Friday, December 31, 2010

The Plans of the Lord

Psalm 33:11 – “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (NIV)

On Christmas eve I was reflecting upon Luke 2:7 which says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” As I thought about those words, it struck me that Joseph and Mary never planned to give birth in a stable and lay their baby (the Son of God!) in an animal’s feeding trough. That was an unexpected twist. But at that point in their lives, just about everything was about the unplanned and unexpected.

They hadn’t planned on Mary being pregnant – no less, by means of the Holy Spirit. They hadn’t planned to travel to Bethlehem, especially with Mary so far along in her pregnancy. Nor had they planned to arrive in Bethlehem and find all the guest rooms taken. I’m sure they would have never planned to give birth among the animals.

But, neither did they plan, or could they have planned, a chorus of angels to announce the birth of their son. They could not have planned for a supernatural star to shine brightly in the east – so brightly that the Magi had to follow. And, they could not have planned to have shepherds coming in the night to see their child or Magi bringing gifts fit for a king.

The Jewish people have a saying: “We plan; God laughs.” In other words, at any time God just might step in and change our plans. Ultimately the best thing for us to do is submit ourselves to the plans of the Lord, believing that he is in control, he knows what is best, and he will take care of us each step of the way. As we do, we may face some unplanned difficulties. But we may also experience some unplanned blessings and wonderful surprises.

As we step into this new year, let’s trust God with our lives knowing that God’s word is true: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 – NIV)

Have a blessed New Year!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why In A Manger?

Luke 2:7 - "...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (NIV)

"Why in a Manger?"

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed?
Have I heard right what has been said?
Did Jesus the one who was born King of all,
Sleep in a manger in some cattle stall?

Why in a manger was the Christ-child laid?
Why was there no room and no bed there that day?
Why was he placed among oxen and sheep?
Why in the hay did the Christ-child sleep?

Could God not have opened a room in the inn?
Was no one in Bethlehem waiting for him?
Did not someone's heart go out to the child?
Could no one have spared him their bed for a while?

God had His purposes, He always does.
He knew that the manger was not all that there was.
He could have provided a bed for His son.
But, God knew the manger would be the best one.

For God knew the manger would tell through all time
That Jesus had come to save all of mankind;
Not just the famous, the strong or the rich,
He came for the humble and those such as this.

So, there in a manger, the humblest of beds,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay.
Our precious Lord Jesus was asleep on the hay.

-Timothy A. Harris

Have a blessed Christmas Day!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Preparations

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” (Luke 3:4 – NIV)

The whole of the Christmas season is really a time of preparation. If your family is like mine you have been involved in decorating, shopping, the sending of cards, baking, etc. The plans are being made for where you will be and with whom on Christmas eve and Christmas day. In fact, if you think about it, most of the excitement of Christmas is about all of the preparations leading up to that one day of celebration.

Do you realize that for God it was very much the same? Up until the birth of Jesus, all of history was moving towards that one glorious moment when the Son of God would become the Son of man. For centuries, God had been at work within our world to prepare for the birth of this One who would be the Savior of all mankind. God had been preparing for this one moment for hundreds, even thousands of years. Now, it had finally come! It’s no wonder that God celebrated with angels and a supernatural star. It’s no wonder he had to let at least a few persons know that they might celebrate along with him (even if it was but a handful of mere shepherds and a few Magi). The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman….” (Galatians 4:4 – NIV) That is, when the preparations were complete God sent his Son, Jesus.

Throughout the past two centuries, this period of the year has been called by Christians the Advent Season. It is supposed to be a time of preparation; a time wherein we prepare ourselves not just for the celebration that occurs on December 25th, but for the coming of Christ anew into our hearts and lives. And, it is meant to be a time wherein we prepare ourselves for his second coming into our world. Thus, each year during this time we sing, “Let every heart, prepare him room….”

In the midst of all your preparations for Christmas eve and Christmas day, be sure to take time to prepare yourself for Christ himself. Find time to worship, to pray, to simply meditate on the wonderful fact that God has sent his Son to be your Savior!

May this advent prayer be your own during this season:

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” (Henri Nouwan)

Have a blessed Advent Season!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Season of Light

Isn’t it interesting that both Christmas and Chanukah center upon light? It’s been almost two weeks since we put up our Christmas tree and decorated our home. Thus, the Christmas lights have been shining brightly. As well, this past week we lit the Chanukah candles each night. We even have an electric menorah in our window. So, we have had both Christmas lights and the lights of the Chanukah menorah shining brightly in our home! Indeed, this is the season of light!

Of course, there is reason behind all the lights of this season. In fact, it is very appropriate that we would celebrate this season with the lighting of candles and the hanging of lights.

The Chanukah story is the story of how God helped the Jewish people win a great battle to reclaim Jerusalem and the temple. And, it tells of how God performed a miracle to keep the temple lights burning. It is the story of God stepping into a very dark time in the history of his people and bringing about a miracle that brought to them new hope and new light.

The Christmas story has very much the same message. After all, Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God has not allowed us to be plunged into everlasting darkness. Rather, He has sent to us the “light of the world!” The miracle of the incarnation is the miracle of light breaking into our darkness.

In fact, a little history helps bring home the point. As most people know, the date on which we celebrate Jesus’ birth was originally a pagan holiday (or “holy day!”). We are told that, although the ancients knew that the winter equinox took place on December 22nd, it was not until the 25th that they could see with the naked eye the lengthening of the days. From the summer equinox until the winter equinox, they knew that the days were getting shorter and shorter. The fear was that eventually they would be plunged into complete darkness. On December 25th, however, they celebrated the fact that they could see that the days were getting longer again; that light was overtaking the darkness.

It’s no wonder then, that the early Christians had no problem celebrating the birth of their savior on December 25th. It’s no wonder that throughout this season we decorate our trees and houses with lights. After all, Christmas is all about the miracle of new hope and new Light!

As you take note of the lights of this season, give thanks to God for not allowing us to be overtaken by darkness. He is the God who time and again has said, “Let there be light!”

“In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness….The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:4-5, 9 – NIV)

Enjoy the season of lights!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lesson From Israel - Part 6 (and final part)

On our final day in Israel (October 25th), we spend most of the day in and around Jerusalem commemorating Jesus’ final days. We followed what is probably the real Via Dolorosa, went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, walked the traditional Via Dolorosa (from the end to the start), and ended the day at “The Garden Tomb.”

I must say that going to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was, for me personally, a great disappointment. Rather than helping me experience something of the reality of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, I was taken back by the sight of a huge stone cathedral. The plaza in front of the church was filled with a mass of people. Inside the church were lines of people walking through a maze of a structure, waiting to kiss the slab of stone on which Jesus’ body was supposedly prepared for burial or to light candles or to get into the massive shrine that had been built on the site of the supposed tomb. The crowds of people in line made it almost impossible to even get a decent picture, no less experience some sort of worship. For me it was almost sad to see what the Church has done to places such as this (the same is true for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem). The huge structures and ornate shrines seem to take away from the reality of what actually took place there, making it hard for the worshipper to envision what it really must have been like for those who first experienced the events of the Bible.

The contrast was found, however, in “The Garden Tomb.” Whether or not it is the actual tomb that was used by Jesus or the actual garden that his tomb was in did not really seem to matter (although there are those who claim it is the real garden that held his tomb). Because of the simplicity of the place, including the tomb dating back to Jesus’ day that has been excavated there, it was easy to worship, to pray, to envision Mary and women and then Peter and John running to the tomb and finding the body of their Lord gone. As we shared communion and sang hymns together, it was truly a joyful and spiritual time. The simplicity and beauty of the place brought the death and resurrection of Jesus to life.

It is not my intent to denounce or to detract from the beautiful cathedrals and shrines that have been built in honor of our Lord. But, I am reminded that sometimes the reality of Christ best comes alive to us in the more simple aspects of life. God is not always best experienced in the elaborate and ornate. Often He is found in the very things we take for granted; in the things that are even humble and common – a walk in the woods, time spent with loved ones, a simple prayer with a friend.

In fact, isn’t that just how Jesus came? He didn’t come dressed in the ornate robes of royalty. He was born in a stable, placed in a feeding trough, and wrapped in strips of cloth. He came as one who was humble, meek, common, and lowly that he might reach the common and lowly masses of humanity – of which you and I fit into very, very well.

Jesus said of himself, “….for I am gentle and lowly in heart….” (Matthew 11:29 –NKJV) The Apostle Paul wrote, “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29 – NIV)

During this Advent Season, let’s remember that we do not need the ornate and the elaborate to experience Jesus. Rather, we might best experience him in the beauty and simplicity of the very common parts of our very ordinary lives.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 5

On Saturday, October 23rd, we spent most of our day in the Judean wilderness. We visited Qumran, the Essene community where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Next, we hiked the En Gedi, the hills wherein David spent much of his time hiding from Saul (and where he wrote many of his psalms). And, we went to Masada, the fortress in which almost 1,000 Jews killed themselves, believing it was better to die as freemen than to live as slaves of Rome.

It turned out to be a very emotional day as we considered what it must have been like for the Essenes living in the dry hills of Qumran, separated from friends and family; for David living in the caves of En Gedi, running for his life from an insane king; for the Jews who desperately tried to fight off the Romans but who eventually took their lives at Masada. As we walked through these various places, it was almost as if one could see the faces and hear the voices of those who had once lived there, suffering so intensely under evil regimes . Yet, there were also all around us signs of hope.

At En Gedi there is a narrow stream that runs through the rock creating one stretch of green among the dry hills and caves. Because of the sharp drops in the landscape, that one narrow stream becomes a three-tier cascading waterfall. It’s no wonder David found refuge in that place. When we reached the third and highest waterfall, our group paused to enjoy the view and to hear the reading of Scripture. I was asked to read a couple of the psalms that David had written in that wilderness place. I read Psalms 57 and 63. In them David wrote words such as these:

Psalms 57:1 – “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (NIV)

Psalms 63:7-8 – “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (NIV)

As I read those psalms, there in that place, I can’t help but think of the great struggles the people of God have faced throughout the centuries. Yet, because of writings such as David’s, God’s people have always lived with faith and hope. Even to this day David’s words help us to pray, reminding us that truly, God is merciful, providing refuge and help to his children in need.

So, if you find yourself in the midst of a struggle – a wilderness place - I would suggest that you read each of these psalms in their entirety. Allow God’s Word to encourage your faith and renew your hope. And, know that you can take refuge in the shadow of his wings.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lesson From Israel - Part 4

I will never forget my first glimpse of Jerusalem. It was Thursday, October 21st. We had spent the earlier part of the day traveling the country – a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the ruins of Capernaum, a first century lunch in Nazareth, Caesarea Maritime on the Mediterranean. Finally, as the sun was beginning to set, we made our way up to the top of the Mount of Olives. As we reached the top of the mount, suddenly the city of Jerusalem appeared. There before us, was the city that I had read of so many times; the city that is central to both biblical history and prophecy; the only city that is called, the “Holy City.” And, there it was now before me, the sun glistening off of gold domes; the walls looking strong and proud. What a spectacular sight!

The next day we returned back to the Mount of Olives, once again late in the day. Again we took in a breathtaking view of Jerusalem. This time however, rather than driving down towards the city, we took the path that Jesus would have taken many times, descending towards Gethsemane (which is really more of an olive grove than what we would call a “garden”). We paused at the point at which it is supposed Jesus paused to weep over the city. We soon arrived in Gethsemane, taking time to remember Jesus’ final time there, spending some time in prayer – each one under their own olive tree.

Thus it was that, we experienced almost simultaneously both the glory of Jerusalem and the sadness of Gethsemane. In a short time I sensed that my emotions had swung from the awesome delight of seeing the “holy city” to great heaviness as I thought of Jesus praying in that garden. I recalled that, it was there that Jesus had cried out to his heavenly Father with sweat like drops of blood bursting through his forehead, praying, “ Father if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 - NIV) It was there that Jesus wrestled with the pain and suffering that was about to come. But, it was also there that the Father ministered to his Son. As Luke wrote, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43 – NIV) What a beautiful picture of the faithfulness of God the Father ministering to Jesus in his time of great anguish!

Gazing at the “holy city” from the Mount of Olives is truly a spectacular sight. We’d all love to live in moments like that one (I know I would). But, the truth is, life is not just about the spectacular moments. Our lives include not only mountain top experiences with great visions of glory. There are times when life leads us into some Gethsemane experiences – those heart-wrenching moments when sorrow is prominent; times when we realize the future before us is a difficult one; times when we must wrestle with whether or not we will truly trust God with our lives. It is in the midst of those Gethsemane experiences that, like Jesus did, we too ought to feel free to cry out to God, expressing our anguish and pain and fear while at the same time, asking him for his help and strength. It is during those times that we learn what it truly means to submit ourselves to God’s will for our lives. And, we must not forget that, no matter how dark the situation before us may be, God will always be faithful to minister to us and help us in our time of need.

If today you are on the mountain top, rejoice in the goodness and glory of God. If, however, you find yourself in Gethsemane, put your trust in God. He will be faithful to see you through.

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you….” (2 Thessalonians 3:3 –NIV)

Have a great day!


-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 3

During our time at the Sea of Galilee (also called, Lake Tiberias), we spent one of our days traveling through the “north country” visiting the ruins of a number of cities that are mentioned in the Bible. It was quite a day as we visited places, some of which were 3,000-4,000 years old.

The day included a hike at the Dan Nature Reserve which led us, not only along one of the main tributaries to the Jordan River, but to one of the “high places’ built by Jeroboam. It was a religious site used by the kings of the northern kingdom as a place of worship in order to keep their people from going to Jerusalem for worship. For these kings, political power, economics, and pragmatism was more important than the worship of God.

We went to Caesarea Philippi, a Roman city that was filled with temples to their pagan gods, the largest of which was to the god, Pan. The temples were built along a huge rock cliff. On one side of the cliff there is the mouth to a cave, thought to be by the Romans an entrance into the place of the dead (i.e. Hades). I can only imagine what it must have been like in Jesus’ day as probably hundreds of people came each day to the temples, bringing their offerings to the gods that they had created. We were reminded there of the extent to which people will go in their worship of the gods of this world.

We also visited the ruins of two cities in which Jesus spent much of his time and did many of his miracles, Bethsaida and Chorazin. These were Jewish cities whose people had many encounters with Jesus during his life and ministry here on this earth as Jesus walked their streets, taught in their synagogues, and healed their sick. Yet, it was these same people whom Jesus condemned for being religious yet not having enough spiritual insight to repent of their sin and to recognize whom he truly was.

At the end of the day, as I sat by the Sea of Galilee reflecting on the places we had been, I realized that together they revealed a cross-section of much of humanity: (1) religious people who fail to see with spiritual eyes; (2) hedonistic people who worship the gods of their making – i.e. the gods of this world; (3) pragmatic people who are more concerned with power, politics, and economics than they are with worship of the one true God. Of course, throughout the centuries there have always been these types of people. Such is the case even today.

At the same time, however, I realized that there have always been those with hearts towards God, people who have been ready to worship and serve him alone. During Jeroboam’s time, there were those who refused to do as the king told them, choosing instead to obey God. In the New Testament we read of Greeks and Romans who were searching for the true God. They were called “God-fearers.” Many of them eventually put their faith in Jesus. And, although the majority of people at Bethsaida and Chorazin rejected Jesus, we know that there were many who heard Jesus’ call, and followed him. Yes, there have always been those who have wanted something more than religion, material goods, worldly pleasures, political power, etc. There have always been those whose hearts have longed for a kingdom different than the one that this world has had to offer.

The book of Hebrews describes those people for us: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth….they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16 – NIV)

Each of us needs to ask ourselves, which kind of person am I? Am I merely religious or truly spiritual? Have I given my heart over to the gods of this world or to the God of heaven? Is my life about the kingdoms of this world or about the kingdom of God?

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 2

After having spent a couple of days in Jordan visiting places such as Petra and Kerak Castle, on October 19th we crossed back into Israel by Jericho. After visiting the ruins at Jericho and Beth Shean, we drove to the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias). There, in the late afternoon, we sat on the shore by an ancient jetty, one which gives evidence to a fishing industry having been on this part of the lake. It is said that it was probably there that Jesus first met his disciples such as Peter, James, John, and Andrew. And, it was most likely at that spot (or one very nearby) that the risen Christ met his disciples, after the disciples had spent the night fishing with nothing to show for it.

I remember on that particular day getting choked up twice. The first time was when we were crossing back into Israel from Jordan. For some reason, it felt like I was coming home. There was almost a sense of relief as the young man took my passport and welcomed me back into Israel. I realized that day that, I was probably the first person in my family (i.e. the Jewish side of my family) that was in Israel in probably 1,000 years or more. To me, that was a very significant thought. For some reason, in God’s providence, I was there walking the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I was in the land that Moses had longed for. I was in the land for which Joshua and so many others had fought. It struck me that this was a great privilege to be able to visit this land which God had chosen for his people. The thought of it moved me to tears.

The second time I was moved to tears that day was by the Sea of Galilee. As I began to walk down towards the water, I could see in my mind’s eye Jesus, at the start of his ministry, calling his disciples to follow him and then, after his resurrection, sitting with his disciples by a fire, eating some freshly cooked fish, and asking Peter that penetrating question, “Do you love me?” As I stood at that spot, looking over the glistening waters of that famous lake, I was overwhelmed to think that I was standing where Jesus once stood in all of his resurrection power and glory. As I walked the shore, I heard the questions being asked of me, “Will you follow me?” and “Do you love me?”

As Christians we can get side-tracked by all kinds of things that pull us away from the most basic and most important parts of our faith. That day I was reminded of the connection we have with God’s people, going all the way back to Abraham, as we give ourselves to following Jesus, and just how significant that connection is. And, I was reminded of the great necessity for love to become intertwined with our faith. For we have not put our faith in a mere object but in a person, the person who has loved us like none other has ever loved us. Thus, time and again we must hear and respond to his call, “Follow me.” And, time and again we must answer the question asked by our Lord, “Do you love me?” Ultimately, our commitment to and love for our risen Lord Jesus is what being a Christian is really all about.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ….Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people….” (Ephesians 2:13, 19 – NIV)

Have a great day!

-Pastor Harris

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lessons From Israel - Part 1

Kim and I got back on Tuesday from our trip to Israel (including 3 days in Jordan). It was a trip we never could have expected to take, but by the grace of God was gifted to us through some very generous relatives. Ultimately, we know, as one rabbi we met put it, we were there because God had called us and made a way for us to be there. In these next few blogs, I want to share some of my thoughts and the lessons that were made very real to me as we were there.

Our first few days were spent in Beer Sheba, the Negev desert, and in Jordan. The terrain in those parts is so barren and dry, it amazed me that anything survived there. The part of Jordan that we were in was, in the Old Testament, Edom and Moab. It was territory that the Israelites had to travel through on their way to the Promised Land. As I looked at the land I couldn’t help but think, it’s no wonder they did so much complaining. I’d complain too. And, so would you!

As we travelled through these places, I couldn’t help but think about the great men of God who spent so much time in desert wilderness places such as those that we saw before us. Men like Moses, Elijah, David, John the Baptist, and even Jesus spent much time in places where the terrain is rough, filled with steep mountains and deep valleys and little water. I’m not sure any of us would want to spend much time by ourselves out in those places. Yet, it was there that they met God and heard his voice.

Yes, looking at the vast amount of wilderness desert brought so many of the accounts of scriptures to mind. It was sad to think about Hagar and her son Ishmael being sent out into the wilderness by Abraham and Sarah. It’s no wonder they almost died. I could see in my mind’s eye, the nation of Israel sitting at the base of a mountain whose peak comes to a plateau, waiting for Moses to come down, getting concerned that they might die of thirst or starvation. I could picture the “scapegoat” being sent out into the desert on the Day of Atonement, carrying the sins of the nation back to the abode of Satan and his demons (for that is what the wilderness represented to them). I thought of Jesus being tempted to turn stones into bread for all around are stones; lots of stones but little that might provide physical sustenance.

Finally, it’s no wonder that the writers of Scripture often used the picture of water in the desert to speak of the wonderful work of God. After all, the people understood well the harshness of the desert. But, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.” (Isaiah 35:6-7 - NIV) And, “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:18 – NIV)

Now the cry of psalms such as Psalm 26 has taken on new meaning for me. There the psalmist wrote: “Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:4-6 – NIV)

Sometimes our lives might feel like a desert. We might feel as if we are in a dry and barren wilderness. But we serve a God who is able to make streams flow in the desert!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lighting Up the Sky

The other night as Kim and I were coming out of a local store, the sky suddenly lit up with a streak of lighting that went from one end of the sky to the other. It was truly an amazing sight to see the lighting move horizontally across the horizon. The clouds were filled with color and what was once a darkened sky was now filled with light. Everything around seemed to come alive.

It makes me think about Jesus’ words to his disciples. As he looked towards the future, he told them that as time went on this world would become a more and more difficult place for those who followed him to live. He let them know that life in this world would not be easy. At times their world would seem very, very dark. Suddenly, however, that darkness would be filled with light – the light of his return!

Luke 17:24 – “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.” (NIV)

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 –NIV)

Be encouraged! We as followers of Christ may find ourselves in some great times of darkness. But, may we never forget our “blessed hope.” One day our Savior will light up the sky!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Shelter From the Storms

Today in the Northeast, even as I am writing, we have heavy winds and rains and are expecting to feel the effects of tropical storm Nicole as she comes up the coast. The Midwest has experienced its share of flooding this week. Then there were the mudslides in Mexico. And, that is probably just a few of the areas around our world that have had to deal with storms in recent days. We live in a world that is constantly experiencing one storm after another.

Of course, when we speak about the “storms of life”, we use that phrase not only in a meteorological sense, but also in a metaphorical one. The phrase, the “storms of life” often refer to the difficulties that we face within our lives: sickness, pain, broken relationships, the loss of a job, sudden catastrophes, the death of a loved one. All of these things and many more can be referred to as a “storm.” At times it can feel as if we are living from one storm to the next.

Unfortunately, none of us are exempt from storms – not the meteorological ones nor the metaphorical ones. Each one of us finds ourselves time and again in the midst of some type of storm. Too many times we find ourselves faced with the difficulties of life along with an uncertain future. And, our tendency may be to feel beaten down and blown around by the storms, hopeless and filled with despair.

But, the Bible tells us that even in the midst of our storms there is hope, for God has promised us shelter; even to be our shelter. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” (Isaiah 25:4 – NIV) The Psalmist wrote, “I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm." (Psalm 55:8 – NIV)

The hymn writer Vernon J. Charlesworth wrote these words:
The Lord’s our Rock in Him we hide, a shelter in the time of storm.
Secure whatever ill betide, a shelter in the time of storm.

A shade by day; defense by night, a shelter in the time of storm.
No fears alarm, no foes affright, a shelter in the time of storm.


A raging storm may round us beat, a shelter in the time of storm.
We’ll never leave our safe retreat, a shelter in the time of storm.


O Rock divine, O Refuge dear, a shelter in the time of storm.
Be thou are helper ever near, a shelter in the time of storm.


O Jesus is the rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm!

If you are facing a storm in your life today, turn to the One who has promised to be your “shelter in the time of storm.” In him you will find the safety, security, and peace you need.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Harris

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Like a Child

The other night I was going through some old videos that we had stored in a closet. Becoming a bit curious, I popped a couple of them in and began watching the first few years of my children’s lives. We watched Jonathan visiting the hospital just after the birth of his brother, Nathaniel. On the next video were Jonathan and Nathaniel visiting the hospital upon the birth of their sister, Joanna. We watched the three of them at a young age have their first “jam session” with their toy instruments (some of which were improvised from kitchen utensils). We were reminded of some of the cute and funny things they said back then, things that we had forgotten. And, we were reminded how much work it can be to manage three children four years old and younger!

Most of all, I was struck by how innocent they were. Although they could be stubborn at times, they were trusting of us as their parents. They quickly came running to us when we came into the house. They looked to us to meet their needs (and fulfill some of their wants). When they were sick or hurt, they called out to us believing that we as their parents could somehow help them and bring them relief from their pain. Most of all, it was fun to watch how they climbed on us and laughed with us and even showed off to us all the new things they had learned and discovered, no matter how small.

I wonder if Jesus didn’t have some of these things in mind when he said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17 – NIV) And, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4 – NIV)

It seems that God wants people who will totally and even innocently, trust him like children trusting their parents. He is looking for men and women who will run to him when they find themselves in pain. He is longing to have us come to him filled with joy and laughter. He wants us to know that as we come into his presence, he receives us as a good father welcoming his children.

I want to encourage you today to become like a child in the presence of your good and heavenly Father. As you do, he is there to welcome you with open arms, to help you, to comfort you, to bless you, and maybe even laugh with you.


Have a great day!


-Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Rain Delay!

Rain delays happen in many sports, but most especially in baseball and tennis. Some sports like football, are played in all kinds of weather. Baseball can tolerate some rain, but once it really starts coming down the game has to be stopped. In tennis, however, even the slightest amount of rain can cause the courts, and especially the lines, to become slick and dangerous to the players. Thus, even a drizzle can cause play to stop and the game to be delayed.

Such was the case yesterday with the US Open. Even before the men’s finals match was started, the match had to be postponed a whole day due to rain. Of course, it was a great disappointment to the fans who were planning to spend their Sunday afternoon watching the match either at the stadium or via television. But, how much more disappointing it must have been to the players who I am sure spent the whole night before and the whole of that day pumping themselves up for the big match. I’m sure it was quite a letdown when they were told that they were going to have to wait a whole day before getting onto the court for that deciding match. (Yes, I was disappointed too having to wait a whole day to watch it on TV.)

Of course, we all hate delays. We all hate having to stand in line, sitting in traffic, or anytime we are told we will have to wait. Such has been the case since our childhoods. We’d rather have it fast, get it done now, experience life according to our time frame. Yet, we all know that life is full of delays.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter wrote to christian believers who were getting tired of waiting, that is, waiting for the return of Christ. It seemed to them that he was taking too long. They had begun to wonder, why the delay? To them Peter wrote these words: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 – NIV)

The principle found in Peter’s words speak to us of not only the return of Christ, but of the way God works in general. His words teach us that sometimes the delays of life are a sign of God’s patience and mercy. There are times when God makes us wait, not because he is being mean, but because he loves us. Ultimately, we are reminded that God has his timetable and his is so much better than ours.

So, today if you find yourself having to wait, maybe faced with some sort of delay, consider that it might be due to the fact that God is patiently at work in your life. Remember God loves you and his timing for your life is always the best.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Harris

P.S. I do hope there is no rain delay today for the men’s finals match. I don’t think I could take anymore delay!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Real Labor Day!

For our household, September 6, 2010 was quite appropriately called “Labor Day” for that day also happened to be our son Jonathan’s 19th birthday. In other words, as I told Kim and our family, for her it really was “labor day” for it was on that day, nineteen years ago, that she was in labor giving birth to our first son. Thus, if anyone should have been honored for their labor it would have to be Kim for all that she went through bringing our son into the world. Yes, for her it was a day of hard labor.

Thinking back to that day, I am always amazed, however, of not only the stamina that Kim had throughout that process but even more so of how, once holding that newborn in her arms, this new mother forgot all of her pain. Once the baby was handed over to her, it was as if there had never been any struggle. She went so quickly from labor to rest as our new son, Jonathan, was placed in her arms.

Jesus said, “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21 – NIV) He then gives a promise to his disciples saying, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22 – NIV)

Jesus’ words are meant to encourage us to not allow the labor of this life to discourage us. We must not succumb to the difficulties of this world. Rather, we are to hold onto our faith in Christ, looking ahead with hope. For, although this may be our time of labor, a day is coming when all the pain and struggle of this life will be forgotten and replaced with the joy, peace, and rest of Heaven.

What a great promise to hold onto today. One day our labor day will be turned into a day of joy, peace, and rest. Let’s press forward towards that day.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Harris

Monday, August 30, 2010

Acorns Keep Falling on My Head

With the nice weather we’ve been having, my family and I have tried to get some time in on our deck in the backyard. After all, the colder weather will soon be here, when it will no longer be so pleasant to sit outside. Even this morning I took my coffee out and had my devotions on the deck. In fact, right now, as I am writing, I’m sitting on the deck, enjoying the outdoors. It really is a very nice setting.

There is, however, one problem. There is a huge oak tree in the one corner of the yard whose branches hang towards the house. And, this time of the year the oak tree is dropping its acorns – many of them onto our deck. Some of them are even falling perilously close to my head. Especially when the squirrels are running through its branches, I can begin to feel as if I am being bombed by acorns. In order to protect myself, I have to make sure I am sitting far enough under the umbrella so as not to get hit. Every so often I hear an acorn hit the top of the umbrella and roll off onto the deck, missing my head by mere inches. Our deck umbrella has become not just shade from the sun but protection from the acorns that threaten to hit me in the head! (There goes another one!)

Most of us have periods in our lives when it can feel as if acorns are falling all around us, threatening to hit us at any time. We go through times when we need protection from the things that life throws our way. Thankfully, we have a shelter from the acorns of life. That shelter is found in God.

God never promised to remove all the difficulties that life may bring our way. He never said that we would have no troubles. But, he has promised to be our shelter in our times of storm.

Psalm 27:5 – “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle….” (NIV)

Psalm 91:1-2 – “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’"
(NIV)

Isaiah 25:4 – “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm….” (NIV)

Today if you feel as if life is throwing acorns at you, go to God. Let him shelter you and protect you. He will keep you safe.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another World

As I write this first of my new series of “pastor’s devotions,” I’m back up in the Adirondack Mountains with my family. I’m currently looking out the window of our cabin at the lake gleaming in the sun. The boats are gently rocking. A duck passes by here and there. Early this morning we watched as an osprey dived into the water to catch a fish. It feels like we’ve traveled to another world.

Yet, even as my family and I enjoy the peacefulness of the lake and the mountains, I know that there is a world beyond these mountains filled with need. People throughout our world are facing natural disasters, war, famine. Many are dealing with the pain of broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams. Some don’t know how they are going to make it through another day. Unfortunately, for most people around our world, life is not filled with the serenity of these mountains, but with conflict and confusion. Most are longing for another world.

Maybe today you are one of those people who senses that longing. You may be facing some kind of pain in your life. It may be that something has broken in your life. You may be carrying a burden that seems too heavy to bear. I want to remind you that the Bible is filled with promises for those who sense their need for another world.

God has promised us a world far different than the one in which we now live, a world where “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain….” (Rev 21:4 – NIV) Jesus spoke of that other world to his disciples saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-4 – NIV)

You may not be in the mountains or by a lake. And even if you are, you know as I do that, eventually you have to step back into the real world. Yet, we can find peace and hope knowing that we have a God who loves us and who is right now preparing a place for us in a world beyond this one in which we now live. Our destiny as believers is to live with our Savior forever in another world!

Have a great day!


-Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome

Welcome to my new and first blog space. In a few weeks I will begin writing new pastors devotions through this blog.  Feel free to come back each week to visit and receive a bit of inspiration as I write about my life, the world around us, and what God has to say to us in his Word.

If you would like to receive the devotions directly in your e-mail box, please e-mail me at:
pastorsdevotions@gmail.com

God bless.

-Pastor Tim Harris