Friday, December 30, 2016

Your Best Year Yet?

As I was scrolling through Google images for an image to use in this week’s church bulletin, I noticed how many churches had created slogans and images for their New Year’s services.  A number of those slogans ran along the lines of, “Your Best Year Yet!” And, I thought to myself, how do they know that? Will that be true for everyone in that congregation?  Will it be true for anyone? 

I don’t want to sound pessimistic as we step into this New Year, but as much as we’d all like to believe that 2017 will be our best year yet, that may or may not be true.  Oh, for some it may be: this may be the year of your graduation, new job, engagement, marriage, birth of a child, a promotion at work, a year of travel, etc.  Some of us just may experience a year unlike any other we have had thus far in a very, very positive way.  It just may be for some of us our best year yet! 

Unfortunately, however, that may not be true for everyone.  For some of us it may be a year of struggle, sickness, the breaking of a relationship, disappointment, loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, etc.  There have been times when I’ve begun a new year with the best of expectations only to enter a year that became, for one reason or another, a very, very difficult year.  Not every year has been my best year yet!  I suspect such has been the case for most of us. 

So, how ought we enter this New Year? Do we step into it filled with complete optimism, fully believing that this will be our best year yet, in spite of the fact that it may not be? Or, do we step into it filled with pessimism, even fearful of what may come our way?  I would offer an alternative to both. 

In the end, it’s not about whether our year turns out to be a good one or a bad one, but about whether or not we can believe that the One who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” will be true to His word.  Can we trust God to be with us at all times and help us through all things?  Will we know his presence at work in our lives through both the good times and the difficult times that this year may bring our way? 

I want to encourage you today to step into this New Year filled with faith, confidence, and courage not because you want to believe that this will be your best year yet, but because you know you have a heavenly Father who sees you, loves you, and will care for you each step of the way.   

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-30 – NIV) 

Have a great day and a happy and blessed New Year!

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light…” So begins the famous Christmas song first sung by Judy Garland in the movie, “Meet Me In St. Louis.”  And so we embark on the journey each year to create for ourselves a merry little Christmas—a time of sentimental and nostalgic feelings; a time in which we put on our merry little selves, smiles and all; a season in which we strive for a few days during which our “troubles will  be miles away.”  We spend a month or two trying to create for ourselves a merry little Christmas, yet when all is said and done many of us are left disappointed. Christmas doesn’t always turn out the way we hoped it would.  Our troubles are not miles away and life simply goes back to the way it was beforehand. 

Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" 

We all know that we want and need so much more than merely a merry little Christmas.  We need more than sentiment and nostalgia for a day or two. The fact is, no amount of decorations can take away the pain of a broken heart, remove the fear of an uncertain future, or bring healing and wholeness to our sinful past.  We need so much more than a merry little Christmas.

On the night the angels lit up the sky outside of Bethlehem, they didn’t say to the shepherds, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” Rather, they said, “Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11 – NIV)  That is, the answer to all of your needs has arrived!  That for which you have longed is here!  Your Savior and Messiah has come; the One who will save you from your sin, heal your brokenness, and give you hope for your future has been born! 

Now, I’m not opposed to having a wonderful Christmas season.  I, like many of you, work hard to create a nice Christmas day for my family. Yes, I too want to have a merry little Christmas.  Yet, I know that Jesus came for so much more than just a day or even a season of merriment.  Jesus came to change our lives. Jesus came to change our future. He came to forgive us of our sin. He came to bring us into eternal life. Jesus came to bring to us the salvation of God! 

So, today I wish you a “Merry Christmas. But I also wish you so much more. I pray that you would know throughout this season and most of all, throughout your life, the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ! He came to give to you so much more than a merry little Christmas.  He came to be your Savior!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!”
(Luke 2:14 – NIV)

Have a great day and a blessed Christmas!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 16, 2016

What Child Is This?

I always look forward to that time of the year when we pull the dust off the Christmas carols and for three to four weeks insert them into our church services.  Not only that, but we even get to hear them at times while shopping in the mall or listening to the radio.  Unfortunately, however, after singing them so many times and hearing them for so many years, it’s easy to lose touch with the true meaning of the songs and allow them to simply become words flowing off our tongues with little impact upon our lives. 

One of my favorite is “What Child Is This?” written by William Chatterdon Dix in 18656 and set to the music of the English folk song, “Greensleeves.” The song begins by asking us to look into the stable wherein the baby Jesus lies.  As we do we are forced to ask a number of questions regarding whom this baby really is.  We have to ask, “What child is this?”  And, why is it we celebrate his birth?  Who is it whom, “on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”  Who is this baby “whom angels greet with anthems sweet?”  And, why is he lying “where ox and ass are feeding?”  They are good questions for us to ask lest we go through the Christmas season without a realization of what Christmas is really all about. 

Well, you probably know the answer found in the chorus of the song, “This, this is Christ the King!”  In other words, he is not an ordinary baby.  He is the One sent by God to be our Messiah and Savior!  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who has come as “the silent Word,” pleading for the salvation of sinners like you and me (see verse 2). 

The prophet Isaiah answered the question, with these words, “He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  (Isaiah 9:6b – NIV)  The child born in Bethlehem was so much more than an ordinary baby. He contained in him the fullness of God. He came to fulfill the plan of God.  Thus, we must respond to him as the carol calls us to: “Haste, haste to bring him laud….” And, “Let loving hearts enthrone him!”

This Christmas, won’t you take the time to ask yourself, “What child is this?”  And, as you answer the question I encourage you to open up your heart to him and to worship him!  After all, “This, this is Christ the King” the One sent to save you from your sin!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 9, 2016

It Is a Wonderful Life!

Last week Kim and I once again watched one of our favorite Christmas classics, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” In the story, George Bailey, after having wished he had never been born, is given a glimpse of what his world would be like if that had been the case.  It’s a sad and pathetic part of the story.  George is made to realize that the brother, whom he had rescued from the icy waters when they were just kids, would have died thus never becoming the WWII pilot who himself saved dozens of fellow soldiers (all of whom were then killed in combat).  George’s wife ends up as an “old maid,” never having a family of her own. People throughout the town whom George had helped purchase homes of their own are left living in slums.  And Bedford Falls, that bright and wonderful little town, became a dark and terrible place to live, filled with all kinds of vices—all at the hands of the miserly Mr. Potter, whom George had fought off on behalf of the people. 

George had come to see his life as a failure. His guardian angel, Clarence, however shows George that, although he never got to travel the world and achieve things that made the headlines; although George never got the education nor the wealth that some of his friends had achieved, George’s life was anything but a failure. George Bailey’s life had affected so many other people’s lives with so much good. George’s life had affected a whole community of people and through them, had affected his world.  If George had not been born, life for many people would have been much different; his world would have been a much different place. 

The story makes me think about two things.   I’m first of all reminded that, each of our lives has an incredible affect upon the people around us and on the world in which we live.  We can decide whether or not our world will be a better place because of our presence within it. We can choose whether or not we will live for ourselves or use our lives to bring blessing to others. Ask yourself, what would your world be like today if you had never been born? 

Secondly, the movie makes me ask, what if Jesus had never been born? What would our world look like today—what would our lives look like today—if Jesus Christ had not come into our world?  Surely, we live in quite a different place because of Jesus and the gospel message that he brought.  Consider for a moment all the good that has been done in his name: hospitals and schools built, children fed, the poor taken care of, whole societies built on principles of justice and compassion that come directly from the Scriptures and the Gospel of Christ.  Consider all that he has done in your life personally.  Without the coming of Jesus, we would have no savior—i.e. no one to forgive us of our sin, no one to bring us back into relationship with God, no one to change our lives.  What if Jesus had not been born? 

Our lives and our world may not perfect, but we are far better off today because of the birth of Christ. We might say, it is a wonderful life because Jesus our Savior has been born!

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 2, 2016

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tree

One of my all-time Christmas favorites is Charles Schultz’s, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Into his little story about Charlie Brown and his friends, Schultz weaves the essence of the gospel message in some subtle and not so subtle ways. One of those messages comes through the little tree that Charlie Brown chooses to be their Christmas tree.

The other children, especially Lucy, want a big, beautiful, and aluminum Christmas tree. They want the glitz and the glamour of Christmas. They want something to show off—a tree that comes already put together.  But, as Charlie Brown and Linus go out looking for a tree, there’s one tree that catches Charlie Brown’s eye. It’s a little tree that is anything but glitz and glamour.  In fact, it’s quite pathetic looking.  Linus is pretty hesitant about getting that tree, for he knows what the others are going to say.  But, Charlie Brown responds by saying, “I think it needs me.” 

Of course, Charlie Brown does get chastised for picking the worst Christmas tree of all.  And, after some name-calling he ends up feeling dejected and stupid.  But then something incredible happens. After Linus speaks up and shares the real Christmas story and thereby the true meaning of Christmas, the hearts of the kids are changed and eventually they take Charlie Brown’s little Christmas tree and decorate it into a tree of beauty. When Charlie Brown comes back on the scene he can’t believe his eyes!  His little Christmas tree has been transformed!

The story reminds me that, when Jesus came into our world, he didn’t run after the bold and the beautiful nor the rich and the famous. Jesus didn’t look for those who had it all together. Jesus went after those who were broken, lost, rejected, and sick.  Jesus came looking for the Charlie Brown Christmas trees of our world saying in so many words, “I think they need me.”  And, we did! 

By the time Jesus was done with those to whom he had ministered, the broken were whole, the lost were found, the rejected had found acceptance, the sick were healed, and most of all, sinners were forgiven. Those whose lives had been quite pathetic experienced a total transformation at the hands of Jesus.

Jesus said of himself and his ministry, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matthew 11:4-5 – NIV)  Jesus came looking for those who needed him and did for them what no one else would or could do for them. 

If today you are feeling a bit like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, I want to tell you Jesus came especially for you. He’s not asking for you to have it all together, but to simply to allow him to step into your life. He knows you need him.   And this Christmas he is still more than able and willing to transform your life into one of incredible beauty!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris