John T. Willis

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Palawan Peacock-pheasant

The latest edition of the National Geographic [July 2010] features the Palawan Peacock-pheasant, Polyplectron napoleonis, the Napoleon Peacock-pheasant.

This beautiful bird is endemic to the humid forests of Palawan Island in the the southern part of the Philippine archipelago. The male has an erectile crest, a white stripe over the eyes and highly iridescent metallic green and black plumage. The tail feathers are decorated with large blue-green ocelli. The female has a dark brown plumage with a short crest and is whitish on the throat, cheeks and eyebrows.

The male struts around the female, holding a piece of food and bobbing up and down until she approaches, then drops the food and assumes a pose with his tail fully spread, one wing pointing up and the other touching the ground. He raises his crest and points it forward, holding his beak behind the cape formed by his raised neck and mantle feathers so that only his eyes are exposed. The couple seems to be in deep love.

The male is 16-20 inches long with a tail 6-10 inches long. The male weighs a little over 15 ounces, and the female a little over 11 ounces. Specialists estimate that the total number of these birds is less than 10,000, and thus is endangered. People hunt and capture this bird for trade.

I hope YOU appreciate the Palawan Peacock-pheasant. This is just another example of the marvelous works of God on earth. Hopefully the human race will respect and strive to preserve this and all of God's creatures. Above all else, I hope YOU will be in awe of the Creator and all he has done and continues to do.

Share YOUR experiences and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, June 28, 2010

Light and Darkness--Ephesians 5:3-20

Having introduced the contrast between the Old Self and the New Self in Ephesians 4:17-5:2, Paul pursues this striking contrast between sinful living and godly living under the metaphor of "light" and "darkness," which he presents in Ephesians 5:3-20. One notices that this contrast between light and darkness appears frequently throughout scripture in the Old and New Testaments. Here Paul has in mind godly living under the figure of "light" and sinful living under the figure of "darkness." Ephesians 5:3-20 does not separate these two metaphors into two divisible sections, but are interspersed throughout this paragraph. In a practical sense, Paul delineates what Christians should do and what they should not do.

I. Living in a sinful way--Darkness. Ephesians 5:3-7. First, Paul specifically discusses FOUR sins of darkness.
A. Fornication. 5:3, 5. Fornication is sexual acts outside of marriage, whether before marriage or with someone other that one's spouse. Throughout history, fornication has been a human failure. Paul says pointed: "Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself." 1 Corinthians 6:18--pay attention to the entire context of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
B. Impurity. 5:3, 5. Impurity is the opposite of holiness. Christians are to be holy as God is holy. See 1 Peter 1:13-16. Christians are to think, speak, and act differently from ungodly people rather than conforming to ungodly behavior. Romans 12:1-2.
C. Greed. 5:3, 5. Greed is a heart problem. Actually, it is covetousness. We human beings tend to be self-centered. This is our primary heart problem. Greed is the desire to have more and more people and things and activities under our own governance and control. Jesus Christ often addressed the temptation of greed. Luke 18:18-30.
D. Obscene, silly, vulgar, empty talk or words. 5:4, 6. Out of the heart comes the kind of words we speak. Mark 7:21-23; James 3:1-13. We speak what we think and ponder.

II. Living in a godly way--Light. Ephesians 5:8-16. Then, by way of contrast, Paul discusses FOUR characteristics of a godly person.
A. "Fruit" that is good and right and true. "Light" is a "tree" from which "fruit" comes. Paul enumerates that "fruit" as thoughts and words and deeds that are good and right and true. These are admittedly and intentionally "broad" ideas, but each is very important. GOOD--RIGHT--TRUE. Whenever we consider anything in life, each of these needs to come into the forefront. 5:8-9.
B. Please the Lord. As we face decisions and problems and issues and reverses and sufferings, at every turn, we need to ask ourselves: Am I pleasing the Lord in what I am doing? Paul emphasizes in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 that all of our choices lie between "pleasing God" and "pleasing others." 5:10.
C. Expose darkness. Darkness will creep into and quench our spiritual life OR we will rise to the light of God through Jesus Christ and thus overcome the darkness of sin. We are in a constant "battle" or "struggle" or "conflict" between good and evil, right and wrong. God has the power to conquest darkness, IF we will but let him rule in our hearts. By living a godly life, those who choose to follow God expose the sins of sinful people and actions. Paul admonishes all of us: "TAKE NO PART" in the ways of darkness, but rather "EXPOSE" sinful ways. 5:11-14.
D. Make the most of the time. TIME is a very precious gift of God. God has given each of us the freedom to USE our time however we wish. Paul encourages all people of God to "make the most of the time" we have--to serve God in every way: in worship, in meditation, in service to others, in ministry, in every good way.

III. Living in a sinful way--Darkness. Ephesians 5:17-18. Paul again reverts to a discussion of sinful activities. Now he mentions TWO of these.
A. Foolishness. Foolishness is a many-sided "beast." Generally, Paul defines it as not "understanding what the will of the Lord is." People may be exceedingly intellectual or powerful or socially elite or athletically superior or religiously exalted, but NEVER really "understand" what the will of the Lord is. The Bible portrays many examples of individuals and nations just like this--think of Solomon or the rich fool. 5:17.
B. Getting drunk with wine. History has shown that drinking beer and wine quickly leads human beings into addiction. If we could just use wine with self-control!!! But many people yield to this temptation. The Bible repeatedly warns against this pervasive problem. See for example, Proverbs 23:29-35; Galatians
5:21. "Debauchery" is excessive indulgence. Yes, it is just as sinful to be a glutton as it is to be a drunkard. The Bible puts both in the same texts several times. But getting drunk is a sin--according to the Bible. And common sense confirms this. 5:18. Paul admonishes God's people to "get drunk" with "the Spirit." We are creatures of HABIT. Feed on the Holy Spirit, not on wine.

IV. Living in a godly way--Light. Ephesians 5:19-20. Here again, Paul specifically mentions TWO positive practices that godly people must follow.
A. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts." Singing is probably the most powerful means to teaching and inspiring and motivating people. Our songs betray our beliefs among the people of God. Just examine your own religious songs, and you will find your REAL beliefs. Songs are to be directed first to the Lord, and then to others. We need to praise and glorify God in our songs and melodies. We also need to encourage and console and support one another. 5:19.
B. Give thanks to God for EVERYTHING God has done for us and continues to do for us. Thanksgiving is the very heart of all of life. If we can just truly be thankful and grateful to God for all He does, out of our hearts we can glorify God daily and minister to and serve others. 5:20.
One may note that there are many similarities between Ephesians 4:17-5:20 and Colossians 2:6-3:17. Apparently, Paul wrote Colossians and Ephesians at the same time to similar churches as he composed these letters from Rome.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, June 27, 2010


The heart is very devious. We have a "public" face. We also have a "very private" face. We are often different in reality from WHO we portray ourselves to others. Hebrews 4:12-13 states:
"Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is HIDDEN, but all are NAKED and LAID BARE to the yes of the one in whom we must render an account."
The composer of Psalm 19:12 affirms:
"But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from HIDDEN faults."

Walter Brueggemann has written two prayers which speak to this problem in his work: Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth. PLEASE ponder deeply and often these thoughts of prayer.

A People With Many Secrets

You are the God from whom no secret can be hid,
and we are a people with many secrets,
that we wants to tell for the sake of our lives,
that we dare not tell because they are deep and painful.
But they are out secrets . . . and they count for much;
they are our truth . . . rooted deep in our lives.
You are the God of all truth,
and now we bid you heed our truth,
about which we will not bear false witness . . .
The truth of grief unresolved,
the truth of pain unacknowledged,
the truth of fear too child-like,
the truth of hate, as powerful as it is deep,
the truth of being taken advantage of,
and being used,
and manipulated,
and slandered.
We trust the great truth of your wondrous love,
but we will not sit still for it,
UNTIL you hear us.
Our truth--heard by you--will make us free.
So be the God of all truth, even ours,
we pray in the name of Jesus,
who is your best kept secret of hurt. Amen.


Power turns and postures and exhibits.
It controls and manages and plots.
We participate in it,
we benefit from it,
we are dazzled by it . . . and more than a little afraid.
Just underneath, all the while . . .
Just underneath dazzling power
sits violence and brutality.
greed and fear and envy,
cunning and shamelessness.
In that too we participate.
Like the ancients, we also live double lives,
public in pageant and role and office,
hidden in meanness and thinness.
We do not do well bringing this double together.
But we confess you to be Lord of all of our lives.
Give us new freedom about our public lives,
give us new candor about our hidden lives.
Correct what is brutal and greedy and fearful,
chasten what is hidden and mean.
Make us women and men of shalom,
the kind of welfare you will for our common life. Amen.

I hope all of us will benefit from these tremendous prayers by Walter Brueggemann. Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis