Monday, September 29, 2014

A New Name

For the past few weeks I have been working preparing for a huge conference that will be taking place in a couple of weeks at our church in Flushing, NY. One of my tasks is assigning hotel rooms to over 900 guests from all around the world. In doing so, I have had to read, type, and figure out all kinds of names that are quite foreign to me.  Of course, most of the names of those who are coming from the US, Canada, or Western Europe are not that difficult for me. But some of the names from places like India, Mongolia, Africa and parts of Asia can seem very long and totally unfamiliar.  Those who are coming from Latin America can have multiple names—e.g. a first name, second name, surname, and mother’s maiden name.  And, when it comes to figuring out spouses, many countries around the world do not use our system of sharing one last name.  In the end, I have found the process of reading and processing the many different kinds of names both fascinating and challenging. 

In the Bible, names were and are very important.  No one gave a name to a child just because it sounded nice or was popular at the time.  Rather, names were often words put together to represent something about that child or the circumstances surrounding their birth.  For example, when Joseph of the Old Testament named his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim, it was because the words used to name them represented what God had been doing in his life at that time.  The angel Gabriel told both Mary and Joseph to name their son, “Yeshua” (i.e. Joshua or Jesus), which means from the Hebrew, “The Lord saves!”

In this life, we might carry names that may or may not be the best.  Some of our names are merely nice sounding names. Some of us received names because they were popular at the time or because our parents were trying to be a bit different. Sometimes we get stuck with names we don’t really like.  And as we travel from one part of the world to another, our names may or may not be familiar.  In any case, here is a word of good news for all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ: one day we will all receive a new name! 

Isaiah 62:2 says, “…you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.” (NIV)  And in the book of Revelation Jesus says, “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”  (Revelation 2:17 – NIV)  That is, one day you and I will receive a name from God himself; a name that we will carry with us into all of eternity; a name that will represent the wonderful work that Christ has done in our lives. 

I have no problem with my current name. In fact, I like my name, “Timothy” (which means “to honor God.”—that’s from the Greek!)  But, I look forward to the day God gives to me a new name that he himself has chosen especially for me!  And, he has chosen one for you as well!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stargazing!

One of the things I love about being up in the mountains during the summer is time spent out on a clear night doing a bit of stargazing. Yes, the stars are beautiful here at home, but we often don’t realize how few of them we actually get to see because of the brightness of the lights of the city and surrounding area. Up in the Adirondacks, however, there is little manmade light at night. There the darkness can seem thick and intense. The result is, the number of visible stars just seems to multiply. And not only do we get to see more stars, but the Milky Way is visible, shooting stars are common, and one can follow the satellites across the sky.  It can be absolutely spectacular!  When I am there, I could spend hours just stargazing! 

Last weekend at PIF (Promise International Fellowship), I reminded our congregation that God has called us to “shine like stars.”  Actually the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippians, “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….” (Philippians 2:14-16 – NIV) 

It is true that the world in which we live is a world that is very “crooked and depraved.”  Evil is all around us. There are so many things that do not make sense.  The news seems to get worse by the day. (Yesterday, in fact, we remembered one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.) But the fact is, the darker the environment, the brighter and more visible are the stars. Thus, the darkness of our world becomes our opportunity as followers of Christ, to shine even more brightly for him as we live our lives “blameless and pure,” as we minister to others out of hearts of compassion and generosity, and as we “hold out the word of life.” 

The question I would like to bring to us today is simply this: In the midst of the darkness of our world do our lives offer any light? As people interact with you and me, do they experience any part of the light of Christ? 

Rather than complain about the darkness, let’s penetrate it with the light of Jesus Christ!  Jesus said, “….let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16 – NIV)

Let’s give the people around us a reason to do a bit of stargazing! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

www.pifny.org

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Comeback!

Last night had to have been the pinnacle match of this year’s U.S. Open thus far.  The French player Gael Monfils won the first two sets from Roger Federer. It seemed as if Monfils was doing just about everything right and Federer was doing everything wrong.  Monfils needed one more set to win the match. In fact, in the third set he had his chance with two match points in hand. But as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over till it’s over!” How true that was last night!  Not only did Federer win the points to get out of a terrible match point situation, he went on to win the set and the next two, winning the match.  It was an incredible comeback! 

I’ve learned from watching tennis through the years, never underestimate a true champion. One of their specialties is the comeback. They know how to handle the loss of points, games, even sets. They know how to push through being on the downside until they are back up on top. Their minds are trained to stay focused. Their bodies are trained to keep on going.  Whereas most people would give up and accept defeat, a champion continues to believe that he or she can win the match.  They believe in the comeback. 

In many ways, our Christian faith is all about the comeback.  It’s a comeback that began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When it seemed as if the most tragic defeat had taken place, when everyone had given up all hope of a win, Jesus rose to new life. It was the greatest comeback our world had ever known. 

But, it didn’t stop there. For those who will believe, Jesus’ comeback has brought about the promise for yet more comebacks.  His resurrection has given us the promise of our own resurrection—i.e. when it seems like death has defeated us, we too will overcome death. We have been given the promise that one day his followers (i.e. the “Church”), though in this life oppressed, living as aliens and foreigners in this world, will one day return as the Bride of Christ to rule and reign with him.  And, although at times it seems as if our world is in a downward spiral and ready for defeat, the promise is that one day, Christ will return and make all things right. It will be an incredible comeback!

Even today, the power of Jesus Christ our Champion, is at work in our lives to help us. So, when you and I find ourselves down, feeling as if we are about to be defeated by sin, sorrow, and all the difficulties that our world can bring; when it looks like we are going to lose the match, Jesus, our Champion, comes alongside of us to strengthen us and give us the focus we need to press through. He reminds us that, although we might be down for the moment, there is yet hope, for he is with us. 

It’s no wonder the Apostle Paul could say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 – NIV) and write of “…his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:19 – NIV)

Today, I want to encourage you to put your trust in the greatest Champion of all:  Jesus Christ.  Know that his comeback can be your comeback!

I close with these words: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms….” (Ephesians 1:18-20 – NIV)

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 29, 2014

No Eye Contact

I guess it’s a New York-North Jersey thing, but when walking through the park or on the street, few people, if any, are willing to make eye contact.  It really struck me the other day as I was doing my morning walk at the local park.  As I passed people by, I would look towards them to say, “Good Morning,” but only a small handful of them would actually look my way.  With the large majority of them, I could not make any eye contact at all.  It was as if we were all living in our own little worlds; as if the others around us did not exist.  (Of course, our iPods stuck in our ears don’t help at all!)

I know I might be the odd-man-out, but as I pass by people in the park or on the street, I tend to like to make eye contact and greet them. It’s not about the greeting itself but the fact that it causes us to feel like a community.  We connect to each other as we say as simple, “Good morning” or “Hello.”  Not only that, but when we acknowledge each other, we are reminded that the world around us is bigger than me, myself, and I!  Yet, for those of us who live in this New York metro area we realize that the standard on the street, in the elevator, on the bus or subway is, little to no eye contact.   That’s just the way it is. 

I’m glad, however, that when it comes to our relationship with God, such is not the case.  When we look his way, God always looks back.  As we turn our eyes towards him, he turns towards us with eyes filled with compassion, mercy, and love. 

The Bible instructs us to, “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (1 Chronicles 16:11 – NIV) The Psalmist declared, “But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD….” (Psalm 139:16- NIV)   In response, the Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer….” (1 Peter 3:12 – NIV)  The Lord never turns away from those who look to him. He is always willing to engage with us, even to the point of answering our prayers. In fact, he seeks to make eye contact with us.

I want to encourage you today to make eye contact with God today. Take some time to look towards him, to seek his face, to talk to him.  I’m sure he will gladly and quickly look back your way. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

ww.pifny.org

Monday, August 25, 2014

Anticipating Their Return Home

This past weekend Kim and I moved both Joanna and Nathaniel to their respective colleges. Friday was spent preparing everything for the two moves. Saturday we moved Joanna to Lafayette College in Easton, PA to begin her sophomore year.  Yesterday, Sunday, we took Nathaniel back to The College of NJ in Ewing, NJ to begin his junior year.  It was only a few weeks ago that we did the same for our son, Jonathan, whom we moved to Washington D.C. to begin his graduate work at Catholic University of America.  (As you can imagine, we are pretty tired of packing and unpacking!)

Well, for the time being Kim and I are alone.  The house is now a bit quieter. There will be much less laundry to do, many less dishes to wash, and less food to prepare. We won’t have to wonder whose coming home for dinner and who will not.  There will be no juggling of vehicles and no sound of music pounding from upstairs. Much less milk will be consumed and there will be no asking, “When will you clean your room?”  I know some parents like it that way. For me, although there are times when I do find it easier, I really do miss having my kids around. I end up missing the stream of friends in and out of the house. I miss the added noise. I miss the bits of commotion that can take place. Yes, sometimes I like my space, but I’m not always in favor of the much quieter house.

One thing having my kids away at school causes me to do is, anticipate the times when I will communicate with them and the times when we will see each other. I have already put on my calendar their breaks when they will be coming home.  I am already planning for the times during the semester and year when either I will be able to get to them or they will come home.  And, I am keeping in my mind that at least for a few weeks around Christmas and then at the end of the spring semester, we will once again have our times of commotion and noise as they return for their winter and summer breaks. I’m already anticipating their return home!

All of this makes me wonder what it is like for God, our heavenly Father, as he waits for us his children to come home to his great big “house” that we call “heaven.”  Before he left, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)  In other words, Jesus is preparing a place in God’s house for each of God’s children. One day we will all head home to be with our heavenly Father forever.  I’m sure there will be lots of noise and maybe even some commotion as we enter our new home. I tend to think that when we arrive our Father will give each of us a great big, “Welcome home!” In the meantime, it seems to me, our Father is waiting for us with great anticipation. 

So today, as I adjust to not having my kids at home and begin to anticipate their return home later in the year, I am encouraging myself to realize that in much the same way our heavenly Father is anticipating the day in which you and I, and all of his children, arrive at his house to be with him forever!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris