Friday, February 22, 2013

New and Improved

It’s not uncommon for something to be advertised as “new and improved.”  After all, our tendency is to always want the newest and the best. Thus, “new and improved” catches our attention.  But, the other day I had to question that phrase when I drove by a church with sign that advertised, “New and Improved Worship.”  Immediately, I asked, What does that mean?

Well, actually the “new” part is probably not that hard to understand. But, the “improved” part is what I really had to question.  Had their worship been improved because they hired a new organist or because they have added drums and a guitar?  Had the worship been improved because the church decided to sing some new songs or go back to some old ones? 

And, I had to ask, improved according to whom?  I wasn’t quite sure if the worship was considered improved because the people of the church liked it better, or the pastoral staff thought it better, or because the quality of the music had been upgraded. Or, was it improved because the worship was actually more pleasing to God?  Wow…now that’s a thought! Did God think the worship was improved?

I’m not trying to pick on this particular church. What they reminded me of is what we have done to worship; that we have made our corporate worship just one more  commodity to be consumed.  Worship has become less about God and what he likes and more about us and what we like. Worship has become another advertising point for churches seeking to increase their attendance and hopefully boost their income rather than a means of actually honoring and glorifying God.  (Wow…this hurts!) 

I think we need to remember Jesus’ words:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24 – NIV)  For God worship that is improved is not about the instruments we use or the songs we sing.  Rather, improved worship is worship that flows from a heart that recognizes who God is and can’t help but want to bring him honor, glory, and praise.  Improved worship speaks of people who have become more and more in love with Jesus and less in love with themselves and their world. 

Let’s be people whose worship is “new and improved” not because we sing the newest songs (or have gone back to the old songs), but because we worship God “in spirit and in truth.”  Let’s come back to the heart of worship. 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

When the music fades
And all is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
That will bless your heart

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You're looking into my heart

I'm coming back to the heart of worship
And it's all about You
All about You, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about You
It's all about You Jesus

-Matt Redman

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A "Chance" Meeting

I spent this past week in Guayaquil, Ecuador with a team of people from Promise Ministries of which Promise International Fellowship, the church I pastor, is a part.  We were there for an event designed specifically for children between the ages of four and fourteen years of age; its part of the 4/14 Window Movement. Because of a change in our schedule, on Wednesday morning a group of us went with one of the local Assemblies of God missionaries to visit a public elementary school in one of the poorest sections of the city.  There we met 400 children who were obviously living in very difficult circumstances and with great need. Because it was such a last minute meeting, it was what we might call a chance meeting. 

As we went from room to room, we were greeted by groups of children who were excited to have this group of strangers come and interrupt their day.  We told them about God's love for them, distributed snacks and rub-on tattoos, and invited them to come to the event that was being held the next day at the largest soccer stadium in the city. We told the children what time the buses would be waiting for them the next day at the school to take them to the stadium. I wondered, whether or not any of the children would actually come on such short notice. After all, this was so last minute and really unplanned. 

What a joy it was, however, to see on Thursday evening the four buses we had sent roll up to the front of the stadium filled with children excited beyond belief.  When they spotted the two other workers and me, they immediately recognized us--waving and cheering to us. After a bit we had the children in the stands watching the presentations and, for the first time in their life, at a professional soccer game. For me, the best part was watching the game with a couple of them sitting on my lap. It was one of the best chance meetings of my life! 

Of course, I've used the word chance in italics on purpose. You see, I have to wonder whether of not our meeting these children was a chance meeting or a God-ordained appointment. In fact, I sense that it was much more than fate or chance that brought us in contact with those 400 children; that somehow God had orchestrated our change in schedule.  If not for that chance meeting, none of those children would have been at the event and we would have missed out on ministering to a group of children who really do need to know that God loves them and cares for them. 

The Apostle Paul wrote of, “making the most of every opportunity….” (Ephesians 5:16 – NIV) Elsewhere he wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people….” (Galatians 6:10 – NIV) The thought behind his words is that, God gives to us moments in time to be used to bring blessing to others and glorify him; moments in time we must not allow to slip away.

I want to encourage you today to see the people whom you meet day by day not just as chance meetings, but as God-ordained appointments--people to whom God is calling you to touch with his love.  Dont allow the moment to slip away. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting Ready for Nemo

Those of us who live in the Northeast are facing the onset of a huge storm the weather service has called “Nemo.”  (Why “Nemo” I’m not quite sure, but I think they had to pick a name that begins with the letter “n.”)  For a few days now, we have been warned that this storm will begin lightly with a mixture of snow and rain, but eventually we will end up with blizzard conditions and about a foot of snow here in the NYC metro area and much more to the north and east.  (Sorry, I didn’t meant to turn this devotion into a weather forecast!) 

In response, the grocery stores have been packed, gas stations have had longer than usual line, and events and activities for Friday night and Saturday have already been cancelled.  Yesterday I made sure I had gas for the snow blower and that the snow shovels were easily accessible.  This morning I probably need to pick up a few things at the grocery store myself, just to make sure we have the essentials on hand—and so that we can make some good soup or something that will feel right in the middle of a storm.  Everyone is doing what they need to do to prepare for the storm.  Everyone is getting ready for the arrival of “Nemo!”

Jesus spoke about getting ready—that is, getting ready for his return and the end of time.  In Matthew 24, as he taught about these things, Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:42, 44 – NIV)  Elsewhere, Jesus simply says, “Watch and pray.”   

We have been told ahead of time that Jesus is coming; a day of judgment is on hand as well as a day of salvation.  The end of time is on its way.  We could say, a storm is brewing.  And, Jesus has let us know ahead of time, warning us not to be caught off guard.  He tells us, now is our time to prepare.  This is our opportunity to make sure that we are ready for the day we will meet Jesus face to face; the day that he will come to save those who have lived lives of righteousness and judge those who have lived according to wickedness. 

It’s good for us to prepare for storms like Nemo.  But, we have to ask ourselves do we invest as much time and energy preparing for the day Jesus will return; the day we will meet him?  Are we ready for that day? 

As you run to the supermarket today or sit on a gas line—or whatever you do to prepare for Nemoe or whatever the next storm may be—ask the Lord to help you be as ready for the day of his return. 

Have a great day…stay warm and dry and safe! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 1, 2013

Begging for Food

If anyone gets excited about their next meal, it’s our dog Mabel.  I know most dogs live for food, but compared to the other dogs I’ve had through the years, Mabel gets exceptionally excited when she knows she it’s mealtime.  She will bark and jump and spin and beg…and beg…and beg!  And, oh how she can beg!  It’s like she’s saying, “Please feed me! Yes, feed me!  PLEASE FEED ME!!” 

Not only that, but whenever we sit at the kitchen table, although Mabel may be somewhere else in the house, she will pick up on cues that we are about to eat.  The opening of a jar, the rustle of a paper, or the opening of the refrigerator door and she will come bounding down the steps, take a seat next to one of us, and look up at us with her big eyes, not asking but begging for something to eat.  Yes, as often as she can, Mabel is begging for food—just little more food. 

I tend to think that many of us treat God the way Mabel does us.  We come to God with our needs and beg and beg and beg.  We think that if we are going to get from him what we have need of that, we have to beg before he will give it to us.  Sometimes we act as if God is going to make us perform—i.e. do all kinds of dog tricks—before he gives anything to us.  So, we beg by means of the way we pray and serve and worship, thinking that by doing so we can eventually get from God. 

But, that’s not the way the Bible portrays God.  God is not a master dog trainer putting us through all kinds of hoops before he tends to our needs. He’s not looking for us to beg from him. Rather, he is a heavenly Father who loves us as his children.  He is a good and perfect Father who freely pours into our lives that which we have need of.  And, although the Bible teaches us to pray, and even be persistent in prayer, our prayers are not meant to be the begging of a dog to his master, but the trustful asking of a child to his or her good father. 

Jesus said,  “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  (Matthew 6:7-8 - NIV)  He then went on to teach us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…Give us today our daily bread.”  (Matthew 6:9-11 – NIV)

Whatever your need might be today, take it to God your heavenly Father. You don’t need to beg him.  Just, ask him and trust him like a child trusting their good and perfect Father.  He will take care of you, answer you, and give to you your daily bread.

Have a good day!

Pastor Tim Harris