Friday, December 7, 2018

A Time of Preparation!




Last night, Kim and I were preparing our Christmas cards and the short family update letter we send out each year. We send out almost 100 cards to people, who for the most part, we don’t really get to see through the year. It can be a lot of work to send out that many cards.  We have to choose the right photo for the card, get the cards printed, write up the letter, print out and stick on address labels (and return address labels), put the stamps on and get them to the post office. It takes a lot of planning and preparation. 

If you think about it, this whole month of December is one of preparation as we prepare for Christmas Day.  We decorate our homes, shop for gifts, bake cookies, plan out meals, send out invitations, etc., all in preparation of our celebrations of Christmas.  We prepare for Christmas services at the church. We prepare for our home gatherings. We prepare to travel to our family or friends. We prepare and prepare and prepare…!

Each of the gospel writers tells of John the Baptist coming with a very simple message before the arrival of Jesus on the scene. His message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.”  The gospel writers refer to him as “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matthew 3:3 – NIV) His job was one of preparation, preparing the hearts of the people to receive their Messiah!

I’m reminded today that, the most important work of preparation is not done in our homes or in the church building or in the stores. The most important preparations take place in our hearts as we confess our sin, receive God’s grace, and open our hearts by faith to the One who came to be our Savior. The voice of John the Baptist still calls to us today to  “prepare the way for the Lord” as we ready ourselves not only for the celebration of his birth but, even more importantly, his soon return. 

One writer's prayer of preparation was put this way: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for thee!” And, “My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus when thou comest and callest for me!” (Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” – E.S. Elliot)

So, how are your preparations going? No, not all the shopping, baking, decorating, and planning, but the preparation of your heart for your Savior, Jesus!


Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Season of Waiting!




I’m going to admit to you, I’m not very good at waiting. Whether I’m sitting in my car waiting for the light to turn green, waiting on a long line in the supermarket, or waiting for Kim to come downstairs so we can leave the house, I tend to get a bit impatient—especially when the wait becomes longer than I expected. I know many of you are the same!

This time of year, however, waiting just part of the normal course of things. We wait on long lines in the stores to pay for our merchandise. We wait in the extra traffic that is on the roads. We wait for packages to come in the mail. We wait for family to arrive to celebrate with us. We wait to give or receive that special gift. We wait…and we wait….and we wait. Yes, it’s the season of waiting!

That’s what the season of “Advent” (which begins this coming Sunday) is about; it is meant to be a season of waiting. The word technically means, “arrival” or “appearance.”  It refers to the arrival or appearance of our Savior Jesus Christ both at his birth and at his second coming. Thus, the season of Advent is “…a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming.” (Dictionary.com) During this time of the year, Christians are called to prepare themselves not just for the festivities of Christmas Day, but most of all for the worship of Christ on that day. And, they are called to prepare themselves for next arrival, for his return.  Throughout this season, there is meant to be within us and among us, a sense of waiting.

The old Latin hymn, “Veni Emanuel” (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”) expressed this sense of waiting well.  The words to that song express the longing of Israel of old as they awaited their messiah during some very dark times in their history. And, the lyrics to that song speak of the longing of God’s people today as we await his return with great patience and expectation.  (See lyrics below.)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”  The writer of Hebrews wrote, “He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”  And, James wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return.”

Let me ask you, what are you waiting for? Or better asked, whom are you waiting for?  During this Christmas Season—i.e. this season of Advent—let’s allow a sense of longing and expectancy to fill our hearts as we await both the day in which we will celebrate our Savior’s birth and the day on which we will welcome his return!  After all, this is the season of waiting!

Take a few minutes to read the words to the hymn below. May they help you as you wait!  Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris 
1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.
2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain
3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain
4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain
5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain
6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain
7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain 
Psalter Hymnal (Gray)

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Counter-Culture Bird!




I know I’ve written much about my birdfeeder and the joys and challenges it has brought into my life (think squirrels!).  Well, my birdfeeder has also led me to make some discoveries.  One of those is a bird called a nuthatch. It’s a cute little bird with a long beak and a very interesting way of doing things. You see, a nuthatch walks down a tree trunk or bird feeder, looking for food, upside down.  That’s right, it goes headfirst!

We might say that, the nuthatch is a counter-culture bird.  Whereas other birds will land on the bottom of the feeder and eat from the shelf filled with seed that is right in front of them, the nuthatch will start at the top of the feeder and make its way down the feeder’s side headfirst until it can reach the seed.  It will then stay there I an upside down position, eating until it is done—at times even moving around the feeder sideways, but always maintaining an upside down position.  It’s really a very strange sight. It is not the norm for a bird. Again, we might say it’s a bit counter-culture as far as birds go!

A nuthatch eating upside down!
Do you know that the gospels call us to live our lives somewhat like the nuthatch? Those of us who are followers of Jesus are called to live in a way that might seem “upside down” to the people around us.  After all, humility, gentleness, kindness, patience are not the way most people live their lives.  To prefer giving to receiving and taking the backseat to taking the front seat; when one is “slow to speak and quick to listen” (James 1:19) and lives their life putting the interests of others before their own (Philippians 2:4), one is living their life in way that is extremely counter-culture. 

In what I call Jesus’ counter-culture sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 – NIV)
Jesus calls his followers to stand out from the crowd by living their lives differently from those around them. Read through his sermon and see how he called them to live their lives according to new patterns and a different set of standards. It’s a call to be a people who will go against the flow, live upside down, and be counter-culture.
Let’s allow the nuthatch to remind us of Jesus’ call upon our lives that the kingdom of God would be expanded and God our Father might be glorified!

Have a great day!
Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Communication Crisis!




Have you noticed how many forms of communication you get from your doctor, dentist, mechanic, supermarket, etc.?  We receive emails, text messages, phone calls, and mailings to remind us of our upcoming appointments, to let us know it’s time to get our cars serviced, or to make us aware of the latest sale.  It seems that for all of our forms of communication, it has become harder and harder to figure out how to communicate. As a society, we are having what I might call, a communication crisis!

Kim and I have noticed it in our work at the church.  For all the effort that goes into putting out information via email, Facebook, text messages, etc., there are still lots of people who seem to not know what is going on.  If we send out an email notice, we need to also send out a text message to let people know that they have received an email—or, else they may never read the email (we are hoping that they will at least read their text message!).  When we make phone calls to people, most often we get voice mail messages that few people check; it seems that hardly anyone answers their phone these days. And, when we have to make an announcement regarding the cancelation of a service due to a snow storm or the like, we need to send out an email, send a text message, put out an automated phone message, post on Facebook, and put a message on the church voice mail—all because we never know how information will get to any particular person. Yet after all of that, someone will still say, “I didn’t know!”  Again, I think we have a communication crisis!

Well, although that might be the case for us as people, I am so glad that there is no communication crisis with heaven.  We don’t have to figure out how to communicate with God. We don’t need to wonder whether or not he is listening or will get our message. And, we don’t need to wonder whether or not he will answer. The communication lines to God are always open and sure. It is a form of communication that we call, “prayer.” 

Jesus said, “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10 – NIV) The psalmist wrote, “This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:6 – NIV) The Apostle Peter wrote, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer….” (1 Peter 3:12)

It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing,” for prayer is the only sure means of communication. Prayer is the only form of communication that will always be received and always be answered.  So today, why not communicate with God and tell him what you need? He will hear you and he will answer. Again, there’s no communication crisis in heaven!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris