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

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

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

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

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


Our Staff

Pastor
Dr. Steve Willis

Deacons

Sam White
John Dryden
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

Sunday April 23, 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
Saturday April 22, 2017

Frank Sinatra made a lot of money with his recording of "My Way" in 1969. After almost four decades of recording music, he found his signature song. The song was written specifically for him by Paul Anka upon Sinatra's revelation to Anka that "he was quitting the business." The song tells the story of a man who is nearing death and proudly proclaims he had lived his life "his way." It truly is a testimony to self-will and in one sense is inspiring, but in another sense, is a little dangerous. We need to be determined, decisive and directional in our lives, but we should never totally depend upon our own resources. If we leave God out of the planning, we are in for big trouble. We need to follow the advice of Proverbs 16:9. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Christ was very creative in how he taught his disciples the importance of going his way and not their own. Peter declared he would never forsake Christ. To this, Christ responded, "Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" (John 13:38) Christ allowed Peter the taste of failure in order to demonstrate the need to go Christ s way rather than follow his own thinking. Christ was telling Peter, "I want you to do it my way." Christ reminded Peter of this after the resurrection when Peter had returned to fishing - read John 21. You probably know how this played out Peter became a leader in the early church and was very effective in the ministry of Christ.

When I am tempted to do things "my way," I remind myself of these biblical incidents. Self-reliance and self-motivation are admirable and desirable traits, but they must be tempered with an understanding of our dependence upon Christ's leadership. What made for a great song is not always the best advice for our lives. We need to remember to live our lives "His Way."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 21, 2017

When I was in college a professor made a mistake posting the final grade I received in his class. I went to speak with him about the mistake, and was assured that all would be taken of. However, when I checked after a period of time, the grade had not been changed. I went to speak to the professor and was assured all would be well. To make a long story short, it took a couple of more trips to the professor and a trip to the dean of the college before action was taken to alleviate the situation. I remember the dean's comments, "Well, don't be too hard on the professor. He is a good teacher, but he sometimes isn't all that dependable." Ouch. And I found out later that the dean was a good friend of the professor. He was also honest.

Do people say that about you? One of the most important characteristics we should manifest as believers is faithfulness. People need to know they can depend on us. We should be faithful in our lives before others and before God. We should show our heavenly Father that we are someone on whom he can depend.

Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit that needs to be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). He also writes in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Christ spoke of the need for faithfulness on many occasions, one being his parable of the faithful servants in Luke 12:35 - 46.

Be faithful! Show that you are a person upon whom others depend! I have not forgotten that professor. Can you guess why? Is this how you would like to be remembered?

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 20, 2017

Today is my little grandson s first birthday. I can hardly believe it has been an entire year since we met Cullen James for the first time at that hospital in southern Ohio. Man, what a day! He was so beautiful even his big sister thought so! Funny thing he is still beautiful but, guess what? He doesn t really look much like he did a year ago. He is a good bit bigger, can eat solid food, is almost walking, and really interacts with you when you talk to him. Let me say again, though, he is still beautiful.

Of course, the differences in how he looks and what he does from a year ago is as it should be. If, after a year, he had not grown, had not developed in his motor skills, and had not changed in his appearance, my kids would have been doing some investigating to see what was going on. His growth and development are changes that should have taken place.

Even as growth and change are normal in our physical lives, there should be growth and development in our spiritual lives. When there isn t, it is an indication of problems that need to be investigated and changes made. Paul discusses this issue in I Corinthians, Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (3:1-2)

Why do we have this problem? Are we afraid we won t be beautiful anymore or something? Our focus should be our growth in God leave the beauty part up to him. We should be concerned that we are progressing the way we should. Even as there is evidence we are growing physically, there should be changes evident in our spiritual lives that show our movement towards maturity. Are they there?

By the way, my one-year-old grandson is still beautiful. Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 19, 2017

The headlines read, "Errant Golf Shot Saves Man's Life." How could taking a golf ball off the side of your head save your life? Well, when Chris Logan went to the hospital to get checked out after being hit in the head by an errant shot from the driver of PGA tour professional Sean O'Hair, doctors found more than what they expected. Actually, Logan was not seriously injured by the golf ball that hit him in the right temple, but he could be killed by what was found lurking in his neck - a malignant thyroid tumor. The tumor was removed within weeks after being discovered and, one year later, Logan is doing well. The only problem now for Logan is taking a ribbing from fellow caddies who kid him about being struck down by what he had spent countless hours trying to avoid.

Being hit in the head by a golf ball is not good, but having one's life saved as a result of that "accident" is really good. I know some of you reading this could add your story about how an accident or a bad event led to a beneficial discovery. I know personally at least three individuals with stories similar to Logan's. We need to try to keep these incidents in mind when we experience bad situations. I realize not every bad experience may have this type of "silver lining," but many do. Sometimes the positive that can come out of a negative occurrence might not be so obvious. In addition, what we can learn or how we can benefit from a bad circumstance may not be evident right away. We need to keep this in mind when we are going through a difficult time. Try to hold on the perspective that what we are experiencing is going to lead to a positive outcome.

Despite all the advice otherwise, Job held on to this belief through his ordeal. He continued to exercise faith in God and kept in mind that the outcome of his trial was in God's hands. He said, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job19:25-27)

When faced with a difficult trial, continue to trust God for the outcome and realize what you are experiencing can lead to a greater good, even if that greater good is not readily apparent. A golf ball to the head was not a good thing, but Chris Logan certainly was glad he was "beaned."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 18, 2017

What do you want to do for the Lord today? Many of you may be saying, "Well, I really haven't given that much thought." Therein lies the problem. Often we spend way too much time on trivial pursuits and not enough time on really important considerations.

In an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Debra confronts Raymond about his lack of desire to do something worthwhile. One of her statements is, "You said the church carnival really wasn't your thing because you didn't think the Lord wanted you to try to fleece other people for money." Her complaint is that he really didn't want to do anything.

We are often like that in our service for God. We have a number of excuses and reasons why we aren't doing anything. We want to do what we want to do and are not concerned about what God wants us to do. We have "Raymond excuses" and I really don't think God wants to hear them. This is not right, and it is an attitude that needs to be eliminated.

Moses tried this - he had "Raymond" excuses when it came to doing what God wanted him to do. We read in Exodus 3:13-14, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" God eventually said to Moses, in effect, "Quit making excuses and do what you know you should!" He says that to us as well. We need to quit making excuses and do what we know we should.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 17, 2017

Many years ago Habbakuk asked a question that still sounds so relevant for today, How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, Violence! but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds (1:2-3). Have you ever asked this question of God? Why does it seem that he tolerates wrongdoing why doesn t he do something about the evils that exist in the world? From our perspective, this seems like a logical question.

What we need to do is to back up from this question and put our understanding of God in perspective. For one thing, we really don t know how much God is actually restraining evil. We sometimes have the mistaken notion that the world is really as evil as it could be. That is really not accurate. As bad as the world is, it would be so much worse without the restraining power of the Holy Spirit.

Another aspect we need to remember is that God will deal with evil all that evil has done will be undone by our just God. In the last chapter of Habakkuk, God s intervention is assured He will right all that is wrong. He is not incapable, unwilling or impotent to do this, he is just operating according to his sovereign timetable, which is best. Habakkuk comes to the place where he affirms his trust in God regardless of whether something is going to happen or not, although he knows it will. He says in 3:17-18, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

We can be joyful because we know that the judge of all the earth will do right. It only seems like evil is winning but that is not the case. God cannot be defeated or frustrated. He will set things right.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 16, 2017

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ one of the most debated incidents in history. Many have written against it because, well, how can someone who is dead come back to life? I can understand their skepticism. Now, I didn t say I agree with their skepticism, I said I can understand it. We are talking about an impossible thing here, aren t we? How can a dead person come to life? From a human standpoint it is indeed an impossible thing, but we know that God is good at making the impossible possible. No less an authority than Gabriel proclaimed to the mother of Jesus, For with God nothing shall be impossible, (Luke 1:37)

On April 5, AD 33, the impossible took place. Christ rose from the dead, bringing hope for all who follow him (I Corinthians 15:21). He lives today to intercede for his followers (Romans 8:34). Many skeptics have written to disprove this reality. And what is interesting is that a number of scholars who set out to disprove the Resurrection have changed their minds because of their findings.

Frank Morison ( Who Moved the Stone? ), Josh McDowell ( Evidence that Demands a Verdict ), and Lee Strobel ( The Case for Christ ) are all people who started out to show the impossibility of the Resurrection and ended up believing the possible. I understand that Strobel s book has been made into a movie that was recently released. Now, this isn t an ad for the movie as I have not seen it, but I have read the book and it is a good read. Strobel, a former legal writer for the Chicago Tribune chronicles his experience of accepting the impossible as possible, and makes a great case for the reality of Christ.

I must confess, I did not need any convincing when it comes to the Resurrection. But for those who do the Bible stands as the statement of what happened, and Strobel and others offer good commentary on the reality of Scripture. I hope you express celebration, and not cynicism, when it comes to the reality of the Resurrection. It happened because of the existence of God who is good at making what seems to be impossible possible.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 15, 2017

Today is the interim day in the Resurrection Story. Yesterday was the day of his death, tomorrow will be the day he is raised to life. Have you ever wondered why the duration of three days was chosen for Christ's work of redemption to be accomplished? This is an interesting question, but one for which there seems to be no definitive answer.

There are no references in the Old Testament that can be taken as direct statements about the three days in the tomb, but there are a number of allusions that can be related to this event. In a story closely tied to Christ s crucifixion, Abraham and Isaac arrived at the mountain where Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac, but was spared from this through God's provision of a ram, on the third day (Genesis 22:4). Hosea 6:2 tells us, on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Then, of course, Christ used the story of Jonah s three-day stay in a fish to describe his yet-future experience, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) All of these are simply statements of, not reasons for, the three days.

Although our discussions about the reasons for three days may not yield any results, the REASON for the three days is abundantly clear we had a problem we could not handle on our own. Christ took care of the problem of our sinfulness by giving his life, being buried in a tomb, and then breaking out of the tomb. Paul wrote, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:3-4)

I know God chose this time period for more reasons that to just supply a name for a good Christian band, but he didn t reveal the reasoning to us. What he did reveal was a marvelous plan for our redemption that was accomplished in a three-day period about 2,000 years ago. I am grateful for that.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 14, 2017

Are there things you use in your life, perhaps at home, at work, or at other times, that you really don't have a clear understanding as to how they work? I am sure that if you thought for just a few moments, you could come up with quite a list. For one thing, I am not sure exactly how the color printer that is attached to this computer works. I mean, I put text, pictures and graphics on a project that is on the screen, hit the print control, and out pops a printed project with all the right colors where they should be, text where it should be, and so forth. Now, I understand fundamentally that ink is sprayed on the page in just the right amounts and colors to produce the project, but exactly how does the printer know all the right information? That I don t understand. However, this doesn t keep me from using the printer for things I need to produce!

Many folks don t follow the Lord because they say they don t understand how what the Bible says could be true. They don t understand the miracles, the Resurrection, or Christ s teachings about heaven and hell. And they use their inability to understand as a barrier to following Christ.

I don t mean to sound too simplistic here, but I do think there is a simple answer - there are many things we don t understand and yet our lack of understanding does not hinder the benefit we receive from what we don t understand. Case in point: the illustration I used above. Ecclesiastes 11:5 tells us, As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. God s Word tells us there are many things about God we do not, and actually cannot, understand. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."

Don t let your inability to understand all you think you need to understand about the Lord stand as a barrier between you and the Lord. There are many things in life we don t fully understand. There are many times we put our trust in things we don t fully understand. So, what is keeping you from fully trusting God?

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 13, 2017

Lemon cake with raspberries - doesn't that sound delicious? Some of you may be saying, "Well, I don't know about that. How can lemon and raspberries taste good together?" To those who may be skeptical about this delectable dessert, I would say, "Don't knock it until you try it." Even though there is a great difference in the tastes of lemons and raspberries on their own, when you put them together in the right amounts and add other key ingredients, they make for pleasure for the taste buds.

I cannot help but think of the church when I think of this. The church is made of different people from different backgrounds. When you put those people together with the proper ingredients that God supplies of love, compassion, and forgiveness, there can be some wonderful results. God is what makes the church work through the power of redemption and the cohesive ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Christ prayed for this unity before he left the world, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (John 17:20-21) God is good at combining what doesn't seem to really go together. Let's cooperate with him in the effort.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 12, 2017

A newspaper ad for a new model of Jaguar stated, "Once again envy will be standard equipment." It may not be wrong to own a Jaguar, but if my neighbor has one and I am overly envious of him, this is a problem. According to the apostle Paul, envy is a problem of the highest order. (Galatians 5:19-21) Envy motivated Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Acts 7); Envy fueled the fires of those who wanted to destroy Christ (Mark 15); Envy led Paul's opponents in Thessalonica to incite a riot (Acts 17).

Envy left unchecked can lead to actions that are negative in intent and destructive in nature. We need to recognize envy in our lives and remove it from our hearts. Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Don't let envy be standard equipment in your life. Don t chase the wind. Control this attitude that can lead to bad consequences.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 11, 2017

Many years ago I drove by a grain elevator with a friend who was visiting from another country. There had been an abundant harvest that year, and the elevator was having to pile up the excess grain on the ground and cover it as best they could with large tarps. My friend asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, I wish I could have that in my country."

We do live in a country of abundance and often what we simply view as normal with regard to what we have and what we possess would be thought of as great wealth in other areas of the world. We who have been entrusted with so much, even though we may not consider it a great abundance, should be willing to share what we have with those who don't have.

Paul told Timothy what he should tell the people at Ephesus, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (I Timothy 6:17-18)

We need to be willing to share. Those who have an abundance have been given a great responsibility. Handling riches requires great wisdom. Share what you have with those who don't have.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 10, 2017

Oh, wow, did I ever have a great time yesterday morning as I was able to be with my church family and celebrate the goodness of God. I know this may sound funny coming from a pastor, but I really didn t know how much I actually missed being with them until I was back with them. There is so much we miss from personal contact with others when we are not with them. I know that is why the writer to the Hebrews said, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I don t care how electronically advanced we are, there is no substitute for personal, face-to-face contact. We can do so much electronically I even attend meetings now via my cell phone, but this is still no replacement for being with others and talking "the way God intended for us to do."

However advanced you may become in the world of technology, don't ever use these advancements as reasons for not being with others when it comes to celebrating our Savior in worship. Actually, don't use anything else as an excuse for joining with others on a regular basis for a "live" experience. God is "live" and "in concert", and we need to celebrate Him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 09, 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 April 08, 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. A desire for praise detracts from the spirit of service. We should do things for the Lord.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 07, 2017

I have been watching the opening round of The Masters on TV. I got back from the doctor today and I would watch some of the coverage. By the way, got a good report from the doctor, which is always nice. Anyway, I really like the game of golf. I miss playing golf haven t been able to play for a while. I was never very good, but it was always fun. I also have always enjoyed watching the pros play. I knew I would never be able to be quite on their level, but it is always fun watching them pull of great shots. In addition, when you watch them, you get some pointers to help you play better.

That is the way it is in most endeavors. If you want to become better at something, you spend time with others who are good at what you would like to do so you can learn the craft, or the trade, or the technique, or whatever. This is true in golf, and is also true in just about every endeavor in life.

You teachers out there did you just walk into a classroom and start teaching? How about those of you who work on cars? Would you want hire someone to build a house for you who says, You know, I haven t done this before but I have always wanted to build a house. I can just learn as I go. One of the greatest things my surgeon said to me a couple weeks ago before he worked on my leg was, I have done this many times before = I have learned the technique from the best and I ve done it myself.

When we want to learn to do something, we spend time with others who have done it before so we can get the skill ourselves. We usually agree that this is what we should do and how it is done. We need to agree that this is also true in our spiritual development. The smartest thing we can do is to make sure we put ourselves in places where we can learn from others who have spent time growing in their faith.

Paul spoke of this principle when he wrote, You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (II Timothy 2:2) Watching those who are good at golf and trying to learn from them is a great thing. Watching others who can help me be more like Christ is also a great thing. Hebrews 6:12 tells us, We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. This is a good way to please The Master.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 06, 2017

I have always found it so interesting to see whom Jesus used as role models. He used a "sinful woman" to demonstrate how we should love (Luke 7:47). When he wanted to show what faith should look like, he said about the faith of a pagan soldier, a centurion, " Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matthew 8:10) I would imagine this rattled a few cages. Children were used as examples of trust (Luke 7:47). So, whom did he use when he wanted to demonstrate true generosity? A destitute woman, of course!

Mark 12:41-44 gives us the story, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything all she had to live on.

Here Christ tells us what true sacrifice and true generosity is. True sacrifice is when you give to the point where you are dependent upon God for other necessities in your life. Not many of us have been to that point. Sheridan Voysey wrote "True sacrifice leaves us vulnerable, with our arms outstretched to God." This is the spirit in which we should give.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 05, 2017

I read an article not long ago about a supposed sighting of a three-foot-long shark in the Tennessee River in Alabama. While the veracity of this particular incident is in doubt, it is possible for a shark to be found in freshwater. Bull sharks have the ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater, and one was indeed found in Lake Michigan several years ago. Still, these incidents are few and far between.

Don't you wish crisis events were few and far between? It seems hardships and difficult experiences are abundant in our lives. We wish they were as rare as freshwater shark sightings, or maybe didn't even occur at all, but they do. This is why Peter wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4:12-13) Peter writes that we should not be surprised at hardships, that they are not strange events, and that we should rejoice as we participate in the hardships. All of these concepts are somewhat difficult to understand, but they are what should take place as we are confronted with circumstances that bring difficulty into our lives.

A bull shark in the Tennessee River may be a rare occurrence, but it is not an impossible occurrence. Difficulties in our lives are neither rare nor impossible, so they should not be surprising. They are part of our experience. Learn to trust God through these times and don't deny their reality.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 04, 2017

Do you like where you live? I mean, do you like the house in which you live? Some folks are just fine with where they live. Other folks are not satisfied with where they live - they want something better, something bigger, something flashier. If you ve lived where you lived for a while, you have probably done some redecorating, maybe even some remodeling. We also need to do repairs on our homes from time to time.

In the book of Exodus, God gave instructions to the Israelites for the tabernacle - the place where he would dwell. This tabernacle was made of the finest materials, it was made in a specific way. God s intention was to show his people that he wanted to dwell among them. He told the people in Exodus 25:9, Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

God wanted a house, not because he needed a house, but because he wanted to show all the people he wanted to be with them. And he always seemed to be happy with his house - it never wore out, despite all the travel and use. The problem was, the people did not always show God that they were happy he was there. That is a shame. In spite of this, God still showed that he wanted to be among them.

God still wants to live with us - but now he wants to live in us. For those of us who know him, we know that he lives within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19 tells us, What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

Do you suppose he ever gets tired or dissatisfied of where he lives? Do you suppose he is always happy with where he lives? I hope we make him feel welcome and always live in a way that shows we want him there. Make sure God likes where he lives!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 03, 2017

Because of my injury, I am unable to put any weight at all on my right leg. This is the way it will be for at least the next 6 weeks. There needs to be a time of healing because I pretty well did a number on myself when I fell 2 weeks ago. I even made that statement to my doctor after my diagnosis. I did a number on myself this time, didn t I? The doctor said, Yes, you have. So, what can I do? How in the world can I get around?

Well, you learn to compensate, and you learn to let other parts of your body take over for the injured limb. I have learned to use a walker and hop , keeping weight off my broken leg by using my arms and being very careful. Of course, long distances will require a wheel chair, but I still have to get in and out of the chair, I still have to get up and down from my chair and the bed. So, other parts of me help out.

This is not so different from other experiences in life, which has also come into play in my circumstance. I have had to depend on the help of my wife, Scherry, and others who have graciously stepped in and provided a shoulder to lean on figuratively and literally.

I have been so blessed by those who have been willing to step in and help. I am grateful that I can use other parts of me to compensate for that part of me that is not working well right now. When help is needed, we need to be willing to step up and step in to provide that help. This is true in general, and is certainly true in the church, whether we are speaking of a physical need, or someone in need of spiritual help. I need help from other parts of me to facilitate activities, provide protection, and allow for healing.

Paul speaks of this when he writes, Carry one another s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) What are you doing to help others out, whether it be a need for physical assistance, or some spiritual intervention? Sometimes folks find themselves not able to bear the weight what are you doing to help carry the burden? Reaching out fulfills the law of Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 02, 2017

I am sure you have heard of the horrific crash in Concan, Texas, that claimed the lives of 13 folks from the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels. A driver of a pick-up truck was texting while driving and ran head-on into a church bus carrying some senior adults returning from a church retreat. The driver was operating the truck erratically because of the distraction and had even been reported by a motorist who was following him. The report came too late for the occupants of the church bus. These terrible consequences took place all because of a distraction.

Distractions can lead to devastating consequences in many situations. The problem of cell phone distractions has been recognized and addressed on a number of levels. This is a real problem that should be confronted.

Distractions occur at other levels as well. Many are distracted from following the truth of Christ because of the voices that call their attention to other areas. Many of us who follow Christ can find ourselves distracted if we fail to focus on what is important. These distractions can come from within ourselves when we focus too much on us. They come from without through many sources.

On the one hand, we may find it difficult to compare the consequences with the tragedy in Texas, yet when we are speaking of our spiritual lives we know we are speaking of things with eternal consequence. Don t let the wrong things distract you. Paul wrote, I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord. (I Corinthians 7:35) Don t drive while distracted, and don t follow Christ while distracted.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 01, 2017

Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: "I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a child, and trust." When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the frig. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 31, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 30, 2017

We need more than "bumper sticker" Christianity. It may be popular to have bumper stickers on our cars that reflect Christian messages, or to have a "fish" symbol emblazoned on our license plate that shows our belief in Christ, but let's make sure that our actions and our conduct match our symbols. An article I read recently was written by person who related how he had been flashed a vulgar gesture by a person driving a car with a "Smile! Jesus loves you!" sticker. He had inadvertently cut off the driver in traffic and was given the sign of the driver's displeasure. Which spoke louder about the person's character - the sticker or the sign?

I am not against the use of symbols to portray our faith; let's just make sure that our actions back up our logos and our words. Our character should govern our actions and responses. If you truly wish to make your convictions known, live your convictions. In answering critics to his behavior, Paul wrote, "Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no'?" (II Corinthians 1:17) Paul wrote this to show how important it is for our actions to match our words.

Our actions should match any visible indications of our stand with Christ. If they don't, then our attempts to demonstrate the importance of Christ are in vain.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 29, 2017

Karl Barth was exiled to Switzerland during World War II. 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, and ignore those who don't. 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." He doesn't need man's belief to confirm his existence, but he does reward those who truly believe.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 28, 2017

All of our lives we have had to be ready for something. As kids we prepare for meals by washing our hands, prepare for bed by brushing our teeth, and prepare for school by getting homework done and laying our clothes. As adults, we prepare for work, meetings, appointments, arrival of guests, and many other things. Scherry and I just returned from a visit with family in Ohio. Knowing this was approaching, we prepared to leave. Then, as the time for our visit to end was drawing closer, we prepared for our return. Much of our lives is spent preparing for something that is going to happen.

As followers of Christ, we need to spend time preparing for his return. John writes, "we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:2-3) One of the most important things we can do as followers of Christ is to prepare for his coming. Doing so has a purifying effect on our lives as we concentrate on him and his provision and what our lives should reflect as we think of our relationship with him. As we think about the possibility of his return, let us examine our lives and prepare for this event. Preparing for coming events is part of our everyday lifestyle. Don't you think we should be preparing for what will be the most important event to ever take place? Prepare well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 27, 2017

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 26, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 25, 2017

I have always been fascinated by the story of Christ's baptism. There are so many wonderful aspects to this story. Luke records the presence of all three persons of the Trinity at the time of the baptism: "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22) Can you imagine being present at that baptism? Can you imagine what must have gone through the mind of John as he performed the baptism?

Of all the aspects of the baptism, one that catches me is the "passing the torch" theme. John said himself that the one who would follow him would be greater than he. He told his listeners he wasn't even worthy to loose Christ's sandals. The baptism almost said, "I now relinquish my ministry to Jesus. He is now in charge." Then Christ took up the ministry and did what he came to do.

I think we should look at our baptism from this perspective. We should view our baptism as an act of "passing the torch." Christ intended for us to "take over" the ministry he began. The question is: How are we doing? Are we doing what we need to do to continue the ministry of Christ? When Christ was preparing to depart, he told his disciples, "You shall be my witnesses." (Acts 1:8) That responsibility has been passed down to us. We may be 2000 years removed from the command, but it is just as binding on us as it was for those first century followers. How are we doing?

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 24, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 23, 2017

We have many questions about heaven - what will it be like? What will we do? What will we see and hear? Randy Alcorn in his book "Heaven" attempts to answer some of these questions and does a good job with remaining true to scriptural insight. Of course, we really will not know what it will be like until we experience heaven for ourselves.

Revelation 22 gives us some insight into what we will do. According to 22:3, we will serve the Lord in heaven, "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him." We don't know in what capacity, or exactly where, but we will be involved in service to our King. It may be on some distant star, but it seems our ability to travel will not be limited as it is now. Revelation 22:4 says something about what we will see, "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." We will be able to see Christ and others, and we will know others and be known (read I Corinthians 13:12). There will be no strangers there. Finally, Revelation 22:5 says that we will reign with him forever. We will be involved in the decision making process in some way, and in the governing of the order that exists.

We don't know exactly how all this will be or how it all will work out, but it sounds like we will be busy! And we do know that whatever will be involved, we will enjoy what we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednsday March 22, 2017

It has been said that there are three things people need to truly be happy - something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. When we apply these with a biblical perspective, we see how true this can be.

As believers, we certainly have something to do. There are always ways we can serve Christ and serve others. We have been given gifts to serve God and others and we should never forget the need of spreading the Word of God to others. We need to be telling others of God's great love. Besides, knowing what we should be doing and not doing it is a sin. "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) As believers, we do have others to love, and are loved by others. We have our family, and God wants us to promote and strengthen our family relationships. We should love God, and we are certainly loved by God. I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because he first loved us." As believers, we certainly have something to look forward to. I John 3:2 tells us, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Yes, I would say that we do have all we need to make us truly happy.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 21, 2017

In his book "Comeback," Dave Dravecky speaks of his struggle trying to find the higher purpose of God when he lost his left arm to cancer. Dravecky, a successful Major League pitcher, tells his story in this book of how he faced a diagnosis of cancer, underwent surgery and treatment, then returned to the game. The cancer came back and his arm was eventually amputated, thus ending his professional career.

Dravecky speaks to the idea that although it was a good thing that the pathologists had an arm with cancerous tissue to study after his loss, it would have been an ultimate cruelty for God to have intended for him to contract cancer just so he could provide an arm for study. His ultimate conclusion is that there are times we simply do not and cannot know the higher purposes of the God we serve, but we know we can continue to trust him through the circumstances that are bringing confusion to our lives.

Paul writes about the ways of God, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34) We cannot know the mind of God, but we can know that God's mind is always on us. He does not lose his focus when it comes to dealing with his children, even though we, as his children, often struggle with our focus because of what we experience. We know that God does not do things to be cruel, and we need to leave our lives his hands.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 20, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 19, 2017

Armand-Jean du Plessis, known better as Cardinal Richelieu, was the power behind the throne of King Louis XIII. He was a skilled political strategist that helped France become a major power in Europe. Some may consider him ruthless, he was nonetheless a powerful figure that did much good as well. According to some historians, one thing he did very well was express himself.

Richelieu could be quite gracious in his speech and had a way with words that allowed him to sound warm and accepting even when conveying bad news. According to one account, an individual sought a position from Richelieu knowing full well he would be told "no" simply to hear Richelieu's eloquent and gracious denial.

Something we need to consider is not just what we say but how we say it. It is possible to sound angry even when we are not. Our voice inflection can convey messages we really don't mean, but are communicated nonetheless because of how we speak.

Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." We need to not only watch what we say, but how we say things. We may not be like Richelieu and cause people to want to hear us even when we are telling them "NO!", but we can still be gracious with our words.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 18, 2017

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

Sometimes we have a problem with being forgiven and accepting God's forgiveness. Even though we know God forgives, there are times we struggle with allowing God's forgiveness to infiltrate our being and rid us of the guilt we feel for the sins we commit. We cannot undo the past, but when we receive God's forgiveness, we need to present him with the consequences and give this to him.

Psalm 32:2 tells us, "Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit." When God forgives us, we can live as forgiven people. When we are forgiven by God, fellowship is restored, and we can know we are his "dear friends."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 17, 2017

Are you wearing green today? If not, you are in danger of getting pinched. I am not sure where that custom entered into the things done on St. Patrick's Day, but it sits on the shelf all year, just waiting to be renewed on this day. It ranks right up there with turning the Chicago River green, or eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking something green. I have heard that the "pinch" originated in America in the 1700's. Wearing green supposedly makes you invisible to leprechauns, who have a penchant for pinching people (pardon the pun). The pinch is supposed to remind people of this.

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

These are pretty heavy ideals for a day usually marked with some lighter activity. St. Patrick manifested many godly traits in his life: forgiveness, love, patience, determination, singleness of purpose, and, above all else, a devotion to the Gospel. Sometimes it may not be easy to manifest these characteristics because of the difficulties we face on account of others. Perhaps we struggle with folks who make it difficult to display love, forgiveness, and patience. Go green when this is the case. Somehow Patrick found the strength to return to his captors and show them what they had not shown him. This was not easy, but Patrick understood, as should we, that the life to which Christ has called us has difficulties at times. Christ tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Pinch yourself today even if you are wearing green. Let this pinch remind you to focus on the character traits you should display as a follower of Christ, even if you have a struggle with your display. Follow the example of Patrick and, more importantly, follow the example of Christ. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 16, 2017

I was checking the weather on my computer yesterday and found this message on the weather site, Clouds are clearing today in Newton. Enjoy the sunshine! That is a great statement, isn t it? In fits and starts, the gray days of winter are giving over to the sunshine of spring. Yesterday was still pretty cold here, but the sunshine was great. Forecasters call the number of gray days a region can expect during the winter season "the gloom index." Some folks even experience seasonal affective disorder because of the gloomy days. What can we do when we experience a gloom index?

Consider the experiences of Paul and Silas in Philippi. You can read about this in Acts 16. They were roughed up when they healed a girl of a spirit that allowed her to see the future (vss.16-19); they were hauled before a court (vs. 20-21); they were stripped and beaten (vs. 22); they were thrown into prison and had their feet put in stocks (vss. 23-24). Any of these experiences could cause a significant "gloom index."; however, Paul and Silas didn't let these things put them "under the weather." After all of this, they sang!

Acts 16:25 25 tells us, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." They were able to rise above their circumstances and change their environment. They were able to do this because when the times were gloomy, they looked at the sunshine beyond the gloom. They knew that the clouds covering the sun were only temporary - the sun was still there, and it would indeed reappear. And their actions had an effect on others who were in jail with them.

We can rise above our circumstances and overcome the gloom by remembering the presence of the Son. He is still there for us even though his presence may be obscured by the clouds of our circumstances. Rely on his presence, focus on his provision, remember his promise, "Never will I will leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). As you focus on God s love and God s presence, you can overcome "the gloom index."

In 1944, Hale Reeves wrote: As along life s way you go, clouds may hide the light of day. Have no fear for child you know. Love will roll the clouds away. God is watching over all, and he hears each time we pray. So lift your voice in happy song, love will roll the clouds away. Love will roll the clouds away. Turn the darkness into day. I m so glad I now can say. Love will roll the clouds away.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 15, 2017

I really dislike stale vegetables - you know what I mean, vegetables that have been around a little too long and have lost their crispness, their flavor, and their freshness. Limp lettuce, celery, or carrots are just not good. They don't look good, taste good, or smell good. They have lost many of the characteristics that distinguish them as vegetables.

Unfortunately, this can happen in our spiritual lives. We can lose our crispness, our flavor, our freshness. We can lose many of the characteristics that distinguish us as Christians. When we allow bitterness, selfishness, or impatience to take over, or if we became critical of others, we obscure that which sets us apart as followers of Christ. Stale vegetables have little appeal. Stale Christians have little appeal as well.

We need to display the "fruits of the Spirit" in order to be appealing "vegetables." Paul speaks of these in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." As we focus on the fruit of the spirit, we find we can retain our freshness and appeal. In this way, we show the attractiveness of following Christ.

Shed your staleness - retain your appeal! We want to be fresh and appear fresh to show the fruit that comes from following Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 14, 2017

What kind of an impact are you making on your world? Now, I don't mean on the world at large, but your world, your "sphere of influence." Not many of us have the opportunity to do something that affects the world at large, but sometimes folks do. Take Billy Sunday, for example.

Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player in the 19th century, playing for the Chicago White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. He was converted after hearing some Gospel singers in Chicago and attending services at a local mission. He preached his first sermon on February 17, 1889. Following this, he began to preach to larger and larger crowds throughout his 46-year ministry. He made a great impact through the changed lives of others.

Another area where he made a great impact was in the use of radio, which was a fledgling industry during his ministry. His energetic application of this new technology was so flamboyant that the Federal Communications Commission was created in response. Today, the FCC still controls the airwaves in the United States. That is certainly making an impact.

We may not have the opportunity to make such an impact that a federal agency is created in response to our efforts, but we still can make a difference in the lives of people where we are. What can you do? Look around who needs some help because they are struggling financially? Who needs help fixing up a house? Is there someone that needs help with childcare? Is there someone who needs a listening ear? Who is it that needs to hear the message of God's grace?

Ask God for ideas and thoughts to help you make an impact for him. You have an opportunity to touch peoples' lives in strong ways. Making the most of these opportunities is up to you. Paul was aware of how his life could impact others and so he said, "even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (I Corinthians 10:31-11:1)." Set a good example with your life and in this way make a positive impact on those around you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 13, 2017

A period of insanity is now being conducted by the National Football League. This is the Free Agent Signing period when good sense seems to leave the minds of adult people and money rules the day. A player in the NFL can become a free agent when he has completed his contractual obligation to the team for which he currently plays and wishes to "test the market" to see if there are other teams who may pay him more money for his services than the one for which he currently participates. This is true of all major sport leagues. The amount of money in some contracts rivals many countries GNP. I am sure these players develop a bit of swagger as they watch teams compete for their services.

Sometimes we live as if we are in the same position when it comes to our spiritual lives. We live with a bit of swagger as we contemplate how God might bid for us or how valuable we are to our church. When it comes to our spiritual position with God, we should never forget that God was indeed willing to pay a high price for our ransom, but that it is only through his grace that we have the opportunity to be ransomed.

As far as our attitude of our value to our church, we need to keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." (Romans 12:3) We are where we are only through the grace of God, and we need to allow the graciousness of God to motivate us in our interaction with others. This results in true Free Agency.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 12, 2017

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

Imagine that you are a school bus driver. A red-haired student gets on the bus and begins combing her hair with a green brush. At the next stop two more students get on and say in passing that they like the color of the driver s new blue cap. As they walk to the rear of the bus, the shorter of the two shouts back, I wouldn t let that red-head stay on the bus if I were you. Her brush clashes with your hair! What color is the bus driver s hair? (Hint: Remember that you are the bus driver!)

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 11, 2017

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

As I read about getting away from the "noise of the world," I wondered what a Kempis would think about the noise level of our current society (he died in 1471). Yet, the words he wrote are just as true today. We need to make "alone" time with God. There is no good reason to not do this. I have written before on the example of Christ in this regard. Luke 5:16 tells us, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We also have the example of Paul. In Galatians 1:15-16 we read, "But when God, who set me apart from my mother s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia."

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 10, 2017

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

Christ said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) From this statement, I understand that debt is not inherently bad. There are times when debt is justified. However, reason needs to be applied when it comes to the amount of debt one acquires. A basic fact is that you cannot spend more than you have, You need to keep your wits about you when you are making financial decisions. Seek out good advice in money matters. Keep your "want" list under control. Seek God's guidance in managing your money. Remember that "the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7)

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 09, 2017

When our youngest daughter, Megan, was living in Scotland, we went to visit. It was a marvelous trip. While we were there we rented a car in Edinburgh and drove to the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. As you know, driving in Great Britain is different from driving here as everything is opposite. You drive on the left side of the road, the steering wheel in the car is on the right, you shift with your left hand. What this requires is constant thought. You need to think about things that, for the most part, have become "second nature" in your usual experience. You have to look at things from a different perspective; you need to look at the driving experience from the point of view of the British people.

Looking at things from a different perspective often has positive benefits. Of course, when it comes to my example above, looking at things from a different perspective is absolutely crucial. If you try to drive the way you have always driven, you can cause big problems.

Looking at things from a different point of view can be a vital exercise in conflict resolution. If you are having a disagreement with someone over some issue, take some time to give the issue some thought from the point of view of the other person. To put it simply, put yourself "in their shoes." We sometimes resist doing this, stubbornly holding on to our ideas and thoughts while refusing to consider alternatives. In many instances, this can be as problematic as if we were to refuse to drive differently in Britain than we do here. It may be just as dangerous as well.

Are you having a disagreement with someone? Have you tried to look at the issue from their point of view? Doing so can help you go a long way towards resolving the conflict. Try driving "on the wrong side of the road." This may actually be the right thing to do.

Settling disputes is a good thing to do. Proverbs 18:19 speaks of the harm conflicts can cause, "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." Do what you can to open the gates by giving some thought to the other side.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 08, 2017

Often we mistreat others because we have been mistreated by someone else. We turn our anger on someone as a means of venting the anger we feel as a result of being the object of another person's wrath. One writer, using the analogy from the film "Pay It Forward", calls this paying pain forward. This is not a good behavior, and we need to learn to deal with these issues in more profitable ways.

Jonathan did. On more than one occasion, he found himself at the object of his father's anger. His father would often ignore him and not be aware of what was taking place in his life (read I Samuel 14:2-4). On one occasion, Saul was ready to put Jonathan to death for tasting some honey. "Saul said, 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.'" (I Samuel 14:44) Even though he was the object of his father's misguided wrath and mistreatment, Jonathan chose not to pay this forward to others. We see this evident in his friendship with his father's self-chosen enemy, David. Instead, Jonathan chose to rely on God and trust him for the outcome of a very difficult circumstance. He declared, "Nothing can hinder the Lord." (I Samuel 14:8)

Let's follow this example and choose not to take out on others what we have experienced ourselves. Avoid the "kick the cat" syndrome, and put into God's hands our feelings and our future. Paying pain forward does nothing for anybody, including you. Put your pain in the hands of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 07, 2017

Light can do two things. Light can expose problems by illuminating areas that need attention. A flashlight is an invaluable tool to workers in a variety of jobs. Cracks in housing walls that may remain undetected, frayed cables, worn insulators - there are a myriad of examples where light is beneficial by bringing attention to things that need repaired or replaced.

Light also can be used to enhance appearances to make things look better. The magic of the right lighting can make something that is not so attractive rather appealing. In other words, light can be used to cover up problems.

For many of us, this is what we actually want in our relationship with Christ. We want Christ to act as a light to cover up our problems rather than allow him to be the Light that exposes our problem and restores us. We want just enough Christ to make us feel fine, but we don't really want him to be in charge of our lives.

A relationship with Christ does not work that way. Christ came as the Light of the World to expose the problem and offer a solution; he did not come to provide special effects to make us look good and feel better. John writes, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (1:9-12) Let Christ be the true Light in your life, not just light up your life. That he will not do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 06, 2017

All of us have character flaws and imperfections. Most of us readily admit our shortcomings and want to do what we can to improve in these areas. Some folks just don't get the fact that they aren't perfect. Don't you just love to be around these people? Well, that's another line of thought I'll pursue sometime. Back to our character flaws and imperfections. How many times have you said, "I need to be more patient," or "I need to be a better listener," or "I need to be less irritable?" If you haven't said this, you may need to do some introspection. If you have, you know there are areas in your life on which you need to focus. And that is really the point and the positive aspect of struggling with some of our imperfections. When we do, we acknowledge our weakness and our need for help. Those flaws in our character can actually help make us more dependent on God as we rely on him for assistance in dealing with these issues.

Paul acknowledged this and tells us, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh. . .three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" Paul concludes, "For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:7-10)."

Paul knew there were areas in his life he would like to see changed. He understood the purpose of these issues, and chose to use them as reminder to him of his dependence upon God. We can stew and fret about some our "problem areas," or we can acknowledge their existence, turn them over to God, and allow him to use these weak areas to build our character and strengthen us. I have always loved God's response to Paul with regard to Paul's struggle, "My grace is sufficient for you." Indeed God's grace is sufficient for us - let his grace take charge in your life and watch his power overcome your weakness.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 05, 2017

Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980. During his life, Sartre was an avowed atheist. His humanistic writings and teachings permeated 20th century thought in a way that should not be underestimated. Yet, when he came to the end of his life, he expressed thoughts that demonstrated he was less than enamored with his life and his hope, or to be more precise, his lack of hope. Concerning humanism Sartre, in his final interview before his death said, "I hated in humanism the certain way man has of admiring himself." Arnold Jacob Wolf commenting on Sartre's statement said, "Sartre found humanity less than admirable." Sartre said, ""hope is necessarily disappointed."

Hope is indeed disappointed when there is no foundation for hope. Even Sartre agreed with this. However, for those of us who trust in the Lord, we know we have a foundation for hope. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us, "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.

Sartre's final interview gives the impression of a disappointed, perhaps even disillusioned man. However, it does not have to be like this. Having a hope in something that is real and is powerful fends off disappointment and disillusionment. Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

We are all going to go "the way of all flesh." The question is when we do, have we followed the path that brings hope, or are we hopeless before the specter of death that has come to claim us?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 04, 2017

In 1996, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 Bobby Unser and a friend, Robert Gayton, almost lost their lives after their snowmobiles broke down in a blizzard in Colorado. The incident became infamous because Unser and Gayton were later charged with improper usage of a motor vehicle on wilderness land, a federal charge. This led to a protracted effort to reform the rules of enforcement of such laws.

Their experience in the blizzard was harrowing, to say the least, as they had to spend one night in a snow cave and finally found a barn where they could call for help. Commenting later on the experience, Unser said, "We had to do everything right" in their struggle to survive against the elements. One wrong decision could have led to their deaths.

We face a struggle against hostile elements in our spiritual lives. Some come from within - our impure thoughts, selfish desires, and wrong motives bring problems if we don't get control of those issues through the power of God. There are forces from without that can cause hard times for us. Media influences, acquaintances who don't support our lifestyle, and problems in life are all examples of the elements that can cause bad times for us and influence us to make wrong decisions.

We need to depend on Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit each step of the way to prevent us from getting trapped in a blizzard. Colossians 3:17 tells us, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is the information we need to help us make good decisions.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 03, 2017

I am sure you have heard the familiar adage "what goes around comes around." This refers to the idea that a person's actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person. Lee Atwater, a former Republican National Party Chairman and chief strategist for George H. W. Bush's successful presidential bid in 1988, found this out the hard way.

In 1980, while devising campaign strategy for a congressional candidate in South Carolina, Atwater learned that the opposing candidate had once been treated for depression with electro-shock therapy. He published this information and did a great deal of damage to the image of the candidate. When the candidate tried to contact him, he rebuffed his attempt by saying that he had no intention of communicating with a man who had been "hooked up to a jumper cable."

Ten years later, Atwater was himself "hooked up." Afflicted with cancer, he was attached to IV's, monitors, and other machines. Not long before he died, he wrote a letter of apology to the man who had been on the receiving end of his cruel statements, asking to be forgiven for his thoughtless tactics. His ruthless methods and heartless words now were haunting him as he hovered close to death.

This reminds us of how we must be careful with our actions and our words. Statements made today or actions pursued today in the "heat of the moment" can cause us pain at some point down the road. Think carefully before you use those choice words or inflammatory actions against someone else. Your words and/or your actions could come back upon you. Proverbs 26:27 tells us, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them." Indeed, "what goes around comes around."

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 02, 2017

A pastor was asking for prayer requests at a service of the church. After a request was made, the pastor would say, "Lord, in your mercy", to which the congregation would respond "Lord, hear our prayer." A 4-year-old boy became more increasingly more intense in his response with each request until finally he shouted out, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

The little boy probably expressed what many in the church were feeling, and what many of us feel at times. We want to shout out at God, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

Now, we know we don't need to shout at God for him to hear us. At least, I hope you know that you don't actually need to shout at God. God hears our prayers not because we are loud or we deserve to be heard, but because Christ has opened up our way to be heard by God by offering his life on our behalf. Hebrews 4:14 & 16 tells us, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God. . .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. We offer our prayers in confidence knowing God hears us and will respond.

Our prayers are statements of praise, expressions of hope, and often pleas for intervention at times when we experience circumstances that bring anguish and duress. David called out to God at a time of great stress and pain, and he expressed his faith in God's answer, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) We know this to be true, so we can pray with great confidence. We know that God hears our prayers, and we don't have to shout at him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 01, 2017

God's timing is always perfect. Usually when we say this, we are referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit. However, it could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. Consider a situation where you learn of someone's financial need "by chance." Perhaps you have received this information for a reason. Sometimes a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 28, 2017

The story of the prodigal son is a story about two sons with some issues. One had a desire to go on his own and live the way he wanted. He wanted to pursue a riotous lifestyle free from the oversight of his father. The other had a problem with forgiveness and had not experienced the wonder of grace. He was not pleased with his life of his brother and showed anger at the decision of his father to accept his brother back into the good graces of the family.

We are capable of either response to our Father. We can demonstrate open rebellion and show that we wish to be "in control of our own destiny," or we can act as if we are in agreement with the Father but inwardly are angry because we do not see him doing what we think is the right path. We need to avoid either extreme in our relationship with our Father. We need to realize we cannot go it on our own and so we need to avoid this mentality. We also need to avoid becoming angry at God because we do not agree with the path we see before us. Both attitudes are conquered by acknowledging God's grace and by demonstrating faith and trust in him through living obedient lives.

God pursues us and deals with us, and for this we should be glad. As the father demonstrated love for both of his sons in spite of their shortcomings, God demonstrates love towards his wayward children. The father ran out to meet the son who was returning, and pleaded with the son who acted in anger. God's love for us is mirrored in the statements of the father, "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" (Luke 15:31) Be thankful for God's patience and for God's grace. Without these, we would not have hope.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 27, 2017

Oral contracts aren't what they used to be, given our proclivity to dishonesty in our society. Still, written contracts have always carried more weight and are more binding. When something is written down, it is right before us in print that is harder to alter and to forget than spoken words. We even say "put it in writing" when we want a firm guarantee of a contract or promise. God's Word is binding whether it is spoken or written, but there are times when God specifically directed for something to be written to demonstrate the force of what was being said.

When God gave the commandments to Moses the second time, he said, "Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets (Exodus 34:7)." Many times in Deuteronomy God tells Moses and to write down the words of the Law. He tells the people to "Write (the commandments) on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (6:9)." He told the prophet Jeremiah to write down what has been revealed to him for others to see (Jeremiah 36:2). In Revelation, John is commanded to write down what he sees, and he is specifically instructed to write down the description of the results of God's New Order. We read in Revelation 21:5, "He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

God wanted to put in writing all that he has for us and all that he wants from us. Someday all of this will be written on our hearts so that we will no longer forget anything that God has promised for us. Jeremiah 31:33-34 says, ""I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Aren't you glad God put that in writing?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 26, 2017

In July of 2014, a 20-year-old mother exited a subway stop in Columbus Circle in New York pushing her 7-month-old child in a red and white stroller. Then, she left the stroller on the platform, re-entered the train through the still opened doors, and left. I don't know the complete ending to the story, but I do know the baby was rescued. The mother was spotted 12 hours later getting a latte at a Starbucks and was detained by authorities.

Stories like this just bring chills to me. How could you abandon your child? I cannot imagine what it would be like to be abandoned. I don't know how this child will react when she grows up and learns she was left behind by her mother. It would be a frightful feeling to feel not wanted and being left somewhere.

God promises us that he will never abandon us. Deuteronomy 31:8 gives this promise, "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." What a statement of affirmation and assurance! Christ told his followers just before he returned to the Father, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) Others may abandon you, leave you stranded, but that will never happen with God. God will never leave you alone.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 25, 2017

Wings is one of my all-time favorite TV comedies. Recently I caught a rerun of an episode entitled "Return to Nantucket, part 1". Brian goes flying off in a dense fog to Boston in an attempt to liaison with a former girlfriend. This is a doomed attempt from the start. Brian's flying in fog is simply a metaphor for the situation involving his relationship with the girl he is chasing - he's in a fog there as well.

This is sort of like many of us when it comes to our relationship with the Lord - we are in a fog. We don't have a clue what we should be doing because we are not pursuing the right paths to discover what is expected of us. That is a shame. In Mark 12:24, Christ confronted the Pharisees with these words, "Jesus replied, 'Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?'" Although this was regarding a specific incident, it could also be applied to this group generally - they didn't know what God wanted because they were more concerned about their own agenda.

We should not let our own desires and concerns get in the way of what God wants for our lives. If we do, we will find ourselves in a fog. Make a genuine effort to seek God s desire for you by spending time with him and yielding to his will for you. This will help you to see clearly and avoid the fog.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 24, 2017

There is a business in a nearby town named "Honest Abe's Roofing." They have TV ads featuring a Lincoln impersonator in a variety of circumstances that all play off the well-known honesty of our 16th president. I am not sure about how I feel about the TV ads, but indeed there are many anecdotes about Lincoln's honesty. Two of my favorites come from the days when Lincoln was a clerk in a store in New Salem, Illinois. One story tells how he walked to a customer's home after closing the store to return a few cents in change that he had held out inadvertently. Another involved Lincoln taking tea to a customer when he found he had weighed her request incorrectly.

Honesty is a character trait that should be desired and displayed, especially by those who call themselves followers of Christ. However, you can be honest and still not very nice. And you can be nice but dishonest. God wants us to be both.

In Exodus, the character traits of honesty and kindness are brought together as principles that should be practiced by the people of God. Exodus 23:3 says, "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it." Straying animals are to be returned to rightful owners, even if the animal belongs to an enemy. In verse 4 we read, "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." Kindness is to be expressed to those in distress, even if we don't care for the person experiencing the problem.

Honesty and kindness are a good pair that should be on display in the lives of God's people. We can be honest but mean, and we can be kind but dishonest. Put them together and you get a formidable partnership.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 23, 2017

I recently replaced my cell phone for a number of reasons - I had fulfilled my contract, the memory on the old one wasn't adequate, the battery was wearing out on the old one, and, the coup de grace, I lost my old one. Actually I did recover it after I thought I had lost it, but that story is too long for me to tell. Anyway, ever since I had this experience, I have been trying to find an old article I wrote years ago about cell phones. I found it yesterday and thought I would share it with you. Keep in mind this article is ten years old, so it may sound a bit dated, but the point is still relevant. Here it is:

I have been a little bit aggravated with my cell phone lately. I have had it just a year, and the battery is already shot. I have had several phones, and this is the first time I have had this problem. Then, I heard a story last night from a singer we had at church. It hit me right between the eyes. I did a web search and found the story - you may have already seen it but it is worth repeating:

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we flipped through it several time a day?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to Kids as gifts?

What if we used it when we traveled?

What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go ... hmm, where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don't have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.

Makes you stop and think "where are my priorities?"

And no dropped calls!

And I would add - no defective batteries - the power is always on (see Romans 1:16)!

"Your word is a lamp for my feet,a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 22, 2017

John Ortberg writes, "Imagine picking your car up from the shop after a routine tune-up and the technician says, 'This car is in great shape. Clearly you have an automotive genius to take great care of your car.' Later that day, your brakes don't work. You find out you were out of brake fluid. You could have died. You go back to the shop, and you say, 'Why didn't you tell me?' The technician replies, 'Well, I didn't want you to feel bad. Plus, to be honest, I was afraid you might get upset with me. I want this to be a safe place where you feel loved and accepted.' You'd be furious! You'd say, 'I didn't come here for a little fantasy-based ego boost! When it comes to my car, I want the truth.'"

There are times we need to be truthful for the benefit of others, even if the truth is hard. There are times when being a good friend means confronting another because something needs to be addressed and a change needs to be made. This, of course, is not the easiest thing to do, but is necessary for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of someone we love. Paul says in Ephesians 4:15, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." There are times when we need to "speak the truth in love."

Speaking the truth in love first requires a situation where it is very obvious that an intervention is necessary. Is there really a problem that needs to be addressed? Speaking to others about their behavior or some other issue also requires self-examination. We need to look at our motives to make certain we are doing this as a genuine effort to help someone and because of our love for someone, not to put them down or to make ourselves look better. We don't go around looking for "problems" where we might "help." We are speaking of circumstances where the need to reach out to someone else almost grabs you by the neck and says "Do something." We also should seek spiritual discernment through prayer regarding what needs to be said and how we need to speak. Make sure you let God be your guide when you seek to help.

An intervention of this type is a difficult thing. However, when you face a circumstance where the consequence described by Ortberg is a reality, truth is what is needed. When this is the case, speak the truth in love.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 21, 2017

You perhaps have heard the statement, "Don't force it, just use a bigger hammer." No irony in that statement, is there? When you have a job to do, using the right tool is helpful. You don't need a screwdriver to loosen a nut. Using a hammer to driver a screw is usually not the best course of action. Sometimes using the wrong tool can prove a little dangerous. I found that out when I used a sharp knife to try to separate frozen meat patties. Running the knife through my hand showed me that I used the wrong tool.

God uses the "right tools" to accomplish his purposes. Consider the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. He became the prominent evangelist in the early church because God used him and his abilities. God said, "This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel." (Acts 9:15) Paul was a Jew and trained as a "Pharisee of the Pharisees", but was also very well acquainted with Gentile customs and philosophies. He was fluent in a number of languages. He was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He was indeed the right person for the ministry.

As one of his people, God has called you for ministry. Too many times we question our role because we sell short our abilities and our position. Remember that God is the one who has put you where you are. He is the Master Craftsman who never uses the wrong tool. Don't hinder his efforts by making excuses.

Paul tells us, "For we are God s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) God always uses the right tool - be willing to be used.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 20, 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)b

Don't confuse what you have with what you 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
Sunday February 19, 2017

Much is written about how to deal with times when we feel overwhelmed. This happens frequently to many of us - we are intimidated by the tasks at hand. But what about the times when we feel "underwhelmed?" That is, what about the times when we feel that what we have to do really isn't all that demanding, arduous, or important? There are times when many may wonder if what they are doing is really relevant. To these folks I say - don't kid yourself, there is no such thing as a task being unimportant or irrelevant. Our efforts, whether they are at work, in our families, in our organizations, and certainly in our churches, are important and significant in spite of what we might think to the contrary. So, you think what you do is not all that important? Well, what if what you do does not get done for a bit? Those little things can have some big consequences if they don t get done.

Let s take a look at some biblical examples of folks who did some little things that had some big results. Have you ever stopped to think about what might have happened had the little boy not brought his lunch to the gathering (John 6:1-14)? What would have happened to Naaman had his maid not said, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria (II Kings 5:1-16)?" What if Rhoda had not answered the door (Acts 12:13-14)? We might describe all of these incidents as "little things," but they each had great significance.

Don't feel "underwhelmed." Regardless of how small you might think it is, your contribution is important. There may be those who attract more attention because they "command the stage," but someone has to set the stage. We cannot get along without those who are "underwhelmed."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 18, 2017

One of my favorite movies is the Coen brothers' "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" The storyline is loosely based upon Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." In one scene of the movie, the 3 main characters are enticed by 3 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 by safely as the sailors are oblivious to the 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)."

Do you feel the allure to follow a path you know you shouldn t? Are you facing some temptation which seems to be constantly wooing you to do something you know you shouldn't? Tie yourself to the mast! Put wax in your ears! In other words, do what you know you should 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 the one of Ulysses S. McGill, and avoid the trap!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 17, 2017

When I was about 13, my uncle tried to teach me how to back a trailer. I found it to be a little difficult. Now, he had taught me to drive a couple of years earlier, but this idea of getting the trailer going in the right direction proved to be a little different. I was amazed when I watched him effortlessly put the trailer where it needed to be. I just didn t seem to be able to accomplish the same thing. After many unsuccessful attempts, he said to me, You just don t get it.

Have you ever known someone that meets this description? Have you ever known someone about whom it might be said, "They just don't get it?" They seem to struggle and are constantly making bad decisions when it comes to life choices. They just don't get it.

Saul was one of these people. We read of a confrontation he had with Samuel in I Samuel 15:17-23: "Samuel said, 'Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission. . .Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?' 'But I did obey the Lord,' Saul said. 'I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. But Samuel replied: 'Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the L0rd? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. . .Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.'"

Saul never seemed to quite get it, and he lost out. We need to avoid the same predicament. We need to pay attention to God and heed his will. We need to get it when it comes to making decisions that are in line with God's desire and are beneficial to us.

You know, I found out that careful attention and a little bit of practice has helped me to "get it" when it comes to being able to back a trailer successfully. I think the same might be a good idea when it comes to following God successfully.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 16, 2017

Sometime back our dryer quit working. I knew what was wrong - it wouldn't heat and it wouldn't come on when you set the timer. I did not know what to do to fix it. So, I had to call an expert and let him take care of it. Our van is in the shop right now because some warning lights came on. I knew that was wrong, but I did not know what to do to make it right, so I took the van to an expert. Sometimes I know I have something wrong with me physically, a pain or some other malady. I know what is wrong, but I don't know how to make it right. Know what I do? Yep - go to my doctor who is an expert at this. At times my computer does wacky things. I know what is wrong and sometimes I know how to make it right. Often I don't, but I know someone who is an expert (as a matter of fact, the person who takes care of our website is the expert to whom I would take my computer). I can tell him what is wrong, and since he knows a lot more about computers than I do, he knows how to make it right.

There are many situations where we find this scenario - we know what is wrong, but we don't know how to make it right. This is often the case is our relationships and our personal lives. We know what is wrong, but we don't have a clue how to make it right. So, we would do well to go to someone who can.

We find this situation in our spiritual lives. We know what is wrong, but how can I make it right? Do the same thing as in all the other circumstances described above - go to the Expert. God is the one who can help us with our most pressing problems. He is the One who can help with our greatest problem - our struggle with sin. He is the one who knows how to make things right, and when it comes to our spiritual need, he is the only one who has the ability to make things right. Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." When we know what is wrong, but not how to make it right, go to the Expert!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 15, 2017

I remember reading an article one time that talked about Singapore. Singapore is a small, densely populated island just north of the equator at the southernmost tip of continental Asia. It is so densely populated that the article cited a letter written by a man to his fiancé: "Space is limited. Therefore . . . you must always have that sense of space around you. You should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone. The key is to be considerate."

Having consideration for others is always a good thing. We should have consideration for others in general, and this is certainly a good thing with it comes to our life in the church. As followers of Christ, we should always have thoughts for others. How can we be of help to someone else? Is there someone who is struggling? What can I do to be of service to someone else?

Thom Rainer writes in his excellent book "Autopsy of a Deceased Church" that one of the characteristics of a declining church is a failure to eliminate "me first" thinking. When we think that the church is about us and our preferences, we are heading in the wrong direction. He writes, "When a church moves from (the focus from others to themselves), it is headed for decline then death. . .A church cannot survive long-term where members are focused on their own preferences."

Christ told us the kind of thinking we should have when he said that the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Paul told Timothy to "Remind the people. . .to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." (Titus 3:1-2) We need to focus on others, not ourselves. Christ showed us how to do this. Remember, "The key is to be considerate."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 14, 2017

Ah, yes, Valentine s Day! Have you told someone you love them today? Actually, the idea of telling someone Be My Valentine is a good thing.

Fred Bauer wrote about a United Nations medical team that was summoned to an orphanage in South America to investigate the deaths of some of the babies. Their conclusion was that the children died of marasmus caused by a lack of physical contact and displays of affection. The children were given all the nutrition necessary to sustain them, but were never touched, cuddled or rocked. As a result, they wasted away, dying from a lack of love. The prescription was to hold, cuddle, and play with the babies for at least ten minutes each day. The deaths abated and the little ones began to thrive.

The lack of love in one's life can have a profound impact, especially on the very young and the very old. We need to be sure that our little ones are getting the attention they need. We also need to make sure that those who are older and live alone are given the attention they need. Of course, a lack of love has an effect upon all age groups. We need to be aware of this, and make sure that we show love for others and demonstrate our care for others in tangible ways.

Paul didn't write "but the greatest of these is love (I Corinthians 13:13)" just to create some nice poetry. He knew our greatest need is love, and one of the greatest things you can do is to show love to someone else. Isaiah 1:17 tells us to "learn to do right! . . .encourage the oppressed."

Do you know someone who is in need of love and encouragement? Reach out to them! A little love can go a long way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 13, 2017

Our choir and drama team are hard at work on our Easter musical. The choir is busy learning the music learning where to vocalize notes, and where to rest. A very important part of music is the rest. The rests help define the music, and make the piece what it is. You must observe the rests, or the music will lose its identity. The rests help the music tell the story, and qualify the drama.

Rest is important to the rhythm of music, and rest is important to the rhythm of life. Rest is important for someone who has been working without letup, someone recuperating from an illness, or someone who has been "burning the candle at both ends." Don't underestimate the importance of rest.

John Ruskin wrote about the spiritual implications of rests: "There is no music in a 'rest', but there is a making of music in it. In our whole life-melody, the music is broken off here and there by 'rests' and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. . .Not without design does God write the music of our lives. But be it ours to learn the time and not be dismayed at the 'rests.' They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, nor to destroy the melody, nor to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear."

God at times places a rest in our lives. A time when we may not quite know what is taking place, but know that he is still in control and he is both the writer of the music and the director. Don't miss the music being made by God during the times when he interjects a rest in your life. God tells us that we should always remember to "Be still, and know that (He is) God (Psalm 46:10)."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 12, 2017

There is a scene in Charles Dickens' 1838 novel "Oliver Twist" where Oliver, at a meal, tells the overseer of the workhouse where he lives: "Please, sir, I want more!" This is a really moving part of the story and is actually a very sad scene. Of course, Oliver really needed more!

Asking for more food when you are hungry is a legitimate request. However, we are often guilty of wanting "more" because we are greedy. We can get in a pattern where we want more money, more recognition, more achievement, more stuff. This can lead to frustration when we aren't able to get what we want, and many times when we do get what we want, we find out it is not all that satisfying. Actually, this is the key thought here: Having more does not lead to satisfaction.

How many times have you found yourself wishing for something, and then when you get the something, you feel a little let down? The thing is, you are trying to satisfy a hunger for "meat and potatoes" by eating "cotton candy". It just doesn't work.

We do have a hunger for "more," but get the right "more" to take care of that hunger. Matthew 5:6 tells us " Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Go ahead - stuff yourself, but make sure you are getting the right stuff!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 11, 2017

The driver of one of the vehicles involved in an accident grabbed his first aid kit and ran to the other vehicle to see if he could be of any assistance. When he got to the other car, he saw that the driver had a cut on his forehead; however, he wasn't going to be of much help. When he opened the first aid kit, most of what he needed was not there - he had failed to maintain the contents of the kit. He was grateful that the emergency personnel arrived quickly to render aid.

Too many of us treat our faith like a first aid kit - we only pull it out when we think we need it and when we do we find it inadequate because we have failed to maintain it properly. Faith is built through daily exercise. We spend time with God each day, and our faith is built through our time with him. Our faith should not be treated like a first aid kit to be used only when needed. Our faith is more important than that.

If we wish to "move mountains" as Christ said we could, we need to allow our faith to grow. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." This type of faith is developed through a daily walk with the Faith - Builder, Jesus. If your first aid kit needs some attention, take care of it! And it is certain our faith needs attention - so take care of this as well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 10, 2017

In their 1997 hit A Promise Ain t Enough, Hall and Oates sing Promises, promises, promises . Of course, a little sarcasm is involved in this proclamation. The musical duo is expressing the idea that there is a feeling of unbelief in the promiser actually making good on what is being promised. They express the idea that there are times when a promise ain t enough.

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we express a lack of faith in what is being said to us. That may be all well and good when it comes to people as we know people can let us down, but we need to be careful about allowing this sarcasm to infiltrate our relationship with God. At times, we let circumstances affect how we feel about God s provision in our lives. Doubt about his promises finds its way into our thinking.

Normally we consider Abraham a man of great faith, and he was, but there were times in his life when it was evident he was struggling with the promises God made to him. In Genesis 12:2, we read that God promised Abraham, "I will make you a great nation;" however, more than 25 years would lapse before a son was born. In those 25 years, there were some lapses of faith on Abraham s part: lying to Pharaoh about Sarah (Genesis 12); lying to Abimilech about Sarah (Genesis 19); questioning God about his promise ("O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don t even have a son?" Genesis 15:2); and even fathering a son through his handmaid (Genesis 16). All of these events showed a lack of faith in God's promise and all of these events brought trouble for Abraham. God reminded Abraham to remain faithful and trust him - "Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants. (Genesis 17:2)

As we look at God's promises for our lives, we need to continue to have faith that he will do as he says. At times, we are tempted to go our own way and leave his promises in the wake of our unbelief; however, continued faith in him is always the best option. With apologies to Fleetwood Mac, you can go your own way (please forgive my pop music bent today), but don t. Trust in the promises of God. People may let you down; God never will.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 08, 2017

As a young boy my mother's medicines of choice when I would scrape my knee or cut my finger were either mercurochrome or Merthiolate. These are no longer available in the United States because they both contain mercury. Back then I didn't so much think about the mercury content in the medicines as I did the pain they caused when they were applied to wounds. I didn't like the pain, but I knew the medicines could help me get better quicker. The medicine prevented infection and promoted healing.

We often face circumstances in our lives that bring pain. We don't enjoy those times and we would rather not have to face the pain. However, that which causes pain can be used by God to bring about healing and promote development of our character. The confidence we have as God s children is that God has good planned for us and has our best interests at heart. Suffering was not part of God's original plan but serves to remind us that we live in a broken world where God's order has been disobeyed. This should also remind us that our present experience is temporary. We need to spread the word that God has something better and that our present pain will be healed. Our pain reminds us that God is at work in us and that we need to trust him.

I didn't like the pain I felt because of the medicine, but I trusted my Mom. I knew she wouldn't do something to cause me more pain if it wasn't going to be alright. God will make everything alright. We should have the confidence expressed in the words of the song sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the feasts, "The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night." (Psalm 121:5-6) We need to trust him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 08, 2017

As a young boy my mother's medicines of choice when I would scrape my knee or cut my finger were either mercurochrome or Merthiolate. These are no longer available in the United States because they both contain mercury. Back then I didn't so much think about the mercury content in the medicines as I did the pain they caused when they were applied to wounds. I didn't like the pain, but I knew the medicines could help me get better quicker. The medicine prevented infection and promoted healing.

We often face circumstances in our lives that bring pain. We don't enjoy those times and we would rather not have to face the pain. However, that which causes pain can be used by God to bring about healing and promote development of our character. The confidence we have as God s children is that God has good planned for us and has our best interests at heart. Suffering was not part of God's original plan but serves to remind us that we live in a broken world where God's order has been disobeyed. This should also remind us that our present experience is temporary. We need to spread the word that God has something better and that our present pain will be healed. Our pain reminds us that God is at work in us and that we need to trust him.

I didn't like the pain I felt because of the medicine, but I trusted my Mom. I knew she wouldn't do something to cause me more pain if it wasn't going to be alright. God will make everything alright. We should have the confidence expressed in the words of the song sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem for the feasts, "The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night." (Psalm 121:5-6) We need to trust him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday February 07, 2017

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

The purpose of the ark was to be a symbol of the presence of God. Once a year the high priest would meet with God before the ark on the Day of Atonement. This was the only time anyone could enter in the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle (and later the temple) called the Most Holy Place. It was a symbol of the fact that God wanted to have a relationship with people.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday February 06, 2017

Super Bowl LI is history and history was made in the playing of Super Bowl LI. It was the first Super Bowl to go to overtime. The Patriots mounted the largest comeback victory in a Super Bowl. A few thoughts came to mind after the game. I thought of how I had just watched Atlanta snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and the game certainly was proof that Yogi was right when he said, It ain t over til it s over.

Amidst all of the hoopla created by the playing of Super Bowl LI and what took place, the news of the selection of the NFL Hall of Fame Class for 2017 is almost lost. Let me turn to that in my comments today. As I think about the current list of inductees, I recall a story from 2010. Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest wide receiver ever to play in the NFL, was inducted that year. He asked Eddie DeBartolo, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, to be his presenter at the induction ceremony. What is noteworthy about this is Rice originally had asked DeBartolo ten years before his election to be his presenter. Now, that may appear to be a bit presumptuous. How could Rice have known ten years before his selection he would even make the Hall of Fame? Well, even ten years before he would be eligible, it was a foregone conclusion that Rice would make it to Canton. So, at the wedding of DeBartolo s youngest daughter, Rice asked him to be his presenter.

When the announcement came out in 2010 that Rice had been selected, he made good on his commitment by calling Mr. DeBartolo and reminding him he had a job to do. In an interview, DeBartolo remarked that he was "floored" by Rice's original invitation and amazed that he remembered his request. That Rice remembered his commitment is a testimony to his character.

Are you known as a person who keeps their commitments? When you tell someone you are going to do something for them or with them, do you follow through? When you have a job to do or a responsibility that needs to be taken care of, how is your track record on these things? This is a very desirable character trait, and something that should mark our lives.

We have many role models of commitment in the scripture. One is Joseph. In Genesis 47:29-30, we read this interchange between Jacob and Joseph, "When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.' 'I will do as you say,' he said." Indeed, when Jacob died, Joseph fulfilled his commitment to his father.

Be a person that is known for honoring your commitments. This honors God, and allows us to be looked upon with favor by others.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday February 05, 2017

It won t be long and we will be working in our gardens! Now, that s an optimistic statement, isn t it? Well, it s true! Oh, don t we miss those fresh tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, peppers, corn, and so much more. I don't know what I miss the most, but I would imagine it might be corn on the cob. Oh, my, fresh corn is hard to beat. The only thing about corn that is somewhat of a detriment is the silks. If you don't take care when you husk and clean the ears of corn before you eat them, you get to put up with the silks. The get between your teeth, they get stuck in your mouth, and can be a little irritating. So, what should I think about the silks?

Well, I need to be glad for the silks. If it weren't for the silks, those tasty kernels we love to eat would not be there. The pollination would not take place to make them appear, they wouldn't get the air and the sun they need to develop, as it is the silks that transmit these needed elements to the kernels. In other words, without the silks, you do not get corn.

Sometimes that is the way of life - the irritants that sometimes frustrate us are actually beneficial and helpful and are supplying us with what we need in order that we may develop into what we should be. Those irritants can help develop our character and help us to develop traits such as patience, perseverance and inner strength that are important. Paul spoke to this when he discussed his "thorn" that he had asked the Lord to remove. We read in I Corinthians 12:7-10, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Paul acknowledges that he didn't want this source of irritation in his life, and wanted it gone. Then, he talks about what was provided to him through its presence. He spoke of understanding of God's grace, an ability to recognize and deal with his own weaknesses, and knowledge of God's power that came through the presence of the "thorn."

We all have our "silks." Remember their importance in the development of the kernel. Keep Paul's perspective in mind as you deal with their presence. Without the silks, you won't get corn.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday February 04, 2017

I have always enjoyed watching The Andy Griffith Show. I enjoyed it as a boy, and I love watching reruns now. I remember one episode where a Hollywood producer visited Mayberry and expressed a desire to make a movie there. At first, the mayor and the town council were reluctant. But, Andy stepped in and showed them the movie could be a good thing. What happened next was rather interesting. The town caught "movie fever." Store owners began to modify their store fronts. Residents started dressing a little fancier. Plans were made for a big welcome for the Hollywood crew that included cutting down a big oak tree in the middle of town that was deemed "unsightly."

When the crew arrived and saw the changes, they were aghast. The producer made it plain that it was the charm of the people that attracted his attention, and he wished for them to return to how they were. The fancy clothes, the sparkling store fronts, the removal of the oak tree, was not their genuine state. What the producer wanted was the town as it was, not "gussied up."

We too need to avoid the temptation of putting on airs just to impress others. We should strive to be genuine and honest. We need to realize God sees us as we are anyway, and we can't impress him by being something we are not. We need to be honest with others and not try to be what we are not in an attempt to impress them. Our lives should model the principle found in Proverbs 12:7, "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies." Don't be something that you aren't. Be honest and genuine before God and others. This makes the best impression.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday February 03, 2017

The question is not why we should obey God, but why should we disobey? If we really believe that God is who he says he is, then what would be the point of disobedience? True belief makes it illogical to disobey.

People such as Noah and Abraham recognized this, and trusted God even in the face of incredible odds and seemingly unbelievable circumstances. Noah began to build a large boat - a boat so big that it would not fit in any nearby body of water. Why should he build it? Abraham was called to leave his home and go where? What in the world was so good about the land to the west? What was wrong with where I am living? And what is this about my wife having a child as old as she is? These seemed to be illogical circumstances, but for both Noah and Abraham, following God was the only path that made sense to them.

The only logical course of action was to obey God completely even if obeying him looked as if an illogical course of action was being pursued. This is why we read about these men, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith." (Hebrews 11:7-8) Both of these fellows may have had their hiccups, but they never stopped trusting God. At times following God looks as if you are defying logic, but in reality the only logical path to follow is God's.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday February 02, 2017

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

The origins of the day go back into Europe insofar as the belief that the weather on February 2 is a predictor of the ending of winter. An old Scottish poem says, "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There'll be two winters in the year. If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again." The first reference to "Groundhog Day" in America is found in a diary entry from 1841: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." Regardless of what happens today with the groundhog, we do know that winter will end and spring will come.

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

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6) Shadow or not, God will not fail us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday February 01, 2017

Over the years, I have been blessed to visit some of the beautiful places that God has created on planet Earth. There are many I would still like to see, but I am grateful for the sights I have witnessed - rainforests in Costa Rica, sand dunes in Peru, mountains in the U.S., and other marvelous scenes.

Have you ever wondered what God looks at when he observes his creation? Have you ever wondered what he thinks about when he looks at what he has set in motion on Earth? What is it that draws his attention? The writer of Psalm 33 gives us an idea, "The Lord watches from heaven; he sees all people. From the place where he lives he looks carefully at all the earth s inhabitants. He is the one who forms every human heart, and takes note of all their actions. Look, the Lord takes notice of his loyal followers, those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness." (vss. 13-15; 18)

God doesn't look so much on the wonders of nature as he does people - us. What does he see? What kind of view greets him? As he looks at his children, does what he observes please him or does he wince at the sight of what is before his eyes? He looks at us with a heart of love and longs for us to trust him. He wants to help those whose hope is in him. He wants to deliver us and provide for us. Let's show him we appreciate what he does for us by giving him something really special to see!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 31, 2017

Jesus was a people person. Jesus still is a people person. Now you might reply to my statement by saying, "Of course he was a people person - look at all the people he healed during his ministry, and he died for the entire world." I certainly would not take exception to your reply. You are absolutely correct. However, Christ showed he was a people person in more than just his supernatural ministry for others.

Do you remember how he responded when his disciples were holding off some children who wanted to see him? Christ said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14)." Think about his implied comparison of himself to a shepherd in Luke 15:1-7. He, like the shepherd, is concerned about the "sheep" who is lost. We see his concern for people in his prayer for his disciples, both present and future, found in John 17.

Since Christ was, and is, a "people person," I should be a people person as well. Often, we let projects, things, tasks, deadlines, and other considerations come between us and doing what is necessary to develop relationships with others. We become "task oriented" instead of "people oriented." Use Christ's example as a model for us to follow when it comes to being a people person. Focus on others more than things or tasks - you will be doing what Christ did and what he wants us to do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 29, 2017

Regular dental check-ups should be part of our routine. Dental check-ups are important not just because of the need to maintain good dental hygiene, but because other problems not related to our teeth can be discovered through a dental check-up. What goes on in our mouth can reveal what is going on elsewhere in our body.

Christ said that what comes out of our mouths reveals our inner character. He told the Pharisees, "Listen and understand. What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." (Matthew 15:10-11) What comes out of our mouths reveals our inner character and indicates our true nature.

What comes out of your mouth? Is it wholesome speech, celebratory language, words of encouragement to others, words of blessing? Or are you prone to use offensive language, negative speech, gossip, and hurtful comments to others?

A dentist can see that there may be a problem elsewhere through examination of our mouth. Others can see what goes on inside of us by listening to what comes out of our mouths. How's your mouth?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 28, 2017

Dave Branon writes about a mission trip he led in the summer of 2005. On this trip, a group of high school students traveled to Jamaica to build a playground at a school for the deaf. Many of the students had visited the school before. However, on this trip there was one student who developed a special bond with the children at the school. Chelsea had been deaf until the age of 11 when she received a cochlear implant that allowed her to hear about 30% of the sounds around her. Because of her experience, she could understand the deaf children in ways others could not. She had true empathy.

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

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

When you are facing a struggle, a temptation, a problem of some sort, realize you have someone who has been there and is alongside of you to provide you with the resources and the help you need to face your situation. Christ relates to us with the highest degree of empathy. In addition, experiencing his grace in our time of need can help us have more empathy for others so that we can stand alongside them in their time of need. Paul writes in II Corinthians 1:4 “(Christ) comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” This is empathy in action.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 27, 2017

In the early days of smartphones, there was a commercial where a little girl is sitting in bed with a menacing monster standing right in front of her. The girl consults the phone and then calmly says to the monster, "It says you're not real." The monster's shoulders slump in frustration as he lets out a mournful moan.

Sometimes we need this phone. We need to be reminded that many of the "monsters" that are menacing our lives aren't real. We can be so good at inventing fearful things, worrying about things over which we have no control, and fretting over things that are really insignificant. Usually it is not what we see but how we see it that is the issue. When we look at things from the perspective of our great and powerful Heavenly Father, they take on a different perspective.

This is why Christ spoke about worry. In Matthew 6:26-27 we read, "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?"

God's information for us is much more valuable than a smartphone. He put our lives in a different perspective than we do ourselves. We need to look at so many things in our lives and say, "He says you're not real." When we look at things from God's point of view, the monsters just seem to melt away with a slump and a groan.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 26, 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. So often we get this turned around.

Jesus met several people like this when he was on earth. Once he encountered a man who asked him to solve a dispute between his brother and him over an inheritance. Christ said, "'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:14-15) Christ then told the story of a man who built more barns to contain all that he had while he ignored tending to his own soul. Christ 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)

Often we are guilty of following the example of the barn builder. 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. Are you succeeding in life at things that don t really matter?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 25, 2017

I used to do a little exercise with youth groups (although adults can benefit from this as well) called "Pass the Picture." The group would sit on the floor in a straight line, everyone facing one direction. I would give a simple drawing to the person at the back of the line. This person would look at the drawing and then, as best as they could, draw the picture with their finger on the back of the person in front of them. This person would then draw what had been passed to them on the back of the person in front of them. This would continue until it reached the person at the head of the line. That person would draw the picture on a piece of paper.

This drawing would be compared to the original drawing in view of all the participants, enabling them to see how well, or how badly, they had been able to "pass the picture." You can imagine the result. I have done this dozens of times over the years, and have yet to see a group replicate the drawing even remotely.

No doubt the purpose of this little exercise is obvious to you - it shows what can happen to an idea as it gets passed along from person to person. A story is shared and by the time it runs its course through usual channels ends up quite different from the original.

Garbled communication is not all that unique in our lives. It happens far too frequently and is the cause of many hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and damaged relationships. Even in our churches, this phenomenon occurs. It fuels the fires of gossip that can lead to many unwanted consequences. We need to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:15 where he says, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

Watch how you "draw your stories." Remember the importance of truth and the destructiveness of falsehood. Be careful what you share and how your share it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 24, 2017

Dr. Paul E. McGhee wrote, "Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health." Laughter is one of the best ways to promote health and well-being. The effects of laughter are well-documented. Laughter helps lower stress levels and blood pressure as it relaxes the whole body for up to 45 minutes. When you laugh, endorphins are released that bring about a sense of well-being and contentment. Laughter strengthens the immune system and also helps with strengthening the heart by improving blood flow.

God created us this way, so why don't we try to enjoy a good laugh more? Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that there is "a time to weep and a time to laugh." God does have a sense of humor - remember the story of Balaam talking to a donkey in Numbers 22? How about his sarcastic confrontation of Job in Job 38? How we function has been determined through the creative work of God, so the idea that laughter is good for us should not be too surprising.

Now, of course, there are times when laughter is inappropriate. We should not laugh at others' calamity or at others' expense. We also need to avoid the wrong kind of humor in invoking laughter. However, situations of joy and comedy of an appropriate nature need to be enjoyed. Times with friends that evoke laughter need to take place on a regular basis.

Proverbs 15:13 says, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful," Go ahead - laugh out loud!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 23, 2017

Have you ever been in a position where you feel that you just can't do anything right? That is probably how the lady in the story found in Matthew 26 felt as she faced criticism 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 soundly 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 indeed is 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 other lessons he 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 with them.

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
Sunday January 22, 2017

Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever been in a situation where you were truly alone? In the 2013 movie "Gravity" Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) finds herself alone in space after the shuttle on which she is traveling is destroyed. Her partner on the mission, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), plummets into space when the ship breaks up. Because of the effects and cinematography of the film, you are made to feel the "aloneness" of Dr. Stone - the inky blackness, the silence, the absence of oxygen, the sense of hopelessness. Since she is the only person left in the film after the loss of her partner, you pretty much know that somehow, she is going to survive, or there wouldn't be a movie. Still, the film succeeds at making you experience her fear and her isolation.

David was a person who experienced isolation. He spent nights alone with his father's sheep as he was growing up. He felt the loneliness of remote caves during the time when he was fleeing Saul. He experienced abandonment by colleagues, yet he knew he was never truly alone. He wrote, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10)

David knew he was never truly alone. Neither are you. No matter how lonely it may seem, or how abandoned you feel, God will never desert you. He will always be there and promises, "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) When you understand and accept God s promise, the darkness of loneliness can be replaced by the light of God's presence.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 21, 2017

As most of you know, we now have a new president. Yesterday, Donald Trump took the oath of office and became our 45th president. I came across an interesting bit of trivia with regard to the oath. Did you know that President Obama had to take the oath twice when he was first elected president? Chief Justice John Roberts slipped up on the wording during the inaugural, thus necessitating a private ceremony the next day.

Our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, took the oath four times but not because of mistakes; he was elected president four times. Roosevelt was president during two of the most significant events in United States history - the Great Depression and World War II. In one of his inaugural addresses, he stated: "We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic...Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity."

Did you notice the cause-effect principle stated by Roosevelt in the last sentence above? Obeying the precepts of the Bible leads to contentment and prosperity. We receive blessings from God when we obey him. When we don't obey him, we hinder what he wants to do in our lives. Consider the example of the children of Israel in this regard. In Exodus 33:1-3 we read God's words to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, `I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."

God tells the people it is time to leave Mt. Sinai and go to the land that will be their home. He tells them he will send some help for them, but he is not going to go with them. Why? Because of their sin and disobedience. There are consequences to disobedience, and one of the greatest is missing the blessing of the continued presence of God. God has promised to never leave us, but when we walk away from him, we diminish his effectiveness in our lives. Have you noticed that the Israelites always seemed to be a group of malcontents? FDR stated that when you obey God's Word, you attain "the greatest measure of contentment." Hmmm. Wonder if there is a correlation here?

Realize the truth in Roosevelt’s words, "Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying (God's Word), we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity." God wants to walk with you. Do you want to walk with him?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 21, 2017

There is a difference between knowing and doing. Sometimes ignoring the difference can be a real problem. My wife knows there are things she needs to avoid in her diet that may cause problems. She knows she needs to limit her intake of carbs, trans-fat, and sodium. Actually, we both need to avoid sodium because of health issues. Just knowing what needs to be avoided is not enough. We can recite all the problems with various diet items including what foods have elevated carbohydrates or sodium or whatever, but we will not benefit from this knowledge unless we actually avoid the foods. One source said that more than $1.8 billion in medical bills could be avoided annually if doing followed from knowing.

In so many circumstances, it is not what we know that is important, but what we do. Christ spoke a great deal about service, which is simply translating knowing into doing. Christ told his disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:15-17) Let's make sure that we are translating knowing into doing in our lives. "Knowledge is power" is a quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon. The power is actually when what we know affects what we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 20, 2017

All of our lives we have had to be ready for something. As kids we prepare for meals by washing our hands, prepare for bed by brushing our teeth, and prepare for school by getting homework done and laying our clothes. As adults, we prepare for work, meetings, appointments, arrival of guests, and many other things. Scherry and I just returned from a visit with family in Ohio. Knowing this was approaching, we prepared to leave. Then, as the time for our visit to end was drawing closer, we prepared for our return. Much of our lives is spent preparing for something that is going to happen.

As followers of Christ, we need to spend time preparing for his return. John writes, "we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:2-3) One of the most important things we can do as followers of Christ is to prepare for his coming. Doing so has a purifying effect on our lives as we concentrate on him and his provision and what our lives should reflect as we think of our relationship with him. As we think about the possibility of his return, let us examine our lives and prepare for this event. Preparing for coming events is part of our everyday lifestyle. Don't you think we should be preparing for what will be the most important event to ever take place? Prepare well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 19, 2017

In his book "Well Done", the founder of "Wendy's", Dave Thomas said, "Roll-up-your-shirtsleeves Christians see Christianity as faith and action. They still make the time to talk with God through prayer, study Scripture with devotion, be super-active in their church and take their ministry to others to spread the Good Word." He went on to say they are "anonymous people who are doing good for Christ may be doing even more good than all the well-known Christians in the world."

We probably do not need to worry about whether we are doing more good than "well-known Christians", but we should worry that we are doing good. James says, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and does't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) Dave Thomas seemed to have it right. We need to do good, but we shouldn't worry about who knows what we are doing and why we are doing it. We simply should be concerned that we are doing good for God. If we do something just for the attention, we might as well not do it. So, we need to make sure we are doing good, and that we are doing good in the right way. Be a "do-gooder" and do your best to do it quietly!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 18, 2017

There is a difference between knowing and doing. Sometimes ignoring the difference can be a real problem. My wife knows there are things she needs to avoid in her diet that may cause problems. She knows she needs to limit her intake of carbs, trans-fat, and sodium. Actually, we both need to avoid sodium because of health issues. Just knowing what needs to be avoided is not enough. We can recite all the problems with various diet items including what foods have elevated carbohydrates or sodium or whatever, but we will not benefit from this knowledge unless we actually avoid the foods. One source said that more than $1.8 billion in medical bills could be avoided annually if doing followed from knowing.

In so many circumstances, it is not what we know that is important, but what we do. Christ spoke a great deal about service, which is simply translating knowing into doing. Christ told his disciples on the night he was betrayed and arrested, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13:15-17) Let's make sure that we are translating knowing into doing in our lives. "Knowledge is power" is a quote attributed to Sir Francis Bacon. The power is actually when what we know affects what we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 17, 2017

Recently I read of a centenarian who had a practice of telling his age in terms of days. At the age of 100 years, he was 36,525 days old. What was the purpose of this practice? He based it on Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." The gentleman simply wanted to remind himself that he needed to live each day wisely.

Do you give this much thought? Do you remind yourself on a regular basis how important it is to live each day carefully and with some thought as to how you want to spend that day? Each day we live should be viewed as a gift. None of us are promised the next day. So, maybe we should adopt the practice of the aforementioned person who gave his age in terms of days. Right now, I am 21,371 days old. I have 15,154 days to go to make it to 100 years. I want to number each of those days correctly. How are you at numbering your days?

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 16, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 15, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 14, 2017

Albert Einstein was an intelligent man. He was also a wise man. His wisdom is reflected in this advice he gave his son Eduard: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."

Whether you face times of success or failure, you must keep moving. We should not be willing to rest on our laurels when we experience success of some type in our lives, we should be willing to move forward to attain other success. When we fail in some way, we should not let that failure be an excuse to not move forward to try other ideas. If our failure is a matter of morality, we should not retreat in shame or fear, but we should repent of our error and make positive steps to correct our ways. Move forward!

Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." I can think of many biblical examples of people who experienced personal failure yet continued to move forward in their trust in God: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David are all examples of people God used in spite of their failure because then continued to move forward in their relationship with God. We should do the same. Don't let failure cause you to fall off your bike. Don't let personal struggle be a reason to quit peddling. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 13, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 12, 2017

John Mellencamp once wrote in a song, "Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone." This seems to be an apt description for many people today. If you have a chance to visit an amusement park, you will see this illustrated. At the park, you will find scores of kids running around having a blast while many of the adults look as if they are at the worst place on earth. What is the situation? The kids are there to have a good time; the adults are simply there, they have the wrong focus.

We often struggle in life because we are looking at the wrong perspective of why we are here. We are here to enjoy Christ and develop a deep relationship with him. Through this are true joy and the abundant life that Christ said he came to bring to those who follow him. When we take our eyes off of this and focus on health issues, money issues, relationship issues, and so many other things, we are missing the point of life. Our life is not summed up by our experiences, our life is summed up by our experience in Christ. This is why Paul said his chief focus was Christ. We find his manifesto in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." Having this focus helps to put life in proper perspective and allows us to enjoy the abundance of life spoken of by Christ in John 10.

We can enjoy life and should enjoy life. However, this comes about when we our focus is correct. Develop a desire to know Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 11, 2017

There is a difference between knowing and doing. Sometimes ignoring the difference can be a real problem. My wife knows there are things she needs to avoid in her diet that may cause problems. She knows she needs to limit her intake of carbs, trans-fat, and sodium. Actually, we both need to avoid sodium because of health issues.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 09, 2017

One of the things I am not too fond of are automated answering services. I was not fond of them when they were first introduced, and I still don't care for them. Most businesses have them now. Many of you who have them at your business can perhaps speak long and eloquently about all the benefits. I find them very impersonal, and often frustrating when you are calling for a simple bit of information such as an appointment time and can't seem to get a response. Well, perhaps I simply need to chalk this up to "progress" and go on. I am certain that I need to adjust my attitude because my lack of affection for this "technology" will do little to change the way things are.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 08, 2017

Fred Bauer, former editor of Guideposts , told the story about a store owner on the western frontier in earlier days of our country. Travelers would pass by on their way west to get supplies and often ask about what to expect on the trail ahead. Sometimes they would ask about the people they might encounter, What kind of folks are up ahead? The wise store owner would reply, What kind of folks did you have at the place you left? If they said, ornery, he would tell them to expect ornery folks up ahead. If they said good and kind, he would tell them to expect good and kind folks up ahead. It was said he was rarely wrong.

Often our perceptions of others and our perceptions of circumstances are what determine our assessment of others or of the circumstances. If we enter into a venture thinking we will fail, we likely will fail. If we believe we are going to encounter success and have a positive outlook, we more than likely will succeed.

The same is true of our expectations of people. We are often treated the way we treat others. If you want to be treated well, then treat others well!

Christ takes this a bit further in Luke 6:27-31, "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.

This may be a difficult principle, but it has great returns. What kind of people are up ahead in your life? Listen to the wise shop keeper! Better yet, listen to Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday January 07, 2017

Water is something we take for granted until there isn t any. We go to the tap or reach for a bottle, there it is. Have you ever been in a situation where there wasn t any and you didn t know when you might get some again? I don t mean times when the water is off because of repairs or something, I mean a situation where there simply wasn t any and you were not sure when you might find some. Many of us cannot relate to this because we have never had it happen and, hopefully, never will. But most of us have been in a situation where we were really thirsty remember how that felt?

The closest I have ever been to a water emergency was an experience I had during my Scouting days. I was maybe 13 or 14 and we were hiking the Vesuvius Trail in Wayne National Forest in southern Ohio. It isn t exactly a forbidden wilderness , but we were in the middle of acres and acres of nothing but forest. It was a really hot summer day and our water ran out. We had brought what we thought was plenty, but the hotter than expected temps had taken their toll. We were miles from the nearest known water source, and we started getting really thirsty. I mean really thirsty. We knew we were not in a life-threatening situation, but we were getting dehydrated. It was a little scary. Water was all we could think about. Then, we came across a little stream oh, I have never seen anything look so good. Something that we probably would not have noticed at any other time now had our undivided attention. And did that water ever taste good!

My undivided attention to the need for water in my hiking experience is how I should feel about my relationship with God at all times. Psalm 42:1-2 says, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Do you thirst for God? You should! Even more than you need water you need God! Let him quench your thirst!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday January 06, 2017

Discouragement is often one of our greatest adversaries. Sometimes it is hard to stave off discouragement when we are facing setbacks because of our job, financial struggles, health problems, or other personal issues. In the midst of times that bring discouragement, we need to look for positive news. Christ said our journey would be hard at times. He tells us to continue to trust when we are discouraged. We should not be surprised by circumstances that bring discouragement and we should focus on that which can help us when we are discouraged - our relationship with Christ.

One of Job's "friends" said, "But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?" (Job 4:5-6) When we struggle with discouragement, it is our place in God's plan that can be of great help. Reminding ourselves that we are still in God's eyes and still in his care can help us face and overcome those times when we feel discouraged. Remember you will have times when you will be discouraged, but remember also that you will never be absent from God's presence. This will give you a positive outlook in a time of struggle.

Another source of inspiration is realizing that we can be of help to others when they see us stand firm in the face of discouragement. Remembering that we can have a positive impact for God through our continued faithfulness especially in the face of discouragement is a means of overcoming our discouragement. II Corinthians 1:4 tells us, "God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." As the song says, "Be not dismayed what'er betide, God will take care of you." Indeed he will.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday January 05, 2017

Did you ever have a Jack in the Box when you were a kid? I must confess, I still like playing with a Jack in the Box. I love to get scared. They are fun little toys to play with.

Having Jack in the Box is one thing, but often we want to have a "God in the Box." That is, we want to put God in a box with our preconceived ideas and thoughts of how God should act and what he should do in various circumstances. The trouble is, we don't spend the time to really get to know God and understand more about him. Since the idea of God is such a universal concept, sometimes our familiarity with the existence of God gets in the way of allowing him to work in our lives the way he wants. We think we know what is best for God as opposed to remembering that God knows what is best for us.

Be careful about thinking things like,"Well, God should do this. . ." or "God is like this. . ." We really need to be in awe when we think of God and not presume that we know what he should or shouldn't do. We should remember that our finite minds truly cannot grasp that which is infinite. God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9: "'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.'"

Let God inform and educate you. Don't try to inform and educate God. Don't put God "in a box." His creative prowess is probably a little better than yours! It's OK to have a Jack in the Box, but don't think you can have God in a Box.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday January 04, 2017

I was raised in the hills of southern Ohio. We didn't have mountains, but there are some formidable hills. My wife and I moved to Dallas, Texas to attend seminary. One day not long after we arrived in Dallas, we were talking with another couple who had moved there. Our conversation was about our first impressions of the area. One comment was, "The sky is so big here!" Of course, what made the sky seem so big was the absence of hills or mountains which tend to obscure one's view of the sky, unless you are way up on top. It was a matter of perspective.

Sometimes our view of God is a little obscured. At times, we let the hills and the mountains that seem to close in on us block our view of God and his power. We fail to see our potential that is a result of putting our lives into our big God's hands. We need to be able to say, "God is so big here!" And he is!

Don't let troubles and problems keep you from seeing his greatness and his grandeur. As a song says, we serve a "great big wonderful God". He reminds Job of his greatness and power in Job 38:3-5, "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?"

Don't get confused about God's size or his power because you have a hill obstructing your view. God is big here! He is big everywhere! Give thanks for our "great big wonderful God!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday January 03, 2017

As a youngster, one of my favorite things to do was to skip stones on bodies of water. There was a creek near my grandparents' home where water would pool in a number of areas that made great places for this purpose. When I skipped stones, I had two goals: First, I wanted to get the rock all the way to the other side. Secondly, I wanted the ripples to spread out to all the land areas around the water. I would imagine that I was changing the shorelines with the ripples I created.

Although my efforts in my youth probably didn't have any effect on the shorelines, our lives do produce ripples that have an effect on us and on others. We always need to remember this as we make decisions and interact with others. Who we really are and who we are becoming show up in the choices we make, and our choices have consequences for us and for those in our lives.

Paul encouraged believers to make good choices. He wrote, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," (Philippians 1:9-10) He knew their decisions would create ripples that would affect others. We will make ripples make sure they are good ones.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday January 02, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday January 01, 2017

Here we are another New Year! What are you going to do with this New Year? I read an interesting statement recently. "No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."

The scripture is full of stories of the lives of people who made new endings - some of them positive, some of them not so good. It would definitely have been better for Saul, Ahab, and Judas to have started at some point to make a new ending. However, they did not and they experienced the consequences. David made a bad decision but repented and the Lord was able to continue to use him (read Psalm 51). Paul was definitely headed in the wrong direction, but repented and became a powerful force in the hands of God (see Acts 9).

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

Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 31, 2016

What does the future hold? Every generation has asked that question, and every generation has the same answer, "We don't know." "US News and World Report" published an article in 1983 entitled "What the Next 50 Years Will Bring." Items such as the increased usage of computers, business trends, fashion trends and other things were discussed. For a very good reason, none of the predictions were really specific. The reason is that no one knows for sure what will actually happen in the future.

A case in point is a show I just watched recently on ESPN. The commentators were reviewing their preseason predictions to see how well they had done. A more appropriate statement is to see how poorly they had done. .

We need to realize we can't be too certain about prognostications. There is an exception, of course. When we read a prediction about the future in the scripture, we can rest assured it will take place as it was written. Almost 25% of the scripture is prophetic in nature. About 75% of that 25% has taken place just as it was written. For Old Testament prophets, the test of their authenticity was that they were 100% accurate. Any less was a demonstration that they were fake.

We can trust what the Scripture says. We may not know exactly what is going to take place in the future, but we know our Father does. Psalm 139:16 tells us, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. God is not in the business of prognostication he has proven over and over that he knows what lies ahead. He indeed knows what the future holds so the best thing to do is trust him with our future.

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 April 23rd, 2017

6:00 AM
Sun. Apr 23rd
Popcorn & Movie
5:45 PM
6:30 PM
Wed. Apr 26th
Dinner
Cross Training/Bible Study
9:00 AM
Sat. Apr 29th
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Isabel Meinhart - Madelyn Bailey
Mon. Apr 24th
Gene Frey - Madison White - Mason Clark
Wed. Apr 26th
Lauren Lowery - Brett Ackerman
Thu. Apr 27th
Pat Lewis
Fri. Apr 28th
Jolyn Bigard
Sat. Apr 29th

Coming Events

Sing For Missions
Apr 30th

April Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
John Dryden Jr.
2nd
John Dryden Sr.
9th
Eric Schmidt
16th
Rein Schmidt
23rd
Brad Tarr
30th
John Dryden Jr.
Communion

Ushers
Lawrence Klier
John Dryden Sr.
Gary Wolf
Brad Tarr

Special Music
 
2nd
Danny Quick
9th
 
16th
Nancy Dryden
23rd
Fern Read
30th
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Instrumentalists
Jolyn Bigard
Piano
Cheryl Earnest
Organ

Nursery Workers
Geneva Clark
2nd
Terry Milliman
9th
 
16th
Madonna Klier
23rd
Gina Fox
30th

Greeters
Lawrence & Madonna Klier
2nd
Dave & Chris Hyatt
16th
Ray & Debbie Diel
16th
Sarah Kincade Family
23rd
Mark & Poodie Zumbahlen
30th

Jr. Church
Tyler, Jacey, Jason, Mishelle
2nd
Jamie, Gloria, Ray, Debbie
9th
 
16th
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
23rd
Adam, Brooke, Ross, Lynn
30th

Pattie Litchfield - Chris Klier
Hostesses

My Favorite Bible Verse

Beverly Brackett

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

Madonna Klier

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

Deloris Staley

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Steve Willis - Pastor

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

April 1, 2017

As I wrote in my March 30 article, "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he falls." (I Corinthians 10:14) I certainly didn't want to fall, but I did, and all kinds of changes have taken place. Plans have been redirected, new directions are being followed, and I have had to develop a very cautious lifestyle which includes putting no weight on my leg for six weeks. This has led to other precautions and other intentional activities because things cannot be done the way they were being done.

When changes come about in this way, you begin to notice things you didn't notice before, you think about things that you may have not thought about, and you focus on exercises you wouldn’t be doing if you hadn't had the experience. The important pursuit is to realize where you focus should continue to be, let the changes enhance your focus, and go after the right goal.

A friend of mine reminded me of this verse, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

Isn't that a great promise? No matter how much our circumstances change and our plans are altered, we can rely upon the reality and the hope of an unchanging God who will always be there for us and will be at our side. Whether we are going too fast or are going so slow we can see paint dry, God is right beside us. We will never be deserted nor will we ever have experiences that will not bring about good in our lives. This is the hope of those who follow him ad those who know he is there.

I don't know what all I will be learning though my experiences over the next few weeks, but I do know that God will be with me along the path that I will be traveling. I know I will think new thoughts, see new things, experience new circumstances. For these times I should be thankful.

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