Friday, March 24, 2017

The Drooping Daffodils!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the daffodils that had sprung up at the end of February outside of our church office. For me, they were “a taste of spring” (as I entitled that week’s Pastor’s devotion), breeding hope for that which was to come. How quickly things can change, especially the weather.  Since that time, we have had below normal temperatures and even a snowstorm!  The result is, the daffodils are now drooping to the point of no recovery!  Not only that but, many of us have become a bit frustrated, as we want spring to finally get here!

Our daffodils after the snowstorm!
We all know how quickly life can change—not just the weather.  One day we are feeling like those daffodils in the midst of warm temperatures, bathing ourselves in the sun and lifting our heads up high. Then without warning, things come our way that we never expected could happen to us and, not only are our heads drooping, but so are our spirits.  Like the sudden deep freeze or Nor’easter that seems to come out of nowhere, so we are hit with the stuff of life that saps our strength and causes us our hearts to sag.  The question becomes, how will we ever recover?  Where will we find the strength that we need to continue on in life?   

The Psalmist wrote these words, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  (Psalm 73:26 – NIV) During a time in his life when he felt his spirit beginning to sag, the Psalmist knew where to turn and from whom his strength could be renewed.

You may feel as if your body and spirit (i.e. heart) are failing; as if you are being weakened by the stuff of life. If so, I want to encourage you to turn to God. He has all that you need. He is able to lift up your head and your spirit, renewing your hope and strength—a strength that comes from his heart to yours. 

By the way, spring is yet coming! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Careful Diet?

Recently, I met with a trainer at the gym for a free training session. (Of course, they want to sell you more sessions.)  We spoke about my goals and my diet.  Then the trainer printed out for me a diet he wanted me to try.  When I got home, I read it through and realized that there was no way in the world I could follow this particular diet.   It included no grains, no legumes (i.e. no beans—not even peanut butter!), no dairy, and almost no carbs at all.  All this diet allowed you to eat was lots of meat, vegetables, and fruit.  I realized that there was no way in the world I could keep such a diet.  It would mean not being able to enjoy a meal with my family or with friends—constantly saying “no” to all kinds of food.  My whole life would become consumed by what I could and couldn’t eat.  (And, it would make Kim and kids crazy!)

Now, this past year I began to exercise and watch my diet to a degree unlike I have ever done in the past.  For the most part, I’ve tried to be much more careful about what I put into my body.  I’ve cut back on a lot of the sweets and carbs I love so much.  And, I have added more protein, fruits, and vegetables to my diet. My goal is to be stronger and healthier.  Yes, I want to eat right.  But, I don’t want my whole life to become focused on food.  I try to be careful about my diet, but I don’t want it to become the primary aspect of my life. 

In Mark 7, Jesus was dealing with a group of religious leaders whose lives had become consumed by what they put into their bodies.  They made sure they were eating the right foods. They even had certain ways of cleaning their dishes and washing their hands to make sure that they didn’t put any impurities into their bodies. Their lives were totally centered upon what went into their bodies.  Jesus points out, however, they were totally missing the point of the Law. He points out that purity before God is not about what one puts into their body, but what comes out of one’s life. 

Jesus said, Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles themFor it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:15, 21-22 – NIV)

I’m all for eating the right foods and being as strong and healthy as possible.  Yes, I will do my best to be careful about my diet.  But, Jesus’ challenge to me, and to you, is to be much more careful about what comes out of our lives.  Jesus’ words remind us that God has called us to be people out of whose lives flow grace, generosity, kindness, peace, truth, compassion, love—and all of the fruit of the Spirit!  He is much more interested in what comes out than in what goes in! 

Yes, let’s be careful as to what we eat. But, lets be much more careful about how we live!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 10, 2017

Beyond Borders!

At our church, we are currently in the midst of our annual missions convention. Our theme this year, as handed down to us through the Assemblies of God is, “Beyond Borders.”  Throughout this past week we have heard of God taking men and women and their families far beyond the borders of their lives here in the U.S.—taking them to the far reaches of our world; to places that I can sometimes hardly find on a map. It’s incredible to hear where they are living, what they have faced, and most of all the walls that God has broken down for them to preach the gospel.  

Now, I am not trying to get political in any way, but considering the rhetoric in our nation in recent months, I find the theme that has been handed down to us to be a bit ironic.  After all, it was probably at least two to three years ago, long before the current rhetoric, that the Assemblies of God leadership in our missions department chose the theme for this year and began producing the banners, videos, music, and other items we use in our churches for our missions conventions.  When the writers of the theme song wrote the words: “We built our walls around ourselves, drew lines around our nations; There’s us and everybody else, dividing up creation….” they had no idea that across our own nation there would be renewed talk about building a wall on our southern border, a stronger emphasis on the deportation of illegal immigrants, and putting into place a ban on immigration from certain parts of the world.  All I can say is, I find it to be very ironic to the point that I fear someone in the church may think that our missions theme this year was meant to be a political statement of some sort!  That, it is not!

The message of this year’s missions theme, however, is as pertinent as ever to the church of Jesus Christ.  Through it, I am reminded that, although there will always be a need for national security and the well-being of one’s own nation (whatever nation that may be), the ultimate call for the Church all around the world is to reach out to the peoples of our world with compassion and the preaching of the gospel.  Sometimes that means going to them. And, sometimes God may bring them to us.  Either way, we are challenged to go beyond borders—the borders of governments, culture, language, fear, and prejudice—to reach people of all nations with the incredible grace and love our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible speaks of, “…Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7 – NIV)  That is, Jesus Christ has set for us the perfect example of what it means to go beyond borders as he crossed from heaven to earth and became one of us—humbling himself to become not just a man, but a servant to all men. 

I pray that God would use each of us to reach people around us and around our world with the incredible good news of Jesus!  Let’s be people who know what it means to go “Beyond Borders!”

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Foretaste of Spring!

I don’t know about you, but I am done with winter and ready for spring!  Well, earlier this week, hope was birthed in me for I experienced a little foretaste of that which is to come.  As I drove up to my office here at the church, I noticed that the daffodils along the side of our office building had bloomed!  As I looked at them I realized it was still only February (actually it was February 28) and spring was yet almost a month a way!  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen daffodils, nor any other flowers, bloom so early in the season.  But, those daffodils said to me, spring is on its way! 

Daffodils blooming by the office. Picture taken February 28th 
Today it’s much colder out; winter has come back for at least a few days.  Yet, as I once again saw those daffodils this morning, they seemed to continue to say, winter is almost past; the longer, warmer days of spring and summer are almost here! In fact we might say, those daffodils are a little taste of what is ahead.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we look forward to the day in which we will enter into eternity with him; the day in which we will experience the light and warmth of his glory. In the meantime, however, we often find ourselves living in a world that can seem like a very long winter. As C.S. Lewis put it, ours feels like a world that is “always winter but never Christmas” (“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”).  Yet, God gives to us a foretaste of what is ahead; a means to keep on looking ahead filled with faith and hope.  As the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and Christ takes up residence within us, God begins to fill us even now with the light and warmth of his glory.    

So, the Apostle Paul wrote of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 –NIV)  Elsewhere he wrote, He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – NIV) 

Your life might feel like winter today, but know that God has guaranteed to you, and to all who believe, an eternity filled with the light and warmth of his glory!  Even now, he wants to give you a foretaste of that which is ahead as you entrust your life to him.  He wants to fill you with hope. After all, spring is on its way!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rough Trails

Last weekend, my family and I went out to Sourland Mountain Preserve in Somerset County for the first time.  While my sons, Jonathan and Nathaniel, spent the day bouldering (which is why we ended up going there; they have patches of great big boulders that are well known in the area for “bouldering”), Kim and I, along with our daughter-in-law Danielle, did some hiking. It was a beautiful day to be outside, far different than it ought to have been in February. Who would have thought we would have been hiking, as we were this time of year?  Yet (and I don’t mean to complain), the trails were not my favorite to hike.  In fact, the trails were kind of rough, not because they were particularly strenuous, but for a number of other reasons. 

    Jonathan & Nathaniel "bouldering! 

For one, in many spots the trails were quite muddy (which is to be expected in February). Thus, at times we had to make our way off the trail into the brush.  Where they weren’t muddy, the trails were filled with sharp and jagged rocks, which made them uncomfortable to walk on.  Finally, the trails were not well marked. Time and again we found ourselves looking at our map trying to figure out where we were and which way we needed to go to get to our destination.  Overall, they were, what I would consider to be rough trails to hike.

We all know that, sometimes life puts before us some pretty rough trails.  We can find ourselves having to walk some paths that can be quite uncomfortable—paths filled with all kinds of obstacles and which, at times, can be unclear.  You know what I mean: the terrible diagnosis from the doctor, the loss of a job, the aging of a parent, the baby that cannot be conceived…and the list can go on and on.  Time and again we find ourselves walking down trails we never imagined we would have to walk.  Some of you are walking those rough trails even today. 

I want to encourage you not to give, nor fall into despair.  Rather, continue to trust God as you recall his Word to us--promises to take us through and get us to our final destination; promise like:

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:4 – NIV)

“I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16 – NIV)

Sometimes we may find ourselves walking some rough trails, but let’s trust God to help us each step of the way. He can make the rough places smooth.  And, he will always be with us every step of the way!

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  (Psalm 23:3-4 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris