Friday, January 23, 2015

A Great Team!

Last week I was once again in Leon, Nicaragua.  This time, I traveled with a team of seven people from Promise International Fellowship (PIF), including my daughter Joanna (which, of course, was a special blessing for me!).  It was a great trip.  We ministered together in the churches with which we are connected, distributed backpacks and school supplies to the children of Promise Kids Foundation, and painted classrooms at our school, Promise Christian Academy of Leon.  The team worked hard and really got to know each other well.  We ministered together, prayed together, played together, and just shared life together (including some great Nicaraguan meals!).  I was blessed to have with me a truly great team! 

What always amazes me as I take missions trips with teams such as this is, how God brings together people from such various backgrounds, with such different personalities, and with such differing abilities, and creates out of them just the right team for the moment.  On this team we had those who were great with their hands and could help lead a task such as painting.  Some came with musical talents that helped us minister in the churches and sing songs with the children.  Some were able to share incredible testimonies or turn a Bible story into a time of great excitement.  Some could quickly organize a task. One came with the ability to translate my preaching.  Each person came with his or her particular talents and gifts. Everyone was needed.  No one sat on the sideline watching.  All were used to help the others, bless the work, and build God’s Kingdom.  It was a great team! 

I’m once again reminded that this is exactly the way the body of Christ is supposed to function, both on the mission field as well as at home in our local churches.  If we will devote ourselves to God and to one another, God will take each person, regardless of their background, personality, and abilities, and knit us together to form a team—a team that has the potential to bring so much blessing to one another, to our world, and to God!

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12 – NIV)

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5 – NIV) 

Let me ask you today, are you playing as part of your team—i.e. doing your part to help your local church be all that God wants her to be and accomplish all that God would have her accomplish?  Whatever your background, personality, gifts and talents, there’s a place for you on the team!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Empty House

The sound of shattering glass cut through me as the men cleaned out the cabinets, dumping years of collected items into their buckets.  Within hours the couches we had sat on, the table we had eaten at, and the beds we had slept on were all gone. The truck pulled away. The house was silent. The house was empty, soon to no longer be our home. 

A few months back, my siblings and I came to the realization that the house we grew up in and in which my parents had lived since 1962 was no longer practical for our mom.  It was time to sell. And, that meant it was time to clear it out.  For months we sorted through piles of stuff—some filled with memories, some just pure junk.  We took with us those items we wanted to hold onto for nostalgia’s sake or could use in some way.  But, there was still a garage and a basement and house filled with items that had been collected throughout the years and that needed to be discarded in some way.  So, this past Monday the men we hired showed up with their big truck and did the dirty work of hauling away a part of both our parents’ life and ours.  The house was soon empty. As I stood in it, I too felt a bit empty. 

This was the house I moved into when I was just four years old. It was the house on which my dad had spent hours and years fixing and expanding and reconfiguring, especially as the family grew. My mom had cleaned every corner of it time and again. We, as children, had slid down its huge staircase, played ball in the yard, climbed its trees, and acted out our fantasies in its basement. It was often loud. Sometimes there was conflict. Often there was music and laughter.  It had become not just a house bought by a young couple looking to move out of “the city” to “the country,” but a home for a family of seven. For years upon years, it had been our home. 

But, the Bible is correct when it reminds us of the fact that the possessions of our lives will not last.  Life changes.  Things rust, fall apart, sometimes are stolen. That is why it is so important for us to maintain the right priorities in life, building our lives around that which will last; building our lives around that which is spiritual and eternal. 

Jesus said, “So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33 – NIV) 

The house I grew up in will soon belong to someone else. Right now it is empty. It’s kind of a hard thought.  Yet, I like all of us must face the reality that, only that which belongs to God’s kingdom will last.  So, while we may enjoy the blessings that God gives to us in this life, including the house of our youth, let’s make sure we are building our lives around that which will last. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Forgotten Birthday Boy!

For this week’s Pastor’s Devotion, I’d like to share a story I wrote last year for the children at Promise International Fellowship. Maybe you’d like to share it with some of the children in your life this Christmas. Besides, we all like a story!  Here it is:  

One day it was a little boy’s birthday. Let’s call him, “Sammy.”  He was turning 10 years old. He was so excited. He couldn’t wait for his birthday. He kept thinking about the cards he would receive in the mail, the birthday cake with ten candles on it, how he would blow them out as everyone sang to him. And, he was thinking that he would have all of his friends come over—and, that they would bring him birthday gifts.  He just couldn’t wait for his birthday!
Finally the day arrived. Sammy jumped out of bed expecting his family would say a great big “Happy Birthday” as he walked into the kitchen for breakfast. But, no one said anything.  He thought to himself, “Well, maybe they just forgot for the moment. Or, maybe they’re planning something really, really big for later in the day.”  Later he checked the mail, but no cards came for him. All day, no one said, “Happy Birthday Sammy.” 
Then, around 4:00 pm the doorbell rang.  His grandparents came in. Then a short while later some other relatives showed up. By 5:00 a whole bunch of his friends had shown up. They all had come with gifts in hand. But, strangely enough, no one said, “Happy Birthday Sammy.” 
Everyone ate dinner and talked and laughed.  The kids played some games. Then a cake came out. Sammy thought, “Here’s my birthday cake.” But, Sammy’s mom just cut it up and started giving it out to everyone to eat. Then, everyone got the gifts that they had brought. Sammy got excited again. But, then everyone started giving the gifts to each other. And, no one had a gift for Sammy.  Sammy’s heart sunk. What kind of birthday is this? 
Suddenly Sammy woke up. And when he did, he realized, it had all been a dream.  And, it wasn’t actually his birthday. It was Christmas. It was Jesus’ birthday.
At that moment Sammy realized what he and some of his family and friends had done. They had planned a big party for Christmas day—with lots of food and games and presents for each other. But, they had not planned to do anything for Jesus.
Sammy got on his knees and prayed, “Dear Jesus, I know today is your birthday.  I’m sorry I don’t have a special gift for you today, but before this Christmas day begins, I want to say, Happy Birthday Jesus.”
Later that day, just before his mom brought out the cake that was to be the dessert for the family and friends who were there, Sammy pulled his mother to the side and whispered something in her ear. Soon his mom came out with candles on the cake. Everyone stopped talking and asked, “Whose birthday is it? To whom are we going to sing?” And, Sammy said for everyone to hear, “It’s Jesus birthday!  We’re going to sing to him.” And, they did!  They sang, “Happy Birthday Jesus!” 

Although Christmas can be lots of fun for us, it is Jesus’ birthday! So let’s not forget to say, “Happy Birthday" to him!  

 “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 – NIV)

Have a great day and a blessed Christmas! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Deals

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get my Christmas shopping done.  Although it can be a bit of a hassle, I really don’t mind it too much. But what makes it really fun is trying to get the best price possible or finding that really great deal.  I don’t go out on Black Friday, but I have learned that many Christmas deals carry through the next week and that there are ways really make your dollar stretch. 

For example, last week I saved 30% on my Amazon purchases because it was “CyberMonday Week!”  Kim and I went to Kohl’s with our 20% and 25% coupons in hand, getting our discounts on already discounted items bringing some items to 75% off the original price.  In one store, before purchasing the item I was going to buy, I found a 20% coupon on-line via my iPhone.  And in Toys-R-Us, I found the same toy I was buying on Amazon for $5 less and asked the cashier if they would match the price.  And, they did! 

But, can you imagine walking into a store and seeing a sign that says, 100% off?  In other words, what they are selling is completely free. What one would normally have to pay something for has a price of $0!  Now that would be some deal!  I think we would all buy a few items in that store.

Well in fact, that’s the way it is for us when it comes to God’s forgiveness and salvation. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 - NIV) and “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” (Ephesians 2:8 - NIV)

Although we ought to be paying something for our salvation, God himself has paid the price through the giving of his Son, Jesus.  When it comes to God’s grace and forgiveness, there is no 20%, 30%, or even 75% off. Rather, what God offers to us is completely without charge. It is 100% off.  It is 100% free.  It truly is the best Christmas deal of all! 

Have a great day and enjoy the shopping! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Is Coming!

Christmas is now right around the corner.  Christmas trees are being decorated, gifts are being bought, and churches are preparing for special services.  The excitement is building as we have now entered what has been called, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” and “The Season of Joy!”  Christmas is coming!

Yet, I’ve recently been reminded that, just because Christmas is coming doesn’t mean that all is perfect with the world—or with our lives. These days it can be hard to watch the news as one bad news story follows another. Even harder can be dealing with the pain and tragedies that strike our own lives.  Even now in the midst of this “Season of Joy!” my family is once again facing some great challenges as my mother fell last week, broke her hip, and subsequently had surgery. She is now in the same nursing and rehabilitation facility she was in earlier this year (and in which my father passed away in May). It’s been a tough couple of weeks—and a tough year. Yet, Christmas is still coming!   

If you think about it, however, Christmas was never about a snow-globe world or a “Winter Wonderland.” In fact, the first Christmas was about God’s Son coming into a world that was filled with difficulty, turmoil, and pain. It was about God coming into our world, in spite of all the sin and sorrow.  That first Christmas was about the Kingdom of God breaking into a world that needed healing, comfort, forgiveness, and newness of life. 

That’s why Jesus preached, “The Kingdom of God is near!” He went on to say, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 – NIV)  And, he very purposefully applied to himself the prophet’s words: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 – NIV)  Jesus came into a broken world for broken people. No amount of sin or sorrow could keep him from coming. 

In spite of all that was wrong with our world then, Jesus was born; Christmas came! And, so it will be this year. In spite of all that is wrong with our world—and our lives—Christmas will come.  And as it does, it will remind us that Jesus came for people just like us who are yet living in a world filled with sin, sorrow, and pain.  Jesus came for us. 

I’m glad Christmas is coming!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris