Friday, October 19, 2018

A Deer Of a Different Color!

The other day I drove into my driveway and when I looked across the street I saw four to five deer (does to be exact) feeding in my neighbor’s front yard. Then, by one of the bushes I saw what at first looked like a white goat, with its head down into the grass. I couldn’t help but do a double take. Was it a goat? Or maybe it was a small llama that got mixed into the herd. No, it was a young albino deer with a white body and some brown on its head!

It soon picked up its head and gazed at me while I began to snap some pictures of it. The other deer looked up as well. None of them took off, they’re too used to people to be easily scared off. Soon the little white deer walked over to the others and nuzzled the one that must have been its mother. None of the deer seemed to think anything odd about the little albino deer. This was not like Rudolph with his shiny red nose being mocked! It was not shunned or treated differently. Although by its coloring it appeared so different from the others, to the rest he or she (I wasn’t sure which) was just one of the herd. 

The little albino deer!  
I thought to myself, if only we humans would learn a lesson from the deer. After all, we are always setting up our categories of people based on their skin color, ethnicity, economic status, gender, religion, etc. and then treat them according to the categories we have created. We may not mean to do so, but we make judgments based on the categories we have created and so easily speak about “us” and “them” or “those people.”  In fact, our world is as divided now as it has ever been—both inside and outside of the church. It’s part of our sin nature. 

But the gospel tells us that Jesus came to destroy all of the categories and barriers that sin has created among us.  The Apostle Paul wrote, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 – NIV)  To the Ephesians, Paul wrote of how Christ has “destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) And the book of Revelation shows us that one day, we will be part of “a great multitude that on one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” who will stand before the throne of God and with one voice lift their praise to God. (Revelation 7:9 - NIV) No more categories or barriers!

Part of the work of Christ in our lives and in our world was and is to break down the barriers and categories of our fallen nature. Thus, we who are followers of Christ have the opportunity to model for our world what it looks like to live in unity and harmony with our fellow man; to love those who may be different from ourselves—no more “us” and “them!”  Through the work of Christ we are all one and the same before God, our heavenly Father. Thus, we are called to see each other as such and to treat each other as such.

Let’s thank God today that no matter the color of our skin, ethnic background, gender, socio-economic level, etc. Christ came and died for each of us. We all have the very same opportunity to know God as our Father. To him we are all the same.  And, in Christ we are all made one! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, October 12, 2018

Sheltered From the Storm

Over the past few days we saw another monster storm hit one of our coastlines, this time the Florida panhandle.  It seems that this is just another of a series of storms that seem to be raging not only across our nation, but around the world.  As terrible as are the effects of hurricanes Michael and Florence, let’s not forget the devastation that took place just a few weeks ago in Indonesia that was struck by a 7.5 earthquake followed by a tsunami with a death toll of over 2,000 and still thousands unaccounted for.  That was only a few weeks after a “super typhoon” roared through the Philippines destroying everything in its path.  And, the list can go on.
I’m reminded how dangerous a place our world is.  And, it need not be a natural disaster that comes roaring into our lives to turn us upside down. There are so many things that can happen in life, from sickness to death and everything in between that can leave us feeling wrecked.  As we try to put our lives back together, sometimes asking some very hard questions about what has happened to us, we seek a place wherein we might find comfort and shelter for our hearts and our minds; a place wherein we might find peace in the midst of our storm.

Searching for shelter during hurricane Michael
It’s no wonder the Bible so often refers to God as our shelter.  The psalmist wrote, “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5 – NIV)  Isaiah wrote, “You (God) have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.”  (Isaiah 25:4 – NIV)

Oh, at times we may lose homes and property, jobs and health, and even so much more. Yet through all the storms of this life, God has promised to be our shelter. He offers himself to us, inviting us to come under the protection of his hand.  He invites us to experience his comfort and peace in the midst of our storms, that we might not fall into despair—that we might continue to live our lives filled with faith, hope, and love.  

I leave you with these words:
So let the storms rage high
The dark clouds rise
They don't worry me
For I'm sheltered, safe, within the arms of God
He walks with me
And no divert shall harm me
For I'm sheltered in the arms of God.
(“Sheltered in the Arms of God” by Jimmie Davis, Reba Rambo)           

Let’s allow God to be our shelter in the midst of our storms.   

Have a great day. And, let’s pray and do what we can for those who have experienced such loss, both here in the U.S. and abroad. 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, October 5, 2018

Visiting the Ruins!

A week ago, Kim and I got back from our dream vacation to Greece. We began in Athens and then went to three of the Greek islands.  It was an incredible trip filled with all kinds of adventure, incredible scenery, beautiful waters, and lots of history.

Part of our itinerary was visiting some of the archeological ruins of civilizations of the past.  After all, what would a trip to Greece be without visiting the Acropolis and standing before the Parthenon? Incredibly, throughout Athens and the islands one can see ruins and artifacts that date back, not just hundreds of years, but thousands of years. 

On the island of Crete, we visited one of the oldest ruins of all, the Minoan Temple/Palace (it was both).  Its origins begin around 1950 BC.  That would have been just after the time of Abraham!  An earthquake destroyed the original temple, and even more magnificent one was built around 1750 BC (during the time that the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt).  It finally came to ruins in about 1300 BC (which would have been during the time of the Old Testament book of Judges).  The Minoans are considered to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, known civilizations in Europe—a thriving and truly sophisticated people. (They even had toilets and bathtubs with running water for the queen.)    

A part of the ruins of the Minoan Temple
However, in spite of all their sophistication, labor, and incredible effort, for centuries the remnants of this awesome Minoan Temple laid in ruins beneath the surface of the earth, not rediscovered until 1878 AD. Today we only get bits and pieces of what once was a piece of man’s glory. And such is the case throughout Greece—and throughout the world.  Even the most glorious of man’s constructions eventually come to ruins, sometimes to be unearthed by a future generation, sometimes forgotten forever.  It can seem almost sad. But most of all, I find it to be quite sobering.

It’s no wonder Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20 – NIV)  If we invest ourselves only in the things of this life—i.e. that which we can attain and build and store up—we may be left with nothing but ruins.  But, if we will invest our lives into that which is part of God’s kingdom, Jesus says, we will end up with an eternal treasure. 

Jesus then goes on to say, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (vs. 21)  I want to encourage you today to set your heart on that which is eternal. The best of what we have here in this life is but temporary. But if we will make God’s kingdom, and all that is part of his kingdom, our real treasure we will not end up with ruins but with that which will last forever. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 14, 2018

Learning a New Language!

Buenos dias! Bon dia! Kalimera! Guten morgen! That’s “good morning” in Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and German! Some of you may know that, I really enjoy learning and being able use even a few phrases in another language. In fact, when my children were young, because I could throw out a word or phrase here and there from a few other languages, they thought that their dad was multi-lingual. It wasn’t long until they learned I was not!  Currently, however, I can carry on some conversation in Spanish. This year I’ve been trying to learn a little bit of Brazilian Portuguese.  And, most recently I’ve been learning more phrases in Greek (I only learned a few growing up from my dad and relatives).   

For me, learning a language is not just about learning a new vocabulary but about connecting with people around me, both here at home and as I travel.  For example, when I go into our local bagel place I can greet the workers and even place my order in Spanish, and as I do a natural connection is built between us.  When I walk into the diner, I greet the hostess with kalimera (Greek) In the dry cleaning store I greet the owner in Korean.  And, as I greet my Brazilian friends in the church I do so with my little bit of Portuguese.  In each case, I am letting people know that to the best of my ability I want to connect with them on their terms.  Of course, if I’m not careful I can get myself in trouble. But, overall people appreciate it when you try to connect with them in their own language.

In the end, it’s all about stepping into people’s lives—into their world—rather than always expecting them to step into ours.  In fact, isn’t that just what Jesus did for us?  He didn’t expect us to learn his language or step into his world. He knew we could never do that.  Instead, he learned our language. He stepped into our world.  He came to us on our terms, in our humanity, that he might communicate to us the incredible love of God.  Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, Jesus, “…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  (Philippians 2:6b-7) You see, the “incarnation,” as we call it, is all about God coming to us and speaking our language that we might somehow come to know him. 

Today, let’s be thankful that God didn’t wait for us to reach him but he came to us, communicating to us his great love in a way that we could understand. And, although we might not always be able to learn to speak another language, let’s find ways to connect with the people around us, sharing with them the love of God in ways that they can understand. 

Have a great day! Nase kala! (Greek) Tenga un buen dia! (Spanish) Tenha um bom dia! (Portuguese)

Pastor Tim Harris