Friday, June 24, 2016

A Good Steady Rain

We have surely been enjoying a lot of really nice weather here in New Jersey this past month. That has meant warm sunny days with very little rain—great for going to the beach, graduations, and early summer barbeques.  However, the lack of rain is already having a negative affect and is obvious when one looks at our lawns. Whereas in June our lawns are usually a bright green and growing at a rapid pace, they are already looking more like August lawns with that touch of brown.  Everything already seems to be a bit dry.

The reason I’m so aware of our lack of rain is that, last week I put grass seed down. I was hoping for a good solid rain to come quickly so I could avoid having to water the lawn.  But that did not happen. In fact, yesterday we were supposed to get some substantial rain but it seemed to stay south of us and all we got was a sprinkle.  So, I had to pull out the hose and sprinkler to water the lawn, hoping the seed will begin to grow.  I’m still hoping that, in the next week, we’ll receive a good steady rain.

I’m reminded today of times in my life when I’ve experienced those dry spells when I was in desperate need of some “rain.” I’m not speaking about the lack of physical rain, but a time in one’s life when you feel empty, lacking vitality, maybe far from God…just kind of dry. We all face those times when we need some refreshing; seasons when we are in need of something to restore life within us; seasons when we are hoping for a good, steady “rain.”

To a nation of people who were feeling just like that, the prophet Hosea wrote these words:  Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3 – NIV)

The Bible shows us, that good steady rain is found in the presence of God! God's presence is able to take that which is drying up and bring about a new sense of life. All you and I need to do is look to him and call upon his name.

So, today if you are feeling kind of dry, ask God him to step into your life. You will soon find the good steady rain of his presence being poured out upon you.

“Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”  (Joel 2:23 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Valley of Tears

This past week has surely been a sad week for our nation, and especially for the people of Orlando.  It began last weekend with the senseless shooting of Christina Grimmie, a young woman who loved God and had so much potential to do so much good with her life.  Christina’s death, however, was quickly overshadowed in the news by the horrific killing of 49 people at the Pulse Night Club early Sunday morning.  All of that was followed by the extremely sad news of the death of a two year-old boy as he was snatched and drowned by an alligator while at a Disney resort beach.  This city known for its amusements, entertainment, and happy faces became what might be described as “a valley of tears.” 

I myself couldn’t help but feel a sense of great sadness as we were bombarded by one terrible news story after another.  And, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the fact that, in each of these cases, those affected by what took place, were in one moment enjoying themselves—probably laughing and smiling—and in the next moment they were filled with pain, fear, and grief.  One moment they seemed to be living life to the max, in the next, they were face to face with death.  Life quickly became for each of them and those around them “a valley of tears.” 

Unfortunately, that is the kind of world in which we live.  It’s so hard for any of us to fully understand it. But, our world and our lives are a delicate balance of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, good and bad.  One moment can quickly take us from one extreme to the other. The sin and evil of our world can very suddenly cast their shadow over our lives. Laughing turns to tears in but a moment in time.

The Psalmist wrote about the “valley of tears” in Psalm 84.  His words picture God’s people on a journey through life, during which they pass through a very, very difficult place (i.e. the “Valley of Tears”). But, in that place they find strength and even eventual blessing as they trust in God and set their hearts on him. 
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“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka (Tears), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”  (Psalm 84:5-7) 

As you go through your life and pass through your own “valley of tears,” I want to encourage you to not give up on your faith. Rather, look to the One from whom you are able to receive the strength and grace you need; the One who is able to take your tears and turn them into springs of blessing; the One who has promised to never leave you nor forsake you. 

And, let’s pray for the people of Orlando, for our nation, and for our world! Surely, so many people need to come to Jesus Christ and learn of his comfort, love, and grace—especially as they pass through the “valley of tears.” 

“Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you” (Psalm 84:12)


Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 10, 2016

Leaving the Bronx

Tomorrow morning I will be moving my ninety-two year old aunt, Catherine, out of the Bronx.  She will be moving to beautiful Ocean Grove, NJ where she will move into an assisted living facility.  In fact, her room has an ocean view!  It’s going to be quite a life change for her, hopefully for the better. 

My Aunt Catherine, has lived in the Bronx just about all of her life and in her current apartment for the past forty-one years.  The area in which she has lived is a busy and loud area with an elevated train that runs over Jerome Ave just about a block away from her apartment.  The neighborhood is very lively with lots of shops along Jerome Avenue, most which are now either Spanish or Arabic owned. Montefiore Hospital is on the backside of the neighborhood and Mosholu Parkway is around the corner.  The streets can seem congested and dirty. Parking is hard to find. People seem to bumping into each other whichever way you turn. 

Surely, it’s going to be quite a change for Aunt Catherine to move away from all of that after all of these years.  I wonder what it’s going to be like for her not to hear the train go by every few minutes. I wonder whether or not she is going to miss the noises, smells, and crowds. I wonder whether or not she is going to enjoy having an ocean view in a cleaner and calmer environment.  Or, will it be a bit of a shock to her system? After all, the Bronx is all she’s known for just about all her life.  It’s what she has lived with. It’s what she is used to.  I’m guessing, in spite of going to a beautiful environment, leaving the Bronx is not going to be easy.

Yet, Aunt Catherine will tell you herself that she senses God’s hand in the midst of this move.  Thus, she has peace about it.  I know she prays and brings everything to God.  In fact, so many times during the decision-making process she has said, “If it’s the Lord’s will, this will work out” or, “It seems like the Lord is putting everything together” or “I feel like the Lord is helping make the way clear.”  It’s true, at ninety-two making such a move is not easy.  But, knowing that God is in it and that God is present, is making leaving the Bronx a little bit easier for Aunt Catherine. 

And, such can be the case for each of us as we go through the various stages of life and all the challenges they bring. It will be the presence and leading of God that will help us and give us peace.  If we will bring all things to God and trust him to take care of us, we will find the strength and grace needed to face whatever changes may come our way.     

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 – NIV)

Have a great day!


Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 3, 2016

Shop-Pray-Love?

This morning as I was driving to the church office, I noticed a store that had opened with the name, “Shop-Pray-Love.”  When I saw it I asked myself, what do those three things have to do with one another? Is one supposed to pray as they shop, praying that they will find a great bargain? Are they supposed to love what they purchase once they are done shopping?  Are they supposed to pray and love while they shop or shop and love while they pray or shop and pray while they love?  I think you get what I mean; something just doesn’t seem to fit. 

And yet, maybe they do fit together.  After all, are we not called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to love at all times (Proverbs 17:17)?  Ought not our relationship with God, our love for him, as well as for others pervade all that we do?  Thus, whether we are in church, at home, at work, or out shopping, everything we do is affected by the fact that we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. 

So often we tend to separate and disconnect the various components of our lives. Although we claim to be people who love God and love others, we fail to treat them the way we ought.  Although we claim to be people who know God and thus pray, we live our daily lives as if he did not exist.  So often we fail to incorporate the spiritual side of our life into the more mundane aspects of our lives, like shopping, and thus we end up living divided lives; lives that are defined by the word, hypocrisy.   

I don’t know the intent of the shop owner who named their store, “Shop-Pray-Love.”  But they have unknowingly reminded me today that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I need to remain connected to God and live my life in such a way that my love for him and for those around me is evident.  Thus, even while I shop, I must continue to pray and to love. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 – NIV) 

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38 – NIV)

Have a great day!  Maybe go out and shop…and pray and love!


Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 27, 2016

In & Out!

Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind for Kim and me (that’s why I missed writing these Pastor’s Devotions last week).  After Jonathan’s and Nathaniel’s graduations and Joanna’s return from her study abroad in Vienna, Austria, for about twenty-four hours, from last Saturday afternoon into Sunday afternoon, we had all three of our children as well as Jonathan’s wife, Danielle, Nathaniel’s girlfriend, Kylie, and Joanna’s boyfriend, Dan together in the house.  We all went out to dinner to celebrate on Saturday night. Everyone was in church together on Sunday morning. And, we had dinner together on Sunday afternoon.  Not long after we ate, however, Jonathan and his wife got on the road to get home, Nathaniel left to drive Kylie home, and Joanna and Dan went out for a bit.  Before we knew it, Kim and I were once again left in the house alone. Eventually, we decided to go take a walk on the boardwalk. And, as we did we asked ourselves, what had just happened?  As quickly as everyone was back together they were now all gone!

Of course this is the way it is these days for us as a family.  Now that our “kids” are young adults they are in the process of developing their own lives, their own relationships, their own schedules, etc.  Much of their lives are lived outside of their relationship with us as their parents. Friends, school, work, and all the other things that take place in their lives outside of our home pull them in different directions.  The result is, at this stage they are for the most part, in and out of the home. 

So what are we as parents to do as we adjust to this stage in life? It’s surely a difficult time for us as parents. It can be hard as watch them come in and then go out.  We want to keep them close, but we also know they need to continue to move towards independence, develop their own lives, learn to make their own decisions, and even face the consequences of those decisions. 

King Solomon, the writer of much of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes seemed to have it right as he continued to speak into the life of his young adult son. He seemed to know that he could not live his son’s life for him, but neither did he stop speaking words of counsel to him.  So today, to my young adult children and to all the young adults out there, many for whom I feel like a spiritual dad, I want to leave you today with a few of Solomon’s words, hoping you receive them from me as both a dad and as a pastor who loves you and cares much about your life and your future:

Proverbs 1:8-9 - Listen, my son (and daughter), to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 3:1-6 - My son (and daughter), do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

It’s ok that you’re in and out. We understand. Just continue to move forward with Christ!

Have a great day! 


Pastor Tim Harris