Friday, June 29, 2012

Passing Storms

Early this morning it happened again. The sky was once again flashing and booming. What sounded like the firing of cannons along with the shaking of the house woke me from my sleep.  I could hear our dog scurrying about trying to find cover (she’s terribly afraid of the thunder).  As buckets of water were being dumped upon the earth, the sound of the rain pelting against the windows only added to the drama. 

Well, it’s summer.  And, part of summer is a thunderstorm here and there.  But thankfully, as big and scary as some of them might be, the storms don’t usually last too long.  Most of the time, like this morning’s storm, they pass by in a matter of minutes.  Of course, when the sky is flashing with lightening and roaring with thunder, it can feel as if time is standing still and the storm is going to hang over us forever. But soon, usually before we know it, the storm has passed, the sky is clearing, and life gets back to normal.  (The dog even comes out of hiding!)

In Psalm 107, the psalmist wrote of a group of people who found themselves caught in the middle of a storm.  As the storm raged on, they were overcome with fear thinking that they were going to die.  But then they cried out to the Lord for his help.  And, the psalmist wrote, He (the Lord) stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” (Psalm 107:29-30 - NIV)

The same happened to Jesus’ disciples who one night, while out on the sea, found themselves caught in the middle of a life-threatening storm. But we read that, in the middle of it all, Jesus “…got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”  (Matthew 8:26 – NIV)

When we are in the middle of the storms of our lives—i.e. the difficulties and challenges of our lives—it can feel as if we will be stuck in them forever.  If we are not careful, we can begin to believe that our storms will linger over us for the rest of our lives and even destroy us.  Our tendency can be to give up and give into despair.  But, let’s remember that we have a God who is always watching over us, who hears our cries, and who is always ready to intervene. If we will call out to him, he will respond.  He will rescue us.  He will speak peace.  He will bring us to our “desired haven.” 

With the Lord on our side, what may seem like a forever storm will soon become a passing storm.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 22, 2012

Big Steps

This week was a week of big steps within our family.  On Monday our youngest child, Joanna, took her road test, passed, and got her driver’s license. I couldn’t imagine ever seeing the day when everyone within the family would be driving.  But, it has happened—even our “baby” can now get behind the wheel of a car without Kim or me being there!  The next thing I knew, Joanna was offering to go the supermarket and pick up some items for the house.  I wasn’t quite sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing!  But, off she went, driving to the supermarket without anyone else in the car. 

Then last night (Thursday) our son Nathaniel walked to the podium, got his diploma, and graduated from high school!  For him, that means all the things that have part of his high school career have now officially come to an end—e.g. the tennis team, marching band, the classmates that he has been with for so many years, the teachers that he has known.  By the end of the summer he will be moving into a dorm room, living with strangers, and beginning his college career as he begins to forge a new life for himself.  Of course, I’m really happy for him.  Yet, at the same time it feels very weird to have my second child moving on in this way. 

For Kim and me, this all means that the nest is emptying out faster than we ever anticipated.  It means that our children are becoming less and less dependent upon us as they form lives of their own.  Honestly, it is hard for us as parents to go through these big steps with our children.  It is all quite bittersweet. 

Today, more than ever before, Kim and I hold onto the principle stated for us in Proverbs 22:6,  “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  (NASB)  Our prayer is that whatever our children do and wherever they go that they will keep God at the center of their lives. We hope and pray that all that we have taught them and all that they have known and experienced in Christ, will be that which keeps them grounded and that which guides them as they continue to move forward through life. We pray that they will always remember that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10 – NIV)

And, may it be the same for each of us.  As we move through each of our lives, so often taking the big steps that are placed before us, may Jesus Christ remain central to all we are and all we do.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Easily Distracted Dog

The other day, my wife Kim and I were talking about how difficult it is to walk at a decent pace when we are with our dog, Mabel.   Without her, we can walk at the kind of pace that gets your heart pumping and causes you to work up a sweat.  But, when we are with Mabel, it is more of a slow stroll, if that.  The problem is that Mabel is so easily distracted.  Even if we get her to an exercise pace for a bit, the movement of a squirrel, the bark of another dog, or the opening of a garage door causes her to stop, sniff, and bark.  Just a scent in the wind or the rustle of the trees can cause her to stop and point.  She is truly an easily distracted dog. 

In his parable about the Seed, the Sower, and the Soil (the parable on which I preached last Sunday), Jesus warns us about having distracted hearts—or, what we might call a distracted faith. Jesus talks about people whose hearts are like the soil that receives the seed in such a way that the seed can begin to germinate and grow, but is as well filled with weeds and thorns.  Jesus says that eventually the weeds and thorns choke the life out of the good plant.  He then explains that this soil is like the person who hears and receives the Word of God, “…but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures, and they do not mature.”  (Luke 8:14 – NIV)  In other words, they have become distracted. 

The person with a distracted faith starts out in the way of faith.  They begin to walk the walk of faith. They may even get up to a good pace.  But then, like our dog Mabel, the things around them easily catch their attention.  The cares of life, their desire for material gain, and their longing for pleasure cause them to turn, look, slow down, and even stop.  Before you know it, they are no longer walking in the way of faith. They have become distracted from their faith.

Today let’s take a look at our hearts.  How easily are we distracted from our faith? What things in our lives have the potential to distract us away from our faith? And, let’s do as the Bible tells us to do, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….”  (Hebrews 12:2 – NIV)   

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Week of Rainbows

This week has been a week of rainbows.  Because of the weather patterns we have had—rainfall quickly followed by a break in the clouds and a burst of sunshine—we have seen more rainbows this week than at any other time that I can remember. 

It began last Sunday, as we were driving up the Harlem River Drive with some friends in the car. A huge rainbow stretched across the sky to the east.  It seemed to be dipping down somewhere into the middle of the Bronx.  In fact, I said to my friend, “Look at that! Now we know what’s on the other side of the rainbow: it’s the Bronx!” (Ha! Ha!) A few evenings later, my wife Kim called me with great excitement that in the sky there was a double rainbow.  And, over the next few days pictures were going up on Facebook of rainbows from people who had snapped shots from all around the NYC metro area – e.g. Long Island, Queens, New Jersey. 

Aside from the obvious beauty of a rainbow, what amazes me is how excited people (including myself) still get about seeing a rainbow.  No matter how many times we may have seen a rainbow within our lifetime—or even within a week’s time, for that matter—every time we see one it’s as if it were the first time.  That’s the level of awe and excitement with which we respond to the sight of a rainbow. 

The Bible tells us in the book of Genesis that God designed the rainbow to capture our attention. It’s purpose is to remind us of God’s promise that the whole world would never again be destroyed by a flood, as it was in the days of Noah.  The rainbow is God’s signature on his covenant.  It is his way of reminding us that he will keep his promise. 

Most of all, the rainbow reminds us that God will be faithful to every promise he has ever made. Whether, for example, it is the promise of forgiveness and salvation for those who turn to him or his promise to always be with his children or his promise that one day Jesus will return and set up his kingdom, God will never back out on his promises. His promises are true and God will fulfill every one of them. 

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 – NIV) 

Let’s give thanks to God today for his promises and his faithfulness to keep every one of them.  And, maybe today we’ll catch a glimpse of another rainbow! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Disappointed by Rita's

For the first time this season, my son Jonathan and I took a ride over to Rita’s, our favorite spot (and the only place we know of nearby) for Italian water ice and custard.  For a couple of weeks, Jonathan has been suggesting that we take the ride to Rita’s which is a little bit of a drive for us over to Route 46 in Lodi, NJ.  The weather was beautiful and we happened to be home together with no real plans for the evening, so we decided to go. 

Of course once we made our decision, dreams of water ice and custard swirled together (they call it a “gelati”), were swirling through our heads.  On the way there, I could practically taste the mango water ice with vanilla custard! As we approached the store, however, we could see that there was no line.  I thought, Wow, we won’t have to wait on a long line!  But, as we drove into the parking lot the reality of the situation became visible. The windows were all closed, the blinds were down, and last year’s sign was still up, “See you next year.” Rita’s was closed, in spite of the fact that it was already “next year!”  Were we disappointed!

Unfortunately, disappointment comes in all kinds of forms and in so many different way; in ways much more significant than the closing of a water ice shop.  We have our dreams, hopes, expectations…but then, disappoint comes.  Dreams are shattered.  Hopes are dashed.  Expectations are left unfulfilled.  Life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would.  People don’t always follow through they way we thought they would.  Disappointment seems to be just a natural part of the world in which we live. 

But the Bible tells us that those who put their trust in God will not be disappointed.  The Psalmist wrote, “They cried out to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.”  (Psalm 22:5 – NIV)   The Apostle Paul wrote, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his loved into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:5 – NIV)  What an encouragement for us today.  God will never let us down! He will never fail us! All the hope he has given to us, he will fulfill!

I don’t know what disappointments you have faced in your life—or may even be facing today.  Don’t be discouraged.  Don’t let the disappointments of life overwhelm you.  Keep on trusting God. He will always be faithful. He will always be true to you.  He will not disappoint you!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris