Friday, July 18, 2014

The Middle of the Summer

Here we are in the middle of the summer, a time of year I really do love.  I like the fact that some of the regular routines of the rest of the year are broken.  I enjoy the added moments with my family, especially the times we get to go away together.  I like being able to run outside without having to bundle up in boots and a heavy coat.   I love seeing the trees filled with green and the flowers that continue to grow.  I like cooking dinner on the grill.  And I like the opportunity summer brings to reflect on my life and the months that have just passed.  To me, summer is a great time of year. 

I have found, however, that summer is not only a time to rest, relax, and reflect. It is also a time to look forward and begin to anticipate what is to come.  Although the calendar year begins in January, for many of us the real start to our year is September as we go back to school, begin our church ministry year, come back from vacation and begin to dive in deeper to our life and work.  For me, the summer is just that, a time to prepare and look ahead.  And as I do, I realize I need God to guide me and help me plan according to his will for my life and ministry.  I need godly discernment in order to make the right decisions and set the right priorities. As I look ahead and begin to plan for the coming year (i.e. September 2014 through August 2015), I need godly wisdom. 

So here in the middle of the summer, as I reflect back on this past year and begin to look forward to the coming year, I am asking God for his wisdom.  I’m asking God to help me make the right choices, to set the right priorities, to plan my calendar and life according to his good and perfect will.

The Apostle James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”  (James 1:5 – NIV)  So here in the middle of the summer, I am praying for wisdom as I anticipate the upcoming year.  I want to encourage you to do the same.  As we do, I know he will answer our prayer. 

“Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”  (Proverbs 24:14 – NIV) 

Have a great day!  Enjoy your summer! 

Pastor Tim Harris

www.pifny.org

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Week of Birthdays

On my side of the family, June 16th through the 20th is a week of birthdays.  The history is as follows:  My sister Lois’ daughter, Mariel, was born on June 20, 1994. The following year my daughter Joanna was born on June 17.  The year after that, my other sister Faith’s son, Danny was born on June 18. Then a few years later my brother John’s son, Nathan was born on June 16, 2008.  Finally, John’s fourth son, Levi, who was scheduled to come on June 20, filled in the gap and was born on June 19, 2013. (I think I have that all right!) That makes five birthdays in a row among the 16 cousins!  At this point it is impossible to celebrate all the birthdays together.  Yet, we try our best to recognize each of the birthdays, at least with a phone call.  And, last night we did celebrate the two girls’ birthdays together, that is Joanna’s and Mariel’s, with dinner and a cake.

It seems like everyone loves to celebrate a birthday.  Even for those of us who are getting a little older and would rather not be reminded of another year being added onto our age, we still enjoy having a day that is somewhat our own.  Even if we don’t make too big a deal out of it, just a couple of cards or a cake and maybe a bunch of Facebook greetings, can make the day feel special.  And, to make someone else feel special on their birthday seems like an even greater pleasure. 

As much as we love to celebrate the day we were born into this world, the Bible speaks of an even more important birthday: the day we are born into the Kingdom of God.  Jesus speaks of being, “born again.” The Apostle Peter wrote of the “new birth.”  In fact, Jesus says, “no one can see the Kingdom of God, unless he is born again.” (John 3:3 – NIV) That is, in order to enter God’s Kingdom one must not only experience a physical start to life, but as well a spiritual one. This is the moment when, in a very real sense, all of life starts over as God forgives us of our sin and begins to form us into the “new creations” that the Bible tells us we can become.  In essence, each of us should be able to celebrate two birthdays!

I am thankful today for the new birth that God has offered to us through Christ so that “the old is gone; the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 3:14 – NIV)  And, I hope and pray that each of you know what that means to celebrate two birthdays—the day you were born in this world and the day you were born into the Kingdom of God! 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead….”  (1 Peter 1:3 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Affirmation

Today is my first Father’s Day without my dad.  In honor of my dad who passed away on May 7 of this year and in honor of all the dad’s out there, I want to share this article I wrote on my father’s 80th birthday:

I didn’t really know how much I wanted or needed my father’s approval and affirmation until I finally received it.  Let me explain. 

From my early teen years on, I knew I had been called by God to the ministry.  As a high school senior, however, I realized that my father would not approve of me going to Bible school. He wanted me to have an education and a career that would provide more stability than that which a life of ministry can promise.  And, I know he wanted to protect me from the hurts that he had so often seen church people bring upon a pastor and his family. Mostly, however, I thought that he didn’t believe that I could be an effective pastor and preacher. 

After graduating college and then working for a few years, God’s call on my life became so strong that I finally made the decision to leave my job and go full-time to seminary to study for the ministry—in spite of the fact that I thought my father would probably still not approve.  I had come to that place in life in which I knew I had to do what God was calling me to do, whether or not I had my father’s approval.  I even told myself I didn’t need his approval. 

Time went on.  I finished an M.Div. Program and went on to serve as an associate pastor and then for seven years as a senior pastor.  After close to eleven years of ministry, I had the opportunity to preach at my home church.  It was in fact, the first time since I had been in full-time ministry that my parents heard me preach.  Following that service something happened that I did not expect. My father came to me, put his arms around me and said, “You’re a really good preacher.  You’re doing what you should be doing”  

With those words, I sensed my father’s affirmation.  And, at that moment I felt a weight lift off my shoulders that I didn’t even know had been there, giving me a new confidence to do what God had called me to do.  Most of all, I learned that day the amazing power that’s found in a father’s affirmation. 

My guess is that all of us have built within us a deep-seated need for a father’s approval.  Sometimes that need may lead us to carry a weight that can burden us or cause us to live our lives in unhealthy ways.  There are times when we must move on with life whether or not we have our father’s approval—and whether or not we will ever receive it.  But, it may also be that very same drive that can cause us live our lives in such a way that we receive the affirmation of our heavenly Father. 

This week my father is turning 80 years old.  I do greatly appreciate all that he did for me as I was growing up – providing, protecting, looking out for what he felt was in my best interest.  I want to do all that I can to honor him during this season of his life.  I want to make sure, however, that my life is lived not just for his approval.  I want to live in such a way that one day my heavenly Father will say to me, “This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased!”

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 6, 2014

Home From College

It’s been a few weeks now since my two younger children, Nathaniel and Joanna, have been home from college. (Jonathan is yet away in Nicaragua.)  So, once again, Kim and I are adjusting to having a full house, even as they are making their adjustment to living back home with their parents. We have had to adjust to the added shopping, cooking, and cleaning, the juggling of cars, the conflicting and intertwining schedules.  There is more waiting for the shower, the wondering where all the food went, and at times the added noise. For their part, they are adjusting to having their parents looking over their shoulders and asking them where they are going and what time they will be home. (I know it’s not always easy for them—but that’s what parents do!)

If you know me at all, you know I am not complaining.  I love having my kids home and I am more than willing to make whatever adjustments are necessary.  It’s just that every time they go back to college, Kim and I have to adjust to living without them in the house. Each time they come home from college, we have to readjust to them being with us. I guess it’s just a normal part of life: parents adjusting to their growing children and those same children adjusting to a new kind of relationship with their parents.

If you think about it, that’s just how life is: a constant series of changes calling for us to constantly make adjustments. We are always facing changing situations that require us to adjust our lives, our routines, our reactions, our expectations.  Our children grow-up; our parents age. Our company moves; our position is dissolved.  Friends move on; a loved one dies. We live in an ever-changing world, thus the situations and circumstances of life that call for us to make adjustments, is endless. 

Yet, I am reminded that in the midst of all the changes of life, the Bible speaks of God as One “….who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 – NIV)  God says of himself, “I the Lord do not change.” (Malachi 3:6—NIV) Thus, in the midst of all the changes that life brings and all the adjustments we are forced to make, there is One upon whom we can always rely, One who will always be there, One who will always be the same. God is our constant in the midst of our ever-changing world. 

I am learning that in the midst of all the changes that continue to take place in my life, the best thing I can do is lean upon our never-changing God.  He is able to help me through the changes and give me grace to make the necessary adjustments.  I know the same will be true for you. 

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 30, 2014

A New Normal

Those who regularly read this Pastor’s devotion blog know that, the past few months have been quite difficult for me.  My dad’s illness and subsequent passing became the focal point of my life—and, in some ways still are.  One of the side-affects of his illness was that my regular routines and daily and weekly schedules were thrown into disarray.  For the past few months, I didn’t eat the same, go to the office when I normally do, or maintain my exercise routine.  I didn’t even write this devotional blog as regularly as I normally do.  It was quite difficult to do life as usual as long as I was in the midst of the crisis.  At the time, my dad’s care was all that mattered, and rightfully so. 

It’s now been about three weeks since my dad went to be with the Lord.  And, with the passing of time, life is starting to get back to normal—although one might call it a “new normal.”  The routines and patterns are starting to reappear.  The daily, weekly, and even monthly cycles are falling back into place, albeit with some adjustments.  I have begun to exercise again. I’ve gone back to most of my regular work schedule.  And, I am once again writing this blog on a Friday morning—my usual time to do so.  I must admit, it feels good to be back into some sort of routine. 

Life seems to be a precious balance between the routines and interruptions, the normal and the crisis, the expected and the unexpected. For the most part we live our lives in the regular routines of life. Yet, we know at any moment a crisis may occur that turns our life upside-down.  When the unexpected happens, our lives are thrown off balance and our routines quickly dissipate.   That which was normal is forced to become a “new normal. ” as we attempt to readjust our lives and create for ourselves some sort of stability.

As hard as it can be to have our lives turned upside-down, I have found that, with God’s help balance can be regained. The old routines of life, along with some new ones (and probably better ones), can reappear.  The grace of God at work in one’s life, is able to help create a “new normal” that is, in many ways, better than the old one. Life will never again be the same, but it is not meant to be so. Rather, through the crises and pain, God works to bring about a strength and character and hope that we may not have known before. He leads us into a “new normal” that is far better than the old one. 

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5 – NIV)

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris