Friday, July 29, 2016

The Privilege of Being a Pastor

Next week it will be one year since my family and I came to our “new church,” Shrewsbury First Assembly (SFA). I can’t believe how time has flown by!  Through this year, we’ve settled into a new home, gotten to know a new part of New Jersey (especially the beaches!), and most of all have begun to pastor a new group of people. It’s been a privilege to get to know the people of SFA and begin to minister to them and lead them.  I feel honored to be in this place, at this time, with this part of God’s people.  I recognize God’s grace and kindness towards me in allowing me to serve as pastor of this church. 

I say all of this because it is easy for us as pastors to take our role for granted. We often fail to realize the importance of what God has called us to, and the privilege that is ours in serving his church.  And, we get distracted from what it is God has called us to do. Overtime, I have come to realize that God has not first of all called me to be a church growth expert, administrator, or CEO. God has called me to be a pastor—i.e. shepherd. That means leading, nurturing, and caring for the “sheep.”  It means leading those under my care where they need to go, giving them that which they need to eat for their own health and strength, and protecting them from harm.  The role of the pastor is not first of all that of fundraiser, motivator, or committee chairman. The pastor is to be a shepherd to the sheep. 

Moses understood the need for shepherds for God’s people.  In Numbers 27, he asked God to appoint someone to take his place after his death, “to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Numbers 27:17-18 – NIV) Still today, God’s people need those who will serve as shepherds. 

I know that no church is perfect.  After all, churches are made up of imperfect people—including the pastor.  But, together we are on a journey of faith with Christ and with each other. Together we seek to accomplish God’s will for our lives, families, and community.  Together we strive to become the people God desires for us to be.  And, it is my privilege as a pastor to be a key player in all of that. It is my honor to be given the task of leading God’s people, shepherding them towards that which God has prepared for them, and helping them grow in their faith and love. 

So, thank you SFA for allowing me to be your pastor. And, thank you God for the blessing and privilege of living my life in this sacred position. It’s a privilege to be a pastor.

God bless you all. Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Ride of Your Life!

Last week my brother John and his family came to visit.  That meant going to the beach (of course!) for the afternoon with him, his wife, Kivian, and their four young boys. When we got to the ocean the waves were perfect for the kids to ride their boogey boards—not too big, but coming fast.  So after a bit, John and I took his two oldest boys down to the area where they were allowed to ride. 

I watched for a bit as my nephews, Landon and Nathan, tried to get their board out beyond the breaking waves in order to get a ride. At their size, working against the force of the waves was tough. Not only that, but it seemed they couldn’t fully get on the board.  So, I decided to help out.  Taking Nathan by the hand, I told him to hold onto the board and I would hold onto him until we got further out.  As the waves beat against me, I pulled Nathan up and over the on-coming waves till we got out to where the larger waves were coming in.  When we were out at the right spot, I helped Nathan get fully on the board, and at just the right moment gave him a push to get him ahead of the wave. The result was the ride of his life as Nathan went flying all the way up to the beach.  When the ride was over, he got off the board screaming with excitement!  Then it was time to give Landon a ride; and then, a few more rides for each of them. I have to say, their excitement became my excitement!

Not to compare myself to God, but I can’t help but believe that God does the very same for us.  So often we find ourselves struggling against the currents and waves of life. We seem not to be able to make any progress.  But God steps in, takes us by the hand and pulls us through. The result is, we find ourselves being pulled up and over those things that would normally knock us over and keep us down. Not only that, but it’s not unlike God to not just get us through, but to give us an incredible “ride”—a life filled with blessing, excitement, and his life!

Today, you might feel like the challenges of your life are pushing against you and about to knock you down. You may be struggling to make even the smallest bit of progress.  If so, I want to encourage you to put your trust in God. Allow him to pull you through.  Allow him to take you to where he knows you need to be. You just may end up with the ride of your life!

“…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.”  (Isaiah 40:31 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, July 8, 2016

No Words

I have no words when I think about…

Black families who mourn the loss of two more of their own as they wonder whether or not their son will be next;

Police officers and their families who mourn for their brothers slain—and who now fear for their own lives as they serve our cities;  

A people wherein racial divides have long outlived the laws passed to eradicate them;

A nation in which there will be no moral and ethical options offered in the voting booth come this November; 

A society that asks us to, not only accept what we know to be wrong, but as well to celebrate it;

A culture that entertains itself with violence, sex, cynicism, sarcasm, and things that degrade the weakest and most vulnerable among us;

A world in which evil continues to dominate and at times almost blocks out the light; 

A church that is more concerned with its programs, politics, and protecting its own interests than in the people to whom it was called to bring the good news of the gospel.  

I have no words.
But, I pray and speak to the One who does…the One who has “the words of eternal life.” 

“Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  (John 6:68)

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of...."

This weekend we will celebrate our nation’s 240th “birthday!”  July 4th is the day that we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our nation’s founders.  Included in that document is the sentence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”   Our government was founded on the principle that every person, being equal to all other persons, has the right to pursue, and thus hopefully experience, those three virtues that are mentioned: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

I tend to think, however, in today’s environment we have especially misunderstood and misinterpreted that final virtue, “Happiness.”  We have taken that phrase, “the pursuit of Happiness,” far beyond what was in the minds of our founders.  Whereas, they considered a life of happiness to mean having the basic necessities of life in order to live life without continual struggle, today our definition of “happiness” is a life of pleasure, sensuality, and greed.  Happiness is no longer based on having the necessities of life and experiencing the joys of God-given relationships. Today happiness is getting all you can even at the expense of someone else’s happiness.  Our concept of happiness is often very individualistic and selfish—i.e. my happiness is more important than your happiness.  Thus, we find ourselves living in a society that often takes advantage of the weakest among us, objectifies women, produces entertainment that distorts morality; a society in which sexual pleasure at all costs is deified; a society that is so filled with greed that our financial, judicial, and political systems continually fall prey to corruption. 

Jesus never taught us to pursue “Happiness.”  Rather, Jesus taught us a totally different way of life. In that portion of scripture we call, “The Sermon on the Mount,” he teaches us to seek after humility, selflessness, and those things that go beyond this life.  He called us to pursue righteousness, mercy, purity, peace, and justice.

The intent of our nation’s founders, when they wrote that each person has the right to pursue “Happiness,” was right and true.  But, in our sinfulness we have taken that phrase and used it as an excuse to purse all kinds of ungodliness.  May we return to the heart of what our founders had in mind.  More than that, may we return to that which God has had in mind for our lives and for our nation!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Matthew 6:33 – NIV) 

Have a blessed Independence Day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Good Steady Rain

We have surely been enjoying a lot of really nice weather here in New Jersey this past month. That has meant warm sunny days with very little rain—great for going to the beach, graduations, and early summer barbeques.  However, the lack of rain is already having a negative affect and is obvious when one looks at our lawns. Whereas in June our lawns are usually a bright green and growing at a rapid pace, they are already looking more like August lawns with that touch of brown.  Everything already seems to be a bit dry.

The reason I’m so aware of our lack of rain is that, last week I put grass seed down. I was hoping for a good solid rain to come quickly so I could avoid having to water the lawn.  But that did not happen. In fact, yesterday we were supposed to get some substantial rain but it seemed to stay south of us and all we got was a sprinkle.  So, I had to pull out the hose and sprinkler to water the lawn, hoping the seed will begin to grow.  I’m still hoping that, in the next week, we’ll receive a good steady rain.

I’m reminded today of times in my life when I’ve experienced those dry spells when I was in desperate need of some “rain.” I’m not speaking about the lack of physical rain, but a time in one’s life when you feel empty, lacking vitality, maybe far from God…just kind of dry. We all face those times when we need some refreshing; seasons when we are in need of something to restore life within us; seasons when we are hoping for a good, steady “rain.”

To a nation of people who were feeling just like that, the prophet Hosea wrote these words:  Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3 – NIV)

The Bible shows us, that good steady rain is found in the presence of God! God's presence is able to take that which is drying up and bring about a new sense of life. All you and I need to do is look to him and call upon his name.

So, today if you are feeling kind of dry, ask God him to step into your life. You will soon find the good steady rain of his presence being poured out upon you.

“Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”  (Joel 2:23 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Valley of Tears

This past week has surely been a sad week for our nation, and especially for the people of Orlando.  It began last weekend with the senseless shooting of Christina Grimmie, a young woman who loved God and had so much potential to do so much good with her life.  Christina’s death, however, was quickly overshadowed in the news by the horrific killing of 49 people at the Pulse Night Club early Sunday morning.  All of that was followed by the extremely sad news of the death of a two year-old boy as he was snatched and drowned by an alligator while at a Disney resort beach.  This city known for its amusements, entertainment, and happy faces became what might be described as “a valley of tears.” 

I myself couldn’t help but feel a sense of great sadness as we were bombarded by one terrible news story after another.  And, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the fact that, in each of these cases, those affected by what took place, were in one moment enjoying themselves—probably laughing and smiling—and in the next moment they were filled with pain, fear, and grief.  One moment they seemed to be living life to the max, in the next, they were face to face with death.  Life quickly became for each of them and those around them “a valley of tears.” 

Unfortunately, that is the kind of world in which we live.  It’s so hard for any of us to fully understand it. But, our world and our lives are a delicate balance of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, good and bad.  One moment can quickly take us from one extreme to the other. The sin and evil of our world can very suddenly cast their shadow over our lives. Laughing turns to tears in but a moment in time.

The Psalmist wrote about the “valley of tears” in Psalm 84.  His words picture God’s people on a journey through life, during which they pass through a very, very difficult place (i.e. the “Valley of Tears”). But, in that place they find strength and even eventual blessing as they trust in God and set their hearts on him. 
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka (Tears), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”  (Psalm 84:5-7) 

As you go through your life and pass through your own “valley of tears,” I want to encourage you to not give up on your faith. Rather, look to the One from whom you are able to receive the strength and grace you need; the One who is able to take your tears and turn them into springs of blessing; the One who has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. 

And, let’s pray for the people of Orlando, for our nation, and for our world! Surely, so many people need to come to Jesus Christ and learn of his comfort, love, and grace—especially as they pass through the “valley of tears.” 

“Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Psalm 84:12)

Pastor Tim Harris