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