Friday, February 27, 2015

Up in Flames!

Yesterday morning I received the shocking word that in the middle of the night, my parent’s house, which we had sold less than a month ago, (i.e. the house I grew up in), had been burned to the ground.  One of my sisters had been on the Internet looking at the local news when she came across the story and pictures of the house up in flames. The headline read, “Suspicious Fire Destroys Airmont Home.”  Thankfully, no one was killed or injured (the house was yet empty).  And, the fire was kept from spreading to the neighbor’s home, which did experience some damage. 

We had sold the house at the end of January, so it did not belong to us. Yet, seeing the photos and later on the video of the house in flames was quite a shock to my system.  Later on, I went by the house and experienced firsthand the destruction—just a pile of rubble was now left.  It was hard enough to have sold the house, which we knew was quite necessary, but to see the house in which I grew up destroyed in this way felt like another point of loss.  I think I would been ok if the new owners had one day decided to tear down it down in order to build a new home on the property. But to see it go up in flames was shocking and terribly saddening.  It felt like a whole piece of my life and of my family’s life, had been burned to the ground. 

Job of the Old Testament was a man who knew what it was like to lose everything he had.  In a very short span of time he lost all his wealth, his children, and even his health. His life had been reduced to a pile of rubble.  It was as if his whole life had gone up in flames!  In his grief and his searching for answers, the Bible says, Job “fell to the ground in worship” and cried out,  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21 – NIV) 

This past year, my family and I have experienced quite a bit of loss in our lives, beginning with the passing of my father last May.  Seeing our childhood home go up in flames felt like one more jab in the gut.  Although, it’s hard to understand all of these things, I know the best thing I can do is respond as Job did: (1) Understanding that all of life is temporary; (2) Recognizing the sovereignty of God over my life; (3) Giving praise to God no matter what I may gain or lose. 


So although it is hard, today I choose to say, “May the name of the Lord be praised!” 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, February 20, 2015

No Need for Penance!

This past Wednesday began the season in the church calendar that is called, “Lent.”  It is the period of time leading up to Good Friday and ending with the celebration of Easter—i.e. the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  For many, it is a very somber time of the year as they fast meals and/or give up various forms of pleasure that can range from anything like eating chocolate to watching TV or using Facebook.  Why?  Because they have been taught that it is a time to do penance—to repent for sin and then show that repentance by means of some form of self-punishment or sacrifice.  They hope to gain atonement (i.e. forgiveness for their sin) by paying a price for their sin.   

I don’t have a problem with people fasting or giving things up for the sake of their relationship with God. There are times when that is appropriate. But, I am concerned that too many people forget that there is no need for penance in order to receive forgiveness from God.  Yes, we need to confess our sin and turn away from it (that’s what repentance means).  But, we cannot pay any price for our sin. That has already been done for us through the cross of Jesus Christ!  There is nothing more that you and I can do except confess our sin and put our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ!  

In fact, the Bible tells us this is how God demonstrated his love for us.  Rather than make us pay the price for our sin, which would have ultimately meant death for us, God gave up his Son, Jesus, to pay for our sin through his death.  The result is our sins are atoned for and we inherit eternal life as we receive by faith God’s free gift of salvation.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 – NIV)

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 – NIV)

During this season of Lent, rather than trying to find ways to pay for your sin, why not instead look for ways to draw closer to Christ?  If you are going to fast or give something up, use that time to instead read your Bible or pray or do something to bring blessing into someone else’s life. Use this season to consider God’s great love for you; to deepen your relationship with Christ; to learn how to be a better follower of Jesus Christ. 

Oh, there may be some sins in your life that you need to confess to God and turn away from.  But, the good news of the Gospel is, because of the cross of Jesus we can know that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 – NIV)

There’s no need for penance, just faith!

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

www.pifny.org

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day, God's Way!

The other day I passed by a church in our area with a sign that read, “If you want to be loved, you’ve got to be lovable.”  As I passed by and let the words sink in, I thought to myself, what a terrible saying. I think the message was meant to be a spin on the old saying, “If you want to have friends, you need to be a friend.” Nonetheless, I immediately felt there was something wrong with the sign. 

For one, during this month of Valentine’s Day, with its emphasis on love and romance, the sign seems to imply there is something wrong with the person who finds themselves alone and without that “special someone.” The implication is, if you aren’t experiencing love you must not be “lovable.”  And, that is just not true.  In fact, I want to say to all my single friends out there who do not have that “special someone” in their life right now, it is not because you are in someway defective or unlovable!  You may have not yet met the right person or God may have some other plan for your life. But, it is not because you are unlovable!

Secondly, I thought of how many times I have been unlovable towards my wife and those who are close to me. Yet, Kim and so many others around me have continued to love me. I’m very thankful today that my marriage to Kim and her love for me is not predicated on each of us always being “lovable.”  Rather, our love for one another is one of commitment and thus, longevity.  Even when one of us is acting a bit unlovable, we continue to love each other. That is the kind of love a real marriage is based upon. In fact, that is the kind of love that manifests itself in any true relationship. 

Finally and most importantly, I am glad that God did not wait until I was lovable before he loved me.  In fact, none of us were all that lovable, yet God loved us so much that he sent his One and Only Son, Jesus, to die for us.

The Bible says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 – NIV) And, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 – NIV) The Bible goes on to tell us that even while we were God’s enemies, God reconciled us to himself through Jesus! 

This is Valentine’s Day, God’s way:  To love the unlovable! 

Let’s be thankful this Valentine’s Day and always for a God who loved us long before we were lovable. And, let’s commit ourselves to showing that kind of love to others.

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 6, 2015

It's Not Over Until It's Over!

I’m not really a football fan.  I probably watch one or two games a year, including the Super Bowl.  So, I dutifully watched last Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Patriots.  I’m glad I did. If you watched the game, you know it was the game to see as the score bounced back and forth between the two teams.  Just when you thought the Patriots had the game in the bag, the Seahawks would come back. And, just when you thought the Patriots were done with, there was that final interception and they won the game!  At the end of it all, I was reminded of those famous words by Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” (Or, in better grammar, “It’s not over until it’s over!”)  How true!

I have to admit there have been quite a few times in my life when I’ve felt like I was done with—as if I had already lost the game.  Yet, somehow in his grace, God stepped in and seemed to intercept the ball on my behalf, giving me new hope and helping me continue on.  So many times in my life, God has stepped in to encourage me to not give up, to keep on playing, and reminding me that, although the middle of the game may be hard, if I will continue to trust him, the end result is going to be incredible.  After all, “It’s not over until it’s over!”

The Apostle Paul, after experiencing his share of difficulties and seeming defeats wrote these words: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35, 37 – NIV)

Paul knew that the difficulties of this life are not the end of the story. Although we may lose some battles, the ultimate victory is yet to come. So rather than throw in the towel and walk away in defeat, Paul encourages us to put our trust in Christ, believing that in him we will be “more than conquerors.” And, he calls us to rest in Christ’s love, reminding us that, no matter what happens in this life, nothing can separate us from his love.

Let’s remember today: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 30, 2015

Quite A Week!

This has been quite a week! So much has happened in a very short period of time. As of last weekend, Joanna and Nathaniel returned to their respective colleges for the semester, leaving Kim and I to once again adjust to a house without any kids.  Monday into Tuesday came the snowstorm that kept us housebound for at least most of Tuesday (which did result in some really great chicken soup and homemade bread to compensate for the aching back!).  Wednesday afternoon I received a text from my sister that the closing on my parents’ house (the house in which we grew up) was done; the house was no longer ours—I shed a few tears.  Thursday my mom was released from the nursing home she has been in for rehabilitation the past few months. We moved her back to the assisted living facility she had previously been living in, with a bit of hesitancy yet, hoping for the best. Needless to say, my mind has been spinning. It’s been a lot to process all at once.    

We all know, lots can happen in short periods of time.  Throughout much of our lives, life goes on according to its normal, and sometimes almost boring, patterns. We have our routines and schedules. We know what to expect. But, then there are those times when our lives get interrupted—by the loss of a job; by a sickness that keeps our bodies from doing what we expect them to do; by a family situation that not only throws our schedules but as well our emotions into a tailspin.  And, often these things happen very suddenly and quickly.  Sometimes they come all at once. 

So what do we do when we have a week or a month or even a year like that?

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”  (John 12:36 - NIV)  The Apostle Paul wrote, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 - NIV)

The Bible calls us to come to God with all of our needs and trust him with our lives. We are invited to come to God in prayer, petitioning him for his help, grace, and provision, knowing that he loves us and has promised to be with us and take care of us. 

Let me share with you the words to an old hymn that has put it so well:

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand. (Lina Sandell)

No matter what happens today, this week, or this year, put your trust in the One who has promised to be with you at all times!  Have a great day.!  

Pastor Tim Harris