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

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
Thursday August 31, 2017

I get a kick out of T-shirt I have seen advertised for sale on Facebook recently. No doubt many of you have seen it as well. It features a picture of Christ sitting among a number of "superheroes" including Superman, Batman, Flash, Spiderman, Ironman, and a few others. Good to see they included characters from both the DC and Marvel comic groups. Yes, believe it or not, I know my super heroes. Well, some of them. Let me get back to my point.

The heroes are pictured listening attentively to Christ as he says, "And that's how I saved the world." Isn't that great? And isn't that so true? What Christ did gives hope for reconciliation and a life with him forever for those who follow him. Because of what Christ has done, the world will one day be made new. Revelation 22:1 says, "Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the old heaven and old earth had disappeared." This is made possible through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.

We may think that God's plan for redemption is strange and unusual, but that doesn't negate the fact that it is the plan. Many folks struggle with the message of Christ and the methods of God. They do not understand God s design for the redemption of people and the renewal of the world. "Why did he do it that way?" some ask.

Paul speaks to this in his first letter to the Corinthians. He describes how folks wrestle with the provision of God through the cross of Christ. He concludes his comments by saying, "This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength." (I Corinthians 1:25) We may not fully understand God's plan, but we know what he has done is the best way to provide hope for us.

Included in the musical we are singing at church this Christmas is a song entitled "Strange Way to Save the World." 4Him and Rascal Flatts both have recorded this song. Some lyrics from the chorus are:

Why me, I'm just a simple man of trade

Why Him with all the rulers in the world

Why here inside this stable filled with hay

Why her, she's just an ordinary girl

Those questions may be asked, but the fact remains that God's plan is the best way to save the world. That is the conclusion reached in the song, and should be the conclusion reached in our lives. Christ indeed can say, "And that's how I saved the world." The superheroes' response should be, "Hey, you really did save the world!" Yes, he did.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 30, 2017

Do you ever desire a scenario where you would be granted three wishes? What would you ask for if given this opportunity? The story of being granted three wishes is found in a number of old tales. One includes "The Monkey's Paw", which is actually a horror story that ends up badly for the person who has been granted the three wishes. The wishes come with an enormous price for messing with fate.

We certainly need to be careful what we wish for. Obviously, we will never be in the fantastical situations found in "The Monkey's Paw" or "1001 Arabian Nights", but there are often times when we have choices that need to be handled with discernment. We should pray that we would have the attitude of Solomon. When God presented Solomon with a "three wishes" moment, Solomon displayed great discernment and insight. God told Solomon, " Ask for whatever you want me to give you." (I Kings 3:5) Solomon's response was surprising and revealing. He asked, "Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours." (3:9) This is a very wise request, and this request served Solomon well most of his life until other pursuits took him in directions he should not have gone.

Pray that God will give you a heart of discernment and understanding so that you can make good decisions and be helpful to yourself and others. Jesus tells us to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) Doing this shows we are handling our wishes the right way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 29, 2017

The other day Scherry said, "Come here, I want to show you something. Do you remember the flowers that got smashed in the storm? Take a look at them now." We had a wind storm in our area a few weeks back that caused a bit of damage. What she showed me was a marvelous display and strength and resiliency in the face of devastation. The flowers came back in spite of a brutal event.

There is a part of our country that is facing a time of devastation and brutality because of a climatic event known as Hurricane Harvey. The pictures and video coming from the southeastern coast of Texas are heart-wrenching and almost unbelievable. The loss of life is sad, the damage is extensive, and the results will be experienced for years to come, but we know from past experience there is great potential for recovery.

There is no way to compare what took place in our area to what is taking place in Texas, except perhaps in the symbol of the resurrected flower. 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.

We need to pray for the folks of Texas and Louisiana, and other areas that have been affected. The storm is not over yet. We need to offer financial support and other assistance through the channels that have already appeared to bring needed resources to the area. Some of you may even have the opportunity to go and participate in restoration efforts. Time, determination, resiliency, creativity and hard work will turn what is a terrific loss into a tremendous gain. For now, pray for God's intervention and provide help as you can.

Pray for Houston and other affected areas that they may realize the hope reflected in Isaiah 54:11, "Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires."

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 28, 2017

I do not quite understand the phenomenon of time passing more quickly as one ages, but I am definitely in the throes of that experience. Life just seems to pick up speed with the passing of years. Now, of course, time does not literally become shorter. A second is still a second, a minute is still a minute, an hour is still an hour, and so on.

I realize this is simply a matter of perception, but it just doesn't slow things down. Life seems to happen at a faster rate, Of course, the reality is that life is short, and I don't want to waste time on unnecessary things. For example, fretting is one activity that robs us of valuable time.

What is fretting? Well, one way to define it is the focus on the insignificant, the unimportant, or the irrelevant. This activity robs us of time and valuable effort. Fretting can sap our energy, our productivity, our creativity, and so many other positive exercises. When we fixate on things that really have no significance, we take away from important experiences and contributions.

A story was told about an American lady who was realizing her dream of traveling in the English countryside by train. On the trip, she became frustrated by the temperature, the rattling windows of the train, where she was sitting, and even how her luggage had been handled. When the ride was over, she remarked, "If I had known the ride was so short, I would not have spent so much time fretting."

Moses writes, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) We need to spend more time enjoying, contributing, experiencing, and appreciating what we have in life rather than fretting about what we do not. Focus more on the good things with which God has blessed us. Life goes to fast to fret our days away!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 27, 2017

Because of her fear of flying, my mother, like millions of others, never stepped on a jet in her life. Despite all the statistics showing that flying is much safer than driving, the fear of going up in the air aboard a jet keeps many folks grounded. The thoughts of putting themselves in a position where they are suspended high above the earth for an extended period of time is more than many want to handle. Researchers say that the real fear is not that they may crash, but that they lose control of their lives once the jet leaves the ground.

We experience a similar crisis of faith when we put our lives in the hands of God. The issue is one of control - we do not like to relinquish control of our lives. Living by faith means letting God have the right to do with our lives as he pleases, and that is a struggle. The apostles struggled with this when Christ spoke to them about levels of service and forgiveness that they had not heard of before.

In Luke 17:1-4, he warns them to not cause others to stumble and to forgive others unwaveringly. Their reply to this is "Lord, increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) Christ asked them to step out into the thin air of ultimate trust in him, and, at first, they reacted in fear as they began to grasp what Christ was asking of them. What we do know from looking at Acts and early church history is that they responded in a positive way and "got on board."

We need to so the same. As we encounter circumstances that bring fear because we are aware what Christ is asking of us, we need to ask him to increase our faith so that we will not shrink back from what needs to be done. We need to take that first step of obedience and he will give us the strength to do what is required. Faith in the provision of God will help you "fly the friendly skies!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 26, 2017

I have always been amazed at the capacity of many to see good where there seems to be nothing but bad. I am equally amazed at the capacity of many to see bad where good is prevalent. In which camp are you?

The people of Israel give us an example of seeing bad in the good. Just a few days after they had witnessed the power and provision of God by way of the Red Sea experience, they were grumbling because of a lack of water. We read in Exodus 15:22-24, "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?'"

Like the Israelites, some have a tendency to be pessimists and forget what good things can happen and have happened when a little trouble comes along. We need to develop the perspective of Joseph. You can find his story in the latter chapters of the book of Genesis.

Joseph is perhaps the prime example in the scripture of one who sees good where bad is prevalent. It seemed that every time Joseph turned around, something bad was happening that was not brought about by any of his choices or actions. His brother's betrayal, the accusation of the wife of Potiphar, and the deceit of the jailor are all negative experiences that were not of his doing. What was his conclusion? "God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

What is your perspective? Do your best to filter your outlook through the lens God provides. He can certainly turn the bad into good!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 25, 2017

As a student, young Leonardo da Vinci was encouraged by his elderly teacher to finish a painting that the teacher had started. Out of respect for the teacher, and actually not feeling he was up to the task, da Vinci declined at first. However, his teacher would not take no for an answer and told da Vinci that he trusted his ability. So, with fear and trepidation, da Vinci began his work.

At first, his strokes were timid and limited. Then, his confidence began to build. As the strokes became bolder and the colors flowed da Vinci's genius began to manifest in the work. Soon the painting was done. The teacher looked at the painting and said, "I paint no more." What a statement of endorsement!

Many of us are like da Vinci when it comes to sharing our gifts and talents with others. We downplay our abilities and opportunities to contribute because we don t feel as if we have something to offer. Don't make excuses for not contributing in organizations, in your job, and certainly in your church.

Talent levels do vary. Certainly not all of us are "da Vinci s," but we need to realize that all of us have talents and abilities God has given us. God does not hold us responsible for using the talents he hasn't given us - he holds us responsible for using the talents he has given us.

We need to be good stewards of what God has given us. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:2, "It is required in stewards that one be found faithful." Are you a good steward of what God has given you? Use what he has given you! Don't make excuses for what you can't do. Work with what you can do! Using your gifts enhances the lives of others and brings glory to God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 24, 2017

One way that firefighters attempt to extinguish a wild fire is by setting back fires. The strategy is to use these controlled fires to burn out the areas ahead of an uncontrolled blaze so that when this latter blaze gets to the already burned out area, it too will burn out because of a lack of fuel. Now, this idea of "fighting fire with fire" might be a good thing to do when trying to control wild fires, but it is not a good idea in other areas.

If we try to fight "fire with fire" in our relationships, we will do more harm than good. When we use anger to counter anger, or answer an unkindness with an unkindness, or answer hatred with hatred, we make matters worse and are ignoring what Christ taught us.

In Luke 6:27-31, we read Christ s words, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Fighting fire with fire has its place, but not in our relationships with other people. Treat others as you want to be treated, Christ said. This is a much more desirable means of handling interpersonal "fires" that often come up. Use your reservoirs of grace to put out the flames of anger when there is a flare-up. This is a better way of "fire-fighting."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 23, 2017

Each time I have had surgery, I was asked more than once on what part of me they were to operate. Usually I was given a marker and asked to mark the body part that was to be the focus of attention during the operation. This took place even when they fixed my broken leg that was laying at a weird angle.

This precaution has become standard practice because of incidents where mistakes were made and the wrong part of the anatomy was worked on and, in one case, amputated. One may ask, "How can this happen?" The answer may be found in the lyrics of The Human League's 1986 song, "Human" - "I'm only human." Oh, I can't believe I actually just cited a song from the 80's. Let me get back to the point.

Humans, even highly trained professionals, make mistakes. What is important is that we try to learn from our mistakes in order to keep from repeating them. Hence, the practice of allowing the patient to mark the target body part before surgery.

We need to look for ways to avoid repeating mistakes. Repetition of some things are good - a repetitive swing in golf is good, repeating good deeds is good, and even repeating good recipes is nice. However, the repetition of mistakes is not good and needs to be avoided.

In II Samuel 6, we find a story of learning from mistakes. Uzzah died when he touched the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from slipping off the cart on which it rested. David was not happy with God about this, but God set things straight. The ark was to be carried by priests using handles that were slipped through rings on the chest, not on a cart and not by non-priests. They made a mistake when they first tried to move the ark. So, when it was moved from the house of Obed-edom, they did it right.

We read in II Samuel 6:13, "When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf." They learned from a previous mistake and took precautions so that an undesired consequence would not be repeated. We need to learn from mistakes to keep from repeating mistakes. Don t be afraid to use that marker!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 22, 2017

The other day I witnessed one of those events that sort of makes you say, "I can't believe I just saw that." No, it wasn't the eclipse, that was just yesterday. And I didn't exactly "witness" the eclipse - after two eye surgeries over the past nine months and numerous trips to five different eye doctors, I wasn't willing to risk it even with glasses. Anyway, what I observed was one of those things that is a little more common than an eclipse and actually not a positive situation.

We were in Ohio visiting my oldest daughter, Stephanie, and her family. I went to the store to pick up some items. On the way there, I encountered some road construction. It was one of those areas where two lanes are reduced to one. Traffic was reduced to a crawl, and as I approached the merge area, a couple of cars appeared to my left. I stopped to let the cars go in front of me.

The trailing vehicle of the two moved over and then, instead of allowing the lead car to move over as well, accelerated and prevented the merge. I couldn't believe it. I let the "blocked" vehicle move in front of me and we went on our way. As I said, it was one of those things you see, but you just shake your head in disbelief at what you just saw. Obviously, the driver of the "trailing" car had a memory lapse. This would explain why they would not have extended the same courtesy to another driver that they had just received. They simply forgot that they had been allowed to move ahead in line by another driver. I have no other idea how to explain this behavior.

We need to take care that we don't have similar "lapses of memory." And I am referring to more than just driving incidents. Extend to others patience as you have experienced the patience of others. Avoid being critical of others' shortcomings as you, no doubt, have a few shortcomings of your own. Show kindness to others as you have received kindness from others.

I could go on with many other examples, but let me conclude with a few that are close to the heart of Christ. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, both by Christ and by others, love as you have been loved, and give as you have received. We should not forget that we have been forgiven, that we are loved, and have been given a great Gift.

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Don't have a lapse of memory when it comes to these blessings!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 21, 2017

Finally we are here, the day of the Total Eclipse! Somewhere Bonnie Tyler is singing away sorry, just couldn't resist that. Unless you have been living on a deserted island somewhere, I know you have heard about the eclipse. This phenomenon has made a fairly big splash where I live, as an eclipse of this nature, i.e. a total eclipse, has not been observed in Illinois since 1869. The optimal viewing area, where the eclipse will indeed be total, is in the southern part of the state, and I have heard they are expecting quite a crowd down there. Wherever you are, take precautions as you view!

As you know, a total eclipse takes place when the New Moon passes between the sun and the earth, effectively blocking out the sun for a brief period of time. The duration of this eclipse, according to NASA, will be about two minutes and forty seconds.

An eclipse is a totally natural event, but that didn't prevent folks in earlier cultures from attaching negative meanings to the happening. At one time, folks viewed an eclipse as an omen of bad things to come. Recently I read some contemporary accounts that the eclipse could be a "sign from Satan" or a warning from God about future things. I don't agree with these viewpoints, but I do think we can use the events of the eclipse as an object lesson of some spiritual truths.

I think the eclipse can give us a positive, encouraging message. As in an eclipse, we have dark times in our lives. Often, those dark times take place because the light in our lives is blocked through our actions as we do things that obscure our relationship with God. Well, we can do something about that, can't we? At other times, the circumstances of life block out the light and make things look bleak. As we trust God in these experiences, we can rest upon the hope that in our lives, as with the eclipse, the darkness will pass. The sun will return and shine brightly.

Paul speaks of "eclipse moments" as, well, let me let Paul speak for himself, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (II Corinthians 4:17-18) David wrote about the promise we have, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

The eclipse of the sun will pass, and light will return. This will happen in our lives as well. We need to apply caution as we view the eclipse, and we need to apply faith as we view our experiences!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 20, 2017

My great-great-grandfather was a Methodist Circuit Rider in central Kentucky in the 19th century. He had followed in a long line of circuit riders, perhaps the best known being Francis Asbury. Asbury was born on this day (August 20), 1745, in England. He came to America in 1771. When the Revolutionary War started, he refused to return to England because he felt his ministry was in America. For 46 years, he crisscrossed the colonies, and later the states, from the Appalachians to the Atlantic and from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. In his career, it is estimated that he traveled more than 300,000 miles on horseback. The Methodist church in America grew from a few hundred to over 200,000 in his lifetime. His tireless efforts (he would go to bed at 12 a.m. and rise at 4 a.m.) for Christ had few parallels either in his lifetime or since.

We may not be able to compare our efforts for Christ with Asbury - few can. However, we can use his life as a model of dedication and commitment. We should do what we can and what is within our capabilities and gifts. We may not travel from Maine to the Gulf, but we should be willing to go across the street to share the love of Christ with someone who needs his touch. Hebrews 13:16 tells us "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

We may not be called to make the same sacrifices as did Asbury, but we should be willing to do what we can, and sacrifice is sometimes part of our ministry. Giving of ourselves is part of our service to Christ. Each of us has a "circuit" of ministry. And you don't need to ride a horse to cover your circuit - just do what you can!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 19, 2017

I just read that a reality talent show on television will be welcoming back a former judge and a "newbie" judge during the next season that starts this September. This means that two judges who were on the show during this past season were "booted" from the proceedings. So, a show that excludes contestants until there is only one left will once again exclude judges that were involved in the process of excluding others. Rather ironic, isn't it?

Aren't you glad that God's kingdom is not mutually exclusive? Aren't you glad that when one person becomes part of God's kingdom that it doesn't mean someone needs to drop out? We need to make sure our churches reflect God's openness. James refers to this when he writes, "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?'" (James 2:1-4)

God accepts all of those who come to him through faith in his Son without respect of person based on "social acceptability." The church is not a social club with arbitrary criteria used to determine inclusion. Reflect God's attitude towards others and don't give them the boot!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 18, 2017

I have heard they may be making a sequel to the 1942 classic "Casablanca". Apparently, there is a screenplay available for a sequel that was written by Howard Koch, the author of the script for the original "Casablanca". This sounds intriguing, and a sequel has been bandied about for years. There are many pros and cons to this. The ending of Casablanca left many unanswered questions and it almost screamed for a sequel. I am sure there are many folks who would love to see a sequel, but I am not one of them. In my opinion, "Casablanca" is one of the best movies ever made. How can you improve on perfection?

This applies to the spiritual realm as well. There are those who seem to think that they can improve on the ministry of Christ and what has been recorded in the Scripture about his life. There are many who want to add to the teachings of Christ and make him say things he didn t say. They want to add to what he did, who he was, and how he fits in our lives. Why do folks want to try to improve on perfection?

What I said earlier about "Casablanca" being perfect is obviously an overstatement; however, speaking about the perfection of Christ is not. Hebrews 5:8-9 says: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Thinking you can add something to his perfection is a dangerous misstatement.

When someone claims something about Christ that is not in the Scripture, don t accept it. Christ is perfect. You cannot improve upon perfection. "Here's looking at you, kid."

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 16, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 15, 2017

Yesterday I passed a church sign that read "Today's missteps may become tomorrow's regrets." Before I turned to some serious thinking about this statement, my mind wondered to a TV commercial that reflected this theme on a more humorous level.

In the commercial, a lady tattoo artist is seen putting the finishing touches on some artwork on a man's arm. The tattoo read, "No Regerts." When the client saw the finished product, he loudly exclaims, "No Regerts?!" The artist replies, "Sorry, I was eating a Milky Way!" Well, there you go, the key to living in order to prevent regrets is eliminating Milky Way candy bars from our diet. Wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy?

There is no way we can live without producing some regret. We cannot live perfect lives. In addition, we may encounter some circumstances beyond our control that produce regret. But living thoughtfully and prayerfully can help us avoid the major missteps that will produce rough regrets. Following the advice of our Father, focusing on the lives of others, and ferreting through the details in order to make good decisions are some paths to follow to prevent regret.

Proverbs gives some advice about avoidance of regret, "For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." (Proverbs 1:32-33) Wise thoughts to live by so there will be "no regerts."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 15, 2017

Yesterday I passed a church sign that read "Today's missteps may become tomorrow's regrets." Before I turned to some serious thinking about this statement, my mind wondered to a TV commercial that reflected this theme on a more humorous level.

In the commercial, a lady tattoo artist is seen putting the finishing touches on some artwork on a man's arm. The tattoo read, "No Regerts." When the client saw the finished product, he loudly exclaims, "No Regerts?!" The artist replies, "Sorry, I was eating a Milky Way!" Well, there you go, the key to living in order to prevent regrets is eliminating Milky Way candy bars from our diet. Wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy?

There is no way we can live without producing some regret. We cannot live perfect lives. In addition, we may encounter some circumstances beyond our control that produce regret. But living thoughtfully and prayerfully can help us avoid the major missteps that will produce rough regrets. Following the advice of our Father, focusing on the lives of others, and ferreting through the details in order to make good decisions are some paths to follow to prevent regret.

Proverbs gives some advice about avoidance of regret, "For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." (Proverbs 1:32-33) Wise thoughts to live by so there will be "no regerts."

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 14, 2017

Perhaps you have heard of Stephen Wiltshire. He is a British artist who has been dubbed "The Human Camera" because of his ability to draw detailed landscapes from memory after only a single glance at an area. Wiltshire can draw entire cities from memory based on a single pass over the city in a helicopter. His nineteen-foot-long drawing of 305 square miles of New York City is based on a single twenty-minute pass over New York. He has a gallery on the Royal Opera Arcade in London and has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. His memory is truly amazing.

Something I find more amazing are the references in the scripture about a lack of memory. Isaiah 43:35 tells us, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Hebrews 10:17 says, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." God gives this promise, "You will again have compassion on us; and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19)

To me, this is an amazing reality. Our omniscient God chooses to have no memory of our sins when we ask his forgiveness for what we have done. I don't know exactly how he does this, but I am glad he does

When I was a kid, we sang this little chorus: "Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes, my sins are gone. Now my soul is free and in my heart's a song. Buried in the deepest sea, yes that's good enough for me. I shall live eternally, Praise God, my sins are G-O-N-E, gone!" Now that's really amazing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 13, 2017

"The hurrieder I go the behinder I get" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." At first glance, this actually sounds a bit contradictory. But any of you who have lived any length of time at all know the truth in this statement. When you get in a big hurry, you take the risk of losing time rather than gaining time in your endeavor. In most situations, a little bit of time spent in planning and forethought offers a much greater advantage over plunging ahead with no strategy.

Planning helps to avoid mistakes and prevents the need for "do-overs." If you don't have time to do something right the first time, when in the world are you going to have time to do it over? Take some time to lay out a procedure - you will be glad you did. Taking some time to lay out strategy keeps us focused and helps us to be more productive.

If we want an example of someone who plans before he acts, we need look no farther than our Heavenly Father. Throughout the Scripture we find God setting out plans for how something is to be done. He does this for many reasons, not the least of which is the idea that when things are done with purpose, it allows for productive time for worship and service.

An example of this is found in Numbers 1:50-51, "Appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony--over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it."

God laid out some plans for how things were to be moved when the Israelites would set out during their journey. Mapping out strategy ahead of time meant there would be less time spent "spinning their wheels." It caused them to concentrate on an activity given to them by God that would remind them of where their focus should be. It would keep them from random activities that could bring about frustration and cause them to look elsewhere. An old adage goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Which is your preference?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 12, 2017

When I was a kid, I always thought the music and the grand graphic that appeared at the beginning of a Twentieth Century Fox production was so cool. The fake spotlights and the blaring trumpets just really caught my fancy. When I see this now, I wonder if it being "outdated" is really a good idea. I remember reading that having a twentieth century logo in a twenty-first century world is not such a good concept from a marketing standpoint. Obviously, that is the problem of Twentieth Century Fox and not mine. I still think the music and the graphics are cool.

I am glad I am following a Savior whose name will never go out of date. Revelation gives us his timeless name. John writes, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) The timeless name ascribed to the Savior reflects his timeless nature. We know that our Savior and his provision will never be out of date. His provision is current, his help is never late.

Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. In Matthew 28:20 Christ says, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He is real and he knows just what we need in our 21st century world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 11, 2017

I don't know why, but I seem to be fixated on office machines. Yesterday I wrote about the copy machine. Today let me talk about the fax machine.

Actually, I do not use the fax machine in my office nearly as much as I used to. It is not that I send fewer documents to other places electronically; I just have found that scanning the document into an email is more advantageous. This procedure allows for a transmission of an image that is much closer to the original, including the color. With the fax machine, I have trouble remembering whether the page goes in "face up" or "face down." With email, I don't have to put up with those crazy electronic sounds and receive messages such as "Interference on line" that prevents the fax from going through.

Often our communication with God is inhibited by interference. A lack of focus can keep us from communicating with God in the way we should, and can keep us from hearing God's messages to us. We let interference from improper behavior, a lack of concern, and other distractions keep us from "sending" and "receiving" the way we should. We really need to upgrade to newer technology by honing our focus, improving our response, and clearing up our service.

Christ proclaimed, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9) We need to make sure that we do away with the interference on the line so we can hear clearly what God has to say.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 10, 2017

I often marvel at how easy copying things has become. None of us remember this far back, but making a duplicate of a document used to mean sitting with the original and laboriously copying by hand. Then, along came the copying press, carbon paper, and other methods. Remember the days of cutting stencils and mimeograph machines? The copy machine was a great invention. First introduced in 1959, the "Xerox" machine has certainly revolutionized paperwork of all sorts. Now, we have mono copiers, multi-function copiers, color copiers, and even 3-D copiers. At the church we have a machine that copies, sends fax messages, prints, sorts, collates, and staples. Things have gotten easier and faster.

This is great when it comes to making copies, but there are some areas where easier and faster may not be better. This is especially true in the development of our spiritual lives. We are so used to putting an original in a machine and receiving a great quality copy in just a few seconds that we sometimes mistakenly think other things should be just as fast.

Time needs to be spent when it comes to our spiritual growth. We need time in God s Word, time in prayer, time in fellowship with others, time in reading things that will benefit our inner person.

God told Joshua in Joshua 1:8, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Psalm 119:97 says, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." Both of these verses speak to time being involved in the process of our inner growth.

Don't use the "Xerox" method of spiritual growth! Take time with the Lord - allow him the time to help you develop the kind of relationship with him that you should have. There is something to be said for copying things by hand.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 09, 2017

Even though we have speed dialing and contact lists, I still try to memorize phone numbers. I don't do as good a job as I once did and I attribute this to the fact that the technological advances in our phones have made me lazy. Still, I like to use my brain when I can and retrieve the number from memory. This actually saves more time, and exercises my brain.

Oral tradition at one time was an important part of the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. We need to make sure that we still give our brain the work-out it needs to function well. And one of the best ways to strengthen your thinking is through memorization.

As followers of Christ, we should not lose sight of the importance of scripture memorization. Sure, we have copies of the Scripture all over the place. We have the scripture available on our electronic devices, but we should not let advantages take the place of the important practice of placing God's Word inside of us. Let me share with you an incident that occurred just recently that highlights how significant scripture memorization can be.

In an August 6 post to Facebook, Phil Boyd, a fellow pastor here in our county, related an experience he had during a visit to our local care center. Many of you read the post. Phil, if you are reading this, I hope you don t mind that I share a bit of your experience.

Ruth Spraggins is a resident of the care center and a very dear lady who struggles to communicate because of health issues and her age. Phil spent some time with her during his visit. He wrote, "With some older folks I like to read something and have them complete the sentence. A lot of times the memory is there, it's just recalling it that's difficult. I started reading the 23rd Psalm, and she would fill in the blank. I would say the Lord is my........she would say Shepherd. I would say He leads me beside......she would say still waters, and so on."

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart." Apparently Ruth had done this. Don't simply put God's Word on speed dial - take the time to memorize the Scripture. This is a life-long exercise that will most assuredly enhance your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 08, 2017

Sometimes we just need to step up to the plate and get the job done - no excuses, no trying to get someone else to do it, no slacking off, just get things done! This could be the case in a job situation, a business situation, a situation in an organization, a family situation, or even a circumstance in our church.

God called Moses to get a job done - lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses had a number of reasons why he wasn't the one for the job. You can read about this in Exodus 3 & 4. At one point he said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it. (Exodus 4:13) This was the last straw with God - he got a little angry and basically said, "Moses, you ARE going to do this and this is how it is going to be done. . ."

We can be like this, even though we know we shouldn't. We sometimes fall into the trap that is described in a little story I read once. You perhaps have seen it at one time or another, but it is one of those little gems that bears repeating every now and then:

There is a story about four people. Their names are EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY and NOBODY. There was a very important job that needed to be done. EVERYBODY was asked to do this job. Now ANYBODY could have done this job but NOBODY was willing to do it. Then SOMEBODY got angry about this because it was EVERYBODY'S job to do it. Well, EVERYBODY thought that ANYBODY could have done it! But NOBODY realized that EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY for not doing the job. Still NOBODY done it. The arguing got worse and finally NOBODY would talk to ANYBODY and EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY. What a shame that ANYBODY could have done the job and EVERYBODY could have helped SOMEBODY but yet NOBODY did it!"

I will conclude - don't be a NOBODY! Be that SOMEBODY who gets busy and does the job ANYBODY should do so that EVERYBODY will benefit!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 07, 2017

In 1942, with the nation embroiled in World War II, the United States was looking for a way to develop a code that would not be easily broken by the enemy and allow for accurate and safe communication. Phillip Johnston, a missionary among the Navajo, suggested using the Navajo language as a basis for such a code. Originally, 29 Navajo men were recruited for this project and a code was developed. This effort proved remarkably successful and by the end of the war, over 420 Navajo were involved in the program. The code was never broken and was kept secretive decades after the end of the war in case it was needed again. A film about this effort, "Windtalkers", was released in 2002, 60 years after its inception.

God does not speak to us in code. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things." Through the revelation of His Son and through the Word he has sent us, God has made plain to us what we need to know and what he expects from us. If there is any difficulty in communication, it is not a problem with the Sender, it is a problem with the receiver.

We owe a great debt to the Windtalkers, but we owe a greater debt to our Heavenly Father who has communicated to us plainly and openly. He does not speak to us in code and he does not hide his desire and intentions from us. Our obligation is to respond to what he has said.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 06, 2017

The South End Grounds was a magnificent stadium built in Boston in 1888. The outside was fashioned like a medieval castle. Both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Stockings played baseball there. In 1894, in a game between the Boston Red Stockings and the Baltimore Orioles, a fight broke out between two of the players. Soon both teams were involved in the fracas. To make matters worse, the spectators joined the conflict as well. Someone started a fire in the right field bleachers. The blaze destroyed the ballpark and many other surrounding buildings. All this started with a fight between two players.

We are told in scripture of the need for self-control. Proverbs 26:21 reminds us that "As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife." We need to learn to control our anger and handle conflict in a positive way. Conflict that is left unresolved and allowed to go uncontrolled can lead to big problems. Minor conflicts can lead to major problems. This is true in our personal relationships, our business relationships, our jobs, and it is certainly true in the church. This is why we need to exercise control and work through our conflicts in godly way. Conflict is inevitable. We see this in our lives and throughout scripture. Conflict that is damaging is avoidable when we allow God to control our lives and help us to deal with conflict.

So, be careful to not start fires with unresolved conflict or anger that continues to grow unchecked. Be determined to handle arguments and disagreements with godly character.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 05, 2017

Did you ever threaten to run away from home when you were a kid? When I got mad at my parents I did - the problem was I could never come up with a good place to go. We lived too far out in the country to have a destination that would work.

David, the author of Psalm 139, asked a provocative question: "Where can I flee from Your presence?" (v.7). He answered his own question with two parallel responses. He first replied, "If I ascend to heaven, You are there" (v.8). It doesn't take a theologian to figure that out. After all, where else would God be?

David's second response is quite interesting. "If I make my bed in hell, you are there." Hell? Yes, that is what he wrote. The point David is making is that you can't go anywhere where God isn't. He is everywhere.

This truth is both convicting and comforting. It is convicting because it means God is present when we are exhibiting our worst behavior. However, it is comforting to know he is present when the worst is being piled on us. He is there.

So, don't make plans to run from God - you will not be successful. Yogi Berra once said, "No matter where I go, there I am." And no matter where you are, God is there..

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 04, 2017

There are situations and circumstances that arise in our walk with the Lord where all we seem to be able to do is say "I don't know." We face health issues, emotional crises, financial issues, and other life events that cause us to ask, "What is going on?" and cry out to God for intervention.

As we struggle through these times when we say "I don't know", it is helpful to focus on what we do know. We know that God loves us. We know that God has not forgotten us. We know that God is aware of what is taking place. We know that God has nothing but our best interests in mind. We know that God directs events for his glory. As we focus on our points of knowledge, we may not find concrete resolution to the "I don't know", but we can develop confidence and attain contentment through continuing to trust in what we do know about God.

Korah cried out in Psalm 44:9-10, "you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us." He continued to trust and knew that God would not ultimately forsake his people.

Korah's hope was expressed several centuries later when Paul used his statements as he proclaimed the confidence we can have in the provision of God. In Romans 8:36 Paul wrote, "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" which is a direct citation of Psalm 44:22. God does know about our lives and our future, so even at times when we say "I don't know" we know we can trust him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 03, 2017

August is the only month of the year with no major holidays. I make this statement because it does have a minor holiday, well, minor for me my birthday. I guess in one sense I should consider this a major holiday, and today is the day.

Birthdays are good reminders of some important truths. For one thing, if you didn't have a birthday, you wouldn't be here. Now, isn't that profound? Still, birthdays are a reminder of life the life we now have.

Birthdays can serve as a reminder of the helpful exercise of self-evaluation. As we experience these milestones, we can take the time to examine what is going on in our lives and determine if we need to make some adjustments in some areas. Lamentations 3:40 encourages us, "Let us test and examine our ways."

Birthdays also serve to remind us of the transitory nature of this life. Now, I don t want this to be a "downer" aspect of birthdays. We shouldn't look at it as such, but we should be realistic as we think about our lives. We are not going to be here forever, at least not in this life. Psalm 90:12 tells us "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

In one sense, on the day of our birth, a timer was set in motion. None of us know for sure how much time is placed on the timer, but we do know that it is running. A realistic understanding of this truth should bring about wise living, not panic-filled hysteria. We only have so much time in this life, and we should live to please God through following Christ and and letting God guide our lives from the moment of that decision.

James 4:13-15 makes a statement on how we should view our lives, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" Birthdays are good days for many reasons. Celebrate yours well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 02, 2017

In the movie "Braveheart," William Wallace is betrayed by an opportunistic Robert the Bruce, who was a friend of Wallace. In reality, this probably didn't happen the way it was depicted in the film. Actually, Robert the Bruce was a true hero himself, winning battles over the British against incredible odds. He was eventually proclaimed King of Scots.

While this betrayal of Wallace may not have been historically accurate, it does portray a circumstance that occurs in real life - being betrayed by someone whom you thought you could trust - a friend, a business partner, maybe even a family member. This is an event that is hurtful in many ways. It is hurtful because of experiencing the consequences brought about by the betrayal. It is hurtful because of the betrayal itself.

The psalmist David writes about this in Psalm 41:9, "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." David had experienced this type of betrayal. Christ alluded to this passage when he spoke of Judas' betrayal. The betrayal of Christ by Judas was obviously a very prominent part of the whole plan of redemption for man.

When you face betrayal from someone close, remember that even Christ experienced this. Remember how you felt because of the betrayal. Determine that you never want someone else to feel the way you do because of your actions. Determine that you don't want to ever make Christ feel as if you have betrayed him. Be a true friend to others and to Christ and live in such a way as to show that you are a true friend.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 01, 2017

"It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn to pray that we may be on God's side." Isn't that a great statement? Do you wonder who made it? Think it might have been some well-known theologian or a popular preacher? Well, actually it was one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century - Wernher von Braun. He developed the V-2 rocket for Germany which was used in warfare in WWII. That was not his intent, but others seized his technology for use in war.

Dr. von Braun later immigrated to the United States where he became the father of the space program. He had a profound effect on the history of a large part of the 20th century. While his intelligence is obvious from his accomplishments and contributions, equally obvious is his profound understanding of his relationship with God.

Many times we pray to try to "change God's mind" and to ask him to cause something to happen in a way we think is best. Instead, we need to be praying that we learn to come into conformity with what God desires and what he has designed. We need to let him act in the way he knows is best. Praying in this way shows that we trust him and that we understand his concern and commitment to our well-being.

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Von Braun understood this. He knew we should trust God and get on the same page with God, instead of trying to convince God to get on the same page with us. This isn't "rocket science" (oh, I couldn't resist that). It is just a matter of trusting God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 31, 2017

When I was in Israel a few years ago, we stopped along a road that allowed us to take in the view of the wilderness area through which the Jerusalem to Jericho road passed. I would imagine you are familiar with the story Christ told of the Good Samaritan. This is found in the scripture in Luke 10:29-37. A traveler going from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by a band of robbers. When one sees the area, it doesn't take much imagination to see how this story played out. This road was called the Way of Blood during the time of Christ as the lay of the land offered hiding places for robbers and thieves who preyed on travelers. As you recall the story Christ told, the man who was beaten and robbed was ignored by a priest and a Levite before finding help through the efforts of a Samaritan.

In her book "Kindness: Reaching Out to Others", Phyllis J. Le Peau describes an event at a Midwestern seminary. Students were given the assignment to speak on kindness. Then, the day of the sermon, the students were intentionally delayed by a "person in need" who was planted on the way to the class. One by one, the students made their way to the class, but not one of them stopped to assist the needy person. Apparently, they were too absorbed in preaching a message on kindness to actually be involved in an act of kindness.

Which would be the more powerful sermon on kindness: delivering a sermon extolling the need to show kindness or actually stopping to show kindness to someone who needed help? I hope I don't need to state the obvious here. Luke 10:33 says, "When he saw him, he had compassion." His compassion led to action. I hope it does for us as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 30, 2017

Neil Armstrong found it very hard to live a normal life after his trip to the moon. He had to move a number of times to try to establish a place to live where he and his family were not hounded by those seeking to obtain some sort of gain through Armstrong's fame. After he settled in one particular town, he was amazed to discover that his barber had collected his hair and sold a quantity of it for three thousand dollars. The opportunity to make money was more than the barber could handle. Greed got the best of him.

Proverbs 28:25 tells us about the power of greed, "The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper." Armstrong couldn't believe that a person whom he had trusted could be so motivated by greed. We should not be surprised by the power of greed, and we need to watch ourselves lest greed get the best of us. Greed can cause us to be disloyal to God and to others and to drive us to pursue actions that are not in our best interests.

The key to overcoming greed is to focus on God and his provision so that the lure of money and things are not so strong. We should exhibit a heart that is focused on God and others. This helps us to avoid the effects of greed and be motivated to pursue activities that are good and not harmful. Allowing the power of God to be in control of our lives will keep us from the temptation to sell hair.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 29, 2017

I would imagine you have heard it said, "What matters most is not how well you start, but how well you finish." Starting well can bring about a good finish, but a good start does not guarantee a good finish. Take the life of King Saul as a case in point.

When Saul is first introduced to us in scripture, we read about him, "There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish. . .He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others (I Samuel 9:1-2)." We read how Saul at one time was moved by the Spirit of God (I Samuel 10:5-7). He was anointed as the first king of Israel - quite an honor! However, things seemed to go downhill from there for Saul. From messing around with sacrifices, to failing to thwart God's enemies, to his hatred of David, we can follow his fall from the tallest and most powerful man in Israel to a person that causes God to say, "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions (I Samuel 15:10)."

We need to watch our lives. We need to watch our attitudes. We need to watch our ways. We need to avoid getting on a slippery slide that leads us away from God and away from his guidance, comfort, love, and assurance. The story of Saul is one of the saddest in scripture.

In I Corinthians 10:12, the Apostle Paul warns us, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" On the pathway of life, you will find more ways to fail than you will to succeed - make sure you continue to look to God so you will continue to stand tall and not fall like Saul (sorry, I couldn't resist that).

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 28, 2017

Each Sunday in our morning worship, we pray the Lord's Prayer. Praying the prayer, we ask the Father to "Give us this day our daily bread." When we ask him this, we are asking for provision for the day. We are asking for guidance for the day. We are asking for illumination for the day. When Christ prayed "give us this day our daily bread," he was putting emphasis on a crucial concept in our spiritual lives - we must trust God day by day. We only know the moment in our lives. What is past is past. We don't know the reality of moments to come, or even if they will come at all. We must trust God with the events of the now, and we rely upon him to provide for the now.

In the day when Christ lived, most did now know from day to day what provision would be there for them. Work opportunities, what was available to eat, goods that were available, were usually available for that day, with no guarantees for the next. But, what else did you need? If you have what you need for today, there was no cause to worry about tomorrow, as tomorrow would bring new provisions.

When God provides for us, it is for our daily needs. We are not able to see beyond today's provision to know what will be done about tomorrow. However, when the needs of today are met, why worry about what might happen tomorrow? God has provided for today, he can provide for tomorrow as well, so leave that detail in the hands of God. This is called faith. When God provided for his people when they were wandering in Sinai, he provided their daily bread through manna. There were strict regulations about gathering more than what you needed for the day, except on the eve of the Sabbath. God ordered this circumstance to show the people he could be entrusted to provide for their "daily bread."

We need to trust God for our daily bread, and realize that tomorrow is to be left up to him. Jesus tells us, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)." Trust God for your daily bread, leave tomorrow in God's hands.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 26, 2017

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a frequently referenced part of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival's house of Montague, that is, that he is named "Montague." The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. This may be true in a number of circumstances, but names can still be important and influential. For example, "Sylvester and the Family Stone" just does not seem to have the same impact as "Sly and the Family Stone." And which name evokes a tougher image to you - Marion Morrison or John Wayne?

God's names are really a fascinating and informative study. The names of God found in the scripture gives us insight into his character. There are several, and we don't have the time or space to mention them all here. I encourage you to take some time and engage in a little research on God's names.

The first name for God found in the Scripture is "Elohim" used in Genesis 1:1. This name can be translated "Creator, mighty and strong." The form is plural, and lends support to the plural nature of God, that he exists as a Trinity. "El Shaddai" (Genesis 49:24) is translated "God Almighty" and refers to his supreme position over all. "Yahweh Jireh" (Genesis 22:14) is memorialized by Abraham when God provided a ram for a sacrifice in the place of his son Isaac. "El Roi" is found in Genesis 16:13 and is translated "The God who sees". This is what Haggar said of God after he provided for her and her son Ishmael following their banishment from the tents of Abraham: "So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God of seeing,'"

The names used of God do matter and give us a picture of the God we serve. "What's in a name?" is certainly a valid question when it comes to the names of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 25, 2017

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a 1977 science fiction film that relates the story of how a lineman from Indiana encounters aliens and eventually is taken aboard a ship from outer space, presumably for the purpose of mutual education and interaction between species that will lead to greater understanding. I can't believe this movie is forty years old. During the lead-up to the conclusion, communication between the aliens and earth featured a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that was played over and over. If you have seen the movie, you no doubt recall this riff. As I am writing this article, this phrase is now in my head and I hope I can get it out before I go to bed tonight.

In an interesting example of life imitating art, several years ago a group of scientists in England discovered a "singing" black hole in a system of far-away galaxies. This black hole is situated in a galaxy that is amidst a group of galaxies known as the Perseus Cluster. The tone being produced is a B-flat, 57 octaves below middle C. What is actually producing this tone is unknown.

As much as I am fascinated by this, I really don't know what to make of it, except that it brings to mind some references in scripture that speak to the idea of creation singing the praises of God. We read in Job 4, "Where were you when I laid the earth s foundation. . .while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" Now, I am not sure that I could argue this tone is an example of the morning stars singing for joy, but I do know that we who are creations of God should sing his praises as often and as joyfully as we can.

You may be familiar with the praise song "God of Wonders." The words of this song describe the awe and wonder we should feel whether we are looking at the sun during the day or the stars in the night sky - "Lord of all creation, Of the water, earth and sky, The Heavens are Your Tabernacle, Glory to the Lord on high, God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy, The universe declares Your majesty, You are holy, holy."

Psalm 19:1 tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Let's join all of Creation in letting God know what we think about him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 24, 2017

Yesterday was an interesting day for us here in Newton and surrounding communities. We had quite a storm that took down trees, destroyed some buildings, damaged power lines, and wreaked general havoc. I have heard of no reports of serious injuries, and I certainly hope this remains the case. The storm hit around 4:30 or 5 a.m. I was up and heard it, especially the loud snap and subsequent thud when part of the ash tree in our back yard ended up on our deck and roof. There appears to be no serious damage, though I know there are some who cannot make the same statement.

Along with many others, we lost our power. A quick trip to the church revealed we had no power there as well. After some discussion about cancellation of services, we decided to go ahead as there was no real damage. This meant no PowerPoint, no Praise Band, we couldn't show the trailer of the movie we were going to see for "Popcorn and Movie Night", no PA system, and, of course, no air conditioning. Now, we have cancelled services before during inclement weather circumstances, and I imagine we will do so again in the future, but we didn't yesterday and it made for a rather unique worship experience.

The service was "all acoustic," No AC meant we had to open windows and doors. A rather ironic twist here is that we had just the previous week installed windows that could be opened. We used a battery lantern or two where needed. Candles were suggested but we thought we would go "high tech" as we really didn't need that much enhancement. This scenario took me back to my younger years in church when we had no AC, no projection systems, and no PA systems, although we did have electricity. I am not that old.

I have always been one who is eager to embrace new ideas and innovations, but it is good to know that when push comes to shove, we can get along just fine without them. Another thing I took away from our experience is that we may introduce change in our lives and in our worship, but God who is involved in our lives and the object of our worship does not change. That is a good thing.

Psalm 102:26-27 tells us, "They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." We learn from James 1:17 that, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." The changeless nature of God means his plans will not change, his love for you will not change, and his assurance to you will not change. Your future in God's hands is secure because God does not change.

Changing worship plans and methods is fine, but be glad that the God we worship does not change. Next week, barring another storm, we will have lights, the praise band will lead worship, PowerPoints will be used, and the AC will be on, but the God we worship will be the same One we worshiped yesterday without any of these. That's a good thing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 22, 2017

C. S. Lewis was an author who wrote a number of works to encourage Christians. My favorite work of Lewis' is a tongue-in-cheek writing entitled "The Screwtape Letters." You may have read this. In it, a "senior demon" named Screwtape writes letters to his protégé, Wormwood, encouraging the young devil in his attempts to thwart the Christian experience of a specific person to whom Wormwood has been assigned.

In one particular letter, Screwtape advises Wormwood to get his subject to look at others in his church in a critical way. I know this will sound familiar to those of you who have been participating in our Wednesday study. If Wormwood can be successful in steering the subject towards a focus upon the faults of others, the subject will neglect his own weaknesses, and will start to build a sense of inappropriate pride in his own behavior. This will lead to a critical spirit, inaccurate self-understanding, and arrogance that is unhealthy.

The scripture calls for humility and grace, not pride and a critical attitude. The problem of pride is described in a number of passages. One is Proverbs 16:18-19, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud." A better way to live is described in Proverbs 22:4, "Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life." Don't follow the advice of Screwtape follow the guidance of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 20, 2017

I have been to the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago once. The building was known as the Sears Tower then. At the time, it was the tallest building in the United States. We went to the observation floor in anticipation of a beautiful view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. What we saw didn't quite meet up with our expectations as fog limited what we were able to see. In spite of the fact of our elevated position, we were unable to see more than a few feet.

Sometimes we have this problem in our spiritual lives. God has raised us up to an elevated position, but we often allow things to fog up our vision to the point where we are limited in what we see. We put our own agendas ahead of God's, we let things creep into our lives that bring barriers to seeing God's path, we fail to follow the leadership of God in our lives, or we simply disregard what we know to be true.

We need to eliminate what keeps us from seeing God's plan for our lives. We need to develop our vision by concentrating on his leadership. We need to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our vision is clear. Our prayer should be that of the psalmist, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18)

Often we sing a praise song written by Michael W. Smith, Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You. I want to see you! This should be our greatest desire!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 19, 2017

While on vacation recently, I watched "The Bucket List" for the second or third time. "The Bucket List" is a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who go on a road trip to accomplish as many things on their wish lists as they can before they "kick the bucket." The two men meet in the hospital. One is a billionaire (Nicholson) and one is a mechanic (Freeman). Their relationship is rather tenuous at first, but a friendship develops as they pursue their goals.

I came across a list of things that we need to strongly consider putting on our spiritual bucket list. As a matter of fact, the list is entitled "Seven Things that Can Only Be Done In This Life." Here they are: 1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). 2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). 3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12). 4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). 5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). 6. Share the good news of Christ with others (Matthew 28:19-20). 7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).

We know our time in this life is limited and we need to live realistically and wisely. We need to do what we should while we have the opportunity. This involves practical matters of life, and it also involves important matters of faith and spirituality. Jesus reminds us, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Take care of that bucket list!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 18, 2017

I don't remember when I first studied about what materials are good conductors of electricity in school, but I do remember when I found out that a metal key is an excellent channel for an electric current. I was a big fan of the TV show "Bonanza" when I was a kid. One evening, I was pretending to be Sheriff Roy Coffee. I wanted to open up the jail cell, so I needed a place to stick the key in order to open the cell door. We had an electric stove at the time with a receptacle about the height of my shoulder. Perfect! Let's just say that opening the cell door was an electrifying experience.

As followers of Christ, we are called upon to be good conductors of the grace and blessings of God. So, how are you doing? Are you a good channel of the good things of Christ? Are you allowing his love, peace, and hope to flow through you to others? Are you being a good conductor of God's blessings to others?

Proverbs 11:25-26 tells us, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it." What we receive from God needs to be shared with others. God blesses us so that we may have something to give. These blessings may be material or spiritual. Whatever they are, be a channel for others.

If I remember my science lessons correctly, silver is the best conductor of electricity. Polish up that silver and let the current flow!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 17, 2017

I remember watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man" when I was a kid. The movie fascinated me then, and still fascinates me. The story is about a person who gets covered by a mysterious dust while on a boat off the California coast. This causes him to gradually shrink, presumably eventually to nothing, although the film ended with him still alive but very tiny. The last lines of the movie are delivered through a voiceover by the main character. He laments, "And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"

Perhaps there are times when we feel like the "Shrinking Man". We feel as if we are not important, or as if our opinion counts for little, or as if our absence would not be noticed. Yet, the last lines from this fictional work are so true, "To God there is no zero!" We are known to God and as his child, we are important and significant.

The words of David in Psalm 139 reinforce this reality: "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful." (vv. 1 & 14) God has created us and knows all about us. When we come to him by faith in His Son, we become his child and are placed in his care. We are important and significant because of what he does for his children and because of our relationship with him. In His eyes, most certainly we are not a zero.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 16, 2017

I was watching a baseball game on TV the other day when the camera fixed on a young boy attempting to open a clear plastic bag that contained cotton candy. After a great deal of effort, he was successful in his efforts. With apologies to all of you cotton candy lovers, I just wouldn't have expended the energy. I fall into the category of those who wonder why cotton candy exists.

If there was ever something that is actually nothing, cotton candy is just that. When you look at it, it looks so delightful, so delicious, so delectable. Then, when you start chomping down on that big mound of colorful fluff, that is exactly what you get - a big mound of colorful fluff and little else. Yet, it still proves to be a staple at amusement parks, fairs, and festivals. When you get it, you really don't get much. It just doesn't offer a lot in spite of its attractive appearance.

We are searching for something in life, in spite of what we might think. We have a longing within us that wants to be satisfied. There is so much "cotton candy" out there that looks good but really doesn't satisfy our hunger.

Christ speaks to this issue of spiritual hunger in the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5:6, we hear Christ saying, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." We have an inner hunger, an inner thirst, that can only be satisfied by that which Christ provides. He tells us in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

We have a spiritual longing, a spiritual hunger and thirst that only Christ can satisfy. Don't pursue the cotton candy of the world. Look no farther than what you see in Christ. He will take care of your needs. He will give you joy that will be more than just a sugar high. Why settle for nothing when you can have Christ?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 15, 2017

One of the summer jobs I had as I was going through college was working for the Ohio Department of Transportation as a construction inspector apprentice. This title was really more glorified than the actual job, but I was there to make money for college, not for the position. One summer I was working on a bridge replacement project on OH 93 north of Ironton. The actual inspector on the project told me he was going to be gone for a few days and would leave me in charge. Now, this wasn t actually as daunting as it sounds either, especially since other inspectors on nearby jobs were there to look in on me. It did mean that I would have the use of an official vehicle as my boss left me his truck.

This sort of went to my head. Remember, I was still just a kid. Having an official vehicle meant that I could legally make turns on the four-lane at those places that are marked "Authorized Vehicles Only." There was another construction project nearby with a barricade and a sign that read "Road Closed - no traffic." Well, I could ignore the barricade and drive up to where work was being done. I thought it was cool that I had access where others didn't (remember, I was just a kid).

In the Old Testament, we read that there was a time when direct access to God was limited. Folks who wished to approach God had to do so through a priestly system. And even the priests were limited. The priests could go daily into the Holy Place in the tabernacle and later the temple, but only certain priests and at certain times for specific reasons. In the tabernacle and later in the temple, there was a large curtain that separated the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only once a year on the Day of Atonement could the high priest enter the Most Holy Place through the curtain to offer sacrifices. Leviticus 16:2 says, "Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die." (Leviticus 16:2)

When Christ died, that curtain was supernaturally ripped in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:38 tells us, "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The barrier between God and humankind was destroyed forever by the death of Christ. All who come to the Father through the gift of his Son have free access to God at any time. We do not give this much thought as this is the way it has always been for us, but our free access to the Father should not be taken for granted as the cost of our freedom was high. Hebrews 4:16 describes this wonderful privilege, "Let us then approach God s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Now, I can go to the Father whenever I want, and I don t even have to be driving a state truck.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 14, 2017

My daughter Stephanie and her family live on a road that is often used as a "bypass" by drivers seeking a shorter, quicker route from one main traffic artery to another. This makes for some congestion for them at times, and they also use great caution when they are exiting their driveway because of the speeding vehicles. This is an inconvenience, but you can't really fault the travelers for their attempt to get to where they need to be in an efficient way. Taking a bypass is not a bad idea, unless you are doing something that is actually illegal. When you are taking a bypass that causes you to do something you shouldn't, that is not a good thing.

Sometimes we try to take a "bypass" in our walk with the Lord. In Malachi God addresses some folks who were trying to bypass God's design for their worship. God said to them, "'A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?' says the Lord Almighty. 'It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' By offering defiled food on my altar. But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible.'" (Malachi 1:6-7) They were in error because they were trying to bypass God through offering sacrifices that were readily available but didn't meet God's requirements.

We don't worry about offering sacrifices in our age of grace, but we can still be just as guilty of trying to take a "bypass" in following God when we fail to live in a way that brings respect to his name. When we fail to honor him by not following his righteous design for our lives, we are guilty of taking an improper bypass. Leave the bypass for when you are running late getting to work or something let your life reflect the full route of God's design.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 13, 2017

Years ago I was watching a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers were losing big time when they called for a timeout early in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was still playing for the Lakers and was the best player on the team at that time; however, his performance had been less than stellar for much of the game. After the timeout, Kobe went on a tear and started scoring seemingly at will. The Lakers won the game. What happened? They recorded the comments made in the Laker's huddle during that timeout. Coach Phil Jackson said to Kobe, "Kobe, you need to activate the ball more. You need to shoot the ball. You need to do some scoring."

Now, one would think Kobe would know that. He played basketball ever since he could tie his own shoelaces. Surely he knows that in order to win the game, you need to score points. As one of the leading scorers in the league at that time, he knew how to make points. So what is with this advice? Well, it worked, because Kobe started doing some scoring.

An observation I made from this is that you are never so good at something that you wouldn't benefit from some good coaching. Every now and then, you need to be reminded of what needs to be done in order to accomplish a goal you are pursuing. Coaching can be really helpful to keep one on track and focused on the task, or tasks, at hand.

God wants us to remember this as well. He is always available to provide us with the coaching we need to keep on track and remind us of what we should be doing. Even though we may have been followers of Christ for a long period of time we can benefit from good coaching. Of course, no amount of coaching will help if we aren't willing to listen. Phil Jackson must have "had Kobe's ear," because Kobe followed his advice and changed his performance.

We need to listen to God and when we do, we will change our behavior in order to enhance our performance. Proverbs 19:20-21 reminds us, "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." When his purpose prevails, we know we will do better. Listen to your Coach!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 11, 2017

I was driving home to Illinois from Ohio yesterday when I encountered a mixmaster in Indianapolis. Well, at least this is what I call them. You know - one of those areas where you ve got lanes of traffic going every which way and highway stacked upon highway. This one is located at the intersection of I 465 and I 65 on the south side of Indy.

They just can't seem to get that highway right there because it is perpetually under construction. I have traveled that way for years and it seems that just as soon as they get one upgrade done to the traffic pattern, they start another one. I'm not complaining - I've written before on the necessity of road upgrades - I just find it interesting.

Anyway, when you are in the middle of that muddle, it is fascinating - cars are going a gazillion directions, changing lanes with reckless abandon, passing each other like crazy, and heading in more than one direction at the same time. Sound confusing? Yep, it is.

Now, I really don't mind the craziness. I have never been bothered driving in traffic and I like to join in the melee. This time as I was going through the "mixmaster," I had a couple of thoughts. My first thought was, "Do these people actually know where they are going?" A second thought was, "You know, this is really a picture of humankind without the guidance of Christ." I thought of Isaiah 53:5a, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way." Yes we have. And if we want to make sure we are headed in the right direction in our lives, we need to follow Christ.

Christ wants to help us with the confusion in our lives, and he wants us to follow him so that we might experience eternal life. That is why "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5b) The way to keep from getting in the middle of a muddle is to let Christ lead you. The way to know you have eternal life is by following the path Christ has made for you.

Mixmasters may be fun to drive through when you are heading home from vacation, or whatever, but we need to avoid the mixmaster of life by letting Christ be the Master of our lives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 10, 2017

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the church I attended while growing up in southern Ohio. I have this opportunity every now and then, and it was a great experience being there with my two brothers along with others I knew from my younger days. I have so many great memories in that church. I was baptized there many years ago. I delivered my first message there 47 years ago. Last night was actually the anniversary of this experience.

Yesterday evening was a great time. A good friend of mine, Steve Cook, was speaking. Other good friends, Paul and Kathy Dennin, provided a couple of special songs. Paul was a member of the group, along with Steve and my brothers, with whom I used to sing. The church pastor, Jim Beals, invited us all to sing a song together. Our drums and guitars were absent, but Kathy accompanied us on the piano as we sang a song we have never performed together before, The Love of God. The evening was a marvelous time of worship of God, and for me, a great time of returning to my roots.

Returning to your roots upon occasion is a good idea. Now, I know the past can be a tricky thing. I have written about this before. We shouldn t dwell in the past because we need to experience the present and look to the future to grow as individuals, groups, organizations, and certainly churches. There are some negative experiences in our past that are better left in the past. Still, reflecting on positive experiences we have had and returning to our roots can bring good effects. There are things we experience that we do need to carry forward. Often, we need to be reminded of values and lessons that should be carried forward. We need to be reminded of times we experienced the provision of God and how he has been operative in our lives. We need to carry forward the strength we have obtained through positive past experiences and even positive additions acquired through negative circumstances. Times of reflection on our past can bring about healing, strengthening, and encouragement as well as allowing a time to re-focus if we are facing a present struggle that is causing a great deal of consternation.

Yes, the past can be a tricky thing, but returning to your roots also can be a useful tool to bring enjoyment, enlightenment, and encouragement to the present. Psalm 143:5 says, Remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. Remembrance and reflection can be a rewarding exercise if we allow this to help us walk towards what is ahead rather than stopping us in our tracks.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 09, 2017

The apostle Paul spoke many times of the wonders of heaven. He knew he had work to do here on earth, but he longed for his heavenly home. It is no wonder that he longed for heaven in the way he did as he was privileged to be given a glimpse of heaven's wonders. We read Paul's description of his experience in II Corinthians 12:2-6, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say." Paul was keenly aware that the only reason he had this experience, and the only reason he had the hope he would be going there to stay at some future time was the amazing grace of God. "For by grace we are saved. . ." he writes in Ephesians 2:8.

Another individual who had this same awareness was John Newton. Newton wrote that among the surprises that await us in heaven will be three astonishing ones. The converted slave-dealer, who wrote the universally loved hymn "Amazing Grace," perceptively foresaw what every sinner will feel who has been redeemed by Christ's atoning sacrifice. He wrote, "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there!" Isn't that so true? Paul and Newton both understood the only reason for their presence in heaven was the Amazing Grace of God!

Don't ever lose sight of this truth. We need to be grateful for God's grace, and the hope we have because of God's grace. Paul gave us a glimpse of heaven; Newton gave us a perspective about heaven; God gives us his grace as a means of entering heaven. Give thanks to God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 08, 2017

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

God is at work in us to do what is necessary to make us what he wants us to be. He will continue to work within us, shaping and re-shaping, producing his likeness in our lives. We need to cooperate in this process by obeying him, trusting him, and allowing him to perform his maintenance in our lives. Paul writes, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8)

God is building withiin you in a positive way. He will never do anything to bring you harm. He wants to shape you into a person that reflects his character for his glory. Let him continue the construction.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 07, 2017

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

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

We need to remember that though we are living on earth, our home lies elsewhere. Regardless of where we are spatially, as followers of Christ, home is somewhere else spiritually. Let's live as citizens of the land where we will be, not the land where we are.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thurday July 06, 2017

Have you ever bought a "refurbished" product? This is an item that for some reason has been sent back to the manufacturer. The product is repaired and then resold as refurbished. This can be a good deal, but of course, the item is not new. To make the item new, you would have to start from scratch.

This is what Christ does with us when we accept his gift. He does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 05, 2017

I have always enjoyed reunions, especially family reunions, whether of the "formal" or "informal" variety. Having moved from my home area along with my wife 37 years ago, these times of getting together with family and friends have proved precious over the years. These experiences allowed us to catch up with our family and friends, or simply to just spend time with family and friends, and enjoy each other's presence. The biggest down side to these events is that they didn't last. There was always a time when goodbye had to be said, and we would return home.

One of the great things about our experience in heaven is that when the gathering has been joined, it will not ever be dismissed. That will be one of the truly marvelous things about heaven. I cannot help but think that our time in heaven will be spent with loved ones and people with whom we will share stories and share our lives.

John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) This verse describes what takes place in this life, and is something that will continue to take place in our lives in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. I know I will enjoy that reunion.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 04, 2017

Today we celebrate liberty. We use this date as the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that stated we no longer wanted to be ruled by England. England didn't like this, and the skirmish that had already started escalated into all-out war. The Colonists prevailed and became the United States of America. It is good we have this holiday, and I hope we use it as a time of reflection and celebration of an absolutely incredible event. That colonial uprising led to the establishment of a country that would eventually become the most powerful political force on the planet. Of course, with this position comes great responsibility. That is the way it is with liberty - we must realize liberty comes at a price and to truly enjoy liberty we must understand the responsibility that comes with that liberty.

Patrick Henry understood the significance of liberty when he said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." He knew liberty came at a price, and came with responsibility. As citizens of the United States, let us never forget this, and let us never forget this as citizens of the Kingdom of God. John 8:32 says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Be glad for the liberty you have in Christ. Remember your freedom came with a price, and remember your responsibility in light of God's provision.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 03, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 02, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 01, 2017

Karl Barth was a German pastor, teacher, and theologian who ran afoul of Hitler during WWII. He was exiled to Switzerland for his stand. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 01, 2017

Karl Barth was a German pastor, teacher, and theologian who ran afoul of Hitler during WWII. He was exiled to Switzerland for his stand. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 30, 2017

I will never forget my driver's ed instructor and his tips on how to parallel park a car. He led me through a number of steps that I still use to pull my vehicle in an available space. I even used the tips to parallel park a 22-foot bobtail truck in downtown Dallas when I worked there several years ago.

As I think about parking cars, I recall a statement I have heard, "God cannot steer a parked car." I am not sure where this statement originated. It is a well-meaning attempt to motivate followers of Christ into action. We do need to be active in our walk with the Lord, but there are times when we need to park it. There are times in our lives when God wants us to stop and listen rather than run and do.

We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture. There are times when the cloud leading the people of Israel stopped and let the folks stay in one place for a while. "At the Lord s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord s order and did not set out." (Numbers 9:18-19) We see example after example in the Scripture of God's people being put in a position where all they could do was wait. Even Christ spent times of waiting, talking with his Father, rather than moving among the people to teach and to heal. Christ often withdrew to solitary places and "parked it" for a time. Luke 4:42 tells us, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place."

Yes, we need to be active as Christ's followers, but there are times we need to stop and wait for his direction. There are many reasons for down times, and we should not be afraid of waiting. Psalm 27:14 reminds us to "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart." Learn how to park!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 29, 2017

Years ago at a conference of Christian leaders, a discussion was held about the question of what makes Christianity distinct from other world religions. Was it the belief in resurrection? No, other religions have this in their doctrine. What about the idea that God became man? No - other religions have this belief as well. C.S. Lewis came late to the debate. "What are you discussing?" he asked. When told the question at the center of the talks, he said, "Oh, that's easy - it is grace!"

Lewis was right. Grace is a concept unique to Christianity. No other world view teaches that man can be totally accepted despite his sin, that he is accepted through no merit of his own, that he is forgiven simply because of God's desire, and that we receive the hope of eternal life through what God has done for us not what we do for God. This is the grace message of Christianity.

Grace is what makes Christianity distinctive. Grace is what makes Christianity genuine. Grace should motivate us to proclaim God's message to others. Paul writes about this in Titus 3:4-5, "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit." This is grace, the distinctive of Christianity, because of our loving God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 28, 2017

A recent television commercial features a large group of people along with a spokesman all standing before two large boards with the headings "Past" and "Future". The spokesman asks the crowd to begin hanging small cards on which they have written events of either a positive or negative nature. The cards are color-coded to reflect either a positive or negative event. The participants placed the cards on either the "past" board if the situation already had taken place or on the "future" board if they anticipated its occurrence. What materialized was the formation of one board that was roughly half and half in color, and another board that was predominantly a single color. How do you think this came out?

The board reflecting "past" events was roughly 50-50 in color, while the "future" board was almost a single color the color representing positive. The spokesman said, "This little experiment shows that while we tend to have a positive outlook toward events in our lives, reality demonstrates that we need to expect negative experiences. We need to plan for almost anything."

Truer words have never been spoken. We should have a positive outlook for future events, but we need to be prepared. Experience shows that bad things happen. This commercial was for insurance, and while I think insurance is a good idea, I want you to think even a little bit farther and deeper.

Knowing the reality of experiences, we should not be surprised by bad things when bad things occur. We should progress in a positive way, but with a realistic outlook, and a strong faith in a God who provides. He will always be there for us no matter what takes place. We find this promise in one of my favorite psalms, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." (Psalm 46:1-3) We can proceed confidently knowing that whatever we encounter, we will not be alone.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 27, 2017

What of your deeds do you think will be remembered after you are gone? Frank Eliscu was a sculptor. Some of you may recognize his name. He did the "Cascade of Books" outside the Library of Congress and the Presidential Eagle in the White House. However, he is probably best known for another piece that was his first commission done when he was only 22 - the Heisman Trophy. This was not his personal favorite of all his works, but he had to acknowledge this work as the one for which he is best known.

Most of us would like to make some mark on life. For what do you wish to be remembered? It may not be some grandiose accomplishment for which you will be remembered, but some small, simple act of kindness that leaves an impression.

Consider Christ's friend, Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Mary is best remembered for the anointing of Christ not long before his death. It was a selfless, spontaneous act that was met with some criticism. However, Christ said, "I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (Mark 14:9) The thing is, she really wasn't looking for "immortality" in this act, but what she did proved to be memorable.

We don't need to walk around thinking "I wonder if I will be remembered for this?" However, we should be always looking for ways to exalt our Savior and help others. If some act brings us "immortality" so be it. Live to do good for Christ and for others here and now. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 26, 2017

An illusion is a distorted perception of reality. In many scenarios, illusion is harmless. Magicians depend upon illusion for their routines to be entertaining. Sometimes, however, illusion can have more harmful effects. A mirage in a desert that makes one think he is heading towards water could be fatal. At night, lights and weather can create illusions that can have devastating results for drivers.

We can be trapped by an illusion in our spiritual lives as well. Sometimes there are things that do not appear harmful but are. For some reason, there are times that we do not see things as God sees them. Either we don't want to see the truth, or we have been duped by the Great Deceiver. We need to be aware of this, take steps to prevent it from happening, and do what we need to do to preserve reality.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Realize how we can be deceived. Remember we are prone to self-deception, and work to avoid the illusions that cause us to stray from following the path God wants us to follow. Leave illusion in the hands of magicians!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 26, 2017

An illusion is a distorted perception of reality. In many scenarios, illusion is harmless. Magicians depend upon illusion for their routines to be entertaining. Sometimes, however, illusion can have more harmful effects. A mirage in a desert that makes one think he is heading towards water could be fatal. At night, lights and weather can create illusions that can have devastating results for drivers.

We can be trapped by an illusion in our spiritual lives as well. Sometimes there are things that do not appear harmful but are. For some reason, there are times that we do not see things as God sees them. Either we don't want to see the truth, or we have been duped by the Great Deceiver. We need to be aware of this, take steps to prevent it from happening, and do what we need to do to preserve reality.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Realize how we can be deceived. Remember we are prone to self-deception, and work to avoid the illusions that cause us to stray from following the path God wants us to follow. Leave illusion in the hands of magicians!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 25, 2017

Many of you have heard of Stephen Hawking. He is a British theoretical physicist who is Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. In 1988 his book "A Brief History of Time" was published and has sold 10 million copies. This made him almost a household name. The TV show "Big Bang Theory" revived his fame through including him in some episodes. In 2014, "The Theory of Everything," a film of his relationship with his first wife Jane, was released to critical and popular acclaim. Because he has a form of ALS, Hawking is confined to a motorized chair and communicates with a voice generator.

It looks like I have some common ground with Stephen Hawking. No, I am not a genius theoretical physicist, although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Nah, I didn t do that either; however, I did read his book. But I digress. My idea that I have some "common ground" with Hawking comes from an internet article published this past week. According to the article in Newsweek, dated June 20, 2017, "Stephen Hawking has warned that Earth is under threat and repeated his belief that humans must leave in the next few centuries if we are to survive as a species." I agree with Dr. Hawking that the earth is under threat and that humans must leave this planet, but I don't think we have the same exit plan in mind. Hawking states that we need to find our own way off the planet through the development of interstellar travel. My idea of leaving comes through the reality that at some point, God is going to intervene in time and send his Son to change things.

According to I Thessalonians 4:16 - 18, "For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." These are comforting words for followers of Christ. Even if we die before the exit takes place, we have the assurance we will not be left out. These are words of certainty, not conjecture.

Hawking is a brilliant man - I cannot match intellects with him. But as brilliant as he is, the statements he made had the air of desperation, not determination. They were words of concern, not confidence. I will take determination and confidence over desperation and concern any day. These I can have through the hope Christ gives. We will leave earth sometime, not as a desperate attempt to survive, but as a delightful acquisition of a superior home.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 24, 2017
As a coach, Vince Lombardi won five NFL championships and two Super Bowls. He still holds the NFL record for most championships. He was a rock as a coach, and also as a player. Lombardi was one of the "Seven Blocks of Granite" for Fordham University during the 1930's. He was solid as a player and certainly solid as a coach.

Christ wants us to be solid, yet he knows we sometimes struggle. When I fail as a follower of Christ, I am comforted in knowing that Christ understands and is willing to forgive and restore when I come to him in sorrow and confess. He doesn't condone my behavior, but he certainly understands and stands ready to help when I come to him. He is good at this.

Consider how he dealt with someone he had called "a rock." Christ was the one who gave Simon, son of John, the name "Peter," which means "a rock." In John 1:42, we read "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which, when translated, is Peter)." Christ knew that this "rock" would have a crumbling experience later on and he would provide the necessary means to help that crumbling rock (see John 21). Christ knows us, and he will help us to be a rock even when we fail. He is willing to forgive and restore.

Maybe you don't feel too much like a rock right now. Maybe you are struggling with something. Christ will be there for you and will help you to remain solid. Follow him and remain strong!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 17, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 16, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 15, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 14, 2017

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

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

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

Poet William Henry Venable wrote about Johnny:

Remember Johnny Appleseed -

all ye who love the apple -

He served his kind by word and deed -

In God's grand greenwood chapel.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 09, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 08, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 06, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 05, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 04, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 03, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 02, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 31, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 30, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 19, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Mother s Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 11, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 10, 2017

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

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

When the job is finished the houses look absolutely marvelous and are usually sold for top dollar, or presented to the owners who are flabbergasted by the transformation.

God does this for us. Not with our houses, of course, but with our lives. God is able to do this for an individual. He is able to take a life that is broken down and wrecked and do an incredible job of renovation. God can do great things with a "fixer-upper." As Bill Gaither wrote, "Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion, he understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life." II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!" When God does flips, he never flops!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 09, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 08, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 07, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 06, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 05, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 04, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 03, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 02, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 01, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis

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 Oct 15th, 2017

Sun. Oct 15th
Sam Judd
5:45 PM
6:30 PM
Wed. Oct 18th
Cross Training
9:00 AM
Sat. Oct 21st
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Jamie Baltzell
Sun. Oct 15th
Mary Jean Fear - Hayden Borgic
Mon. Oct 16th
Lawrence Quick
Tue. Oct 17th
Ross Wolf
Wed. Oct 18th
Bob Massey
Sat. Oct 21st

Coming Events

Popcorn & A Movie
Oct 22 - 6 PM
Sing For Missions
Oct 29 - 6 PM
Trunk or Treat    5 - 7 PM
Oct 31

October Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
John Dryden Sr.
Eric Schmidt
Rein Schmidt
Brad Tarr
John Dryden Jr.
John Dryden Sr.

John Dryden Jr.
Mike Phillips
Grant White
Ray Diel

Special Music
Sam Judd
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Jolyn Bigard
Cheryl Earnest

Nursery Workers
Madonna Klier
Michelle Fulton
Debbie Diel
Marce Maxon
Pauline Phillips

Lawrence & Madonn Klier
Ray & Debbie Diel
Dave & Chris Hyatt
Sarah Kincade Family
Mark & Poodie Zumbahlen

Jr. Church
Bridgett, Becky, Anthea, Sarah
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
Ross, Jennifer, Ross, Lynn
Mark, Poodie, Jerod, Brooke
Tyler, Jacy, Jason, Michelle

Connie McCall & Gwen Quick

My Favorite Bible Verse

Beverly Brackett

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

Madonna Klier

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

Deloris Staley

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Steve Willis - Pastor

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

October 1, 2017

The fall harvest is getting cranked up now. Combines are filling the fields and getting filled up with grain. We have had dry conditions this year, so that has led to an unwanted consequence of combines catching fire. Now, this can happen at any time, but with things being so dry, this problem has been enhanced.

As I hear of this issue, I couldn't help but think of the old song, "Pass It On." The first odd thing about this is calling "Pass It On" old - but since it is over 50 years old, it qualifies as such. The second odd thing is where am I going with this? Well, as in "it only takes a spark to get a fire going" - that is what happens with the combines when things are really dry. Now, this is a negative view of a fire starting from a spark. Let me put forth a positive view, which is actually fits better with the message of the song. As in a little spark can start a big fire, a little effort can start a big movement.

This is the idea on which I would like to focus. To get something started, you need a little push. That is the way it is in a great deal of scenarios, and it is the way it is in the church. You need ideas, thoughts, sparks," as it were, and then those sparks need to be fanned into full-blown flames with the effort of others joining in on the idea. Once again, We are looking at the positive aspect of this analogy. When we say we need a fire in our church, we don't mean that literally. What we want is a movement of people choreographed together to bring about a positive result for the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:11 says, "Never let the ?re in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord." This is exactly what we need - keep the flames fanned and provide sparks for other efforts to bring glory to God and strength to the church. It only takes a spark to get a fire going - lets let the flames burn brightly.

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