Friday, May 27, 2016

In & Out!

Last weekend was a bit of a whirlwind for Kim and me (that’s why I missed writing these Pastor’s Devotions last week).  After Jonathan’s and Nathaniel’s graduations and Joanna’s return from her study abroad in Vienna, Austria, for about twenty-four hours, from last Saturday afternoon into Sunday afternoon, we had all three of our children as well as Jonathan’s wife, Danielle, Nathaniel’s girlfriend, Kylie, and Joanna’s boyfriend, Dan together in the house.  We all went out to dinner to celebrate on Saturday night. Everyone was in church together on Sunday morning. And, we had dinner together on Sunday afternoon.  Not long after we ate, however, Jonathan and his wife got on the road to get home, Nathaniel left to drive Kylie home, and Joanna and Dan went out for a bit.  Before we knew it, Kim and I were once again left in the house alone. Eventually, we decided to go take a walk on the boardwalk. And, as we did we asked ourselves, what had just happened?  As quickly as everyone was back together they were now all gone!

Of course this is the way it is these days for us as a family.  Now that our “kids” are young adults they are in the process of developing their own lives, their own relationships, their own schedules, etc.  Much of their lives are lived outside of their relationship with us as their parents. Friends, school, work, and all the other things that take place in their lives outside of our home pull them in different directions.  The result is, at this stage they are for the most part, in and out of the home. 

So what are we as parents to do as we adjust to this stage in life? It’s surely a difficult time for us as parents. It can be hard as watch them come in and then go out.  We want to keep them close, but we also know they need to continue to move towards independence, develop their own lives, learn to make their own decisions, and even face the consequences of those decisions. 

King Solomon, the writer of much of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes seemed to have it right as he continued to speak into the life of his young adult son. He seemed to know that he could not live his son’s life for him, but neither did he stop speaking words of counsel to him.  So today, to my young adult children and to all the young adults out there, many for whom I feel like a spiritual dad, I want to leave you today with a few of Solomon’s words, hoping you receive them from me as both a dad and as a pastor who loves you and cares much about your life and your future:

Proverbs 1:8-9 - Listen, my son (and daughter), to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 3:1-6 - My son (and daughter), do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

It’s ok that you’re in and out. We understand. Just continue to move forward with Christ!

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An Irreligious Faith

As a pastor whose job it is to encourage people to come to church and experience community, fellowship and corporate worship, it was always a bit disappointing to me that my own dad rarely attended church for quite a number of years.  Early in my life, he was the one who always made sure we  (the “kids”) were in church. But once he no longer needed to get us to and from church—or, when he felt we were old enough to decide for ourselves—he pretty much stopped going to church himself. 

Because of his lack of church attendance, most people in the church questioned his faith.  I know I did too. Yet, even when he was there he didn’t quite fit in with most of them. After all, he liked to drink a beer on a hot day or a glass of wine with dinner. He didn’t mind his kids going to the movies.  He loved playing his sax in the Big Band—music that was considered by some to be “worldly music.” And, he was a pretty good dancer (I always enjoyed seeing him dance with my mom).  Oh...he didn’t like taking Sunday afternoon naps—he’d rather be out playing tennis or doing something active after church (which some used to consider breaking the Sabbath!).

At times he was a bit sarcastic about church. He had seen his share of charlatan preachers.  He had experienced conflict between church members—and how nasty they could be towards each other (even towards him). And, he had seen too many pastors hurt by the flock they tried to feed.  After a while I think he just had enough—enough of church.

Yet, he never gave up his faith in God.  I can clearly recall coming down the stairs early in the morning and seeing dad sitting at his desk reading his Bible.  He continued to love the hymns (although he disliked newer Christian music).  For many years, he continued to give generously to support the aging pastor under which he had grown up.  And, he continued to listen to preaching on the radio and television, even telling me at times the sermons he had heard.

Beyond all of that, he was a faithful husband and dad. He was not perfect, but he brought stability and strength into our home. He worked hard and provided well for a family of seven (plus whatever pets mom brought home at the time).  He spent time with his kids, especially his boys, teaching us to swim, ride a bike, and swing a bat. And, he was always ready to dispense his advice—asked for or not.    

When, at 85 years old, Dad was given the news of the brain tumor that would eventually take his life, he refused any treatment with these words, “I’m ready to see Jesus.”  And, during the next couple of months of decline, you could see in his eyes that, although he was sad and worried about our mom, he was not afraid.  He knew he was going to “see Jesus.”  His heart was yet filled with faith. 

Dad passed away on May 7, 2014. His funeral was held on what would have been his 86th birthday (May 10th). As I reflect on his faith journey, a few lessons come to my mind. The first is, we in the church—pastors and congregants alike—need to be careful as to how we live, minister, and interact. After all, how we behave may result in people either staying in fellowship with the church or deciding that they have had “enough of church” and thus leaving. 

Secondly, I’ve come to realize that, not everyone who has left the church has given up their faith in Christ.  Some, like my dad, may end up with what I would call, an irreligious faith—yet, it is faith indeed.  Rather than ostracize them, judge them, and push them further away, we in the church should be building bridges to them, gently leading them back into fellowship, and, at the very least, treating them as brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Finally, I’m reminded of the true message of the gospel: Our salvation and fellowship with the Church of Jesus Christ is not first of all based on church attendance, involvement in church ministry, or the positions we hold.  Thankfully, our salvation is based solely on what Jesus Christ has done for us, and our faith in him—even if sometimes that faith might appear to be a bit irreligious. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” (Ephesians 2:8 – NIV) 

Thanks for "listening" as I reflect on my dad this week.  Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris