.

These letters are varied in nature, but many of them are requests. One person asked God to bless his business. Some ask for forgiveness for things they have done. Others ask for direction in their personal lives.

I can think of a better way to communicate with God than sending him a letter that ends up in the dead-letter office of the Jerusalem post office. When we have a genuine request or a desire to communicate with him all we need to do is pray. Psalm 65:2 shows that God answers prayer, "You who answer prayer, to you all people will come." Whether we say our prayers silently, voice them aloud in a public worship setting or when we are along somewhere, or write them, they go directly to God without the need to mail them.

We need to leave it up to God as to how he responds to our prayers. He knows best what we need and will always answer with our best interests at heart. He also knows when prayers are misguided or inappropriate and he will respond accordingly.

God already knows the deepest needs of our heart, but we are asked to pray. When we want to communicate with him, we don't need to address a letter to the "God of Israel," all we need to do is pray. We need to follow Paul's admonition found in I Thessalonians 5:17 and "pray continually."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 20, 2018

Over the years, I have had about a gazillion different types of exploratory medical tests. I have had x-rays, CT scans, MRI's, nuclear scans, heart monitor tests, biopsies, and many others. All were designed to allow medical professionals to see things they would not be able to see through simple observations.

I had a laryngoscopy one time. The doctor numbed my throat with a spray and then snaked down an instrument that had a tiny camera. He wanted to see if there were any problems with my vocal cords and also see if there was any scarring in my throat. Most of these tests are not painful, but they can be uncomfortable. However uncomfortable they may be, they are necessary in order to find problems that may exist.

There are times when we need to have some incisive examination of our spiritual lives. The Scripture is the means to expose any troubled areas. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 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."

This process can be uncomfortable at times as weaknesses and problems are exposed, but we should be grateful for this reality. God's Word exposes our areas of need and offers awareness so that we can take steps to make corrections. We should be thankful for the diagnostic ability of the Word of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 19, 2018

Many years ago the Hayden Planetarium made a mock offer for moon trips. Over 18,000 people responded to the fake advertisement for the 240,000-mile trip. One lady wrote, "It would be heaven to get away from this busy earth . . . and just go somewhere that s nice and peaceful, good, safe, and secure." A psychologist who studied many of the letters said they were from people who were looking for an escape from the struggles of the life they were now living. Many critics of Christianity have contended that Christians are emotionally weak people seeking escape from the struggles of their current existence. Karl Marx infamously wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

When you study the lives of many of the followers of Christ who have endured great persecution on account of their beliefs and their convictions, you find that Marx's quote is brainless. Far from being an "opium," Christianity is the essence of their existence because they knew the reality that life here and now is not a final destination. Christians know we are "strangers in a strange land" and our allegiance is elsewhere.

You can read about many of the struggles of saints in Hebrews 11. Chet Bitterman, Jim Elliot, and John Knox are all men who died because of their Christian testimony. If you were to ask them if they were looking for an escape when they embraced the message of Christ, I am sure you would get a resounding, "No!"

The Christian view that our current existence in only temporary and that we are moving towards a new life is firmly rooted in reality, not escapism. We are following the lead of Abraham as he "made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:9-10) Frank Sinatra may have been dreaming when he sang, "Fly me to the moon," but we certainly aren't when we say "This world is not our home."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 17, 2018

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

As you draw near to God, do you show respect? We do have free access to God as the veil has been torn in two (Matthew 27:51). We can approach the throne of grace with confidence because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 4:6), but we also need to remember that God demands and deserves respect.

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 16, 2018

During our celebration of the Resurrection and all throughout the year, we gratefully acknowledge Christ's finished work for us. His death, burial, and resurrection were essential for us that we may have the hope of living with him throughout eternity. However, we should not forget his ongoing work for us that continues and is being accomplished even as I am writing this article and as you are reading this article.

Hebrews 7:25 tells us, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Even as he prayed for us the night before his crucifixion (read John 17), Christ continues to intercede for us. The vital work of Christ continues as long as we need his help, comfort, and blessing. The Scottish theologian Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, " If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me!"

As you face difficulties, struggles, and problems, remember that Christ is praying for you. He always lives to intercede for you. As you struggle to live the way he wants you to, and even when you fail and fall into sin, remember he praying for you and interceding for you in your struggle. Through his intercessory work, you can experience the hope that only Christ can give!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 15, 2018

Spring is getting here in fits and starts this year. Well, at least I think it is. We had a taste of some spring-like weather this past week, but that seems to be changing. Something that has not happened to any great extent is gardening. At some point, this will be possible it really will be.

So, what is on the menu for your garden this year? No doubt a variety of things. That is the nature of most gardens. There are a variety of plants because we want a variety of vegetables and fruits to enjoy later on. The overall purpose of the garden is to provide items of food, but there are different plants that fit this bill.

So it is with the church. The overall purpose of the church is an organism to bring about God's will on earth. However, there is a variety of people who work in different ways at different times to accomplish this. God does different things with different people within the church to accomplish his purpose.

This is why we need to be careful about comparing ourselves to others and comparing our roles and our ministry to others within the church. It is easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves with others and feeling threatened if we see God moving someone else differently that what we are experiencing.

Be careful about comparing your experience with others. God uses different people in different ways to bring about his will. He knows what he is doing and we need to trust him. Isaiah 55:11 tells us, "So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." This is true for each of us in our lives. Our role is to obey God and let him do with us what he wants; remembering all the time that he knows what he is doing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 14, 2018

An elderly nearsighted man was with a group that decided to visit an art museum. He fancied himself to be somewhat of an "expert" in art, and the fact that he had forgotten his glasses didn't deter him from commenting upon the paintings that were being viewed. He made statements about each work and he made sure he spoke loudly enough for each person in the group to hear.

He stopped in front of one particularly large piece and said, "The frame is altogether out of keeping with the picture. The man is too homely and shabbily dressed. In fact, it was a great mistake for the artist to select such a shoddy subject for his portrait." His wife finally shushed him and said, "Dear, you are standing in front of a mirror."

Character faults seem to pop out at us when we observe them in others, but usually we are slow to see our own. We need to be careful about our short-sightedness when it comes to our flaws. We should allow the mirror of God's Word to reflect that which we need to see and to change.

It is much too easy to fall into the trap of criticizing others. Don't do that! Pray for insight and let God smooth out the wrinkles of your life. Proverbs 16:10 says, "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!" Pray for valuable insight!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 13, 2018

Rembrandt painted many memorable pictures of the crucifixion. In one, he can be seen plainly at the foot of the cross looking on. It is really hard to miss him as he is dressed in clothes that would be contemporary for the time in which he lived, even wearing a beret.

I have read a number of theories about why he put himself in this painting. One article stated that he is there because "The scene is a visual metaphor for the struggle in his own mind to create his painting as the artist's archetypal subject is not The Raising of the Cross but The Crucifixion." Now, this sounds interesting, but I wonder if he is there because he wants to point out that he is just as responsible for the Crucifixion as any of the Romans who actually accomplished the deed.

This is something we should always keep in mind: Christ died for our sins which makes each of us equally responsible for his death. It is truly marvelous to think that Christ died for you, but it is also a sobering thought as you realize what this actually means. Keeping this in mind will help us not to take lightly his great sacrifice on our behalf.

Our attitude towards the cross should be that of Paul's, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14) We need to put ourselves in the portrait of the Cross.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 12, 2018

Jesus was at Caesarea Philippi with his disciples. This location was a little out of their territory and was a place of spiritual oppression. It is located in the midst of the Golan Heights in the northern part of Israel. A temple to the Greek god Pan had been built there and it was also a location of one of the "Gates of Hades". Even today, when you visit the ruins you sense desolation, which is appropriate as Pan was the god of desolate places.

It was here that Jesus asked his disciples two incisive questions. First, he asked, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Matthew 16:13) Read the passage and you will learn their responses to this. Then he asked a more penetrating question, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" (16:15)

When it comes to our relationship with Christ, this last question is the most important. We live in the midst of a spiritually oppressive and desolate world. The territory around us is full of opinions and non-opinions regarding Christ. What others say is irrelevant. We need to know his identity and then boldly uphold his identity to others. Along with Peter we should declare, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (vs. 16)

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 11, 2018

It is not what you have been given that is important; it is what you do with what you have been given. A person who demonstrated this principle well was Sir Edmund Hillary. After conquering Mt. Everest with his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay in 1953, Hilary refused to "rest on his laurels." The rest of his life was devoted to building schools, hospitals, and bridges for the Sherpa community. For almost 5 decades he labored to help the people of the person who was his friend and guide on one of the most significant endeavors of any person up to that time. A TV newsman once said of Hillary that his status as a hero was "not about what he did when he stood on top of the world, but what he did when he came back down."

Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain in Israel. There, he was "transfigured," and the disciples witnessed him in a state of brilliance and glory. Moses and Elijah appeared, and the three men talked. As they were leaving, Peter said, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (Luke 9:33) The text then tells us that "he did not know what he was saying." (vs. 33)

I find it interesting that this event is recorded in Luke just after Christ has told them the cost of following him. Each person must "deny (himself) and take up (his) cross daily." (Luke 9:23) Through these events, Christ's followers are reminded of what they have through him, but more importantly are reminded of what they should be doing with what they have. They cannot stay on the mountain. They need to come down to the work.

So it is with us. We cannot stay on the mountain and admire what we have or what we have done. There is work to do, and we need to get to it.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 10, 2018

There were seven men chosen to be part of the fledgling United States space program. Originally, they were involved as pilots in high-speed aeronautical testing. This evolved into journeys into space that culminated with the lunar landing in 1969. The men's experiences were recorded in a 1979 book entitled "The Right Stuff" written by Tom Wolfe. A movie was made from the book in 1983.

John Glenn, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Alan Shepherd, and Deke Slayton were the men who were the original astronauts. Each of them realized that along with the thrill of being chosen was the unknown and what it might bring. Yet, they were willing to totally commit themselves to this effort for the good of the program and for those who would come after them.

Christ chose 12 men who would form the original church and become the ones who would pioneer the spread of the Gospel message so that those who came after would know the good news of Christ. They (minus one, of course) came to realize the total commitment that was needed in spite of not knowing what that might mean for them.

Hebrews 11:8 says, "By faith 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." We are called upon today to exhibit "The Right Stuff" as we follow the Savior. We do not know what following him might bring, but a true follower exhibits commitment in spite of the unknown. We need to follow Christ faithfully and trust him completely with our future.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 09, 2018

Recently I read a story about security guards at JFK Airport in New York that have been caught sleeping on the job. So, how safe are you at the airport if the guards aren't paying attention? Stephen Jackson, a former manager for FJC Security, which employs about 300 security guards at JFK Airport, said it was actually surprisingly common to see JFK guards dozing.

One incident was particularly embarrassing. Jackson said Suhas Harite fell asleep twice while assigned to a remote post near Jamaica Bay. A jet skier who became stranded breached a 6-foot-tall fence built as part of the New York Port Authority s $100 million Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. The jet skier managed to walk across two runways undetected. Yeesh!

According to Psalm 121:3 & 6, we never have to worry about God falling asleep on the job: "He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night." No one will cross any runways while God is around! He offers continued protection, so we know our lives are secure! I'm glad God is watching me, not JFK Security!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 08, 2018

"Praying Hyde" of India, whose real name John Nelson Hyde, was a missionary who worked in the state of Punjab in India in the early years of the 20th century. He formed the Punjab Prayer Union and encouraged the members to pray at least one-half hour a day for the needs of the people there. He asked them to pray for one convert a day. A year later, there were more than 400 people who had converted to Christianity.

We often discuss and talk about prayer, trying to find out what we should be doing in our prayer lives and how we should be praying. In actuality the best thing to do is simply pray. James 5:16 tells us "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Spending time in prayer helps us to develop the mindset of God and gives him the opportunity to work in our lives.

We don't know what God will do, but we do know what we should do. When we pray, we know he will not remain silent. For what should we pray? Hyde prayed, "I must not lose this vision." That sounds like a good place to start.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 07, 2018

What kind of effort do you put in when you think that no one is watching or that no one will ever see what you have done? A group of people on a mission trip painted a building that was part of a school. They came to a part of the building that no one would ever see except the person who mowed the grass. The temptation was to not do anything to the wall. One painter spoke up and said, "Well, God will see it, so we should do our best."

For those who follow the Savior, this is always a consideration. We need to remember that God sees all we do, and when we are tempted to "slough off" or not do our best, we are being watched.

Maybe we don't feel appreciated because no one seems to notice what we are doing, or we consider what we do not to be all that important or significant. Remember that God does notice what we do and he is a significant witness.

When this is the situation, remember the words of Paul, "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (I Corinthians 10:31) No matter who else is watching, or who else notices our work, our desire should be to glorify God in all we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 06, 2018

A first-time visitor to Alaska was staying at Denali Lodge and was anxious to see the tallest mountain in North America for the first time. As she sat on the back deck of the lodge she stared at the mass of rock and murmured "Wow!" A man sitting nearby heard her and said, "That ain't it." She learned, as many others had, that even though "The Great One" stood at over 20,000 feet, it was easy to miss the entire view because the mountain is often enshrouded in fog.

With our limited view of life, we often are not able to see the big picture. Often we think we are seeing all we need to see, but we have to be constantly mindful of our limitations. We really need to acknowledge our dependence on God's greater vision. He is not limited in his sight, and we need to rely upon his wisdom and guidance. He knows more than we do what needs to be done to develop our character and produce spiritual growth.

Our view of life is restricted by our humanness, but God is omniscient, he sees everything. Remember what Solomon wrote, "A person's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Open your eyes to see this wisdom.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 05, 2018

In 1911, Bobby Leach was the second person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. He did so in a specially designed steel barrel. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones or serious injuries. He was able to accomplish this because he knew of the dangers ahead of time and was able to prepare to face the dangers and survive.

In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg. Infection set in the leg, leading to gangrene, and the leg had to be amputated. Two months later, Leach died from further complications involving the leg. He was unable to see the dangers that were ahead when he slipped on the orange peel. As a result, he lost his life in a trip on a slick sidewalk while surviving a fall over raging falls.

We must remember to look ahead in our lives to avoid situations where we might face temptation to do things we shouldn't. We need to do all we can to prepare for situations that can cause us trouble. Some will be more obvious than others, so diligence is required. We need to avoid being careless and letting our guard down. This is good advice in a literal way, and it is good advice in our spiritual lives. Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:12, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don t fall!" It is a shame Leach didn't heed this advice. Make sure you do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 04, 2018

A little third grade girl kept coming home without her winter gloves. This posed a bit of a problem as her mother would have to buy new ones and this was put a little strain on the family's tight budget. After coming home once again gloveless, the exasperated mother said to her daughter, "Holly, you cannot keep losing your gloves! You need to be more responsible!" Holly replied, "Mommy, I thought that as long as you kept buying me gloves, I could give them away to kids who don't have any." Oh, my - what does Mom say now?

As followers of Christ, we need to have a heart of giving. Our actions need to reflect the heart of Christ, not because we want to get credit for doing something, but simply because we want to do something.

James talks about putting our faith into action and doing what the Word of God says. He gets very specific with statements like, "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)

We need to develop a heart of charity and have the right attitude towards those who struggle. Having a giving heart is one way that we can display the character of Christ in our lives. We need to put actions to our words and do what God's Word tells us!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 03, 2018

Scherry and I went to a Casting Crowns concert in Effingham a couple of weeks ago. I have always enjoyed the ministry of Casting Crowns, and appreciated their music and ministry that evening. They played a good deal of their older songs that night, including "Thrive" from their 2014 album of the same name. If you are familiar with the album, you know it has a picture of a tree that shows the root system of the tree as well as the above-ground portion that we normally see. I don't mean to overstate the obvious here, but their intention was to say that in order to thrive, you need good roots. And indeed you do.

When you view a magnificent tree, you need to remember that what you don't see is just as important as what you do see. The root system of a tree performs many vital functions. In winter, it is a store-house for essential food reserves needed by the tree to produce spring foliage. Roots absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. Roots also anchor the portion of the tree that is above ground. It is important to keep the portion above ground healthy to ensure an adequate food supply for the roots to continue their important functions. There is an interdependency of form, function, and appearance. The above-ground portion of the tree can only be as strong, resilient, and beautiful as the underground portion.

Too often, we forget about this interdependency in our lives. We forget that our outward appearance can only be as significant and beautiful as what we are on the inside. Psalm 1 points this out, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither--whatever they do prospers." (1-3) Make sure to develop your roots. If you don't, the rest of you will suffer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 02, 2018

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg is quoted as saying: The evidence for Jesus resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: It is a very unusual event, and second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live. If you truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you will live differently. A case in point is a transformation that occurred just after the resurrection of Christ.

Peter refused to acknowledge his relationship with Christ just after Christ was arrested. When questioned about his identity, Peter replied, "I don't know the man!" (Matthew 26:72) When we read about this incident, we wonder how it could happen. Regardless of the how, the fact is that it did occur. Peter denied Christ. However, a little over a month later, we see this same man who vehemently denied even knowing Christ stand up before a group of hostile people, perhaps even some of those who heard his denial, and declare, "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." and "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." (Acts 2:23 & 32)

The reason for Peter's transformation is found in the last verse quoted above - the reality of the resurrection. The reality of the resurrection transformed his life.

The reality of the resurrection should make a change in your life. If that change is not there, you really don't believe in the resurrection. As Pannenberg said, you cannot truly believe in the resurrection and it not make a difference in how you live.

Have you allowed the power of the resurrection to make a change in your life? Does your life reflect your belief in the resurrection? As in the case of Peter, you are the one who has the say in this decision. God will have a say if you don't.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 01, 2018

The theme of my post for this past Tuesday was Hope. In a comment on the post, Sandra Nichols reminded me of the proverb "Hope springs eternal." This saying comes from a poem entitled "An Essay on Man" published by Alexander Pope in 1734. This phrase has come to be used quite commonly to provide optimism when circumstances bring about difficulty. The saying has been used in books, in book titles, and other literary forms.

According to an article in "Psychology Today, "'Hope springs eternal' encapsulates the idea that hope is a powerful force that can help us face and overcome challenges." The Cambridge English Dictionary tells us that the phrase "Hope springs eternal" is a saying that is "said when you continue to hope that something will happen, although it seems unlikely." Let me take this up a notch.

For the follower of Christ, the phrase "Hope springs eternal" means something more. For the follower of Christ, hope is not looking forward to something we want to happen but seems unlikely, hope is looking forward to something that is going to take place because of what has already happened. We look forward to resurrection and the experience of eternal life because of the Resurrection of Christ that guarantees eternal life.

Today we celebrate the event that gives us our Hope and provides our assurance. The resurrection of Christ DID take place. And since it did take place, we have Hope. I Corinthians 12:20 says, "But the truth is that Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised." Nowhere is the phrase "Hope spring eternal" truer than in the life of the follower of Christ. Have a blessed day as you celebrate the Resurrection of Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 31, 2018

During the week of the crucifixion, today is a day of mixed emotions and reactions. There must have been a widespread amazement to the events of the day before - the darkness, the rending of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest of Holies, and the resurrection of many dead people. The followers of Christ are confused, devastated, and afraid. The apostles have found a retreat in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Most of the soldiers involved probably went about their lives - they had done this before, although Matthew 27 tells us that some of them were deeply moved by the events.

I don't know what was going through the minds of Pilate and Herod - neither were strangers to crucifixions - but this one was different. Pilate had to think about the events of Friday as the religious leaders wouldn't let him alone even though he had done there bidding. They were worried. The scripture tells us they were worried that Christ's followers would come and try to take the body. So, "The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, After three days I will rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.' 'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." (Matthew 27:62-66)

What about Christ? That is a good question. Many believe that he "descended into hell" to release captive saints that were waiting his deliverance. This is based on Ephesians 4:8 and I Peter 3:18-20. I take these verses to refer to his descent to the earth and his ministry there, not a descent into hell. We do know that he went to Paradise - remember his promise to the dying thief? (Luke 23:43) As to what else he did during this time - well, we don't know everything about him, do we? Oh, but we know what he will do tomorrow! My, what tomorrow will bring!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 30, 2018

What happened on this day, Friday, during the "last" week of Christ's life should go without saying. However, we need to say it; we need to rehearse the details to remind us of the incredible path that God chose that would lead to redemption for those who choose to follow. After the arrest in Gethsemane, there was a night of interrogation and abuse through the trials of the Sanhedrin.

As dawn broke, Jesus was taken to Roman courts before Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. Pilate gave the people a choice - Jesus or Barabbas. We know whom they chose. Events raced forward like a flood - the scourging, the crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, the veil of the temple torn in two, the graves of dead saints opened, the seven statements from the cross, the spear, Christ's death, and, of course, the burial. All in one day - a day we call Good Friday.

Christ was born at night and it became day; he was crucified during the day and it became as dark as night. A divine exchange took place - he bore our sins upon him so that we may have freedom from sin. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (I Corinthians 5:12; 18-19) This is why we call today Good Friday.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 29, 2018

I once watched a show where one of the plot lines involved trying to restore the memories of an adult woman who had experienced a traumatic incident at the age of four. She had repressed the recollection of this event and steps were being taken to allow her to recall what took place. This involved both the use of therapeutic techniques and drugs. The results were only mildly successful - it was better for the show if not everything was revealed all at one time.

As I saw this somewhat interesting fictional portrayal, I thought of something real - there is no amount of therapy or artificial means that will make God remember the sins for which we have been forgiven. I know comparing God's gracious forgetfulness to an unrealistic TV show is a bit unrealistic in and of itself, but it still amazes me when Scripture tells me that God really does put my sins in a place where they are not brought up again.

Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." David writes in Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Micah 7:19 gives us the promise, "You will again. . .hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

God does hold us accountable for our lives and what we do, but when we come to him and seek forgiveness, God deals with us and does away with the sin. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The sins are gone, and not to be brought back up through any means. This is a "voluntary repression" on God's part, and a reality for which we need to be thankful.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 28, 2018

I used to play a relay game with kids where I had several things written on slips of paper that were to be accomplished by team members. One of the activities was to run up to any adult that was present and say, "You're no spring chicken." Years ago, I didn't think too much about this. If this would be said to me now, I would have to agree with the statement, whether it was part of a game or not. I may not be all that old, but I certainly am not all that young. I have some battle scars to prove it. And when I look in a mirror I am reminded that I am no longer the person I remember I was.

Being young has many advantages, but with age comes the joy of reflecting on God's faithfulness. David wrote, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken." (Psalm 37:25) I remember my mother saying so many times, "I am so blessed." This almost became her mantra. Even when she was pretty much confined to her chair and struggled to breathe because of COPD, often she would make this proclamation.

I have to agree with her - not only was she blessed, but I am as well. Rehearsing all the ways I have seen God bless me in my lifetime is a glorious exercise. We are growing older all the time, but we can also grow more thankful for God's many mercies. I may not be a spring chicken, but that only means I am a person who is well-experienced in the goodness of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 27, 2018

The focus of our Lenten study at church this year has been Hope. This was the theme of the messages I delivered over the past weeks and was the subject of our study on Wednesday nights. Hope is so important in our lives and is something we have as followers of Christ.

On November 5, 1947, just two months after being named Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall delivered a prayer that has been entitled "Bifocals of Faith." Before the statesmen of the day Marshall prayed, "God of our fathers and our God, give us the faith to believe in the ultimate triumph of righteousness, no matter how dark and uncertain are the skies of today. We pray for the bifocals of faith that see the despair and the need of the hour but also see, further on, the patience of our God working out his plan in the world he has made."

Hope springs from a heart that trusts in God. All around us we see so many dark clouds of despair and hopelessness. We are beset by economic, medical, and emotional battles aside from the political uncertainty of our day. But with hope, we know that there will be a day of triumph. We know that God is in control and will turn the dark and uncertain days into a time of peace and joy. This is what Marshall proclaimed in his prayer.

Psalm 42:5 proclaims, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." We need to pray for "bifocals of faith" so that we can see God working out his plan in the midst of a troubled world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 26, 2018

The reduced load limit signs are coming out where I live. This is an annual thing - load limits are reduced because of the stress placed upon roads during the "freeze-thaw" cycle of winter. Load limits are necessary on roads and bridges to prevent too much damage to the road or bridge. This isn't just an economic or maintenance issue - it is a safety issue. Load limits are necessary for the good of everyone.

We have our load limits as well. Stress is part of our lives - but we need to know how to manage stress and do what we should to avoid undue stress. We each have our load limits that, if exceeded, can lead to harmful consequences. We need to know our load limit and to learn how to manage stress. Stress can be caused by a number of things - we need to be aware of this and apply some preventative measures as well as some healing measures.

We also need to remember that God is faithful and will walk right beside us during times of stress. He knows our load limits better than we do. Psalm 94:19 tells us, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy."

Remember you have load limits - do what you can to not get to these limits. When you are faced with circumstances that cause you to experience an increased load, take steps to manage what is taking place. Remember God's faithfulness and allow him to be a part of the process to keep you from exceeding your load limit. When you feel your strength failing, draw on his!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 25, 2018

Peter's journey from fisherman to disciple was filled with fits and starts. His walk can be characterized by the saying, "Three steps forward, and two steps back." Of course, this describes most of our journeys along the pathway of faith. We make progress towards Christ-likeness through obedience, and then we mess up.

Something that was never in question about Peter, despite his missteps in following Christ, was his love for Christ. This may be the reason for Christ's questioning found in John 21 when he asks Peter three times, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" (vv. 15, 16 & 17) Some say that Christ s method of questioning was to remind him of his three denials, as Christ asks the question about love three times. This may be true, but another consideration regarding the questioning relates to something within Peter. Perhaps Christ asked the questions because he wanted to affirm Peter's love for him. Taking this line of thinking, Christ was saying: "Peter, you indeed goofed, but let me point out something about which there can be no doubt - your love for me."

It is our love for Christ that should be strong and above question regardless of our shortcomings in other areas. We are prone to mistakes and unfaithfulness, but let's not be wishy-washy when it comes to our love. Let our love for Christ be above question. It will be our love that will draw us to a place of obedience when we step outside the lines in our behavior. Love is the primary qualification for servant leaders. What are you doing to show your love for Christ?

In addition to this idea, isn't it marvelous to think of Christ's approach to Peter in this way? It shows Christ's heart for his followers - even when we make mistakes, he wants to do what is necessary to bring us back in line. As we celebrate Palm Sunday today and remember that Christ's road to the Cross began on this day, we are reminded of Christ's love for us. His love for us is beyond question. Our love for him should be beyond question.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 24, 2018

I have always enjoyed mysteries. When I was young I enjoyed reading "The Three Investigators" and "The Hardy Boys". These mystery series enthralled me with the "whodunnit" or the "what happens next" genre.

Following God can sometimes seem like a mystery as we do not know what is coming next. This can be frightening at times as we struggle through some of the events we encounter and some of the circumstances we face. We can't see the whole picture from our current perspective.

This means we need to make a choice - continue to live in fear or live confidently as we trust God for the outcome. As I would read the mysteries, even though I did not know all the particulars along the way, I always knew the outcome would be positive. That was just the nature of the mysteries I read. We can have the same confidence with the "mystery" of our life with God. Even though we don't know all the particulars, we know what the outcome will be.

Paul writes, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." (I Corinthians 15:51) We know that whatever we face, whatever the struggle, following God means that our mysteries will have a good outcome. The ending of our mystery is a life with God and a resolution of the struggles we face. The last page of the great mystery we face is a glorious ending.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 23, 2018

Have you ever said, "I am going to bake a cake?" Well, if you have, I beg to differ with you. You have never baked a cake in your life. "Wait a minute!" you might say, "I have baked dozens of cakes!" Once again, I beg to differ. I have never baked a cake in my life and neither have you. THE OVEN bakes the cake, you simply mix the ingredients and put them in a proper pan and place them in the oven.

As I reflect on this reality, it brings to mind the division of responsibilities that exists in the church. We each have our different gifts and roles, and as we perform them together, we see the desired results. You can put together the most delicious cake ever made, but unless you put that cake in an oven, no one will ever be able to truly enjoy the tasty outcome. So it is with the church. Unless we work together, each person doing what they do best, we will not experience all that God intends for us to experience.

I think of two passages that reflect this thought. I Corinthians 3:16 tells us, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." I also recall the analogy of the body that Paul uses in I Corinthians 12 to describe how the church should function. He makes this conclusion, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." (12:27)

Each of you who are part of a local church have a part to play, a role to exercise, and work to do in the ministry of the church. We need to do what we should, work with others in the ministry, get out of the way of the work of God, and then we can bake cakes.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 22, 2018

Peter, Paul, and Mary released a song in 1962 called "Lemon Tree." Folks my age and older remember this song. The words to the chorus are, "Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat." When she was a little girl, my daughter Megan loved to eat lemons. We did not let her eat a lot, but she would stick the lemon in her mouth and bite down then make the most awful face. You really couldn t tell from her face whether she was enjoying the lemon or not.

Revelation 3:15-16 talks of a time when God "made a face" because he tasted something rather unpleasant. We read there, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth."

To whom is God speaking? A church! The church at Laodicea had followed a path of mediocrity and failed to follow God's leadership. As a result, they were doing a great injustice to the cause of God. God referred to their aberrations as an emetic. As he looked at what the church was doing, and also not doing, he "made a face."

Let s not cause God to made a face when he views our lives. Don t let our actions, or our lack of action, cause God to pucker up, or even do something worse. Let s live in a way to bring him pleasure, not pain!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 21, 2018

I know exactly where I was a year ago today. I was lying flat on my back in a hospital bed awaiting surgery to repair the shattered femur in my right thigh. As most of you know, the surgery went well, the bone healed, and I am able to walk, albeit with the assistance of a cane.

After my fall, I remember saying to the doctor as we were looking at the x-ray, "I've really done a number on myself, haven't I?" His reply was, "Yes, Mr. Willis, you have." I thank God daily for his enablement, for the skill of the doctor and other medical staff, and for the work of the physical therapists. I also thank my dear wife, my family, and my wonderful church for all the support during that time.

When I was going through PT, my therapist would say, "OK, Steve, it's time for a progress report." Progress reports were necessary to evaluate how I was doing in therapy, and also to satisfy the insurance company. The evaluation showed whether I was improving or not. Usually I thought I was improving, but I must confess hearing my therapist corroborate my thinking was good.

During a session on the MTS4000 Recumbent Trainer, a piece of equipment with which I became quite familiar, the idea came to me that periodic evaluations are helpful in a number of circumstances. One thought I had was, "What if God gave us periodic progress evaluations?" In one sense he does, and he also encourages us to take a look at ourselves to evaluate our progress in our spiritual growth.

Lamentations 3:40 says, "Let us test and examine our ways." II Corinthians 13:5 tells us "Examine yourselves. . .Test yourselves." Doing this helps us determine how we are doing in our spiritual growth, whether changes need to be made, and what we might need to do to keep moving forward. All of us need to do this - and I hope you don't need to break your leg to come to this realization. Trust me, you do not want to do that.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 20, 2018

In the movie "Karate Kid", there is an implied analogy when Mr. Miyagi is seen tending to his bonsai tree as he is conversing with his protégé, Danny Larusso. What is taking place with the tree is that which is going to take place with Danny - shaping and molding his character and his skill.

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art of "tree sculpting." This dates back over 1,000 years. A small tree, usually an evergreen, is placed in a pot and then shaped and molded over time through careful pruning and other manipulations. This can extend over several years. Care is taken with the plant as too much force can break the tree and therefore ruin the effort. Too little involvement and neglect can return the plant to the wild. Training takes time, patience, and focused effort.

This is a good analogy of how God deals with us. He knows what is needed to mold and shape our character to help us become what we should be in him. Sometimes we can feel the pressure, and sometimes it is uncomfortable, but we should remember that God knows exactly what he is doing. He knows to not "over-prune" to cause breakage, and he also knows what is necessary to keep us from going the wrong way. His discipline and training are always perfect. Hebrews 12:5-6 & 10 tells us, "My child, don't make light of the Lord's discipline, and don't give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves. . .But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness." Under God's watchful eye, we may never learn to do the "crane kick," but we will develop godly character!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 19, 2018

A man decided it was time to get in shape. So, he started working out. Day one went well with some weight-lifting and a mile run. On day two, he ran a mile and a half. Day three included more weight-lifting and a run of two miles. When he woke up on day four, he had a sore throat and a headache. His conclusion? Exercise had caused his affliction and wasn't good for him, so he stopped working out.

Doesn't this sound a little goofy? Well, sometimes our thinking can be a little goofy, and not just when it comes to exercise. We read the Bible and spend more time in prayer, then decide to stop because our lives don't improve. We still face struggles and rough patches; so why try to get closer to God if we still have troubles?

We don't draw closer to God just to make our lives trouble-free. We draw closer to God because that is what we should be doing in our lives. Drawing closer to God does not prevent rough times in our lives. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (II Timothy 3:12) We live for Christ for the purpose of living for Christ. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)

Live for Christ for the sake of living for Christ, not for the sake of a worry-free life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 18, 2018

I have always found it difficult to describe my emotions when I visit holocaust museums. They were particularly strong when I visited Yad V'shem in Jerusalem. As you are walking towards the entrance of the museum, you pass through the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles. This is a tree-lined walkway with each tree representing a Gentile who provided help for the Jews during the Nazi persecution in World War II. Names such as Oscar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom are to be found, along with many other lesser-known, but no less significant, people.

As we survey our lives, we can perhaps think of people who are important to us because of their contributions to us. Such people probably include parents and grandparents, along with others, who were particularly helpful and provided guidance for us. We should thank God for them

We should also thank God for so many others who have made sacrifices for friends, family members, or even complete strangers. Some have risked their lives, or even lost their lives, in their efforts to help others. Paul speaks of two who fit this description, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them." (Romans 16:3-4)

We may not be in a place of risking our lives to be of benefit to others in their struggles, but let's do what we can to help. Let's make sure we continue to reflect the same spirit of selflessness as did those who gave much to render aid.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 17, 2018

I always maintain that I am not much of a beach person; but whenever I travel to a beach I always have a good time. Of course, what makes it a good time is that I am with my family and any time spent with family is a good time.

Anyway, I remember that on one particular trip to Myrtle Beach I decided to get on a float and relax. Relax I did, losing track of time and my position. When I decided I had better check my location, I saw that I had floated about half a mile down the beach. The float trip was great, but I had to hoof it back to our condo. If only there had been some way to anchor my raft in one spot - that would have been great.

I am glad that my spiritual hope is not at the whim of unpredictable waves and untrustworthy winds. My spiritual hope is anchored in the promises of God. My spiritual hope is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ who died for me. This is true for all followers of Christ. Whatever forces there are that may try to cause us to drift away from our home base are countered by the power and strength of our marvelous Savior. Our hope is in the Rock, Christ Jesus, who is steadfast and unmovable. His limitless love holds us safely and securely.

Hebrews 6:17-20 tells us, "Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf."

An old hymn tells us, "We have an anchor that keeps the soul; Steadfast and sure though the billows roll; Fastened to the Rock which cannot move; Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love." Indeed, the anchor holds.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 16, 2018

Most of us would like to be content. How is it that we can be content? Job gives us the first hint when he says, "If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment." (Job 36:11) Now, think about who is saying this. This is coming from a man who has lost just about everything; yet he affirms that contentment comes not from life circumstances, but from being settled in God.

Solomon continues this line of thinking in Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Paul reflects this same thinking when he writes, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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." (Philippians 4:11-13) Where was Paul when he wrote this? In jail! That is where he was when he encouraged Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." (I Timothy 6:6-8).

With all of these people, contentment came not from what they had, where they were, or what they were experiencing. Contentment came through their relationship with the Lord and the settled-ness that comes from trusting in His way. When this is done, one will be content.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 15, 2018

"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. 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 Willis
Wednesday March 14, 2018

When I was young, a Bookmobile would come to our neighborhood. Do you recall bookmobiles? I don't know if there are any places that still have them because of the electronic gadgets that we have today. The bookmobile was a way of transporting a library to areas that didn't have a library.

The bookmobile would always park directly across from our house because there was a parking lot there that could accommodate the large vehicle. This was near the school I attended, so if school was in session, students would go in their classes to pick out books. It was so exciting to pick out books that brought stories to my house of faraway lands, long ago happenings, exciting adventures, and enthralling mysteries.

Paul must have been an avid reader. He wrote Timothy, "When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments." (I Timothy 4:12) I have often wondered what these scrolls and parchments contained. Maybe there were copies of Old Testament scriptures. They may have been some of his writings. I do know that Paul had an insatiable desire to know more about God and God's plan for his life. He wrote to the people at Philippi, "I want to know Christ yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11)

Does knowing more about God excite you? Do you desire to see more on him in your life? God wants to bring you more knowledge about himself and about your relationship with him. Does this motivate you to want to give more of you to him that he may use you to win others? God's "bookmobile" is here - use it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 13, 2018

A grandmother asked about her 5-year-old grandson's first day at kindergarten. Her daughter, the boy's mother, replied, "Well it was eventful." "What happened?" asked the grandmother. "Well, Billy was in line for lunch and another little boy spat at him because he wanted Billy's place. But Billy took care of the situation. He looked at the other boy and said, 'If you do that again, you can't be my friend.' I was surprised when Billy told me all of this because when I picked him up from school, he was walking arm in arm with the other little boy out of the school. You would never know there had been a problem between those two."

How do you respond when someone else treats you harshly? We usually want to retaliate when someone has done something hurtful to us. Usually it is difficult to respond any other way, but Christ encourages us to control our desire to retaliate and respond much in the same way as did Billy.

We read Christ's words in Matthew 5:38-40, "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well."

Christ champions a new way of thinking. He wants his followers to be less vengeful and more forgiving. The easy route when someone offends or hurts you is to do something of a similar manner in return. It takes a great deal of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical discipline to look at someone after you have been wronged and say, "If you do that again, you can't be my friend." Let's do what we can to manifest the spirit of Christ when we really would rather do something else.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 12, 2018

Do you remember show and tell when you were a kid? You would bring an item to the classroom and then tell about it. Sometimes a classmate would forget their items. I have seen teachers make the person go ahead and describe the item even though they didn't have the item to show to the class. At times, this didn't go all that well as the student struggled to try to describe the object. Having it in front of them to show would have been better.

We need to do this with our life in Christ. We shouldn't just try to tell others about the importance of having a relationship with the Lord, we should show them in how we live. My mother would often say, "Your actions speak so loudly I can hardly hear what you are saying." We can be more effective speaking about life with Christ when we have a true life with Christ on display.

Christ did this for us. He not only spoke of love, but he demonstrated what love is by giving his life for us. On the night before he died, he said to his disciples, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) He told about love, and then he showed love by allowing himself to be crucified.

How are we doing at show and tell? Do we have an effective object to go along with our lesson? If we don't, then we are just not doing it right.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 11, 2018

Thousands of tourists over the centuries have visited the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This religious citadel located on a hill in Athens was the site of many religious debates, perhaps even visited by the Apostle Paul as it is situated near the location of his debate with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers recorded in Acts 17.

If you visit this sight today, you would find that there are chips of marble lying around what remains of the structure. Many visitors to the sight take these as souvenirs when they leave. This practice has taken place for years, but there never seems to be a shortage of these pieces. How can this be? Vernon Grounds gives the explanation, "Every few months a truckload of marble fragments from a quarry miles away is scattered around the whole Acropolis area. So, tourists go home happy with what they think are authentic pieces of ancient history." The pieces are imitations.

When it comes to imitation, we need to avoid offering God "imitation" worship. We read Christ's comments about worship in John 4:23-24, "a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Make sure you are not just going through the motions when it comes to your worship. God wants more than just idle words, prayers, songs and sermons. He wants us to worship him with all of our heart. God is not a fan of mundane worship. Listen to his words in Isaiah 1:12-14, "When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations--I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me."

Don't offer God imitation chips - celebrate him with authentic worship!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 10, 2018

I am not really fond of automated answering services. I have always hoped they would go the way of the Edsel, but I don t see that happening. Most offices, businesses, organizations, and many churches, have them now. Many of you who have them at your business can perhaps speak long and eloquently about all the benefits of these systems. I find them very impersonal, and often frustrating, especially when you are calling for a simple bit of information (such as an appointment time) and can't seem to get a response.

I know I need to chalk this up to "progress" and go on. I have had to adjust my attitude because my lack of affection for this "technology" has done nothing to change the way things are.

I am glad that when I need to talk with my Heavenly Father I don't get something like "press 1 for prayer request, press 2 for praise, press 3 for request for intervention, press 4 for all other matters." God is always listening, always there, always available. His perpetual availability is hailed in many passages. One of my favorites is Psalm 121:4-5, "indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you the LORD is your shade at your right hand."

God never sleeps - he is always available. You don't need to "press 1" to reach him - simply call on his name. There are some things that will never change!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 09, 2018

Do you enjoy flying kites? I do, but I haven't done so in a long time. Maybe I should do something about that! One time when I was a kid, the older brother of my friend, Roscoe, let a kite go over a field next to my grandparents. The kite caught some upper wind currents and it kept going and going and going. John had to keep tying more string together to keep control. Eventually, the kite was just a tiny speck in the sky and we had to use binoculars to keep track of it.

This reminds me of a story of a kite who loved to fly high. The kite loved the feel of the wind and the sights he could see when he was really high up in the air. The kite began to long to break free of the string that held it so he could so frar even higher. He longed to be so high that the houses below would become little dots and he could brush against the clouds. So, he tugged and tugged until he eventually snapped the string that was attached to him. However, when he did this he suddenly began spinning wildly and tumbling down and down. His adventure came to a rude ending when he crashed to the ground.

We can be like that kite. We get crazy ideas of how we would like to be free of God's control on our lives so that we could experience new heights and see new things. We fail to realize that breaking free of God's control would mean disaster. There might be a momentary time of exhilaration, but that would come to an end quickly as we found ourselves tumbling to a ruinous crash landing.

The way to experience true freedom is IN Christ, not APART from Christ. We find the words of Christ in John 8:31-32, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." The way to experience true freedom is to let Christ control the string!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 08, 2018

An article on The Detroit Institute of Arts website dated June 30, 2006, reported that the efforts of their Conservation Lab were certainly needed on February 24, 2006, when a 12-year-old visiting with his school placed a wad of chewing gum on a painting entitled "The Bay," by Helen Frankenthaler. The work of art was valued at $1.5 million.

Conservators in the lab have dedicated their efforts to analyzing, repairing and preserving art, and although damage from visitors is extremely rare, the DIA's conservation staff was well prepared to handle this unfortunate incident. A school official was quoted as saying, "I don't think he fully understood the ramifications of what he did."

A powerful prayer of Christ on the cross was, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) Even after his mistreatment, his beatings, his flogging, and the crucifixion, he prayed for forgiveness for those responsible who didn't know what they were doing.

And just who were those responsible? Well, one might say the Jewish leaders, or the Roman soldiers, or even Pilate. In reality, we are all responsible for the pain he endured. So, when he prayed for forgiveness for those that "know not what they do," this included all of us. We all played a part in the death of Christ, and God's grace extends to all. Accepting his grace allows for forgiveness. We don't need to fully understand, but we need to fully accept his gift.

The lab at the Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the finest in the United States, and they were able to repair damage caused by the gum. Christ is not only the finest but also the only one able to repair the damage caused by sin.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 07, 2018

The linotype machine revolutionized printing in general and newspaper publishing in specific. The machine, using a 90-character keyboard, could set an entire line of type ("line of type" - get it?) at one time. Before this invention by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884, all typesetting was done by hand. Prior to the linotype machine, no newspaper in the world was longer than eight pages.

An interesting feature of the machine is that in order for the finished page to come out correctly, the type was set upside down and backwards. So, looking at a "form" that was created by the linotype could be confusing. It didn't make sense and was unreadable. It was only when the process was completed that everything appeared the way it should.

We have this experience in our lives at times. We often encounter situations that do not make any sense. Sometimes our lives feel like they are "upside down and backwards." We are confused by what is taking place and sometimes have some pretty strong emotional reactions to what we experience.

We need to remember that we are not finished yet. The final "product" has not been completed. We need to remember that "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13) Paul wrote earlier in Philippians, "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." (1:6) Keep this in mind when you have a "linotype experience."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 6, 2018

Patrick was a young man living with his family in Britain during the fourth century A.D. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by a band of Irish raiders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. He wrote about his experience in "Confession". He also wrote of his conversion, "But after I came to Ireland--every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed--the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain. There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God who...comforted me as would a father his son."

He spent several years there before escaping back to his homeland. After his return, he trained for ministry and eventually returned back to the island of his captors and introduced Christianity to the largely pagan population. By the time of his death, there were 120,000 Christians in Ireland and over 300 churches. In the next century, Irish missionaries went to Europe and evangelized hundreds of unbelievers there. This was the result of one man who took to heart and put into practice the words of Paul found in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." We need to do the same. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
<--comment end --> Monday March 5, 2018

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

Sometimes we have a problem with being forgiven and accepting God's forgiveness. Even though we know God forgives, we often struggle with allowing God's forgiveness to infiltrate our being and rid us of the guilt we feel for the sins we commit. We cannot undo the past, but when we repent and receive God's forgiveness, we need to present him with the consequences and give this to him. He truly forgives us, and we can live as forgiven people. Fellowship is restored, and we can know we are his "dear friends."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 4, 2018

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

Allow the love of God to work on your heart. A humble heart, transformed by the Spirit of God, is what is necessary in order for us to think clearly. Letting God transform your heart is what is necessary for you to align with God. Letting God transform your life allows you to put your mind to working with him to bring the message of transformation to others. Follow God with your heart and he will help you get your head straight!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 3, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 2, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 1, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Connie McCall

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

Pauline Phillips

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

Lois Strole

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

Week Of May 27th, 2018

 
Mon. May 28th
Memorial Day
6:30 PM
Wed. May 30th

Cross Training
Bible Study
9:00 AM
Sat. Jun 2nd
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Quincy Fulton
Sun. May 27th
Juanita Brooks - Mike Phillips
Tue. May 29th
Graci Michl
Wed. May 30th

Happy Anniversary

Lawrence & Madonna Klier
Mon. May 28th
Bruce & Phyillis Seifers - Larry & Janice Bigard
Tue. May 29th

Coming Events

Vacation Bible School
June 4-8

May Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
Kent Klier
6th
Brad Tarr
13th
Adam Wolf
20th
John Dryden Jr.
27th
Kent Klier
Communion

Ushers
Brad Tarr
Lawrence Quick
Walter Litchfield
Gabe Fulton

Special Music
 
6th
Cleve Bradley
13th
 
20th
 
27th
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Instrumentalists
Jeannie Chiddix
Piano
Cheryl Earnest
Organ

Nursery Workers
Pauline Phillips
6th
Kyle & Courtney Klier
13th
Michelle Fulton
120
Bridgett Field
27th

Greeters
Stankus Family
6th
Mike & Pauline Phillips
13th
Ross & Jennifer Meinhart
20th
Terry & Richard Milliman
27th

Jr. Church
Tyler, Jacy, Jason Michelle
6th
Jamie, Gloria, Ray, Debbie
13th
Bridgett, Becky, Anthea, Sarah
20th
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
27th

Door Attendents
Dave Hyatt
6th
Walter Litchfield
13th
Richard Mitchell
20th
Ray Diel
27th

Gwen Quick - Fern Read
Hostesses

My Favorite Bible Verse

Beverly Brackett

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Madonna Klier

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

Deloris Staley

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Steve Willis - Pastor

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

May 1, 2018

Most people assume that Cinco de Mayo is the day Mexico celebrates their independence from Spain. If you are one of those who make this assumption, you would be incorrect. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. This day is called Dia de la Independencia and falls on September 16.

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating Mexico's unexpected victory over French invading forces on May 5, 1862. This can happen with assumptions - that is, our assumptions can often be wrong.

Take our assumptions about God, for example. We often make assumptions on how we think God should respond or what he should do in a certain circumstance based upon what we think should be done in that circumstance. More often than not, if we make assumptions of this nature, our assumptions turn out to be incorrect.

It is not that God wants to keep us guessing about how he will respond or what he will do, it is just that God knows the best way to respond and what is best to do in any circumstance. We need to understand that and let God be God.

Isaiah 55:8 - 9 says, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" In addition, Job 38 - 41 contains an instructional message from God delivered to Job to correct some faulty assumptions Job has about the circumstances with which he is confronted.

Job's response to this is found in 42:3, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." If you were to assume that this is a good response on the part of Job and that this would be a good position for us, I assure you that, unlike the assumption above, you have assumed correctly.

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Gloria Bradley

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

Ruth Spraggins

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

Carolyn Woods

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