Friday, April 17, 2015

Google Maps and Traffic Reports

Because I travel back and forth to Queens from New Jersey at least five times per week, I have become very dependent on two tools to help me find the best and quickest route there and back: Google maps and the live radio traffic reports.  With Google maps I can turn on the traffic function and look for the colors on the main roadways.  Green means the traffic is flowing well, yellow that it is a bit slow, red that it is nearly stopped.  Oh, red with a black line in it means, don’t even try to go that way!  By looking at the map, I can determine which bridge I should take, what roads to travel (or not travel), and approximately how long my commute will be. 

Of course, there’s still nothing like the old-fashioned live radio traffic report—especially when it comes from the chopper!  Not only can the reporter tell you where the slow downs are, but also why they are occurring and any prognosis or timing issues.  So as I am getting dressed in the morning, it’s my habit to listen for the traffic reports as I begin to strategize the best route to take that day. And, when I get into my car I look at the time knowing that 880 am radio will have its report on the “8’s” and 1010 am radio will have its report on the “1’s.”  It’s all in an effort to spend the least amount of time sitting in traffic. 

As we journey through life, we’d often like to know the best route(s) to take.  We are constantly faced with options regarding the way we should go or live. Lots of choices—“roadways”—are before us.  Sometimes one is as good as the other. At other times, one may lead to trouble while the other may lead to that which is good.  Unfortunately, we can’t always tell at the outset.  That is when we could us some “tools” to help us along our way. 

The good news is, God has given us some “tools” to lead us to the best route(s) for our lives.  One tool is his word, the Bible.  The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  (Psalm 119:105 – NIV)  Like a Google map, the Bible lays out for us clearly what we can expect in our world and how it is we should respond and live. The second is the Holy Spirit, which in essence is God himself.  Jesus said, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13 – NIV)  Like the live traffic reporter, the Holy Spirit warns us and updates us and gives us counsel on a very personal level—if only we will listen.   As we read God’s word and depend upon the Holy Spirit, we don’t need to guess which way to go. Rather, God is able to lead us into the route that is best for our life.

I’m thankful today for the “tools” God has given us to direct us, lead us, and guide us.

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” (Psalm 48:14 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, April 3, 2015

Signs of Springtime!

After a long, cold winter, which seemed as if it would never give up its grip on us, we have finally begun to see some signs of springtime.  Crocuses have begun to push up through the earth.  Robins have reappeared. The days have lengthened. And, although they have not been many, we’ve had at least a few days that have reached into the 60’s.  Thankfully, it appears that the winter of 2014-2015 is being overtaken by spring. 

I think most of us would agree that, it can feel as if our world has been trapped in what often feels like the dark and cold of winter.  C.S. Lewis likens our world to a place where it is “…always winter but never Christmas.” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)  What a dreadful thought!  As we continue to hear one bad news story after another; as we face our own personal difficulties that seem to pile up one on top of another, we can begin to feel as if there will never be a springtime. We are longing for and looking for any sign of life—something that will breed hope and tell us that we will not be trapped forever in pain and sadness, darkness and cold. 

That’s what the resurrection of Jesus, that which we celebrate this weekend, is all about!  After his terrible and dreadful death--one which seemed to indicate that “winter” was here to stay—signs of life began to appear.  The stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty. Angels came with a message.  Then, Jesus appeared!  Jesus was alive!  Life had returned!  Spring was breaking into the winter!  Suddenly, life didn’t seem so cold, dark, and hopeless after all. 

The result is, today you and I can live with hope.  Although our world and our lives can often feel like the dark and cold of winter, life has begun to break through.  We can see the signs of springtime. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that, life is greater than death!  Jesus’ resurrection proclaims that our world will not always be as it is; our lives will not always be as they are!  Jesus is alive!  Springtime has begun to overtake the winter! 

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56 – NIV) 

Let’s rejoice!  Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate sign that springtime is on its way!

Have a great day and a blessed Resurrection Sunday! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 27, 2015

Love It or List It!

One of the TV shows I’ve come to actually like, although I don’t know why, is a show on HGTV, Love It or List It.   In the show, a couple has to make a decision whether or not they will keep their home after some major renovations or put it on the market in order to purchase a new home.  The tension of the story is built around the renovations that are taking place in the existing home (and all the things that can go wrong in the midst of such renovations) and the search for a new home that will meet all their needs (and demands!).  Thus, the couple is placed between a woman who is overseeing the renovations, hoping that they will “love it,” and a realtor who is trying to get them to “list it,” with the intent of purchasing one of the homes he has shown them.  I know, it’s all pretty crazy. 

Although many of the couples/families involved have some genuine needs (e.g. their family may have genuinely outgrown the space of the current home), so many of those involved seem to just want something new or better or more “open” (the “open concept” floor plan seems to be a catch phrase for everyone involved).  No one expresses any appreciation of the fact that, unlike millions of people around the world, they actually have a roof over their head, running water, electricity, and beds to sleep in.  Instead they are caught up in wanting a more modern kitchen, a larger “on-suite,” a remodeled staircase or fireplace, etc.  Again, some of the needs can be quite valid.  But many of those involved come across as spoiled, whiney, and quite unappreciative of all that they really do have. Few show any signs of contentment. 

What about us?  I know I can fall into the very same trap.  I can easily become unappreciative of so many of the blessings that God has placed into my life. As I see the nicer house down the block or the guy with the better car, my mind can begin to wander towards the proverbial greener grass.  Rather than give thanks for what I have, I can end up thinking about what I don’t have.  Somehow contentment begins to slip away. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6 – NIV)  The writer of Hebrews penned these words, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5 – NIV) 

I want to encourage you today to take some time to think about all that you do have; rather than what you don’t have.  Consider how God has taken care of you in so many different ways—even how he has helped you through the difficult times of your life.  Allow gratitude and contentment to fill your heart. 

Let’s not fall into the “Love It or List It” mentality! Instead, may you (and I) learn what it means to truly be content. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Greatest Show On Earth!

This month there have been lots of advertisements here in the New York City area promoting the fact that “The Greatest Show on Earth” is in town. Of course, I am referring to the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus which, has for many years, billed itself as such.  But, they are not the only ones who promote themselves as the best or the greatest.  For example, every so often I pass by a diner in Astoria, Queens with a big sign outside that claims to be the “Best Diner in Queens.”  And, who can forget the scene from the movie Elf in which he walks into a coffee shop to congratulate the management on having earned the distinction of having the “World’s Best Coffee!”? 

Everyone wants to be given the title “the best” or “greatest” in some area of life.  We desire the status, significance, and authority that come with being known as such. Thus, we strive to make it to “the top,” believing that if we can get there, life will be better. 

It’s not surprising then that, one day Jesus’ disciples began to argue as to which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of God.  Each of them wanted the distinction of being known as the best; being at the top. To answer them, Jesus brings a little child into their midst.  And, he says, “For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”  (Luke 9:47 – NIV)  In fact, Jesus always taught that the way to the top is by means of the bottom. Elsewhere Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 – NIV)

In other words, in the Kingdom of God, the way up is always down—i.e. to lay down one’s life for others.  Those who are seen as the “greatest” in God’s eyes are those who know what it means to live lives of humility and service.  Rather than striving towards the top and seeking after titles, followers of Jesus seek after that which is best for others. As we do, we believe God’s word: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  (1 Peter 5:6 – NIV)

Today let’s give ourselves to serving God by serving those around us. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Winter That Will Not End!

The past couple of days, I’ve been singing to myself a little song, “This is the winter that never ends; and it goes on and on my friends….”  (Some of you may recognize it as a play off of the kids’ song, “The Song That Never Ends.”)  That is the way I, and I know many of you, have been feeling.  It seems like the cold and the snow will just not go away. We get one glimpse of a day close to 50 degrees and the next day we end up with the temperatures plummeting and more snow.  Yes, it feels like the winter that will not end! 

In reality, however, we all know that winter will come to an end. In another few weeks, if all goes according to the normal plan of nature, we will begin to see signs of spring. A robin will show up in the back yard. The crocus will begin to break through the hardened ground. Buds will begin to appear on the trees.  In about another month, the snow will be gone and everything will be turning green once again.  That does not mean there will be no more cold days or nights. Nor, does it mean that we will not have anymore snow. But the trend will soon switch over from more and more winter, towards spring and then eventually summer (when we just might be complaining about the heat!).

Too often our lives can feel like a winter that will not end.  One negative thing happens after another that makes us feel like we are living in a world, “where it is always winter but never Christmas” (as per C.S. Lewis).  Every so often we may taste a bit of the warmth of things hoped for, but just as quickly we are plunged back into the cold of reality.  Thus, we are tempted to give into sadness and even despair. The winter blues, as they are called, begin to hit and we begin to lose hope. Our lives feel like a winter that will not end. 

But, I want to remind us today that spring is on its way! The Bible tells us that Jesus came as light and life. He came bringing us the hope that our lives will not always remain as they are.  We have been promised that through Jesus Christ, one day all the bad things of this life will one day give way to eternal life in the light of God’s presence.  Our lives will be changed. Our world will be changed. Thus, we can live with the hope that we will not live forever in what feels like a never-ending winter.  A new day is coming! A new life is coming! Spring is on its way!

“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?” (Isaiah 43:18-19 – NIV)

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5 – NIV)

It will not be winter forever—not in your life, not in our world. God has promised us that through Jesus, one day, everything will be made new. Spring is on its way! 

Have a great day!  (And, stay warm!)

Pastor Tim Harris