Friday, January 29, 2016

A Semester Abroad

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost two weeks since our daughter, Joanna, left for her study abroad semester in Vienna, Austria.  It’s a weird feeling to have your child that far away, so far out of reach, for the very first time.  This time of year she would normally be back at college, about an hour and a half away.  Although we wouldn’t see her much throughout the semester, communication was easier and it felt like she was within reach.  Now there’s a whole ocean plus half a continent between us. (She seems even further out of reach than when our son, Jonathan, was living in Costa Rica and then Nicaragua for a whole year!)  

Of course, Kim and I are glad for Joanna. We know she’s going to have a great experience.  This really is an opportunity of a lifetime!  Are we nervous about all the things that could happen? Maybe just a bit. Yes, we know that there are a lot of things happening in Europe these days.  But we wouldn’t want her to live her life based on fear.  As her parents, the best we can do is entrust her wellbeing into the hands of God, believing that he loves our daughter so much more than we ever could. Joanna may be spending a semester abroad, far from our watch and care. When it comes to God, however, she is still within his watch, his reach,  and his care.

Jesus said, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27 – NIV)  Peter wrote, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7 – NLT) 

The exhortation of Scripture is for us to trust in God’s care.  Does that mean that nothing bad could ever happen to her or to any of our children—or, to us?  Of course not! But it does mean that God sees all things, is always with us, and really does care about us. Thus, we entrust our lives and the lives of our loved ones into his hands, resting in the knowledge that we serve a God who values each one of us and will continue to watch over our lives.  

Whatever it is you are concerned about today; whomever it is you are concerned about today, I want to encourage you to place every situation and every person into the hands of the our heavenly Father.   Know that he truly does love and care for both you and them. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 22, 2016

Are You Ready?

With a huge nor’easter moving up the coast, people from Virginia through New York are flooding the stores, starting up their snow blowers, taking out the ice melt, and taking stock of their in-home inventory. Our nice, easy-going winter is over.  With the storm approaching, everyone wants to be ready for the worst. 

We’ve been doing our share of preparations in our home as well.  After all, like you, we don’t want to find the snow blower isn’t starting or the shovels are missing or we’re out of gas, just when we need them to be on hand.  We don’t want to find ourselves short of food, without a flashlight that works, or without a movie on hand!  And so, we prepare.  We all want to be ready.

When I was a teenager there was a popular Christian song entitled, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”  The song, written in the past tense, described the coming of Jesus at the end of time, in what we call “the rapture.”  It spoke about the difficulties of the last days here on earth and of the day Jesus came. Some people were taken to be with him; others were left behind.  Some were ready for his coming; others were not.  The song ends with these words: “There’s no time to change your mind; The Son has come and you’ve been left behind…I wish we’d all been ready!”

Jesus said, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” (Matthew 24:42-44 – NLT) His call was to prepare ourselves for his coming; to make sure we are all ready!

I ask you a very simple question today: Are you ready? Ready not just for another snowstorm, but ready for the return of Jesus!  Are you ready for the day when he will come and take his people home to be with himself forever?   I hope we’ll all be ready!

Have a great day…stay warm and safe!  And, to those of you reading this from warmer climates, enjoy and be grateful!

God bless.

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Maintenance Schedule

If you’ve ever driven a new car off the lot, you know that with the car, the dealer gives to you a maintenance schedule. And we all know that, if we begin to neglect our cars they very quickly begin to deteriorate—sometimes beyond repair! The same is true for our physical bodies—they too need regular check-ups, service, and maintenance. That is why your doctor will try to impress on you the importance of returning at least once a year for a full physical and of the importance of eating right, getting enough exercise, and doing all the other things necessary to maintain a healthy body. 

This morning, as I sit here at the Toyota dealership waiting for my car to be serviced, I’m reminded of the importance of the regular check-ups, service, and maintenance that we do for our cars as well as for our bodies.  More than that, I’m reminded that the same is needed for our spiritual lives. They too need a regular maintenance schedule. Our spiritual lives as well need regular check-ups, service, and maintenance. If we begin to neglect the spiritual part of our lives, they as well will begin to deteriorate and quickly spiral downward. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.”  (1 Timothy 4:16 – NIV)  Jude wrote, “But you, dear friends, by building ourselves up in your up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit keep yourselves in Gods love….” (Jude 1:20-21 – NIV)  Throughout the scriptures, we are encouraged to keep watch over our lives (do regular check-ups) and to be proactive, doing that which is necessary to keep ourselves spiritually healthy (the service and maintenance). 

Maybe today, some of us need to do a bit of a check-up asking questions like: What is my heart like? How is my relationship with God these days? Am I living the way God would have me live?  And, maybe some of us need to do some service and/or maintenance: spending a bit more time in prayer and in the scriptures; repairing a broken relationship; looking for new ways to live out the love of God; making a new commitment to serving those around us. 

In the end, I want to encourage each of us to make sure we treat our spiritual lives with as much care as we do our cars and physical bodies.  Let’s put into place a regular maintenance schedule. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 8, 2016

All Year Long!

This week I know I need to tackle what I consider to be the hardest job of the year: taking down the Christmas decorations.  Yes, it means a few hours of work as we once again pull out the boxes and storage bins, re-wrap all the fragile pieces, and try to put the lights away in such a way that they don’t come out a tangled mess next year (although they always seem to do!).  But, this is not the hardest job of the year because of the labor involved. Rather, it is hard because of what it signifies. 

At the end of November and on into December, everything around us is moving towards Christmas and the holiday season. With great excitement we pull down the boxes and bins, set up the tree, and gather the family to decorate it.  We put the wreath on the front door, set up the lights for neighbors and visitors to see, all in the hope of bringing a sense of joy and celebration to those who pass by.  And the momentum continues to build through the shopping, the parties, dinners, and special services.  But before we know it, Christmas (and New Year’s Day) is over and it’s time to take down the decorations. And, it’s this task that that signifies to me (and probably to most of us) that the season has come to an end. At that point we plunge into the next couple of months of winter without the lights and decorations of Christmas to offset the darkness and cold of the season! 

I’m reminded, however, of a song that Christian artist Larnelle Harris recorded a number of years ago entitled, “All Year Long.”  It tells the story of a dad and his son taking down their Christmas tree. As they do, the little boy asks, “Do we store away Jesus too?”  In response the father explains that the gift of Jesus’ birth and the salvation he brought can never be stored away.  The lyrics to the chorus are as follows:

All year long; We must worship day by day
All year long; Tis the season to obey
May the Christmas tree lights;
And the sleigh rides at night
Remind us all to stay in God's presence
All year long!

The Apostle Paul wrote,  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love…indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 – NLT) And, that includes the taking down of Christmas decorations! 

Let’s be reminded today, the decorations and the celebrations may be seasonal. But, God’s love is for all year long!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Time to Look Forward!

As we come to the eve of a new year, most of us our looking forward towards 2016 with all kinds of hope and expectation.  Some of us are looking forward to graduating or towards a marriage or the birth of a baby.  Some of us are hoping to make some progress with our exercise plan or diet.  Others are hoping for a new job or financial stability.  Some of us are simply hoping 2016 will be better than 2015. 

The eve of a new year is just naturally a time of hope and expectation. It is a time to look forward. Unfortunately, however, there are many people who, after hoping and dreaming for so many years and not having their hopes and dreams realized, have given up on hope.  They have thrown in the proverbial towel on hope. Thus, they no longer look forward. They no longer dream of what might be, could be, or should be. If that is you, I want to encourage you to know that we serve a God who always brings new hope. He is a God who calls us to look forward—to look ahead with great expectation—and who gives us reason to do so!

Through the prophet Isaiah, God said to his people, during a time when they had given up hope, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 – NIV) As the Apostle Paul put it, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!” (1 Corinthians 2:9 – NLT)  Notice, God calls his people to look forward filled with hope and expectation not based on their current situation or based on what they were able to accomplish. He calls them to look forward based on who he is and what he is able to do for his people. 

It’s true that life does not always work out the way we thought it would. Maybe 2015 revealed that to you. But that does not mean that God is done with you.  And, it does not mean that your life will always be as it is today.  God is yet at work and is more than able to do something new in your life. So, as you step into this new year, put your trust in God. I know he is able to fill you with new hope, making this a time to look forward. 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13 – NLT)   

Have a great day and a blessed New Year! 

Pastor Tim Harris