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2 Timothy 2:15

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Daily Devotionals
By Dr. Steve Willis

Pastor Of The First Baptist Church In Newton, IL
Tuesday December 06, 2016

We are busy at our church making preparations for our Christmas musical, "Come and Adore." This involves a lot of work and planning, but it is so neat to see it all come together. The set for the drama is pretty much ready, the choir just about has all the music down, and the soloists are ready to sing. When it all comes together, it is a great time of celebration that is the result of planning and preparation.

As we were rehearsing this past Sunday, a thought came to me. I wonder what it must have been like in heaven just before Christ came to the earth. Preparations had been made from eternity past for this event. God had ordained just what would take place. Then, the time came for everything to happen.

Luke makes a very simple, to-the-point, statement about this in his Gospel, "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:6-7) There are a few more verses about the angels and the shepherds. In the second chapter of Matthew we read about the visit of the magi that took place later. That is it. God chose to record these details in a a brief fashion. We don't get a glimpse into what must have occurred before Christ's coming. We don't see the anticipation, the work, the planning. However, God revealed to us what we need to know. A statement of the fact that he did send his Son, just as he promised he would. I am so glad he did.

As our anticipation runs high for the coming of Christmas, take time to reflect on God's planning for us, his gift to us, his love for us. When I see someone open a gift from me, and see the excitement on their face when they see what it is, I am so very happy. Maybe that is how God felt on that night so long ago when He gave his Gift to the world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 05, 2016

Random acts of kindness - that is something to think about. Doing something kind for someone with no desire to have anything given back. You just do something because it is the right thing to do at the right time. We think and talk of this often, and even understand that it is based in biblical teaching. Christ said, "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." (Luke 6:33) How good are we at following through?

A rather interesting illustration of this is described by Dave Branon. He writes about a campaign called "The Drive-Thru Difference" started by a Christian radio station. The station challenged listeners to pay for the purchase of the car behind you in a drive-thru line. The campaign was meant to emphasize the importance of doing kind things for others, even those you do not know.

We should be concerned about selfless giving, whether it is buying someone's lunch at Dairy Queen or Hardee's, putting money in a Salvation Army kettle, helping with Toys for Kids or the Christmas Food Basket Project, or some other effort. Giving to others should be a part of your life. It was certainly part of Christ s.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 04, 2016

I am looking forward to watching "It's a Wonderful Life" again soon. Since it s Christmas time, it will be on at some point. I have no idea how many times I have seen this movie, but I certainly never enjoy it any less. The reason I enjoy it so much is because of the "Moral to the Story" it presents: your life means more than you think.

I suppose I need to be careful here and not assume that everyone has seen the movie so let me give a quick synopsis. A man, George Bailey, struggles with the perception that his life has not really mattered. Through an unusual (and actually unrealistic, but it is a movie) circumstance, he finds out just how much impact his life has made on others. A line from the movie states the point, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches another's. When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole."

We will never have the opportunity to see all the differences we have made in other's lives as did George Bailey in the movie, but rest assured you have made more impact than you know. We need to realize our lives do touch others, and we need to live in such a way so as to influence others beneficially. Make sure your ways follow God so that others who look at your life may see His ways. Proverbs 2:20 speaks of the path of good people: "Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.."

If someone follows your ways, would they be following the "ways of the good?" Remember you indeed have an influence on others. What type of influence you have is up to you. "It's a Wonderful Life" when you follow God s ways.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 03, 2016

I enjoy Christmas for so many reasons. One of these reasons is seeing the happiness on another person's face when they are taking part in a celebration or opening a present. It was truly a pleasure watching the faces of my girls when they opened their presents on Christmas morning. What a treat to see people enjoying themselves!

God enjoys seeing His children having a good time. He wants to see joy in our lives, Nehemiah 8:10-12 describes a celebration that was prescribed by God for the people upon the completion of the wall: "Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.' The Levites calmed all the people, saying, 'Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.' Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them." God wanted to see his people celebrating His provision.

The celebration we have at this time of the year isn't prescribed in the scripture, but the events we are celebrating certainly are. Christ was born of a virgin according to scripture, he was born in the city (Bethlehem) where scripture said he was to be born, and he came into the world at the time he was to be born according to scripture. We do indeed have something to celebrate. Remember the angel's message to the shepherds about "good tidings of great joy?" (Luke 2:10) We should indeed celebrate with great joy.

Enjoy your family festivities, the pageants, the musicals, and whatever else you have planned. God does indeed like to watch his children enjoying themselves. We have a reason to celebrate, and we need to show God our pleasure because of His provision.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 02, 2016

The other day my wife commented, "You know, without the lights on, I really don't like the looks of our Christmas tree this year. Having the lights on makes all the difference." I thought to myself, "Well said." Having the lights on does make all the difference, and not just when it comes to the Christmas tree standing in our front room. Light makes all the difference in so many situations, including our lives.

Without the light of Christ within us, we are totally different beings. We are lost and confused.. However, when we allow Christ to come into our lives, He is the Light that transforms us, changes us, and takes our lives in a different direction.

At this time of year, we are celebrating the entrance of the Light into the world. There are so many passages which proclaim Christ as the Light that came into the world to change our lives. Matthew 4:16 says, "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." John 1:9 describes Christ as "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." In John 8:12, Christ said of himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Light does indeed make a difference. Whether you like your Christmas tree without the lights on is of no real consequence. However, how you feel about your life without the Light of Christ in it is of great consequence. Let the light of Christ be the guiding force in your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 01, 2016

Today is December 1, the "unofficial" first day of winter. Winter actually doesn't start until later this month, but for some reason many of us, myself included, think of December 1 as the beginning of winter. Because of our unusual autumn, we may have wondered if winter was really going to happen this year. The temperatures have been elevated above the norm for most of our fall. We ve also been a little dry. Then, along comes December 1, and almost right on cue, the temperatures have started dropping. In addition, we have had some rain recently. The change seemed to occur right on time as we flipped the page on the calendar.

Someone else on whom we can rely for having perfect timing is God. God always knows the best time to do things. He has never been wrong in this department, and will never be wrong. God knows what we need and when we need it when it comes to our personal lives, and he also knows the right timing for events on a bigger stage. We often struggle to accept God's timing, but we would be much better off if we do.

A case in point with regard to God's timing is the entrance of Christ into the world. As we come to the time of our celebration of this event, we need to include acknowledgement of God's perfect timing in our observance. Galatians 4:4-5 says, "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons."

We can always rely on the timing of God. He knows what to do when it needs to be done. The hard part for us is to trust his timing. Don't you think it's just about time that we do?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 30, 2016

How good are you at honoring your commitments? One of the most important character traits one can have is being known as a person who always keeps their commitments. Someone who proves to be unwilling or unable to keep commitments is usually not looked upon too highly by others. Keeping commitments is important in relationships, in jobs, in organizations, and many other areas of our lives. Those who fail to keep commitments can make life difficult for others, and sometimes this inability can lead to costly results.

The scripture is full of examples of individuals who were known as people of their word and for keeping commitments. One good example is Caleb. In the book of Joshua, we read how the Israelites had moved into the land God had promised them and were in the process of claiming the land as their own. Of course, this is not an easy task as there are people in the land who are reluctant to give up their homes to the upstarts who were spreading out over the area. Caleb claimed a particularly difficult area as the place he would call home. The area was difficult because of the strength of the people who lived there. Yet, he was willing to go up against these strong people because of his commitment. Why was he so committed? He was trusting in someone he knew would keep his commitment - God.

Listen to what he says, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions. . .So on that day Moses swore to me, `The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.' Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day." (Joshua 14:6-12)

Caleb was determined to show his commitment because he knew he could trust in God's commitment. When it comes to our commitments, we should follow the command and the example of our heavenly Father who never goes back on his word and will always help us to honor our word. Follow God's example - keep your commitments!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 29, 2016

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

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

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

David knew the death of his infant son was a result of his sin with Bathsheba and what he had done with Uriah. He knew he had to deal realistically with the consequences, seek God's and others forgiveness, and move on. His realistic understanding of the situation is reflected in his reply to his servants when he was told of the death of the baby, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (II Samuel 12:22-23) David sought God's forgiveness (read Psalm 51), did what he could to right the wrong, and continued to trust God. I find it interesting that the brother of this infant became David's successor - Solomon. God did not condone the wrong, but he commended David's actions of forgiveness and restitution. David dealt with the "leftovers."

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 28, 2016

A popular television show in the 80's and early 90's had a theme song that contained the lyrics "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." It is nice to be known, to have folks call you by name because they recognize you and know you. Anonymity is overrated. We are made for recognition. We do like being known by others, to have others call us by name.

God is aware of this, of course. This is the way he made us. And he doesn't disappoint us when it comes to recognizing us. The scripture says that the God of the universe, the one who is able to call every star by name, knows my name and knows your name. Isaiah 40:26 tells us, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." This same God who can call each star by name knows me and is totally aware of what is taking place in my life

If you want to go where someone knows your name, you don't have to go very far. God knows you and He is everywhere. That means there is actually nowhere you can go where your name is not known! . Matthew 10:30 tells us, And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. When you are faced with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy solution, remember God knows you and will be there to help. If he knows and takes care of stars, he can take care of you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 27, 2016

Today is the first Sunday in the Advent season. The advent of Advent can be traced back to the fifth century A.D. The term originated from Latin and means "arrival" or "coming." The original purpose of Advent was to focus on the Second Coming, but as the calendar for celebrating the Birth of Christ was set by the Church, it came to also be a time of preparation for celebrating the Nativity. Today, different hurches put different emphases on this observation. It is a great time to do some special things to remind us of the significance of Christ's visit to our world, and the fact that he will come again.

Isaiah prophesied, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (7:14) and "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (9:6)

Let's celebrate this wonderful event during this Advent season! And don't forget what an angel said to the disciples about Christ, "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11) This Advent as you celebrate his arrival, don't forget to look forward to his coming!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 26, 2016

Recently I was watching a Christmas special (yep they ve started!) and a statement of one of the characters was, "That's the good thing about being your own boss - you can take off whenever you want." Being your own boss does have its benefits; however, one needs to be careful with the idea of not wanting to have to answer to someone else. Regardless of our employment status or our business position, we are all accountable to others. Even if you are your own boss you are accountable, at the very least, to your customers. If you don't understand this, I imagine your customers will get this message and find others that take care of their concerns more suitably. At its worst, the absence of accountability can degenerate into anarchy. That would not be good for anyone, even those who want to be their own boss.

Being your own boss does have benefits, but understanding the positive side of accountability also has benefits. Understanding our accountability to God is, of course, the most significant level of appreciation of answering to someone else. We are dependent upon God, and we answer to God. The sooner we accept this and the more deeply that we internalize this reality, the more blessed our lives will be.

Christ said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30) These verses reflect the nature of our accountability. If you are an independent thinker and want to be your own boss, good for you. An enterprising spirit is a good thing. Just don't forget to whom you are accountable!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 25, 2016

Years ago Erma Bombeck wrote a column about a lady who was attending church with her little boy. The little boy was standing in the seat and facing the folks who were sitting behind them. He would grin at the folks and, naturally, the folks would grin back. To me, this seems like a normal occurrence in church - people smiling. However, when the mom saw what was taking place, she didn't think so. She whispered harshly to her young son, "Stop that grinning! You're in church!"

Have you ever encountered folks who seem to be of this mindset? Church is no place for smiles, grins, or laughs! Perish the thought! From time to time, I enjoy reminding myself and others of the first question found in the Westminster Catechism: "What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."

Do you enjoy your worship? Does it show? We should follow the Psalmist s advice and "Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous!" (Ps. 33:1) Our outward appearance should give evidence of our inner joy. As we come together to celebrate the Lord, we need to show that we are experiencing the joy and the peace that God gives to those who are following him. I remember one Gospel singer's comment that many folks in church "look like they have been weaned on a dill pickle." Just like the grin of the little boy, our smiles are contagious. Smile, and others will smile with you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 24, 2016

As you celebrate Thanksgiving today, you may be following many traditions that have been in place in your family for years. Sometimes circumstances dictate that those traditions change. The death of family members or other factors lead us to make alterations as to how, when, and where we have our celebrations and what we do at our celebrations. I know the year after my mother died, our family gathered as usual, but in a different location from where we had been in years past. For the first time in over 40 years, we gathered at a different place than my mother's home for Thanksgiving. However, the focus of the gathering did not change. This is the important aspect of our celebrations. Our external features may require altering, but the reasons we gather and the reasons we celebrate do not change.

This is the way it should be in our worship. We may need to change locations, and we may change our form of worship, but the focus of our worship does not change. Our focus needs to reflect the unchanging nature of the One whom we worship. God does not change, and our attitude and our concentration upon him should not waver.

As you gather today to give thanks, allow this to be the central aspect of your get-together, wherever you are and however you celebrate. True celebration, as well as true worship, comes from within. Christ said, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24) The important part of our holiday celebrations is our focus on the reason for our celebration. The important part of our worship is our focus on the One who deserves our worship.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 23, 2016

When we address the evils of society, it is often easy to fall into a pattern of negativity. As we address the ills of society, we are prone to follow a pattern of condemnation without really offering any positive steps of how to correct the ills. Sometimes the perception of Christians is that we are always negative and fighting against something. Obviously, we don't condone sinfulness and evil, but what about loving our enemies? What about doing good for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:44-45) What about feeding the hungry? What about clothing the naked? (Matthew 25:34-36)

Followers of Christ do not condone evil, but we should be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. We need to channel the love of Christ. We need to be instruments of God's grace. We need to demonstrate compassion not condemnation. Don't leave the impression that we look down upon those who "don't come up to our standards."

I have always found it interesting that Christ's condemnation was usually aimed at religious leaders, not unbelievers. Christ came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He did that through reaching out to those in sin. He didn't just sit back and talk about how awful they were. He was even condemned for associating with the sinful. "When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?'" (Matthew 9:11)

I think Christ invited this criticism. It meant that people were paying attention to what he was doing. He was willing to be with them because of their need. Compassion goes a lot further than condemnation.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 22, 2016

Fifty-three years ago today, November 22, 1963, an assassin s bullet ended the life of the 35th president of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Those of us who are old enough to remember this event remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news that the president had been killed in Dallas, Texas. Years ago I lived in Dallas and drove by the site of the shooting daily on my way to work.

As with most presidents, Kennedy had success and failure as a president. Perhaps his greatest failure was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. Ironically, his greatest achievement may be averting a war with the USSR through the dramatic events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

After Kennedy s death, questions arose about how many shooters were involved in the assassination. One question that will never have an answer is how the world would be different if he had not died. This question is moot as JFK died and events transpired the way they did.

I am glad there is another question for which we will never know the answer: How would the world be different if Jesus had not died? This scenario would be of infinitely greater consequence than the death of Kennedy. The death of Kennedy affected world events and changed lives, but all of these changes are temporary in nature. Individual lives and world events may have gone different directions if Kennedy had not died, but each of these paths would ultimately end with the death of the people and the end of regimes. Christ's death effected the possibility of change within the lives of people that is eternal in nature. His death, along with his burial and resurrection, brought about the reality of eternal life for those who trust Him.

We do not want to know what a world without Christ would be like. The scripture tells us that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) One's belief in him means your life is changed not just for now but for all of eternity. I, for one, am glad we don t have to wonder what a world without Christ would be like.

Pastor Steve Willis
/div> Monday November 21, 2016

One of my greatest struggles is popping off before I put thought into my words. "Cooler heads prevail" is a good piece of advice for me and for many of us. We become frustrated with situations, we become angry during arguments, or we don't like what we see as a perceived injustice and we confront the alleged perpetrator of the injustice in a less than diplomatic way - these are all situations that we should work to control.

Proverbs 17:27 says, "He who has knowledge spares his words." We need to work to know our "danger signals," and when we see them arise, develop a plan of action to thwart what would be our usual way of reacting.

Let God take over your brain for awhile and allow him to intervene. This is certainly a more productive means of handling times when the temperature rises. As ESPN commentator Stan Verrett would say, "Cool is the Rule."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 20, 2016

Here is a brief quiz about the Bible. See how you do. The answers appear at the end of this article:

1. Who wrote the first five books of the Bible?

2. What is the longest chapter in the Bible?

3. In what book in the Old Testament do the Ten Commandments first appear?

4. Who wrote the largest portion of the New Testament? (Hint: It's not who you think)

5. In what book would you find the Beatitudes?

6. Quote at least five verses from memory.

I don't know how you did, but I hope you did well. The only question that really isn't "basic" is the one about who wrote the largest portion of the New Testament. Yes, Paul wrote more books, but the largest amount of material was written by Luke.

Through this little quiz, I hoped to highlight the importance of knowing God's Word and how often we neglect learning about His Word. We need to have knowledge about the scripture. Many comment that they don't know about the scripture and that is a shame. If you have been a follower of the Lord for a while, there is no reason to not know basic issues such as are addressed in this little quiz.

God s followers need to know God s Word. There really isn't any excuse to not have a basic knowledge of the scripture and what it contains. Of course, to know it you have to read it.

Psalm 119:16 declares, "I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word." Don't neglect God's Word. You need to know it, you need to get it inside of you, you need to read God's Word, and you need to live by his Word. (Answers to above: 1. Moses; 2. Psalm 119; 3. Exodus; 4. Luke; 5. Matthew; 6. Which ones can you quote?)

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 19, 2016

Do you often think about theological issues? I read once about a 5-year-old who asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" After a little bit of thought, the father replied, "Well, honey, I think they do." The girl said, "Then how do they get their pajamas over their wings?" Now that is a deep issue if I ever heard one.

Seriously, we do need to be inquisitive and ask questions about things that are theological in nature. Now, we don't need to go overboard and obsess on items that are of little consequence, but we should be curious about spiritual issues. God wants us to know about his presence in our lives and his ministry in our lives. We should have a natural curiosity about his dealings with us. Just don't get sidetracked by pursuits that lead us away from really understanding him. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (II Timothy 2:23) Avoid those things that are pointless and only lead to controversy. Focus on the important issues and truly coming to know Christ.

Many years ago, there was a group of "scholars" who debated really important issues such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" If you read this question and say, "I don't get the point of this," then you get the point (pardon the pun). Pursuits such as this are a waste of time. Focus on issues that are beneficial to your spirituality. Don't try to find a needle in a haystack!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 18, 2016

The old car sat in the corner of the lot looking very forlorn and forsaken. Having seen better days, it had dents in all four fenders, faded paint, and a cracked windshield. The fact that it was a 1966 Pontiac GTO was lost on the customers who came looking for newer, shinier, models that were ready to drive off the lot and make an impression on family and friends. Then one day a collector happened to be driving by and almost caused a wreck when he slammed on his brakes. He made his way into the lot, negotiated a really low price with the owner, and took the car home. There, under his skilled hands, the GTO was transformed into what it once was and then some. Actually, it was more compelling and complete than it ever was before. This happened because the car was placed in the hands of one who knew what was needed to restore the glory.

We are a lot like that classic car. We are damaged and dented, bruised and broken as a result of sin. We are forlorn and forsaken with no ability to do anything about our condition. The only hope for us is in the arms of Christ. When we give our lives to him, he begins a work in us that will lead us to being better than the original. No matter in what shape he finds us, he can totally transform and restore us to be like him.

John writes, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:1-3) This is our hope because of Christ's willingness to restore us. We may be a wreck now, but Christ can make us a classic. All we need do is trust in him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 17, 2016

I don t think this is a trend, but I m writing about a song again. In 1988 Mike Rutherford recorded a song entitled "The Living Years" with his band "Mike and the Mechanics." It was a commercial and critical success receiving 5 Grammy nominations and hitting #1 on the Billboard chart. The song reflected the regret of a son over unresolved conflict with his father, who is deceased. Some of the lyrics are, "I wasn't there that morning when my Father passed away I didn't get to tell him all the things I had to say." The song continues, "I just wish I could have told him in the living years." Rutherford co-wrote the song with B.A. Robertson. Ironically, both of the writers had struggles with their fathers and both fathers had died by the time the song was written and recorded.

We need to think twice about our unresolved conflicts with folks, especially when it comes to family members. Time flies by too quickly and when death occurs, unresolved conflicts can bring about regret that is hard to deal with.

David struggled with this because of the hostilities he experienced with his son Absalom. Absalom killed his half-brother Amnon to avenge the rape of Absalom's sister, Tamar. This led to conflict with David that escalated into full-blown warfare. Absalom was eventually killed, ending any chance of reconciliation. This caused David to experience great grief that led to this lament, "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you O Absalom, my son, my son!" (II Samuel 18:33)

The pain of making things right may be hard, but it is much better to do so "in the living years" rather than risk regret that is experienced when time has run out.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 16, 2016

In 1971 a Canadian group called "The Five Man Electrical Band" released a song entitled "Signs." In the U.S., the song made it to #3 on Billboard s Top 40. The song spoke of signs that notified people of restrictions. One verse spoke of a sign restricting people from applying for a job based on their appearance and another verse spoke of a warning to trespassers in a given area.

The reality in life is that there are areas where access is restricted and there are circumstances that dictate certain dress and appearance. We find signs everywhere that say "Employees Only", "No Trespassing", "Restricted Access," or "Admittance Only with Ticket". None of us like to be told we are not welcome somewhere, but there are many times when this is the case.

The last verse of the 1971 song reflects a truth about where we are welcome: "And the sign said everybody is welcome to come in, kneel down, and pray." God welcomes anyone who comes to him seeking him and looking for an audience with him. There are no "Keep Out" signs with God. We are welcome when we come to him asking for his presence in our lives.

Listen to these "words of welcome" found in the scripture: " Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden" (Matt. 11:28). "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37). We have been granted access to God through the ministry of Christ who died for us to give us this privilege. Accepting his gift affords us a welcome in the presence of God. This is your "sign."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 15, 2016

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born on March 8, 1841. A graduate of Harvard, he fought in the Civil War, edited the American Law Review, taught law at Harvard, and became the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Supreme court. His served over 30 years, to a more advanced age than any other justice in history, eventually becoming Chief Justice. He was nicknamed "The Great Dissenter" because of his unusual opinions. In 1931 when Holmes was 90 years old, a young reporter asked him what he considered to be the basis of his success. He replied, "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God."

Oh, the wisdom of that statement. Now, most of us would not be so ludicrous as to openly assert we are on the same level as God, let alone claim to be God himself. However, we often live in such a way as to indirectly proclaim we believe we are God. That is not smart. An intelligent plan is to make sure we turn our lives over to God and his control and not think that we are in charge. God wants and honors our obedience. Our obedience allows him to do his best for us.

Samuel said "To obey is better than sacrifice." (I Samuel 15:22) We need to learn this truth and put it into practice. We need to make sure we aren't trying to be God because there already is a God who is more than capable of taking care of us and taking care of everything else as well. Make sure you know your identity!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 14, 2016

I would imagine that you have had the experience of losing something valuable and then embarking upon a diligent search to find the object you lost. Many years ago we were returning from a vacation in South Carolina. On our way home, we stopped in Virginia to spend the night. We were at the pool and I was trying to get our video camera to work when I heard my sister-in-law, Sandy, shout, "Steve, get Stephanie!" I looked up at the pool and all I saw was the top of my then four-year-old daughter's head. Needless to say, I acted quickly.

I got my daughter out safely - we were more frightened than she was. However, when I put her on the side of the pool, I noticed I had lost a contact. Now, this was long before disposable contacts; these were the pricey, hard kind. So, it was lost, right? Well, no, my other sister-in-law, Lorie, saw the contact on the bottom of the pool (Of course, I couldn t see anything). She and my wife, Scherry, took turns diving for it. Scherry plucked the contact from the bottom, and brought it to me. Can you believe that? It was a little scratched, but my optometrist took care of that on our return home. A diligent search led to a delightful discovery!

This needs to be the character of our search for the wisdom of God. In Proverbs, Solomon encourages his son to search for wisdom diligently. We read in Proverbs 2:4-6: "and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." We need to pursue the knowledge and wisdom of God. We need to gain spiritual insight and understanding. The only way this will be done is through a diligent effort on our part to discover the things of God.

I remember so well my desire to find my contact, my focus on the pursuit, and our diligence in our search. Do you remember this when you were searching for that something you had lost? This is how we need to search for the wisdom of God. Search diligently and energetically - you will not be disappointed in what you find.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 13, 2016

Prayer meetings can sometimes be depressing. Now, this may seem to be a strange statement for a minister to make. But, sometimes as we gather for prayer and list all the things for which we need to pray, we can be overwhelmed by the many needs we have. What is wrong here is that we are focusing too much on the problems instead of on the One who is greater than the problems. To keep prayer times, whether personal or group times, from being times when we get depressed because of the overwhelming need, start by focusing upon the power of the Person to whom you are praying.

Focusing upon God leads to praise for who he is and a realistic understanding that he is in control of whatever situation about which we need to pray. Psalm 102:17 tells us, "He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea." Coming to God with this realization helps us to understand more deeply why it is we are praying. God does hear us, and when our focus is upon him, we are developing the mindset that the outcome is in the hands of someone much more powerful than us. Focusing on the problem instead of the one who can heal the problem can lead to depression. Focusing on the one who can heal the problem leads to dependence.

We know God deals with us in mercy. Change the attitude of your prayer and change the attitude of your prayer meeting. There is too much depression anyway! God is in control!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 12, 2016

Harry Truman famously had a plaque on his desk that read "The buck stops here." Truman was one who did not deflect blame and he was not afraid to take responsibility for his actions. Human tendency is that, when challenged, we try to deflect blame for actions that lead to less than desirable circumstances. This can be traced all the way back to Adam who told God, "The woman you put here with me she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." (Genesis 3:12)

When we are at fault for adverse situations, we need to own up to our mistakes and not try to place blame where blame shouldn't be placed.

In a story in Judges 7 and 8, Gideon is faced with a group of angry people who had not been called upon when Israel faced a battle against the Midianites. The reason he had not called them is because God told him he had enough soldiers to win the battle. When confronted by the people of Ephraim, he took the responsibility. He didn t deflect their criticism. Instead, he tactfully praised them for an earlier victory over the Midianites. The result is found in Judges 8:3, "At this, their resentment against him subsided." Gideon wasn't willing to throw God under the bus. Gideon's response even when he was not at fault gives us an example to follow when we are the ones at fault.

Don't try to pass on the responsibility for bad decisions - answer truthfully and tactfully and be willing to face the challenge. Pride is usually the biggest reason why we try to absolve ourselves. Show the Christ-like quality of humility and respond in truth.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 11, 2016

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

There are no living veterans from World War I. The last surviving World War I veteran, Florence Green from Great Britain, died in February of 2012. The last surviving veteran from the United States, Frank Buckles, died a year earlier in February of 2011. I had the privilege of officiating the funeral of Vernon Matson, the last remaining World War I veteran from Jasper County, Illinois. Mr. Matson died on April 15, 1994.

As we observe this day, we need to be grateful for all who have served. Obviously, a special tribute needs to be paid to those who gave their lives in the service of our country. I hope you have the opportunity to attend a Veteran s Day ceremony.

Another veteran of conflict we should be sure to honor is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ endured a tremendous conflict on our behalf, gaining victory over death and the grave, so that we may have the assurance of abundant life. Christ said, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) He did this by enduring the War to end all Wars when he died on the cross, was buried, and rose again.

We need to honor our veterans. This is altogether fitting and proper. We owe our veterans so much. More importantly, don t forget to honor the One who endured a great conflict on our behalf. We owe him our lives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 10, 2016

I have had a number of medical procedures for a variety of reasons. One of the things I have experienced is being given medication that helps you to relax and feel like you don't have a care in the world. I like to call this medication the "I don't care" drug. This medication is especially helpful when procedures need to be done that are uncomfortable but really do not call for general anesthesia. Last week I had surgery to repair a detached retina in my left eye, and this is what they did. I was awake during the procedure, but was in a relaxed state that made everything good.

The idea of not caring can be appealing in a variety of circumstances. At times in can be good not to care; however, there are many life situations where not caring is not a good idea.

We need to care about our connection to others. We need to care about our connection to God. If we don't care, we hamper our efforts to develop these connections and grow in our relationship with God and with others. God made us to enjoy connectedness. This flows from his nature.

Connectedness exists in the Godhead in the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one I in them and you in me so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)

"I don't care" might be a great state of mind if you are having a root canal, but it isn't the attitude to have with regard to your spiritual life. Caring is as germane to Christianity as apples are to pie. And caring is a lot less fattening!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 09, 2016

Today are a lot of happy people and a lot of sad people. This is the nature of elections. There are winners and losers in elections. Rejection hurts. When Adlai Stevenson conceded the U.S. presidential election in 1952, he said he felt like a grown man who had just stubbed his toe. He added, "It hurts too much to laugh, but I'm too old to cry."

Dealing with rejection is not an easy thing to do. But one thing to remember is we have someone who understands how we feel because rejection was so much a part of his experience. Christ was scorned by his brothers and his countrymen. He heard the crowd call for Barabbas and cry for his crucifixion. (Matthew 27:23) When he was crucified, he felt the abandonment of his Father. He called out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

Are you dealing with the feelings of being left behind because of rejection? Remember that Christ understands how you feel. He will accept you. He never rejects those who trust in him. He promises, "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." (John 6:37) We will always be winners with Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 8, 2016

Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes? Would they look more like Jesus? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand?

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 7, 2016

I get a kick out of Nielsen ratings. There are ratings based on overall popularity of a show, but what is emphasized is how well a show does among the "18 - 49 demographic." This is the coveted slot. Shows want to attract the younger viewers, and the shows that attract the younger viewers are the ones considered to be the most successful. Advertisers want to appeal to the young adult age group. So, what is the deal? What are older viewers? Sliced cheese? The aging of society means there are more older TV viewers now than in the past. In addition, older folks have as much, maybe more, money to spend on products being advertised. Yet, the appeal is to the younger TV watchers.

We need to avoid this trend in the church. Age does not diminish worth, it actually enhances it. Leviticus 19:32 says, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord." Job 12:12 tells us, "Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?" We should not be too quick to put folks out to pasture. These verses remind us of the importance of wisdom and discernment - characteristics that are to be found among those who have experienced much of life. Look to these folks and ask "What can be learned?" rather than saying, "Get out of the way!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 6, 2016

The holiday season is closing in on us, and we are preparing for celebrations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. This is as it should be, and our contemporary celebrations mirror the holidays of the people of Israel in that they are "Feast Days." We always enjoy special meals during our celebrations, and that is a good thing. However, we need to make sure and be good to ourselves.

Proverbs 23:2 tells us to "put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony." Now, I am not advocating this action at all, but we should mind our manners as we sit down to our feasts. We need to enjoy our meals, but we also need to remember Paul's admonition to remember that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We should be good to our bodies, not just at this time of year, but all the year through. We need to avoid what is sometimes a problem of 21st century Christians, a subtle form of neo-Platonism, where we separate the body and the spirit. That is not correct thinking.

God wants us to enjoy ourselves and enjoy our celebrations. He also wants us to take care of what he has created. Let's do that!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 5, 2016

Does it bother you when you discover folks have not listened to you? I have this experience at times as I have had more than one encounter with an individual who has said to me, "I didn't know that" in response to an inquiry related to something I had announced to the church.

The fact that folks don't listen to me is mildly annoying, and can cause some minor problems. However, if this happens when God is talking, there is a real problem. I have some important things to say at times, but God always says important things. Anything that comes from God is something that needs to be heard and heeded.

John writes about the significance of hearing, "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:47) That pretty much gives us a clear picture of the significance of hearing. When we fail to hear what God says, it is an indicator of a spiritual need - we need to examine our relationship with God. Hearing and doing are what demonstrates genuine belief. Matthew 7:24-29 is a story of the importance of hearing. This familiar tale about a wise man and a foolish man building a house is a statement on the need for good hearing. Do not drive God crazy - make sure you hear what he says and do what you hear.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 4, 2016

Are you aware that there will be two resurrections? Well, there are a number of aspects to the resurrection, but the resurrection involves both the raising of the righteous who have died in the Lord, and the revival of all creation that now groans because of the effects of the fall.

You see, not only are believers yearning for the time when they will be brought back from the dead and made new, ALL of creation yearns for that time. Romans 8:19 - 21 tells us, "For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God." Isaiah 65:17-18 promises, "See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create."

As we wait for this time, the resurrection, we need to allow this hope and this certainty affect how we live now. We need to live as resurrected people and project that hope and reality though what we do and how we live. We have been made alive, so let's project that life here and now. It is not too early to start enjoying our resurrection - do this for God's glory and to bring others hope!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 3, 2016

I know your have heard the saying "birds of a feather flock together." That is true on so many levels, and is a statement that can be made about us humans. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. It is a trait that is within us and is a natural tendency. However, if this tendency causes us to act in unkind, unloving ways towards others, then we are wrong. Prejudice towards others for any reason simply goes against the grain of the Christian message.

James tells us we should not discriminate against the poor. We read in James 2:1-4: "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?"

It is wrong to discriminate against someone else for any reason - wealth, creed, race, age or national origin. Christ came into the world to bring hope to all people. We are to love our neighbor regardless who our neighbor might be. If we don't get this message out of our celebration of Christ's coming, then we have really missed the boat.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 2, 2016

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 1, 2016

The leaves are just about at their peak this autumn. If you want to enjoy them, you need to spend some time looking now, because the colorful foliage is here FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY. That is the nature of the marvelous show that appears temporarily this time of year. To enjoy, you need to take it all in now.

This is the nature of all of life - we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have now because the opportunities pass us by quickly. This is the nature of all activities, and especially is true with regard to opportunities to obey God's promptings. From time to time we find ourselves in a position to share God's blessings with others or provide a kindness to a person in need or help a brother or sister who is struggling.

We need to do our best to take advantage of these special opportunities to be God's representative on earth. There are times when the urgent tasks before us need to be postponed so that we can seize the opportunity to minister. We need to follow the advice of Paul who wrote, "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." (Ephesians 5:15-16) Be wise and make the most of the opportunity that is presented for a limited time only.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 31, 2016

David had a problem. For years, Saul pursued him and wanted to kill him. Twice David had the opportunity to end the conflict by taking Saul's life, but he wouldn't do this. He knew he needed to rely on God and his wisdom. At the confrontation just after David spared Saul's life for the second time, David said, "The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea--as one hunts a partridge in the mountains." (I Samuel 26:20)

How did David cope with this prolonged struggle? By continuing to rely on God's presence and his love. He knew there was no other recourse but to continue to place himself in God's hands and trust his promises. He brought his problems to the Lord and registered his complaint with him. He asked, "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1) However, he proclaimed his faith in God's plan and proclaimed his understanding that God knows best. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me." (Psalm 13:5-6)

Facing protracted difficulties is not easy. When we do, we need to bring our complaints to God and give them to him. God interacts with his children and will help bring us to a place where we come back to certainties: He loves us in spite of what we experience. God will not leave us alone and will help see us though the conflict. David had a problem and sometimes so do we, but there is not problem we have to face alone.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 30, 2016

None of us have a perfect memory, so most of us have had the experience of struggling to come up with a name, a date, an event, or some other tidbit of information. Does the following scenario sound familiar? You are with your spouse in a restaurant and by chance you meet an old classmate. You would really love to introduce them but, what is the name? Oh, you say you can't remember this or something similar ever happening to you? Uh huh, my point exactly. My mother told me of a friend of hers who used to say "you aren't forgetful you just have so many things stacked on your head they just run off."

God has to deal with us and our forgetfulness. He knows we are forgetful. He knows that we are prone to forget him, especially if we have a little prosperity in our lives. That is why he reminds us in Deuteronomy 8:18, "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth." He gets a little more stern in the next verse, "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed." He knew how we are. We forget so easily.

Forgetting a name is one thing, but forgetting our dependence upon God is another. Don't "have too many things stacked on your head" when it comes to your relationship with God. This will prove more than just embarrassing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 29, 2016

What do you say to a friend who has lost a loved one? This is a universal experience, yet we often struggle with what we should do for our friend when a loved one dies. We wonder what to say - we wonder how we can be helpful.

Job's friends give us some examples of what to do and what not to do in a circumstance of loss. After Job experienced his great loss, 3 of his friends came to him and, at first, just sat with him as he grieved. Job 2:11-13 tell us, "When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."

What we see them do here is instructional for us - they simply went to be with their friend. This was a good thing, and would have continued to be a good thing except they began giving all sorts of advice. What Job needed was for them to continue with their presence in a non-judgmental, non-invasive way. Our presence is the most important thing we can offer at times when others are suffering. Listening with compassion is what our friend needs. Helping with practical things is another beneficial offering. Words of assurance, words and acts of kindness, simple expressions of sorrow, statements of assurance are welcome. Lectures and advice are not.

When you want to help a friend, think of Job. Remembering what was helpful for him can help us when we don't know what to say.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 28, 2016

Several years ago I received a unique and rather challenging phone call from my youngest daughter. She was in New Haven, Connecticut, and needed directions to Yale University. Now, I was in Illinois, so why did she call me? For one thing, her GPS died and she didn t have a smart phone. More importantly, I am her dad and over the years I have done all I could to let my kids know I would never steer them wrong. She knew I would do everything in my power to get her going the right direction. She knew I would probably be sitting in front of a computer and could look up directions for her. Yes, I was able to help her. It was an interesting experience, but I was happy that my daughter trusted me enough to call me when she needed help.

Trust is one of the things parents need to build in their children. As my girls were growing up, I wanted to let them know they could trust me. I wanted them to have the confidence that they could come to me at any time and know I would do all I could to be there for them and to help them. Of course, parents aren't infallible and aren't omnipotent, so at times there are limitations to what we can do. Still, they know I will be there as much as I can.

Our children need to know that we will do our very best to steer them in the right direction at all times. God calls upon us to steer our children in the right direction. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." God is also a role model to follow when it comes to building trust in our children and letting them know we will never steer them wrong. We know God will never steer us wrong.

Proverbs 3:4-5 tell us to "Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." We know we can and should do this because God would not lead us the wrong way - it simply is not in his character. It should not be in our character to misguide our children - or anyone else for that matter. Let your children know that when they call you and ask for directions (even if they are in another state!), you will do your best to lead them right!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 27, 2016

Many wonder about God's will for their life. They want to make sure to make right decisions - decisions that would be pleasing in God's eyes and reflect God's will for them. Sometimes frustration comes when it is not really clear what the will of God is. This is sometimes caused by on overemphasis on what we want instead of focusing on what God wants.

There are some plain statements in the New Testament about the will of God. II Corinthians 8:5 says, "And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will." I Thessalonians 4:3 says, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified." I Peter 2:15 says, "For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men." I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

The common thread in all of these statements is that God wants us to live righteous lives. As we live a life that is pleasing to God, we will find that God will direct us in making decisions that relate to specific circumstances and life situations. Do God's will by living a life which reflects Gods character. You won't go wrong if you live for this!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 26, 2016

Many of you enjoy candles. 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. Many home fires are caused by candles that are left burning. Candles need to be used correctly.

As it is with candles, so it is with our lives. We need to take care of our lives and not allow them to burn improperly. 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.

Guard your lives and how you "burn." 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 correctly and be careful so that you don't burn out!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 25, 2016

Don Hewitt was a pioneer in television journalism. He started at CBS in 1948. His early years were spent directing the Edwin R. Murrow newscast. He was the first executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. He directed the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates. However, all of this did not prevent him from being demoted in the early 60's. I am sure he was angered by this move, as I know I would be. Many of us would simply quit, pout, or seek something else. Not Hewitt. He didn't let this setback deter his creative juices.

In the late 60's he came up with an idea for a news broadcast that would focus on three stories in the span of an hour. This broadcast would present the news from a "you are there" perspective, and focus on the people, not just the issues. He pitched his idea to the network execs, Mike Wallace was hired as the main newsman, and the first segment of "60 Minutes" was put on the air on September 24, 1969. In case you didn't know, "60 Minutes" is still on the air, making it the longest-running television series in television history by about a mile or so. This says a great deal about Hewitt's character. What a legacy he left!

How do you respond when things don't go your way? This does happen in our lives, doesn't it? Jonah is an example of someone who pouted when he didn't get his way. What makes his story ironic was he had met with great success on his mission - the people responded! God's confrontation of the pouting Jonah is found in Jonah 4:10-11, "But the LORD said, 'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'"

A positive example of how to respond when we don't get our way would be the life of the apostle Paul. Countless times his plans were changed. He was mistreated, abused, stoned, thrown into prison, but he never lost his desire to go forward and do something new. He certainly got discouraged, but he never quit. At the end of his life he was able to say, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (II Timothy 4:6-8)." I think this says something about Paul's character. What a legacy he left!

When things don't go your way, are you a Jonah or a Paul?

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 24, 2016

Recently I have seen a commercial on one of our local TV channels for a roofing business named "Honest Abe's Roofing." A Lincoln impersonator is seen in a variety of circumstances that all play off the well-known honesty of our 16th president. Two of my favorite stories about Lincoln's honesty took place when he was a clerk in a store in New Salem, Illinois. One story relates how he walked to a customer's home after closing to return a few cents in change that he had held out inadvertently. Another involved Lincoln taking tea to a customer when he found he had weighed her request incorrectly.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 23, 2016

In a strip of "Peanuts" a number of years ago, Lucy belittles Charlie Brown for his attempt at a building project. Charlie Brown tells her, "It's a birdhouse for sparrows." "For sparrows?" Lucy replied. "No one builds a birdhouse for sparrows." "I do," says Charlie Brown, "I build birdhouses for the underbird."

Sparrows may be considered "underbirds" of little worth, but God considers them important enough to watch their movements. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7) Christ spoke of the degree of care God has for his children by using the example of sparrows. Apparently, even at the time of Christ, sparrows were not considered very valuable or desirable birds. Yet, even these "underbirds" were kept under the watch care of God himself.

God builds houses for underbirds. God is concerned about the details of your life. He is aware of all that happens and is always concerned about your welfare. He has nothing but your best interests at heart. Therefore, you need to trust him with the details of your life. With God, you are never an underbird!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 22, 2016

New airline restrictions that have appeared in recent years regarding how much one can carry without being charged for excess weight has caused travelers to be more circumspect with regard to packing bags. I have found this quite interesting in my recent trips. It is amazing how much we can do without stuff when forced to think about what we really need. I used to be one of those folks who severely over packed. I cannot say I am an expert "packer," but I have found living on less is not a real problem.

Why is it that we think we need stuff? Why do we tend to be "packrats" and accumulate so many things we don't need? There are so many things out there that are advertised as items we "cannot do without." In reality, these items are probably the first things we should avoid, or the first things we need to eliminate if we already have them.

We need to avoid this tendency in our spiritual lives. Jesus warned against this tendency in Luke 12. He warns, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) Be rich toward God and don't accumulate extra stuff that won't do you any good. Focus on what you really need.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 21, 2016

Recently I read an article that talked about the divided opinions regarding coyotes. Coyotes have made a comeback in recent years. Their increasing numbers are viewed as a threat by many because of dangers posed to domestic animals and small livestock. However, others view them as a positive addition because of the role they play in rodent control. So, is their presence to be viewed as positive or negative? It would seem that one's perspective plays a role in the determination of opinion.

The same can be said about those problem situations we face or those dear folks with their biting criticism we often encounter. Are these good additions to our lives or are these negatives? It would seem that one's perspective can play a role in the determination of their status. If we decide to do what we can to learn from adversity or from negative criticism, then it seems we can turn what is a negative into a positive. Now, I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but if you have lived any time at all, you know that you will not be able to avoid these situations, so what can help is to do your best to make them useful experiences. We recognize the danger they pose, but do we see the benefits that can be derived from their presence?

Paul learned to benefit from negative experiences in his life. He said, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10) There is no secret formula to how to develop this attitude; it comes from developing spiritual discipline and letting the Holy Spirit work within us to motivate our response. Ask God to help you see the positive where others only see the negative.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 20, 2016

In a world where the population continues to increase, I have long maintained that concern for others continues to decrease. All you need to do is visit a parking lot of your nearby grocery store or mall to see the evidence of this. Parking lots are battle zones. Folks fail to yield when they should, continually drive the wrong way, and the boundary lines which delineate parking spaces mean nothing as double parking seems to be the rule and not the exception. To me, the driver of the double-parked vehicle is saying "I am more important than you and whether you have a place to park or not is irrelevant."

Have you seen Fried Green Tomatoes? There is a scene in the film where the character played by Kathy Bates gets really frustrated because a young female driver cuts her off to get to the only available parking space in a parking lot. As the young girl exits her vehicle after pulling in front of Bates she says, "That's how it is when you're younger and faster." Bates, in a fit of anger, smashes into the girl s car and then calls out to the girl, "That's how it is when you older and have more insurance."

Our care for others needs to extend beyond parking lots. We need to open our eyes to see the need of those around us. Christ taught this principle and demonstrated this principle in so many ways when he was on the earth. His life was all about others and we should be glad of that. If it wasn't, he would not have let them put him on the cross.

Christ told his followers that the second greatest commandment was to "Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:31) In other places he defined a "neighbor" as anyone who happens to be close by and has a need. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10?

Don't get into Parking Lot Wars. Be considerate of others. I don't care if you do have good insurance.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 19, 2016

So, what are the two most wonderful words in the English language? Have you ever thought about that? Has anyone even ever asked you that? Well, you have been asked, so what do you think? Let me give you one suggestion as an answer to the question, "What are the most wonderful words in the English language?" I submit that the two most wonderful words are "But God", regardless of what language you use. Whether you say "pero Dios" or "mais Dieu" or "Aber Gott" or even "Kai Theos", these are the most wonderful words.

Perhaps you ask, "How are these the most wonderful words?" Let me give a few reasons: "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him" (Acts 7:9); "But God has helped me to this very day" (Acts 26:22); "But God had mercy on him" (Philippians 2:27). And how about, "But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions"? Wow - isn't that wonderful? This is possible because "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24)

We were headed down a path towards destruction, but God intervened. Now, where death ruled, we can celebrate life. There was no hope for us, but God gave us eternal hope. I don't know about you, but I think the words but God are wonderful.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 17, 2016

Have you carved your pumpkin yet this year? Some were sort of fearful that our wet weather would diminish the pumpkin crop, but it appears that diligent farmers have once again triumphed and there seems to be an abundance of the round, orange globes available just for the purpose of decorating and carving. We don't carve pumpkins much anymore as our daughters are all grown up and not around to participate in this task. But I have many fond memories of picking out just the right pumpkins and then spending time preparing them for display.

When you work on a pumpkin, the last thing you do is put in the candle. I remember reading an article by Christopher de Vinck where he called this activity "putting in the pumpkin's heart." Even after the carving, the pumpkin really doesn't seem like much. But when you put in the candle and light it, the pumpkin seems to acquire a personality all its own. That simple little flame inside seems to give it life and makes a statement to the outside world.

Do you let your inner light show to the outside world? Do you let your heart make a statement to others? As followers of Christ, we have light within us that makes us distinctive. However, that light is not meant to be hidden, but to shine brightly to others so that they can see our heart. More importantly, as we let the light out, they are able to see the heart of the Savior.

We read the words of Christ in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Let your light shine! </p

Pastor Seve Willis
Sunday October 16, 2016

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
Sunday October 16, 2016

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 October 17, 2016

Have you carved your pumpkin yet this year? Some were sort of fearful that our wet weather would diminish the pumpkin crop, but it appears that diligent farmers have once again triumphed and there seems to be an abundance of the round, orange globes available just for the purpose of decorating and carving. We don't carve pumpkins much anymore as our daughters are all grown up and not around to participate in this task. But I have many fond memories of picking out just the right pumpkins and then spending time preparing them for display.

When you work on a pumpkin, the last thing you do is put in the candle. I remember reading an article by Christopher de Vinck where he called this activity "putting in the pumpkin's heart." Even after the carving, the pumpkin really doesn't seem like much. But when you put in the candle and light it, the pumpkin seems to acquire a personality all its own. That simple little flame inside seems to give it life and makes a statement to the outside world.

Do you let your inner light show to the outside world? Do you let your heart make a statement to others? As followers of Christ, we have light within us that makes us distinctive. However, that light is not meant to be hidden, but to shine brightly to others so that they can see our heart. More importantly, as we let the light out, they are able to see the heart of the Savior.

We read the words of Christ in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Let your light shine!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 16, 2016

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
Saturday October 15, 2016

The most popular image of Christ ever produced is Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ," which he painted in 1941. This image has been reproduced over 500 million times. Mr. Sallman had been working against a deadline to produce an image of Christ. He struggled with the image: how should Christ be depicted? He awoke in the middle of the night, just hours before the image was due, and penciled the rough sketch that would become "Head of Christ."

It is no wonder that Sallman struggled with what to paint. The New Testament does not contain any physical description of Christ at all. Was he tall or short? Was his hair curly or straight? Was he homely or handsome? We really don't know. Our desire to know what he looked like is so strong that we sometimes accept images such as Sallman's as reality. This, or course, is a mistake.

It really is good we don't know what Christ looked like. This makes us concentrate on what we do know something about - his ministry and his character. The New Testament says quite a bit about both of these. And since it does, these are the aspects of Christ on which we should focus.

I m glad we have no actual physical description of Christ. If we did, we would want to emphasize this in our study of Christ. We would want to imitate his physical appearance. In our appearance-crazy age, I would imagine we would do all kinds of things to "look like Jesus." I am sure that even plastic surgery would be in the mix.

What is important is that you be like Christ and act like Christ, not look like Christ. Paul talks about emulating the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. . ." Colossians 2:6-7 says to us: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." We don't know how he looked, but we do know how he lived. We should want to live like Christ, not look like Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 14, 2016

A man once stowed away on a ship, but was discovered and locked up in the ship's brig. When the ship reached its port of call, the captain ordered that the man be put ashore. However, when the customs agents found out that the man had no passport, they would not let him disembark. So, he stayed on the ship and returned to the home port. There the scenario repeated itself - with no passport, the authorities would not let him enter the country. This went on for a few trips until finally he was allowed to go ashore at the port where he originally entered the ship.

There are folks among us who are "without a country." They are homeless, friendless, with little means to support themselves. Sometimes they are "bounced around" from agency to agency and from person to person as they seek help. Sometimes they are treated as was that man who was without a passport. "Sorry, you can't stay here. There is no help here. Move on." Our inclination is to reject the dirty, the unattractive, the different, those without means.

James writes about our response to those in need, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17).

Don't have a "dead faith." Do all you can to help those who seem to be "traveling without a passport." God will bless you for it.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 13, 2016

What is the greatest need in your life right now? When we focus on this question, it is easy to look at externals. Often we might answer this question by saying "My greatest need is for that person to change his or her mind" or "My greatest need is for this circumstance to change."

When Solomon was told by God to ask for whatever he wanted, he focused on himself. That is, he asked for discernment and wisdom that he might lead well instead of asking for better circumstances, more money, or better people with whom to work. He asked that he would be able to see what was needed and that he would be able to change. We read in I Kings 3:5-9, "At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.' Solomon answered, 'You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?'"

Solomon didn't ask for better circumstances, better others, or better things, he asked for a better self. This would help him as he encountered problems with people, circumstances, and things. Ask God to help you with your greatest need - a wiser self!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 11, 2016

Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your hands? If you have, you know these substances don't come off with just soap and water. You need another special solution to remove them. However, with the right solvent, you can remove the glue or the paint easily.

We sometimes face burdens that prove to be sticky and hard to remove. They just don't seem to go away no matter what we try. The joy of the Christian life is knowing that God can handle anything we turn over to him. However, one of our weaknesses seems to be our unwillingness to hand over to God the issues that we can't handle. For some reason, we want to hang on to them even though we know we are incapable of finding a solution to the problem. They stick to us like super glue or paint. We need to heed the advice of David found in Psalm 55, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." (vs. 22) Give these issues over to God and let him provide what is necessary to solve the problem. There are times when we don't want things to "stick to us like glue".

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 10, 2016

In 1989, a fire broke out at a recycling facility near Interstate 78 in New Jersey. The heat from the fire was so intense that it warped girders supporting the roadway. The interstate was closed for a long time as repairs were made. Three years after the fire, the owners were convicted of operating the facility improperly and faced jail time as well as heavy fines. The state of New Jersey had been trying for years to impose sanctions on the facility because waste materials were not being disposed of properly. Debris including wood chips, yard waste, carpet, shredded metal, paper, and other trash had accumulated for years. This was the fuel for the intense fire leading to dire consequences.

This illustrates a basic story of life. Most of our problems don't just happen. They are the result of bad decisions that accumulate over time and eventually lead to dire consequences. II Chronicles 36 tells a tale of consequences brought about by the accumulation of bad decisions, "The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar." (vss. 15-17) Don't let your sins accumulate. Deal with them, or experience the consequence.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 09, 2016

I have heard it said, "Never trust a carpenter with soft hands." The meaning of this is evident - if someone claims to be a carpenter then the hands should let it be known. If someone claims that they are in the business of carpentry and their hands look like they have never touched the first piece of wood, then you may want to think twice before you have them fix your roof or add a room to your house. And you certainly need to think carefully before you let them build a house for you. One's hands reveal something of the kind of work he or she does.

What do your hands reveal? You may say, "Well, I am not sure my hands reveal anything." Perhaps you are correct when it comes to your physical hands, but what about the hands you are using to do work for Christ? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone who is struggling making a rent payment? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone who has just lost a loved one? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone with the message of the Savior? Do they show any "wear and tear?" Our hands should give evidence of what we do, and I hope my hands show that I am living for my Lord. If not, I need to start doing what I should be doing. Along with Moses we should pray, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17)

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 08, 2016

There are very few alive today who can remember the Great Depression. My mother spoke of this time on a number of occasions. She never really talked about being poor because although her family did not have a tremendous abundance, her father had a job, they didn't go hungry, they had a home, they had wood for fuel, they had a good well, and even a sturdy outhouse. They were in a similar situation as their neighbors, so they really didn't consider themselves poor. As she reflected on those times, she spoke of the fact that they might be considered poor by newer standards, but they were better supplied than many people of the day so they didn't consider their lives to be all that harsh.

How much money does it take to be considered rich? How much money do you have to give away to be considered generous? Hard to say, isn't it?

Paul speaks of the generosity of the Macedonian Christians who gave out of their poverty. He writes, "And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability." (II Corinthians 8:1-3) Paul doesn't set a percentage that needs to be met but reflects on being generous with what you have. By using the Macedonians as an example, he challenged the Corinthians, and challenges us, to look at our giving and determine if we are reflecting God's grace in what we share with the church. He reminds his readers that the Lord, though he was rich, became poor so that we might become rich. Our giving needs to reflect this reality. Our love for Christ should provide us with the motivation to be generous with our giving.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 07, 2016

Many of us have had "I was only trying to help" moments. One of mine was when I was helping some friends move and I dropped a box containing one of their favorite glass bowls. Oh yes, it broke - into about a million pieces. Well, what could they say? What could I say? "I was only trying to help!" I had nothing but good intentions, but made a mistake.

We read about a fellow with good intentions in Judges 8. Gideon had helped rid the Israelites of the threat of the Midianites. They even wanted to make him king, which he refused. However, he asked for a golden earring from each of the victorious soldiers which he used to fashion into a golden ephod. This golden ephod became an object of worship and eventually led the people away from worship of God. We read in Judges 8:26-27, "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." Not only his family, but the next generation of Israelites turned away from the true worship of God, all because of his actions done with good intentions. He may have had good intentions but his decision proved to be very wrong.

Dropping a box and unintentionally breaking a friend's bowl is one thing, but taking our eyes from the true worship of God is another. Watch your lives so that you don't turn away from following God. Your decision may also affect others - and that certainly is not trying to help!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 06, 2016

When I was a kid, we would travel to northern Ohio two or three times a year to visit my aunt (my mother's only sister) and her family. There were a number of tourist attractions near where my aunt lived. We enjoyed visiting Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Marblehead, and many other places.

One attraction that always held a fascination for me was a place called the Blue Hole, near Castalia. This was a pond with water that had an eerie blue green "glow." It was fed by subterranean springs which allowed it to maintain a constant level and temperature at any time of the year. Because of the presence of certain minerals, fish could not survive in the pond, and there was also the legend that the bottom could not be found.

One practice of visitors to the Blue Hole, as is the case with many fountains and other bodies of water, was to pitch a coin in the Blue Hole and make a wish. Have you ever done that? This practice is really harmless, unless you are really counting on something to happen. Mercy, I hope you aren't.

Somewhat akin to the foolishness of counting on wishes made when throwing coins into bodies of water is living our lives without plans. We really need to do some thinking about our lives, how we want to live our lives, and what we want to do with our lives. Planning is so important in so many areas - family, finances, our future. Someone once said, "When we fail to plan, we plan to fail."

One important area of planning is how we are going to live for God. What kind of impact do we wish to make? What should I do to please him? What can I do for someone else to make an impact spiritually? How can I help someone else with some need they might have? Asking these questions helps us to make important decisions and helps us to make plans that are beneficial to ourselves and others.

Don't just throw coins in a pool and make a wish. Make some plans on how to become what you should be for God and for others. Proverbs 21:5 tells us, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Diligent planning leads to directed service!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 05, 2016

One morning as I was driving to my office at church a rather interesting thing happened. It was dark and drizzling rain. As I approached an intersection where there was a stop sign, I saw a lady in a yellow rain suit out for a morning walk frozen about one third of the way across the crosswalk. It became obvious to me that she was not sure whether I was going to stop, and was not about to take the chance to continue. In essence, she stopped because she didn't trust me to stop.

Wouldn't it be so much better to live in a world where we knew we could trust others to do the right thing? If we did, she could have proceeded across the intersection with no fear. How many other examples could we think of if we lived in a world where we knew we didn't have to "watch out for the other guy?" One of the first lessons I gave to my girls as I was teaching them to drive was to "drive defensively."

We should show our trustworthiness with our lives. Others need to know they can trust us. Jethro encouraged Moses to pick out individuals who could be trusted to help with the management of the people. We read in Exodus 18:20, "But select capable men from all the people men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens."

Would you be one of those selected for this task? Do you show yourself to others as one who can be trusted? Another thing - we know we can always trust God. We are encouraged in Proverbs 3:4-5 to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." So, trust God - and show yourself to be trustworthy! That way you won't terrify pedestrians at intersections!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 04, 2016

My grandparents were a little leery of banks. Now, they used a bank, but they had been stung by the stock market crash and bank failure of 1929, so they were a little leery of them. And, you really couldn t blame them. The old adage, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me probably could have applied.

They were not alone in their concern. Many folks shared this fear after 1929. That is why the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was established. Of course, even this entity could fail any of man s institutions can fail. There are no absolute guarantees in life with anything. Well, that isn t entirely accurate. We know that God s promises to us are absolute. He will never ever break any of his promises to us.

As you read God s Word and come across his promises, you can rest assured they will not be broken or done away with. You will never experience a stock market crash with God. When he says, Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), he means it. Life is indeed uncertain at times, but God provides assurance in uncertain times. He is infinitely superior to the FDIC. So put your trust in him because he will never let you down!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 03, 2016

A few years ago, the youth group at my church planned to attend a nearby music festival. So, I ordered the tickets for the event. The time for the festival was approaching, and we had not received the tickets. The festival was a weekend event, so when the Tuesday before the scheduled time came and there were no tickets, I got a little nervous. I called the organizers of the concert and was told the tickets were mailed, but Wednesday came and went with no tickets. So I called the folks back and made other arrangements. The plan to get more tickets was going to be inconvenient, but we had no choice the tickets weren t here!

Thursday s mail arrived at the usual time. Guess what? You got it! There were the tickets the day before the event, right on time! Everything was well. The tickets, which really were of no use to me until that day, were in my possession and we were just fine. So then, why the worry? It hadn t helped much even making alternate plans was not all that helpful because now the plans were moot. If only I had exercised patience. Sometimes, that is hard to do.

We often experience this in our relationship with God. We think we need something and we think we need it now, so we ask God for this something and then get frustrated when we don t receive whatever it is for which we were asking when we asked for it. Often we become a little irritated when we think our prayers are not answered when we need them to be and in the way we think they should be.

We really need to trust God. His timing and his wisdom are impeccable. He knows far better than we what we need and when we need it. Christ gave this assurance about our father in Matthew 10:29-31, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. God knows exactly when we need the tickets. We need to trust him. There is a song based on this scripture that says, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. And do he does.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 02, 2016

Some time ago an old house near where I live was torn down. Now, I knew it was an old house before they started the demolition, but as they peeled off the outer layer of shingles, it was apparent to me the structure was even older than what I first thought. The removal of the outer layer of shingles exposed another layer of shingles that was from a much earlier era of building. It is amazing what can be covered up by a new layer of material, isn't it?

Sometimes the same is true in our lives. We try to cover up things about ourselves that we don't want others to know. We try to be something that we are not. We try to hide things. We do good things, but we don't have the right motive for doing them. Sometimes we are successful at covering up things, sometimes we are not. Of course, there is one person that we can never fool - and that is God. We read in I Samuel 16:7: "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

I have often paraphrased a familiar quote from Abraham Lincoln this way: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time." I like to add, "And you can't fool God at any time." What's in your heart?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 01, 2016

During a performance on October 3, 2003, Roy Horn, one-half of the Las Vegas mega-star duo "Siegfried and Roy", was mauled by one of the tigers used in their magic review. For years, this duo kept audiences on the edge of their seats with their unique blend of animal mastery and magical illusion. Although the animals in the act always seemed tame and friendly, for some reason a tiger attacked Horn. The attack ended their brilliant shows. In 2009, they made a "comeback" show of sorts, but the injuries Horn sustained will prevent him from ever being the showman he once was.

No one knows for sure what prompted the attack. Many theories have been put forth, including a couple by Horn himself. Horn suffered a stroke almost simultaneously with the attack. It was not determined if the stroke was caused by the attack, or if Horn suffered the stroke before the attack. Horn thinks the latter, and believes his tiger was reacting to this, doing what he thought was necessary to save Horn's life. Of course, all of this is speculation. One fact that all animal trainers know stands out - you really don't "tame" a wild animal, you simply keep its behavior under control.

James uses the analogy of taming wild animals in describing the trouble we have with our tongue. He says in 3:7-8, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." We have a greater chance of keeping a wild beast under control than we do keeping our tongues under control.

Much training was required to get the animals to the place where they could be "performers" in Siegfried and Roy's show. Much more training is needed to keep our tongues under control. A lot of damage was done to Roy Horn by an out of control animal. A lot of damage can be done to people by an out of control tongue. Keep this in mind the next time you feel that you are losing control of your tongue. Remember it is "full of deadly poison" and needs to be closely guarded. Don't maul others with it - keep it tamed!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 30, 2016

Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes you feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been 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 us 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. Live in a way so that you are deserving of God's compliments!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 29, 2016

I was in junior high school when I first drank Gatorade. A teammate brought a bottle to football practice. Gatorade is a drink designed to restore lost electrolytes in those who had been involved in intense physical activity. It was named Gatorade because it was developed by a researcher at the University of Florida, home of the Gators.

Recently I read a story about another type of "gator aid." It seems some recruits at an armed services training facility in Florida were making a habit of slipping off a rope into a pond during a training exercise to "cool off" in the hot climate. To change this habit, a drill instructor had a large alligator put in the pond. From then on, the recruits would swing all the way across the pond without slipping. Wonder why?

God sometimes uses similar tactics to bring us in line with his plan. The use of unfavorable circumstances to mold and shape our character and encourage obedience is seen in scripture and in our personal experience. Hebrews 12:6 tells us "the Lord disciplines those he loves." Sometimes that means putting an alligator in the water as a form of "gator aid." David says in Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

Remember this the next time you feel that God is using "gator aid" with you. It shows that he loves you. It shows he wants you to be, in the words of the Armed Services, "all that you can be." A friendly reminder - don't let go of the rope!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 28, 2016

"My God, what will become of me? I have no desire but to die!" wrote the 30-year-old lady in her diary. Obviously struggling with depression and grief, what was to become of this person who had come to the end of her emotional rope?

Well, she became a pioneer in the use of antiseptics and chloroform which relieved much human suffering. What became of her was being the founder of the modern-day nursing profession. Florence Nightingale did much to improve the practice of medicine and lived to the marvelous age of 90 before leaving this life for the life to come. What changed was discovering a purpose outside of herself, outside of her suffering. What changed was channeling her suffering and grief into activity that led to the relief of the suffering and grief of others.

Do you feel like you have come to the end of your emotional rope? Look around - who can you help? Remember that in the work of helping others, our own pain can give way to healing.

Like Nightingale, Job came to a place where he wished he had never been born. Job 3:1-3 tells us, "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: 'May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, A boy is born!'" Also like Nightingale, Job worked through his personal grief and pain. His story has become an inspiration to many others who struggle with grief and suffering.

Facing a painful time? Remember the examples of Florence Nightingale and Job. They worked through what they experienced and were blessed because of their faith. You can do the same.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 27, 2016

According to an old legend, there was once a day when the sun didn't shine. At 6 a.m., there was no evidence of the sun. 7 a.m. came and passed by with still no sun. At noon it was as dark as if it was midnight. People began flocking to churches to pray. Fear gripped them as what should be was not. The sun always rose in the morning, didn't it? It was always there to provide light and warmth, wasn't it? Well, not this day. People prayed that God would send back the sun.

The next day, all the people gathered and faced east, hoping to see the familiar sight of the sunrise. When the sun appeared, a huge cheer rose from the massive throng. What was once taken for granted would be taken for granted no more.

We are prone to do this - take for granted things that shouldn't be taken for granted. We do that with God's benefits and blessings. They are always there, aren't they? Yes, God is always there and always wants to give us good things and provide many blessings; however, we should do all we can to make sure we don't take these things for granted.

What can we do to make sure we don't take God's benefits for granted? Do what David did in Psalm 103. He couldn't list all of God's benefits, but he listed as many as he could: "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

We can't list all of God's blessings, but we should take time each day to think of some of them. In this way, we will be kept from taking what God gives us for granted. It will keep our focus on the One who never withholds the sun, who never lets us down, who never leaves us alone.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 26, 2016

Years ago when I lived in Ohio, I would occasionally drive by a small dwelling that was once a school house. It was near the road and even though it had been modified a good deal for use as living quarters, the shape had not been changed to the extent that its original use was completely hidden. Another unique feature of this structure was that it had been the scene of a terrible tragedy. Construction workers on a road-building project some distance away were using dynamite to blast some rocks and remove tree stumps. They placed a larger charge than necessary under one particular stump. The explosion propelled the stump almost one-half mile away - right through the roof of the school which was filled with students. One young boy was killed instantly and a number of other students were injured - all as a consequence of an improperly calculated explosive charge.

This was truly a great tragedy, something that one would hope would never be repeated. It shows the need to be careful with dynamite - an explosive charge can lead to devastating consequences.

There is another type of explosive charge that can lead to devastating consequences. Albeit not deadly, an explosion of anger can still produce effects that are harmful, hurtful and tragic. Using forceful words and explosive actions may allow us to get what we want, but it will also leave a good deal of damage in the wake of our words and deeds. Hurt feelings, injured friendships, and damaged relationships are often the results of inappropriate displays of our forceful will.

Moses had to deal with the consequences of an action fueled by anger. We read in Numbers 20:8-12, "'Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.' So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.'"

Moses anger kept him from personally entering the Promised Land. What has your anger cost you? Just as there were consequences to the explosion which sent a stump plummeting into a schoolhouse full of children, there will consequences to our explosions. Explosions are much more easily controlled before the fact - so do what you must to keep things in control!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 25, 2016

When I was younger I used to be 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. 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." However, 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
Saturday September 24, 2016

Years ago the state of Queensland in Australia offered "the greatest job in the world." They offered to fly someone to Hamilton Island, located in the Great Barrier Reef. There, the individual would be responsible for a few tasks each day, would roam around the island, walk the beaches, and report daily on an internet "blog" sight what was taking place. The purpose of the job was to promote tourism. The person was to live expense free in a 3-bedroom house on the island and receive a salary of $105,000 (US). All this for six months work. Well, it was a grueling job, but somebody had to do it! I never heard who took up Queensland on this offer, but I have no doubt that someone did.

Most of us might drool at the prospect of a job like this, because what we do is nowhere near this job description. Yet, we should not demean what we do. Our work is honorable in God's eyes, and Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:23-24 that "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."

I don t know if you have a "cushy" job like what was described earlier; however, as Paul tells us, whatever you do, work to please the Lord, because it is the Lord you are serving.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 23, 2016

"Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely" crooned Bobby Vinton in one of his hit songs from the '60's. How could anyone be lonely with more than 6 billion people on planet Earth? Yet, there are many people who are lonely. Some of them might be not far from where you are right now. We need to be aware of this, and do what we can to help those who feel like they are all alone in the world. We need to develop "others" awareness and do what we can to encourage those who may feel like they have no one to whom they can turn.

The writer of Hebrews knew the value of being together and helping each other. We read in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Help prevent loneliness by looking around for people you see need encouragement. A well-chosen word, a timely visit, time spent with others can help combat loneliness.

Mr. Lonely" may have been a big hit for Bobby Vinton, but we need to do all we can to make sure loneliness doesn't make the charts.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 22, 2016

Today is the first day of Autumn; however, where I live there are few signs that summer actually has passed and fall is here. The crops are ripening and there is some activity in the fields, but this is the strongest evidence to date that this really is the date of another season, particularly one in which the leaves change color, the temperatures get lower, and you start mowing your grass less frequently. Most leaves are still green, the temps remain high, and I am still mowing my lawn at least once a week. Oh, the days are getting shorter also. Still, summer is hanging around big time and we are still sweating it out. Does this mean fall isn't going to come this year? Of course not - fall just isn't coming in the way we expect it. Fall is here at just the right time, in spite of indications otherwise.

Christ will come at just the right time, in spite of what we may think are indications otherwise. Even the folks in the first century were having trouble with this. That is why Peter wrote, "They will say, 'Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" (II Peter 3:4) The thing is, it isn't good to try to second-guess God. Even as fall arrived just when it should in spite of how things appear, Christ will return just when he should in spite of how we think things appear. We should live expectant lives as we wait for his return.

Today is indeed the autumnal equinox. There will be a day that will indeed be the day of Christ's return. Even as I am writing this, a television weatherman is saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if fall would just arrive as it usually does, as we expect for it to appear?" Sometimes it just doesn't happen as we expect. So it is with Christ's return. "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:44) The date on the calendar says this is the day. At some point, the date on God's calendar will be the time when God says, "This is the day." Be ready!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 21, 2016

These humorous "excuses" have been all over the internet, but I thought I would print them again for your amusement. They supposedly were taken from actual accident reports:

"I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident."

"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment."

"The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him."

"The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end."

"The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."

"The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth."

We are usually pretty good at coming up with excuses for incidents, or when we are trying to avoid culpability in some situation. We come up with excuses for why we have not finished a task we were supposed to do, why we forgot an appointment, and even why we have been unable to attend church. We should be pretty good at this, as mankind hawe have been doing this since the beginning. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their sin, Adam said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Genesis 3:12)."

Try to break the cycle. Don't make excuses for something you have done or have failed to do. Truth is always the best policy.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 20, 2016

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
Monday September 19, 2016

There is a story about a young girl in Africa who gave her teacher an exquisite seashell as a Christmas gift. "Where did you get this?" the teacher asked. "These shells are only found on a beach that is far away," the girl replied. Realizing that the girl had walked a long way for the gift, the teacher told her she shouldn't have traveled so far. The girl replied, "The walk was part of the gift."

Many people go to great lengths to help others or to find a particular gift for others. They consider the journey part of the gift. Christ's gift to us included the long journey from heaven to earth. Dottie Rambo once wrote in a song, "He left the splendors of heaven knowing his destiny was the lonely hill of Golgotha where he laid down his life for me. If that isn't love. . . " Certainly that is love!

Paul speaks of that journey in Philippians 2:5-8, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"

As you think of what Christ has done for you, remember that the walk was part of the gift!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 18, 2016

Many of us find it hard to accept criticism, especially when it is presented in a way that is confrontational. A teenage boy overheard a man from his church loudly criticizing the pastor for something the pastor had said in his message. The pastor responded in a quiet way, and told the man he would give the matter some thought. Later, the teenager asked the pastor how he was able to respond in such a quiet way without "firing back." The pastor told the young man, ""Every piece of criticism can be helpful. God may be in it, and if he is, I need to hear what he's saying. The critic just might be right."

Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Here are some thoughts about handling criticism, especially when it is given in a harsh way: First, try not to respond in anger. This usually makes things worse. Secondly, try to look at the criticism from the perspective of the critic. Is he or she right in what they are saying (even though they might be saying it in the wrong way)? Finally, use the incident to model the attitude of Christ. It takes a great deal of patience and control to respond in this way, but these are characteristics we see in Christ, and also "fruits of the Spirit."

Sometimes handling criticism is difficult, especially when it is given in the wrong spirit. Work ahead of time to develop these attitudes, and develop the mind of Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 17, 2016

Perhaps you have had the experience where you get the tune of a certain song in your head and, try as you might, you just can't seem to quit thinking about it. Actually, the harder you try to forget it, the more "present" it seems to be. That is the way it is with our thoughts - the more we concentrate on trying to not think about something, the more we think about something. The only way to move on to something else is to concentrate on something else.

This especially holds true with thoughts that bring us anxiety and worry. There are things that cause us to worry, and sometimes we spend sleepless nights trying to rid ourselves of these thoughts. What is helpful is to develop a different focus. I Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." When we have something that is crowding our thinking and creating fear, we need to focus on God and his goodness. In this way, we give these anxious thoughts to God and release our minds to focus on more positive things.

Paul tells in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Christ himself addressed this issue and told his followers, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34)

That this issue was addressed so many times in scripture shows it is a common experience, but with each of these statements comes sounds advice for us to follow. Focus on the goodness of God. Concentrating on God and his provision will help us release anxious thoughts. God does care for you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 16, 2016

Some time ago I was sent some pictures of eagles that had been taken by a local photographer. The pictures were magnificent - of course the eagles looked very regal. They really are incredible birds. Eagles can fly almost straight up. They have the ability to look directly into the sun without being blinded because of a special structure on their eye. They can dive at tremendous speeds. For such a large bird, they never seem clumsy; they seem to be always in command.

As I looked at those pictures, my thoughts were drawn to one of my favorite verses in the Scripture. Isaiah 40:30-31 says, "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 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." This passage was written to encourage some people who were facing uncertain times. The message for us is just as true - when we face times of uncertainty and times of trouble, we should continue to focus on our Lord who will continue to provide for us and will lead us skyward out of the mess in which we currently stand.

When you are struggling, think of the eagle and remember that God has promised to restore you to a position of strength. Regardless of how "clumsy" you might feel now - you will be restored to a position of command.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 15, 2016

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

Agur stated this very eloquently many years before Plato. We read in Proverbs 30:8, "Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches." Agur wanted two things - to have personal integrity and contentment. As we offer our prayers to God, we should make these our desire as well. It reflects a willingness to allow God to operate in our lives in a way that he knows best. Our response to this is contentment - knowing we can trust him to always act in our best interests.

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 14, 2016

David Doubilet has taken some of the most breathtaking underwater portraits you will ever see. You should check out his website sometime. Some environmental groups have felt that he should use his influence to work against the polluting of our oceans and seas through his photography. They have suggested that he should post more "ugly" scenes. His response to this is he feels it is better to show the beauty of the world that God created instead of showing evidence of man's mismanagement. He believes this is a more forceful apologetic as to why we should take care of our environment.

I think we can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to show what is wrong with the world and talking about all the evils, that we forget we should be offering a positive picture of what God can do when we yield to his control. This should start in our individual lives. We sing the song "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love," yet we often fail to put this principle into practice.

Christ said in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Christ never glossed over sin and neither should we; we simply need to deal with its effects in a positive way by providing a picture of the beauty God intends for us. Show Christ's love in your life and see what kind of impact this will have on your environment!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 13, 2016

A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words "God is love" on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, "Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?"

The farmer shook his head and replied, "No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!"

The scripture states that God is Love. This means that the essence of God's character is love. It is just not something he does, that is, love us no matter what. Love is the essence of his being. We will never be able to plumb the depths of God's love. I don't think that we can fully appreciate God's love in this lifetime.

John writes, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. . .God is love (I John 4:8-12; 16).

No matter which way the wind blows, we know God is love. He will never be any other way because he cannot be any other way. He is love. We need to reflect God's love no matter which way the wind is blowing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 12, 2016

Some time ago, I had a mildly frustrating thing happen to me. In actuality, I was going to write that it was a very frustrating thing until I came across a story you will read later in this article. Anyway, my mildly frustrating experience involved placing an order over the phone. I had a lengthy list of items and had just completed going over the list with the vendor when he said, "I need to put you on hold to check something." Try not to let folks put you on hold. Nothing good can come of it. I was put on hold all right - the irritating blare of dial tone indicated I could hold on all I wanted. The vendor was not coming back. What to do? Well, we needed the stuff, so I called the company back and told the agent what had happened. Did she have a record of the transaction? No, she didn't. I proceeded to go through the entire list again. This time, I did not get put on hold and we had the items we needed in a few days.

I downgraded this to a mildly frustrating experience when I came across an article about Major General George Goethals. Goethals was the man who took over the job of building the Panama Canal. He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 4, 1907, as Chairman and Chief Engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission (I.C.C.). He served in that position until completion of Canal construction in 1914, following which he served as Governor of the Panama Canal until his resignation on January 17, 1917.

During the construction, there were many setbacks. While cutting through the mountains in the center of the Isthmus, a tremendous landslide occurred erasing months of work. While surveying the damage, an aide asked Goethals, "General, what do we do?" Without a moment's hesitation, Goethals replied, "Dig it out again."

Because of such perseverance, there is now a canal in Panama that provides passage for over 14,000 ships each year. This past June, an expansion of the canal was completed to accommodate the much-larger ships of our current day, but it began with the tenacity of Major General George Goethals. The website of the Panama Canal Authority has this testimonial, "The name Goethals will be recorded in history as the man who accomplished one of the greatest feats of engineering and construction since the Egyptians completed the mighty pyramids - the construction of the Panama Canal."

We face setbacks in life that require us to "dig it out again." James 1:2-4 tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Perseverance is a difficult trait to develop, but good things come to those who persevere.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 11, 2016

Many of us know exactly where we were 15 years ago today when we first learned of the incredible events that took place that day. I was in my office at church when we got a call telling us to turn on our TV if we had one available. At that time, I had a little black and white portable with a five-inch screen. I only had the built-in antenna to use, but I got an image. The lack of color and the fuzziness only added to the surreal nature of the events that I saw that day. The first jet had already plummeted into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At that point, nothing was known about the aircraft. Speculations were being given, and talk was on-going about what happened. Then, as smoke billowed out of the north tower, another jet flew into the face of the south tower. When this happened, it was apparent that what was taking place was not just a random accident.

I have often wondered why it takes events such as these to remind us of the fragility of our position, our existence. That usually is the case, isn't it? Traumatic and painful events jolt us into the reality of our position in the world. We suddenly began to embrace God more closely as we realize we aren t as secure as we thought. This was one of the results in the days and weeks following the events of September 11, 2001. Church attendance increased, there was more "God talk" on public mediums, and people openly shared their fears of our vulnerability. Has this continued? Perhaps for some, but as in many cases, once things "settled down," there was a return to business as usual.

Our relationship with God should never be "business as usual." We should not wait for an event that sweeps us off our feet to realize how insecure we are. Trust God at all times and never fail to acknowledge his Lordship. You will either do that now, or you will do it later. There is no doubt about that. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:10-11, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Don't wait for some great tragedy before you do this. And certainly don't wait until it's too late to do so. Your life is fragile - handle with prayer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 10, 2016

To me, one of Christ's most fascinating characteristics was his humility. He certainly was a "take charge" person when this was necessary, but we see him model humility is so many ways. His submission and obedience to his Father were certainly ways his humility is seen. His prayer in the garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest shows his humility and submission to his Father's will. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should emulate his humility in our lives.

Developing a spirit of humility is not all that easy. This really goes against the grain of how we are typically. We want our "rights;" we want things done our way; we want our ideas to be used; we want our voice to be heard; we want to be in charge.

These are things we need to keep in check as we develop true humility in our lives. Humility may not be easy, but it is certainly the path by which the greater good can be accomplished. Paul instructed Titus, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-3)."

How are we at showing "true humility toward all men?" Be honest - and be humble!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 10, 2016

To me, one of Christ's most fascinating characteristics was his humility. He certainly was a "take charge" person when this was necessary, but we see him model humility is so many ways. His submission and obedience to his Father were certainly ways his humility is seen. His prayer in the garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest shows his humility and submission to his Father's will. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should emulate his humility in our lives.

Developing a spirit of humility is not all that easy. This really goes against the grain of how we are typically. We want our "rights;" we want things done our way; we want our ideas to be used; we want our voice to be heard; we want to be in charge.

These are things we need to keep in check as we develop true humility in our lives. Humility may not be easy, but it is certainly the path by which the greater good can be accomplished. Paul instructed Titus, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-3)."

How are we at showing "true humility toward all men?" Be honest - and be humble!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 09, 2016

When I was a teenager, I had a camp counselor who would declare "I don't get mad, I just get even" when he found himself on the receiving end of some practical joke. That may be all well and good when you are talking about some light-hearted fun, but there are some who are intent on revenge when the stakes involve more than just jokes.

Seeking revenge is not a behavior a follower of Christ should pursue. We may experience circumstances where we would really like to "get back" at someone, but we need to take a different path. Seeking revenge lowers us to the place of those who have caused our problem to begin with, and may cause us to violate the Christian principles of fairness, kindness, forgiveness, and love for others. We need to allow the goodness of Christ dictate our response at times when we are wronged or are trying to deal with someone who irritates us.

Paul wrote, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21)

Respond in God's way, not your way, when you find you are in a position where you really would like to do something to someone because they have done something to you. Don't get mad, and don't get even, get glad with God's goodness!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 08, 2016

A man went to see a psychologist because he was struggling with depression. "Doctor," he said, "I am not a happy man. It seems that no matter what I do, I cannot seem to feel better. I am just so depressed." The doctor told him, "I think you need a diversion. The circus is in town - you need to go to the circus. There is a clown in the circus named Grimaldi. Grimaldi will make you laugh so hard you will forget your troubles and you will feel better." "Doctor," the man said, "I am Grimaldi."

I have heard many variations of this story. I have read that it is indeed based upon a true story. What we learn from the story is that things are not always as they seem. We sometimes look at others' lives and secretly wish for what they have. This is one reason why God tells us not to covet. It is also a good reason to focus on our lives and what is taking place. It is a good reason to learn about being content with our blessings. Wishing for something that is not ours, for something that may not even exist, is a pointless exercise.

We should learn from Paul's experience, "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)."

Remember things are not always as they appear to be. Don't wish for something that is not there. Focus on the blessings that you have. This is a big step along the pathway to contentment.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 07, 2016

As many of you know, Kobe Bryant retired from the Los Angeles Lakers this year. Many years ago I was watching him play on TV. The Lakers were losing to the Spurs in San Antonio when they called for a timeout early in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was the best player on the Lakers team at the time; however, his performance had been less than stellar for much of the game. After the timeout, Kobe went on a tear and started scoring seemingly at will. The Lakers won the game. What happened? Comments made in the Laker's huddle during that timeout were recorded. Coach Phil Jackson said to Kobe, "Kobe, you need to activate the ball more. You need to shoot the ball. You need to do some scoring."

Now, one would think Kobe would have known that. He had played basketball ever since he could tie his own shoelaces. Surely he knew that in order to win the game, you need to score points. As one of the leading scorers in the league, he knew how to score. So what was with Jackson s advice?

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 06, 2016

Did you hear about the golfer who set his local country club on fire? And I don't mean in a figurative sense by shooting a low score, I mean literally set it on fire. He didn't mean to, he was just playing out of the rough, as all of us who enjoy torturing ourselves playing golf have had to do. He was playing a shot out of tall, dry grass. During his swing, he hit a rock embedded in the ground causing a spark. The spark set the grass ablaze and before the blaze was stopped, 25 acres had been charred. It took 120 firefighters, several fire trucks, and a helicopter to extinguish the blaze. This incident sort of adds another twist to the song "It only takes a spark. . ."

This story goes to show what a little spark can do. We should keep this in mind when it comes to our ideas to help others. We need to keep that in mind when it comes to our contribution to the ministry of our church. Do you see an area of need? Well, why not provide the spark that gets the fire started to take care of that need? Big movements and big contributions often start with small steps. Naaman's maid provided a spark that led to the fires of healing for her master. When she learned of Naaman's plight, she made the brief statement, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy (II Kings 5:3)." Her little spark led to big results.

Don't discount your idea because you think it might be too insignificant. Don't downplay or count out those "little" thoughts - they just might be the spark needed to start a big fire. Now, we don't need "wildfires," but we often need to have a fire set under us to keep us from becoming stale and bring improvement. You might just have the right idea to bring about good things.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 05, 2016

Today is Labor Day, as you well know. Some of you have already read my post in our sermon section of our website, or perhaps have read my article in our church newsletter. In this piece, I make the comment that Labor Day is the most hypocritical of our holidays. Labor Day is meant to honor work, and what do we do? Give folks a day off! Well, you no doubt deserve it, so enjoy your day.

As you may know, Labor Day had a sad origin. The day arose out of public outcry over an incident where federal troops killed many striking Pullman Railroad Car workers. I encourage you to look this up if you are not familiar with the particulars. Labor Day is an example of a positive experience that has an origin in a bad circumstance.

God is good at doing this - bringing positive results out of bad situations. Joseph pointed this out when he said, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children (Genesis 50:19-20)." Joseph went through a lot of bad experiences that he could not avoid. However, he knew that the bad experiences he went through were necessary to bring about positive benefits for many others, thousands of others, including seventy of his own family.

Keep this in mind when you face a bad time. God can turn your circumstances around for your benefit, or for the benefit of others. Nothing is hidden from God, and his plan is being enacted. Remember the example of Joseph, and also remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:28, "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."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 04, 2016

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

Sometimes details of meals, and many others experiences, escape us as most of us do not possess encyclopedic memory. However, we cannot deny the benefits we derive from our experiences, especially our meals. So, to use the idea that we can t remember to justify our non-attendance of church functions simply is incorrect. Each encounter we have with God's Word leaves us with benefits. These encounters may come in a variety of ways, and certainly our worship time is one. In addition, worship provides many other experiences that benefit us and give us the opportunity to reflect God's person and character with other believers. This is the prime goal of worship. When we gather with other believers, we are able to participate in an experience of showing God our love for him in a way that we really cannot accomplish on our own. We receive from him "nourishment" though his Word and other means that is unique to that experience.

Psalm 119:33-35 says, "Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight." Each encounter we have with God's Word through reading, teaching, music, preaching, brings lasting benefit and feeds our soul. Be careful when you say, "I don t remember," you may have received more than you think!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 03, 2016

A man touring the Far East came across a rather unusual scene. A young boy was pulling a plow while an old man held the handles and guided it through the rice paddy. "My," the man said, "those people are so poor!" "Yes, " replied the guide, "They are poor. They sold their only ox last autumn to help build a new church."

That is quite a sacrifice, don't you think? Sometimes we are not even willing to give up a candy bar in order to be able to give something back to the Lord. What we have in the example above is the embodiment of sacrifice. God wants from us a spiritual sacrifice that resonates with his willingness to sacrifice. God delights in deeds that spring up from a desire to serve him. Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."

With what deeds of sacrifice have you been involved? We need to look for ways to "sell our ox." We should look for ways of service, look for ways to sacrifice. These should not be done to call attention to ourselves, but to call attention to God's ministry. He is the one who deserves the attention and merits our sacrifice.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 02, 2016

John Ruskin was an art critic, poet, painter, and social thinker who lived in London in the 19th century. His work was very influential, and his influence was quite varied from literature to philosophy to art. Once a lady came to him to speak to him about some of his ideas. In the conversation, she lamented about how her valuable handkerchief had been ruined by an ink blot. "Let me see your kerchief," asked Ruskin. He proceeded to turn the ink blot on the handkerchief into a beautiful scene. This made the handkerchief more valuable than ever as it was now an original work of art by Ruskin.

This is what God will do with our lives. He turns the unsightly inkblot that mars the appearance into something wonderful and glorious to behold. He can take the blotches and turn them into beauty. What God is doing with the believer is creating something that will be better than the original. Our lives are marred by the effects of sin, but when we place our lives into the hands of God, he takes the brokenness, the confusion, that which is unsightly, and makes us into a new creation.

Ezekiel 36:36 speaks about the transformational work of God: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Bill Gaither wrote about the transforming work of God:

Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion he understood

All I had to offer him was brokenness as strife

But he made something beautiful of my life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 01, 2016

Juliette Gordon Low could have been another casualty of adverse life circumstances. As a young lady, she lost hearing in one ear because of improper treatment of an ear infection. Then, her hearing was impaired in her other ear when a piece of rice thrown at her wedding lodged in her ear and burst her eardrum. While she loved children, she never had any of her own. Her husband was unfaithful and they were estranged at the time of his death in 1905. So, what was her response to all of this adversity? Well, many of you have already recognized her name and know her as the founder of Girl Scouts of America.

In 1912, she gathered 18 girls together in Savannah, Georgia, initiating a movement that became the Girl Scouts of America. At a meeting in England in 1911 she met Sir Robert Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts. This provided the inspiration that led to the Georgia gathering. Low had been searching for "something to do with her life," and I think she found it.

Low's life could have gone a drastically different direction. How easily she could have given in to her circumstances and become embittered. Instead, she searched for "something to do with her life," and what a discovery she made. Over the years more than 50 million girls all over the world over have been influenced through their experience as Scouts. And how about the impact of Girl Scout Cookies? The thin mint variety is my favorite.

The point I am making is that in Low we have an example of someone who received some lemons in life and decided to make lemonade. Instead of being overcome with adversity, she overcame adversity and made an incredible impact. She didn't let self-destructive bitterness creep in when life circumstances became negative. This poem was found in her journal after her death:

Only thyself, thyself can harm.

Forget it not - and full of peace,

Ignore the noise and world's alarm,

And wait till storm and tumult cease.

We usually do not have a choice when it comes to the adversity that comes our way in our life. However, we do have a choice when it comes to our response to the adversity. David gives a perspective on dealing with adversity in Psalm 3:5-6, "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side." Avoid bitterness and allow God to help when adversity strikes.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 31, 2016

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 30, 2016

When we are in positions of leadership and organization, in our church or otherwise, sometimes it is easy to slip into a "blinders on" mode. The necessity of making decisions can sometimes lead us down a path where we become self-absorbed and a little close-minded to the thoughts and ideas of others. Whether we are in a role of leadership or not, this is not a good thing. We benefit from the ideas of others. We need input from trusted family members and friends. Getting to the place where we think "my way is the right way" at all times can lead to trouble.

First and foremost, we need to keep ourselves open to God's input and direction. We cannot do without his advice and guidance at any time. Secondly, be willing to listen to others and consider their thoughts, especially when it involves weighty issues. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." A further thought on this subject is found in Proverbs 15:31, "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise."

Heed these statements. Don't tune out God's voice in your decision-making process. Don't tune out the voice of others. A further thought - God can use others to give us what he wants us to know. Closed thinking can impede our progress. Open your thinking to the ideas of others. Doing this will show in the results.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 29, 2016

Some time ago, I drove by a construction site. A crane was lifting an oddly shaped something to the roof of one of the buildings. The reasons that it looked odd were the angle at which the crane was holding the piece and the fact that it was just that - only a piece to a whole that would make sense and look correct when it was joined up with what was already in place.

How much like our lives. There are times when we look at our lives and what is taking place in our lives and only see pieces that look odd and don't seem to fit. Then, it time, God puts those pieces together for us, and it all makes sense. Just as with the construction of the building, time is needed for the process to bring about a desired conclusion, and the person doing the work must know what they are doing to make sure the things that look odd fit together to make sense. We may things feel a bit odd and look at bit odd at times, but God can be trusted to put everything together.

Job had struggled with some very odd circumstances in his life. There were a lot of pieces that didn't seem to fit, and he wondered why. God reminded Job that he knew how things went together. You can read his entire explanation to Job in Job 38 and 39. In no uncertain terms, God lays out his credentials. Here is just a part: "Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth (38:22)?"

Don't ever forget that God is the one who can turn those odd looking pieces into a well-constructed whole. He is the Master Designer - not just of the universe, but also of your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 28, 2016

His teachers thought he was an "odd ball". He was so different that he was called "dull and backward and impractical." His eccentric behavior led to his being asked to leave college. So, what did he do? Well, at the age of 19 he received his first patent for a rotary steam engine. George Westinghouse would go on to receive more than 400 patents for his inventions. He developed air brakes and was a big proponent of alternating current instead of direct current (favored by none other than Thomas Edison), which has proved to be a stroke of genius.

It is so easy to make snap judgments about people who are different in some ways. One's appearance, abilities, aptitudes, and patterns of thought, if considered different than the "norm", often are used wrongly in our assessment of them. We need to be careful not to form incorrect opinions of others because they seem to be dissimilar.

Westinghouse was confined to a wheelchair in his later years. His thoughts on a motorized wheelchair laid the foundation for something that is commonplace today and greatly enhances the mobility of many. All of this from a person considered to be "impractical".

Consider others who might be different in appearance and actions on the basis of mercy and acceptance, not judgmentally and critically. Accept others according to God's design and desire, not our inappropriate standards. Paul encourages us to "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7)". Let's do just that, and if this poses a problem for us, remember Westinghouse!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 27, 2016

We all need certainties in our lives. We can deal with a degree of uncertainty, but what helps us with the uncertainty is the ability to have confidence in something. What is something in which we can always be certain? Well, God's love for us is a biggie.

God always deals with us on the basis of his love for us. Isn't that wonderful? Since we know thist, we know he will always be fair with us, he will always have our best interests at heart, he will never leave us in the dark, and he will not be hard to find when we are in need of his presence.

Psalm 6:4 tells us "Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." We can always count on this truth. We can always count on God's love. If you are facing a time of uncertainty right now for some reason, retreat to something that is certain: God's love. Knowing we can count on the certainty of his love at all times gives us strength to face the things that are uncertain.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 26, 2016

A man was in a hospital recovering from heart surgery. A nurse came in the room and asked if he needed anything. He said, "I would like some ice." The nurse said, "Would you like a new BMW or some ice chips?" The man replied quickly, "Ice chips!" "Don't ever forget that," the nurse said.

Many might think this an unrealistic story because, well, who would want ice chips over a BMW? Actually, it is a true story, and I would imagine that those of you who have had surgery could vouch for its realism. Having had surgery a few times, I know that I certainly can.

Certain things in life remind us of the need to be thankful for the little things. I hope you don't need a stay in the hospital to teach you this lesson. We should never take little things for granted.

Colossians 3:16-17 tells us, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 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." Be grateful for all things, great or small. Many times ice chips are indeed superior to BMW's.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 25, 2016

Recently I read an article in which various models of automobiles were rated for their dependability and performance. Cars from Asia generally received good scores. Cars made in the U.S. have made significant improvement in the ratings. European cars were somewhat disappointing in their scores for reliability. I thought this was all rather interesting.

When I finished reading the article, I was struck by a thought. What if God rated us according to our reliability? How would we stack up? What kind of scores would we receive for durability and consistency? If he was to use the fruits of the Spirit as standards by which we are measured, how would we rate? Paul gives us the standards in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

How is our faithfulness? What about kindness? Where are we on the goodness scale? Would we receive high marks for patience? I hope you would score high in these areas. If there are areas of weakness, let's do what we can to improve. God wants to be able to depend on us. Let's do what we should to make sure he can.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 24, 2016

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 23, 2016

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 really is no biblical or experiential evidence that would lead 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
Monday August 22, 2016

Perhaps you have had the experience of enjoying a new dish at a friend's house after being invited to dinner. You enjoyed the new dish so much that you ask your friend for the recipe so that you can make the dish as well. Sometime later, you host a dinner party. You decide to try that delicious dish you had at your friend's home some time back. You break out the recipe and start the preparations. You begin to think, "You know, I bet if I added more of this it would improve the dish." As you continue to prepare the dish, you make some other alterations in the cooking process. "Whoops! I don't have this ingredient! Oh, well, I'll just leave it out. Who is going to know?" When you finish, much to your dismay, what you have bears little resemblance to what you had eaten when your friend prepared the meal. "What happened?" you say.

Well, what happened is you changed the dish when you tinkered with the recipe. Why are you surprised it doesn't taste like or look like what your friend served? Alterations in the preparation process are bound to change the result. Leaving out or substituting ingredients will certainly change the taste.

So it is with our lives. God has given us what we need to know in order to live to please him. He has given us a clear "recipe" to follow in his Word. For some reason, we like to change the recipe. We add things, do things differently, leave things out, and then we wonder why we get poor results. We wonder why things just don't seem to go right in our lives. Leviticus 18:5 gives us this advice, Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. God is clear in what he expects. He has given us great instructions. Quit messing with the recipe!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 21, 2016

One of the most important pieces of advice I was ever given was "look both ways before crossing the road." This little gem has saved my skin on more than one occasion. It simply is really good, practical, and in many cases, life-saving advice. I don't mean to overstate a point here but one might live an entire lifetime and never receive any more important advice than to "look both ways before crossing the road." This advice helps you to make a good decision before embarking on what could be a perilous journey. When you look both ways, you can determine if any dangers lie ahead that could be a problem when you step out. Looking both ways helps you to decide the best time to make that first step across the road. When you look both ways, you can be confident that you can make the decision to forge ahead in relative safety.

Even as we should look both ways before crossing the road, it usually helps to "look both ways" before making an important decision. When we are faced with a situation where we need to decide what course of action is best, don't forget to look both ways before you decide. Look at the decision from both sides to see which way is the better of the two, or in some cases more than two. When you take the time to look at the options carefully and closely, you can be more confident with the choice. In many circumstances, this is even more helpful because both options have many attractive features.

A case in point of someone who didn't take the time to "look both ways" is Lot. We read in Genesis 13:8-11, " So Abram said to Lot, 'Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left.' Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east." What seemed to be a rather innocuous choice, and one that looked so good at face-value because of the beauty of the land, would prove to put Lot in a bad place. I would imagine you know the rest of the story. It has a rather salty ending.

An important tip: Look both ways before crossing the road. That is some of the most important advice you will ever receive.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 20, 2016

When I did my student teaching a gazillion years ago, I remember a sign on the wall in the classroom that read, "Be sure brain is engaged before mouth is in motion." This is good advice - we need to think before we speak. Often we are guilty of saying things we should not have said because we fail to think about the effect of what we are saying. In addition, we are prone to go about our daily routines without engaging our minds in what we are doing.

This happens in our relationship with God as well. We fail to think about what we should be doing for him, we fail to think about what we are doing for others, we fail to simply think about HIM. This is a shame, especially when you realize how much God thinks about us.

David reminds us in Psalm 139:1-4, "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." After reading this, I would say that God thinks about us, wouldn't you? So, how much do we think about Him?

When Christ was asked about the greatest commandment, he replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38)." Our level of devotion to God can be measured by how much we think about Him and our relationship with Him. When it comes to your relationship with God, make sure your brain is engaged!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 19, 2016

A minister speaking at a conference used a marker to make a black dot on a large sheet of paper. Holding up the paper in view of his audience, he asked, "What do you see?" "A black dot," someone replied. "Is that all you see?" he asked. After a brief pause, there were a number of affirmations that the only thing visible was the black mark. "Well, what about the most important thing - the sheet of paper?" asked the minister.

We often get locked on something so intently that we fail to see other important things. Sometimes we are staring so intently at a struggle, a problem, a hurt, a disappointment, that we fail to see our blessings. We can be so focused on our adversity that we don't see the abundance of good things and experiences which surround us. Try to focus on the blessings and good things that are present in our lives. Doing this can help us overcome and put in perspective the "dots" we experience.

In Psalm 68:19, David declares, "Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." Psalm 103:2 tells us, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--" God is there for us and provides us with many good things - don't miss them while staring at a spot!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 18, 2016

I attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Marshall was near our home, so I was able to commute. As is usually the case, there was more than one way to get from point A to point B; however, I typically followed a route using a road that connected two main state roads. This route was the shortest, but taking the "shortcut" connection meant traveling a narrow, hilly, winding road that was in bad shape. Although it was a paved road, there were actually more potholes than pavement. The worst parts of the road were the repaired potholes.

The road isn t like this now. It has been improved greatly. It is still hilly and winding, but the pavement is smooth, guardrails had been installed, dividing lines had been painted, and it has been widened. I occasionally travel this route when I am visiting and always am amazed at how different it is now than when I was in school. The improvements have made for a much safer, smoother, and swifter trip.

Improvements are good. This is something we need to take into consideration as we think about our relationships and particularly our relationship with God. We should always be looking for ways to improve our relationships with our family, our spouse, our children, our friends, and certainly with our Lord. Although the improvements to the road didn't make for a perfect ride, it is much more enjoyable. The road is still hilly, winding, and narrow, but traveling the road is so much less frustrating when you didn't have to dodge potholes and aren't worried about meeting a car in a blind curve. There is certainly a lot less wear and tear on your vehicle.

When we work to consistently improve our relationships, we find our enjoyment goes up and our frustration comes down. Colossians 3:15 encourages us to "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." When we apply this to our relationships, and we work to strengthen them, we experience a peace that is truly encouraging. So, work to rid yourself of those potholes - it makes for much less wear and tear on your "vehicle," and a much smoother ride!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 17, 2016

I am one of those people who hates red lights, construction delays, speed zone changes, and anything that causes me to slow down. Recently, I began to think about this. I know I dislike these things because they cause me to do something I don't want to do - slow down. I asked myself this question, "Why is it that you don't like to slow down?" That is a valid question for which I have no good answer. We talk about our fast-paced lives in negative terms, but why is it that we don't want to slow down? I thought about this in terms of the red lights and speed zones. Why are they there? They are there to make things safer, to preserve life and limb, to cause you to have more time to react and not harm yourself or others.

The more I thought about this, the more I got to thinking about slowing down in general. Even as slowing down because of red lights and speed zones is designed to enhance safety and prevent harm to life, maybe I should introduce some red lights and speed zones in my life in general for the same reason. In order to have a "triggering system" for this to take place, I have determined to try to look at red lights and speed zones differently. I am going to try to look at them positively. I am going to try to look at them as welcome intrusions into my hectic pace, forcing me to slow down in order to be safer and to enjoy the ride more. When I stop at a red light, I am going to say, "Thanks, God, for this red light. I know it is here for a reason. Help me to agree with this reason and to proceed at an orderly pace."

Most of us need to slow down. I encourage you to introduce habits into your life that will help you do just that. Our fast-paced life may get us where we want to be more quickly, but does the speed really enhance our experience? I have always enjoyed what God says in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God." A literal translation of this is "stand still." That is exactly what we need to do in our lives at times. So, work to change your attitude about red lights. Use the literal ones you encounter as reminders that you need to slow down not only in your car, but in your life as well.

When you encounter a figurative "red light," be greatful for the circumstance that made you stop and think about what you are doing and where you are going. Someone once said "you need to stop and smell the roses along the way." I dont' know about smelling the roses, but I do know I need to slow down. What about you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 16, 2016

Why do we lie? This is a great question that we need to confront. Sometimes we can be really ridiculous in how we treat the truth. A good example of this comes from the scripture. In Exodus 32:22-24, we read this whopper from Moses's brother, Aaron: "Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, `Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.' So I told them, `Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.' Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"

Wow. You can't find a better example of how much we can mess up the truth than this. Here you have an example of a person with great "credentials" lying to a person who probably knows him as well an anyone else about something he knows is absolutely critical, all because he wants to save face. The point is: we have the capacity to mess with the truth, so acknowledge this weakness we have and determine to take control of our weakness. Be truthful. Don't lie. This may be a tough command, but it is the way we please the Lord. Proverbs 6:19 tells us that the Lord hates "a false witness who pours out lies." Telling the truth helps us gain the respect of other people. Zechariah 8:16 tells us to "speak the truth to each other." It will also help you feel good about yourself.

In Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Polonius' last bit of advice to his son, Laertes, before Laertes leaves for Paris is "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." This is good advice for us as well. Tell the truth!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 15, 2016

I have always been fascinated by the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In 1803, they were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to find a route across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. I just cannot imagine the spirit and fortitude these men and those who were with them must have had. They had no idea where they were going, they weren't entirely sure what they would find when they got where they were going, and they really weren't quite sure what they would find along the way. Yet, they went.

One encounter they had on their journey proved to be rather helpful - they were joined by a French fur trader and his Native American wife, Sacajawea. If you know the story of Lewis and Clark, you know the incredible significance of this "chance" meeting. Sacajawea's help was invaluable - she was able to be a guide, a translator, a cook, and a tremendous ally. A further development was finding her brother, who was now the chief of their tribe. It is really hard to speculate how much different this expedition would have been had Lewis and Clark not met these people who became trusted advisors on their two-and-a-half-year journey. The meeting was unexpected, yet was certainly welcome and invaluable.

You may feel like you are embarking on a journey into the "unknown." You may be facing a circumstance in your life where you really don't know much about what is going to happen. Maybe it is a new job, a new locale, new relationships. Maybe you are facing something that is going to be more challenging than these events - you have encountered a loss, you are facing an illness, or something has happened that is causing some other hardship. When these things happen, realize that God can and will provide help. Sometimes this help comes in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. God can provide help from unexpected sources. Continue to look to him and realize he is there. The way ahead may look mysterious, but not to God. He is there, he knows he way, and he will not leave you stranded.

Ancient pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for feasts sang, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2)." They were looking for help because the road in front of them was filled with dangers. God was there to provide help for them, and he is here to provide help for us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 14, 2016

What if everything you said was recorded for a single day? Yes, I know - I can hear you (pardon the pun). Not many of us would like to have this happen, would we? There would be the good statements - statements of praise, encouragement, making positive plans, prayers, things of this nature. However, there would also be the bad things - the complaining, the bitter remarks about someone, the. . .well, need I say more?

We would probably be surprised to see how much we complain during the course of a given day. For some reason, it seems so easy to fall into a pattern of negativity in our speech. We need to be aware of this and do what we can to be an example of godliness, and this is especially true concerning our speech. II Corinthians 8:7 says "But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us."

Let's make sure we excel in speech. We want to honor God with our lives, and the best way to do this is with our speech. We want to show we are God's children and our speech is what will give us away that we are God's children. Don't let your speech discourage others. Build them up through what you say. Excel in all things - especially your speech!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 13, 2016

Moses had a problem. He had too much to do and too little time to do it. He had too many people wanting too many things and they wanted them right now. From early morning until late at night, he would listen to people and their issues that needed solved.

When Moses' father-in-law, Jethro caught up with him and saw what was going on, he had a little "heart to heart" with him. We read about this in Exodus 18:14-18, "'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?' Moses answered him, 'Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws.' Moses' father-in-law replied, 'What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.'" Moses had become what Joanie Yoder calls an "exhausted martyr." These are folks who are over-responsible and over-committed. Taking on too much, they are well-meaning, but they are wearing themselves out. Maybe you are one of these folks.

Avoid "the perfectionist's myth," i.e. "I can do it better myself." Let others work with you. Teach others how to do what needs to be done. Don't feel as if you need to do it all, because if you do, all will not get done. Moses followed Jethro's advice and appointed others to listen and judge, while he focused on teaching and the administration duties that truly required his decision. This was better for him, and, frankly, better for others as well. Ask God for wisdom and help with what you have to do. Ask him for discernment to know what you can do on your own, and what you need to leave for others. Don't try to do it all alone!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 12, 2016

All of us who have driven much on the interstate have encountered law enforcement agents patrolling the roads. What is your reaction when you are buzzing along and see an official vehicle parked in a median crossover or along the side of the road? Usually this will be determined by the speed you are traveling at the time. If you tend to have a leaden foot, you probably shoot a glance at the speedometer to see if an adjustment is in order. Sometimes this action might be too late. By the time you see the officer, I would imagine your speed is already registered on his radar. However, if you always make sure you are driving within legal limits, encountering an officer brings no fear. Why should it? You have the right to be traveling the speed at which you are going, and the representative of the state recognizes that right and has no problem with what you are doing. You may be clipping along at 80 miles an hour, but if the speed limit is 80, there is no problem. But if you are clipping along at 80 miles an hour and the speed limit is 65, that little response of fear you feel upon seeing a patrol car is probably warranted.

Those who break the law should fear those who enforce the law. The members of the law enforcement community are there for our protection. They are there to enforce the rules because the rules are put in place to bring about a safe environment for us. They are there for our good. The same is true with God's laws. They are for our benefit. When we follow those rules, there is no need to be afraid of God. However, when we don't follow those rules, you need to be afraid. The apostle Paul speaks of following rules in II Timothy 2:4-5, "No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules."

Don't try to be a "non-conformist" with God. He has given us rules for a reason, and he wants us to obey him. And don't try to out-run God - he has a faster car.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 11, 2016

In 1990, Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. and Nancy L. Segal, both researchers at the University of Minnesota, published a study that showed identical twins reared apart were "eerily similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes." Simply stated, this study showed the importance of genes in a person's make-up. Environment does contribute to how a person is and what they become, but this study showed that inherited traits play a strong role in the shaping of a person regardless of environmental input. In the case of these studies, separated twins showed remarkably similar likes and dislikes such as preferences for a certain type of candy or enjoying tennis, among many other things.

We need to allow our "genetic structure" play a great role in shaping who we are as followers of Christ. We are related to him through faith, and as brothers and sisters of Christ, we need to let our genes play a strong role in determining our personality, interests, and social attitudes. We live in an environment that will draw us away from being conformed to God's image, so let your genetics overcome your environment and make sure you are living for Christ. This is certainly God's will.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Since this is true of you as a believer, make sure you are cooperating with God in this action so that you will indeed be conformed to the likeness of Christ. We sometimes blame "outside influences" for our behavior. You have been given the resources to overcome influences that would lead you away from God. These resources are in your spiritual genetic make-up. Let your "genes" shape who you are!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 10, 2016

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
Thursday August 11, 2016

In 1990, Thomas J. Bouchard Jr. and Nancy L. Segal, both researchers at the University of Minnesota, published a study that showed identical twins reared apart were "eerily similar to identical twins reared together on various measures of personality, occupational and leisure-time interests, and social attitudes." Simply stated, this study showed the importance of genes in a person's make-up. Environment does contribute to how a person is and what they become, but this study showed that inherited traits play a strong role in the shaping of a person regardless of environmental input. In the case of these studies, separated twins showed remarkably similar likes and dislikes such as preferences for a certain type of candy or enjoying tennis, among many other things.

We need to allow our "genetic structure" play a great role in shaping who we are as followers of Christ. We are related to him through faith, and as brothers and sisters of Christ, we need to let our genes play a strong role in determining our personality, interests, and social attitudes. We live in an environment that will draw us away from being conformed to God's image, so let your genetics overcome your environment and make sure you are living for Christ. This is certainly God's will.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Since this is true of you as a believer, make sure you are cooperating with God in this action so that you will indeed be conformed to the likeness of Christ. We sometimes blame "outside influences" for our behavior. You have been given the resources to overcome influences that would lead you away from God. These resources are in your spiritual genetic make-up. Let your "genes" shape who you are!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 10, 2016

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
Tuesday August 09, 2016

We recently taught our little granddaughter how to play I Spy. When my girls were little, we used to play this game with them. I would imagine you have played it as well. You know how it goes. One person says, "I spy something that you don't see, and the color is . . ." The object is to guess what the person has "spied," given only the color as a clue. Our granddaughter, as did our girls, really enjoys playing this game.

Christ would often play a form of "I Spy" with his disciples. For example, listen to his statement to them after the feeding of the multitude: "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:8-12)."

Sometimes Christ wants to teach us things, but we fail to see his hand at work. Don't overlook things he wants you to see! Ask God to give you eyes to "see" Christ's hand at work in both the extraordinary events and in the everyday events where he is at work. If you pay attention, you will see him working where others see nothing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 08, 2016

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 would see 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 place our faith in 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 August 07, 2016

We have a large picture window in our living room. In the years we have lived here, I could not begin to tell you how many times we have had birds fly into the window. I was working on my devotional one morning when this happened again. The window reflects the sky, the bird is thinking he is flying into open air, and, wham, right into the window. Usually the bird is just addled a bit and is able to fly off after a while. However, there have been times when this mistake proved fatal. I have often wished for the ability to tell these poor creatures, "This is not the sky! It is only a reflection that looks like the sky. So, be careful flying here." I don't have the ability to communicate with birds, so I am unable to do this. This is the frustration. Of course, the birds would also need to be willing to listen to my advice. I think it would be more frustrating if I would have the ability to communicate with the birds and then have them ignore my advice.

This is probably the frustration God must feel at times. He has the ability to communicate with us and warn us about the "windows," but we often are inclined to ignore his warnings. Instead, we fly blindly along, being fooled by the reflections until we hit the window. Then, when we do hit the window, we are prone to blame God for our predicament. So many people ignore God's warnings and fail to heed his advice. Are you one of them? If you are, stop doing that! You are in danger of being fooled by the reflection of what seems to be, when in reality you are in danger. This could be a fatal mistake.

In Proverbs 4:11-13, God says to us, "I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." Listen to God! He will help you avoid the windows!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 06, 2016

I remember an incident when I was a young boy in school when two of my classmates got into a scuffle during recess. I knew that if they continued, they would get in real trouble, maybe even be expelled from school for a time. So, I intervened and broke up the fight. Another of our classmates said to me, "Why didn't you let them fight? It was fun watching them!" I disagreed and, for some reason, quoted Matthew 5:9 to him. I think I had just learned it in Sunday School or our youth group or something. This verse says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." My classmate looked at me as if I had two heads or something and just walked away.

Those who seek peace in their lives, and do what they can to settle differences between others are truly blessed. Conflicts are inevitable, what we need are those with cool heads who can speak to situations where reason is needed to head off a problem. We have enough "hotheads" in the world. We need those who will keep calm when tempers flare.

Eric Liddell, after his Olympic championships, served as a missionary to China for 20 years. He died in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. During his time there, he made a profound impression on those in the camp because of his efforts to preserve peace in stressful times. Even the guards noticed his penchant for conflict resolution. One guard upon his death commented, "He was a Christian, wasn't he?"

Are you known as a peacemaker or a trouble maker? You and only you can determine what you make.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 05, 2016

I remember reading an interesting article about Albert Einstein. It seems that he was an accomplished violinist, but others had difficulty playing with him. Einstein, brilliant physicist and mathematician that he was, couldn't keep time. Can you believe that? He couldn't count! That is really hard to imagine. After playing chamber music with him once, violinist Jelly d Aranyi reportedly told him, "Your timing was relative once or twice."

We all have limitations. And sometimes we get so wrapped up in our limitations we fail to make strides in areas that are our strengths. Don't become so preoccupied with what you can't do that you hinder the development and exercise of your gifts! Don't use your limitations as an excuse not to do what you are able to do! An imminent philosopher (I'll let you guess who he was) once said, "A man's got to know his limitations." What he meant by this was that knowing your limitations allows you to focus on your strengths and not worry about what might hinder you.

Romans 12:6 says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." Don't misappropriate your focus! Exercise your gifts, remember that everyone has limitations, and move on in the areas that need your expertise! This isn't nuclear physics - oh, sorry about that, I couldn't resist.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 04, 2016

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River near Minneapolis, Minnesota, was not able to handle the additional stress of rush hour traffic and collapsed. Thirteen people were killed and several more were injured. The stress was just too much, and harmful consequences were the result.

Humans face additional stress at times as well. We are designed to handle stress, but sometimes we may feel that we are approaching the point where we are exceeding the load limit. When this is the case, make sure you are doing what you need to deal with the stress. Get your rest, seek help from others, break the problems down into manageable events, and, most importantly, seek God's provision. God will allow stress in our lives, but trust in him to not put more on us than we can handle. Trust in his provision, as did Paul. Paul referred to the promise of God, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (II Corinthians 12:9)."

God will be there to provide strength when we face times of stress. Put the load on him. Let God help you with what you face. In this way, harmful consequences can be avoided.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 03, 2016

Well, today is my birthday. Birthdays are interesting things. They provide you with a reason to celebrate and be the center of attention for a little while. Birthday parties are always nice and offer a chance for folks to get together. Those of us with birthdays this month can make the claim that we are the reason for celebrations in August, as there are no official holidays.

As you get a little older, birthdays also provide some other opportunities. Birthdays can serve as a reminder of how fast our lives are progressing. It can't be my birthday again, can it? Birthdays can offer us a time to reflect on what is going on in our lives, what has taken place, what we would like to see take place, and other considerations. Birthdays highlight relationships that we have. Our celebrations are with those with whom we have a relationship. Birthdays remind of our "links" with other people - people on whom we can rely and have a significant role in our lives.

As you think of this latter provision of birthdays, remember the "link" you have with God. David says in Psalm 22:10, "From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God." We can read later in Psalm 71:6, "From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you."

If I had one birthday wish it would be that everyone who reads this have that link with God and are relying upon him. Would you like to give me a birthday present? Well, the best one you could give would be for you to give your life to the Father. That would be a really great gift for me, but it would be a better gift for you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 02, 2016

Scherry and I lived in Dallas, Texas, during the early 80's. There was a bit of a building boom going on during those years in Dallas. As a matter of fact, I worked for a company that benefited from this building boom. My company, Design Resource Group, installed movable wall systems, reconfigured existing systems, and handled the installation of conventional office furniture. When we moved from Texas in 1983, there were about 25 buildings going up in downtown Dallas alone.

I was fascinated with the construction of those tall buildings. As I observed the work, one principle was evident: the taller the building was going to be, the deeper they went with the substructure. Tall buildings call for deep foundations.

This is a good principle for us to remember as we develop our spiritual lives: the higher we want to climb on the spiritual ladder, the deeper we need to sink our foundation.

Psalm 1 refers to the benefit of having a good foundation when it compares a spiritual person to a tree planted by streams of water. The righteous person "is like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:5)." These trees have roots that run deep and are nurtured by the water that is always present. They have a good foundation.

If we want to grow tall and strong, we need deep, well-planted roots. We need deep foundations if we want to have tall buildings. Dig deep!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 01, 2016

I suppose one of the most exciting times in the life of a parent is when their little one learns to walk. I recall this experience with both of our daughters and our granddaughter. It was such a thrill watching them go from their first feeble attempts at this exercise called walking to being able to "toddle" all around the house. Of course, this brings new challenges for parents. This ability means they are more capable of "getting into things." However, the need for increased diligence is a worthwhile price to pay to watch them be able to move around freely. This was what they were supposed to do.

Our Heavenly Father is pleased when we "learn how to walk" spiritually. There are some allusions to this in God's Word. Hosea 11:3-4 says, "It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them." Here God refers to his role in Israel's development, but laments Israel's disobedience. God want his children to learn to walk spiritually, even though he knows at times this might mean disobedience. He wants us to have the ability to decide to follow him on our own. Giving us the ability to walk on our own puts us in the position where we choose dependence upon him as opposed to being in a position where our dependence is forced upon us, so to speak.

God wants to help us learn to walk, to be there for us when we fall, to encourage our steps and guide our ways. He wants us to be able to go "on our own," yet realize we have a bond with him that will never be broken and voluntarily depend on him for guidance. Don't be discouraged when you fall - he will help you back up. Don't stray too far from him, and if do, walk towards him, he is there for you. Walking in this way keeps us productive, and is pleasing to our Father.

Pastor Steve Willis

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