I grew up when Diff'rent Strokes was a popular television show. That's no big deal unless your last name is Willis. To this day I still hear those famous words popularized by Arnold: "Whatchu talkin bout Willis?" Usually they are uttered by someone looking at me as though I may have never heard it before. Yeah, right! Well this blog is what I (Willis) am talkin bout...my thoughts, observations & opinions. Enjoy...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Caloric Overload!

Please tell me that I'm not the only one eating tons of calories! I've been the recipient of an enormous amount of really good (yet bad for you) food! Yoyu know the kind! And I have eaten plenty! Actually, I've eaten more than plenty! It seems like every time I finish with one dish another one arrives. Or Mrs. Willis is taking something out of the oven. It's unbelievable! Now I know why everyone gets excited about the possiblities of resolutions for the New Year. And I know why diets are usually at the top of the list. I'd like to write more, but I have some fudge I need to get to...

Friday, December 19, 2008

New Face?

With this whole "face transplant" thing becoming a genuine possibility I started thinking... Who do I want to look like? Whose face would I like transplanted over my mug? There are innumerable faces which would be significant upgrades but, I've settled on one: Mel Gibson. The guy's "ruggedly handsome" and I think that would be a good look for me. Plus it would be pretty cool to see Mel's face preaching the gospel! So, who's your new face?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sammy Baugh

One of he legends of football has died. "Slingin" Sammy Baugh was a "Ruthian" figure in the early days of professional football. Baugh played for the Washington Redskins (1937-1952) and excelled on offense, defense & special teams! He did stuff that NO ONE does these days. Sure the game has changed, but Baugh is overlooked because of the prevalence of chronological snobbery that blinds people to the accomplishments of the great players of yesteryear. This is true of most sports with baseball being the one dramtic exception. Baseball almost reveres its old timers. If you want to check out more about a great one go here.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I remember this from my childhood and it endures even today. This scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" served as a tremendous platform to tell many of the birth of Jesus Christ! Special thanks to the late Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts.

If you have a minute check out 2 Timothy 4:21.

Servant's Heart?

This past Saturday our Men's ministry (M.A.S.H. = Men Activley Serving Him) were out on Warwick boulevard doing some clean up. We "adopted" a strip on the nearby road and regularly go out and pick up all the junk & trash people throw down. One quick note: Smokers have to be the biggest polluters per capita! If I had a dollar for every cigarette butt...

Now back to my story...

I'm riding with one of our guys to our starting point. for clean up effort. As we pull up to the group he rolls down the window and says, "Look what I found - a preacher with a servant's heart." For some reason that just struck me. Are preachers not seen as men with servant's hearts? Or were they surprised by my willingness to help? Hmmm. A servant's heart? Now, I'd expect to hear "a heart for the truth" or perhaps "a heart for preaching." I don't know that I've ever been identified as someone with a servant's heart. Maybe someone thought it once, but didn't verbalize it!

A servant's heart? I need to work on this.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Budget Time

Today was our annual budget meeting at church. This isn't the congregational one; it's just the one with the leadership discussing things and hashing out details. It was relatively painless, but I'm still glad it's only an annual event. I'm thankful our guys are committed to being good stewards. I suppose we are like many churches in that we tend run below "budget" all year long and then finish in the black at the very end. The last Sunday is always, without exception, the best. It's like an annual Christmas bonus! During these tough economic times we've had to tighten our belts somewhat. I'm sure you have too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

B-ball Coach

That's right I am now officially "Coach Willis." My childhood friend, Gary Malarkey, asked me to be his assistant coach this year for a coed basketball team of 8-10 year olds. My girls are on the team too, so it's pretty cool. Ironically, Gary & I played together at the same age many years ago. Honestly, we were really good. We would spank teams like 70 to 12 on a regular basis! We were the city champs and many years later I still enjoy those glory days - can you tell? Back then I was huge and would dominate the boards (& block lots of shots too). I became the outlet pass king and Gary was on the receivng end many times. He average easily 20+ points per game. Anyway, it's fun coaching, but I have to be conscious of not gettting "too competitive." If you know me then you get that. At our first practice the coach told everyone that the #1 rule was to have fun. I'm used to the old schools rants of yesteryear - "Losing isn't fun! We are here to win!" so I just smile and enjoy the kids. And it is actually fun!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I recently finished reading Activate: An Entirely New Approach to Small Groups by Nelson Searcy & Kerrick Thomas. I read this in conjunction with a Fusion group sponsored by the Virginia Evangelism Group. Our Fusion group got together and discussed our reading. I have to say that this book was really eye opening. Some books over-sell themselves in the title, but not this one. Yes, it is about a much talked about topic - "small groups" (aka. LIFE, Community, Cell, Gel, Home, In Reach, ABF, etc.). However, this book challenges a lot of the commonly accepted ideas about such groups and is far from the predictable rehashing of the same old stuff. If you are doing this type of ministry Activate will be worth your time. Many books share concepts and ideas, but Activate goes further and is very practical. You will not be able to say this book doesn't give any "How to" stuff. It is jammed full of specifics and application. Here are some of my favorite insights & quotes...

"You need to minimize your weirdo factor"

"Think Friends...Not Initmacy"

"Think Short-Term...Not Long Term"

"Think Church of Small Groups...Not with Small Groups"

"People will know what is important by what you do, not what you say"

"You can structure for control or you can structur for growth, but you cannot structure for both"

"Think Leader Multiplication...Not Group Multiplication"

There are many, many more. I'm confident you'll find Activate to be worth $10 and a few hours of your time.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thinking About Hebrews 6:4-6

Hebrews 6:4-6 has been a much debated and analyzed passage.

4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of he age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (NASB)

There are basically four approaches to this passage. The first two should be quickly rejected. One argues that this passage isn't even addressing an authentic believer. This is wrong for several reasons, but I'll mention one: "To renew ... AGAIN to repentace (v.6) clearly shows they had repented previously. Another view argues that this passage is merely hypothetical. Huh? I just odn't buy that especially when you consider it the context of the entire book. The other two views of this passage have merit.

A Christian can fall away (be lost) yet can still return to Christ. Admittedly, I like this view on the surface and it is still the view I am inclined to accept. Jack Cottrell skillfully agrues for this view in his "Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today". Among other consideration, Cottrell suggests that The Lost Son" of Luke 15 should be considered . Billy Dyer and I discussed this passage last night and he holds this view. He pointed to James 5:19-20 for support. This camp would favor the alternate rendering of verse 6: if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because[a]to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
(NIV alternate rendering - "Or repentance while" ). The idea is that it is impossible to restore someone while he or she continues in this fallen state.

If you fall it's final = no second chance. This appears to be correct when I initially read the passage. Tim Warner of Pristine Faith Restoration Society makes a strong case for this view. This is also Roy Ingle's positon. You can read a good discussion of this passage on his Arminian Today blog. Douglas Jacoby sees a distinction between wandering and falling and supports this view rather than the above interpretation.

I'm not going to wade into all the pros & cons right here & now, but I will continue to look closely at this passage. Any insights are appreciated.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I couldn't convince Vince...

Some of you who stop in here at WTBW? also visit Vince Anotnucci's blog, so you may be aware of the current discussion over there. A few days ago Vince posted about "tithing." The post that caught my attention contained the following from Vince: "(by the way, I'm not a "If you don't tithe, why don't you incrementally increase your percentage until you give ten percent" kind of guy. Personally, I think that's crap. To me it's the same as saying, "If you're living in disobedience to God now, why don't you slowly decrease the amount that you're disobeying Him until you get to the point of obedience." Yeah, that's great. No, we need to obey God. He says 10%, give Him 10%. Actually, I teach our people that 10% is the starting point, but a real bad place to stay. Give as much as you can...)"

Since then he has written a lot more and received a great number of responses (pro & con). For the record I know longer teach the concept of monetary tithing. Ironically, Vince's quote above could have been mie a fews years ago! Back then I did teach "monetary tithing" with much fervor, but eventually abandoned it in favor of what I now understand to be the New Covenant standards. Giving in the the New Covenant is about the heart. 2 Corinthians is probably to most thorough teaching on giving in the NT. Notice what Paul writes... 2 Cor 9:7 - Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 is all about sacrificial giving and generosity, but no mention of a "monetary tithe."

Let me say I don't have any personal animosity toward Vince Antonucci. He seems like a good brother who is passionate about reaching the lost and Christ's kingdom. His blog offers lots of keen insights from someone who gets the mission of the church. I do, however, vigorously disagree with what he a has recently espoused about "tithing." It also appears that he isn't going to give up his position (at least not right now). If you want, you can read it all for yourselves.

The discussion (like most on blogs) had some very informed comments along with the occasional ad hominen, but it was a good exchange over all.

For a better understanding of this issue (IMHO) I'd recommend the work of Russell Kellley which can be found here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Jimmy Needham-Fence Riders

Different Yet the Same

Two very different men...or at least it appears...

One is old and old school. He shows up on Sundays in his finest - the best he has to wear - suit, tie, neatly ironed dress shirt & shined shoes! His hair is neat and his apearance serious as he enters the church building. He does so because he wants to give his best to the master. He's coming to "God's house" so he dresses "appropriately". He reverently sings the old hymns. I like this guy. In his heart he is striving to please his Lord.

The other guys is young and of the new generation. He is unencumbered by the external trappings of this aforementioned older brother (or so he thinks). He comes on Sundays in baggy pants, awell wrinkled tee and his customary flip flops. The flip flops come off quicky as the "worship" begins. This is "Holy ground" and he removes his shoes just like Moses! He is in the presence of God! He quickly stands when first note is struck on a guitar. He claps, raises his hands and perhaps even dances. I like this guy too. In his heart he also desires to please His Lord.

What's the difference between these two approaches? I'd suggest not much at all. Yes, on the surface, these two seem very different. Yet, quite ironically, they really are the same... It's just different applications of the same misunderstanding. You see, both of these men believe that they are going to "meet God" in a place. Is this correct? Is this what the Scriptures teach? I think not.

Don't we believe in God's omnipresence? Don't we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

The first guy is guilty of the "edifice complex" and the "temple mentality." He should revisit Acts 7:48-50: "However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: " 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?'

The second guy has the popular "encounter God" mentality. He needs a broader understanding of worship based on Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.

They both should read....

Acts 2:38: Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:9: You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.