Friday, December 19, 2014

The Forgotten Birthday Boy!

For this week’s Pastor’s Devotion, I’d like to share a story I wrote last year for the children at Promise International Fellowship. Maybe you’d like to share it with some of the children in your life this Christmas. Besides, we all like a story!  Here it is:  

One day it was a little boy’s birthday. Let’s call him, “Sammy.”  He was turning 10 years old. He was so excited. He couldn’t wait for his birthday. He kept thinking about the cards he would receive in the mail, the birthday cake with ten candles on it, how he would blow them out as everyone sang to him. And, he was thinking that he would have all of his friends come over—and, that they would bring him birthday gifts.  He just couldn’t wait for his birthday!
Finally the day arrived. Sammy jumped out of bed expecting his family would say a great big “Happy Birthday” as he walked into the kitchen for breakfast. But, no one said anything.  He thought to himself, “Well, maybe they just forgot for the moment. Or, maybe they’re planning something really, really big for later in the day.”  Later he checked the mail, but no cards came for him. All day, no one said, “Happy Birthday Sammy.” 
Then, around 4:00 pm the doorbell rang.  His grandparents came in. Then a short while later some other relatives showed up. By 5:00 a whole bunch of his friends had shown up. They all had come with gifts in hand. But, strangely enough, no one said, “Happy Birthday Sammy.” 
Everyone ate dinner and talked and laughed.  The kids played some games. Then a cake came out. Sammy thought, “Here’s my birthday cake.” But, Sammy’s mom just cut it up and started giving it out to everyone to eat. Then, everyone got the gifts that they had brought. Sammy got excited again. But, then everyone started giving the gifts to each other. And, no one had a gift for Sammy.  Sammy’s heart sunk. What kind of birthday is this? 
Suddenly Sammy woke up. And when he did, he realized, it had all been a dream.  And, it wasn’t actually his birthday. It was Christmas. It was Jesus’ birthday.
At that moment Sammy realized what he and some of his family and friends had done. They had planned a big party for Christmas day—with lots of food and games and presents for each other. But, they had not planned to do anything for Jesus.
Sammy got on his knees and prayed, “Dear Jesus, I know today is your birthday.  I’m sorry I don’t have a special gift for you today, but before this Christmas day begins, I want to say, Happy Birthday Jesus.”
Later that day, just before his mom brought out the cake that was to be the dessert for the family and friends who were there, Sammy pulled his mother to the side and whispered something in her ear. Soon his mom came out with candles on the cake. Everyone stopped talking and asked, “Whose birthday is it? To whom are we going to sing?” And, Sammy said for everyone to hear, “It’s Jesus birthday!  We’re going to sing to him.” And, they did!  They sang, “Happy Birthday Jesus!” 

Although Christmas can be lots of fun for us, it is Jesus’ birthday! So let’s not forget to say, “Happy Birthday" to him!  

 “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11 – NIV)

Have a great day and a blessed Christmas! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Deals

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get my Christmas shopping done.  Although it can be a bit of a hassle, I really don’t mind it too much. But what makes it really fun is trying to get the best price possible or finding that really great deal.  I don’t go out on Black Friday, but I have learned that many Christmas deals carry through the next week and that there are ways really make your dollar stretch. 

For example, last week I saved 30% on my Amazon purchases because it was “CyberMonday Week!”  Kim and I went to Kohl’s with our 20% and 25% coupons in hand, getting our discounts on already discounted items bringing some items to 75% off the original price.  In one store, before purchasing the item I was going to buy, I found a 20% coupon on-line via my iPhone.  And in Toys-R-Us, I found the same toy I was buying on Amazon for $5 less and asked the cashier if they would match the price.  And, they did! 

But, can you imagine walking into a store and seeing a sign that says, 100% off?  In other words, what they are selling is completely free. What one would normally have to pay something for has a price of $0!  Now that would be some deal!  I think we would all buy a few items in that store.

Well in fact, that’s the way it is for us when it comes to God’s forgiveness and salvation. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 - NIV) and “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” (Ephesians 2:8 - NIV)

Although we ought to be paying something for our salvation, God himself has paid the price through the giving of his Son, Jesus.  When it comes to God’s grace and forgiveness, there is no 20%, 30%, or even 75% off. Rather, what God offers to us is completely without charge. It is 100% off.  It is 100% free.  It truly is the best Christmas deal of all! 

Have a great day and enjoy the shopping! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Is Coming!

Christmas is now right around the corner.  Christmas trees are being decorated, gifts are being bought, and churches are preparing for special services.  The excitement is building as we have now entered what has been called, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” and “The Season of Joy!”  Christmas is coming!

Yet, I’ve recently been reminded that, just because Christmas is coming doesn’t mean that all is perfect with the world—or with our lives. These days it can be hard to watch the news as one bad news story follows another. Even harder can be dealing with the pain and tragedies that strike our own lives.  Even now in the midst of this “Season of Joy!” my family is once again facing some great challenges as my mother fell last week, broke her hip, and subsequently had surgery. She is now in the same nursing and rehabilitation facility she was in earlier this year (and in which my father passed away in May). It’s been a tough couple of weeks—and a tough year. Yet, Christmas is still coming!   

If you think about it, however, Christmas was never about a snow-globe world or a “Winter Wonderland.” In fact, the first Christmas was about God’s Son coming into a world that was filled with difficulty, turmoil, and pain. It was about God coming into our world, in spite of all the sin and sorrow.  That first Christmas was about the Kingdom of God breaking into a world that needed healing, comfort, forgiveness, and newness of life. 

That’s why Jesus preached, “The Kingdom of God is near!” He went on to say, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 – NIV)  And, he very purposefully applied to himself the prophet’s words: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 – NIV)  Jesus came into a broken world for broken people. No amount of sin or sorrow could keep him from coming. 

In spite of all that was wrong with our world then, Jesus was born; Christmas came! And, so it will be this year. In spite of all that is wrong with our world—and our lives—Christmas will come.  And as it does, it will remind us that Jesus came for people just like us who are yet living in a world filled with sin, sorrow, and pain.  Jesus came for us. 

I’m glad Christmas is coming!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving, Snow, and a Full House

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Today it is snowing. Last night the last of our kids came home for the holiday—including Jonathan’s fiancĂ©e, Dani.  So, here we are with a full house, watching it snow, awaiting the start of our Thanksgiving celebrations.  Today, there will be some baking, maybe some board games played, and most likely some snow removed.  Earlier this morning I put on some extra coffee.  For lunch I think I made about a dozen quesadillas.  Tonight’s dinner will include a bit more pasta than Kim and I would normally make for just the two of us.  Oh, did I mention that tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Day?

In the midst of all the busyness and excitement of our home and the holiday—and the snow—I want to be careful not to lose sight of the purpose of the day we are about to celebrate.  So, let me list a few things that come to mind as I reflect upon this past year. 

1.   I am grateful for my wife Kim and my three children.  Each one of them is an incredible blessing in my life.  Although it is hard, it is also a joy to see each of my children growing into adulthood, even to the point that now one of them is engaged! (And, we are all very excited to have Dani as the “new addition” to the family!)

2.   I am grateful that, although this has been a very challenging year, to say the least, God has given us grace and strength.  With the sudden illness of my dad last winter, his death in May, and the special care my mom has needed, I/we have had our share of sorrow and pain. But, God has been faithful and gracious to help us through each moment of difficulty and pain. He has truly been our “Good Shepherd.”    

3.    I am grateful for God’s provision throughout this past year.  Although at times I may worry about finances, God has provided for us. My family has had food, shelter, and clothing. Every need has been met, and maybe even a little bit more. 

4.     I am grateful for the people God has placed in my life. This includes my extended family—brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews, parents, and in-laws—and special friends. Each one of them has been a blessing in my life in different ways. Each one has walked with me through the valleys of my life this past year. I’m blessed to have them as part of my life.    

5.     I am grateful for the privilege of serving God in the role and capacities to which he has called me.  I know I don’t deserve to serve in this way, but God, in his grace and mercy, has allowed me to continue to do so.

Well, the list could go on, but by now you are probably getting tired of reading. So, I’ll just stop there.  However, I didn’t want my opportunity to give thanks to God in this way, pass by in the midst of Thanksgiving, snow, and a full house!

Have a great day and a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Pastor Tim Harris