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

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

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

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

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

Our Staff

Dr. Steve Willis


John Dryden
John Dryden Jr.
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
Wednesday February 21, 2018

As you well know, the Winter Olympics are in full swing in PyeongChang, South Korea. As usual, medals are being won, some records are being set, and, in some instances, history is being made.

I remember reading an interesting article about world records. Some of the world records presented in the article were the most scuba divers participating in an underwater dance (74); the largest onion (18 lbs.); longest cigar (268 feet); the most bees covering one s body (331,000), and the most body piercings (453 ouch!). Some of the records were a little more poignant, like the picture of lady twins celebrating their 101st birthday and the 100-year-old man who set the record for longest bicycle ride by a centenarian (1 hour non-stop).

What is it that drives us to try to set records even if they border on the absurd? That would be our competitive nature. Paul knew this, and that is why he sometimes describes the Christian life as a competition in which we should strive to be victorious. He speaks of the victory Christ gives us over death in I Corinthians 15: "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." He speaks of competing in a race: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." (I Corinthians 9:24-25)

The author of Hebrews writes, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1)

Being competitive can be a good thing, and channeling that competitive spirit into our spiritual lives can be a good thing as well. We aren t trying to "one up" someone else, or compete against others, we are simply wanting to be all that we can be for God. We should strive to do all we can for the sake of the Savior.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 20, 2018

Many times we ignore the voices of young people because, well, "they're only kids, what could they know?" We often go the route of W.C. Fields who uttered the line, "Get out of here, kid, you're bothering me." Of course, this is not the right response to our children. They need to be heard and often their voices are the voices of reason and right.

Thirteen-year-old Benjamin Coady was visiting New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an exhibit in the Byzantine Gallery, he noticed an error on a map in one of the displays. He really enjoyed history, and had just studied the Byzantine Empire in school.

While checking the dates on the map, Coady saw that sections of Spain and Africa were missing. When he informed the museum authorities, he was politely rebuffed. Coady said in a later interview about the incident, "The front desk didn't believe me. I'm only a kid." However, Coady eventually received an email that the museum was investigating his findings. The museum found that he was correct. Helen Evans, the museum's curator for Byzantine art, sent him a thank you and invited him to visit the museum again as a special guest.

In the book of Mark, we read about a time when Christ's disciples were going the route of W.C. Fields and the Met. We read in Mark 10: 13 - 16, "People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them."

We should never underestimate the importance of our children. We need to do all we can to "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) If you don't see this picture clearly, turn to the teachings of Christ and the example of Benjamin Coady.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 19, 2018

Dr. Chris Stocklin is the founder of Turning the Tide Financial Ministries and has written extensively on personal financial management. Dr. Stocklin offers a great deal of good advice on how to take control of your personal finances so that you might be better stewards of what God has given you.

Of the many comments he makes about finances, one that has stuck with me is "we need to distinguish our needs from our 'greeds.'" This is such a basic principle we are prone to overlook it. We can so easily convince ourselves of what we think we need that we push right ahead with ill-advised purchases and unwise acquisitions. "Of course I need that new electronic automatic can opener!" "I really need that great new eyeball-controlled volume adjuster."

Paul tells us, "God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) We can trust God to help us take care of our needs. And that is really the core of the issue. When we turn our "greeds" into our "needs", we are saying to God that we really don't trust him and his ability to take care of us. Doing this may get us into all sorts of trouble. Don't get into trouble - don't confuse your greeds with your needs!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 18, 2018

I imagine you have heard the expression "he (or she) got the short end of the stick." We usually use this saying to describe a situation where one individual receives the less desirable of two options. I read a story that puts an interesting spin on this phrase.

There was a farmer who had a large basket of grain he wanted to take to market. However, the basket was too heavy for him to carry. He enlisted the help of his young son, but the boy was not big enough to help him carry the basket. So, the farmer cut a long stick and placed it through the handles of the basket. He positioned the stick so that the basket would be closer to one end of the stick. This allowed more of the burden to be shifted to that end. The farmer then picked up the shorter, heavier end of the stick and his son picked up the longer, lighter end. They positioned the stick on their shoulders and easily carried the basket to market. The father got the "short end of the stick," but he did so intentionally so that the task could be accomplished.

So it is with our Lord. He intentionally takes the "short end of the stick" to help us with our burdens. We do not walk alone when we have to shoulder heavy circumstances and events in our lives. Our Lord walks with us, and he will take the heavy part of the load in order to help us cope with the struggle. He is always there to help us accomplish jobs beyond our means and to lighten our wearisome assignments.

In Matthew 11:28-30, we read the invitation of Christ: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Jesus will always take the short end of the stick.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 17, 2018

I have always found the migratory habits of birds, fish, insects, and other creatures one of the most fascinating aspects of God's creation. I think we live in an area that must be in the flight path of geese migration. Right now, there are a bunch of Canadian Geese around, and MORE than a bunch of snow geese. I would imagine I could walk outside right now and hear them honking as they fly overheard. I have seen fields that are absolutely white with snow geese. They will be here for a bit, and then continue on their merry way.

How in the world do the geese know when it is time to move along? This is evidence of God taking care of his world - of programming behaviors into his creatures to insure their survival. How do the geese know when to move along? They listen to God's voice, so to speak. Listening to the "voice" that God puts within them allows them to perform activities that help them live more successfully.

We need to take a lesson from the geese. God speaks to us and lets us know when it is time for us to move to do things, to make plans, to perform activities that will enhance our lives and help others. If the geese don't listen to the voice telling them to move, their survival would be jeopardized. When we ignore God's voice, we jeopardize our survival. We jeopardize our ability to be more effective for God.

Moses told the people, "Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. . ." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Listening to God's voice will enhance our lives. Listening to God's voice will preserve our lives. The geese have it right!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 16, 2018

A man who flew his small plane into busy Toronto International Airport on a regular basis was asked if he ever encountered problems taking off and landing his plane at an airport dominated by big jets. The pilot said, "When I am taking off and landing I have the same rights and privileges as any other aircraft, even the big jumbo jets." He did not experience any negative situations because preferential treatment was given to another aircraft.

The same can be said about us when we come to the Father in prayer. We will never experience any negative situation in our encounters with God and God does not afford preferential treatment to one person over another. He listens and responds to all of his children on an equal basis.

In a world where we see preferential treatment being given to many in a variety of circumstances, it is good to know we don't have to fear when it comes to our position with God. With God, we are all flying "first class" when it comes to his willingness to hear us and respond to our prayer.

Psalm 145:18 tells us, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." James 4:8 gives us this promise, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." We take a back seat to no one when it comes to God's willingness to hear us when we call upon him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 15, 2018

St Paul's Cathedral in London has a "whispering gallery", an interesting architectural feature that allows for marvelous acoustics. In the walkway that circles the inside of Christopher Wren s great dome whispered words can be heard clearly directly across 137 feet. You can be that far away from a companion and hold a conversation without ever raising your voice above a whisper. This is a circumstance where you certainly don't want to whisper any critical words or negative statements.

Actually, there really isn't any circumstance where you should feel good about whispering critical words or negative statements. What we say in secret can travel just as quickly as those words uttered in a whispering gallery. We should avoid at all times the desire to gossip and participate in conversations where we are whispering unkind, and often untrue, statements about someone else.

Proverbs 20:19 tells us, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so, avoid anyone who talks too much." Avoid gossip and let yourself be known as someone who does not participate in whispered conversations. Be known as a person who speaks kindly and hurts no one with what you say.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 14, 2018

Some of you may be old enough to remember the commercial where someone would proclaim, "It's two, two, two mints in one!" The product was Certs mints, and the idea being conveyed was that Certs was both a breath mint and a candy mint. Well, today we have the circumstance of having "two, two, two days in one." Today is both Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. This does not happen very often. The last time it took place was in 1945. The confluence of the two days only occurred four or five times over the last century.

As you well know, Valentine's Day is a time of celebrating love. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a season of reflection on the suffering and sacrifice of Christ culminating in the observance of the Day of Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

I have read a few articles that speak of the conundrum this has brought about for many. I have also read a number of writings that look at this combination of the two observances as fitting. I wholeheartedly stand on the side of the latter. I think it is altogether appropriate that we focus on love on the day set aside to mark the observance of the Greatest Sacrifice ever made.

What was it that motivated Christ to lay aside temporarily his position and become one of us so that he could be among us? His love. What was it that motivated his willingness to be abused, tortured, and put to death for us? His love. What was it that motivated his willingness to be buried in a tomb, albeit not for long, and then rise to life for us? His love. If I were to start writing down all the references to Christ s love that was behind his suffering, you would be spending the rest of the day reading them (well, assuming that you would be willing to spend that much time reading something that I have compiled). Let me just mention a few,

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love" (John 15:9); "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one s life for one s friends" (John 15:13); "and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2); "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (I John 3:16).

As you can see, the two go hand in hand. It is perfectly fitting to have both observances on the same day. I think it gives Valentine's Day a deeper meaning, and should make us more grateful as we think about what Christ gave up for us. Celebrate well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 13, 2018

For our Easter Celebration this year, our choir is working on a musical entitled "Redeemed." Redemption is in the very heart of God. I think one of the most elaborate displays of redemption occurs in John 21. Christ seeks out the recalcitrant Peter who has returned to his former life and, in effect, says "Peter, you are not going back to what you were. You have come too far to go back, and I have invested too much to allow you to go back." That is why he asks him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (John 21:15) He wanted Peter to remember that he had been bought with a price, he had been called to a new walk of life, and he had a destiny to fulfill.

We need to remember that we are in the same shoes, or should I say sandals, as Peter. Chris has invested in us heavily. His life was given to bring redemption - and we need to live as redeemed people. We need to sing and soar, much like the birds in a story told by a preacher of the last century, A.J. Gordon.

Gordon encountered a young boy walking along the road in front of the church where he was pastor. The boy was carrying an old cage that contained a few birds. He asked the boy, "Young man, what are you going to do with those birds?" "I am going to play with them and then feed them to my cat." "How harsh!" said Gordon. "I will give you two dollars for the birds, cage and all." (Remember this took place many years ago). The boy replied, "Why so much? The birds are not worth anything - they don't make a sound!"

The young man agreed to the deal. Gordon told what happened when he took the birds, opened the cage, and set them free. "They sang!" Gordon exclaimed, "As only those who have experienced the grace of being set free can!"

We have been set free, and since that is the case, we need to sing like a bird. Now, you can take this literally and figuratively. We can sing about our redemption, but what we need to do even more is to live like redeemed people. We need to live as only those who have experienced God's redemptive grace can. "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it; redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! Redeemed and so happy in Jesus; his child and forever I am!" If you haven t already, another song about redemption you need to hear is "Redeemed" by Big Daddy Weave.

Christ asks us, as he did Peter, "Do you love me?" If we do, we will fly and sing, joyfully proclaiming the news of the redemption Christ offers and enjoying the life of redemption that we have in Him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 12, 2018

Most of us have had a number of "If only. . ." scenarios in life. These events are precipitated when we have a certain undesirable experience that could have been avoided if we had done something differently or if some circumstances had proceeded differently. These experiences usually range from the mildly frustrating to the truly devastating.

Jameson Painter had just such an experience. The high school senior hit a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that led to a victory for his baseball team. His celebration was muted when he arrived at his car and discovered that the ball he hit had smashed his own windshield. What made this an "if only" moment was that before the game he had moved his car from where he had originally parked at the suggestion of his coach who thought it was in harm's way.

In moving the car, he unwittingly placed it in a position that would cause damage. Now, there are good responses to the many "If only" statements this occurrence invoked, but it was still difficult for him to not think "If only I hadn't moved my car."

The apostle Paul has a good thought to combat our tendency to dwell on the "If only's." In Philippians 3:14 we find his philosophy for dealing with "If only": "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead."

Paul had a few "If only" events in his life. One was his penchant for persecuting the followers of Christ before he was changed by the message of Christ. Yet, he concluded it was unprofitable to dwell on what had happened that could not be altered. Rather, he decided to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (vs. 15)

This is good advice for us. We will have a number of experiences that, in our way of thinking, could have been changed had something been done differently. We will have circumstances where we wish things had gone differently. The reality is the experience can't be changed. When this happens, remember Paul's statements and make a conscious decision to move forward.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 11, 2018

Talent shows have been part of TV programming almost since the first broadcasts hit the airwaves. In the early days of TV there were Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hour. Other shows that came along include The Gong Show in the 70's and Star Search in the 80's. Now we have The Voice, America s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars, and others. American Idol is even making a comeback.

All of these shows are designed to find talented people and then through a period of competition narrow the group down to a single winner. Those who participate are seeking fame, fortune, and a secure future. Victory relies upon them being singled out and, through the use of their talents, distinguishing themselves above all others.

God wants us to use our talents as well, but not for the purpose of distinguishing ourselves above others. We are to use our gifts and talents to encourage others. God is not seeking the most talented or the most gifted, but wants us to use our talents and gifts to help build his Church. We don't need to audition for God; we need to applaud him through the use of the gifts he has given us. When we exercise our talents and our gifts, we bring glory to God and build up his people. This is why gifts have been given to us.

I Corinthians 12:4 & 7 tells us, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." Talent shows have their place, but aren't for the church. Our talents and gifts are not just for us, but for others as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 10, 2018

I think there are many sad stories in scripture, but I am not sure that any are sadder than the story of the disciples at Gethsemane. Jesus took the "inner three", Peter, James, and John, with him when he withdrew into a grove of olive trees to pray. This took place on the night before he was crucified.

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'" (Matthew 26:39-41) This scenario was repeated two more times.

I have often wondered how Christ felt after this incident, and it brings to mind a couple of things: First, we need to make sure we do not fall asleep in our relationship with Christ. Secondly, it reminds me that we need to take care to not wound others with our actions. We need to take care that others are not hurt by our indifferent activities, even if they are unintentional.

I remember a story about a father who really didn't like to fish, but took his son fishing. The son had pleaded and asked until the father relented. After about ten minutes of unsuccessful fishing, the father arranged some life vests in the boat and went to sleep. His young son was really hurt. The father had to do some damage control after the incident.

Our selfishness and lack of consideration can lead us to hurt friends and loved ones when we respond indifferently to them. Let your love for Christ and your love for others guide you and prevent you from acting thoughtlessly and inconsiderately. I Corinthians 13:9 tells us, "(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Let love reign to avoid sad stories.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 09, 2018

The results are in and the members of the 2018 National Football League Hall of Fame Class have been named. Bobby Beathard was selected as a contributor whose efforts were responsible for building several championship teams. The rest of the inductees were players who distinguished themselves from their peers through their efforts in competition, leading to their selection as members of the Hall of Fame. Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, and Brian Urlacher were players whose exploits on the football field led to special recognition by the professional football community. In a ceremony to be held later this year in Canton, Ohio, all of these selectees will be honored and their names added to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I was particularly interested in the selection of Randy Moss as he spent his college career at my alma mater, Marshall University. Moss joins Frank Gatski as the only former members of the Thundering Herd to be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame exists to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals who have set themselves apart through their efforts and serve as models worthy of emulation by others. In Hebrews 11 scripture provides us with another "Hall of Fame," of sorts. Some have actually called this chapter the "Hall of Faith." Listed here are a number of godly people who demonstrated great commitment to God in their lives.

The purpose of the writer in compiling this list is to give examples of faith that can be, and should be, emulated by those who follow God. Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, and others are listed as models of faithful living. Following their lead may not bring us into a "Hall of Fame," but it will help us live lives that please our Heavenly Father. And following their lead will help us live in such a way so that we can be an example for others.

Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." We have people in the "Hall of Faith" who show us how to live by faith. Let s follow their lead!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 08, 2018

FedEx used to run a commercial that I thought was rather interesting. The commercial started with a man sitting at a large wooden desk in what appears to be an office in a high-rise building. There is a magnificent view of many other buildings in the background of his "corner office." He is speaking authoritatively to a subordinate who is standing in front of his desk, holding a FedEx box. The man who is seated waxes eloquently on what it takes to rise to the position he has attained.

Then, a humming sound is heard, and the background scene of the skyscrapers begins to rise and disappear. What is revealed is his "office" is only a facade that has been placed on the inside of a garage door. When the door fully opens, his wife is standing in the driveway with a bag of groceries. The man says something like, "Honey, you need to use the intercom for access." She replies, "Well, yeah, but these groceries are heavy."

Often we try to turn a garage into an opulent office in our lives. We try to make things appear in ways they are not. We dabble in making reality look differently in order to impress others. We do this with our personal lives, we do this with our possessions, and we do this in our spiritual lives. If this is indeed the case, we need to realize that at some point someone is going to come along and hit the garage door opener, thus exposing our charade. Of course, God doesn't need to hit the opener. He knows the truth all along.

We need to be people of integrity and not put on airs with others. We should not try to be someone we are not, and we should not try to make it look as if we have something when we don't. There is a wonderful line from "The Wizard of Oz" spoken by the "wizard" when his ruse has been revealed, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" Deception didn't work for the "wizard" and it won't work for us.

Proverbs 10:9 tells us, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." Don't try to make the inside of your garage look like an opulent corner office. At some point someone will open the door on you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 07, 2018

On my visit to Israel a few years ago, I was able to see the Dead Sea for the first time. The Dead Sea is one of the most fascinating places on earth. For one thing, it is the lowest place on earth. To get to the Dead Sea you travel Highway 90, the lowest road on earth. The Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, is the deepest hypersaline body in the world, and nothing except for a few bacteria can survive in its water. I didn't swim in the water, but those who did floated very easily. To me, the water felt like WD40.

The Dead Sea is a terminal body of water with no outlet, meaning water can only leave through evaporation. Water from the Jordan and its tributaries flow into the Dead Sea bringing with them all sorts of minerals, including salt. Since there is no outlet, the water in the Dead Sea evaporates depositing the dissolved minerals. With no place to go, the dissolved salt minerals continue to accumulate and be concentrated in the sea. This is a basic explanation of why the Dead Sea has such a high concentration of salt and why the Dead Sea is a dead sea.

Unfortunately, a similar phenomenon can be observed in the lives of many followers of Christ. Many attend Bible conferences, Bible studies, listen to music about faith, and read many books on the Christian life, but are not productive because they have no outlet. Gaining knowledge is good, but we aren't doing what we should unless we are putting the knowledge we gain to use.

We need to be a source of living water. God wants to use us in service so that others may be refreshed and revived by the water of the Word. Jesus said, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:38) Make like the Jordan River, not the Dead Sea, when it comes to your life and service to Christ. Make sure there is an outlet for all that comes in.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 06, 2018

A number of years ago we took our teens to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the Smoky Mountain Youth Bible Conference. We actually made this trip three or four times. One year, we were looking for something to do to kill some time between the morning and evening sessions. We heard there was a hiking trail back to some waterfalls that was a "must-see" experience. We loaded up the van and headed up the mountain. By the time we got there, it was raining cats and dogs, and it was a fairly significant hike from the parking area back to the falls. We had purchased some of those cheap, plastic ponchos, so we decided to go ahead and make the jaunt.

On the walk to the falls, I was wondering if this effort was really worth all of the trouble. The rain kept coming down, the path was not incredibly difficult but it was strenuous. One of our adult leaders started having some leg problems. We almost turned back; however, we decided to continue. Finally, after one last bend in the trail, there were the falls. About all we could say at first was "Wow!" The view was definitely worth the hike.

Paul sort of reached this point when he wrote Romans. He comes to a place when it seems as if all he can say is "Wow." He is rehearsing some of God's attributes and has a significant "wow" moment. We read this in Romans 11:33 - "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Here he proclaims God's infinite wisdom (vs. 33); his boundless knowledge (vs. 34); and his unequaled grace (vss. 35-36).

We should never lose our "wow" factor when it comes to God. Moses wrote, "Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" (Exodus 15:11) We do indeed serve a marvelous God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 05, 2018

Did you watch Super Bowl LII last night? I must confess, I did. Our small group had a Super Bowl party, of sorts. Did you watch Justin Timberlake at half time? I must confess, I didn t. We had DVR d the game so that we could start the evening with our study time. This also allowed us to fast-forward through the half time show. Sorry, Justin, nothing personal, we are just not big fans.

I did read an article about Timberlake quite some time ago. You perhaps know this story, but Timberlake is a former member of the boy band "'N Sync." In spite of my opinion about his style of music, he has been quite successful. He has also done some acting. What is generally known about him is that he started his career as a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel. What is perhaps not as well-known are the circumstances that led to his audition and selection as a Mouseketeer.

When he was 11 years old, Timberlake competed on the 80's TV talent show "Star Search." He was defeated by 10-year-old Anna Nardona. Driving home with his mother from the defeat, they heard an announcement about open auditions for the Disney Channel. Justin Randall (Timberlake's real name) went to the audition with his mother, made the cut, performed on Disney, changed his name, joined 'N Sync, and the rest his history.

What about Nardona? She was knocked out of the Star Search competition by a cute 5-year-old and says this about her loss, "I was really embarrassed by it. And I lost it. I didn't lose my talent. I lost my interest. But I know deep down in my heart, I'm meant to sing." However, singing she is not.

In Timberlake and Nardona, we have two opposing examples of how to handle failure. One person used failure as an opportunity to pursue a different direction in performance while another person used failure as a reason not to pursue what she wanted.

We are going to face failure in life. We fail in our day-to-day lives and we face failure in our spiritual lives. What we do in the wake of failure is up to us. We can overcome our failures by continuing to pursue new challenges or we can use failure as a reason to quit. Failure can be the backdoor to success or it can stymie our progress. We should remember that "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) Use failure as a stepping stone to new opportunity, not a reason to opt out.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 04, 2018

I have always enjoyed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate is just fine by itself, and peanut butter is just fine by itself; however, when you put those two together, oh, my, you really have a treat. Peanut Butter cups were developed by H.B. Reese, an employee of Hershey's Chocolate Company, in the 20's. Reese left Hershey s to go on his own, and did well in the candy industry all because of his idea to put chocolate and peanut butter together. The two products can "stand alone," but being together provides some unique characteristics that wouldn't be there if they weren't combined.

This is the way it is in life in general, and certainly the way it should be in the church. We can "stand by ourselves," but when we blend our gifts, talents, and abilities, we see combinations that are different, stronger, and in many cases, more appealing and productive that when we work as individuals. Paul noted this in several places in his writings.

In Ephesians 4:3 - 6, he comments on the importance of unity and the advantage of "blending" our lives: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

You have gifts and abilities you can use for God on your own, but remember how much more might be done when you work with others. An old ad campaign for Reese's was "You got peanut butter on my chocolate! You got chocolate in my peanut butter! (taste, taste) Hmmmm!" Remember this as you work for the Lord - peanut butter in chocolate is a good thing!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 03, 2018

In the final scene of "The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King," Frodo and his friends are gathered to watch Bilbo and Gandalf prepare to sail to a place that has been accorded to them by the elves, their "eternal home," so to speak. Then, just before the boat sails, Gandalf turns to Frodo and says, "It's time, Frodo." Frodo's hobbit friends learn that he, too, will be leaving for his final home. They are distressed by this, but realize it is what has to be.

Just before the ship departs, Frodo hands a leather-bound book to his closest friend, Samwise Gamgee. It is a book that was started by Frodo's Uncle Bilbo, and then continued by Frodo. Frodo says, "The last pages are for you, Sam." This brought up the question: "What will you write and how well will you write, Sam?"

The same question may be asked of us. We have been given pages to write - what will we write and how well will we write? There is always the need for times of evaluation in our lives, times when we take stock as to what we are doing and how well we are doing.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that God has given us the task of continuing the work of Christ in the world. We need to take time to reflect and ask ourselves "How well am I doing?" Lamentations 3:40 encourages us to "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" I Corinthians 11:28 & 32 says, "Let a person examine himself, then. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." The last pages are for you - how well will you write?

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 02, 2018

Today is Groundhog Day - will the dear old furry critter see his shadow or not? If he does, then we've got six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, well winter is supposed to be ending sooner. What will it be?

The origins of the day go back into Europe insofar as the belief that the weather on February 2 is a predictor of the ending of winter. An old Scottish poem says, "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There'll be two winters in the year. If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again."

The first reference to "Groundhog Day" in America is found in a diary entry from 1841: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." Regardless of what happens today with the groundhog, we do know that winter will end and spring will come.

This is something we can be sure of when it comes to God's care for us. We know his care will come, regardless of what the circumstances. Regardless of what other distractions are there; regardless of what other "celebrations" may be going on; we can be sure that the provision of God will come. Just as there really is no causality between the groundhog and winter, there is no causality in situations we experience and God's presence. God does not say, "Oh, my, I can't step in here, the logistics are simply not right. The predictors are against me. I can't do it." This will simply not happen.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'" Shadow or not, God will not fail us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 01, 2018

I recently read an interesting story of how a pod of hippos saved a hapless gnu. The gnu had jumped into a river to swim across and was instantly attacked by a waiting crocodile. Usually this would be lights out for the gnu, but some hippos came to his rescue. It isn't usual for animals to intervene in this way, although gnus aren't really enemies of hippos. Hippos can actually be rather fierce - more people are killed annually by hippos than lions. Anyway, these hippos sort of went against the grain of their natural inclinations and attacked the crocodile. The hungry croc released the gnu and swam away. The hippos even helped the gnu out of the water.

We are constantly needing to go against the grain in our lives. Even as followers of Christ, we still have our old nature that calls us to do things we shouldn't. We need to be aware of this and make an effort to go against our natural inclination to follow the wrong path.

Paul describes the struggle in Romans 7, "So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me." (vss. 21-23)

We do not have to face this conflict on our own; God is within us to help us overcome the temptations we face. We need to be diligent and "go against the grain" to gain victory over the desire to go our own way rather than going God's way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 31, 2018

The other day I got a little surprise when I walked out of the house to head to my office at church - ice! There was ice on my windshield! Now, given where I live, usually ice would not be a surprise this time of year; but we had a couple of days of unseasonably warm temps. Then, the temps dropped significantly and brought about the aforementioned ice. So, I started my car, allowing it to warm up and melt the ice. As a result, my departure was delayed. If I had thought ahead a little bit and checked the temperatures, I would have suspected the ice and been better prepared, I just did not give it a thought.

My experience was not a big issue in this situation, but there are other times in life when expecting the unexpected can be of great help. Life has a way of taking funny turns and twists. Keeping this in mind can be beneficial. We are often surprised by circumstances and taken aback by incidents that crop up unexpectedly. Having an awareness of this possibility can assist us in gaining a foothold in the wake of surprises. A sudden death, an unforeseen financial setback, or an unexpected illness are all scenarios that can sweep into our lives and bring drastic change. I realize there is no way we can be totally prepared for everything that may come our way, and I certainly am not advocating a "Sword of Damocles" mentality, but acknowledging the reality of sudden, life-altering events can put us on the road to recovery a little faster.

When I think of people who experienced a sudden, life-changing event, I cannot help but think of Job. He gave us an example to follow in developing a strategy to cope with unexpected change. He declared, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." (Job 19:25) In the wake of the flood of events he faced so unexpectedly, he placed his trust in the provision of God.

Expecting the unexpected and a constant reliance upon the provision of God will help us face ice on the windshield events. We know they will happen; look to God when they do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 30, 2018

A few years ago when we were in Scotland visiting our daughter, we took off on our own rather than taking a planned tour. We found the adventure exhilarating. We were able to stop when we wanted and visit some places we would not have seen otherwise. And besides, I got to drive on the wrong side of the road in a car that also had the steering wheel on the wrong side. Well, for Scotland, I was actually on the correct side of the road and there was nothing wrong with the vehicle. I know I terrified the rest of my family, but what a journey! Taking the "paths less traveled," we created many beautiful memories.

When God led the Israelites out of Israel he did not lead them along the most direct path they could have gone. Exodus 13:18 tells us, "God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle." Why did he lead them around the Red Sea rather than on a more direct route? The answer to this is found in earlier verses. If they had gone the most direct route, they would have encountered the Philistines. Not good. The Philistines would not have let them traverse their land peacefully. In addition, they may have missed the experience at the Red Sea of watching God part the waters. Who would want to miss that? So, God led them away from potential conflict and towards the path of great deliverance.

When we follow God, we often find ourselves going along a path that is one we may not have chosen on our own. God leads us along pathways that are of the greatest benefit to us. At times the path may prove challenging, but the path is the least problematic, even though it is not the most direct. All in all, we should remember that there is always a good reason why God leads us in the way that he does. Choosing not to follow his path could lead us into dire straits, and may cause us to miss great experiences. God's path is always one of great purpose.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 29, 2018

In 1869, John Roebling had a dream for a bridge across the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Roebling didn't live to see his dream become a reality. Early in the construction phase, his foot was crushed in an accident. He took charge of his own medical care, developed tetanus, and died after some weeks of painful suffering. Had he been willing to listen to medical people who could have treated him properly, he perhaps would have lived to see the magnificent structure that stands yet today.

In the scripture, we read of a person who had the same problem, that is, he wanted to take charge of his own healing. At first Naaman refused to listen to Elisha's prescription for his leprosy. He said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn t I wash in them and be cleansed?" (II Kings 5:11-12) Naaman finally listened to reason and followed God s prescription. The result was total healing.

We need to be smart when it comes to doctoring ourselves. That is why people go to school to become doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. We certainly need to be smart when it comes to our spiritual needs. We need to follow the prescription of God for our spiritual lives. Trying to heal yourself could lead to bad consequences.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 28, 2018

You are probably familiar with the old expression "That's the pot calling the kettle black." This refers to a situation where one is accusing someone else of a questionable behavior while actually being involved in a questionable behavior as well. Mart DeHaan tells about a husband who accused his estranged wife of bigamy. He was correct in his accusation, but he was accused by the wife of being guilty of the same crime. This was indeed the case - both the wife and the husband were married to other people.

We need to be careful how we judge other people, especially when we do not take our own faults into account. In Matthew 7:1-5 we find Christ's warning about this: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

We need to avoid the temptation to find fault with others while all the time struggling with similar sinful activities. Christ shows mercy to us when we confess our sins, but he also will judge us when we focus on the sins of others without taking care of our bad behavior. Let's make sure we take care of our own lives and not be involved in the arrogant hypocrisy of finding fault in other's.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 27, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 26, 2018

I learned something interesting in a communications class I took years ago. I learned that it is possible to communicate with someone across a crowded, noisy room by focusing on the individual closely and exclusively. When you do this, it is possible for the person to understand what you are saying, and you will understand them. The key is the focus between the two people. There needs to be eye contact, there needs to be putting aside the distractions as best as you can, and there needs to be a concentrated effort to listen to what is being said. When this is done, it really is rather amazing how effective the communication can be.

You know, it probably would not hurt to apply some of these techniques in our communication with God. Sometimes we struggle with thinking God doesn't hear us because so many others are trying to talk with Him. Well, if imperfect humans can learn to communicate in noisy environments, I don't think a perfect God will have an issue of hearing us. Actually, the problem is more with our hearing Him than Him hearing us. We let issues and circumstances distract us from hearing Him. We let our penchant to be attracted to unhealthy things keep us from listening intently to His instructions.

Learn to avoid the distractions and focus on God. Work on your "I contact" with God, deal with the distractions, and concentrate on what God is saying to you. Psalm 34:6 says, "This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him." God directs single-minded attention to our praise, requests, and concerns. We need to direct single-minded attention to Him as He responds to us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 25, 2018

I once read a story about a Sunday School teacher who asked her class, "Who helped these beautiful flowers to grow?" A little boy spoke up and said, "God did!" The teacher started to reply, but was interrupted by another little boy who said, "And fertilizer sure helps!"

This little story illustrates a marvelous biblical truth - God is in control, and is at work continuously in our lives, yet we are responsible for spiritual formation in our lives and in the lives of others as well. The interaction of God's divine will and man's free will is one of the great mysteries of the faith, but it is a reality. In keeping with the garden analogy, we read the words of Paul in I Corinthians 3:6, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow."

God is the one who brings about results in nature, in the church, and in the world, but he chooses to work through people to bring about his desired conclusion. We know we can obey or disobey, cooperate or be uncooperative, help or hinder. God is sovereign and he could do things any way he wants, but he chose to use us to help bring about his plan. This is an awesome responsibility on our part. We need to be aware of the privilege we have in God's plan, and we need to be up to the task of helping the Almighty God. God will always be faithful in his part - will you be faithful in yours?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 24, 2018

Appearances can be deceiving, can't they? Take the house in Las Vegas that looks like a typical single-family dwelling located on a typical street in the city. However, when you enter the house, you take an elevator down to the real home that is found several feet underground. Actually, what is underground is more of a "little city" complete with a pool, a mountainside vista, grass, trees, and other amenities. The structure was built in the late 1960's during the Cold War to provide a safe haven in the event of a nuclear attack. From the outside, no one would ever suspect what the true structure on the inside is really like.

We need to keep this in mind as we develop relationships and meet new people. We read warnings in the scripture about putting too much emphasis on outward appearances. James 2:1-4 says, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here s a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

We need to develop the attitude of God regarding appearances. We are God's creation, and he has put the important part of us on the inside. He told Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7) Remember, appearances can be deceiving.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 23, 2018

A family in Irvine, California, found a bonus in a box of crackers they bought at their local supermarket - $10,000 in cash. They did the right thing called the police. After a short investigation, the police found that a lady had called the supermarket and told them she had lost her life savings in a box of crackers she had mistakenly returned to the store. The store informed her there was nothing they could do, and then they received the call from the police about the family s discovery. The money was returned.

The lady was so fortunate in many ways the family did the right thing after finding the money; the store actually made a mistake in restocking the crackers as an open box of food would usually be destroyed; and the police were careful in their investigation. A big question is - why was there $10,000 in a cracker box to begin with? When asked this question, the lady said she had lost faith in banks.

Most of us would find the reasoning of this lady a little hard to understand. How can someone be so careless with something of such worth? How could you take such a chance? Yet many are just as careless with their lives living with no concern about their spiritual condition, their relationship with the Lord. Living without acknowledging God s place in one s life is akin to stuffing a box of crackers with $10,000.

More than likely, you wouldn t take the risk stuffing your life savings in a cracker box. So, don't take the risk of living your life without the Lord. Many times Christ warns against this. In Luke 12:20, we read God's reply to a man who was pretty excited about what he had stored away for himself, "But God said to him, `You fooling person! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" Don't trust your life to a cracker box!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 22, 2018

According to legend, the apostle John raised pigeons when he was bishop at Ephesus. A man returning from a hunt passed by John's house and saw him tending to the pigeons. "Do you think you should spend time so frivolously?" the man asked John. John replied, "Why do you not keep your bow strung?" The man replied, "I loosen the strings of my bow so that it will not lose its resiliency." "So it is when I rest," John said, "I do so that my mind will not lose its resiliency."

John had learned from his time with the Master that there is a need to go to a "quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31) Too much continual activity robs one of energy, creativity, productivity, and in many instances, safety. We cannot do our best work with nerves that are taut or frayed from too much work.

Many employers just don't seem to grasp this concept, and too many employees don't see the problems with a "no breaks" attitude. Laziness is certainly not to be condoned (read Proverbs), but there needs to be a balance in our energetic efforts and our downtime that keeps us from losing our resiliency. Have a healthy attitude towards taking a break and you will find that you will remain healthy!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 21, 2018

A mother asks her two sons to clean their rooms. The first says, "Mom, don't be such a nag!", then locks himself in his room and cleans it thoroughly. The second says, "Anything for you for Mom!" and continues to play his video games. A boss asks for a report to be on his desk by the next morning. One employee says, "That's impossible," but stays late to finish the work. The second responds, "Sure, no problem," but conveniently forgets to prepare the report.

These are two examples of the parable that Christ told just before his crucifixion. We read in Matthew 21:28-31, " What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, Son, go and work today in the vineyard. 'I will not, he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 'Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. 'Which of the two did what his father wanted?' 'The first,' they answered."

It is easy to "talk a good game" but quite a different story to do what we know we should. We can make promises, talk about work all we want, tell others our plans, and even tell God about our intentions to do things for him, but doing the work is what counts.

Christ told the Pharisees that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God ahead of them because they talked much about serving God but failed to act on what they knew. Submission to God's authority demands more than mere words. God sees our hearts and wants our love for him demonstrated in meaningful actions, not empty words.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 20, 2018

When I was a kid, I learned the word "antidisestablishmentarianism." I don't recall how I first came across the word, but I thought it sounded cool and also labored under the assumption that it was the longest word in the English language (which it isn't). I would walk around and throw it into a conversation with other kids. They would look at me as if I had two heads, and sometimes they would ask me what it meant. They had me on that one. I had no idea what it meant.

Antidisestablishmentarianism is a word that was coined in the 19th century in England and referred to the political position of those who opposed the disestablishment of the Church of England as the state church. Now, isn't that just information you can't do without? Make sure you share this bit of wisdom with folks you know.

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he told them, "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. . .My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit s power." (I Corinthians 2:1-4)

Our focus in our lives needs to be on the cross of Christ. Our focus in our communication with others should be the cross of Christ. We don't need to impress others with our philosophical understanding; we just need to share the good mews of Christ. Keep it simple, and your meaning will be clear - the message of Christ is something people need to hear.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 19, 2018

Some of you have perhaps been in a leadership position or some other position of responsibility and have felt resistance to your ideas and your direction. At those times, we need to make sure our motives and thoughts are in the right place. We should speak the truth in love, but we need to make sure we are doing so from a position of grounded thinking that is not rooted in our own ego. Pastors, of course, fall under this description so I realize I am "preaching to myself" with this advice, but there are others besides pastors to which these directives apply.

When you are in a position of leadership, you need to lead by example, and follow the example you have before you. When we are in a position of leadership in the church, we need to follow the example and teaching of Christ. Even though we are imperfect people, God can still use us and wants to use us. but we need to be committed to his principles. As we work with others, we must never forget our accountability before God and those we whom we work.

Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48) This has application to leadership roles and other situations when we are responsible for others. Lead the way Christ intends for you to lead.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 18, 2018

In a book about business strategies, the author makes this statement, "Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies." Well, yeah, that sounds just like what we need. Except, uh, what in the world is "counter-intuitive?" The word refers to things which go against the usual thinking; ideas which may even defy common sense. This is sometimes what is required.

This has a spiritual application. Paul states this fact in I Corinthians 1:18 - 25, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength."

The Gospel does not make sense to a lot of people. It defies logic and goes against "conventional wisdom," but is what is necessary for our deliverance. The counter-intuitive thinking that is helpful in the business world is a necessity in the realm of faith. It was necessary when it came to offering a solution to man's wrong-doing. This required a "counter-intuitive strategy."

We need to be thankful we have a God who knows that logic needed to be defied. This led to the strategy of the cross, which leads to our deliverance through acceptance of God's counter-intuitive plan. The wise thing to do is follow God's thinking.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 17, 2018

So many times our prayers are based upon what we want, with little thought as to what God might want for us. There is an ancient prayer that is attributed to Plato that goes like this: "Give us those things which are best, whether we pray for them or not; but command evil things to remain at a distance from us, even though we implore them." Now, Plato probably offered this to a pagan deity, but the principle he reflects is something we should consider in our prayers: leave the outcome in God's hands and believe that is what is best. Our prayers should be based on personal integrity and a desire to glorify God.

Agur stated this very eloquently many years before Plato. "Who is Agur?" you may ask. Well, we don't know too much about him except that he wrote the words in Proverbs 30. We read in Proverbs 30:8, "Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches." Agur wanted two things - to have personal integrity and contentment. As we offer our prayers to God, we should make these our desire as well. It reflects a willingness to allow God to operate in our lives in a way that he knows best. The result of praying in this way is contentment - knowing we can trust him to always act in our best interests.

Christ tells us in Matthew 7:9-11, "'Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!'" Agur wanted what would reflect God's glory in his life - that should be our desire as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 16, 2018

"Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely" crooned Bobby Vinton in one of his hit songs from the '60's. The song became No. 1 in December of 1964. Vinton was credited as co-writer and, of course, performer.

One might ask, "How could anyone be lonely with more than 7 billion people on planet Earth?" Yet, there are many people who are lonely. Some of them might be not far from where you are right now.

We need to be aware of this, and do what we can to help those who feel like they are all alone in the world. We need to develop "others" awareness and do what we can to encourage those who may feel like they have no one to whom they can turn.

The writer of Hebrews knew the value of being together and helping each other. We read in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Help prevent loneliness by looking around for people you see need encouragement. A well-chosen word, a timely visit, time spent with others, can help combat loneliness. "Mr. Lonely" may have been a big hit for Bobby Vinton, but we need to do all we can to make sure loneliness doesn't make the charts.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 15, 2018

Holly the Cat was determined to make it home. She had been in her owner's motor home in Daytona Beach, Florida, during the running of the Daytona 500. She was startled by some fireworks and bolted from the vehicle. Her owners searched frantically, but Holly was not to be found. Despondent, they traveled the 190 miles south to their home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, without their beloved cat.

Then something remarkable took place. They received a call from a pet shelter in their town telling them their cat had been found. They didn't believe this at first but when they arrived at the shelter, sure enough, Holly was waiting on them. She had been identified via a microchip imbedded in her skin. Holly was a little skinny, but otherwise just fine after having walked the 190 miles from Daytona Beach to Palm Beach Gardens to rejoin her family. A real-life "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey" had taken place!

How in the world can you explain the determination of this cat to get home? This is absolutely incredible! I think little Holly gives us a little to think about in the determination department. This is a great picture of how we should be as followers of our Lord - completely focused and absolutely committed to following Him no matter what. Our love for the Savior should help us locate Him no matter where we are. Our desire to follow Him should help us overcome anything that would keep us from serving Him and giving Him our best.

We need the attitude of Peter. Upon hearing the teaching of Christ in the synagogue in Capernaum, many "followers" of Christ left him saying "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60) Christ asked the Twelve, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God." (Vss. 68-69) Develop this level of determination and you will never have a problem finding your way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 14, 2018

Ancient scribes who worked to copy scripture labored painstakingly over their manuscripts. One method that was employed to insure accuracy was counting letters. As each page was completed, the scribe would count the letters on the copied page to see if the number matched the one of the page being copied. If it didn't, the page was destroyed and the scribe would start again. The scribe was following the command of Moses in Deuteronomy 4:2, "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you."

We can be guilty of "adding and subtracting" from God's Word. We can be guilty of trying to make the Bible say something it doesn't, and we often ignore what it says. This is not what we should do. The Bible is the God s Word to us. If God wanted it to say something different than what it says, he would have taken care of that himself. And we certainly need to be careful that do what it says.

Don't be guilty of trying to add to or subtract from God's Word. Read it and do what it says. God gave it to us for a reason!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 13, 2018

I am amazed at all the spray-on products that have been developed for the purpose of altering outward appearances. You can get spray-on tans, spray-on hair color, even spray-on hair. This idea of spray-on products has extended to other areas as well. A spray-on mud has been developed to put on 4 X 4 vehicles to give the appearance that the vehicle has been "off-roading" without the danger of actually off-roading.

We are really into outward appearances, aren't we? Well, we shouldn't be. We sometimes get so caught up in this outward appearance thing that we do things more drastic than using sprays. We embellish stories, pad resumes, or alter descriptions, all for the sake of appearance.

God warns against being too caught up in outward appearances. He addressed a nation that was caught up in outward appearances by telling Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. Humans look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

God does not want us to be so concerned with appearances that we result to "spray jobs." They only cover things up, and they don't last. Work on something more authentic and lasting - changing what is inside. This is a much better course of action.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 12, 2018

I am a semi-fan of Simon and Garfunkel. You can interpret that pretty much any way you want. Some of their songs I like, and some I don t. My favorite Simon and Garfunkel song is either "Sound of Silence" or "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." I think it is probably "Sound of Silence." The oxymoronic title grabs my attention. How in the world do you have a sound of silence?

In our world today, most of us have trouble with the sound of silence. We are so used to having sounds all around us that we don't deal well with silence.

I read a story about residents who lived near Stapleton Field in Denver. Stapleton closed after the opening of Denver International Airport in 1995. The residents were ecstatic that they would no longer be plagued by the noise of the airport. What did they do to celebrate? They threw a loud party, of course!

Our days are generally filled with a good deal of sound. What we need to do is to make sure we spend some of the day in silence. To help our spiritual character, we need to spend some time in silence before God. We need to make sure we are devoting part of our day to him to make sure God has time to speak to us.

Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." The literal translation of the phrase "be still" is "cease striving." We need to make some time where we stop our usual activity, settle down, and give God our undivided attention. This is something that often seems so hard for us, but there is so much benefit in silence before God.

I think I ve written about this before, but when my girls were little, to make sure they were listening to me, often I would gently take their little face in my hands, look straight in their eyes and say, "Listen to me!" I wonder if God ever feels like he needs to do this with us. Don't put God in this position; enjoy the "sound of silence" with Him on a regular basis!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 11, 2018

Many who experience a life-threatening experience often say they "saw their life pass before their eyes." Folks who have these experiences often speak of how their brush with death caused them to develop new priorities and new outlooks on how they are living their lives. John Connally was the governor of Texas and was riding in the limousine when President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Connally was critically wounded in the shooting. Afterwards he said, "As far as Nellie and I are concerned, it inevitably brought into sharper focus what s really important in life. We try not to participate in things that are shallow or in the long run meaningless."

I don't know what the Connally s considered important in life, but I know what we who are followers of Christ should consider important in life. And it should not take a life-threatening situation to bring this into a position of significance in our outlook. Psalm 39:4-7 says, "'Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.'"

The writer here comments on the brevity of life and his focus during his brief life: the Lord. "My hope is in you," he declares. Make sure your focus in on the Lord! Don't wait for a life-threatening experience to formulate this priority. Life is too short the way it is without needing an alarming reminder!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 10, 2018

Paul encourages us to "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:7) Many of us owe debts and we are involved in a plan to resolve them. I read a story once that speaks to this issue, but with a different slant. A lady was $4 dollars short when she checked out at her local market. A man in line behind her took care of the debt. Later that week, a local charity received a check for $4 from the lady along with a note explaining how she had been helped with a debt and wished to "pay back the debt." Not knowing who the man was, she had this idea as a way to repay the favor.

We should feel an obligation to pass along good deeds that are done for us. As we pass along little kindnesses, expression of help, financial assistance, or some other act, we demonstrate the character of Christ. We can never truly repay all we owe in this way, and we can surely never totally repay what we owe to our Savior, but we can demonstrate his love and our desire to share that love in a tangible way. As Glen Campbell sang many years ago, we need to "try a little kindness."

The magazine "American Profile" once published a number of letters from readers detailing acts of kindness they had experienced. One lady developed a method of distracting her friend while the friend received needed injections or had blood tests. The friend needed these procedures but had a paralyzing fear of needles. Another lady wrote about how a passing motorist helped when her car had broken down while with her disabled daughter as a passenger during a trip to the doctor. Many other examples were given. When I read the story, I thought, "If folks were asked about some kindness they had experienced at my hand, would there be any?"

What about you? What can others say about you when it comes to an act of kindness? As we said earlier, we need to feel an obligation to pass along good deeds. It is the least we can do when we consider what has been done for us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 09, 2018

There was a popular song released in 1972 by the group "America" entitled "Horse With No Name." The song was rather mysterious, but it spoke of traveling in a desert and some of the strangeness of a desert journey. I don't think many others would have thought of this when they heard the song, but every time I heard it, I would think of the desert wanderings of the Israelites during their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. The song spoke of the need for water in the desert.

The Israelites confronted Moses about their lack of water on more than one occasion. God miraculously provided water in one instance by turning poisoned water into good water (Exodus 15:22). Another time he led them to abundant springs (Exodus 15:27). On one occasion he had Moses strike a rock and water gushed out (Exodus 17:1). On another occasion he asked Moses to speak to a rock (Numbers 20:8). On this final event, Moses actually struck the rock twice instead of just speaking to it, as God had said, and was prevented from entering the Land because of his disobedience. God told Moses, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

Moses was not the only one among them who would not see the Promised Land. Sadly, because of their lack of faith and continued grumbling, all but the children would perish in the wilderness. We read in Numbers 32:11-13, "'Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the LORD wholeheartedly.' The LORD's anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the desert forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone."

When we feel we are wandering in the desert, we need to continue to trust God. At times, life can seem like a dry, arid wasteland. However, God is there, he has not left us, and he will provide for us at all times. Sometimes we miss what he has for us because we focus on what confronts us rather than looking at God. God provides for us in unexpected and sometimes miraculous ways. When we trust God, we will experience rivers of continual provision and grace for every need.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 08, 2018

A few years ago, it seemed as if every other show on TV was a show about forensic police work. Forensic science is certainly a fascinating field, and one that shows there is no such thing as "the perfect crime." Recently I read a quote of a forensic scientist, "There's no perfect crime. Many evidences are left behind at the crime scene, which the naked eye can't see. Blood, even minute quantities that remain after cleanup, can be made to glow by spraying chemicals on affected surfaces. There is more to reality than meets the eye."

This is true in more than one way. There is a real, spiritual world that is invisible to us yet is just as real as the world we experience. Elisha prayed that the eyes of his servant would be opened so that he could see the vast numbers of those of the spiritual realm coming to aid Israel in their battle with Syria. In II Kings 6:16 - 17, we read, "Elisha said, 'Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.' So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." Elisha knew there was an invisible realm of protection provided for them.

We have a realm of protection and provision that we cannot see. We cannot see God but we know he is there to help us with what we face. God promises us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) The angels of God are there to minister to us when we need their presence. Psalm 91:11 tells us, "He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go." The Holy Spirit resides within us to give us encouragement and direction. (Read I Corinthians 6:19)

When you face a challenge, when the odds seemed to be stacked against you, think about the hope of God's provision promised to you in Scripture. If you are facing a situation that makes you feel alone and helpless, remember that you are not. Pray for eyes that help you see what is unseen and ask for the courage to face what you experience. There is more to reality than meets the eye.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 07, 2018

What type of electronics did you get for a Christmas gift? Well, congratulations on your antique! I read an article a couple of days before Christmas that said you needed to wait until next year to buy some new phone as they will be cheaper and have more features. We truly are living in an age of "expendability." Our electronic gadgets go out of date almost the same day we buy them. So, what you got for Christmas is already obsolete, and whoever bought it for you paid way too much money!

This is a slight exaggeration, of course, but it does represent a truth in our society. Items do out of date or out of style so quickly. Today's Christmas gift is tomorrow's landfill occupant. That may sound a little bleak, but it illustrates a truth upon which we need to focus. We need to focus on the lasting aspects of what we have been celebrating.

The lasting aspect is the Gift of God given to us that will never go out of style or become obsolete. Paul speaks of this Gift in Romans 6:23, "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." This new life we have will never go out of date or out of style. Rejoice in your new life, a gift that keeps on giving!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 06, 2018

Aldous Huxley was a humanist and an intellectual known for his progressive thinking and his writing on the "mechanization" of mankind. He is best known for his 1932 novel "Brave New World." According to the accounting of some, Huxley made great contributions to the thinking of people in the 20th century. However, he has been quoted as saying, "It's rather embarrassing to have spent one's entire lifetime pondering the human condition and find that I really don't have anything more profound to pass on by way of advice than, 'Try to be a little kinder.'"

Isn't that a bit sad? Huxley was one of the greatest minds of the last century, yet he felt as if he couldn't offer more to anyone else that some advice to "be a little kinder." So it is when we think we can exist without the presence of God in our lives.

Many are lauded for their intellect, as was Huxley, but if God is left out all of their brilliance and progressive thinking is empty. Psalm 14:1 has blunt words for this world view: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" Don't be foolish - don't pursue a path that leaves God out of your life. Regardless of your brilliance, that really isn't very smart.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 05, 2018

Hudson Taylor was a pioneer missionary to China in the 19th century. He scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: "I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God s arms like a child, and trust."

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 04, 2018

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also called the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine debris in the central North Pacific Ocean that, according to Wikipedia, is located roughly between 135 degrees W to 155 degrees W and 35 degrees N and 42 degrees N. This means that the patch is larger than the state of Texas.

The patch was created by trash dumped into the ocean that was trapped in the currents. This mass is comprised predominantly of plastic bottles that will be around for a long time to come. Recently this mass was even featured in an episode of the weekly TV series "Scorpion." This is a sad testimony to the indifference many have towards the care of our home planet.

I know we look forward to a "New Heaven" and a "New Earth" - on more than one occasion I have written about these ' but that doesn't mean we should not take seriously the charge given to our ancestors to take care of the current earth. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God "took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." With the fall of man also came the propensity to not be very good caretakers of what God has given us. Continually we hear of shortages of resources because conservation measures were not exercised.

God delights in what he has created. Six times in Genesis 1 we read that he looked at what he had done and said it was "good." We need to look at what he has done, realize it is good, and treat it well. We know we have a new earth ahead, but that doesn't mean we should mistreat the earth that we have now.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 03, 2018

As I was going through college, one of the summer jobs I had was clearing right of ways for the local county highway department. There were several college students on the crew, along with a permanent county highway employee who was our supervisor and took us to jobsites. One of his favorite lines was "It all pays the same." This was his response when someone would complain about a job assignment, or even when he was questioned about his particular job.

Often, we feel ourselves involved in meaningless activities in our jobs. I suppose that one way to respond to this would be to invoke the philosophy of my former supervisor. This is the case with some of our activities - we feel they are meaningless and have no point. We feel that we are in a situation where our activity actually is getting us nowhere.

This is also a description of a life without God. Indeed, a life without God is meaningless and not going anywhere. There is no earthly solution to this - even the wisdom of my supervisor has little meaning in this case. This was the question of Solomon when he wrote, "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?'" (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3)

After pondering over all the possibilities, Solomon concludes, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Solomon realized that life had little meaning apart from God and a relationship with him. With God, you will find meaning in life, and that it does not "all pay the same."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 02, 2018

God had wireless communication long before pagers, wi-fi, and cell phones did you know that? Modern wireless technology still has its limitations because of "dead zones." This is one reason why there are occasions when you don t find my articles - I am where there is no wireless Yep those places still exist!

At times, God has this same problem. Well, to be accurate, God doesn't have the problem. There is nowhere he can't reach with his communications. We have the problem because we create dead zones with our disobedience and indifference to his messages. I find it a bit ironic that there are many who would never think of ignoring a page, text, or call, but have created a "dead zone" when it comes to hearing from God.

An example of someone in Scripture who had created a dead zone was Eli. His sons were committing despicable acts in the performance of their priestly duties. Eli wasn't doing much to try to stop them, and even when he did, "His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke." They created a dead zone and as a result God was going to bring about judgement. (I Samuel 2:25) Because Eli had failed to follow God, and because of the disobedience of the sons, God told Eli, "I promised that your house and your father's house would minister before me forever. But now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.'" (I Samuel 2:30-31)

We often wonder why we don't hear from God and why we don't see his blessing. Have you created a dead zone through your disobedience and indifference? God will not communicate with those who don't want to listen. And, as I said before, the dead zone is your creation, not God's. Do what you need to do to improve the reception!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 01, 2018

Each day in our lives is an important day. Today is an important day not because it is the first day of a new year. Today is important because we don t know if we will have tomorrow. God has allowed yesterday's tomorrow to become today, so today I am going to write on the significance of making today count. Since we are starting a New Year, this is actually a rather "timely" story, if you will pardon the pun.

Some time ago, I came across some calculations in an article and want to use them in today's writing, as we have changed the calendar into another year. I don't know who did the math on this, but If we live 65 years, we have about 600,000 hours at our disposal. Assuming we are 18 when we complete high school, we have 47 years, or nearly 412,000 hours to live after graduation. If we spend 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours for personal, social, and recreational activities, and 8 hours for working, that amounts to 137,333 hours in each category. When we think of the time we have to work and play in terms of hours, it doesn t seem like much.

As we view our lives in these terms, it demonstrates why we need to make today count. Paul encourages us in Ephesians 5:15-16, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Make today count - take advantage of the opportunities in your path. Live to please God, and don't put off activities or practices that would help bring your closer to him. Also, don't put off those opportunities to do things with your family and your friends. Don't put off those opportunities to make a difference in someone else's life.

We only have so much time, and we need to use it wisely. Make the most of your opportunities! Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 31, 2017

This is the time for New Year's resolutions. The change in the number of the year brings about a desire to change something in our lives, hence we have resolutions. I don't know how you feel about resolutions, and this is not an article defending them nor decrying their ineffectiveness. I am simply acknowledging the practice of making resolutions. Making resolutions is based on an important reality - there are times we all need to make changes in our lives. Those changes vary in significance, but change is necessary. In all of our lives, there are times when we need to make a change, with the operative word here being "need."

What changes do you need to make? Do you need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health? Do you need to make diet changes because of things going on inside of you? Do you need to make changes in how you treat others? What changes do you need to make to improve your walk with the Lord? Do you need to spend more time with the Scripture? Do you need to be more active in your church? Do you need to give more?

No doubt, most of us do need to make some change in some area. Frankly, there are very few people alive who can honestly say they don't need to make a change somewhere. The only person who does not need to change is God. I Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind." However, we are not God, and we do need to make changes. Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 30, 2017

Can you believe we are coming to the end of another year? "Time flies when you are having fun" we often say. I don't know the origin of this cliche, but I do know it resonates practically. When we are involved in a pleasant, enjoyable experience, time just seems to have a way of shooting right by. On the other hand, when you are going through unpleasant circumstances, time sometimes almost seems to stand still. At times redundant activities seem to make time slow down. So, what about the four living creatures that surround the throne of God? Talking about redundancy! We first read about them in Isaiah 6, then we get a more detailed description of their appearance and their function in Revelation 4:8, "Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.'" Doesn't that sound a little boring?

Apparently, they don't get bored. Why? Well, can you imagine all the things they are able to see? Can you imagine all the sounds they hear? Can you imagine all the activity they witness? Furthermore, boredom is not in their experience because they are doing just what they should be doing - honoring God with their existence. They are fulfilling the purpose for which they were designed. How could they be bored?

We need to keep this in mind as we consider our lives. We need to be fulfilling the purpose for which we were designed: giving glory to God and honoring his person and presence. We should never be bored with what we are doing to honor Him! Our lives will never be boring if we are focusing on God and fulfilling his intent!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thurday December 28, 2017

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 27, 2017

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

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

Christ said, "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) If we focus on the Savior and his provision, we will not only be able to conquer those post-Christmas blues, we will be able to experience a richer life that is full of joy and contentment because of what he provides. Trust him and experience the life he has for you! One thing we can know for sure - Christ will never let us down!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 26, 2017

Duplicity is one trait that needs to be avoided. We hear stories that reveal this part of man's character on a daily basis. Recently I read of an individual who was a manager of a Christian foundation in Washington, D.C., and was found to be a leader in an organized crime ring. Proverbs 6:12-14 says: "What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars, signaling their deceit with a wink of the eye, a nudge of the foot, or the wiggle of fingers. Their perverted hearts plot evil, and they constantly stir up trouble."

We see a person who fits this description in the narratives of the events surrounding Christ's birth and infancy. Herod had an ulterior motive when he questioned the Magi about the birth of Christ. Matthew 2:7-8 tells us: "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'" You and I both know that Herod had no more intention to worship Christ than there is a man in the moon. His intent was to see Christ dead. Duplicity is demonstrated indeed.

The problem of duplicity is all around us, and if we aren't careful, can be manifested by us as well. Avoid dishonesty and duplicity. Be determined to live a life of sincere faith in Jesus.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 25, 2017

One of my favorite songs at Christmas is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." I really like the Casting Crowns' arrangement that they recorded a few years ago. Our webmaster includes this in the video offerings on our church webpage during the Christmas Season.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this carol. Yes, he is the same Longfellow who wrote "The Song of Hiawatha" and "Paul Revere's Ride." His composition of "I Heard the Bells" flowed from his own personal experiences. He wrote the song on December 25, 1864, when our nation was still very much involved in the darkest experience in our history - the War Between the States. The poem came from that reality, and also the losses he had suffered during the war.

He lost his wife, Fanny, in a tragic accident not long after the war started. She was killed in a fire at the family home. Then, in 1863, Longfellow's oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, was killed in battle. These experiences are perhaps most reflected in the next to the last stanza of the poem when he writes: "And in despair I bowed my head; 'There is no peace on earth,' I said; 'For hate is strong, And mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!'"

Longfellow concludes the poem with these words: "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!'" This verse reflects both the personal faith of Longfellow that prevailed in spite of tragedy and the Scriptural reality that the coming of the Prince of Peace will make everything right.

Isaiah 9:5-7 reminds us, "Every warrior s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.' Praise God for his Promise! Merry Christmas!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 24, 2017

What is your favorite Christmas memory? I have several. One of them has to be preparing for Christmas plays or Christmas presentations of some sort. I remember once we used candles that really weren't candles. All the boys had to wear white shirts and black slacks. All the girls had to wear white blouses and black skirts. And we had our candles.

They were battery powered "sticks" with a bulb in the shape of a flame. I thought they were so cool. When you got a bunch of them together, they did put out some serious light. I suppose we did look pretty neat standing in the choir all dressed alike and holding our fake candles while singing some marvelous Christmas songs. This is one of my many Christmas memories.

Christmas memories are marvelous, and usually help us frame our concept of our celebration. However, what is important is not to try to make our current Christmas match up with our memories of Christmases past. We need to focus on what Christmas is, and not get caught up with what it was. Christmas is to be a celebration of what has been done for us, not what we did at Christmas.

Christmas is a good time to reflect upon God's provision for us. Galatians 4:4-5 tells us that "when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." Our memory of Christmas must include this provision. If not, thinking about fake candles is really not all that great.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 23, 2017

I really miss trees at my grandparents' house. Of course, it has been quite a while since our last tree there. My grandparents have been in heaven for almost 45 years, and the house is now the possession of another family.

The trees at their house were really special. They weren't trees from a Christmas tree lot or a farm, and they were not artificial trees. They were trees that my grandpa had cut down himself from the woods he owned. Now, these trees had not been "groomed" as they were growing, so they were not perfectly shaped when he cut them. Often, they were misshapen, gnarled, crooked, and really didn't look anything like a Christmas tree. But after my grandpa would cut them, he would begin to work on them. He would prune, snip, and even pull up branches with twine, to shape the wild pine into a Christmas tree.

After Papaw did all he could do, he would turn it over to my Mom who would finish it off with decorations. When my brothers and I grew older, we were even allowed to help with the decorations. Upon completion, the tree always stood in the corner of my grandparents' living room as a beautiful symbol of Christmas! What a marvelous transformation!

God does this with our lives. When we come to him in faith, he takes our misshapen, gnarled, crooked, and sinful lives and transforms them into something beautiful. Philippians 1:6 tells us about the work that he is doing in us: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." After his supernatural work on the inside, he puts us in the care of his family, the church, and they continue to adorn us with lights of truth (Ephesians 4:15), ornaments of hope (Romans 5:4), and garland of love (I Peter 4:8). We become something really special when we were something really plain.

I really miss my grandparents' trees. But what God is doing with me right now is really marvelous. If you haven't allowed him to change your heart, give God your life and experience the transformation!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 22, 2017

We sing the song "Silent Night, Holy Night" at this time of year. I wrote about this song just a few days ago. It is really a beautiful tribute to Christ's birth and a wonderful reminder of what Christ did in coming into the world. The song talks about some of the activity that was going on at the time of Christ's birth. A marvelous song, but is it accurate?

I would imagine the night of Christ's birth was not all that silent. Think of all the sound that must have been going on within earshot of the place of Christ's birth. There were the sounds of the animals. Bethlehem would have been crowded with people, and I imagine they were noisy. They were no doubt oblivious to the special birth that had taken place.

Aside from the usual sounds, God made some noise. Think of the angel chorus. They were not silent about the birth of Christ. The shepherds were not silent after their visit with the Christ child. Rather, "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17)

Now, this does diminish the power and beauty of the song, but it really wasn't a "silent night" when Christ was born. Neither should we remain silent about him. "Silent Night" may be a beautiful song to sing at Christmas, but we should not remain silent about what took place on that special night!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 20, 2017

An aspect of Christ's ministry that we usually focus more upon during the Lenten season rather than the Advent season is his suffering. We don't normally like to associate suffering with the story of the baby in the manger and the shepherds and the wise men. Yet, there are both implied and direct reminders of suffering in many aspects of the Nativity story.

When you think of what his parents must have gone through just before he was born, you get the idea of suffering. I can't speak to this directly, but I know there are many ladies reading this who can identify with the discomfort Mary must have endured making an 80-mile journey during the latter part of her pregnancy, more than likely on foot, not on a donkey as most enactments portray. The rude surroundings at Christ's birth speak to suffering.

Many of the elements of the magi's visit speak to suffering. The long journey of the Magi helps focus on suffering as there would have been expense, discomfort, and hazards to face along the way. The gift of myrrh, a substance often associated with death as it was used in burial preparation, brings in the element of suffering. Of course, the cruel order of Herod leading to the deaths of many children created suffering. This suffering was much more than just implied (Matthew 2:13-19).

We sometimes use the term Suffering Servant when referring to Christ. This name comes primarily from the prophecies of Isaiah about his suffering and death. Isaiah 53:3 says: "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." While we usually associate this with our Easter observance, it is something we should also include in our Christmas celebration. We should never forget that this is why Christ came. Mark 10:45 reminds us that "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 19, 2017

A little boy was bothered a bit on Christmas morning. "Mommy," he said, "I like all my gifts, but this is Jesus' birthday. When are we going to give Jesus his present?" What a marvelous question; a question that we should be asking during our celebration.

What are we going to give Jesus? The little drummer boy said he would play for him on his drum. Perhaps he had a good idea - playing the drum was what he did best, so he was going to present Jesus with a gift of his best. This should be our desire as we consider our gift to him. Whatever it is, it should be our best.

Proverbs 3:9 reflects this ideal, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops." I would imagine you have taken some time choosing just the right gifts for those on your list. Make sure that Christ is at the head of your list, and make sure you give him your best gift!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 18, 2017

It was the night before Christmas during the height of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The French and German soldiers were entrenched against each other on the field of battle. No shots were being fired. Suddenly, a French soldier laid down his rifle and started walking towards the enemy line. His comrades, afraid to try to stop him lest they endanger their own lives, watched breathlessly as he approached the enemy troops, fully expecting to hear the crack of a rifle at any moment ending their fellow combatant's life. After advancing several steps, the soldier stopped and started singing, "Noel, noel, noel, noel - born is the King of Israel" then walked back towards his original position.

After he returned, a soldier from the German army began walking towards the French line. He did as the French soldier had done, singing "The First Noel" in German. For that night, peace reigned on that battlefield.

Christ is indeed the preeminent Peacemaker. He came to make peace between God and man, an ultimately in all of creation. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20) God took the first step towards peace and has made a way through his Son for us to be at peace with him. Peace initiatives may be rejected, even those of the Father, but we know that at some point in time, peace will reign supreme because of the gift of Christ. "Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled." This is made possible because God took the first step.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 17, 2017

I was thinking the other day of the Christmas song, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy." When I was young, sometimes our choir director would pick out a young boy from the church and have them sing this song during the Christmas musical. I was never selected, but my brother was. I always enjoyed the song, even back then (and even though I never got to sing it!):

Sweet little Jesus boy

They made you be born in a manger.

Sweet little holy Child

Didn t know who you was.

Didn't know you come to save us Lord

To take our sins away.

The song is in the style of a spiritual, and I had always assumed it was a spiritual until I read the story behind the song. In 1932 Robert MacGimsey, a resident of New York City, was on his way to a Christmas Eve service. On his way to the church, he walked by a number of bars where he heard raucous music and the loud voices of those inside "celebrating" Christmas. He thought, "What a strange way to celebrate the birth of Christ."

His thoughts led to the writing of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", a song that became a popular part of Christmas celebrations in many churches. His song is an apology to Christ for those who did not recognize him. Many don't. Even the Scripture tells us, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." (John 1:9-10)

Let's make sure we show that we recognize Christ. Let your celebrations be true reflections of your knowledge that Jesus is the Savior of the world who came to die for the world. The "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" became our Savior make sure that you honor him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 16, 2017

The experience of Mary and Joseph is, among many other things, a study in why we should not put God in a box. We are prone to think we know how God will react or how he will work in given circumstances but we should never presume to know what God will do. Reading the stories of how Mary and Joseph were informed of the impending birth of Christ shows us that God can work differently with different people even in the same circumstance.

Mary was informed ahead of time of the plan of God that would profoundly affect her life. Gabriel came to her and outlined God's plan for her future (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph, however, did not learn of God's involvement until after his discovery that his fiancé was pregnant which led to plans of terminating his relationship with her without exposing her apparent misconduct (Matthew 1:18-25). Only then did an agent of God come to Joseph to reveal to him the plan of God. Why the difference?

This is where our faith plays such an important role in our relationship with God. We must allow God to be God and realize any effort to try to work out his plans in our mind will not bring about results. We cannot predict how God will lead in our lives, but we should be confident that he will lead us the right way and whatever he does is in our best interests.

Another lesson we learn from the experience of Mary and Joseph is how to respond in circumstances that create questions. Mary and Joseph both responded in faith and showed their confidence in God in what they did. Mary said, "I am the Lord s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) We read about Joseph, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24) We need to remember the examples of Mary and Joseph when it comes to following God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 15, 2017

You perhaps have read articles or heard a message about the similarities between the cradle of Christ and the tomb of Christ. Let's think about this for a moment or two. We associate the cradle with the beginning of Christ's earthly existence and the tomb with the end of his earthly existence (plus a few days after his resurrection).

The cradle and the tomb were both man-made. To me, this symbolizes Christ's willingness to condescend and become human. The Creator of all that is was willing to be laid in structures that were made by the hands of those whom he had created. This act gives us a word picture of Philippians 2:7-8, "he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

The cradle and the tomb were both borrowed. Mary and Joseph had to borrow space to have their baby, and Jesus was laid in a tomb that was borrowed from Joseph, the member of the Sanhedrin who buried him. As far as we know, Christ never owned anything in this world except his own clothes. What does this say about our attitude toward earthly possessions?

Finally, the cradle and the tomb are both empty. The cradle emptied in the natural way; Christ would outgrow his "baby bed," as all children do. The grave, however, was a different thing. Christ "outgrew" the tomb in a supernatural way. In so doing, he provided the means for us to outgrow our graves as well through the promise of the resurrection.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember that the life Christ experienced, from the cradle to the tomb, he experienced for you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 14, 2017

I would imagine you are familiar with the story behind the composition of "Silent Night". Forgive me for being repetitious, but I would like to share the tale with you again. I appreciate the carol for many reasons, and one is the situation which brought about the song.

As you may know, it was written rather hastily because of a circumstance involving a faulty church organ. In 1818 in Oberndorff, Austria, Pastor Josef Mohr needed a song for services at his church on Christmas Day. The problem was the organ at the church was not working, so on Christmas Day in 1818, he brought a poem he had just written on Christmas Eve to the church organist, Franz Gruber, to see if he could write some music for guitar. Mohr had been inspired to write the lyrics out of necessity, but also because of the impressions he took away from his attendance at a Christmas presentation by a traveling group of actors held in a nearby home on Christmas Eve. Gruber came up with a tune that day, taught the song to the congregation that gathered for Christmas worship, and the rest is history. "Silent Night" is one of our most beloved songs sung at Christmas.

This story of a last minute effort to put something together because of extenuating circumstances reminds me of the many times I have found myself scrambling at the last minute to put something together because a change was necessary. That is part of life experience. I do prefer to be able to plan things ahead of time and watch things unfold according to plan but sometimes this isn't possible. The only One who can guarantee that things will indeed take place according to plans that have been made is God.

Many mistakenly think that the Christmas Story is about God's last-minute changes that were necessitated because his original plans didn't work out. This is not the case. What took place in Bethlehem, and all that took place with regard to the life of Christ, was part of God's plan all along. Ephesians 1:9-10 says, "He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." The event we are celebrating did not come about because God had to make a last-minute switch from the organ to the guitar. He intended to play the guitar all along.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 13, 2017

One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is "White Christmas". It was my all-time favorite until "A Christmas Story" came around 32 years ago and started messing with my head. "White Christmas" is still way ahead if I figure in the nostalgia factor, because it was a movie my entire family would watch when I was a kid. Of course, it was in black and white, and sometimes the snow was not really intended to be there; it was created because of the poor reception of our TV set.

I imagine you may know the premise of the movie - During WWII, Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) is saved from injury, maybe even death, by Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) who injures his arm during the rescue. Wallace visits Davis in the field hospital and is "roped" into going into show business with him after the war when Davis plays the "injured when I saved you" card.

They are successful, and wind up at a Vermont Inn at Christmas time where their entertainment talents save the day for their formal general who owns the inn but is about to go under. One big problem is that it is December in Vermont but there is no snow, so no customers.

A recurring event during the movie is that any idea brought up by Davis that Wallace doesn't like but Davis does is met with a rub on the arm by Davis that serves to remind Wallace what he owes Davis for saving his life. If you can't follow my synopsis, then you need to watch the movie. I am sure you will enjoy it!

I wonder if at times Christ feels like he needs to "rub his arm" in our presence to remind us of how much we owe him. He shouldn't have to do that. We should never forget all that he gave up and all that he gave so that we might be able to live.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, whether it is a white Christmas or not, don't forget to give thanks to the One we are celebrating.

Remember the words of Mark, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) We sing this chorus upon occasion:

He paid a debt he did not owe

I owed a debt I could not pay

I needed someone to wash my sins away.

And know I sing a brand-new song - Amazing Grace!

Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay!

Now that is a Christmas Carol if I ever heard one!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 12, 2017

I used to sing this song when I was a kid, I taught it to my kids, and we are teaching it to our grandkids: "Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. And as the Savior passed that way he looked up in the tree. And he said, 'Zacchaeus, you come down from there. For I'm going to your house today. I'm going to your house today.'" What a neat song - and, oh, what a deep and revealing story it tells.

With Jesus, there was intent. "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." (Luke 19:5) This reveals that not only was Zacchaeus looking for Jesus; Jesus was looking for Zacchaeus. There was also identification - Jesus knew who Zacchaeus was even before he met him. And there was involvement. Jesus knew what Zacchaeus did, he intended to meet Zacchaeus, and he became involved in his life for the purpose of bringing redemption to Zacchaeus.

This is what Jesus wants with us - to become involved in our lives in order to bring us into a life of fellowship with him. That is why he entered our world. Luke 19:10 tells us, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." This is the intent of Christ. He showed this in the example of Zacchaeus. He knew his name, he knows our name. He wants to come to our house as he did with Zacchaeus. Christ is keenly interested in your life and wants you to be involved in his. Climb that tree!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 11, 2017

What is the most important characteristic for a follower of Christ? It may not be number one, but from a number of passages we learn that humility is highly regarded by God.

Moses was selected by God to be the leader of his people. God chose him to confront Pharaoh, unify the people of Israel, and then lead them back to their homeland. There were a number of traits that made Moses uniquely suited for this daunting assignment.

God said about Moses, "But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" (Exodus 12:7-8) For what was Moses most noted? We read in verse 4, "Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." This was emphasized as God was preparing to confront the brother and sister of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, because of their jealous treatment of Moses.

God honors those who are humble. James 4:6 states God's attitude towards pride and humility - "God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." Do you want God's opposition, or his favor? Now that's a rhetorical question if there ever was one.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 10, 2017

To me, one of the most compelling chapters in the narrative that we call the "Christmas Story" is the revelation to Mary of her part in God's plan of redemption. I have always been amazed at the response of Mary when she encountered the angel Gabriel and he told her news that would bring about great changes in her life. You can read the entire account in the first chapter of Luke s Gospel.

Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl who was living a normal life and then one day found out she had been chosen for an extraordinary position - to be the one who would bear the Son of God. One thing was for sure - she viewed this as a privilege and an honor. Her response indicated her willingness - "I am the Lord s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) She believed what someone has written, "To know God's will is a treasure; to do God's will is a privilege."

Do you look at your work for God as a privilege? Many of us don't give this a thought, and often we simply go a different direction rather than walk in obedience. We fail to see that serving God is not a chore, but an honor.

Follow the example of Mary and do God's bidding! Look at opportunities to do God's work as a privilege. There is no higher honor than to serve the King!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 09, 2017

Sometimes when I am driving, things get really blurry. I have trouble reading road signs, and I just can't see what is in front of me very well. Now, before you get too excited and start PM'ing me all over the place or whatever with advice about how I need to get this problem examined, let me tell you that I wear bifocals. So, things get a little blurry because I have my head in the wrong position and I am trying to look out of the "reading" part of my glasses. When this happens, I just make a little adjustment and look out of the correct part of the lenses.

In actuality, I don t have to wear glasses to drive anymore. This may be a surprise for some of you who have known me for awhile as you may remember my coke-bottle spectacles. I wore contacts for years, but when I had cataract surgery some time ago, my vision was corrected to the point that I no longer require glasses to see distances. This is the case even after my eye problems last year. On the other hand, I cannot see "my nose in front of my face," so I need reading glasses. I had bifocals made after my cataracts were removed because I got tired of keeping track of my "cheaters."

I usually wear my bifocals when I drive as I like to be able to read the dash. So, at times I have to remind myself to change my focus in order to see things clearly as I forget about the bifocals. And, of course, when I do change how I look at things, my vision improves.

This is something that also can be helpful in life, isn't it? That is, change how we look at something in order for our vision of that something to improve. We may have an issue, a problem, a dispute with someone else, a glitch in our own behavior, or something else that comes into clearer focus when we change how we are looking at that circumstance.

For example, if we are having a conflict with someone else, trying to view the issue from the other person's point of view can be the solution, or at least get us down the road to some sort of resolution. Sometimes we struggle with some sort of problem that has us buffaloed. Maybe looking at the problem from another perspective can give us some insight as to how we can go about resolving the issue.

Paul speaks about looking at things from another perspective to help us view things more clearly. "So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:18) There are times that we need to pray for the vision of God so that we can have a more realistic view of what is taking place in our lives and so that we can see what is really important to see.

Life can become a little blurry at times. Looking at what is there from a different perspective can be helpful, and it is wise to ask God for help to view things clearly. Make sure you are looking through the correct part of your glasses!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 08, 2017

Scherry and I were driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, the other day when I saw a billboard advertising Skyline Chili. Many of you are familiar with Skyline Chili, but for those of you who are not, Skyline Chili is a restaurant chain that started in Cincinnati in 1949. Their specialty is chili served over spaghetti in "Ways." Now, many restaurants do this, but I think Skyline does it best.

The aforementioned billboard featured a picture of Skyline's signature dish, "Chili 3-Way," which is spaghetti, chili, and a mound of cheddar. The accompanying caption on the billboard proclaimed "Pure Joy." For those of us who like Skyline, this ad would prove rather appealing. For those who really don't get the concept of chili served over spaghetti, such as my wife, this slogan really doesn't apply.

Scherry's sauce of choice for spaghetti is marinara, which is fine. She has been known to ask, Why would you put chili on spaghetti? So, for Scherry, "Skyline Chili" does not equal "Pure Joy."

This scenario could be played out in a number of ways. There are any number of things that for some would bring "pure joy," but for others, not so much. You know, there is actually a biblical concept that fits this description.

In Hebrews 12:2, we read a statement about Christ that begins, "Who for the joy set before him. . ." How would you complete this statement? What did consider to be joy? What did he do because of the "joy set before him?" What path did he follow because he knew it would bring joy? The author of Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus "endured the cross, scorning its shame." Whoa. That isn't something I would associate with joy.

If you will, let me expand this a bit. "Who for the joy set before him. . .", Jesus left his place in Heaven (Philippians 2:6-7); was placed in a feeding trough for animals when he was born (Luke 2:7); had to be taken to Egypt by his parents because a deranged ruler wanted him dead (Matthew 2:13); escaped a murder attempt by his own neighbors in Nazareth (Luke 4:29-30); was continually hounded and berated by religious leaders (see the Gospels); and then "endured the cross, scorning its shame." These experiences do not sound like joy to me, but Jesus followed this path because joy would be the result.

Being able to bring joy to us led Christ to sacrifice himself. Thankfully, Hebrews tells us that he was able to "sit down at the right hand of God" (12:2), but even this is for our benefit (see Hebrews 7:25). The "pure joy" we have as followers of Christ is possible because of the gift of Christ. There should be no disagreement as to the greatness of this Gift.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 07, 2017

A lady found a wrinkled old baseball card and posted it on EBay, asking $10.00 for the card. She gave the card a second thought and then decided to pull the post while she had the card examined. After consulting with a sports memorabilia appraiser, she found out the card was an authentic 1869 Cincinnati Redlegs baseball card. As many of you know, the "Redlegs" were the first team in professional baseball. The card sold for $75,000 at auction, even though it was wrinkled and worn. The value was in its authenticity.

We need to be real in our Christianity. Being authentic is what determines value. Paul remained true to his faith in spite of getting "worn around the edges" from mistreatment. He wrote, "We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger." (II Corinthians 6:3-5) Paul was determined to allow the authenticity of the Christian message continue to shine through him despite being treated roughly.

We need to allow the truth of Christianity to shine through our lives even though we might get battered around by the struggles we face. Sometimes those struggles may even be caused by the message on which we stand. Continue to remain faithful and true! We need to remain real!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 06, 2017

Jealousy can be an ugly thing. Two shopkeepers were engaged in a bitter rivalry. They were constantly trying to one-up each other and to steal each other's customers. Seeing a new customer walk into the business across the street made each of the owners seethe with envy. One night, an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers and said, "I will grant you any wish you desire, but whatever I give to you, your rival will receive twice as much." The man thought for a moment and said, "Strike me blind in one eye."

Can you imagine anyone being that jealous? We may not go to such extremes in our envy, but we often are led to wrong behavior because we are jealous of someone else. Jealousy in the church is not a good thing, and can lead to division.

The church at Corinth was having a problem with jealousy. In I Corinthians 3:4-4, we find Paul's address to the problem, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere human beings?"

We need to be content with what we have, and not be so concerned with others' possessions or status. Looking at the position of others with an inordinate wish to have what they have is not a good thing. Rid yourself of jealousy of others, and be grateful for who you are and what God has given you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 05, 2017

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, in other family relationships, and in any relationship. 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 developing good relationships.

God is the one who had 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 foster your relationships.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 04, 2017

The story of Jonah has always intrigued me. I would imagine it has you as well. It's not every day that someone survives being swallowed by a fish. Many get caught in the debate as to whether the story is "a tale of a whale or a whale of a tale." I don't have a problem at all with believing the details of the story; however, the incredible aspects of this tale are not what command my attention.

I am surprised by Jonah's thinking - he really believed he could run from God and get away with it. Of course, his attempt to run from God was what led to the events that are more well known. Jonah had a problem with what he knew he should be doing, so he simply ran from his obligation. Jonah 1:3 says, "But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish." Not the thing to do. God dealt with him in a very creative and unique way.

God will deal with us in very creative and unique ways if we choose to run from him. Are you resisting God's call on your life? Is there something you should be doing that you are not doing? Is there something he wants you to do that you just aren't sure about? Is there something that needs to change in your life? Is there something you are doing that you shouldn't be doing?

God doesn't make mistakes - he wanted Jonah to preach in Ninevah, and he wants you to do what he asks. Don't run from him - God knows how to use big fish!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 03, 2017

"Human History...is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy" wrote C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity." This started out with Adam and Eve thinking they would be happier with supposed "greater knowledge" and continues through today. Most conflict among humans is caused by our desire to attain something we don't have that we think we need to have so that we will more content.

I have often wondered why God still puts up with us when it seems that we do nothing but try to replace him with some idea or some world view or some material thing that we think is the berries and will bring us "total consciousness" or whatever (with apologies to Bill Murray).

The thing is - we will not and cannot have true happiness apart from God. And the wonderful thing about God is that he is aware of this. Since he is aware of this, he pursues us to help us realize we need him desperately. We are celebrating His Great Outreach to humankind through sending His Son to the world to provide a means for us to attain true happiness through following His plan. To me, this is really incredible. How many of you would spend any time at all trying to convince someone who doesn't want anything to do with you that they need to have something to do with you? No matter what humans do to say "No thanks" to God, God still remains available and offers the invitation to all to come to Him.

God says "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me Listen, that you may live." (Isaiah 55:1-2) Christ told his followers "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28 30) Nothing other than God will bring us true happiness, so don't expand your search parameters.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 02, 2017

I am in the first generation that grew up with TV. My parents did not have TV growing up and we didn't have a TV until just before I started school. TV had been around a few years when I came along, so I and folks just a little older than me are the first "TV babies." In the US, television began full-scale commercial broadcasting in 1947.

Almost right from the beginnings of TV came the negative statements about TV. Comments from "Don't sit so close to the TV - you will go blind" to "TV is corrupting the morals of our kids" became part of our culture with the delivery of the first TV set.

Now, the former statement above is dubious at best while the latter statement is true only if we let it be true. I do not disagree with the reality that there are programs on TV that reflect loose moral conviction and negative values. The common response to this is to rant against the programming and those who create the programs. There is much said about how there needs to be reform among the production of shows because of the terrible influence that TV has. And, of course, we can expand this to computers and the internet as well.

The thing is, we only have so much control over who does what on TV, the internet, or any other form of media or entertainment that has an influence in our lives. We can and should let out voices be heard about programming and such, but sometimes our voices are simply ignored.

What we can control is how we use these avenues of media. We can use discernment and self-control in our utilization to monitor their influence in our lives and in the lives of our families. I find it interesting that we sometimes get so distracted by circumstances and influences we can't control that we forget what it is that we can control. For some reason, this seems to be especially true when it comes to media sources and entertainment and the part they play in our lives. All of these devices that bring all of this "negative influence" into our lives do have on/off buttons. We need to exert the power to power them off when we discern that what we see and hear is not what we should be seeing or hearing.

Ephesians 4:20-24 reminds us of the source of this power, "That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

TV has been around for 70 years now and has influenced society and made an impact on our lives. We should not forget that we can control just how much influence it has on us and how much of an impact it can make on our lives. Use this power!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 01, 2017

Have you heard of Irish-born flautist Sir James Galway? He is a classical music superstar who has been dubbed "The Man with the Golden Flute". David MacCasland writes, "As Galway neared the age of 50, he looked closely at his life and decided he was not going to fall into the trap of 'getting old and famous and playing bad concerts.' So he started practicing for several hours every day."

He began his personal overhaul by playing scales. He said it was the biggest shock of his life to discover how out of shape he was. "I could play concertos and repertory pieces. But the scales were stiff, and they were inconsistent from key to key." James Galway--master of the flute--playing scales!

We should take a lesson from this. No matter how "old in the faith" we are, we should never forget the basics. We should always remember how important a daily discipline of prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and even a personal time of praise, are to us and our continued growth in the faith. Reading and rehearsing the "Sunday School stories" of David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lion's Den, Joseph in Egypt, as well as others, are good things to do to keep us constantly aware of God's provision. Doing so keeps us "limbered up" spiritually. So, no matter how long you have been with the Lord, don't forget to play your scales!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 30, 2017

Some time ago, a 26-year-old Chicago waitress received a rather generous tip. She had struck up a conversation with a visiting businessman. She told him she was a single mother of two young children and had recently moved to Chicago in hope of better opportunities. At the end of the meal, he waived a stack of credit cards at her and told her to "pick a card." When she did, he told her to write herself a tip for $11,000 on his $60 bill. The patron was a CEO of a company on the east coast and was known for his philanthropic efforts. The waitress was on the receiving end of his generosity.

Being generous is a good thing. You may not be in a position of being quite as generous as this executive, but if God has blessed you, why not pass along your blessings by expressing generosity when you see a need? God has been generous with us - we are celebrating His great Gift to us. As we have the means and the opportunity, we are to reflect His generous nature.

Paul commended the Corinthians for their generosity, "you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so." (II Corinthians 8:10) They had given to the Jerusalem church that was experiencing severe financial struggles.

We are to give with gladness in our hearts. Paul tells us that "God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) When you see a need, do what you can to meet the need. As God has given you the ability, share with others and give as you should.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 29, 2017

Are you in love with God, or just the things God provides? Most of us, if we were asked, would respond that we are in love with God. I think it would do us well to closely examine our hearts and make sure we are in truth loving God and not just going along for the ride and what we can obtain.

God has promised blessings to those who follow him and most of us desire those blessings. It isn't wrong to want to be blessed by God, but we should not want blessings above God himself. We should want God simply because we want God.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 28, 2017

It seems like a lifetime ago that I finished my doctorate. While I was working on the degree, I often wondered if I would ever get through and if the task would ever end. It seemed as if I would be doing all that work for the rest of my life. However, as I look back on that experience, it was just a brief period and I am amazed at how quickly it went by. The work is done.

Sometimes experiences in life require temporary intense effort, often even struggles, for a short period of time. At the time we are in the experience we may feel as if it will never end, but it does, and we have the accomplishment to show for our struggle.

Peter writes about these experiences. He wrote, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:6-7)

Peter said that temporary, intense struggles are meant to bring about a great glory in us so that we can bring glory to God. This is exchanging tough times for good results. We might call this the "school of hard knocks" in keeping with the educational theme that was introduced earlier.

We may not have chosen these events, but they are there, and they bring about "praise, glory, and honor" that, in a very real sense, will last for an eternity. This is an example of a short-term investment bringing long-term benefits.

Paul wrote, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (I Corinthians 4:17-18)

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 27, 2017

At our church last night we decorated for the Christmas season. I really enjoy the process of putting up all of the accoutrements that enhance our worship surroundings this time of the year. I appreciate the appearance of the church when we get all the lights placed where they need to be and have the greenery arranged around the church. I used to be able to help more than I do now - climbing ladders, putting up wreaths, or assisting with the assembly of the outside stable. Nope - that's all for other folks. Now I do what I can.

As we were placing everything where it needed to be according to the plans we had mapped out, I did some thinking about the event that is the foundation of our efforts. Well, should I even speak of what we did as an "effort" when we think of what God has done for us? And to think that what he did for us was planned by Him even before we needed Him to do anything for us.

To put it another way, God made plans ahead of time to send the Light to the world. According to the scripture, these plans were made long ago. Christ's appearance in the world was not a last-minute strategy made in the wake of man's fall. The plans for the redemption of humans were made long before humans needed to be redeemed. Ephesian 1:3-4 reveals to us God's foresight and planning, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."

Plans and preparation were made for what we did last night. This is only fitting as we consider all the plans God made and the preparation God did for us so that we might have a relationship with Him. Think about this as you view the lights and decorations that surround you at this time of year. Be grateful for God's great love for us that is at the center of all of His planning.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 26, 2017

"No man can study the movement of modern civilization from an impartial standpoint and not realize that Christianity, and the spread of Christianity, are the basis of hope of modern civilization in the growth of popular self government. The spirit of Christianity is pure democracy. It is equality of man before God - the equality of man before the law, which is the most God-like manifestation that man has been able to make."

Some might say that it would take a big man to make such a claim as this. In actuality, a big man did make this claim. His name was William Howard Taft. He was our 27th president and he also weighed over 300 pounds. This made him the largest person to ever serve as president of the United States. In addition, he was the only president to serve as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Taft's statement above is so true. "Christianity, and the spread of Christianity" certainly are the basis of hope for modern civilization. When we forget Christ and that Christ is God's provision for the redemption of man, we toss hope out the window. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Christianity extends hope to us far beyond the idea of providing an apologetic for self-government. As we enter the season of celebration of the basis of our hope, my prayer is that we do not forget the Gift provided for us by our big God. God provides hope for us that extends far beyond our current existence. God does indeed reward those who "diligently seek Him."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 25, 2017

Often where you live has a bearing on how you live. I'm not talking about trying to "keep up with the Jones ," I'm referring to some rituals and responsibilities that arise from being courteous to those who live around me.

In our neighborhood, trash is collected every Friday, so we set our "mini-dumpster" out each week and don't let our trash build up. I get along with my neighbors and want to keep this up. I have neighbors on all sides, so we try to maintain things so that people don't to stare at junk. We have children in our neighborhood, pets who are let out on occasion, and people who walk in our neighborhood because it is a nice place for this, so I make sure to watch my speed to prevent bad things from happening. All of these are determined by where I live and I hope my actions reflect a good attitude about my surroundings.

It is important for us to remember that God has placed us in the "kingdom of His Son." (Colossians 1:13) Our lives should reflect some behaviors that give an indication we are living in God's neighborhood. In Matthew 5, Christ refers to some attitudes that give evidence about where we live. Christ tells us that residents in his kingdom are to reflect such characteristics as mercy, purity, and being a peacemaker (vss. 7 9). A resident of God s kingdom should "hunger and thirst for righteousness." (Matthew 5:6) We should live so that we are a source of joy to others (Romans 14:17).

Why should we live like this? In Romans 14:18, we see a reason given to us by Paul, "because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval." Let where you live affect how you live. If you claim to be a resident of God's neighborhood, then your life should show where you live!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 24, 2017

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and maybe you have an issue that is just craving an answer: What do I do with all the leftovers? I hope you find ways to take care of them creatively. You wouldn't want any of that delicious food going to waste! Of course, you need to deal with leftovers appropriately, or they won't be of any benefit and might be a little dangerous.

Dealing with leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner is a good problem; however, some of you may be dealing with leftovers of another nature that are not good problems. We all have made mistakes and done things we should not have done. Sometimes dealing with the "leftovers" from these times is a tough thing. There may be actual physical ramifications on account of our wrong-doing, or perhaps it is the struggle with the emotions we have as we think of our actions. This can be a really difficult issue. You need to deal with these issues appropriately.

Whatever you may have done, remember there is forgiveness with God. Seek his forgiveness. If you have wronged others, seek their forgiveness and do what you can to right the wrong. Finally, accept God's forgiveness and forgive yourself. If there are consequences to deal with, deal with them as need be and work to move on.

David knew the death of his infant son was a result of his wrongdoing with Bathsheba and what he had done with Uriah. He knew he had to deal realistically with the consequences, seek God's forgiveness, and seek other's forgiveness. His realistic understanding of the situation is reflected in his reply to his servants when he was told of the death of the baby, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (II Samuel 12:22-23)

David sought God's forgiveness (read Psalm 51), did what he could to right the wrong. He continued to trust God. I find it interesting that the brother of this infant became David's successor - Solomon. God did not condone the wrong, but he commended David's actions of forgiveness and restitution. David dealt with the "leftovers."

Deal with the leftovers. Deal with them properly. Dispose of what needs to be disposed. Use what is beneficial. This is a good thing to do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 23, 2017

I would imagine you are fairly familiar with the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims. This story is the stuff of fictional best-sellers. Think about this for a bit - a group of people from Europe travel thousands of miles in a wooden craft in 66 days, miss their target by a few hundred miles, and just happen to land in a place where they find a native who speaks perfect English. Keep in mind that it was at the beginning of the 17th century. How in the world does that work out? It was almost as if they were expected. In one very real sense, they were. This is an example of God doing the unexpected at a time when the unexpected was necessary.

God will do this in our lives at times. We never really know when it might take place, and we shouldn t try to predict these events, but we know God is always there and is watching out for us. We should never take God's providence for granted. Those early settlers certainly didn't. We shouldn't either.

Paul refers to God's providence in Romans 8:28 when he writes, "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." God is at work in our lives. He goes ahead of us, working on details in ways that are hidden from us, making things look like it is just the way it should be when, in reality, we were heading in a different direction. He provides for us in ways that we will never know about in this life.

God doesn't keep us from experiences that are not all that good, but he is working with us at those times and will bring us through. Once again, think about the ordeal of those 17th century travelers. They endured a great deal before things turned around for them. That is why we have Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your turkey today, and give thanks for the things you see around you that you know came from God. And don't forget to thank Him for all those things you don't see but are just as "there." Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 22, 2017

Tomorrow is a day when many families plan to get together and share a meal as Thanksgiving is celebrated. This is a good thing to do, and for many families, may be one of the few times when sharing a meal together around a table actually takes place. It seems that busy schedules in today s world hinders what was once a typical setting. Still, amid busy and varied schedules, many families find a way to sit down together for dinner regularly.

I remember once reading an article that spoke about the good things that result from family meals. In the article, family-health advocates described the benefits: an increased sense of unity, children sharing news and feeling listened to, and the physical perks of a planned, seated meal.

In Scripture, many great encounters between people and God happen around meals. Abraham and Sarah prepared a meal for three guests who turn out to be angels (Genesis 18). God gave instructions to the Hebrews to eat a special meal together before their delivery from Egypt (Exodus 12:9). Every year since, Jews celebrate the Passover feast. Elijah was strengthened with food served by an angel (1 Kings 19). Jesus shared meals not only with religious leaders but with "sinners" (e.g., Matthew 9). Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples before his death has become one of the Church s sacraments and a "foretaste" of the heavenly banquet to come. Christ said to his disciples, "I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father s kingdom." (Matthew 26:29) >/p>

It is a good thing when families have the opportunity to eat together. This is good at holidays; this is good at any time. As followers of Christ, it can be a holy time in God's presence. Sometimes circumstances and schedules don't allow this to happen, so enjoy the opportunities that you have, and gives thanks to God for the time you share.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 21, 2017

Samson was an interesting character. His birth was announced by an angel (Judges 13:2-5). He had to follow certain rules during his life and became a mighty man capable of doing great things for God (Judges 13:5). Samson did amazing things during his life, but he really never lived up to all that he might have been. There were distractions in his life that kept him from being all that he could have been in his service to God.

It was his last act of strength that showed the possibilities that were left unfulfilled. Of course, his last act claimed his life, ending any chance for him to become what God intended him to be. Although Samson had done many incredible deeds in his life, he could have done so much more.

God has plans for our lives; however, we can frustrate those plans when we fail to follow him completely. This keeps us from living to our potential and doing God's will. It was only at the time of his death that we see Samson acknowledging God's sovereignty and putting himself in God's hands, "Sovereign Lord, remember me." (Judges 16:28)

Don't wait until it is too late to fulfill your role as God's servant. Live a life of obedience and trust in him. Avoid the tragedy of wasted potential.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 20, 2017

A family decided to sell their home on their own rather than using a realtor. They placed a sign in their own yard, and then asked permission of their neighbors to place a directional sign at the corner where potential buyers would need to turn to find the house. Most of the neighbors acted surprised that they asked for permission. However, one individual replied, "Since you asked, I say yes. You know what might happen had you not asked." What might of happened was demonstrated when another party posted a sign in his yard without asking - it ended up in the street while the sign of the family who had asked permission remained unscathed. A little respect goes a long way.

Why is it that some find it difficult to extend respect to others? It really is not all that difficult to treat others the way we ourselves would want to be treated. Those of us who are followers of Christ need to add this to our character list. We should show respect in how we treat others both in face-to-face encounters and matters involving others' property and possessions.

Remember the words of Christ found in Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." This is the so-called "Golden Rule," and I do think that with regard to how we should treat others, it pretty much sums it up.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 19, 2017

God's timing is always perfect. When we say this, we are usually referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit; however, it could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. Sometimes a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing. Maybe you have received this information for a reason. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener. Maybe the situation asks for a reminder of a biblical principle or examples that can allow them to gain some insight that would be helpful. It might be a financial concern that you have the means to remedy.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 18, 2017

A church organist was practicing a new piece. The practice was not going very well. The piece was by Felix Mendelssohn and was a little tricky to play. After a while, the organist became a little frustrated and decided to call it a day. He hadn t noticed that someone had entered the church and was sitting in the back row.

"Could I try the piece?" the man asked. "No," replied the organist, "I do not allow anyone to touch the organ." After a couple more polite requests, the organist finally gave in and allowed the stranger to play. And play he did - magnificently and flawlessly. When he finished, the organist asked the man, "Who are you?" "I am Felix Mendelssohn." said the man. The organist almost denied the composer the right to play the music.

Make sure you are not preventing the Composer from playing the music. God's plans will not be ultimately thwarted, but we can really mess things up when we try to do things on our own and don't allow him to work in our lives the way he wants. We need to remember what Paul said 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." (Philippians 1:6) He also states that "we are his workmanship." (Ephesians 2:10) Let the Person who wrote the work complete the work! If you do, you will make some beautiful music!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 17, 2017

One of my favorite things to eat is chocolate. If I would allow myself, I could eat chocolate until I make myself sick. That really isn't very good. I know this, and although I don't totally abstain from eating chocolate, I always exercise my awareness of what chocolate could do to me if I decide to indulge too much. I know that it isn't good for me, so I choose to exercise control over it so it will not control me.

Most of us have weaknesses in some area. Knowing these weaknesses and acknowledging these weaknesses are important steps to gaining mastery over our weaknesses so that we can maintain control. When you face these areas where you struggle: 1) Acknowledge that you have a problem and need help with the struggle; 2) Take steps to gaining control over your area of weakness; and 3) Avoid activities and scenarios where you know your area of weakness is likely to be strongly tested.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." When you make an effort to guard your heart and your ways, you are empowered to overcome your area of weakness. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Know your "weak links," and take steps to make them strong.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 16, 2017

I would imagine many of you have had the experience of taking care to do the right thing and diligently working to make sure you are following the correct path, only to end up facing disappointment and discouragement. Often, we are rebuffed in our efforts even when we have followed instructions to the letter and have made no error in what we have done. There are times when it seems that there are no visible results in spite of the fact that we have given all we could to a task. Sometimes recognition of our efforts just isn't there or, worse yet, someone else gets the credit.

When we have these experiences, it is good to remember that it is the Lord who will have the final say about what we do. It really is good to remember that he is watching our lives and knows what is taking place. Nothing escapes his vision, and he will be the one to ultimately give credit where credit is due. He will bless our work in ways that may not be readily apparent, but he will not neglect us. There are no oversights with God. Try to keep his perspective, and we will find help when those discouraging times pop up.

Isaiah 49:4 says, "But I said, 'I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God.'" Nothing is in vain when we offer it to God. Trust in him for your recognition, and you will not be disappointed.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 15, 2017

One of the things you notice in the ministry of the apostle Paul was his commitment to building the lives of others. He wrote much about character development, godliness, perseverance, and modeling in his letters. We see him working directly with others in Acts and in his writings. He wrote to Timothy "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2) Building into the lives of others should be part of our commitment. There are others that need our encouragement, our teaching, our modeling, and our guidance.

Much has been said and written about the benefits of mentoring. This is actually what we see Paul doing. He was willing to be a mentor to others. Now, this requires time, effort, patience and care. Being a mentor does not come without a price. However, the benefits are worth the investment.

Many of you are mentors to someone else. Mentoring programs in schools, businesses, and other organizations are important. We need people who are willing to invest in the lives of others.

We need this in the church also. Who do you see that might benefit from mentoring? Make a conscious choice to do something about this. Those who are mentored benefit tremendously from such a relationship - those who mentor benefit as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 15, 2017

One of the things you notice in the ministry of the apostle Paul was his commitment to building the lives of others. He wrote much about character development, godliness, perseverance, and modeling in his letters. We see him working directly with others in Acts and in his writings. He wrote to Timothy "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2) Building into the lives of others should be part of our commitment. There are others that need our encouragement, our teaching, our modeling, and our guidance.

Much has been said and written about the benefits of mentoring. This is actually what we see Paul doing. He was willing to be a mentor to others. Now, this requires time, effort, patience and care. Being a mentor does not come without a price. However, the benefits are worth the investment.

Many of you are mentors to someone else. Mentoring programs in schools, businesses, and other organizations are important. We need people who are willing to invest in the lives of others.

We need this in the church also. Who do you see that might benefit from mentoring? Make a conscious choice to do something about this. Those who are mentored benefit tremendously from such a relationship - those who mentor benefit as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 14, 2017

"What is that in your hand?" God asked Moses. (Exodus 4:2) God was responding to the statement Moses had made reflecting his feelings of inadequacy concerning God's call on his life. God told Moses that the staff he had in his hand would be a valuable tool in his work for God because God would empower him to be able to use what he had. That is what God can do for us - help us to use what we have in our hand. The question is - what have we have placed in our hand?

Sometimes we fill our hand with things that hinder us from being used by God instead of enhancing our usefulness. When we fill our hands with doubts, unconfessed sin, worry, or our own agenda concerning how to live our lives, we hinder our usefulness for God. When we fill our hand with these things we cloud our thinking and keep our world centered on ourselves instead of God.

God peeled back the layers of doubt with Moses and convinced him to use the staff in his hand. However, it went so far that God became angry with him because of his reluctance. "Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses." (Exodus 4:14)

Don't push God that far! Surrender your whole self to him, the good and the bad, so that you can re-center on him and his purpose. What is in your hand? Give it to God and watch how he can use you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 13, 2017

Stores are now focusing on the next big money maker for them now that Halloween is a distant memory - Christmas. It seems they zip right past Thanksgiving and onto this more commercially creative season of spending. My response to this is - don't do this!

I will be saying more about Thanksgiving as the days get closer to that holiday. What I want to say something about right now does have something to do with Christmas.

Have you thought much about your spending for Christmas? Many of you as parents are thinking about what to spend on your children. This isn't actually a bad thing at all, if you go about it the right way. But you should remember that there are some things you need to spend on your kids that have absolutely nothing to do with money.

Spending time with your kids is a biggie. This is something that is so important, and is something that no amount of monetary spending can replace. It really is nice if you are in a position where you can spend some dollars on your little ones (or bigger ones, as the case may be), but don't use spending money as a substitute for spending time.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Implied in the use of the word "train" here is the idea of time. If you wish to train your children effectively, you will need to spend some time with them.

You shouldn't let anything come between you and spending time with your kids. You shouldn't use money or anything else as a substitute for spending time with your children, or with anyone else for that matter. You will never regret the time you spend with those gifts from God. Invest wisely and not just at Christmas!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 12, 2017

Do you know Morgan Smith Goodwin? She is the perky redhead who used to appear in the Wendy's commercials. I remember one of the first commercials she made - I don't know why I remember it, but I do. She was conversing with a couple of friends at a garage sale. One of the fellows sat down in a recliner with a Wendy s burger. "Wendy" said to him, "Living large my friend!" I don't know if I would call eating a single with cheese while sitting in a used recliner living large, but it made for an interesting commercial.

What is living large? Well, one usually thinks of living large as living a luxurious lifestyle filled with all the goodies one can imagine. That is one way to "live large." Except it really won't get you anywhere that is meaningful.

As followers of Christ, we need to have a clear definition of what "living large" really is. Forgive me for being a bit trite, but let me quote you a familiar statement that I have heard ever since I was a small boy - "Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." This is what we are to practice in order to live large. II Corinthians 6:11 says, "O you Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged."

We live large by living for our Lord. We live large by to living in a way that our lives benefit others. As followers of Christ, our hearts should be inclined towards our Lord and others. Our desire to serve God and help and encourage others should be large. This is truly "living large, my friend!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 11, 2017

Today is Veteran's Day. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a document setting aside November 11 as Armistice Day, a day to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I, or the Great War as it was then known. Observances are usually scheduled on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, as this was the date and time of the signing of the documents in 1918. Following World War II, the commemoration was expanded to include veterans of World War II. In 1954, it was renamed Veteran's Day. By then, there were even more veterans as the Korean War had recently concluded.

This year marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the involvement of the United States in World War I as we joined the conflict on April 6, 1917. There are no living veterans from World War I. The last surviving World War I veteran, Florence Green from Great Britain, died in February of 2012. The last surviving veteran from the United States, Frank Buckles, died a year earlier in February of 2011.

As we observe this day, we need to be grateful for all who have served and for those who are serving even now. Thank you so much for your sacrifice. Obviously, a special tribute needs to be paid to those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

World War I was supposed to be a war to end all wars but it wasn't. There have been many wars since that time, including the greatest conflict the world has experienced to date - World War II. Our prayer continues to be for an end to all conflict. Humans just can't seem to get along with each other, and that is a shame.

At some point, we know that God will intervene and cause wars to cease. He promises this in his Word. Micah 4:3 tells us, "He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Today as we honor those who have served and those who are serving even now, let's pray for the time of peace God has promised for us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 10, 2017

One of the most helpful books I think I have ever read is Charles Hummel's "Tyranny of the Urgent." In this little book, Hummel addresses the issue of letting life's demands and pressures become our boss. He outlines some thoughts on prioritizing and organizing our life in a way where we don't feel like we are under the gun all the time.

David Branon writes of a man in New York City who sold magazines and newspapers. He had the habit of collecting the printed copies of what he didn't sell. They were stacked up all over his apartment. One day, they collapsed, and he was trapped for two days until finally rescued by emergency workers. This is almost comical as he was unhurt, but the story could have had a tragic ending.

Often this is the story of our lives - we feel trapped beneath a mountain of demands upon our time. These crush of obligations and the burden of demands press upon us. We would be wise to take steps to alleviate this. The mountain can be very real, and it can be very dangerous. We don't want an alternate ending that proves tragic rather than comical.

Make sure you involve the Lord in your everyday burdens and circumstances. Let him help you shoulder the load. Ask for help from others when the weight of stressors is bearing down upon you. Ecclesiastes 4 speaks of the advantage of having someone to help. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but verse 9 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." Seeking assistance can help you with the "Tyranny of the Urgent."

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 09, 2017

In 2004, French and U.S. astronomers found a planet about 40 light years from earth that appears to be almost totally composed of diamond. The planet was dubbed 55 Cancri e and is about 3 times the size of the earth. 55 Cancri e moves so quickly around its host star that its "year" only lasts 18 days.

To rate this planet as we do diamonds on earth, the carat value would be in the billions. By comparison, the largest diamond ever found on earth is the Cullinan diamond and was a little more than 3,100 carats. After the Cullinan diamond was cut to produce jewelry quality stones, the value was in the billions of dollars. Can you imagine what a diamond planet would be worth?

God is not impressed by this, of course. He considers something else far more valuable - us. David wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalm 8 3-5)

God considered us to be so valuable that he allowed his Only Son to give up his life for us. Since God considers us to be so valuable, we need to place a high value on the people God brings into our lives. To God, they are worth more than diamonds. They should be to us as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 08, 2017

At times we are disappointed by other's unfaithfulness or failure to keep commitments. Someone tells us they will take care of your yard while you are away but doesn't. A family member says they will come by but doesn't. A friend says they will call to take you fishing but you never hear from them. A member of your church family promises to visit during a time of bereavement but never comes by. These situations happen, and we have no control over them.

We have no control over the actions of others, and we cannot do anything about the lack of faithfulness and commitment of others. We can do something about our own actions. We do have control over our faithfulness and commitment. Proverbs 20:6 tells us, "Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?"

We need to make sure that others find us a faithful person. When we make a promise, make sure to keep it. When we tell someone we will do something for them, let your actions match your speech. Others may be a disappointment to you, do your best to keep your commitments so you won't be a disappointment to others.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 07, 2017

Albert Schweitzer was an interesting individual. He was trained as a musician and was a church organist. Then he studied philosophy and theology and became a pastor and a professor. At age 30, specifically so that he could go labor in Africa, he entered medical school and became a physician.

He lived in Africa for decades, building clinics, developing treatments, and working among a people so poor that they were barely able to stay alive. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, he used the proceeds to build a leper colony in Gabon. He wrote, "The only ones who will be really happy are the ones who have found how to serve." His life was certainly an embodiment of this statement.

Have you found how to serve? So many folks seem to express discontent with their lives and unhappiness. The remedy to this lies in finding how to serve. When you determine to live the life of your servant, you find that you have no work of your own, no worth of your own, but you also find that you have no worries of your own as your life is dedicated to others.

Christ is the supreme example of this and calls us to be servants not only through his statements, but through his example. In Mark 10:45, we read his words, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Often, we fail to see the emphasis on service in the life of Christ. This failure means we don't place a premium on service in our lives and find ourselves missing the mark of living for Christ. Schweitzer said, "The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others." Let's demonstrate our purpose by living to serve.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 06, 2017

I remember as a young boy using the "flower test" to determine if a girl loved me or not. You remember doing this, don't you? You pick a daisy, then begin plucking off the petals one a time while alternately saying "she (or he) loves me" or "she loves me not" with each petal plucked.

Oh, my poor little heart was broken many times when the last petal was accompanied by the definitive "she loves me not." Then, of course, there were times when I would jump for joy because the last petal would come off while I was saying "she loves me"! Of course, you soon learn this is really not a good indication of someone's affection for you.

We sometimes do this with God. We allow circumstances in our lives to inform us about God's love towards us. We experience difficulties and setbacks and say "God loves me not." This is really just as foolish as thinking the petals on a daisy actually have anything to do with how someone else feels about us.

The next time you begin to question God's affection for you, remind yourself of what the scripture says about his love. I John 4:9 tells us, "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And don't forget the powerful words of Paul in Romans 8:37-39, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's love for us has nothing to do with petals on a flower or circumstances in our lives. His love for us has everything to do with who He is!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 04, 2017

Leadership Today writes: "Great men and women of faith are people of prayer. Prayer deepens our connection with our Heavenly Father, and leads to spiritual power and action. In prayer we seek God, worship Him, humble ourselves before Him, and receive His wisdom. As we spend time with Him, our lives increasingly reflect Him to those around us."

Great men and women of faith devote a great deal of time to prayer. They understood that they could not hope to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished without spending time in prayer. We see examples in the Scripture and examples in history of God's servants spending time with God in prayer.

Hannah prayed fervently for a son. The result was Samuel, a man who almost single-handedly preserved the nation of Israel (read I Samuel 1). David was a man of prayer. Many of his prayers are seen in the psalms he wrote. Daniel was a man of prayer. Even in the face of the threat of death, Daniel continued his custom of praying three times a day. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Jesus himself regularly spent time in prayer.

The history of the Church is filled with examples of people who understood time spent in prayer was time well spent. John Wesley rose at 4 a.m. each morning so that he might spend at least two hours in prayer before the day would start. Corrie ten Boom never stopped praying even after her incarceration in a Nazi death camp. Later she wrote about prayer, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

How is your life being shaped by time with God? We have many biblical and historical examples of people whose lives made a difference and there is an important common denominator - they understood the importance of prayer. Do you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 04, 2017

Leadership Today writes: "Great men and women of faith are people of prayer. Prayer deepens our connection with our Heavenly Father, and leads to spiritual power and action. In prayer we seek God, worship Him, humble ourselves before Him, and receive His wisdom. As we spend time with Him, our lives increasingly reflect Him to those around us."

Great men and women of faith devote a great deal of time to prayer. They understood that they could not hope to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished without spending time in prayer. We see examples in the Scripture and examples in history of God's servants spending time with God in prayer.

Hannah prayed fervently for a son. The result was Samuel, a man who almost single-handedly preserved the nation of Israel (read I Samuel 1). David was a man of prayer. Many of his prayers are seen in the psalms he wrote. Daniel was a man of prayer. Even in the face of the threat of death, Daniel continued his custom of praying three times a day. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Jesus himself regularly spent time in prayer.

The history of the Church is filled with examples of people who understood time spent in prayer was time well spent. John Wesley rose at 4 a.m. each morning so that he might spend at least two hours in prayer before the day would start. Corrie ten Boom never stopped praying even after her incarceration in a Nazi death camp. Later she wrote about prayer, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

How is your life being shaped by time with God? We have many biblical and historical examples of people whose lives made a difference and there is an important common denominator - they understood the importance of prayer. Do you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 03, 2017

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!" calls Mark Antony during his oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play. Antony had something to say and he wanted others to listen.

Maybe you know someone who has something to say and you need to listen. It might be a confession of an error, an old joke, a comment on the weather, a piece of important information that needs to be passed along, or just a comment on an article of clothing. Listening to others is such an important part of life. This is especially true in our relationships with those we love, but it is also true in many other circumstances. We should express our care for others and the best way to do so is to "lend them our ears."

Paul tells us that we "should have equal concern for each other." (I Corinthians 12:25) We do this by exercising the gifts that God has given us to benefit others. This needs to be accompanied by open ears. Above all else, we need to listen to God.

Listening is something all of us need to do. It is a privilege and responsibility for all of us. Someone out there has something to say to you - are you listening? Lend them your ears!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 02, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 01, 2017

Some time ago, I read that archeologists have uncovered a plate in Spain with an image of Jesus on it. Jesus is depicted as beardless and with short hair. Here is an excerpt from the article, "Archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest-known images of Jesus in the town of Cástulo in Andalusia, Spain. The image, engraved on a glass plate known as a paten, shows a beardless, short-haired Jesus. The archaeologists estimate the 8.6-inch paten is from the fourth century C.E., and they suspect it was used to hold Eucharistic bread. The image shows Jesus in a philosopher's toga, along with two other - also beardless - male figures, whom researchers suspect are Peter and Paul, two of Jesus' apostles. All three of the men are depicted with halos. 'The scene takes place in the celestial orb, framed between two palm trees, which in Christian iconography represent immortality, the afterlife, and heaven, among other things,' the archaeologists said in a statement."

Now, I find this to be interesting, but my favorite portrayal of Jesus is not found in any artist's rendition in any known medium. My favorite portrayal of Jesus is found in Philippians 2. There we read, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross! (2:6-8)

This image reflects his humility, his obedience, and, perhaps most importantly, his willingness to do what was needed to secure redemption for humanity. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us about the image he became in order to make us righteous, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

I find the archeological discovery of a plate depicting Christ's image interesting, but what I find important is the image of Christ given in Scripture. This is the image on which we should focus.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 30, 2017

Recently I read an ad for a program that said you could pick up a new language in as little as ten days. I didn't go for this, as I have studied a few languages and I don't think ten days is enough to learn how to understand and speak in a different tongue.

Language barriers are not impossible to overcome, but they have caused difficulties in both personal and political relationships for almost as long as humans have been around. Differences in languages have posed a problem ever since the differences arose. You can read this story in Genesis 11. God "confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." (vs. 9)

There have been situations when a difficulty in translation has proved to be beneficial. In 1917, the British General Allenby was leading an assault on Turkish-held Jerusalem. Upon reading Isaiah 31:4-5, he discovered a plan to win the battle. These verses say, "As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it. Allenby decided to fly small scout planes over Jerusalem and drop notes in the Turkish language instructing the Turks to surrender Jerusalem. Having never seen an airplane, many of the Turks became fearful. In addition, the note was signed "Allenby." In Arabic, the phrase "Allah Nebi," which means "God's Prophet," is similar to "Allenby." When the Turks read a note about the Lord defending Jerusalem as "birds flying" that had been dropped by "flying birds" and was signed by "God's Prophet," they gave up Jerusalem without firing a shot. The British took control of the Holy City.

Someday all the confusion will be over. And we know that now, whatever language we speak, God hears and understands. Psalm 18:6 tells us that he hears and answers, "I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;" Nothing is lost in translation in our communication with God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 29, 2017

Dr. Paul Brand was a world-renowned orthopedic specialist and leprosy surgeon who worked primarily in India with people affected with leprosy. In the 1940 s, he solved a riddle that had plagued the world for centuries; "Why do the hands and feet of leprosy-affected people fall off? What causes the terrible deformities of leprosy? Can anything be done to prevent them or restore the damage?" He discovered that it was infection and injury that caused the loss of digits and limbs among lepers. Both problems were treatable if discovered in a timely manner.

Typically, a person with leprosy loses sensation in fingers, hands, feet ant toes. Since they do not feel pain that would warn of a dangerous circumstance, many would suffer severe injury through cuts and burns leading to infection and loss of limbs. Dr. Brand developed a machine that would beep when the person would be near fire or some other potentially harmful situation. His invention helped by warning of potential harm.

Like physical pain, our conscience serves to warn us of potentially harmful situations. However, it is possible to develop a lifestyle where we sear our conscience to the point that we no longer feel "pain" and therefore are prone to continue with harmful behavior. To keep a clear conscience, we need to respond to the pain of appropriate guilt and make changes.

Paul writes that it is possible to sear your conscience, "Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (I Timothy 4:2) We need to avoid allowing our conscience to be seared. We need to follow Paul's example, "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16) Keep your conscience clear by maintaining godly character!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 28, 2017

The submarine lied disabled on the ocean floor with little chance of being rescued. The communication equipment had failed and the crew was unable to transmit their location to ships that had the potential of reaching them in time. The oxygen supply began to run out. The commander suggested they sing a hymn. They sang "The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide."

A weakened sailor passed out and lurched against the lifeless controls that determined whether the vehicle was to dive or to surface. The force of the sailor falling against the faulty mechanism caused it to start working. The submarine made it to the surface with no casualties.

With the world trapped in the deep darkness of sin, God sent his Son to make a way that sinking humanity could surface safely. Through Christ's provision, we who were trapped at the bottom could rise to the top through the grace of God. When we trust in Christ's provision, we can escape the waters of death and enjoy the sunshine of God's love.

David wrote, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him." (Psalm 40:1-3) This is God's promise for those who follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 27, 2017

We often hear it said, or perhaps even say it ourselves, that we are our own worst enemy. Many of you are facing challenges at work, in your marriage, in your family, at school, or in your church, and the reason for these challenges may very well be you. Your attitude or your actions, or both, are at the root of your trouble. We can be our own worst enemy when we fail to have significant insight into our own behavior and fail to see that our choices are the cause of the struggle we are facing. We need to hold a mirror in front of us, literally and figuratively, and ask ourselves hard questions as to who really is to blame.

I remember an incident that gives a somewhat more objective view of this principle. Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods were neck and neck in The Player's Championship, a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Garcia hit a bad shot and put the blame on Tiger Woods saying that Woods' actions during Garcia s swing caused him to mishit the ball. Later in the competition, Garcia had a few more bad hits that could not be blamed on Woods, and he lost the tournament. We all have a tendency to do this - blame others or blame outside circumstances for troubles that really are caused by our own shortcomings or mistakes.

Paul reminds us that we have the ability to be our own worst enemy. In Galatians 5:16 - 17 he writes, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." He then goes on to contrast the attitudes of the flesh with the attitudes of the Spirit. The bottom line is that we have it within us to be a problem to ourselves. We need to guard against this possibility. Don't be your own worst enemy!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 26, 2017

Dr. Joyce Brothers was a pretty influential person in the twentieth century. Perhaps you are familiar with Dr. Brothers. As the first "TV psychologist" in the 1950's, she pioneered "pop psychology" through her roles on TV, as a columnist, and frequent appearances in movies and talk shows. She was a guest of Johnny Carson more than 100 times on "The Tonight Show." As well as a daily column syndicated in more than 350 newspapers, she wrote 15 books that dispensed advice on a broad range of topics.

Dr. Brothers paved the way for "Dr. Phil" and others. When asked about why she was so successful, she replied "because you were hungry."

People are hungry for advice on how to live the right way and what to do in certain situations. This is fed by a desire to be correct and to look good in the eyes of others. We who are followers of Christ should be more concerned about how we appear in the eyes of God than how we appear to the eyes of others; therefore, we should be hungry for knowledge of God's desire and designs.

With all due respect to Dr. Brothers, seeking her counsel will not help us to know the mind of God. Following what God has given us in His Word is the way to gain understanding of God's plans.

We read in Psalm 119:10-11, "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Following Dr. Brothers advice might be ok for a little problem you have encountered, but if you truly want to know how you should order your life, go to the source of life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 25, 2017

In 1983 Steve Jobs challenged John Sculley, then CEO of PepsiCo, with this statement, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" What happened after that is history. The story of Apple computers along with the success of IPods, IPads, and the IPhone is a part of our current culture. Of course, it took some people making hard decisions and stepping out into areas where no one had ventured before. Their decision brought about technology that has made our lives different that what they would have been.

We need this visionary outlook when it comes to the message of the Gospel. We have news that has changed the world in a much different way than did the efforts of Sculley and Jobs, yet we often are lackadaisical about our role in spreading this news. Christ called the early disciples with these words, "Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people." (Matthew 4:19) When the power of the Holy Spirit came upon these followers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), they boldly began to proclaim a message that did change the world. Later, they were accused of turning the world "upside down" (Acts 17:6).

Wouldn't that be great if we were accused of doing just that? We have the same Power as did those early disciples. The Holy Spirit is still resident in those who follow Christ. We should yield to the leadership of the Spirit and quit selling sugared water. We should work to change the world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 24, 2017

A bricklayer had a brother who was a world-famous violinist. The bricklayer was talking one day with the head of the construction company for whom he worked. "It must be something having a brother who is so talented and is known the world over for his ability on the violin," remarked the executive. He added, "Sometimes the way that talent is distributed in families just doesn't seem fair." "That's for sure," replied the bricklayer, "It's a good thing my brother can afford to hire people. He doesn't know the first thing about building a house."

The attitude of the bricklayer is a great point of view to possess. Different people are given different abilities. There is no one person who is capable of doing everything well and everybody has an ability to use in some capacity. This is true in life in general, and is true in our churches.

Exodus 31 records that there were people who were given special skills in different areas to be able to construct the tabernacle and to make the items used in the tabernacle. God said, "I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." (Exodus 31:2) In various passages, Paul talks about the variety of gifts that have been given by the Spirit to followers of Christ. We read in I Corinthians 12:7, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

We should honor God with the jobs we do that help to support our lives and our families. We should honor God through exercising the gift he has given us as followers of Christ so we may benefit others and be of benefit to our church. Putting our abilities in action helps us, helps others, and gives glory to our Father.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 23, 2017

I have always found it fascinating to realize how quickly the new aeronautical technology developed by the Wright Brothers in the fledgling days of the Twentieth Century was altered to be used in military applications. Many of the early developments in flying were results of research done to develop flying weapons. The speed at which flying advanced can largely be attributed to research and development for military applications.

One of the most successful early war planes was the Sopwith Camel used by the Royal Air Force during World War I. Sopwith Camels were responsible for the destruction of 1,294 enemy aircraft. One of the engines used in the Camels was a Gnome Rotary engine that was designed without a throttle. The engine was meant to run full speed at all times. I am not sure of the advantage of this, except to allow the aircraft to go full speed at all times.

What may have been an advantage for an airplane is certainly not an advantage for us. If we run full speed at all times, we can be sure that we are heading for a crash landing. Unlike the Gnome engine, we are not built to run full-throttle. God did not build us to race from one activity to another with no heed for our well-being.

As you observe the life of Christ, you see that he took time to slow down, focus on his Father, and allow for opportunities for renewal. We need times likes these as well. We need spiritual refreshment so that we don't "crash and burn". Christ invites us to "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31) Sounds like good advice to me.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 22, 2017

Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it s over." On June 7, 2013, Calidoscopia, a thoroughbred running in a race at Belmont Park in New York, took this advice to heart. At the halfway point in the race, Calidoscopia trailed the field by 22 lengths. Then, he kicked into a higher gear. On a rain-soaked track he made up the difference over the last half of the race and ended up winning by a length. Indeed, "It ain't over 'til it s over."

We often get discouraged by events in our lives that leave us feeling hopeless and trailing behind others. Sometimes we are working on a project or some other event and we just can't seem to get things together. Just remember, it isn't over until it s over.

Paul wrote, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9) There are many reasons why we often give up in circumstances. Fear of failure, skepticism, feelings of inadequacy, not enough help to finish the task, and other concerns often keep up from pressing on. When we face discouragement because of a struggle, remember the words of Paul and the example of Calidoscopia. Keep pressing forward and do what you can. "It ain't over 'til it s over."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 21, 2017

Something that is fun to practice but difficult to do in reality is demonstrate common virtues in uncommon circumstances. When we demonstrate Christ-like characteristics in situations that normally would elicit a more vengeful response, we are truly displaying the love of Christ.

I know of a young mother who was with her children in a drive-up line at a fast food restaurant. As she was placing her order at the screen, for some reason the woman in the car behind her began to honk and gesture rudely. When the mother drove around to the window to pick up her food, the lady continued using her horn and the rude gesture. Her young son asked, "Mommy, is something wrong with the lady in the car behind us?" "I don't know," said the mom, "Maybe she is just having a bad day." She then did something most of us would not do, let alone even think of doing. She asked for the amount of the lady's order and paid for her food. This is an example of demonstrating the common virtue of courtesy in an uncommon situation.

Christ spoke of this often and showed us how to live this principle in so many ways, including his death. He tells us, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." When we show love, kindness, patience, goodness, and other virtues in situations that normally demand the opposite, we show Christ. Be an uncommon Christian!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 20, 2017

As I said in my post the other day, my recent hiatus from Facebook was created by my presence in an area where I had no cell service or internet connection. Some of you thought I must have been in some deep wilderness area. Actually, I was not all that far from "civilization" we were at a campground in Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio. I wrote that some of you were not that far from me and, as you can see, you weren t.

Also not far from our campsite was a place that has some neat memories for me Camp Oyo. Camp Oyo is a Boy Scout camp that was built in the 1930's on some land that had been set aside for a camp in 1926 by Governor Alvin Donahey. My brother Phil recently sent me an interesting article from portsmouthmetro.com about the renovations of the camp facilities. It was good to see that the camp is still going strong.

I enjoyed my time in Boy Scouts and, in particular, my experiences at Camp Oyo. Besides being a lot of great fun, I learned a number of skills that I have used from time to time throughout my life. Seeing Oyo again reminded me of this, and made me grateful for what I acquired there that has helped me in life situations I have encountered.

We need to be grateful for the experiences we have had in the past that bring us help in the present. There are many instances in our lives when past experiences prove helpful in present circumstances. When we are faced with a problem, a crisis, or some other puzzle, what we have learned from past experience can be very beneficial.

Recalling how we have seen God provide faithfully in a past circumstance is a source of strength for a current trial. At a time when David faced a crisis because of the pursuit of his enemies, he said "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done." (Psalm 143:5) Yes, I am grateful for the benefit I derived from my experience at Camp Oyo, but of much greater benefit is what I experience from a relationship with the ever-present God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 19, 2017

I have heard that there is a website that monitors world events and presents a "snapshot" of world events each hour. I have tried unsuccessfully to locate this website - any of you know about it? I would be interested in hearing from you. Anyway, this would be a compelling site. Of course, there are the news pages from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and others, but supposedly this website is right on the cusp of events as they are unfolding.

If there were a website that monitored the events and activities of your life, what would it reveal? What would it look like over the past 24 hours? What about the last few days? What patterns would emerge from looking at your life over a period of time? We each have only a certain amount of time to live, and how we live during this time is important. Are we showing commitment to Christ? Do you display kindness and compassion to others? Are we interacting with our family in the way we should? What would such a website reveal?

There is so much in the scripture about how we should live, but one verse that particularly comes to mind is Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Let's strive to make these characteristics a regular part of the record on the website of our lives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 18, 2017

For the past few days, I have been in an area where cell phone and internet service was not readily available. Hard to believe there are areas like that anymore, but there are, and I wasn't even all that far away from many of you. So, I haven't published an article for a bit on Facebook; please forgive my absence. My web administrator published articles for me on our church website. I know a few folks tried to contact me as my message retrieval sites loaded up. When I returned to where I could get them, my alerts went crazy.

It is frustrating when we are unable to get in touch with someone. I think that in our day, frustration levels have increased with the growth of communication technology. We are so used to immediate contact with others that when this does not happen, well, need I say more?

We often think this is the case with our communication with God. We feel that our prayers just seem to be "not getting through" because of a perceived lack of response. The operative word here is "perceived." Rest assured, there is nowhere we can go that we are out of God's presence and there are no times when God is "out of earshot."Psalm 139:7 - 8 tells us, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."Actually, a good thing to do at those times when we feel as if we are not being heard is to read Psalm 139.

Whatever you are facing, whatever your circumstance, God is there and he is not oblivious to what is taking place. If you feel as if you are struggling to be heard, focus on God's presence, remember his promises, and pray for his power to help in your time of weakness. Romans 8:26-27 reminds us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God."

There is never a time when you cannot communicate with God, and there is never a time when God will not communicate with you. He has his cell towers in all the right places.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 16, 2017

Why is it that we just can't seem to resist the lure of the message when it pops up on our phone? When we hear the phone ring, we feel as if we have to answer it. When our text signal goes off, we need to read to find out who is trying contact us. This lure causes some problems. We need to ignore the lure when we are driving, but often don't, and this can lead to bad consequences. Theaters, churches, and other venues have messages asking folks to turn their cell phones off. We are so anxious to get those messages that are most often pretty inconsequential.

So why is it that we are not as anxious to get God's messages? God has information for us that is vital and yet we are casual with retrieving his messages. We are all too willing to "put him on mute" or even turn him off altogether when we feel his message may be interfering with things we want to do or places we want to go. Or maybe his message may be asking us to go somewhere we don't want to go or do something we don't want to do. "Sorry, God, my cell was turned off, so I didn't get that." Don't do this. Those cell messages you are so anxious to retrieve are the ones that can wait. Your connectedness can come down a notch and you won't suffer for it. However, if you are not taking care of your connectedness with God, that can be a problem.

We need the attitude of Samuel when it comes to the messages from God, "Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9) Make sure you are keeping the lines open.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 15, 2017

Do you believe that God is all-knowing? "Well, of course I do!", you might reply. If this is the case, then why don't you do what he asks you to do? If you believe he knows everything, why do you not answer his call to work for him? Why do you do things you shouldn't do right in front of his face? When we do this, it shows that we really don't think God is all-knowing, that he really can't see what we are doing. When we don't answer his call to do something he wants us to do, it reflects a lack of trust in him. Our disobedience says, "I really don't think you can take care of me and I don't think you will help me do what you have asked me to do." Is this really what we want to say to God?

Our disobedience, whether it is doing something we shouldn't do or not doing something we should do, reveals a lack of trust and a lack of belief that God is who he is and will do what he says. Paul proclaims, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." Show that you believe in the faithfulness of God. Show that you believe that he is indeed all-knowing. Answer his call and be obedient. Live before him a life that shows you trust his care.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 14, 2017

Corrie ten Boom lost a great deal. She lost her family, her possessions, and many years of her life to people who were motivated by hatred. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, she and her family were taken captive as they had been helping Jews escape the terror being spread by Hitler's followers. She was eventually placed in a concentration camp and subjected to inhumane treatment. Her sister, Betsie, and her father died during the detention. Although she lost what many would consider all she had, she later wrote, "I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I placed in God's hands, that, I still possess."

We need to pray for the same attitude towards that which we have and realize we should put all we have in God's hands. We may suffer loss of a number of things during our lives, but God knows what we really need and will not let these essentials escape our possession. Christ had an encounter with a person who had a problem with entrusting what he had to God. Christ told him, "'One thing you lack, Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:21-22)

Don't confuse what you have with what your really need. Entrust what you have to God and allow him to do with what you have that which needs to be done. He will ensure you get to keep that which is truly valuable.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 13, 2017

I have always enjoyed reading the book of Philippians. There are many reasons for this. One reason is the pleasant memories it brings to me of church camp when I was a teenager as we used this book for the basis of Bible quiz games one year. I enjoy it because of the description of Christ found in chapter two. I also enjoy the book because of the positive nature of the book and Paul's references to joy and rejoicing found throughout the book. Paul refers to rejoicing in every chapter, culminating with this statement in 4:1, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

When you read Philippians, you get the picture that Paul must be on a beach somewhere, taking in the sun, and really loving life. When he wrote the book, he was indeed loving life, but certainly not on a beach. He was in jail. He was being kept in house confinement under guard. Even under these circumstances, he wrote about joy in the Lord and rejoicing. He encouraged his readers, "So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." Rejoice? While you are under arrest? Paul could do so because he had learned an important point in serving the Lord which he expresses in another place in Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (4:11)

Developing this attitude can help us to have an attitude of well-being, joy, and peace whatever we may encounter. This attitude is not developed overnight, but as we grow in the Lord and learn to experience more of his grace in our lives, we learn the joy of contentment whatever we face. Along with Paul, I say "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 12, 2017

Fences can be looked at in two ways. They are there to keep something or someone in or they are there to keep something or someone out. Well, there is a third point of view. The fence could be there for both reasons. The bottom line is, for the most part, fences are there for protection. The boundaries they delineate are provided to allow a place of safety for those confined by the boundaries whether they are on the inside or on the outside. Now, this is not a completely fool-proof system, but for the most part, it works.

As much as society doesn't want to admit it, if God's boundaries were followed, life would improve. The idea of conforming to God's boundaries is usually looked down upon by our modern society. It is looked upon as an infringement on our rights. Yet the denial of the need for boundaries shows a great indifference to the rights of others. Our society is certainly not improved by the denial of boundaries. That is why we have boundaries. For the most part, those who adhere to the boundaries of God are intent on taking care of their lives and the lives of others.

A blessed life is one that delights in the boundaries of God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, "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." God puts up boundaries with our best interests in mind, not to mess with our mind. Observing those boundaries leads to a bountiful life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 12, 2017

Fences can be looked at in two ways. They are there to keep something or someone in or they are there to keep something or someone out. Well, there is a third point of view. The fence could be there for both reasons. The bottom line is, for the most part, fences are there for protection. The boundaries they delineate are provided to allow a place of safety for those confined by the boundaries whether they are on the inside or on the outside. Now, this is not a completely fool-proof system, but for the most part, it works.

As much as society doesn't want to admit it, if God's boundaries were followed, life would improve. The idea of conforming to God's boundaries is usually looked down upon by our modern society. It is looked upon as an infringement on our rights. Yet the denial of the need for boundaries shows a great indifference to the rights of others. Our society is certainly not improved by the denial of boundaries. That is why we have boundaries. For the most part, those who adhere to the boundaries of God are intent on taking care of their lives and the lives of others.

A blessed life is one that delights in the boundaries of God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, "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." God puts up boundaries with our best interests in mind, not to mess with our mind. Observing those boundaries leads to a bountiful life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 11, 2017

A recent study has demonstrated that dogs are able to see in color, not just black and white as was previously believed. What I took away from this is, well, how nice for dogs. How wonderful it is to be able to see all the brilliant colors that God has used to paint our world. It is wonderful to look upon our surroundings and see what God has given us to appreciate. I am glad that man's best friend can see the variety of God's offerings as well.

We need to open our eyes to what God has in store for us. Too many times we are only seeing in black and white because we don't take the time to look closely or we allow too many other things distract us from seeing the full picture God has for us! Don't miss what God has for you because you are too busy looking elsewhere or simply don't see all that he has for you.

A familiar hymn says, "Open my eyes that I may see." That should be a perpetual prayer for us. The Lord says to us, "Give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways." (Proverbs 23:26) When we do that, we are seeing in full color.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 10, 2017

I was a big fan of Superman when I was a kid. I have probably mentioned this a time or two in previous columns. I never wanted to miss "Superman" on TV. I had a Superman outfit and I even made a cape for my dog, Blackie, so that he could accompany me on my adventures. The problem was, he never seemed quite as enthusiastic about these endeavors as was I.

I knew that my costume could help me fly, and I was determined to prove it. I developed a plan to climb up on our roof and jump off. Somehow, Mom figured out my plan and thwarted my attempt, no doubt saving me from a variety of injuries, and probably saving my life. I understand that Superman costumes come with a warning label now: "Warning! This costume does not enable the wearer to fly." This, of course, should be obvious.

Isn t it amazing how many things come with warning labels these days? The labels state what should be obvious, but the concern over lawsuits, because many people people miss the obvious,makes the labels necessary. This has led to a problem with the labels. Many researchers have shown that, because of the proliferation of warning labels, the warning labels have become less effective. </->

The scripture contains many warnings for us; however, we sometimes ignore the scripture and don't take time to find out what it says. As a result, we miss these important messages. Ezekiel 33:7 tells us, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me."

God gives us warnings on what we should do, what we shouldn't do, and the consequences of ignoring his statements. He does it for our benefit and our protection. So heed the warnings! Don't try to fly with a costume!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 09, 2017

The rubber band was patented by Stephen Perry on March 17, 1845. No, not the Stephen Perry of "Don t Stop Believin'" fame. He's not that old. Although, over the years there have been many who have wished he would snap back to Journey.

Rubber bands have always amazed me. I guess I get amazed by simple things. You stretch them out, and they just snap back to their original shape just like that. Because of this property, rubber bands can be quite useful. They can bind letters, documents, packages, and things of all shapes and sizes. The can be used as book marks and can zing paper clips and paper wads amazing distances yep, I am speaking from experience on these latter exercises..

Anyway, rubber bands are certainly amazing, resilient, and useful. Except if they are stretched a little too far. Then, they snap and provide a moment of pain. Of course, once that happens, they aren't quite as resilient and useful as before.

We get stretched in life. And, we are pretty amazing, resilient, and useful. Just don't allow yourself to be stretched too far. It is so easy to become so over-committed and busy that we are in danger of stretching too far. Stress can do some bad things to us, so we need to be careful and we need to be smart about how we manage stress.

God is good at helping us with our lives in general, and stress in our lives in particular, if we allow him to be a part of what is taking place. The first part of Psalm 23 says, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Don't get stretched to the breaking point. Make good decisions about what you are doing, and be sure to include God in whatever is going on. He can help you "snap back" to normal when you become "stretched out."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 08, 2017

One of the things I loved to do when I was young was help fix fence. Whether is was with my Papaw Mayfield, or my Uncle John, or my dad, I liked to help fix fence. The farm wasn't large and there weren't that many cattle, but they still needed to be kept in the pasture. There was nothing more frustrating than to get a call from a neighbor, or simply find out for ourselves, that the cattle had gotten out through a bad part of the fence. To try to keep this from happening, every so often we would walk the fence line to check for weak spots. Keeping the fence repaired in advance saved a great deal of headache.

This is what we need to do with our lives. We need to "keep a check on things." First, it doesn't hurt to do this by getting a regular physical exam. God only gave us one body and we need to be good stewards of our bodies. So, take care of yourself. I Corinthians 6:20 reminds us, "What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." Also, Romans 12:1 tells us, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

Secondly, make sure to make regular spiritual checkups. Maintaining a healthy spiritual life is a good thing as well. Paul speaks of praying for other's spiritual development, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Colossians 1:9)

Take care of all of you - the physical and spiritual. They are both gifts from God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 07, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 06, 2017

One of the characteristics of artists is the ability to see what can be rather than what is. A painter looks at a blank canvass and sees a brilliant landscape or a tree-lined road rather than a plain piece of material. A woodcarver looks at a piece of wood and pictures an old man sitting on a stump. A sculptor looks at a piece of granite and pictures the features of a person. When you are in the realm of creating, it is important to be able to see what will be rather than what is.

God does that with us. I remember someone asking during a Bible study, "How does God put up with us?" The answer is that God is able to see what can be rather than what is. He chooses to focus on what he can see rather than what now exists. God is able to exhibit patience when he deals with us because he sees the finished product not just the rough draft. God has the ability to see what will be with complete detail.

We don't have this ability in the same way as does God, but looking at potential is an exercise in which we should engage. We need to focus on what will be rather than what now is. This helps us to keep the right perspective and keeps us from being discouraged as we face the struggles that repeatedly come our way.

Paul tells us, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (I Corinthians 13:12) We need to keep this in mind as we continue in our lives here and now. We do not have full understanding and we do not see completely what will be. It is helpful to remember this and focus on what can be and what will be at times when the "what is" is giving us fits.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 05, 2017

One of my favorite movies is the Coen brothers' "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" The storyline of the movie is loosely based upon Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." In one scene of the movie, the three main characters are enticed by three young ladies who are washing clothes in a stream. This harkens to the event in the Odyssey where Odysseus knows his ship is going to pass by some coastal waters inhabited by "sirens." Sirens were mythical creatures that enticed sailors with their alluring songs, causing them to jump overboard and drown.

To keep his men from being affected by the "Sirens' Song," Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast, and then stuff wax in their ears. The ship passes safely by the sirens as the sailors are oblivious to their song of enticement. In "Oh Brother," the characters are not so fortunate as they hear the songs of the "sirens" and find themselves in quite a predicament.

We are constantly being enticed by the "songs of sirens" meant to tempt us to follow our desires and disobey God. Temptation is always there; however, Paul assures us that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13).

Are you facing some temptation which seems to be constantly wooing you to do something you know you shouldn't? Is there a "song being played" that is hindering you from doing what you know you should? Tie yourself to the mast! Put wax in your ears! In other words, do what is necessary to avoid the temptation. Remember the words of the scripture - God has provided a way out. Find the way out and stick to it! Follow the example of Odysseus, not that of Ulysses S. McGill, and avoid the "song of the sirens."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 04, 2017

David Branon writes about an experience he had with his then 4-year-old son, Stevie: "It was a Sunday afternoon several years ago. The whole family was gathered around the table for dinner. Stevie led off our pre-meal prayer: 'Dear heavenly Father, thank You for this nice day. Thank You that we could go to church and Sunday school today.' Then, to our surprise, he said, 'And we ll see You again next week.'"

This should resonate with many of us. If it doesn't, then let me explain. Many of us reflect an attitude towards God in our lives that is described in this young boy's prayer. The only time we spend with God is that one time a week when we gather at our local church for worship. And then the time we give to God is often punctuated with complaints and grumbling: "Why was the preacher's sermon so long?" or "We need different songs in worship!" or "Was it ever too cool (or hot) in church today!"

Our worship of God should not be dictated by the times of our church services. We need to "see" God more than once a week. We should have a great desire to spend time with him at all times.

Psalm 42:1 gives us an idea of what our attitude should be, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" We need more than a weekly encounter and God deserves more than "We'll see you again next week."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 03, 2017

I remember my first train ride vividly. The conductor learned that, along with my brothers, I had never been on a train before. So, when we came to a tunnel through a mountain, he turned the lights out in our car. That was quite an experience.

I once heard a story about a little girl's first train ride. She looked out the window and saw cars, telephone poles, fences, and other objects whizzing by as the train rolled along. As they approached a river, she cried out, "Momma, we are going to go into that river!" But a bridge carried the train safely across the river. As they approached a mountain, she said, "Momma, we are going to run into that mountain!" But a tunnel allowed for safe passage. Then the little girl said, "I guess someone must have gone ahead and made a way for us."

Yes, someone did. And someone has gone before us in life to prepare the way. Hebrews 2:17-18 tell us how he has "paved the way," "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. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Christ has gone before us so we know we do not have to face life hazards alone or without help. He has provided atonement for our lives so that we can live in him. He is there for us, and he will carry us safely over the rivers and through the mountains as we follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 02, 2017

A father and son went fishing. They put their gear into a boat and headed to a promising spot. The dad prepared his son's pole, rigged the line, baited the hook, and then turned over the pole to his son. The son threw his line into the water with hopes of landing a big one. By the time the dad was ready to fish; his son had put down his pole and started munching on the donuts they had brought with them.

The dad decided to use the son's pole rather than taking the time to rig his own. On his second cast, he reeled in a largemouth bass that measured 21 inches and weighed over 5 pounds. His son looked at him and asked, "Dad, why do you always catch all the fish?" The father replied, "Well, son, I guess because I keep my line in the water. You can't catch fish eating doughnuts."

Why is it that it always seems that Dad catches all the fish? Maybe it's because he keeps his line in the water. In order to accomplish a goal, work through a problem, deal with an issue, or complete a task that needs to be done, you need to keep working towards a solution. Paul wrote, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Are you facing a problem or a difficult situation that needs a solution? Do you have some task or job that needs to be finished? Stay with it - sooner or later you will get a bite.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 01, 2017

Someone once wrote, "One of our responsibilities as children of God is to give God credit for who He is and what He does. It is a careless Christian who stands under the showers of God´s blessings without recognizing them. It is an irresponsible Christian who recognizes God´s blessings and does not give God the credit."

Some folks who did well at giving God credit were Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (otherwise known and Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). We find them constantly giving God credit, even when they realize that God might not take them in the direction they would like to go.

They started by refusing to eat food that God has asked them not to eat (Daniel 1:11-16). Daniel acknowledged God s involvement when he was preparing to interpret a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." (2:27-28)

Daniel's three friends acknowledged God's hand in their lives in the statement they issued just before they were thrown into the fiery furnace, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (3:17-18) They acknowledged God's blessing, even though he may not choose to bless them by sparing their lives.

Don't fail to give credit where credit is due. We must always be alert to the blessings of God in our lives, express our gratitude to Him, and give Him public credit. Praise God openly for the blessings He provides.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 30, 2017

My morning routine has changed a bit. I used to get up, fire up my computer, post my article to our church webpage and to Facebook, then check out what Dan Smith had posted. If you read my article last Sunday, you know why my morning routine has changed as Dan's passing means his articles no longer appear. His illness had progressed to the point where, for the last several days of his life, he no longer was able to post as he once did. His marvelous wife, Virginia, helped him with this during this time. As I wrote last Sunday, I know not all of you knew him or were friends with him on Facebook so you didn t have the chance to read his posts. For those who did, I know you will miss them.

Yesterday, we celebrated Dan's life at a service at the White Oak Church of God in Casey, Illinois. The service was a fitting tribute to a life that had touched countless other lives because of his commitment, his creativity, and his decisiveness. These were the qualities of his character that I used to frame my comments about Dan.

Three other pastors shared their thoughts about Dan Pastor Tom Toner, Pastor Kenny Inman, and Pastor Rick Emrich. Rick's comments were especially, well, let me say revelatory, as he was a classmate of Dan. Nothing really ornery - there isn't anything that could be shared that was really ornery about Dan's life. But the comments led to much laughter as Rick shared of experiences and thoughts that added to our celebration.

We also wanted to celebrate the life that Dan now has through his faith in Christ. Dan himself reminded us of that when he sang for us the closing song. Some time ago, Dan recorded a song he wanted to share at his memorial. The song was "When We See Christ," but was re-titled "Since I've Seen Christ" as he rearranged the wording to declare his present reality - that he is indeed in the presence of Christ and has seen him. I won't attempt to share all the words as I know I can t do it accurately, but it was a marvelous presentation that made a powerful statement of the nature of Dan s life now. Let me remind you - Dan "did not die, he just moved on high, to live with Christ the King." This is the hope for all who receive God's Gift.

This was not the article I intended to share this morning, but my thoughts turned to Dan as I turned on my computer. I imagine they always will. Along with all of you who knew him, I will miss Dan. We will miss his wonderful inspiration, but we know we will see him again. This morning my thoughts and prayers are with Dan's family. They are the ones who will feel this loss most acutely. We need to keep them in our prayers.

Dan's last full post contained the following hymn - let me share it as it says as it speaks about the reality followers of Christ have in store for them. This song reflects the statement of Paul found in I Corinthians 15:55 & 57, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Let us then be true and faithful, trusting, serving every day; Just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay. When all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 29, 2017

After some visitors left their family home, a little girl said to her mother, "Mommy those were the best people we have ever had here! They really enjoyed us!" Being with people who enjoy your company is, well, enjoyable. We want to be around folks who want to be with us. When it is evident we are with folks who want to be somewhere else or with someone else, it is just not good.

Do we make it evident to God that we want to be with him? The Westminster Catechism says "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Do we make it plain to God that we enjoy him?

We should make Psalm 22:26 a reality in our lives, "All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy." Let's make sure the Lord knows how much we enjoy his company. Let's make sure we let him know that we enjoy being with him. God wants fellowship with his people; we should let him know we want fellowship with him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 28, 2017

"I'm afraid of dying, for it could be painful. But I find death a nuisance. I object to it... I'm terribly curious. I'd like to live forever." These are the words of Sir Isaiah Berlin, one of the most prominent intellects of the 20th century. They were given in an interview with Newsweek not long before he died.

Berlin was an imminent philosopher, teacher, and researcher. He was an Oxford professor who was widely known for his academic endeavors; however, when it came to the most crucial issue that faces every human being, he had no real answers. I find his statement "I object to (death)" especially compelling. One may object to death all one wants, but that does not change the fact that "People are destined to die once." (Hebrews 9:27)

When it comes to facing the inevitability of our own demise, we need certainty. God gives us certainties in his Word. We are given the assurance that we need not fear death when we place our hope in the provision of God.

David declared, "Even though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4) Paul makes a strong assertion in Romans 8:38 39 that we do not need to fear death, "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." As William Gaither wrote in a song that has become so popular, "Because He lives, all fear is gone."

We have this assurance through what God has done for us through his Son. Trusting in the provision of our Father gives us hope in the face of our greatest enemy. Living forever is possible through God's wonderful Gift.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 27, 2017

Taking a trip with my Papaw Mayfield was always neat. He loved to sing he was always singing. If we were on our way somewhere, there would be singing. Singing while traveling helps pass the time and lightens the mood. It also helps to take your mind off the heat on a hot summer day when you were traveling in a car without air conditioning. Remember those? I imagine some of you do. Anyway, the songs give you a focus while you experience the mundanity of travel.

The idea of singing while traveling is not unique to my family - I am sure many of you have done this. Many of you know there is even biblical precedent for this practice. Psalms 120 - 134 are called the "Songs of Ascent." These psalms were grouped together to form a "songbook" of sorts for pilgrims in Israel to use during their travels to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. Perhaps the best-known of these psalms is Psalm 121. This psalm begins, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"

This song reminded the travelers that as they were making their way to the City of God to celebrate, they could count on the protection of God. On their way, there was the potential of danger from a variety of sources - bandits, wild animals, treacherous paths. God tells them he would be with them as they travel, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep. . .The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life." (Psalm 121:2-3;7)

You don't have to be taking a trip or traveling to Jerusalem to experience the presence and protection of God. We know that God is always there for us to go alongside of us in the journey of life. Knowing God is there to help us in life's travels should be music to our ears.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 26, 2017

Contrary to what the temperatures might tell us, "the times they are a-changin'." There is evidence from another source that summer is giving over to fall. The leaves are changing. Green is giving way to a variety of golds, browns, reds and other hues.

Have you ever wondered why this happens? To make a long story short and to simplify the explanation, the leaves don't actually "change" color; they more or less lose color. The leaves are green because of the presence of chlorophyll. A number of factors that occur in the fall cause the chlorophyll to go away, exposing the pigments that are already there. The leaf's "true colors" shine through, and that is not bad in the case of leaves. The result is the cacophony of colors we get to see and enjoy in the autumn.

What are your true colors? If your outer layer were stripped away, what would be revealed under the surface? Hopefully, what would be revealed is an inner person that is true to God, reflecting his character and ideals. What should be revealed is a brilliant display of color that mirrors God's design and desire for your life.

We should not be afraid to reveal our true colors, and if we are, that means some changes need to take place. We should be able to offer a display of colors that reflect God's creative wisdom as brilliantly as the leaves do in their autumn glory.

II Peter 1:5 - 7 tells us what should be seen in our lives, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." These true colors are really worth displaying.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 25, 2017

Holding a grudge against someone is really not a good thing to do. It is not a good thing to do from an interpersonal standpoint, and it is not a good thing to do from a health standpoint. I don't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that "holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then expecting the other person to get sick." This just doesn't work.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." Now, I know he is referring specifically to anger here, but holding a grudge is simply being mad at someone over a period of time. The anger does no harm to the person with whom you are angry, but it will eat away at your insides emotionally. You know, even the word sounds bad "grudge" it just sounds ugly.

I always get a kick out of "grudge matches" in "professional" wrestling. Two wrestlers have a feud over a period of time. This is meant to heighten the entertainment and the interest level. Then, they have a "grudge match" to "settle things once and for all." One person wins, and they both walk away to other pursuits. Did you get that? They "settle things once and for all and then move on."

That is exactly what needs to be done in the case of a grudge get things settled and then move on. This is what Christ meant when he taught about forgiveness. It is why he said in his model prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This idea of forgiveness is so important that Christ said if you don t forgive others, you won t be forgiven yourself: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)

If you have a grudge against someone - don't budge on a grudge - get rid of it! If you are the object of the ill will of someone else, do what you can to alleviate the situation. If this doesn't work after you have done all you can, do your best to move on. Leave their feelings to them. A grudge helps no one and it is best to leave it behind.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 24, 2017

Dr. Bob Pierce was the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, two marvelous ministries. Dr. Pierce died of leukemia in 1978. David Jeremiah shares a story of Dr. Bob's great heart and compassion. Dr. Bob kept traveling as much as he could, even though he was in great pain from his disease. A doctor prescribed some medication for him to help him sleep.

Once he was on a trip to what is now known as Indonesia and visited the ministry of "Borneo Bob" Williamson. While there, he noticed a young lady lying in the mud by a river. He asked Borneo Bob what was wrong with the lady. "Leukemia," was the reply. "Then why isn't she in one of the beds in the clinic instead of down by the river?" Borneo Bob told Dr. Pierce that this was the girl's wish - it was cooler there.

Dr. Piece went to talk with her. He asked how she was feeling. "Not well," she replied through a translator, "I do not sleep because of my disease." Dr. Pierce thought of his pills. He gave them to Borneo Bob and said, "See to it that she takes these so she can sleep."

It was many days before Dr. Pierce was where he could get some more medicine, so he suffered. When he returned home, a letter was waiting from Borneo Bob. He told Dr. Pierce that the young lady had died, but one of her last statements was "be sure to thank the man who gave me the medicine so I could sleep."

Who have you helped today? We may never be in a situation where we feel led to make as great a sacrifice as did Dr. Bob Pierce, but we have opportunities to help others at every turn in life's road. It is just that sometimes we are not willing to make even the smallest sacrifice to help others. What was it that Christ said? "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40). When you have a chance, be sure to help someone else.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 23, 2017

Last night my wife, Scherry, and I went out to eat at a local restaurant. We were seated by the host who asked us if we preferred a booth or a table. We told him our preference and then were seated. I don't know why, but I had a "flashback" to an event that took place years ago. We had gone out to eat, but our youngest daughter was with us for this experience.

After being asked by the hostess our seating preference and then being seated, my daughter made the remark that when she used to work as a hostess, she never asked the preference, she just lead folks to the best available location. I asked her if anyone ever asked for a different place, and, of course, they did upon occasion. Megan's remark was, "You should always trust your host or hostess because they will know the best seat - where you will be served the fastest, where the view and atmosphere will be the best. At least, that is how I always worked to seat people."

Now, I don't know much about the restaurant business or if this is true at all times, but it did get me thinking about something. When you are being seated at a restaurant, you should trust the host or hostess because they know the best place for you. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

Proverbs 3:4 & 5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." You may not be able to say that restaurant hosts or hostesses know what is best for you, but it certainly is true of our Lord. He will always lead us to the best places, he always has our best interests at heart, he will always do the right thing for us, and he (with apologies to hosts and hostesses everywhere) is never wrong!

We sometimes ask to "be seated" elsewhere, but God does know the best place for us! We need to rely upon his guidance. Whether or not your trust your host or hostess, that I will leave up to you. However, trusting God is another matter! Let him seat you where He wants!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 22, 2017

When I was a small boy, I enjoyed playing church. We would come home from services on Sunday evenings and my two brothers and I would "set up church" right in our living room. We had hymnals, a piano, a TV tray served as the pulpit, and, of course, we had our Bibles. We would sing hymns, have testimonies, prayer time and I would preach. We would even take up an offering!

We did this not to make fun, but we really enjoyed our church and we enjoyed mimicking the services in our home. The genes to do this must be strong because my two girls would do this when they were small. Often they would be at the church with my secretary's two younger children, and one of the things they would do was have services. They had quite a choir!

Playing church is all well and good when you are kids, but too often we as adults are doing the same thing - playing church. We go to church because we think it is what we are supposed to do, but we don't spend any time preparing for our worship. We don't think about what we are doing when we are involved in worship, and we are here only for what we see as a benefit to us. We forget that our worship is God-centered, not us-centered.

When we are in worship, we are here for God, not for us. We are here to celebrate our Father, to offer sacrifices of praise through our songs, prayers, testimonies, our giving, and time spent in his Word. Don't just play church when you go to church - remember what you are doing and why you are there.

God's Word invites us to worship. Psalm 95:6&;7 tells us, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." Psalm 96:9 tells us to "Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth."

The next time you go to worship, give some careful thought as to what you are doing. Spend some time thinking about why you are going and what you are going to do for God during the time you are there. He is worthy of our worship!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 21, 2017

My grandkids are doing just what my kids did - growing up too fast; but it is fun to watch them grow and develop. I especially love to watch the kids go from the crawling stage to the walking stage. Not long ago, my little grandson just did that. Just try to keep up with him now! This is always such a big change - it is certainly a significant milestone for the child, the parents, everyone!

I find it interesting that, as the child is making this transition, you don't see the little one sitting around debating the advantages of walking. They don't ask, "Do you really think walking is superior to crawling?" "Do you think there is truly any merit in walking?" "What is in it for me to move from crawling to walking?" "You know, I am just not sure I want to head that direction." "What if I fall?"

I know, I know, toddlers can't actually verbalize their thoughts in this way, but I think their actions communicate eloquently. There is no debate - the kids just simply display their determination to learn to walk! They don't let what might be "concerns" keep them from doing what they want to do - walk! They especially don't let the last concern stop them. Yes, they will fall, but they get back up and go at it again.

Don't let "fear of falling" keep you from moving into a new stage in your spiritual development. Sometimes you will find that you will stumble - but don't let that be an excuse for not trying, for not growing, for not moving ahead. Psalm 37:24 tells us, "though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." Are you still crawling when you should be walking? God is there for us - so walk! Run! Jump! Grow! Go forward with God - and just watch and see where those steps take you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 20, 2017

Little Timmy was really troubled. He had broken his Grandpa's reading glasses, and he didn't know what to do. No one had seen him take them from the table by his Grandpa's favorite chair. He had been told not to bother the glasses but he enjoyed pretending he was Grandpa, and the glasses added to the effect. Now, he didn't know what to do because he had dropped them and watched helplessly, as both of the lenses popped out. What was he going to do?

He could put them back on the table and say he didn't know how they got that way. He could hide them, and then Grandpa would just assume he had laid them somewhere else (he was always losing them anyway). But he knew the right thing to do was tell his Grandpa what he had done and tell him he was sorry. If he did this, he knew his conscience would be clear. That is what he did and Grandpa wasn't too mad after all. Of course, the best part was the fact that he had a clear conscience.

There is something to be said about a clear conscience, isn't there? When we do things we shouldn't, and then try to cover up our error, there is always something inside of us saying, "Hey, you know better!"

In the scripture we read of folks who were stricken in their conscience because of something they had done. After an ill-advised accounting of his fighting men, we read of David, "David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing'" (II Samuel 24:10). David did the right thing by confessing to clear up his conscience. Job 27:6 says, "I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live."

Keep your conscience clear! Do the right thing, and if you fail to do the right thing, ask for forgiveness. If you break Grandpa's glasses, own up to it! You will feel better, and you certainly will be happier!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 19, 2017

Last week we spent a few days visiting our kids in Ohio. We went to watch our granddaughter play soccer and also get introduced, along with other Youth Soccer League players, at a high school soccer game. That was really neat; but any time we can spend with our kids and grandkids is always neat.

The morning we were to leave I followed my usual protocol and made biscuits and sausage gravy. Years ago, I learned how to make sausage gravy and my kids always enjoyed this breakfast. Now, my grandkids have taken to it as well.

One of the things I was taught about making gravy was that it is important to stir the gravy continually while it is cooking. This makes it nice and smooth and prevents it from being lumpy. It is what helps the gravy become gravy. All the ingredients get mixed together really well - they "get happy together" as Emeril Lagasse would say.

Something that can help our lives be less "lumpy" and run more smoothly is constant stirring, that is, consistently focusing on activities and endeavors which sharpen our relationship with God and with others. Hebrews 10:24 tells us, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." This verse addresses the benefits of constant stirring - consistent attention given to the desires of God for us and working with others to bring about his desires.

We need to look toward endeavors that would benefit our lives and would be of benefit to others. God tells us what is necessary to "prevent lumps" in our lives. We should do what we need to do to fall in line with God. Life is lumpy enough - don't beg for more by allowing your attention to sway from following God! Keep stirring!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 18, 2017

We tend to allow the bad to overshadow the good when we look at others' lives. This is true even when they are 95% good and only 5 % bad. Now, of course, there are times when the bad is simply so bad it can't be ignored; however, usually our tendency is to focus on the bad and allow it to block out the good.

Consider a referee or an umpire that makes one bad call over the course of a game when multiple calls were made correctly. The focus is on the bad call. Of course, a referee s calls don t have much effect on our lives, but this is a tendency that really can create problems when it comes to lives of people who matter to us. When it relates to folks with whom we work, go to church, and certainly our family, we need to focus on the good. Unless the wrong is so egregious it cannot be ignored, avoid allowing the foibles of others to take center stage.

This tendency can have another consequence as well. When we focus on the faults of others, we often say, "Well, what I did is not nearly as bad as what they did." We use this reasoning to justify our bad behavior. That is not a good thing.

Paul told the believers at Philippi to focus on the good things they saw in his life and in the lives of others who had been there when the church was started. He wrote, "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (Philippians 3:17)

If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we miss what we are doing wrong. If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we become judgmental and negative. If sin is there, then it needs to be addressed. But when the problems are simple mistakes that are of little consequence, don't dwell on them. Look for the good.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 17, 2017

There was a time when I didn't see the point of texting. I thought, "If you want to communicate with someone, why not just call and talk with them?" Then, I began to text some. Then I began to text more. Soon, I found many helpful aspects to texting.

When you text, you can send messages that can be seen more than just once because they are there in print. This is helpful if you are sending something such as directions. You can send pictures. You can make sure the message is sent to a single individual or you can send a message to multiple recipients. You can send messages at a time when other forms of communication might be disruptive. I have found there are a number of helpful features in texting.

As I reflect on texting, it reminds me of how significant it is that God has "texted" us. Through his text, we are reminded of his power that is at our disposal. We are reminded over and over about his protection and provision as we are able to read his text over and over. As we read his instruction again and again, we can see how he directs our lives. We are reminded of his presence. We have something we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes that is a description of his desire and design for us and is representative of his person. Though his text we are reminded of his promise. There it is - right before our eyes - something we can revisit whenever we want.

Since God has written to us, we can proclaim, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies." (Psalm 119:97-98) Yes, indeed, there are advantages to texting!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 16, 2017

The opposite of hope is despair. Despair robs your vitality, your energy, and your realistic outlook of the future. Despair brings about fear and doubt, causes questions with no answers, and challenges our faith. Some of you might remember the silly ditty sung by some of the characters in the 70's show "Hee Haw" - "Doom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Doom, despair, and agony on me." Grief, what an outlook on life! But, this can be the outlook of those operating in the realm of despair when they feel there is no hope.

Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." What helped Paul as he faced situations that brought despair? He focused on the power of the resurrection. In 4:14, Paul says, "Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself."

Doubt, fear, and despair are all around us. To rise above what brings us down, focus on the hope that Christ gives to us. Knowing what Christ did, is doing, and will do for us can bring us hope in even the darkest of times.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 15, 2017

When I was young, I loved to explore things - old houses, caves, the woods surrounding our home or my grandparent's home, or any other interesting areas. Something you encounter when you enter an area where no one else has been for a while, or maybe have never been, are cobwebs. Whoever is leading the way in these exploratory adventures gets to encounter them and has to deal with them. Don't you just love those cobwebs and the mess they make? I just love how they feel as I try to extricate myself from the gooey mass.

This is why we need to let God be our leader as we go on adventured in life. As we walk through the "old houses and caves and woods" of life, we will encounter cobwebs. If we let God take the lead, he will deal with the cobwebs. Now, this is not the only reason why we should follow God. We should not follow him for the sole purpose of letting him deal with all the "sticky situations" we may encounter. But not following God s lead means dealing with struggles and issues that may not have been a problem had we not tried to take the lead.

Paul tells us we should follow Christ - "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Corinthians 11:1) This is very good advice, and not only because he will take care of the cobwebs.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 14, 2017

Bill Engvall has made quite a living from a comedy routine that features "Here's your sign" jokes. We often ask for signs to help us make decisions and point us in the right direction in life. A good number of folks ask God for a sign to prove he is real. They have a "to do" list for God they contend will theoretically prove his identity.

This is not a new thing. There was a large group of people seeking a sign from Jesus when he was on the earth. "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (John 6:30-31)

This was an ironic request on many levels. They asked for a sign and he had just fed them, along with thousands of others, with a little boy's lunch. They used the example of their ancestors being miraculously fed in the wilderness as a sign they would accept. They had just been miraculously fed along the shore of Galilee. Christ could not have done more even if he had said to them, "Here's your sign."

God has given us the sign we need, and if we miss it, that's our problem, not his. Instead of waiting in doubt and disappointment for God to do the one thing we are demanding of him, open your eyes and see what he has already done. Look around and pay attention to what he is doing even now as we are blindly asking "Where's the sign?"

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 13, 2017

Which is worse - telling someone you will do something and then not doing it or telling someone you will not do something and then doing it? Christ told a parable about this that gives us the answer.

In Matthew 21:28-32 we read, "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? 'The first,' they answered." Christ went on to say that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering into the kingdom ahead of those to whom he was speaking, the Pharisees, because they were acting and not relying on words.

Words can be powerful, but only when they are backed up with action. It is so easy to say we are going to help someone, but the proof of our intent is when we actually go help them load up their truck, or whatever. The same is especially true in our relationship with God. We can tell God how much we love him and how much we want to serve him, but we need to remember that the person who truly does his will is the one who actually does his will, even if he at first says he won't.

Which gets to you the most - people who tell you things but never back up what they say with actions, or people who help you, even if they at first said they couldn't? Remember your response to this the next time you make God a promise.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 12, 2017

Thirty-four years ago I finished seminary and was looking for a church. I sent my resume to a number of churches, and one contacted me that really seemed to be a good fit. I was excited as this church, in my initial assessment, appeared to be the one that had great potential for a successful ministry. I had an interview and came away feeling that we would be getting a call from the church. Well, we did, but it wasn't the call I was expecting. "We are sorry to inform you, but we feel another candidate was the one that would best fit our church." I was greatly disappointed, but knew I had to trust God's wisdom.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a church that I didn't even remember sending a resume. Well, thirty-four years later we are still at that church, and I thank God daily for the turn of events that led us here, rather than to the church I felt was "perfect." My disappointment led to a joy that I have celebrated for thirty-four years.

When you face what seems to be a setback that results in disappointment, remember to allow God to be involved and to consider the fact that he knows what he is doing. There are times when it is hard to see the good in a situation. We will face experiences where the answers will not come until later, maybe not until we get to heaven. Continue to exercise faith in God and trust him to bring joy to you in the midst of disappointment. Your disappointment can lead to tremendous joy. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:4-5)

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 11, 2017

We are far enough removed from the events of September 11, 2001, that there are millions who have no recollection of that date as they are either too young to remember or were not even born yet. For them, the knowledge of that date comes through history books, images and stories on TV or the internet, word of mouth, and other sources. This is the way of time events, even traumatic ones occur and then are eventually left to secondary sources with regard to the perpetuation of their memory.

There are only a few alive today that can recall what took place on December 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," as President Franklin Roosevelt declared then. Even though the existence of first-hand witnesses passes away, effects of these happenings are still felt. The world is a different place because of what happened on these dates. And we would do well to recall what occurred.

The same can be said about traumatic events that are caused by other forces. Even as I am writing this article, there are people in Texas and Louisiana still trying to put things back together in the wake of the recent Hurricane Harvey. And Hurricane Irma is right now battering the state of Florida with such force that millions of lives are being affected. We need to continue to pray for all of those who were in harm's way of these devastating storms.

Memorials exist to the former events I described above that are testimonies to those events; on the one hand, just a simple reminder of their occurrence, but on the other hand a powerful statement about the ability of humans, with God s help, of rebuilding and going forward. This is a strong reason why we should remind ourselves of the past events - being reminded of them speaks to the hope of recovery and healing that will take place.

God's words in Isaiah 46:9 are, "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other." As the people of Israel faced the daunting task of building their lives again in the land that God to which God had brought them, he says "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years." (Deuteronomy 8:2)

One very practical response that "remembering" should evoke is the recollection of the intervention of many that lead to the healing and rebuilding after these past events. Let me repeat something I wrote just a little over two weeks ago "Like the smashed flower, we know that the affected areas will rebound, rebuild, and be restored. There have been massive changes that will bring about great differences, but we know the future can bring new beginnings and restored foundations. We have seen it done before." Yes, we have, and let's do what we can to help others do it again.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 10, 2017

Have you ever been in a position where you feel that you just can't do anything right? In Matthew 26, we read about a lady who probably felt that way because of the criticism she faced for anointing Jesus. "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7) As a consequence of her actions, she was roundly criticized by the disciples who wondered why she didn't sell the expensive contents of the bottle and give the money to the poor.

The response of Christ is mildly surprising, as we know he was a champion of the poor. Instead of joining in the criticism, he defends her actions and said, "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (vss. 12-13)

Among the lessons Christ wanted to teach from the actions of the lady is the idea of taking advantage of the living while we still have them with us. The disciples needed to become aware of the fact that they were not always going to have Christ with them. Not long from that very moment, Christ would start the events that would lead to his departure. They needed to take advantage of his presence while he was still on earth.

As we think about the application of this for us, we should not only be thinking of the great gift we have through the continued presence of the Spirit in our lives, but we need to take advantage of the people whom God has placed in our lives while we have the opportunity to do so. As we think about these people - a family member, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, or perhaps a mentor - are there things we need to say to them? Are there expressions of appreciation we need to show them while we have the chance?

Take advantage of their presence and make sure we learn what we can, say what we should, and demonstrate our care while we still have the time. Life is too short and too uncertain to live any other way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 09, 2017

How do you live when you think no one is looking? What do you do when you think that no one is going to see you? If no one is going to see you, why not do as you please? Who will know if you don't report that extra income you received? Who is going to see you visit that website you shouldn t be on? And no one will be aware of where that money came from, will they?

I could go on and on with hypothetical scenarios, but all of us have times when we need to choose to do right or wrong. We may be in a position where choosing to do wrong is tempting because we think no one will know. If you find yourself in such a position, think Daniel.

Daniel and his three young friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, aka Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, had been taken captive and transported hundreds of miles from their home country. There, in the courts of the Babylonian leader Nebuchadnezzar, they were given sumptuous food to eat and wonderful beverages to drink. The problem was the food given to them was not kosher. So, what to do? Who would know if they ate the food? They were far away from family, friends, and religious leaders. Besides, they didn't ask to be in this position. They didn't want to leave their families and be uprooted to another culture. Why not enjoy the amenities and provisions of their new home?

Well, they didn't want to. They had a higher allegiance - an allegiance to God and his teachings. So, when offered things that were not allowable for them, they took this stand: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (Daniel 1:8) Goodness, what courage! This is called proven character.

May we demonstrate the same character when we are presented with a situation where we think that no one is watching. Daniel showed us how to live when we think no one is looking. Let s follow his example.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 08, 2017

Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? I always enjoyed playing that game, whether I was the leader or not. It was fun thinking of things to do for others to mimic when I was the leader, and it was fun to see what others would come up with when they were the leader. This made for some rather interesting situations.

I have a question for you: what would the world look like if you were the leader and everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes?

If folks followed you as "leader," would they look more like Christ? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand? If we honestly ask these questions, we may want to make some changes.

In John 13:15, we find these words of Christ to his disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." So, are we doing for others what Christ has done for us? How well are we following his example? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? Ask this question often and at various times. You may not like the answer in some circumstances, but the reason for the asking is that you might make an honest evaluation of you. This will result in meaningful changes. Live so that others can follow your lead!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 07, 2017

Fritz Kreisler was a world-famous violinist whose life spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He made thousands of dollars from his concert appearances; however, he gave most of his money away. So, after his discovery of an exquisite violin for sale during one of his trips, he was unable to purchase it. He began saving the necessary funds for the violin and when he had what was needed, he returned to the shop to make the purchase. Sadly, the violin had already been sold.

Kreisler got the name and address of the buyer and traveled to talk to him about buying the violin. The man was a wealthy individual who did not play, but had already placed the violin in his collection and was unwilling to sell. Kreisler was broken-hearted and asked if he could just play the instrument one more time. After his performance, the owner was moved to say, "Mr. Kreisler, after hearing you play that instrument, I know I do not have the right to keep it. The violin is yours."

As followers of Christ we have something to share that is far more valuable than a violin. We have the priceless message of the good news of Christ. We no more have business keeping this news to ourselves than the wealthy collector had to keep the violin. We need to give it away to those who need to hear the message of God's grace.

Psalm 96:3 encourages us to "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Don't "collect" Christ's message of hope for yourself - give the message away that others may know the blessing of life in him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 06, 2017

A statement that has always bothered me is "I don't go to church because there are just too many hypocrites there." You could look at this as simply an excuse to not go. Of course there are hypocrites in the church - the church is made up of redeemed sinners! So, it is easy to dismiss this statement as what I have already stated - an excuse to not go to church.

Although it may be easy to simply dismiss this statement in this way, there is something that we should remember. We are people who, although redeemed, at times still struggle with our sinful nature. But we shouldn't use this as an excuse for shabby Christianity.

Live in a way that reflects your redemption, not your sin. It is easy to fall into the trap of living in a way that mirrors our sinfulness instead of our redemption. Maybe this is why we sometimes are criticized as being "hypocrites."

We should strive to reflect Christ in our lives. Paul speaks of the struggle we have with sin in Romans 7:14-25. He makes what sounds to be a resignation to failure in verse 24, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" But this is not a statement of resignation, it is a segue to the statement of victory he makes in verse 25, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Through Christ we can live victoriously. There are some who are looking for hypocrites - don't give them something to see!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 05, 2017

Peter's journey from fisherman to disciple is 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.

The overriding factor in the case of Peter, that is, a factor that really couldn't be questioned at any time, even at the times of his failures, 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 contend that Christ's questioning is a reminder of the 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 that Christ wished to emphasize as a means of affirmation - Peter's love for him. Perhaps Christ was saying: "Peter, you indeed have goofed, but let me point out something about which there can be no doubt - your level of 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 followers of Christ. What are you doing to show your love for him?

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 04, 2017

Today we celebrate the conflicted holiday of Labor Day. I call it conflicted because many folks get a day off from work on a day set aside to celebrate work. Of course, that is as it should be. Whether you are working or have the day off, I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day.

Recently I read an article about some of the more dangerous occupations. Jobs such as underwater welders, pilots, and loggers are very high on the list. Farming is also listed as a hazardous occupation as there are many dangers associated with this job. My wife, Scherry, lost her father in a farming accident. So, those of you who are laboring, please be safe out there!

As I think of being conflicted, I think of the life of Christ. Christ came as a peaceful man, yet there have been many who have given their lives for Christ. Christ died for us, and now many are dying for him. This is the way it has always been and will always be. Christ speaks of the division he causes. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Think of those who are giving their lives for him and pray for the persecuted. We must put this in his hands, and know that he is in control. Serving Christ is a hazardous occupation for many. Let us continue to offer prayer for them and know that God has their lives in his hands.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 03, 2017

Simply put, an advocate is someone who takes up for someone else. We sometimes think in terms of lawyers when we hear the term "advocate," but an advocate doesn't need to be a lawyer. We can take up for others in many circumstances without possessing law degrees.

I am not referring to going to court, I am referring to other times when folks simply need someone to stand by them or with them or for them - times when people are hurting because of grief, times when people are hurting because of financial problems, times when people are hurting because of abuse from other people, times when someone is needed to help resolve a dispute. There are many times in our lives when we need an advocate; there are many times in our lives when we could be an advocate.

We know that God is our advocate in so many circumstances. Job 16:19 tells us, "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high." Christ is also portrayed as our advocate. We read in I John 2:1-2, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." The Spirit is spoken of as our Advocate, "But I will send you the Advocate-the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me." (John 15:26)

Be grateful for the advocacy of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit. Be willing to be an advocate for someone else if you see someone who needs a willing person to stand by them and take up for them. Be an advocate!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 02, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 01, 2017

A man picked up a penny that was lying on a sidewalk just outside a bank where he and his wife had just signed papers for their first home. "Look, honey!" he said to his wife, "We are on our way to paying off our loan!" Well, they did start saving pennies and, decades later, hauled in more than 60,000 pennies into the bank to finish paying their mortgage. A small act repeated over and over led to a big result.

A wise man gives us an example of how consistent, diligent, small acts can lead to important consequences. We read his words in Proverbs 30:34-35, "Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer." Ants go about their work diligently, consistently, and energetically.

The example of the ant shows how things can get done without great fanfare, shows of power, flashiness, or displays of greatness. They just work and work and work and work. It takes them many acts to accomplish what other creatures might be able to do with a single effort. We should learn a lesson from the ant. Of course, that is the purpose of the wise man using them as an example.

This is wise thinking at all times, and is certainly prudent thinking as we view our efforts towards those in Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Events of this magnitude are overwhelming on many levels. There is such great need. How can we respond adequately? Well, many of us contributing what we can through our "small acts" can make big differences. Our combined efforts over and over can help bring some relief to those who are suffering. Continue to pray and give and do what you can. Those "pennies" add up.

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 Feb 118h, 2018

5:45 PM
6:30 PM
Wed. Feb 21st
Cross Training
9:00 AM
Feb. Feb 24th
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Rachel Pitcher
Sun. Feb 18th
Gib Woods - Harold Phillips - Lois Strole
Tue. Feb 20th
Bernard Sturm
Wed. Feb 21st
Kent Klier
Thu. Feb 22nd
Jennifer Ebeling
Fri. Feb 23rd
Scarlett Meinhart - Donna Coad
Sat. Feb 24th

February Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
Adam Wilf
John Dryden Jr.
John Dryden Sr.
Kent Klier
Adam Wolf

Kevin Earnest
David Thompson
Jason Dulton
Mike Phillips

Special Music
Bob Green
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Jolyn Bigard
Cheryl Earnest

Nursery Workers
Joyce Kamis
Chris Klier
Kevin & Brenda Earnest
Kyle & Courtney Klier

Ray & Debbie Diel
Chad & Holly Farley
Fern Read & Annette Kirts
Cleve & Gloria Bradley

Jr. Church
Bridgett, Becky, Anthea, Sarah
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
Ross, Jennifer, Lexie
Mark, Poodie, Jerod, Brooke

Door Attendents
Brad Tarr
Ross Meinhart
Brad Davidson
Dylan Davidson

Terry Milliman & Amy Tarr

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

February 1, 2017

For two summers when I was in high school, I served as "summer missionary" for Child Evangelism Fellowship. The idea was to go to a neighborhood, recruit some kids to attend daily meetings for five days at a given home in the neighborhood, and then have classes where a Bible story was taught, a missionary story was told, and songs were sung.

I really enjoyed this, and I learned a few choruses that I still sing upon occasion. One of them was "Love, Love, L-O-V-E." The words are "Love, Love, L-O-V-E, Love, Love, abundant and free. 'Finished' Christ cried when on Calvary he died, it was love, love, love!"

The catchy tune of this little chorus probably is one of the reasons why this song has stuck with me for almost 50 years. I think a more enduring reason for its "sticktuitiveness" is the message that it conveys - the tremendous love of the Savior that compelled him to give his life so that we can live.

God's love is abundant and free. Ephesians 2:4 tells us, "But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great." Indeed it is. Christ's love for us was so great that he was willing to go all the way to "It is finished." (John 19:30) He let his life go on the cross of Calvary because he loved us so - "And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him." (Luke 23:33)

Be grateful for the abundant love of the Savior. Without this love, we would be in a position of hopelessness and helplessness. Because of Christ's great love, we can be in a position of hope with the certainty of living forever with him. Love is the theme this month, and there is no greater display of love than that of Christ for us.

Valentine may have been concerned about the union of two lives as one in marriage, but Christ is concerned about the union of our lives with him. That is why he demonstrated his great love for us by dying for us.

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