Friday, September 30, 2016

Visiting the Bat Factory

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a few days attending meetings at the Louisville Institute in Louisville, Kentucky.  Just about all of my time was spent at the conference center just outside of the city.  On my final day, however, I had a few hours before having to catch my flight.  That being the case, I, along with another conference participant, visited the Louisville Slugger bat factory and museum. 

Although the museum was interesting—especially seeing bats used by Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and holding bats used by Derek Jeter and David Ortiz—I was most interested in how the bats are made.  The whole process is very detailed and precise.  And, I learned something I did not know: every major league baseball player has their bats made specifically according to their preferences.  That is, within the parameters determined by MLB, each player can determine the particular weight of their bat, width of their handle and barrel, whether or not they want the end cupped out, and even the color and kind of finish.  Each player has his bats, made according to what feels best for him and will give him the best results.  Thus, the factory keeps records on the specs for each player’s bat as well as a sample of his bat of choice. 

In the end, each bat made for the MLB players is distinct in some way.  Although to the untrained eye, the bats may all look the same, when more closely inspected and handled one finds that each bat is in some way distinct from the others.  And, the factory makes sure those distinctions are maintained and reproduced. 

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10 – NLT)

So often we fall into the trap of trying to be like those around us. We feel as if we need to fit into the mold of another person’s life—especially those whom we consider to be more successful than we are.  But I’m reminded that, like the bats made for the major league baseball players, each of us has been created to be very distinct.  Yes, there are certain parameters (after all we are all created as human beings).  Yet, each of us has been created by God with a whole set of distinctions—physically, emotionally, intellectually, etc.  God has created each of us with a particular set of gifts and talents. And, each of us has a particular purpose to fulfill within his plan. 

Don’t try to live as a replica of someone else’s life.  Allow the distinctions with which God has created you to set you free to be who you are supposed to be and do what you are supposed to do!  God has created you to be just who you are!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Closing, Finally!

After a year of waiting, yesterday afternoon Kim and I finally closed on our house here in Eatontown, NJ.  It was July 2015 when we first saw the house and felt it would be the right house for us as a family and for our ministry at Shrewsbury First Assembly.  But the end of August we had signed the contracts and began the mortgage and inspection processes.  During the inspection, however, an old oil tank was discovered and subsequently the fact that some oil had leaked into the soil.

Of course, the sellers were responsible for the remediation (thankfully for them they had insurance that covered the cost). By early September we had to make a decision. Would we bail out of the deal or would we continue? We decided that this was the house for us and, since the house was empty, we made an agreement with the sellers to move into the house and lease it from them at a discounted rate until the remediation was complete.  Once the work was completed we would go into closing.  We had no idea that it would take a full year! 

Although there were a few inconveniences during the process, in the end we know God took care of us and that he was the one who led us to this house, which is now our home.  Thus yesterday afternoon was an exciting time for us, for it wasn’t just about going to a closing, we were finally closing!  (And the best thing was, after the closing we didn’t have to move!)

As excited as I am about now owning the house in which we have been living, I have been thinking much about the fact that this house is a mere shadow of the house that Jesus has been preparing for us in heaven.  In John 14, Jesus said, My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3 – NIV)

Jesus compares heaven to a great big house. In that house, there is a “dwelling place” (lit.)—i.e. a room—for each of God’s children. Thus, one day we will all live together with God our heavenly Father, Jesus our brother, and all of God’s children. And, what a house that will be!  What a day that will be when the deal is finally closed and we get to move into our Father’s house!  I’m sure it is going to be a lot more exciting than any closing we might experience here on this earth and much more beautiful than any house in which we might live in during this life.

As much as we might enjoy the houses that God provides for us here in this life, let’s never forget “this world is not our home,” we are just “passing through.”  If we will live for him, God is going to take us to the most exciting closing of all: the day we get to move into his house! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cheering On the Underdog!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been following the U.S. Open Tennis Championship relatively closely.  I attended on the first day of the tournament, along with my son Nathaniel and my two brothers.  Since that day I’ve been following the matches on the U.S. Open app on my phone and watching as many matches as I can on TV.  Like any kind of sporting event, once you get into it, the drama of both the individual matches and the tournament as a whole captivate you.

One of the most intriguing parts of the tournament is seeing new players rising in the ranks and less ranked or unranked players defeating higher ranked players.  In fact, just this week there were two major upsets: Andrew Murray (2) was defeated by Kei Nishikori (6) and Sereena Williams (1) was defeated by Karolina Pliskova (10).  It is always amazing to see upsets such as these.  But, what is most interesting to me is the reaction of the crowd.  As much as the crowd loves to root for their “hometown” player or their favorite, it seems they love to cheer on the underdog—even if it’s just to see the matches extended a bit longer.  And as they do, the lesser-ranked player often gains confidence, stamina, and a will to win that propels them to win the match.  Such was the case with each of these matches this week. 

In the book of Hebrews we read these words:  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….” (Hebrews 12:1 – NIV)  As I read that verse I am reminded that there is a crowd in the stadium of heaven that is cheering us on as we seek to live out our faith in Jesus Christ.  And the truth is, they are cheering on the underdogs! 

If you think about it, we are all underdogs in this life of faith.  That is, none of us has the capability to live the way we ought to live and keep the faith on our own.  Left to ourselves, we would all lose; none of us would make it to heaven without the grace of God at work in our lives.  But a crowd of believers that has gone on before us is cheering us on! They are encouraging us to keep playing, to throw off whatever might hinder us, to stay focused on Jesus, and to continue to trust God.  Yes, they are cheering on the underdogs knowing that, like them, we too can win the prize! And in fact, I tend to believe that Jesus himself is leading the cheer!

Today if you are feeling a bit down about your ability—or lack thereof— to live this life of faith, if you are feeling like an underdog, know that there is a crowd in heaven that is behind you, cheering you on!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris  

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Strong Heart

A number of years ago, my grandmother on my father’s side went to the doctor for her regular check-up.  At the time she was 85 years old. The doctor was probably in his thirties.  As the doctor listened to her heart he said to my grandmother, “Your heart is good for your age.” To which my grandmother replied, in her strong Greek accent, “I don’t want a heart good for my age; I want a heart that’s good for your age!”  Of course they both laughed—as did I when she told me the story.  (Even today I miss her sense of humor!)

We all know how important a strong heart is to one’s overall physical health.  That’s why this past year I began to try to increase my exercise routine, especially trying to get much more cardio exercise than I was previously getting (including a weekly spin class!).  I began to realize that if I was not purposeful about eating right and exercising more, my body, and especially my heart, would weaken and I would not be able to work, minister, and live to my fullest potential. I realized I needed to keep my heart strong if I am to continue to do what God has called me to do.   

In the Bible, the “heart” (as translated into our English versions) represents the seat of our emotions and will.  It is that part of us from which we love and live. It is from the heart that who we are and all of our priorities flow.  Sometimes our hearts are strong and filled with love and courage. Sometimes our hearts become weak and we give into temptation, fear, anger, and even bitterness.  All kinds of things happen in life that can weaken our hearts. If we do not take the right precautions and do the right things, we can find our hearts beginning to fail us.  When our hearts are weak, everything else begins to weaken as well.

That’s why the Bible tells us, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  (Proverbs 4:23 – NIV) In other words, we must do what we can to keep our hearts—i.e. our inner life—strong and healthy. That means regularly getting the right amount of spiritual “cardio” through prayer and the study of God’s Word. It means having regular heart check-ups as, with God’s help, we reflect upon what is happening in our hearts and then following up by doing what we must to keep our hearts leaning in the right direction. 

I want to encourage you today to ask the Holy Spirit to help you check your heart, guard your heart, and then do what you must to strengthen your heart. For, it is from your heart that “everything you do flows.” And, God wants you to have a strong heart!

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris