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

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

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

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

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


Our Staff

Pastor
Dr. Steve Willis

Deacons

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Dr. Steve Willis

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

Sam & Karen White

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

 

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
Monday July 16, 2018

I really enjoy the game of golf. I was never very good, but it was always enjoyable to get out with others and play. Now that I have trouble with my legs, so I am unable to play anymore. I still enjoy watching golf and talking about the game. The "dimpled" ball still holds my attention.

Have you ever wondered why a golf ball is dimpled? This may not be one of the great mysteries of the universe, but just so you can say you are informed, the reason a golf ball is dimpled is so it might travel farther. An undimpled golf ball would only go about half as far as one with dimples. So, the feature of the ball that makes it look a little different is the characteristic that enhances its purpose. An apparent "flaw" is actually a positive feature.

Many of us are quick to point out physical features that we believe affect our appearance adversely. We can be so quick to point out our flaws and wish we didn't have a particular "imperfection." When we struggle with these thoughts, we need to remember the biblical statements about our existence. David writes "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14) God is the one who put you together.

When you struggle with perceived "imperfections", remember that the perfect God is the one who created you the way you are. Putting your struggles in this light may bring you some perspective as to how you are to bring glory to God through what you consider to be "inglorious." Think of how your "dimples" may enhance your performance for the Lord!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 15, 2018

Near where I live there is an intersection that has the potential for being a rather dangerous place. A county-maintained blacktop that runs north-south joins a state road in the middle of a severe curve in the state road. I just drove through this intersection yesterday. Those of you who are local know this intersection - it is where the Dieterich Blacktop runs into State Route 121.

Drivers traveling north on the county road have a stop sign, but must take care when pulling onto the state road that there are no cars coming into the curve. Visibility is limited because of the topography at that junction. Because of the nature of the intersection, drivers traveling south on the state road actually have a straight shot onto the county road rather than following the curve of the state road.

As south-bound drivers on the state road approach this point of decision, it would be good for them to signal which way they wish to travel even if they intend to follow the state road. Technically, if you are staying on the state road you are not making a turn, you are actually following the curve. However, because of the nature of the intersection it would be a good idea to use your signal. This is especially true if there are north-bound vehicles either stopped at the intersection or approaching the intersection. Using your signal would be a matter of courtesy, and not actually demanded. It would simply be a good idea.

There are so many instances in life where this is the case - doing something that really isn't demanded, but just would be a good idea based on courtesy and consideration for others. It seems in our society this is a trait that is sometimes lacking. I feel it is a trait that needs to be manifested more, and certainly should be part of the way of life for a follower of Christ. We should practice consideration for others at all times and do things for others just because it would be a nice thing, not on account of a demand.

Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Paul tells us, "No one should seek their own good, but the good of others." (I Corinthians 10:24) Take the danger out of life by putting others first!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 14, 2018

Many years ago, I had a little accident with my bass guitar. I had opened the latches on the case and was distracted before I could take out the guitar. Another person picked up the case, dropped the guitar on the hard floor, and snapped the neck. I was stunned, and there was nothing to be said or done at that point. Later, I had the guitar repaired, however, it did not play as well as it had before the accident.

This is a picture of our dilemma. Humankind was damaged by the fall and we are simply not what we were before the fall. The fall left a permanent mark on us, and we cannot overcome the effects of the fall on our own. God took care of this problem by giving a Special Gift, his Son Jesus Christ. Unlike the fate of my bass guitar, those who follow Christ will become even better than we could have ever been, fall or not. We are new creatures in Christ and we will become like Christ when he appears to take us to live with him. 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 he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

God will make us totally new, along with everything else, when we come into the eternal state. The effects of the fall will not be present in our eternal home. God says, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:5) The only answer for my broken bass guitar was a new one. The only answer for us is to be made new. This is what God will do! Then, we will look, sound, and be better than we ever could before!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 13, 2018

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia? This is your new word for the day, and it is the fear of Friday the 13th. There may also be a fear of learning new words, but I have no idea what that is called.

The reasons why Friday the 13th is considered "unlucky" are not really all that clear. The actual thought of Friday the 13th being a day that needs to be avoided doesn't seem to appear until the 19th century; however, according to some historians, the roots behind this fear may go back further. Many trace the concern for the day back to the time of Christ as Christ was crucified on Friday, and Judas was the 13th person at the celebration of the Last Passover. This seems to be a bit of a stretch.

All I can say is, don't try to blame this inordinate fear on Christianity. Although it was a day of cruelty suffered by the Savior, what took place that day certainly had nothing to do with bad luck. The day of crucifixion had been planned from eternity past as a day when Christ would become the necessary sacrifice for the sin of all of humankind. Paul tells us a plan for salvation was determined since before the beginning of time, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:9-10)

You may have a problem with Friday the 13th, but you certainly can't blame it on the message of Christ! If you are following Christ, the fact that Christ came into the world to die for your sin makes you a "lucky" person. Let me change that - you are a blessed person. Of course, salvation has nothing to do with luck at all, but everything to do with the love and grace of our wonderful Savior. And remember that there should be no fear as "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (I John 4:18)

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 12, 2018

I was watching a baseball game on TV the other night. At the conclusion of one inning in which the home team had scored 4 or 5 runs, the announcer said, "Well, they enjoyed a big inning." This statement reminded me that baseball is mentioned in the Bible. "What?" you say. "Yes," I reply. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beg-inning. . ." (drum roll-off, cymbal crash, chorus of boos) Sorry about that. I will try to refrain from that from now on.

Is God really interested in baseball games? Some would say he is, I really wouldn't argue one way or the other, but I do know that God is interested in our lives and in all the little details of our lives. He wants us to live for him and be good representatives of him whatever we are doing. We can and should reflect His character and His person in all of our activities, including our recreational pursuits.

Paul writes, "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." (Colossians 3:17) Someone wrote, "Fun and entertainment are gifts of God, given so that we might come closer to Him. We should remember this when we are planning our recreation and remember to thank God for such a good and perfect gift." James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above."

We can enjoy God, and we should enjoy God, in whatever we do. There are activities we should avoid because they are wrong, but I shouldn't have to belabor that point to those who know who God is and the character of God. God wants us to enjoy him, enjoy life, and reflect his character in whatever we are doing. We can do that in a number of ways. Play ball!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 11, 2018

I just returned from a visit to my kids in Ohio. That means time with grandkids. What is even better is they are now visiting me. I am not even going to ask you to forgive me for using something they did as a basis for my article. And I am not going to ask you to forgive me for using another prayer story as a basis for my comments.

My little grandson has moved to a different stage in his prayers. Instead of just bowing his head, folding his hands, saying "Pray!" and then saying "Amen!", now he bows his head, folds his hands, and then utters some unintelligible thoughts before he says, "Amen!" I would love to know what is in his mind when he speaks those words, but I don't.

As I was listening to him the other day, I was reminded of one of the incredible provisions of God on our behalf. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God s will." This tells us that at those times in our experience when we do not even know how to pray or for what to pray, God prays for us. The Holy Spirit (who is God) intercedes to God the Father on our behalf. He intercedes with "groanings that cannot be uttered." He communicates in a way in which we can't, and in a way that we don t understand. But God does.

When we are in the middle of something that has us so tied up in knots that we don't even know how to begin to pray, focus on the reality that God who is in you the Holy Spirit is praying for you and saying for you what needs to said. This can be a great comfort and a great encouragement as we think about this. We don't feel it, we don't hear it, and we don't have any external evidence that it is taking place, but we can rest assured that it is taking place because this is the promise of God. And we can all say, "Amen!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 10, 2018

I read a story once about some thieves in France who got away with more than $3.5 million. There was one problem: It was all in coins, none worth more than $2. That's right - coins - 17 tons of them. How in the world would they spend that? How could you buy a car or anything of value with coins? Think that would make the seller a little suspicious? They may have been rich, but they couldn't use their wealth for anything worthwhile.

Most of us would think those thieves to be a bit foolish. However, many of us are doing the same thing - we are putting too much effort into the acquisition of worldly goods and wealth while forgetting to "store up treasure in heaven," as Christ advised us to do. We read in Matthew 6:19-20, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Don't drag around that heavy treasure! It won't do you any good - it really is "useless" treasure. Make sure you are acquiring true wealth!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 09, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 08, 2018

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
Saturday July 07, 2018

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
Friday July 06, 2018

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult people to reach for Christ are members of our own families who are not followers of Christ. I find this a somewhat ironic, but very realistic circumstance. The difficulty is caused by a number of factors. We usually spend a good deal of time with our family members, and our family members usually don't have any trouble brushing off our attempts to share the message of Christ. We often feel guilty because of our inability to win those closest to us and we are perplexed by our struggle to be effective in our witness.

There are three observations I want to share regarding this that come from both my own personal experience and from what I see in God's Word. First, we need to be patient and continue to pray. We are concerned about our loved ones, but patience in a virtue helpful in so many of life's realities and certainly in this circumstance. Prayer is an important and vital key. Secondly, we must never forget it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is most important here. We are to model the Christian life before others and share verbally when we can, but the Holy Spirit is the One who draws others to Christ. Finally, remember that even Christ experienced family rejection in his earthly ministry. During his lifetime, his family thought he was a little off and "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" (Mark 4:3) His brothers tried to give him advice on how to run his ministry but "even his own brothers did not believe in him." (John 7:5) However, we learn from Acts 1:14 that his brothers became followers as they were gathered with the apostles in Jerusalem awaiting the Holy Spirit after the departure of Christ.

In my own experience, I think of two of my family members that came to faith after years of patient witness and prayer. We can't compel our family members to come to faith but we can continue to pray and love them. We need to leave the results in the hands of our loving God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 05, 2018

At the bottom of the Declaration of Independence is a group of signatures. These signatures reflect the willingness of these individuals to do what was necessary to establish a society based on their desire to be free from the influence of an entity that was placing unrealistic expectations on their lives. Their signatures made known their willingness to be used in whatever way necessary to make changes to their life situation. They were willing to stake their fortunes, make sacrifices, and risk losing all to bring about a new life.

Jesus had a group of people who were willing to do the same thing. They wanted to change the world by proclaiming the Good News of Christ and what he will do for those who follow him. They had come to the realization that Christ was all-important, and they wanted others to know this.

When we "sign on" to follow Christ, we are putting ourselves in a position to be used by him. Christ wants to use people to further his ministry. He has chosen to use people to bring the news of his provision to the world, but he only uses those people who are willing to be used by him. "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26) Are you willing to let Christ use you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 04, 2018

Today, July 4, is Independence Day. On this date in 1776 the First Continental Congress adopted the wording of the Declaration of Independence. It wasn t actually signed until about a month later, but just after the approval on this date, John Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." This is why we celebrate on July 4.

Today the day is celebrated as a "great anniversary Festival," but not with "solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." Usually we don't consider this day to be a "religious holiday;" but along with our cookouts and our fireworks, it would be good to take time to thank God for all the blessings we enjoy because of living where we do. There are so many in our world today who still languish under totalitarian regimes while we enjoy freedoms that are often taken for granted. Don't do that! Be mindful of the price that was paid for us to be able to enjoy life the way we do.

We should not take our spiritual freedom for granted either. Adams spoke of commemorating the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence as the Day of Deliverance. We should celebrate our spiritual Day of Deliverance. On Friday, April 14, 33 A.D., Christ died on a cross to pay the price for our spiritual deliverance. Now, I know the date I have given may not be exact, but it is close. Just as certainly as the Declaration of Independence being adopted in 1776 led to freedom for the inhabitants of the 13 colonies, Christ's death for our sins during the Passover in A.D. 33 leads to freedom for all who follow Him.

Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." John speaks of our freedom in Christ in chapter 8 of his gospel, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . .if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (vv. 32 and 36)." We are free in Christ if we commit our lives to Christ.

As you celebrate today, remember to give thanks for those whose sacrifice brought us our freedom. As you remember your freedom in Christ, use this as a time to give thanks for the sacrifice that brought you that freedom. Happy Independence Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 03, 2018

One of the keys of parenting is realizing that your children are different. 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 over circumstances. This was helpful and necessary for them and for me. My grandkids are following the same pathway by manifesting differences.

God is aware of this 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 children 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
Monday July 02, 2018

When I was younger I was called "four eyes" because of my glasses. There is a species of fish found in Central and South America called the Four Eyed Fish, Anableps anableps. It is called the Four Eyed Fish because it has two lenses in each eye - one that enables the fish to look at the world above as it swims near the surface. The other set of lens allows it to see what is going on in the water. This sounds like a useful trait.

We don't have this physical attribute, but we need to develop a "four eyed" spiritual trait. On the one hand, we need to be able to look above, to train our focus heavenward so as to be aware of God and his desire for us and what he has in store for us. Paul states in Colossians 3:1, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."

On the other hand, we should never lose our focus on our responsibility here and now. There are needs that should be met; there are things that need to be done. Christ spoke often of heaven and our place there (read John 14:1-6), but he also spoke of the need to seek justice and help meet needs now. We find Christ's words in Matthew 5:5-6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Do your best to develop four eyes. Train yourself to look above and look below. In this way we will keep ourselves encouraged as we think of what God has for us, but also keep ourselves involved in what is going on around us. Being "four eyed" is a really good thing!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 01, 2018

I have always gotten a kick out of the phrase, "comfort food." Most of you are familiar with this concept - food that induces a degree of "comfort" because of the nostalgic or sentimental feeling the food produces when you enjoy it. The food is usually high in carbohydrates and is simple to prepare. Things like pot roast, beef stew, hamburgers and french fries, are considered "comfort food."

Can you really derive comfort from food? I suppose to a certain extent, you can. Of course, there is a problem when you try to derive comfort from food through overindulgence. This is a problem that can be extended to a number of other items - alcohol, drugs, money, pleasure, or power. When one tries to seek a level of comfort through overindulgence in anything it reflects a deep problem that requires a deep solution.

Paul tells us that that the source of true comfort is God and God working through us to help others. He writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4) God provides the comfort we need and wants to use us to bring comfort to others to help us live and thrive in a broken world. Enjoy comfort food for what it is, but when you face real struggles, let God be your source of comfort.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 30, 2018

In my article this past Wednesday, I referred to my leadership of church camps. I have had many wonderful experiences at church camp both as a camper, and as a leader. The camp to which we sent kids from our church closed a number of years ago. This was a sad thing and had an effect on our camping program. I spent a good deal of time at that camp as a leader.

The chapel at that camp was located on the south edge of property, nestled ever so slightly into a wooded area. One feature of the rustic chapel was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course He does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to His presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.

It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits His followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God.

That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 29, 2018

This year gardens have been tremendously productive because of the favorable growing conditions. Crops are doing well because of the consistent moisture and the moderate temperatures. Gardens and crops are reaching their full potential because of the optimal growing conditions. We are seeing what plants can do when they are provided with the right ingredients.

As followers of Christ we need to provide the right environment and the right conditions in order to make sure our "spiritual gardens" are able to grow and thrive the way they should. Peter tells us what we need to do to have an abundant harvest. We need to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)

Make sure your garden flourishes by providing the right environment. You can't control the elements that influence the growth of your vegetables, but you can provide the right environment to enhance your faith. Let the garden of your soul reach its full potential by providing what is needed for growth.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 28, 2018

I take medicine in order to control a heart condition I have. One of the side effects of one of the medications is a metallic taste I have pretty much all the time. This is mildly annoying, but as I experience the metallic taste, I ask myself, "Which is worse, a metallic taste in your mouth or your heart beating like a runaway freight train?" I think I can live with the metallic taste. The taste also is a consistent reminder of my dependence on the medicine so I have an alert to help me take the medicine as directed.

Paul talks about a circumstance that he faced that was a perpetual reminder to him of his current state of dependence. He writes, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given 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." (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

It sounds as if Paul had more than just a metallic taste in his mouth that served as a constant reminder of his dependence on the grace of God. The "thorn" was there to help him remember that his ability to live for God came from the hand of God. This led him to exalt in his status of weakness and put his experience in perspective. He was driven to a place where he knew he could not continue without God's help.

God often gives us reminders of our status. We need to gain perspective and appreciate them from a positive point of view. These reminders are contributors to our spiritual development. Let God use the "thorns" to shape our character!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 27, 2018

Years ago when I directed summer camps, we sang a chorus that said, "Tell me whose side are you leaning on? Leaning on the Lord s side!" An elderly gentleman named Harvey continued to attend church faithfully even after he had lost almost all of his sight and his hearing. "Harvey," a fellow church member asked, "Why do you continue to be so faithful even though you can't see or hear what is going on?" "Well," Harvey replied, "I want people to know what side I am on."

Too many times we do things just for what we can get out of the experience. This includes our involvement in the ministry of the church. We need to support our church with our attendance, our effort, our giving, and our commitment. We need to look for ways to give and not be so concerned with what we can "get."

We need Harveys - people who are there because they feel their presence pleases God and they want to give to others. When we do this, we know we are following the example of Christ and the teaching of Christ. Christ stated in Mark 10:43-45, "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." There are two operative words here: serve and give. These should be our priority - are they?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 26, 2018

Candles are one of those items that were at one time an item of necessity but now are used optionally. Candles provide light and warmth and even though we have more effective sources of light and warmth, candles are still popular. Although candles may have more of a "decorative" function now, you still need to exercise caution when you use them. All too frequently we hear of fires that were caused by candles left unattended. Many times, the results are tragic.

As it is with candles, so it is with our lives. We need to take care of our lives and allow them to "burn" properly. We sometimes get caught up in so many things and activities we "burn the candle at both ends." Even as with a real candle, we need to exercise caution with how we allow our lives to "burn." We want to be able to burn for God, not burn up.

A candle that burns the way it should does so slowly, providing a source of light, warmth and, with most candles today, pleasing aroma. The candle enhances the atmosphere around it. If misused and allowed to ignite its surroundings, the candle becomes a destructive force, even to itself, as it will probably be destroyed in the ensuing maelstrom.

How are you allowing your life to burn for God? Be an influence on your environment, not a destructive force. Avoid useless, self-caused, stresses that cause burnout. Work to provide a consistent, productive, helpful influence. Paul refers to burning your candle wisely in II Corinthians 12:15, "So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." Allow your lives to burn for God but be careful so that you don't burn out!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 25, 2018

What opportunity will you have to show mercy today? Jesus said that showing mercy to others is a mark of a person who has encountered God. Showing mercy to others necessitates compassion and forgiveness, the very things God has shown to us. Humility allows us to receive God's mercy and empowers us to show mercy to others. How will you pass on what you have received from Him?

Jesus showed mercy through his teaching, his miracles, his interaction with others, and in so many other ways. Matthew 5:7 records his words: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Maybe a fellow employee who made a mistake that affected a presentation you were planning needs mercy. Maybe your child who forgot his homework and needs to have you take it to school needs mercy. Maybe the person who just cut you off in traffic needs mercy. Here's a thought - maybe you could simply find someone having a bad day and show them some mercy. Nothing reflects Christ likeness better than showing mercy. Do you best to be one who is blessed because you show mercy.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 24, 2018

I have never been big on the idea of an identity crisis, that is, trying to find "who you really are". Nonetheless, there are times in our lives when we do ask questions about who we are, what we are doing in life, or what we have done.

Teenagers sometimes suffer angst as they are in a position of leaving behind the relatively carefree experience of childhood and enter into a time in their lives when they are more responsible for their own actions and their own decisions. As we enter middle age, we often wonder about choices we have made and sometimes face disappointment as we feel we haven't met all of our goals. During our senior years, end of life issues are experienced and often cause anxiety and concern. What is the answer for the struggles we face at these times, or any time for that matter? What helps is to recall and rehearse God's view of who we are.

As followers of Christ, we can remind ourselves that we are redeemed people. We should remember that "you were bought at a price." (I Corinthians 6:20) We are forgiven (Acts 10:43), reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19), new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17), God s adopted children (Gal. 4:4-7), and God s witnesses and ambassadors (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:20). Best of all, we are destined to be like His Son (Rom. 8:29). As we remember and review these characteristics that are made possible through our relationship with God, our identity becomes a bit clearer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 23, 2018

After my article about my granddaughter yesterday, I sort of felt as if I should give her little brother some ink. Cullen is talking a bit, but at 2 years old, he isn't stringing together sentences quite yet. That does not mean he is unable to communicate his desires, wishes, and intent. He is pretty much an open book, so you know what is on his mind even though he may not be able to verbalize completely his thoughts. For example, when it is time to pray, such as before a meal, he will fold his hands, bow his head, and say "Pray!" So, you do indeed get the idea what he has in mind.

I got to witness another cute display of his inner thoughts on a recent visit to my kids. We were preparing to leave for morning worship. I was standing by the door getting ready to exit to the van. In popped my grandson, looking all natty in his new outfit, hair slicked back, shoes on, and ready to move. He hopped over to me, threw his arms out, smiled radiantly, and announced, "I ready!" And, indeed he was. When he did this, I was sort of overcome with glee, joy, and amusement all at once. It was just so cute, and his exuberance and excitement were evident.

As I reflected on his actions, I wondered what sort of emotions we evoke in our Father as we prepare for worship. Do we demonstrate an exuberance that makes Him smile? Do we display excitement that brings Him joy? Do we make him feel a sense of pride in what we convey to Him? Do we look at him with a gleam in our eyes and say, "I ready!"?

I Chronicles 16:23-25 says, "Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods." When it comes to our love of God, our worship of God, and certainly our service for God, we need to look at Him with eyes that gleam with excitement and say, "I ready!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 22, 2018

I enjoy listening to my little 5-year-old granddaughter pray. There are a number of reasons for this. When she prays, her prayers are always a direct reflection of what she has on her mind. They are brief and to the point, and she doesn t use any particular formulas in her prayers or language that she would not normally use when speaking to someone else. Of course, at her age, she wouldn't think of this, as she considers prayer simply talking to God as if He is in the room with her and wants to hear what she has to say. Hmmm. Isn't that interesting?

I think you can learn a lot about prayer from a 5-year-old. Our prayer needs to be direct, although there are occasions when we need to spend some time in prayer and not worry about the length. We don't need to use any particular forms or "prayer language" when we pray; we should speak directly to the Father who wants to hear our prayers and even enjoys hearing our prayer, perhaps much in the same way that I enjoy hearing the prayer of my granddaughter.

I am not being flippant or taking anything away from prayer when I speak about it in this way. I am just reflecting some thoughts that I hope will encourage you to pray and develop a positive mindset towards your communication with God. Don't forget to pray as if God is right there in the room with you, listening to every word you say. He is.

Luke 18:1 tells us, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." This is what we need to do, and I have learned some things from a 5-year-old that encourages me to do just this.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 21, 2018

It is a well-known story that one of the greatest construction feats in the history of mankind, the construction of the Panama Canal, was almost shut down by a tiny insect. During the massive project, the enormous problems of moving a river, displacing tons of earth, and cutting down miles of jungle didn't threaten the project nearly so much as the problem of mosquitoes. With mosquitoes came disease and many deaths. The project began in 1904 and by 1906 nearly 85% of the workers had been hospitalized with yellow fever or malaria. As the death toll continued to rise, a solution was sought.

Dr. William Gorgas, also a colonel in the United States Army, led a campaign to use chemicals to kill the mosquitoes and, according to his thoughts, eliminate the disease. The role of the mosquito in spreading disease was not widely accepted at the time. In spite of critics, President Roosevelt funded the spraying project in accordance with Gorgas' idea. As we know, the effort was successful and the canal was built.

A big project was almost stymied by a little threat. That can happen to us. We need to make sure we take care of the little problems in our lives lest they cause big problems. For example, "It's just a little white lie" can lead to a big problem of destroying credibility and damaging relationships. We need to take care that we don't allow little issues into our lives that can cause great problems. This is what can take place when we dismiss what we deem a minor issue as harmless.

Hebrews 12:15 addresses one such area, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." The concern here is that a minor infraction, if not attended, can lead to a major problem that could "cause trouble and defile many." We need to take care of the "mosquitoes!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 20, 2018

Many of us struggle with the desire to be accepted by others. We often do strange things in order that we might gain the favor of others. We wear clothes we might not like, accept invitations we would rather decline, work long hours when we need to be home, and pay way too much for stuff we don't need all because we want to impress other folks. Too many of us are live as if we are pledging a fraternity or sorority and we do crazy things in order to join. Regrettably, we sometimes follow a crowd that influences us in the wrong way and we listen to advice from the wrong people.

Reheboam had this problem. He was asked to alleviate some of the pressure that had been put on the people by his father, King Solomon. He was told by the elders who had known his father that if he would do this "you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." (I Kings 12:7) Instead, he rejected this advice and listened to his "friends", men his age with whom he had grown up.. He apparently was more concerned about impressing his peers than being wise. As a result, the kingdom divided.

We need to decide how we want to live. Whose acceptance do we want - God or others? Make sure you are listening to the right counselor!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 19, 2018

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 really 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 loosen 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
Monday June 18, 2018

In generations past, something that would bring a good deal of excitement to a family was the arrival of a new catalog. Be it from Sears, J.C. Penney, or Montgomery Ward, a new "wish book" was highly anticipated as the pages were filled with items one could see and hope to obtain.

I remember my great anticipation of the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penney s . I would thumb through the toy sections, looking at various items which I thought would look great under the tree on Christmas morning. There were always so many items I hoped to see in real life.

The Bible is a book that brings great hope as well; however, the hope it brings is of a more lasting nature and of greater consequence than the items one sees in catalogs. The Bible describes man's need and God's provision. It outlines God's plan of redemption for mankind and the blessed hope that is ours when we come to God by faith.

What is contained in the pages of scripture is hope. The hope that is presented in the scripture is certainly not like the pictures in a new catalog - objects that we may or may not obtain. What is described in the Bible is a hope that is ours when we follow our Lord. Hebrews 6:18-19 describes this hope, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Don't wish for things that you may not have - put your hope in God and what he tells us is ours when we follow Him. The Bible is not a book of wishful thinking; it describes a reality that is ours when we follow Christ's provision. Looking at the pages of a catalog and wishing for things we want and then don't receive brings disappointment. Reading the Bible and placing our hope in what it says will never disappoint. What God says is ours is really ours - and no one can change it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 17, 2018

When the Lord gave instructions on how to pray, he also gave some insights into the character of God. And when he addressed God as his Father, he gave some insight into characteristics of a father that we earthly fathers would do well to emulate. Certainly, we cannot be the kind of Father that God is in that He is perfect, but we see elements of fatherhood that we should try to model as earthly fathers.

We find this prayer in Matthew 6:9 -13, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

First, we see that a father is there for his children. Jesus said "Our Father in heaven." He knew where he was. Fathers need to be present with their children. The statement regarding God's will speaks to me of strength. Fathers should provide strength and direction for their families. Fathers need to provide, as God does, "Give us today our daily bread, Fathers need to be forgiving. Fathers should not do things to lead their children down the wrong path - "lead us not into temptation." Fathers need to provide protection, as God does.

Earthly fathers cannot be the Father; that is not the intent. However, we find many elements of fatherhood presented in Christ's prayer that we earthly fathers can exhibit in our lives. Happy Father's Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 16, 2018

An old adage tells us to "take time to smell the roses." I am always impressed by how much more I see of things when I walk by them as to when I drive by. For one thing, you can't afford to be looking around too much when you are driving. You simply don't have the time to take in all the details when you are zipping by at a high rate of speed. I can drive by a location 10 times, and then walk by it once and say, "Well, I never noticed that before."

The obvious lesson here is that sometimes we need to slow down and take in more detail. That is why we have such comments in the Bible as are found in Psalm 37:7, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;" and Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

A literal translation of the "be still" in 46:10 is "cease striving." In other words, slow down, observe, and listen. This is something we need to do more of - whether it be in our spiritual lives or in life in general. "Be still" and see how much more you see!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 15, 2018

God knows more about us than we do about ourselves. We admit that verbally, but sometimes how we are living demonstrates that we really don't believe it.

Psalm 139:1-4 makes this abundantly clear, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

We need to make sure our lifestyles mirror our belief in this area. Whether it involves a matter of trust in God in a situation, or a matter of obedience to God, or a matter of control over an issue in our life, we need to allow our actions to match our words when it comes to acknowledging God's role in our lives. God does know all about you - live as if you believe this!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 14, 2018

God wants us to enjoy life, and he wants to be a part of every facet of our lives. Many people are surprised to find out that this includes our work life as well. God wants us to be industrious and he wants us to be good workers. As a matter of fact, he tells us in Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Isn't that interesting? When you work, your need to perform your tasks as "working for the Lord. . .It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Honor the Lord as best you can with everything you do including your work. If you are a business person, conduct your business nobly. If you are a teacher, teach well. If you are a farmer, farm well. If you are a factory worker, work well. If you sack groceries, do that well! Remember that as a follower of Christ, you are to do these things to please him.

Paul also gives us this encouragement in II Corinthians 5:9, "So we make it our goal to please him." Is this your goal? It should be! And it includes every part of your life, including what you do for a living! So work well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 13, 2018

Recently I read of a lady who keeps a "Heaven file." It is a file where she has clippings, pictures, letters, and other mementos from friends and family members who have died. She does not do this because she is overcome with grief; she does this as a perpetual reminder of the assurance she has of seeing these people again. Her file is a tangible expression of hope - not hope for something that might take place but hope in something that will take place.

In I Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the Thessalonians they can have a "Heaven File": "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (vss. 13 - 18)

I am happy that this is something we can do, and my Heaven file is becoming more populated. Last night, I lost a dear friend as Cosie Cook went home to be with God. Cosie is the wife of Steve Cook. Many of you know these dear folks. Cosie battled a number of illnesses for a number of years; her most recent struggle was with leukemia. I have known Steve all of my life and became acquainted with Cosie when she and Steve started dating in high school. It is hard for me to believe that I am actually writing that she has joined my "Heaven file."

I pray for my friend, Steve, and his family, and look forward to the day when my Heaven file can be put in File 13 because I am now experiencing the reality of Heaven. We have that assurance because of the promise of God to His followers. I am glad for the hope of a "Heaven File!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 12, 2018

My mother always told me "you get what you pay for." Mom always knew you should go for quality when you make purchases, although she never paid full price for anything. She didn't go for cheaper, bargain products. She just waited on sales to buy what she knew to be quality products at a reduced price.

I failed to heed this advice on a number of occasions, but one particular incident that comes to mind involved grass seed. I needed some grass seed so I bought some. I got some generic, cheaper seed. Grass seed is grass seed, right? Well, I "paid" for my mistake. The seed didn't germinate, even though conditions were great. So, I went back and got the good stuff. My lawn still might not be the envy of the neighborhood, but I have grass where I once had bare spots!

Sometimes we are like this when it comes to our lives as followers of Christ. We like to search for "bargains;" we cut corners; we don't spend the time we should doing what we know is important to help us grow in the faith. God gave us his Best when he sent His Son to die so that we might have life. Through faith in Him we receive the gift of eternal life that is free for us, but at times we fail in what we offer to Him as thanks for His gift to us.

Time, effort, discipline, and more are helpful when it comes to our growth in Christ. We need quality "seed," not some bargain basement product. We need to give our best effort when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . ." Give Him your best!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 11, 2018

As I am writing this article, we have a pretty good storm taking place outside. It stormed a bit last night, and another cropped up early this morning. I have written before that I am not all that fond of storms; however, storms do have a unique way of demonstrating the power of God.

The writer of Psalm 97 uses the imagery of a storm to give a picture of God's character and his righteous rule. "Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne." (Psalm 97:2) The clouds and darkness remind us that we cannot see God's full glory. Remember the request of Moses in Exodus 33, "Show me your glory." The only way God could do this was to hide Moses in a cave so as God passed by Moses would not be exposed to God's entire presence. To do so would bring death to Moses.

The author of the Psalm speaks of the lightning of God that flashes and reveals what the world is like. The psalmist writes, "His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles." (Psalm 97:4) God s justice will reveal the evil of the world. No one can hide from God. God's glory is revealed in the heavens, according to verse 6.

Yes, God is in the storm and reveals much of who he is and what he does. The next time you hear the thunder roll and see the lightning flash, remember what you know of God because of the imagery of the storm.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 10, 2018

I once read a story about a beautiful place in England called Mill Pond. A variety of waterfowl frequent the pond including geese, ducks, and swans. Because of this, there are many visitors who come to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and catch a glimpse of the beautiful birds. However, some power lines that were close to one side of the pond posed a problem, especially for the swans. They would fail to see the power lines on their descent to the pond and come in contact with the high voltage wires and die instantly. To solve this problem, the power company installed red flags on the lines. Since the installation, not one swan was killed.

We often encounter "red flags" in our lives. Ignoring these red flags can place us in peril. The book of Proverbs gives us a variety of red flags. There are warnings against a number of behaviors and a number of circumstances that are put up as "red flags." Proverbs 13 alone warns against dishonesty, laziness, the love of riches, and ignoring God's Word. The writer gives this advice, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20)

If the birds ignored the red flags that were installed for their safety, they would suffer the consequence. If we choose to ignore red flags in our lives, there will be adverse consequences. Don't ignore the flags - they are there for a reason!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 09, 2018

Quite some time ago, I helped my brother Kevin clean out a drainage trap next to his garage. He brought out a brand-new shop vacuum that he had received as a Father's Day present. I commented on the appearance of the vacuum and noted that it should help speed up our process. Theoretically, this was true, but in reality, we experienced the opposite. The vacuum simply didn't perform the way it should. It had suction, but it was very weak.

We checked the filter, cleaned out the hose, and did all that we could think of to make it function properly. Nothing we did improved the machine's performance. After several procedures, we made an enlightening discovery - the vacuum hose was installed backwards. This made for loose fittings that decreased the suction. There was no suction because the hose was placed in the wrong direction.

This often occurs in our relationship with God. We get things "backwards" and have things flow the wrong direction. Instead of allowing insight and guidance to flow from God to us, we try to give God insight and guidance. This is even crazier than trying to get a vacuum to work with the hose installed backwards.

God warned Job about getting things backwards. In Job 38:2-3, we find God asking Job, "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." This is the way it should be, but Job sort of had things backwards. This could be blamed on all the misinformation he had received from his friends, but the responsibility was his to get things in the right perspective. When it comes to our communication and our interaction with God, let's make sure we have the hose installed in the right direction.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 08, 2018

Joseph Dixon worked for years on a design for a pencil that was inspired by watching the boats in his native Marblehead, England. His first efforts were brought about during the War of 1812, but it was the Civil War that engendered great popularity for his creation.

Dixon did not invent the pencil, but he developed a means of mass production of the pencil. He created a planing device that cranked out 132 pencils in an hour. By and large, the pencil he produced remains unchanged to this day with the exception of the addition of an eraser. The eraser was a very beneficial addition, as most of us do tend to make mistakes. With an eraser, a correction can be made, and one may continue with the task at hand.

Each day, we inscribe words and deeds in the pages of our lives. Mistakes are made as we go about our tasks and pursue various activities. Mistakes may be simply a matter of carelessness, or we may do bad things and pursue acts that reflect bad judgment. When we err, we have an opportunity to correct the errors through seeking the forgiveness of God. John writes in his first letter that we may obtain the forgiveness of God by confession our wrongdoing to God and asking for his pardon - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) The provision of God's "eraser" is a product of God's grace. What a wonderful allowance God provides for us so our mistakes can be erased.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 07, 2018

Many restaurants now offer some incentives for you to take an online survey to rate your experience at the restaurant. They usually offer some sort of free item you can redeem at your next visit if you take the survey. They do this because their existence depends upon customer satisfaction and they want to have a way to check up on how they are doing. They depend upon good experiences of their customers to bolster their reputation. Companies that offer services know that shoddy products and poor service can damage their name, and they do not want to see this happen.

I find it amazing that God has placed his reputation in our hands. He chooses to work through us, and this means that how we serve will reflect directly on our Father. Sometimes the behavior of God's people has a detrimental effect on God's name. Ezekiel 36:20-21 gives an example of this, "And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my Holy Name, for it was said of them, 'These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' I had concern for my Holy Name, which they profaned among the nations where they had gone." Isn't that a shame?

Make sure your behavior enhances God's name. As followers of the Lord we bear the name of Christ. Is our behavior bringing honor to his name or dragging it through the mud? We should want our behavior to reflect beneficially on the name of our Savior. God puts his reputation on us!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 06, 2018

We often labor under the mistaken assumption that if we live good, clean lives, nothing bad will ever happen to us. We often believe this so strongly that we are surprised, sometimes even angry, when we get hit with a bad circumstance when we don't feel we have done anything wrong. We feel that living a good life should be rewarded with a worry-free existence.

Well, I guess my first question is: where in the world did you get that idea? I really don't mean to be so direct, but there is no biblical or experiential evidence that leads to this conclusion. This is an assumption we have that has its basis in our sense of justice, but it is a mistaken assumption.

You don't have to go far in the scripture to find a biblical example that counters this thought. Joseph was a person who did just about everything right. You really don't find too much "negative press" about Joseph, yet every time you see him doing a good thing, he gets slammed. Report his dreams without editing? Boom - he gets sold into slavery. Flee from Potiphar's wife? Bam - he gets put into jail. So, what did he do? He focused on what was important. He realized that "the Lord was with him." (Genesis 39:21) Regardless of what he went through, what he experienced, he knew that God was with him and he needed to continue to trust in Him.

When it seems everything turns out wrong even when you are doing things right, it does not mean that you are a bad person. It does not mean that God is out to get you or has rejected you. It means you are living in a fallen world where things often don't go the way that would seem right. When this takes place, focus on the presence of God and his leadership. God will set things right. He did it for Joseph and he will do it for you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 05, 2018

Mark Twain said, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." There are times when we need to speak up and be heard. There are times when we need to let our opinion be known. There are times when we need to take a stand for an important issue; however, there are times when we need to hold our tongue because saying something would be the wrong thing to do. This is especially true when we are angry and frustrated.

We need to avoid critical statements aimed at hurting others. We need to avoid careless comments that reflect bad judgment and unclear thinking. Twain put it well, and his comments reflect biblical principles. Proverbs 17:28 says, "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."

There is a time to speak up and be heard. There is a time to keep silent. The wise make the distinction. Make every effort to be wise in order not to speak foolishly. Speech is a powerful tool that has the power to build up and the power to tear down. Work on being a good builder.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 04, 2018

Paul wrote much about Christ and spoke about Christ but didn't quote him often. As a matter of fact, there are only two occasions where we find that Paul quoted directly what Christ said. One incident is when he corrects the problems the Corinthians had in celebrating the Lord's Table. Paul quoted Christ: "'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. (I Corinthians 11:23-25)

The other quotation of Christ by Paul is found in Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." What is interesting is this statement of Christ is not found in the Gospels. Christ spoke much about giving and one's attitude towards giving, but this statement is not found. Because of Paul s remarks, there is no doubt that Christ said it, but it is not recorded in any of the Gospels.

I find it interesting that one of only two places where Paul actually uses the words of Christ has to do with giving. What makes this even more compelling is to realize the context of Paul's statements. These are his final words to the Ephesian elders just before he leaves them to go to Jerusalem and an uncertain future. Before he leaves, he chooses to mention the beauty of giving, and to emphasize this, he uses words of Christ.

There are so many benefits in giving. You aren't aware of that? Well, then perhaps you need to think about giving for a bit. Giving is one of the most blessed activities in which we can participate. This comes directly from Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 03, 2018

Isn't it amazing how much we let money control our lives? Whether we have money, or don't have money, it seems to occupy a prominent place in our existence. With the state of the economy, money certainly has a prevalent spot in media circles. This only serves to enhance its position in our thinking. Money is necessary, but we really need to get a grip on it, rather than let it get a grip on us.

Paul wrote to Timothy about this. He said, "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1Timothy 6:9-10 NLT) He makes a point here about money mastery instead of being mastered by money.

Whether you have money or whether you don't, keep it in perspective. Don't allow it to be THE focal point of your life, or you will wake up one day wondering what has happened with your life and where it went. Take steps to be good stewards with what you have; learn to be content with what you have (or what you don't have) and you will find a much more joyful and peaceful existence. God wants your focus, so don't allow money, whether it is money woes or "Money! Whoa!", to block your view.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 02, 2018

I have been telling my family for some time now that it seems my hearing is getting worse. How else can you explain my ability to be setting right next to someone and not hear what they are saying to me? However, my family maintains that I have just developed "selective hearing." In other words, it is not that I don't hear what is being said to me, but I am so preoccupied with something else I don't fully process what is being said, so I don't "hear." What I should do is simply pay more attention to those wanting to communicate with me - it's an amazing thing called listening.

We need to listen to our family, our friends, our associates, our co-workers, and others who want to communicate with us. Listening involves focusing our attention on those who are speaking to us and not letting distractions keep us from hearing what they are saying. Not being heard is a frustrating experience. Listen to the words of a frustrated speaker, "If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom. Hear now my argument; listen to the plea of my lips (Job 13:5-6)." This is the complaint of Job to his "friends" who really were not paying attention to what he was saying.

Work on your listening skills and avoid "selective hearing." Relationships are strengthened by good communication, and being a good listener is a key to good communication.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 01, 2018

What is your first response to correction to kick back at someone, or to think? Proverbs has much to say about this matter. God corrects us out of love (Proverbs 3:12). The wise accept this correction (Proverbs 15:5), mockers resent it (Proverbs 15:12), and pride stops us from hearing it (Proverbs 13:10), but if we accept it we grow wise (Proverbs 15:31-32).

Proverbs 6:23 tells us, "Correction and instruction are the way to life." Usually we struggle with correction. We don't like to be told we are wrong and we don't like others pointing out our faults. Having someone do this with a mean spirit is one thing, but correction done with our best interest in mind is actually something we should desire.

In my mind, the greatest example of correction in the Scripture is found in John 21. Christ's interaction with Peter after the resurrection provides a model of restorative confrontation. Peter understood the message and apparently took it to heart. His behavior in the early chapters of Acts demonstrates the effect Christ's correction had on him.

Someone once wrote, "When your first response to correction is to kick back rather than think, you're missing the opportunity for God to give you a big heart and a big life." Peter must have done a lot of thinking. So, should we.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 31, 2018

I read a story told by Lloyd John Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate. He was dining with a friend of his in Washington, D.C. A lady recognized Dr. Ogilvie's companion, walked up behind him, then slapped him on the back so hard that he spilled his coffee. She then proceeded to throw her fur boa around her neck, slapping Dr. Ogilvie in the face with it in the process. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. Dr. Ogilvie's friend called her by name and said, "Don't be sorry, be different!"

This is good advice for us as well. We do make mistakes for which we need to ask forgiveness. The best way to demonstrate that we are truly sorry for what we have done is to not only seek forgiveness verbally, but to show our sorrow through our actions by determining to be different.

This is really what God is looking for. He isn't interested in a quick "I'm sorry" when we really aren't interested in changing our behavior. We read the words of Samuel in I Samuel 15:22, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." For us, to obey is better than an "I'm sorry." If we are truly sorry for what we have done wrong, we will show this through a change in behavior. Read I Corinthians 5:1-8 and II Corinthians 7:8-11 for a good biblical illustration of this principle.

Our sorrow for our wrongs is best expressed by what we do more than what we say. In the words of Dr. Ogilvie's dinner companion, "Don't be sorry, be different."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 30, 2018

A team of Australian scientists were doing a study on the development of galaxies. An unexpected by-product of their research was an estimate of the number of stars in the known universe. According to their calculations, there are 70 sextillion stars in what we know of the universe in which we live. That is 70 followed by 22 zeros. Here is what this number looks like: 700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Yeesh. That is a lot of stars. Isn't this incredible? One team member said, "Finding the number of stars is not really the research we were doing, but it was a nice result to play around with."

We may not know the exact number of stars, but God does. When you roll this thought around in your mind for a bit, you come to the realization as to why we need to praise God.

Psalm 147:1 & 4 tell us, "How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." So, God not only knows the number of the stars, but he knows the name of each star. As Bill Gaither sang, "We have a great big wonderful God." Isn't that the truth?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 29, 2018

Many of us have experienced an adrenaline rush to some extent. This is when we get a shot of adrenaline in response to a situation that causes a "fight or flight" response. It may be some sort of fright, it may be some sort of emergency situation, it may be in response to a perceived threat, or some other situation.

The most extreme example of this I have ever witnessed was in my youngest brother, Phil. This incident happened when we were kids about 8, 10 and 12 years of age. My brother Kevin was playing on what was left of a large tree that had been felled in the front yard of my grandparents' home. As he played on top of the log, it suddenly fell off the stump on which it had been resting, rolled over, and pinned my brother beneath it. Phil sprang into action and rolled the large log off of Kevin. Kevin was scared and shaken up, but unharmed.

What was strange about this incident was, when we calmed down, we all tried to move the log again. We couldn't budge it one inch, let alone move it the way Phil had done all by himself just a few minutes earlier.

There are times when we need a "spiritual adrenaline rush" to help us accomplish some task the Lord has given us. We need to remember that God will always provide the strength to move the logs that need to be moved. Moses proclaims in Exodus 15:2, "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him."

Do you have a log that needs to be moved? God can provide the strength to help meet that need. When you need "spiritual adrenaline," God will provide it.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 28, 2018

I have visited Arlington Cemetery twice in my life. Spending time at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a moving experience. The inscription on the tomb reads, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." As I spent time there and thought about the meaning of that memorial, I am overpowered by the reality of someone dying in battle and never being identified. Of course, technological developments have allowed this to be less of a possibility.

I know I can't truly appreciate the anguish of a family receiving the news that a loved one is missing in action and then never knowing of their demise. As we celebrate this Memorial Day, we need to pause to give thanks to all who sacrificed to serve our country.

There are many times in life when we may feel forgotten or alone. Asaph wrote, "Will the Lord reject forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?" (Psalm 77:7,9) Circumstances led Asaph to feel alone and "unknown." However, there is an answer to this. Asaph wrote, "Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord.'" Asaph remembered what God had done in the past, and rehearsing God's faithfulness helped him to realize that God was still present with him now.

Christ's words also bring assurance that we are never forgotten nor alone, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31) We are never unknown to God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 24, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 23, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 08, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 07, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 06, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 05, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 03, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 27, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 26, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 25, 2018

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

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

Someone once wrote:

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn to obey.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power and the praise of men;

I was given weakness to sense my need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

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

In spite of myself, my prayers were answered

I am among all people most richly blessed.

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 23, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 20, 2018

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

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

There are times when we need to have some incisive examination of our spiritual lives. The Scripture is the means to expose any troubled areas. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 16, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 12, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 10, 2018

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

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

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

Hebrews 11:8 says, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." We are called upon today to exhibit "The Right Stuff" as we follow the Savior. We do not know what following him might bring, but a true follower exhibits commitment in spite of the unknown. We need to follow Christ faithfully and trust him completely with our future.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 09, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 08, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 07, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 06, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 05, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 04, 2018

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

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

James talks about putting our faith into action and doing what the Word of God says. He gets very specific with statements like, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" (2:15-16)

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 03, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 31, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 30, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 28, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 20, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 16, 2018

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

Solomon continues this line of thinking in Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Paul reflects this same thinking when he writes, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13) Where was Paul when he wrote this? In jail! That is where he was when he encouraged Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." (I Timothy 6:6-8).

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 08, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 07, 2018

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

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

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

We need to remember that we are not finished yet. The final "product" has not been completed. We need to remember that "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13) Paul wrote earlier in Philippians, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (1:6) Keep this in mind when you have a "linotype experience."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 6, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 4, 2018

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 3, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 2, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 1, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Connie McCall

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

Pauline Phillips

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

Lois Strole

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

Week Of July 15th, 2018

5:00
6:00
7:00
6:00
Mon. July 16th


Missions
C.E.
Trustees
Softball vs Shiloh
6:00 PM
Tue. July 17th
Deacons
6:30 PM
Wed. July 18th
"Think Differently"
9:00 AM
Sat. July 21st
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Cheryl Earnest
Wed. July 18th
Ashley Arndt - Hillary Estes - Keegan Phillips
Thu. July 19th

Happy Anniversary

Clinton & Jolyn Bigard
Mon. July 16th
Garrett & Jessica Zumbahlen
Tue. July 17th
Kendall & Zana Tarr - Steve & Gina Fox
Wed. July 18th
Scottie & Jeannie Chiddix
Fri. July 20th

Coming Events

Popcorn & A Movie
July 22nd
Sing For Missions
July 29th
Summer Fiesta
Aug 17-18

July Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
John Dryden Jr
1st
John Dryden, Sr
8th
Kent Klier
15th
Brad Tarr
22nd
Adam Wolf
29th
Adam Wolf
Communion

Ushers
Kevin Earnest
Dave Thompson
Jason Fulton
Mike Phillips

Special Music
 
1st
 
8th
 
15th
 
22nd
 
29th
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Instrumentalists
Jeannie Chiddix
Piano
Cheryl Earnest
Organ

Nursery Workers
Kevin & Brenda Earnest
1st
Gail Ann Colllins
8th
Maria Green
15th
Michelle Fulton
22nd
 
29th

Greeters
Dan & Maxine Quick
1st
Jim & Bev Brackett
8th
Debbie Cisney/Judy George
15th
Bonnie Hammer/Anthea Zumbahlen
22nd
Lawrence & Connie Quick
29th

Jr. Church
Ross, Jennifer, Kyle, Courtney
1st
Mark, Poodie, Jerod, Brooke
8th
Tyler, Jacy, Jason Michelle
15th
Jamie, Gloria, Ray, Debbie
22nd
 
29th

Door Attendents
Brad Tarr
1st
Ross Meinhart
8th
Brad Davidson
15th
Dylan Davidson
22nd
Adam Wolf
29th

Jamie Clark - Lynn Wolf
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

July 1, 2018

I have a book in my library entitled Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is interesting to read about these men and what they did before, during and after the struggle that led to the independence of our nation. All were dedicated to the idea that a new nation was to be established. They were well aware of the cost. Many of them took up arms and served in the military during the Revolutionary War. At least 5 were captured during the conflict and suffered during their imprisonment. They were not afraid to stand up and be counted. All desired liberty.

It is also fascinating to read about the lives of the apostles, although we can't be quite as sure as to what happened to many of them after Pentecost. Of course we know what happened to Judas. You can read about his fate in Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18-19. We also know from scripture that James was martyred. Acts 12:1-2 tells us, "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword." We have to trust church historians for the fate of the others. According to church tradition, Peter was crucified upside down; Thomas was killed with a spear; Bartholomew beheaded. It seems that all but John were put to death because of their stand for Christ, and John suffered banishment (Revelation 1:9). They were not afraid to stand up and be counted. They desired liberty.

Are you willing to stand up and be counted for the sake of Christ? Do you want to see others liberated from the tyranny of sin? As we celebrate Independence Day this year, let's be thankful for those who were willing to stand up and be counted; to put their names on the line, and in many instances, put their lives on the line for the sake of freedom. Let us also give thanks to those who were willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of Christ and spiritual freedom. Let's exhibit the same spirit and be willing to stand for Christ!

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