Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving, Snow, and a Full House

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Today it is snowing. Last night the last of our kids came home for the holiday—including Jonathan’s fiancée, Dani.  So, here we are with a full house, watching it snow, awaiting the start of our Thanksgiving celebrations.  Today, there will be some baking, maybe some board games played, and most likely some snow removed.  Earlier this morning I put on some extra coffee.  For lunch I think I made about a dozen quesadillas.  Tonight’s dinner will include a bit more pasta than Kim and I would normally make for just the two of us.  Oh, did I mention that tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day?

In the midst of all the busyness and excitement of our home and the holiday—and the snow—I want to be careful not to lose sight of the purpose of the day we are about to celebrate.  So, let me list a few things that come to mind as I reflect upon this past year. 

1.   I am grateful for my wife Kim and my three children.  Each one of them is an incredible blessing in my life.  Although it is hard, it is also a joy to see each of my children growing into adulthood, even to the point that now one of them is engaged! (And, we are all very excited to have Dani as the “new addition” to the family!)

2.   I am grateful that, although this has been a very challenging year, to say the least, God has given us grace and strength.  With the sudden illness of my dad last winter, his death in May, and the special care my mom has needed, I/we have had our share of sorrow and pain. But, God has been faithful and gracious to help us through each moment of difficulty and pain. He has truly been our “Good Shepherd.”    

3.    I am grateful for God’s provision throughout this past year.  Although at times I may worry about finances, God has provided for us. My family has had food, shelter, and clothing. Every need has been met, and maybe even a little bit more. 

4.     I am grateful for the people God has placed in my life. This includes my extended family—brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews, parents, and in-laws—and special friends. Each one of them has been a blessing in my life in different ways. Each one has walked with me through the valleys of my life this past year. I’m blessed to have them as part of my life.    

5.     I am grateful for the privilege of serving God in the role and capacities to which he has called me.  I know I don’t deserve to serve in this way, but God, in his grace and mercy, has allowed me to continue to do so.

Well, the list could go on, but by now you are probably getting tired of reading. So, I’ll just stop there.  However, I didn’t want my opportunity to give thanks to God in this way, pass by in the midst of Thanksgiving, snow, and a full house!

Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Pastor Tim Harris

www. pifny.org

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worth The Wait

As I was writing this devotion last week as I was on my way to Nicaragua to take care of some of our church's missions work there, including visiting the children we support, their families, our staff, and church family.  I left NYC out of LaGuardia early Tuesday morning. Within a few hours I once again found myself waiting for my next flight in the Miami airport.  In fact, that's the problem with flying; not only does one have to calculate the air time to get from one place to another, but as well the many hours spent waiting to board the airplane; waiting between flights; waiting on the runway.  Yes, flying is the fastest way to travel long distances. But, just think how much faster it could be without all the waiting. (And, that's considering that your flights are on time!) 

Of course, waiting is a huge part of our lives. Whether we are doing our grocery shopping, commuting to work, or going to a baseball game, we find ourselves waiting on some sort of line.  Hopeful college students send out their college applications, those looking for employment send out their resumes, the bride and groom-to-be send out their wedding invitations, and each one awaits a response.  And now that the holiday season is upon us, many of us are waiting for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve; waiting for special church service, the decorations, family gatherings, delicious meals, the exchange of gifts, etc. 

Waiting is not easy, especially for those of us who are part of a get-it-now, microwave-society. Patience may be a virtue, but it is often hard to come by while standing on line to check out your groceries or sitting in the car just hoping that you will make it through the toll booth soon and not be late for work.  But, maybe some of this waiting is good for us.

For one, it definitely slows us down a bit, giving us a chance to catch our breath in the midst of a hurried world. As well, waiting can give us time to assess our lives and what it is that is important to us (after all, some things are worth the wait and others are not). Most of all, waiting may be God's way of helping us learn how to live in the present while yet anticipating and looking forward to the wonderful future he is presently preparing for his people. After all, as God's people living in this very temporary and sin-filled world, our whole life and faith is built around waiting for the day when our Savior will return and bring into being the kind of world that God has purposed in his heart from before the beginning of time. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...."  (Philippians 3:20 - NIV). The Psalmist wrote, "We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield."  (Psalms 33:20 - NIV)

So today, while you are standing on line at the supermarket, sitting in your car waiting for the one in front of you to move, or waiting for that college or company to get back to you, take some time to slow down, lean forward, and begin to look forward to what God has promised you upon his return.  Some day, we will look back and realize, all he has promised was well worth the wait!

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

www.pifny.org

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat?

Today being Halloween, children will be going from door to door, dressed in their costumes doing something they would never do any other night of the year: going to the homes of strangers asking for candy.  And, their request will come in the form of a very strange phrase, “Trick or Treat!” 

Of course, our children today (and their parents) don’t really know the roots of that phrase or what it really signifies. For them it is innocent enough.  But, by using that phrase the children are actually doing two things: (1) begging for the candy they wish to receive; (2) threatening some kind of mischief if they don’t get what they are asking for—although today the threat is an idle one.  In a sense, it’s a shame that the children can’t just ring the front door bell and politely ask, “May we have some candy, please.”  I’m sure that most people would just as willingly fill their bags with candy. 

But, I’m reminded today of the fact that, as one of God’s children, when I am in need of something and thus come to God, I do not have to beg or threaten—or cry or prove myself or do any number of tricks or good works.  All I need to do is come to him with a humble heart and ask of him.  The promise of scripture is that God, as our good heavenly Father, is attentive to the needs of his children and more than willing to answer their prayers.  Thus, he invites us to come to him as children with our requests. 

Jesus said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11 – NIV)  Just before that he said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7 – NIV)   The writer of Hebrews penned these words, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:16 – NIV) 

I want to remind you today that, when it comes to your needs and your relationship with God, there is no need to beg, demand, or threaten.  No matter what your need might be today, you are invited to knock on his door, tell him what you have need of, ask of him, and then entrust your needs into his hands. He loves you and will always do what is best for you. 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, October 24, 2014

Engaged!

So here’s our latest family news: Last weekend our oldest son Jonathan got engaged!  His fiancée Danielle Baily (or “Dani”) and he have been dating for about three years, since Jonathan’s junior year of college.  They will be married next summer. I’m very happy for him and Dani—Kim and I both are. At the same time, I am still trying to process the fact that my own son is taking such a huge step in his life and will soon be setting up his own household independent from ours.   

For Jonathan and Dani, all kinds of changes will be taking place in their lives and relationship during this year, and over the next few years.  But, there will also be all kinds of changes for us as parents.  Even now, we have had to begin to accept the fact that our roles are changing. Whereas once we gave instruction and expected to be obeyed, now we give counsel and advice, hoping that our experience and “wisdom” will be taken into consideration. Whereas Jonathan’s primary relationship has been found within our household, we must begin to accept the fact that soon his primary relationship will be within his own household—i.e. in relationship with his wife.  And, the list can go on.  None of it is easy, but it is necessary as he, Dani, and we move on through life. 

Kim and I both know that this is really only the beginning for our family.  With Nathaniel and Joanna away at college, and Jonathan at grad school, we are already living most of the year, as “empty-nesters.”  When at 10:00 pm, the TV station asks, “Do you know where your children are?” we have to answer “No!”  That thought in and of itself can cause in us a bit of worry. 

So, what can we do as we watch our children become more and more independent from us and even begin to move towards marriage?  I believe, the answer is found in Jesus’ words,  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7 – NIV) Somehow, I have to release my children and their futures into God’s hands, believing that God loves my children more than I do, and that he will watch over their lives. 

In fact, such is the case for each of us.  God sees us, loves us, and has promised to care for us! So as we move through all the changes that life brings our way, let’s  remember that God is there to watch over us and help us each step of the way. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

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