Saturday, December 31, 2011

Something More Than Time

It’s just a few hours away from the start of a new year, 2012 to be precise.  On an evening like this there’s always a bit of excitement in the air.  Times Square is beginning to fill up with those who seek the excitement of the crowd. Others are getting together with friends and family members for more intimate dinners celebrations. Some of us will be in churches, welcoming the new year with prayer and thanks to God.  Unfortunately, some will be alone.  But wherever we may be, when the clock strikes twelve it will feel as if we have reached another mile marker within our lives, as well as within the history of our world. 

For some people the turning of the new year will mean leaving regret behind and making new resolutions. For others, it is an opportunity to believe and hope for better times. Still for some, it may simply signify just another tick of the clock, one more cycle in the earth’s rotation around the sun.  But, is there anything deeply significant about the turning of another year?  After all, in the end it’s really  just one more sunset and sunrise. Is it not?

The writer of Ecclesiastes sensed that there was something a bit frustrating about the marking of time. He found it frustrating that life appears to be so circular, one season following another and then repeating the pattern again and again. One year is followed by just another year which is then followed by another, and so forth.  Yet, it was the movement of time that actually pointed him to something beyond time.

In the midst of his frustration with time, he wrote: “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV)  That is, the marking of time—even the marking of a new year—is an opportunity to see the hand of God at work within time.  And, it is an opportunity to be honest regarding our longing for something that is beyond time.  Thus, the stepping into a new year become for us a moment to acknowledge that God has created us for something more than that which we can experience here in this life. He has created us for that which is beyond time, namely, his eternal self.    

Tonight we will welcome in another year. We will mark the passage of time.  As we do, let’s give thanks for the fact that God at work in our lives within time.  But, let’s also look forward to the eternity God has planned for us beyond time, realizing that our end goal is an eternity spent with Him.

Happy New Year! 

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, December 23, 2011

God With Us

For this week's Pastor's Devotion, allow me to share with you a quote from Max Lucado's book, "God Came Near" which I used recently in one of my sermons: 

"It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment that was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man.  While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived.  Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. 
God had come near. No silk. No ivory. No hype. To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.

But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out."  

As we remember all that God has done through us through the coming of Jesus, let us worship Him with joy!  Jesus is "God with us!" 

Have a blessed Christmas!  

Pastor Tim Harris 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Pre-Lit Christmas Tree

This year I needed to buy a new Christmas tree for our home.  Since it’s been quite a number of years since I had to buy one, I went to a few stores looking to see what kind of trees the stores had and what the pricing was like. (Of course, I’m talking about an artificial tree!) To my surprise, wherever I went, just about all the trees already had lights on them.  When I first saw them, I thought I could never buy a pre-lit Christmas tree. After all, part of the process of Christmas is taking out last year’s lights, untangling them, seeing which ones work and which ones don’t, throwing away half of them, buying new ones, and then struggling to get them evenly spaced around the tree.  (Wow, that sounds exhausting!) 

After visiting three stores, I finally gave in and bought a pre-lit Christmas tree.  When I got it home, I put it together (it was just three pieces), shaped the branches, and plugged it in. And, what do you know? The tree lit up with just the right amount of lights, all perfectly spaced—no mess, no tangled lights!  I don’t know that I will ever go back to my old routine. 

Unfortunately, our lives are not as neat and clean as my pre-lit Christmas tree.  We constantly  struggle to make sense of the everyday events of our lives.  We work to untangle our situations, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, often realizing that the things we’ve counted on need to be scraped.  We fight to enjoy just a little bit of light, yet so often we find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of pain, sin, and circumstances that confuse us. 

But that is exactly why Jesus was born.  He came to untangle our mess, to help us in our struggle, and to bring us light.  In fact, he came to be our light!  The Apostle John wrote of Jesus’ coming, “In him 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)

You don’t have to be as perfect as a pre-lit Christmas tree.  All you need to do is put your trust in Jesus.  If you will, he will come into your life, help you with your struggles, and shine his light into your darkness.  And, his light will become yours!  

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris








Saturday, December 10, 2011

International Nativity Sets

Some of my favorite decorations to put out for the Christmas season are the nativity sets.  Early in our marriage Kim and I made sure we had a nice nativity set to be used as part of our annual Christmas tradition.  Through the years, we have added to our collection with various sets.  Some of my favorite are those that come from various parts of the world.  Although we don’t have too many of them, we now have sets from Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bethlehem, Israel. 

As I look at our international nativity sets I am reminded of the fact that when Jesus came to this earth as a baby he didn’t come for just one particular group of people or one particular nation.  He wasn’t born into this world to save a few select people.  Rather, he came because, “God so loved the world….” (John 3:13)

When the angels announced the birth of Jesus, they proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14 – NIV)  Notice they didn’t proclaim peace and goodwill to the Jews or to the Romans or to any other particular nation or group of people. Rather, the peace and favor of God was being extended to all people. 

One Christmas song says,
Some children see Him lily white; the infant Jesus born this night 
Some children see Him lily white with tresses soft and fair 

Some children see Him bronzed and brown the Lord of heav`n to earth come down 
Some children see Him bronzed and brown with dark and heavy hair

Some children see Him almond-eyed; This Saviour whom we kneel beside 
Some children see Him almond-eyed; With skin of yellow hue! 

Some children see Him dark as they; Sweet Mary`s Son to whom we pray 
Some children see Him dark as they; And, ah! they love Him so! 

The children in each different place; Will see the Baby Jesus` face 
Like theirs but bright with heav`nly grace; And filled with holy light! 

O lay aside each earthly thing; and with thy heart as offering 
Come worship now the infant King; `tis love that`s born tonight! 

Words and Music by Wihla Hutson and Alfred Burt

The sentiment of the song is true.  Jesus came for each and every person, no matter the color of their skin or their nation of origin. God has loved us all. Thus, each of us is called to respond to him with faith, praise and worship.

This Christmas remember: no matter who you are or where you have come from, Jesus came for you! 

Have  a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Music

Now that our Christmas tree is up and decorated, I play almost only Christmas music in the house throughout the rest of the month.  Of course, the radio and the stores began playing Christmas music a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving Day – all in the hopes of getting us into the Christmas shopping mood.  But, the first Christmas music I heard was in Nicaragua!

It was October 31st when I arrived in Managua. After leaving the airport, we drove to one of the malls to get lunch at the food court. In the middle of the mall was a huge Christmas tree decorated like the nicest trees we’d see in our malls. Not only that, but our standard Christmas music playing!  The next day, we went to a supermarket in the small city of Leon. The supermarket had snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, little Christmas trees for sale (artificial evergreen!), a section called “stocking stuffers,” and again, American Christmas music playing.  That’s right, in Nicaragua I was listening to “White Christmas,” “Let It Snow,” and “Sleigh Ride”—all in English!   I wondered, did anyone understand the words or the meanings to the songs, after all, they don’t get snow in Nicaragua –i.e. no white Christmas or sleigh rides.  (By the way, they did also play “O Holy Night” and “Away in a Manger”, again mostly in English.)

Whatever we think about the Christmas songs that are being played or when, where, and why they are being played, I believe that it is only appropriate that the Christmas season is filled with music. After all, the very first Christmas was filled with what we might call “songs.” 

Mary sang, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  (Luke 1:46 – NIV) Zechariah sang, “Praise be to the Lord, the God Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68 – NIV) And, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 – NIV)

Truly, God has given us something to sing about—something that goes far beyond the snow that the season may bring or the family gatherings we may enjoy. The reason we sing  and fill Christmas with music is the fact that God has sent us a Savior! Jesus has come bringing us light, life, peace, joy, forgiveness…and we could go on and on.

This Christmas, let’s rejoice and sing, filling our homes and souls with lots of Christmas music. 

“Joy to the world the Lord is come!”

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Squirrels' Feast

As I drove into our driveway last week, I came upon two squirrels feasting upon the large pumpkin that we had sitting on our front steps.  They had gnawed a whole in the side of it and were enjoying both the flesh of the pumpkin as well as its seeds. I chased them away but because my hands were full at the moment, left things the way they were.  Of course, the next chance possible, the two squirrels were back at their feast.  When I came out of the house, seeds and pumpkin were all over the steps.  I realized I had to do something or we were going to have a great big mess on our hands. 

My first thought was to pick up the pumpkin and throw it in the garbage thinking, no more pumpkin, no more squirrels, no more mess.  But then I had a second thought.  What would be the big deal if I moved the pumpkin to another spot—e.g. into the bushes—and allowed the squirrels to continue their feast? Although I’m not crazy about squirrels, did it really make a difference to me whether or not they ate the rest of the pumpkin?  After all, it already had a big hole in it and was useless to me.  So, I took the pumpkin down off the steps, put it into the bushes and left it there for the squirrels to continue their feast. And of course, over the next few days they did. 

I don’t necessarily love squirrels.  I’m not the kind who goes out and feeds them throughout the winter. At that moment, however, I just felt it was the right thing to do—at least for me.  And as I did, a scripture came to mind, one that I think God may have been trying to speak into my life.  That scripture comes from Psalm 84.


“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” (Psalm 84:11 - NIV)

My little interaction with the squirrels reminded me that as God watches over my life, he is very much aware of what I need. He’s no killjoy, looking to take away those things that are good for me. He doesn’t withhold what is good, but instead supplies my every need “according to his riches in glory.” (Philippians 4:19 - KJV) 

This Thanksgiving season, I’m grateful that we serve a God who never withholds that which is good.  He takes care of us as his children, blessing us even beyond what we need or deserve.  That’s the kind of God he is. That’s the kind of heavenly Father we have. So, let’s be sure to give him thanks!

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, November 18, 2011

Broken Branches

As I was working on my sermon this morning, I heard a huge “thud” that made me jump.  At first it sounded like something or someone had fallen in the unit next to us.  Then it dawned on me to go outside and look at the roof. Sure enough a great big branch, one that had been dangling from the oak tree behind the house, had finally broken off and landed on the roof.  This was the second big branch that came down since our October snow storm.  Thankfully, I don’t think it caused any damage—just a lot of noise. 

Some say that it can be good for the trees to have storms come through and blow down branches that are weak.  I’m not sure if that was the case with the October snow storm, but it may be so.  Of course, even if it is good for the trees it is not always good for us! After all, the trees don’t have to worry about the cleanup or the loss of power.  And, it is definitely not good for the individual branches. After all, once they are broken off from the trees, they quickly begin to wither and die. 

Looking at the branch that came down this morning, as well as all the dried up branches that are still lining our streets, I am reminded of the words of Jesus which I preached on at our churches just a few weeks ago: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6 – NIV)

As the branches that have been broken off from the trees are now lifeless and dry, so too, unless we stay connected to Jesus our spiritual lives will become lifeless and dry.  He is our source of true life.  He is the One through whom we experience spiritual and eternal life.  It is only through our relationship with him – his life flowing into us – that we can hope to live as we know we ought to live and produce the fruit that we know we ought to produce. 

Don’t become like that big branch sitting on my roof; don’t allow anything in this life to disconnect you from Jesus.  Rather, do whatever is necessary to live your life connected to him.  As you do, you will be like a branch filled with life and producing lots of good fruit. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Communication Overload

After having had a regular cell phone for about a year, a few months ago I went back to a  Blackberry.  Since then I have been able to once again not only talk on the phone but as well text, BBM, and email—all from the same gadget.  (Actually I didn’t even know what BBM was until a couple of months ago—that is “Blackberry Messaging” for you non-Blackberry people!)  And, being that the Blackberry is 3G I can go on the Web and thereby communicate on my Blackberry even through Facebook.  That is, of course, in addition to being on my laptop much of the day and having a landline in our home.  So, one would think that I’d have no communication difficulties.  After all, with so many options at my fingertips, I should never again have to struggle getting a hold of someone or having on-the-spot and on-the-go communication with the utmost of clarity. 

But, is that really the case? With so many messages coming through via texts and voicemail and emails and Facebook and BBM, I am finding it quite challenging to keep up with all the communication—making  sure I answer everyone in a timely way and making sure every thought I speak or text or type is clear.  Sometimes I have to look back and check to see whether or not I responded or, if I did, what I actually communicated.  Did I make an appointment? Did I make a promise? Did I give an answer?  If so, was it the right answer?  Sometimes I feel like I’m on communication overload. 

A few weeks ago my kids, seeing me reach for my Blackberry at the sound of the buzz, stopped me and pretty much rebuked me for checking it while they were trying to talk to me.  It seemed that my communication tool was hindering communication with those who were right in front of me. 

Then I have to wonder about my communication with God.  Do I put as much effort into communicating with him as I do into my communication with the people around me? And, is he able to communicate to me? I know for a fact that there are times when my communication tools have actually interrupted my communication with the One who is of ultimate importance in my life. 

Maybe more than ever before we need to hear God saying to us, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:3 – NIV)

Believe me, I’m thankful for computers and smart phones and all of the rest of the technology that we have before us today. In many ways they do help us. But let’s be aware that sometimes the tools that are meant to help us communicate may actually do the opposite.   

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Bumpy Roads of Nicaragua

Last night I returned from five days in Nicaragua. While there I spent time with the children and personnel of Promise International Academy, Promise Kids Foundation (PKF), and Promise Church – all in Leon and the surrounding area.  I also took a side trip to Matagalpa, a small city up in the mountains.  It was a great trip.

However, traveling through a country like Nicaragua – i.e. a “developing nation” – is nothing like traveling here in the United States.  Aside from a whole different style of driving (to put it nicely), the roads tend to be filled with all kinds of obstacles.  Even when driving on what would be considered a “highway,” one has to beware of cattle suddenly entering the roadway, chickens that have decided to literally cross the road, and speed bumps that have had the yellow paint worn away and a sign that is placed next to it rather than before it.  And, when traveling to the outlying areas as we did to visit the children we support through PKF, most of our traveling was done on dirt roads filled with potholes and gullies, narrow bridges and all kinds of hazards.  Yes, it can be quite a ride!   

I think the roads in Nicaragua tend to be very similar to what we might call “the roadway” of our lives. After all, few of our lives are like the highways here in the U.S.—four to six lanes of smooth pavement; a road that tends to be relatively smooth and comfortable.  Rather, our lives are filled with all kinds of hazards that suddenly appear; bumps in the road that can easily knock us off course.  The loss of a job, conflict in one’s home, sickness and death, and so much more all tend to make our ride through life a very bumpy one.  Each one threatens to keep us from living our lives the way God has intended for us to live them.

But, the Bible declares, “The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.” (Luke 3:5-6 – NIV)  That is, there are no obstacles to the work of God within our lives. He is more than able to overcome each one.  Moreover, through Jesus Christ, he works within our lives so that no bump in the road is able to hinder his work within us nor his purposes for us. 

No matter how rough the road you are on might be, know that God is the one who is able to take the bumpy road and make it smooth. 

Have a great day  and enjoy the ride! 

-Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Picking Up On the Cues

Since we got our dog Mabel, we have almost always put her in her crate when we leave her alone in the house. We don’t totally trust her for we are not sure what she will do while we are out. There have been times, for example, when we have found her on the living room sofa. 

Of course, Mabel doesn’t necessarily love it in her crate.  When we arrive home, she always barks and makes a scene as if she has been suffering terribly.  Yet, we almost never have to tell her to go to her crate or force her in.  Rather, while we are still getting dressed to leave the house, Mabel begins to pick up on the cues of our daily routine, makes her way to the basement and go into her crate.  I think if she could lock it herself, she would do that as well.  

The other day, however, she did seem to get our cues mixed up.  At one point, when she thought we were done with our lunch, she went back into the crate, then came out when she realized we weren’t leaving yet; then went back in; then came out to check again, etc.  She did this about four times!  Even when we told her we weren’t leaving yet (as if she really speaks English!), she still went to the crate if she thought it was time.  Bottom line, Mabel has become very sensitive  to our routine and to the cues that come her way based on what she perceives we are doing.  

I wonder, are we as sensitive to God and to what he is doing? Have we learned to pick up on his cues?  Are we aware of what it is he is asking of us?

Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." (John 5:17—NIV)  That’s right, God is always at work in our world. He is an active God, constantly moving and working; doing and acting.  As we faithfully follow him, spend time with him, and get to know him, we will just naturally begin pick up on his cues and learn how he would have us respond. 

Why not ask God today to help you to pick up on his cues? 

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bird Watching 101

Although I’ve never been what you would call an official “bird watcher,” I have always enjoyed watching birds. In fact, I remember how when I was a kid, my grandmother bought me a bird watcher’s field guide to help me identify the birds in my backyard.  And, recently my son Nathaniel accused me of driving while looking up at the birds! 

Well, who would have thought that one of my kids would be taking a college class in ornithology – i.e. the study of birds?  But, it’s true.  This semester, for his science elective, Jonathan has been taking a class about birds (note: I didn’t say a course that’s for the birds!).
Of course the curriculum includes required field work or, going bird watching.  So Jonathan has been keeping a journal of all the birds he has seen and been able to identify since the beginning of the semester.  I do find it pretty interesting.  Besides, it  gives us something more to talk about, and even argue about – e.g. Was that an American crow or a turkey vulture?

Did you know that God is a bird watcher? Not for the sake of identifying what kind of bird just flew by his window or landed in his backyard.  Of course, he can identify the birds much better than we can. After all, he created them.  Rather, he is watching the birds because he cares for them.

Through the Psalmist God said, “I know every bird in the mountains….” (Psalm 50:11 -
NIV)  Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26-NIV)  But, Jesus then went on to say, “Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26-27-NIV)

In other words, God may be a “bird watcher,”  but he is even more so a “people watcher” – watching over his people both day and night.  And, if God is willing to take care of the birds, then of course he is going to the same, and even more so, for those who are his children.   

Be encouraged to know that God is watching over your life.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Avoiding Traffic

Commuting between New Jersey and Queens is not always the easiest commute. With two bridges to cross and a choice between the Cross Bronx Expressway or the Harlem River Drive and the Grand Central Parkway, there are a lot of variables that can affect the trip.  One stalled vehicle or a minor fender-bender can easily turn the 18 mile, half-hour commute into an hour and a half trip.

To make the trip as smoothly and as quickly as possible, I have become very dependent on my Google Maps app that I’ve downloaded to my Blackberry.  For those who haven’t used it before, when one brings up the map they can set it to show the flow of traffic. Green means everything is moving fine; yellow that the traffic is moving slowly; red that the traffic is at a crawl; red with a black line in it, that’s a really bad sign!  Before venturing onto the highway, I always check the map in order to figure out the best way to travel so as not to end up sitting unnecessarily in traffic.  (Of course sometimes there is no best way!) It is not infrequent that I am thankful for my Google Maps app.  After all, I love avoiding traffic.

I realize, however, that there are many other things in my life that I ought to avoid besides traffic.  No, I’m not referring to too many calories or too much cholesterol. Rather, the steady flow of bad attitudes that seek to make their way into my heart, the stream of hurtful words that can so easily come out of my mouth; the congestion of negative thoughts that want to fill my mind, these are all examples of the kind of “traffic” that can slow my life down to a crawl and keep me from getting to where God wants me to be.

The Bible says, “Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).  That includes every wrong action, thought, or attitude. It is a call for us to be diligent in doing our part not to end up stuck in the middle of the “traffic” of this world.  We are to do our best to avoid anything and everything that can keep us from our God-given destination.

Unfortunately, there is no Google Map to help us avoid the “traffic” of the heart and mind. There is no Blackberry app to help us find a way around the evil of this world.  But with God’s help, we can avoid those things that slow us down and keep us from being all that God has called us to be.  Through his Word and by his Holy Spirit, we will get to our God-given destination.  

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris
   

Friday, October 7, 2011

One Game At A Time

The Yankees’ 2011 season has come to an end. In spite of a pretty good run that propelled them into the post-season; and in spite of their effort throughout their series with the Detroit Tigers, they just couldn’t pull it off.  In the end, they had to pack up and go home (and maybe head off to the golf course!).

Some of us are probably a bit frustrated with some of the players (I won’t name any names!). The players themselves are probably asking, how did this happen?  I’m sure that many of them are replaying plays and at-bats in their minds. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter. The truth is, leaving bases loaded twice, striking out at the worst possible moment, allowing two runs right off the top, none of that makes for a win.  At last night’s game, it didn’t matter how well the team had played throughout the year or how many wins they had on their stats sheet; all that mattered was winning that one game.  And, by not winning that one game, their  season (and chance to win the world series) came to an abrupt end. 

But, that’s what it’s all about: winning one game at a time. Any cumulative success is always the result of being able to win one day and then go back and win again the next.  To be a “winning team” means being able to stack win after win.  That’s true in baseball (or any other sport), as well as in life. 

The Apostle Paul was a man who refused to rely on his past success for the “game” at hand. He knew that each day was a new day—another opportunity to score a “win” for the Kingdom of God.  He wrote, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14—NIV)  Elsewhere he writes that each one of us should, “…make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5—NIV)  He knew that to live a life of wins means experiencing one win at a time.

I want to encourage you today to stay focused, persevere, and put forth the skill and effort needed to “win” today.  Don’t allow yourself to become overly confident, relying on your past successes.  And, don’t worry about the future. Serve Christ today. Do what he’s called you to do today. Live the way he’s instructed you to live today. As you do, you will find the wins of your life will quickly stack up.

You can be a winner by simply winning one game at a time! 

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris



Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Healthy Heart

Last week my family celebrated with my younger brother Chris the fact that he is alive and well one year after his open-heart surgery. Of course before and during the surgery, we were all very concerned for his well-being. After the surgery, there were times when things seemed to be a bit touch and go.  The recovery was hard due to some complications.  After being released from the hospital, he ended up in a second hospital due to an infection.  The days in the hospital and just after his release seemed very long.  But, here we are  one year later.  Chris is doing very, very well.  We thank God for the medical community. But most of all, we are thankful to God himself for his presence, care, and healing.  It’s as if Chris has received a new lease on life!  Thankfully his heart is now a healthy heart. 

The odd thing about Chris’ difficulties with his heart and the surgery that eventually came about because of it, was that for the most part Chris always appeared to be very healthy.  Those who would meet him, by looking at him, would think that he was the picture of health. On the outside there were few clues that something was terribly wrong with his heart.  But we all know that, looking good on the outside is not all that there is to true health. For one, in order to be truly healthy, one must have a healthy heart.

That is as true on a spiritual level as it is on the physical level.  A person might have everything on the outside looking just right.  They may appear very religious and even spiritual.  By looking at them, others may think that they are the picture of spiritual health.  But if their heart is not right with God, whatever “health” they may project is merely a facade. 

The Bible tells us that, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 – NIV)  For some of us that may be a bit scary.  But God made this promise to his people: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 – NIV) In other words, God is able to correct in us that which we cannot correct ourselves. He is able and willing to bring new life and health to our spiritual hearts—if only we will let him. 

Don’t fall into the trap of assessing your spiritual health by all exterior aspects of your life – e.g. what you do and don’t do. Instead realize that true spiritual health begins with the heart.  Maybe today you need to pray with the Psalmist David, “Create in me a pure heart...” (Psalm 51: 10 – NIV)  As you do, he will work in you to create a healthy heart.

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Rite of Passage

This past Monday my son Nathaniel passed through another adolescent rite of passage: he got his driver’s license.  Since I was home that day and didn’t need my car, I let him take it to school. So, for the first time he drove without Kim or me by his side.  I’m sure it felt good to him, even if it was only a mile or so.  On the other hand, as I watched him drive away my heart sunk a little bite. I even think a tear came to my eye.  Not because I was worried about him driving, but because I realized another one of my children had become a little less dependent on me as their father.  For a moment, it was almost as if time was standing still, for it was a sign to me that in just a short time, my role as a parent would begin to wind down.  In that moment, I sensed that time was moving on and there was little I could do about it. 

As we go through our societal rites of passage—either our own or those of our children—we are reminded of the fact that time is constantly moving forward.  The day one gets their driver’s license, graduation day, a wedding day, etc. are all reminders of the movement of time. Little things like the first time a guy shaves or the first time a girl puts on makeup, the first gray hair that shows up on one’s head or the little aches and pains that begin to show up in one’s body reveal to us in both subtle and not so subtle ways that time is marching on.  Especially when we find ourselves faced with a critical illness or the death of a loved one we are almost forced to realize the brevity of our time here on this earth.  

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 – NIV) More literally, the Apostle Paul tells us to be careful to use properly “every point in time.”  Figuratively, he speaks of buying back or redeeming each point in time. 

The thought behind Paul’s words is that our time here on this earth is limited.  Not only that, but he says it is as well filled with “evil” or “hardships.”  We never do know what will happen next.  Thus, it is imperative that we would use the time that we have, wisely. It is important that we not waste our time. Once it is gone we will never get it back.

I want to encourage you today to reflect upon your life and how you are using your time.  Check to see if whether or not you are using your time in a way that brings real meaning to life.  Most of all, let’s use our time in a way that blessing to others and glory to God.

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris




Friday, September 16, 2011

Back to School Night?

Last night Kim and I went to our son’s and daughter’s high school for “Back to School Night.”  That meant two and a half hours of listening to teachers try to explain their course syllabi,  expectations, grading systems, along with all the get-to-know-you information -  all in a space of about twelve minutes each.  In between classes, we had about three minutes to get to the next class through a jam packed hallway while trying to read a map of the school or find a student who could point us in the right direction.  Kim followed our daughter Joanna’s schedule. I went to our son Nathaniel’s classes. 

Of course it really wasn’t “Back to School Night” as entitled. Rather, it was simply what I would call, “Meet the Teachers and Hear All About Your Kid’s Work Night.”  After all, we as parents didn’t learn anything about history or math or science.  We didn’t have to do any reading assignments or write any essays.  Nor did we have to take any tests or participate in any after school clubs or sports teams. We didn’t have to deal with any of the real stuff of being in high school.  It really wasn’t “Back to School Night.”   And for me, that was OK. 

At this stage in my life, I’d prefer not to have to go back to high school.  Not that high school was so terrible, but it was good to move on.  In fact, after high school I was glad to go to college. And, after college I was glad to get my first job, to get married, to go to seminary, to enter the ministry, to have a family, etc. Although I may have enjoyed and appreciated each stage of my life thus far, I don’t think I really want to go back.  Nor, can I. Nor, can you.  All we can do is look ahead and keep on moving forward. 

There are times when it’s nice to reminisce. It can be fun to think about the “good old days.”  But, the plans and purposes of God for our lives are not found in the past.  What God has planned for us is not discovered by going back, but rather by moving forward. 

Maybe that’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 – NIV)

Your past may have been wonderful or it may have been terrible. Either way, you will not get to where God wants you by always looking back. Rather, you will experience what he has for you by moving forward. 

I want to encourage you today to look ahead and move forward with God.  He has good plans for your future and a wonderful “prize” for you in eternity. 

Have a great day!  

-Pastor Tim Harris




Friday, September 9, 2011

A Different Skyline

Although it has been ten years since the destruction of the Twin Towers, those of us who have lived in the New York City metro area most of our lives still picture them as part of the NYC skyline. In my mind’s eye I still see them standing and expect them to be there when I catch a glimpse of Manhattan from either the west or the east. But when I look they are obviously not there.  The same is probably true for many of you. The NYC skyline has forever been changed. It will forever be a different skyline.

That day ten years ago will forever be etched in our minds. We all know that since that day, life has never and will never be the same here in the U.S. – and most especially here in New York City.  Just as those towers will never be replaced and the skyline put back the way it was, so too there are pieces of us that cannot be rebuilt.  We may have learned how to move on with life; we may have learned how to cope with new security measures; we may have learned how to keep things as normal as possible, yet there will always be something different about the skyline of our lives.

So, what does the skyline of your life look like? How about mine? Is it a skyline dominated by fear or hatred or anger? Or, is it one that is dominated by faith and hope and love? What do people take note of when they look at our lives after having gone through the horrific events that took place ten years ago—or the many other terrible things that can happen within one’s life? 

The Bible says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love… the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13-NIV)  That is, in spite of all the pain and tragedy and evil that may come into our lives, ripping apart life as we have known it, there are three towers that can forever stand: faith, hope, and love.  For those who put their trust in God, these are three towers that can never be destroyed. By God’s grace, they will always remain. Like God himself, they are eternal.

I encourage you, on this tenth anniversary weekend of September 11, 2001, to reach out to God and allow his grace to flow into your life. Although there may be parts of the skyline of your life that will be forever different, may you always be filled with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the hope that he brings, and the love that God himself imparts into our lives. May faith, hope, and love be that which dominate the skyline of your life.   

Please remember to pray for the families who are yet grieving, for our city, our nation, and our world. 

Have a great day. 

-Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, September 2, 2011

What's For Breakfast?


Most mornings I tend to eat a pretty standard American breakfast. I like my coffee – usually two cups, strong with just a drop of milk and half a teaspoon of sugar in each – and a bowl of cereal with some fruit. A couple of mornings a week I might have a bagel with either butter or strawberry cream cheese.  And every so often, I might have eggs or French toast or bacon or all of it!  Once in a while I might even cook the French toast for my family. (That’s really just once in a while. And, I never make pancakes. I leave that to Kim!)

This week, however, my morning routine was a bit different. I was taken to breakfast a few times by a very kind deacon from Promise Ministries and couple of the  pastors.  Although most of the time we went to a diner where I would get my normal breakfast foods, one day we went to a Korean restaurant for breakfast. When I asked what typical Korean breakfast foods are I was told, “The same thing we eat for lunch and dinner.”  So, one of the men I was with had hot spicy soup. The other had bibimbap – a small hot pot filled with rice, vegetables, meat and egg to be mixed together with some spicy red paste. I had a bowl of rice, beef ribs, and cabbage.  Obviously, it was not my normal breakfast. 

As I sat there eating my rice and meat, I was reminded that what is “normal” and “standard” for me is not necessarily so for others. In some parts of the world tortillas and rice and beans are common breakfast foods. For some it is bread and cheese. For others it is fish and rice.  Even within the same culture, we can have different tastes regarding what we find normal for breakfast (or lunch or dinner, for that matter). 

I want to remind us that, although we might eat different foods, there is one thing we all ought to be eating every day, the Word of God.  Although our cultures and tastes might dictate to us what is a “normal” and “standard” meal, each of us needs the nourishment of God’s Word to feed the deeper parts of our lives and to help us through our days.   

So, let me ask you, what’s for breakfast? For lunch?  For dinner?  The best meal of all is the Bible, God’s Word to you.  Read it and be nourished.

Jeremiah 15:16 - “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight….”(NIV)

Psalm 119:103  -  “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (NIV)

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, August 26, 2011

When the Ground Shakes

This past week, up and down the East Coast most of us felt the moving of the ground like never before. I was getting out of the elevator on the fourth floor of our office building when I heard a rattling in the ceiling and then felt the building begin to sway.  At first I thought it was just me getting dizzy from the elevator ride. However, when someone called out, “What’s happening? Do you feel that?” I knew it wasn’t just me. Sure enough, I had experienced my first earthquake!

Thankfully the quake was minimal with little damage done, and no loss of life. For a few moments, however, it was a bit frightening as we wondered whether or not it would intensify or come to a quick end. For a couple of moments, none of us knew exactly what would happen next.

That’s how  our lives are so much of the time. The ground beneath our feet begins to shake and we don’t know whether or not it’s going to subside or intensify. We don’t know whether things are going to get better or worse. And, it’s not for us to know. Nevertheless, it can be quite scary, discouraging, and even painful living world in which the things upon we rely are so easily shaken. It’s hard living in a world wherein one turn in the market can strip away our savings; a change in the weather can wipe away our physical belongings; one turn of events can steal from us our loved one. All too often the ground beneath our feet is shaking.

Thankfully, we have a promise from God for a world that will know no shaking. The Scriptures say, “…since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe….” (Hebrews 12:28-NIV)

In the midst of all the shaking of this life, I’m grateful for the hope that one day God will lead us into a kingdom that will never be shaken! 

Have a great day! 

-Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Strong Rope

This week for the first time in about a year, my three kids and I went to the rock climbing gym.  After belaying two of them, I took my turn scaling the wall. As I did, it became quickly obvious that I was both out of practice and out of shape. As I climbed not only did I feel quite awkward moving from one hold to the next, but the muscles, especially in my forearms, began to quiver with pain. Quite a few times I lost my grip and found myself dangling in my harness attached to the top rope, sometimes thirty feet or more in the air. At those moments, I was really glad for a strong rope (and a son who knew what to do with it!).

Without the rope properly attached to my harness , I would have surely fallen and seriously injured myself. Without the right rope, I would have easily plunged to the ground below. In fact, without the right rope, I would never scale a wall as high as I did, hanging onto small rock holds up to thirty-five feet or more in the air. Before I climb a wall like that, I need to know I’m attached to a strong rope.

As I go through life, I find it is often like scaling a wall at the rock climbing gym. I’m constantly looking for the next step (the next hold) as I try to get a “grip” on what is happening around me. Sometimes I find myself feeling pretty secure and moving forward. At other times, however, I suddenly lose my hold and slip back a few feet. Then there are those times when I feel like I’m just dangling in the air! It’s at those times, when I am slipping or even dangling that I am especially grateful for the strong “rope” in my life. I am glad to know that God is able to keep me from plunging to the ground.

The Psalmist wrote, “...I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’  My times are in your hands….” (Psalm 31:14-15 – NIV)  The Apostle Jude wrote of him, “…who is able to keep you from falling….” (Jude 24-NIV)  Both had learned that there is nothing and no one better to depend upon for safety  than God himself. He is our strong rope!   

We all need a safety rope as we go through this life. Life can be pretty precarious. There are times when we will slip and times when we will even be left dangling in the air.  At those times, in whom or what are you going to put your trust?  Let me encourage you to put your trust in God.  He alone is the strong “rope” in whom you can always depend.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7-NIV)

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris



Friday, August 12, 2011

An Incredible Friend

One of the most exciting things about embarking on a new place of work and ministry is the opportunity to make new friends. Although I am grateful for all the good friends I’ve had through the years, and I hope to keep many of those friendships alive, I realize that I am in a season of developing new friendships.

As I have begun to meet the people of Promise International Fellowship (PIF) and City Vine Church, sharing a meal or a having a cup of coffee, meeting in my office or at a table during  our post-service receptions, I have met some really great people who, up to this point, I didn’t even know existed. I know it’s early, but I can sense that God is bringing  a new set of people into my life – people with whom I can share life and do ministry; people whom I will soon consider as good friends.

I thank God for all the friends I have had through the years, many who are still good friends. And, I look forward to making lots of new friends in the weeks and months to come.  But, I’m also reminded of the fact that I have a Friend in heaven, for the Bible reveals God not only as a Father, but also as a friend.

The Apostle James referring to Abraham wrote, “…and he was called God's friend.” (James 2:23-NIV) Jesus said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…” (John 15:15-NIV) To think that the Lord of the universe would us his friends! What an incredible thought!

Because of his great love and mercy towards us, we can sing, “I Am a Friend of God.”  We have a friend in heaven, one who “sticks closer than a brother.”  (Proverbs 18:24) What an incredible friend!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Change of Address


Having moved recently, we as a family have had to get used to both saying and writing a new address. When asked in a store for her address, my daughter Joanna had to think twice before giving it. Just yesterday, as I was filling out some forms, three times I began to write down our old one.  Not only that, but since we are living fairly close to our former address, multiple times, as Kim and I have been driving home, we’ve started to turn down the street where we used to live. Even after close to a month, we are all still getting used to the fact that we have had a change of address.

The Bible shows us that one day, we who are God’s people will all have a change of address. We will no longer live as part of this world, but in a new place—a world designed for us by God. Jesus said, “In my Father's house are many rooms (i.e. dwelling places)... I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2-3-NIV) By his words, Jesus gives to us the assurance that one day we will move as a family—God’s family—to our Father’s house. We will have a change of address!

The book of Revelation tells us that one day we will live in a place where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…." (Revelation 21:4 –NIV).  No longer will we live in a world filled with injustice and pain, conflict and sorrow, and all the other difficulties of a world that has fallen away from God. Instead, we will live where God is at the center of all things. We will live in a place that is filled with light and life! We will have a change of address!

I want to remind you that, what you may be experiencing in your life today—the pain, the difficulties, the conflicts, and disappointments—are not the end of the story. This is not your final address. The Bible promises you, and all who are followers of Jesus, a new life in a new world. As part of God’s family, one day you will experience a change of address!

“Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18-NIV) 

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, July 22, 2011

Relief From the Heat

Sizzling.  Steamy.  Scorching. These are just a few of the adjectives to describe the weather we’re facing here in the Northeast (as well as across much of the country).  To say that it’s hot outside is probably an understatement. Last night after the sun went down, it still felt uncomfortably hot out—more like Florida or Louisiana than New Jersey.  When driving along this morning, the air blowing through the open window was like a blast of hot air coming out of a clothes dryer.

Of course this kind of heat means running the air conditioning, going to the pool, looking for cool places to hang out (that is “cool” as in cold), and finding as much shade as possible. Most people, like me, are only going outside if they have to. And when they do, they are moving very, very slowly. Everyone is in need of some relief from the heat.

The prophet Isaiah wrote long ago, “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name…You have been …a shade from the heat.” (Isaiah 25:1, 4—NIV ) As the prophet saw what was happening in his world—all the difficulty, pain, oppression, etc.—it felt as if life was oppressively hot! Life had too often become quite unbearable. He like most others, found himself in need of relief. Where did he find it? In God. God became his “shade from the heat.”

God wants to be the same for us. He understands that at times life can become unbearable. He knows that the situations and circumstances of the world in which we live can feel like sizzling, steamy, scorching heat. So, he offers himself to us as our “shade.” God offers to give us relief, if we will put our trust in him.

Do you need some relief from the heat? Turn to God. Trust him with your life. He has promised to be your “shade from the heat.”

Have a great day and stay cool!

-Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, July 15, 2011

Looking From Above

I recently moved into the office at the church where I am now pastoring in Queens, NY. The office is five stories up (although it’s on the 4th floor). And, although it’s not the highest I’ve ever been in a building, it is the first time I’ve ever worked in an office that is not at ground level. Thus, from my window I have a different kind of view. Instead of looking straight out the window at my surroundings, I am now looking down on them.

Of course, some of you may be used to working a few stories up or even higher. Some of you might even work in a high rise building or skyscraper. And, I’m sure that most of us have been up the Empire State Building or the former World Trade Center buildings or other buildings like them. We all know that, the higher up one is, the smaller the people, cars, and buildings below appear. When looking from above, one can’t help but have a different perspective on their surroundings.  Those things that seem so large from the ground, appear so much smaller from above.

In the same way, when we look at life from ground level, many things can seem intimidating and become so frustrating. That’s why the writer of Ecclesiastes, when writing from ground level wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless…What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – NIV) But, when writing from a higher perspective—what  I like to call a “God’s-eye” view of life—he wrote, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-NIV). What a different point of view!

I want to encourage us to see life from God’s perspective.  When we do, many of the same things that seem to loom so large become small. The difficulties of life that once appeared so big become but mere pieces of thread in the tapestry that God is weaving. When we view life from a higher perspective, what once appeared meaningless and frustrating, now becomes part of God’s plan of beauty!

Ask God to help you see your life from his perspective, for when you’re looking from above you’ll see that truly God is making “all things beautiful in its time!”

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, July 8, 2011

Unpacking


This week my family and I moved to a rental home and had all of our “worldly goods” delivered by the moving company that had held it all for us in storage for the past four months. Before we knew it, we had a house filled with boxes and furniture. Although we did our best to tell the movers where to place everything, in the end, it felt as if the whole house was in complete disarray. All we could do was begin opening boxes and try to put things away piece by piece.

The only fun part of the whole ordeal was the fact that, because we hadn’t seen so much of our stuff for four months, as we unpacked the boxes each of us would react with expressions like, “Oh I remember this!” or “I’m so glad to have my _____ back!” or “Why did we keep this?” Just about each box held somewhat of a little surprise.

I find that every time I go to God’s Word, the Bible, it is like unpacking a box filled with all kinds of good stuff (i.e. not the stuff that causes you to say, “Why did I keep this?”). And, often it is filled with all kinds of surprises – or at least things that I have forgotten were there! As I read God’s Word it is often like discovering something that has been mine all along, but which has been packed away.

The Psalmist wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103 – NIV). The Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight….” (Jeremiah 15:16-NIV) Finally, the Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17-NIV)
  
I want to encourage you today to read God’s Word daily. He wants to speak into your life through it. God’s Word is filled with so much good stuff; if only we will take the time to unpack it!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris




Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Priceless Treasure

While at the beach the other day, I couldn’t help but overhear a little girl call out to her mother, “Look mom. I found a shell. It’s a shell!” Apparently this girl hadn’t been to the beach too often for she picked up the very first shell she found in the sand, although broken and really not at all special looking, as if something very extraordinary. 

As the day went on, she realized that there were nicer shells to be found, not so much up in the sand but down towards the water. So, most of the day she spent her time down by the water looking for that special prize that she could claim as her own. It was really quite entertaining, watching her run back to her blanket and call out to her mom every time she thought she had found another extra special shell.

What really struck me, however, was how this one little girl out of all the people on the beach found such excitement in finding even the most common of shells. Whereas most people, including us, just walked right by them, this little girl could hardly pass one by. Each one was as special and priceless as the next.  What had become common and ordinary to most of us, was of great value to her.

Later on, I thought about Jesus’ words, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44-NIV) Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is a treasure—special and priceless; of greater worth than anything else in life. Yet, so often we treat the blessings of God and those things associated with his kingdom as common and ordinary. Too often we take for granted all that God has done for us and given to us through his son, Jesus.  

Instead, we ought to be like that little girl, filled with excitement; convinced that we have found something priceless. And, like that little girl, we ought to be running to others saying, “Look at the wonderful treasure I have found!”

If you have experienced the kingdom of God within your life, be excited. You have found a priceless treasure!

Have a great day!

-Pastor Tim Harris