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