Friday, January 25, 2013

Empty Seats

This past Tuesday Kim and I got home from our respective places of work about the same time.  Knowing that Joanna is always starving when she gets home at the end of the day, especially now that she has track practice after school, I suggested we get dinner started as quickly as possible.  I think I was kind of looking forward to having dinner together—that is, all three of us.  With both Jonathan and Nathaniel back at their colleges as of Monday, a full dinner table is now Kim, Joanna, and I.  And, the night before, Joanna was out for the evening, so Kim and I had eaten dinner alone.  I guess I was really looking forward to having dinner with all three of us together. 

As Kim and I were cooking and setting the table, I noticed it was getting close to 6 pm and began wondering why Joanna was somewhat late.  I found myself peaking towards the front window, waiting for her to drive up any moment, ready to inform her that dinner was just about ready. Every so often, I’d glance towards the direction of the driveway, wondering whether or not I had heard her drive up.  Then suddenly it dawned on me: Joanna had a track meet and would not be home for dinner!  I stopped in my tracks, broke the news to Kim, and proceeded to remove one place setting from the table.  Once again, Kim and I sat down for dinner—just the two of us, and three empty seats.

It’s not that Kim and I don’t like having dinner together. It’s just that we are so used to a full house.  And with both boys away, there does seem to be some consolation in the fact that at least we yet have Joanna at home with us.   The house doesn’t seem totally deserted. The chairs at the dinner table are not all empty.  But, on Tuesday night it seemed like we were looking at empty seats. For a moment I think my heart sunk just a little bit as I longed to have each of my kids back at the table. 

Jesus told the story of a man who was throwing a great big feast. He invited lots of people to come, but most turned down his invitation and there were going to be lots of empty seats.  So, he sent out another round of invitations to a whole different group of people.  In his instructions to his servants he said, “‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”  (Luke 14:23 – NIV)  With those words, Jesus was expressing the longing of God’s heart.  He was revealing God’s desire that not one seat in heaven should be left empty; that many would be saved and made children of God—that each of us should be found in our seats at God’s table.   

I’m thankful today that, as much as I long to have my kids with me at my dinner table, God is longing—and even much more so—for each of us to be with him. What a wonderful Father he is!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 18, 2013

More Than Paint

I spent last week with a group of six people in Leon, Nicaragua.  One of our main objectives for being there was to help prepare our school, Promise International Academy, for their upcoming school year, which begins in February.  That meant painting and then cleaning as many classrooms and other parts of the school building as we could.  By the end of the week, with some of the teachers working alongside of us, we got five classrooms and two outdoors areas painted.  I’d say it was a pretty productive week. 

I know for some, going to Nicaragua and spending much of our time painting and cleaning can seem a bit laborious, non-glamorous, and even mundane.  Most teams want to come back with stories of being with kids, traveling down dirt roads, or adventuring to the far corners of the nation.  Well, we did spend a day with our children from Promise Kids Foundation in some of the outlying communities—traveling some pretty awful roads.  And, we did minister in a couple of churches. But, much of our time was spent painting and cleaning, doing that which does not necessarily create the stories people want to bring back home.  Yet in one of our morning devotions early in the week, I reminded our team that what we were doing was more than just applying paint to a wall.

With each stroke of the brush or the roller, with each push of a broom or mop, we were giving ourselves to the people we came to serve. The blessings that God had placed into our lives—the time, talents, resources, strength he had given to us—we were now sharing with them. Not only that, but we were making an investment in the future of the children who would come to a school wherein they would receive both a quality education and a Christian foundation.  And, when it came to the children of Promise Kids Foundation, children who live in some pretty desperate situations, we were doing more than merely providing a new backpack or a gift or a song. We were providing comfort and hope for the future—the very same comfort and hope Christ has given to us.  Our goal through all we did, whether at the school or in the rural communities we visited, was and is to see many of these children and their families experience the great and eternal love of God and turn to him through faith in our Lord Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:12 says, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (NIV)

My prayer is that each coat of paint applied, floor mopped, song sung, sermon preached, and backpack distributed, would result in a great outpouring of thanks to God! More than that, may our lives each and everyday cause others to overflow with thanks to God. 
Have a great day as you share yourself with the people around you!

Pastor Tim Harris