Friday, January 31, 2014

A Terrible, Yet Wonderful Sound!

This morning, my oldest son Jonathan, left to return to Nicaragua for another semester.  That meant getting to the airport by 4:00 a.m. for his 6:00 a.m. flight. And, that meant getting up at 3:00 a.m. in order to leave the house by 3:30 a.m. In spite of the fact that I have done that routine numerous times now, I can assure you I do not naturally awaken and get out of bed at 3:00 a.m.  I need to set an alarm (or two).  And when that alarm goes off, I need to get out of bed immediately or else I will find myself waking up well past the time of the flight!  So my day, like many of yours, began with the sound of the alarm clock (on my iPhone) going off—a terrible, yet wonderful sound!

I know that there are lots of times we hate our alarm clocks. For most of us, it is the worst sound of the day. When we find ourselves in a deep, peaceful sleep, the last thing we want to hear is the sound of the alarm clock telling us it is time to get up. Some of us shut it up with the snooze button, but it goes off again. Some of us try to ignore it, but even once it stops ringing, its sound echoes in our ears.  Although we often hate its sound, in the end we are grateful for the purpose it serves as it wakes us up to a new day.  It is, for most of us, a terrible, yet wonderful sound! 

The Bible speaks to us of an even greater terrible, yet wonderful sound.  It tells of the sound of “the last trumpet” that will sound like an alarm for God’s people.  It is the sound that signals the return of our Lord.  It is the sound that will announce the beginning of the judgment of our world.  It is the sound that will announce the fulfillment of the salvation promised to God’s people.  Many will rejoice at that sound. But for others it will bring no joy. The difference will be whether or not they are ready to stand before God; whether or not they have been living lives pleasing to God. 

Jesus said, “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:31 – NIV)

The Apostle Paul wrote, Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:51-52 – NIV) and  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 – NIV) 

Let me ask you, when the alarm goes off—i.e. when the last trumpet sound—will it be for you a terrible or wonderful sound? I pray that for each of you, it will be a sound at which you will rejoice, as you receive the return of your Savior and King! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, January 24, 2014

Different Yet The Same

A week ago I woke up in one place, Leon, Nicaragua, and went to bed in another, Tenafly, NJ. That morning I awoke to a sunny 70 degrees, with the temperature going up to around 93.  By that evening, I was back home here in the Northeast, back to the cold and the snow.  In Leon, I was eating rice and beans and eggs just about every morning for breakfast. Here in New Jersey, it is cereal or a bagel. (Thankfully, both places have coffee!) 

Yes, life is so different between the two places.  In Nicaragua there are no multi-lane highways, making long-distance travel a bit slow at times; here we drive on highways that have six to eight lanes (although the ton of traffic slows us down much of the time). In Leon, many people ride about on motorcycles, carrying the whole family on one bike; here that would never happen. In Leon, most people shop in marketplaces that to us are loud, disorganized, and crazy; here we all shop in our local supermarket—well lit and nice and neat. (Oh, Leon does have some supermarkets—but, most people can’t afford to shop in them!) And, the list of differences can go on and on: the food is different, the houses are different, the culture is different, etc. 

As one travels around the world, they find so much that is different from place to place, each place having its own distinctive flavor. That’s what makes traveling so much fun!  Yet, I have found that, in spite of all the differences, there are some things that are everywhere the same. Wherever you go, children love to laugh and play. In all parts of the world, people want to be loved. No matter the nation or the culture, people need hope. And most of all, all across the world people need God.

In the end, we are all different yet the same. The outer-shell may look different: different clothes, different color skin, different language and culture. But, on the inside we are all people longing to be loved, hoping for a better future, and in need of a relationship with God.

That is why Jesus tells us to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)  Jesus knew that the people of “all nations” are in need of the good news of the Gospel. He knew that people everywhere need to hear that God loves them and sent his Son, to save them. 

Today, whether you are traveling abroad or through your local town, take note of the people around you. I’m sure you will notice that we are all so different. And, yet if you look closer—maybe a bit deeper—you will also notice that ultimately we are all the same. 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, January 10, 2014

Preparing For The Trip

Much of my day today is being spent preparing for my trip with our team to Nicaragua.  Eight people, including myself and my son Nathaniel, will be heading to Leon on a 6:00 am flight tomorrow morning.  Our purpose will be to prepare the school that we work with for the upcoming school year (which begins in February) by painting and cleaning classrooms. We will also distribute backpacks, school supplies and Christmas gifts to the children of Promise Kids Foundation.  I know it’s going to be an action-packed week! 

So today, I will spend much of the day preparing for the trip by packing, getting documents in order, making sure I have everything I need for the meetings I will be part of, and finish preparing for ministry in the churches and to the kids.  I will have to do a run to the bank and possibly to a store or two.  Any of you who have traveled at all, know it’s all part of preparing for a trip. 

As we have begun this new year, it is kind of like we are embarking on a trip—taking a journey to a new destination.  Of course, we don’t know what this trip will entail, what we will encounter, or where we will end up.  Yet, it is not a bad idea to make some preparations. That might mean setting new priorities or rearranging our schedules.  For some it may mean putting our relationships in order.  Some will need to lay out new goals or write new budgets or work through their calendar. 

All of those things are good ways to prepare for the “trip” ahead.  But I would submit that the most important thing we could do is prepare our hearts for what God might want to do in us and through us in this coming year. And, one of the best ways we can do that is by taking some extra time at the beginning of this year to read God’s Word, the Bible, and allow him to speak to us through it. 

As Joshua of the Old Testament was about to embark on his journey to the Promised Land, God said these words to him: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  (Joshua 1:8 – NIV)  Reading, meditating upon, and obeying God’s Word would be the key to Joshua’s success as he began his new “trip.”

At the start of this year, let me encourage you to take a little extra time to read, meditate upon, and study God’s Word. I know God will bless you as you do.  It’s a great way to prepare yourself for the trip into 2014.

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris
www.pifny.org


P.S. - Why not join us for our Christmas to Easter 100 Day Bible Reading Challenge.  It’s not too late to get on board!  You can find it at the PIF website (www.pifny.org). 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best Resolution of All

It’s the start of a new year.  2014 has arrived. For many people, that means a time to make a New Year’s resolution.  So for the next few weeks, the gyms will be filled to capacity, desserts will be put aside, and many more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will be consumed. Some will attempt to get a handle on their household budget. Others will try to get rid of a bad habit. And, the list of New Year’s resolutions can go on and on; resolutions that people will most likely keep for a week or two. After that everything will go back to the way it was beforehand.

I’m not really one for making New Year’s resolutions, at least not in a formal way.  But it is only natural that, at the turn of the year, I would have certain hopes and aspirations that would come to mind. Yes, I want to exercise more, eat better, spend my money more wisely, get rid of bad habits. In this coming year, I want to be a better husband and father, pastor and leader. I want to pray more, study more, and be a better follower of Christ. And, my list can go on and on—as I am sure yours can. But I need to ask—as do you—what really should be the focus of my life during 2014?

As I pondered that question for the past couple of days, I’ve been drawn to the story in the New Testament wherein Jesus was asked, “…which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  And, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39 – NIV)  In other words, the one thing that each of us ought to focus our lives on, above all other things, is love—loving God and loving one another. I tend to think that for Jesus, that would be the best resolution of all! 

Yes, I probably need to exercise more, eat better, spend my money more wisely, pray more, etc.  But the one thing above all other things that I need to do in 2014 is love more. And the same is probably true for you as well. So, let’s ask ourselves at the start of this New Year: How can I love God and my fellow man better?; What do I need to do to express my love in a better way?; How can my love for God and those around me grow in my heart and come through my life?

At the start of this year, may our resolution be a resolution of love! That is the best resolution of all!

May you have a happy and blessed New Year!

Pastor Tim Harris