Friday, September 15, 2017

The Lost Paint Chips!

A few months ago a friend came over and helped Kim and me choose paint colors for the interior of our home.  After a few days of holding onto them we thought we better put them in a “safe place” until we were ready to paint. Well, now that I’m about to begin the project of painting our downstairs rooms, I needed the paint chips in order to get the right paints. When I went to look for them, however, they were nowhere to be found.  In fact, for two days Kim and I searched for them—with me insisting she had placed them in one place and she insisting they were somewhere else.  Quite embarrassed, I called our friend and told her we had lost the paint chips and had to go through the process of choosing the colors all over again. 

Later that day, however, I mentioned the paint chips to Kim again and described their size. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Kim’s head! She knew exactly where they were!  The lost paint chips were found!  I quickly called our friend and told her the good news; we didn’t need to go through the process again.  We both breathed a sigh of relief. 

It's not easy choosing paint colors!
We all know what it’s like to lose things. And unfortunately, our lost things are not always found. Sometimes we give up too quickly. Sometimes we can’t be bothered to take the time or expend the energy.  But when our lost things are found, there’s that incredible feeling of relief—especially if it’s something like your keys or wallet or purse (or even paint chips!).  It’s a great feeling to have found what was lost.  

The Bible describes humanity as becoming lost.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way….” (Isaiah 53:6 – NIV)  Due to our own sinfulness we have wandered away from our Good Shepherd and become lost. But Jesus, speaking of himself, said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  (Luke 19:10 – NIV)  In other words, Jesus came looking for lost people like you and me!  Jesus came to find those who have become lost in order to bring them back into God’s Kingdom.  And when they are found, Jesus tells us all of heaven rejoices.  Maybe the angels even breathe a sigh of relief!

I’m reminded today that, with just with as much energy and effort that I put into looking for the things I lose—keys, a wallet, paint chips, etc.—and even more so, I am called to spend my life looking for the “lost” around me.  Every day you and I find ourselves in the midst of people for whom Jesus came—i.e. people who often don’t even realize that they are lost.  Is anyone searching for them?  Is anyone reaching out to them with the good news of the Gospel?  Will they be found?  Will they be given the opportunity to come back into God’s Kingdom? 

Let’s try living our lives today searching for someone who is lost, seeking out those for whom Jesus came.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.  I once was lost, but now am found!” 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 8, 2017

Running My First 5K Race!

This past Monday I ran my first 5K Race. Back in June I decided I wanted to give myself a new challenge and start running. So, I began training to run our town’s annual Labor Day 5K.  After about a month of training, both on the treadmill and on the boardwalk, I could run the 3.1 miles necessary to complete the race. In fact, by July 4th I could run 4 miles with my son, Nathaniel.  Now it was time to get my 5K time down below 30 minutes, then below 29 minutes; my goal was to run the race at a 9 minute pace.   In the end, not only did I want to complete the 5K, but to do so within a particular timeframe. 

A few days before the race, my friend Gary offered to run with me. It was great to have someone to run alongside of me and push my pace a bit.  As we came down the final stretch, Gary encouraged me to give a final push.  I wasn’t sure how much more I could give, but then I heard the cheering of the crowd up ahead and eventually saw Kim and Gary’s wife Karen by the finish line cheering us on. That was what I needed. So, as we came down that final stretch, I felt myself kick into a gear beyond what I thought my body was able to do.  Before I knew it, I had finished my first 5K Race!

Coming to the finish line!
The New Testament likens our life of faith to a long distance race—a race that takes great perseverance, a race that sometimes requires us to kick it into “high gear.”  Paul encourages the Corinthian believers saying, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  (1 Corinthians 9:24 – NIV) The book of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….” (Hebrews 12:1 – NIV)

Much unlike my mindset, the goal of this “race” of faith is not the speed of the race but the completion of the race. The Bible encourages us to keep on running, believing that everyone who crosses this finish line will receive a reward, the prize of eternal life.  And, it gives to us a picture of the runners being cheered on by a heavenly crowd. The stadium of heaven is filled with those who have gone on before us encouraging us to keep on running till we too cross the finish line.  In the end, it’s all about finishing the race!

In case you’re wondering, in spite of all my training, Gary’s help, and the cheering of the crowd, I didn’t quite run at my goal pace.  (I ran a 9:14 pace for a total of 28:38 minutes.).  Yet, I was really happy to be able to do something I could not have done a year earlier: I finished the race!

Let’s be like the Apostle Paul who could write at the end of his life, “…I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 1, 2017

When the Match Gets Long!

Yesterday I spent the day with my brother John at the US Open watching hours of tennis. It was a great day as we watched some of the veterans play as well as some lesser-known players, and even some potentially rising stars.  The level of play from all of the players is incredible. Each one of them hits so hard, moves so fast, and is able to make such tremendous shots. However, I have realized through the years, that there is often one major difference between those who consistently win and those who do not; there is one major difference between the champions and those who might win a set here and there or even a match now and then.  The difference is, stamina—both mental and physical. 

It is not uncommon, as happened yesterday, for a player like Roger Federer (seeded 3) to lose a set or two to an unseeded player like Mikhail Youzhny. But, what happens when the match goes to five sets?  Once again, Federer won. Or, for example, as happened last night to Rafael Nadal (seeded 1) to lose his first set to a relatively unknown player , in this case Taro Daniel.  Daniel played his heart out. He had such great shots.  In the end, however, Daniel lost to Nadal in four sets for he couldn’t keep the pace. 

John and me at the USTA Tennis Center
Players like Federer and Nadal often lose tournaments that require only a two out of three set win. But, the Majors like the US Open require a three out of five set win.  It is then that the real champions shine. In the end, it’s not the speed of the serve or the ability to hit a winner or cover the court; it’s the ability to keep on doing it through three, four, and even five sets.  In the end, the winner is often the player who is able to keep their head together and their body moving when the match gets long. It takes great perseverance and stamina to be a champion! 

Such is the case as well with our spiritual lives, as followers of Jesus Christ.  Thus, the call of the scriptures is to not give up, to keep on going, to persevere, to hang on. We might say, the champions in God’s kingdom are those who have developed the stamina to keep on believing and to keep on living as God has called us to live, even when the rest of life calls us to slow down or even give up—even when the match gets long! 

The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”  (Hebrews 10:36 – NIV)

 James wrote, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 – NIV)   

And, the Apostle Paul said of himself, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 – NIV)

Life may get tough at times. The “match” might feel very long. But, let’s not give up.  God has a prize in store for those who will hold onto their faith!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 25, 2017

Life Is Not Stagnant!

Today’s my birthday. I hesitated to mention that this morning for fear someone might think I’m just trying to get some added birthday wishes (which I guess I wouldn’t mind). But, it seems odd for me to not mention it or reflect upon it as I sit here to write today’s devotional blog.

I have to say, this is an interesting part of the journey.  At 58 years old (there I gave you my age!), there are so many transitions taking place in life.  Our “kids” are all now done with college and are venturing out on their own.  Meanwhile, our parents have become or are becoming increasingly dependent upon us.  When it comes to ministry, there are some parts that are easier than they were years ago, simply because of so many years of experience. And, then there are those parts that are new, fresh, and even harder because of changing times and changes that have taken place within me.  Life is definitely not stagnant. 

Like most people, I am very much aware that age is something that often shows itself in small and subtle ways—and then sometimes in no such subtle ways.  Although in my head I don’t feel that much older, every so often my body seems more than happy to remind me that I’m no longer the young guy I once was. The morning achiness in the back, the tendency to put on weight in places I’d rather not have it, the changes in my eyesight, etc. all seem to be reminders that the years are moving on and that I’m not the same person I once was—not physically, emotionally, intellectually, nor spiritually.  Life is not stagnant.   

My paternal grandmother (who passed away in 1984) once told me that on each of our birthdays she read and prayed Psalm 91 on our behalf.  The last three verses of the Psalm say, “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 – NIV)

As I reflect upon this past year I easily recall good times, difficult times, the celebrations, and the challenges. Through it all I know that God has been with me. His Word has been true; he has stood by me in every situation and circumstance.  And, he has blessed me in so many ways.  Thus today on my birthday, I am grateful that, in the midst of an ever-changing world, in the midst of a life that is not stagnant, he remains the same.  Our God is always faithful! 

I pray you will know his faithfulness at work in your life today! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, August 18, 2017

Noisy New Jersey Nights!

For those of you who live in New Jersey (especially the suburbs), have you ever noticed how noisy our nights can be during the summer months?  No, I’m not referring to the volume of cars and trucks on our roads or the blasting of boom boxes and stereos or the parties being held next door.  I’m referring to the crickets and cicadas that chirp and squeak and fill the night air with a cacophony of sound, to the point that it becomes really, really noisy.  They can make such a racquet that one can’t sleep with the windows open—at least such has been the case for me. 

What’s really curious to me is that, when my family and I are up to the Adirondack Mountains, although we are in the midst of woods, the nights are quiet as can be. That’s not because of a lack of cars or radios or people. It’s because there seem to be no crickets and cicadas.  Why that is, I am not quiet sure. I just know that, whereas the mountains are quiet and still, it is really noisy here in New Jersey!  (And, God forbid one of those crickets should get into your house; you will never fall asleep!)     

A beautiful and noisy NJ night!
Our world can be a noisy a place. There is a constant cacophony of sound that vies for our ears and seeks to influence our minds. You know what I mean. Every day we are bombarded by the noise of the media, politics, academia, the entertainment industry, and even a plethora of pulpits all screaming into our ears.  And, the noise continues to grow across airways, DSL lines, through podcasts, twitter accounts, Facebook, and a whole host of growing avenues that are really good at being really noisy. There’s just so much noise!  Sometimes we can feel like Job of the Old Testament who cried out, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest but only turmoil.”  (Job 3:26 – NIV)

In the midst of all the noise of our world, is it possible to yet hear the voice of God?  Is there any space within our lives into which God can speak?  I tend to think, that will be up to us.  Jesus challenges the people multiple times saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” The Psalmist wrote, “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10 – NIV) The prophet Isaiah wrote, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength….”  (Isaiah 30:15 – NIV) God’s Word calls us to make space in our lives, quiet spaces, into which God might speak to us—as we read his Word, as we seek him in prayer, as we worship him, as we walk with him “in quietness and trust.” 

Let’s not allow the noise of our world to overpower the voice of God in our lives.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris