Friday, May 26, 2017

God's Daily Routine!

We all have our daily routines.  For me, the alarm clock goes off, I wait a couple of extra minutes and then get out of bed to head to the bathroom to shower and shave.  I then get dressed and head downstairs to put on the coffee, eat some breakfast and then drive over to the office.  There’s the time for daily devotions and prayer, the daily office routines, hopefully getting in some daily time at the gym (at least a few days a week), dinner in the evening, and the daily routines to get ready for bed.  And, the next day it begins again.  That’s not to say there’s no variety, change ups, or surprises that take place day to day.  It’s just that there are pieces of my day—and, I know yours—that are part of a daily routine. 

But, did you know that God has a daily routine as well? Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (NIV) Some translations say, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits….” (KJV). Either way, the Psalmist refers to something God does each and every day, something that is part of his daily routine.  In one translation, God steps into the lives of his people and picks up the burdens that come along each day (as we all know they do), and God carries those burdens on their behalf. In the other translation, God steps into the lives of his people and loads them up with “benefits” or blessings.  I’ll take it either way!

No matter which translation we use (and, the Hebrew is a bit nebulous), we see God coming to us each day to help us and/or bless us.  It is part of God’s daily routine. After all, God doesn’t want any of us to know one day without his presence at work in our lives. The One who promised never to leave us nor forsake us, doesn’t want us to know one day without him standing by our side.  Thus he has promised that each and every day he will come to us to carry our burdens or to pour out blessing upon us—or maybe a little bit of both!

So, no matter what is happening in your life today—or, wherever you are in your daily routine—won’t you take a moment to thank God for his daily work in your life?  Allow yourself to sense God helping you, blessing you, and ministering to whatever your need might be.  After all, it’s part of God’s daily routine!

“…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22b-23 – NIV) 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 19, 2017

One Final Graduation!

This Saturday, May 20th, our daughter Joanna will graduate from Lafayette College in Easton, PA.  Joanna will receive two bachelor's degrees, one in psychology and one in music, with a minor in Spanish.  Since she is our youngest, this will be our final college graduation as a family.  Thus, with Joanna's graduation, Kim and I are officially done with the college years! 

Of course, this is a bittersweet occasion for us.  No doubt, we are very proud of our daughter. And with her graduation, we are glad to be moving past the years of trying to choose the right school, filling out applications and the annual financial aid forms, the endless moving in and out of dorms, and the mountain of complications that are just a natural part of attending college these days (not to mention the financial matters!).  Since 2009, Kim and I have had a child in college—that eight years worth of college!  In fact, for five of those years we had two attending at the same time!  So, yes we are glad to be moving past the college years.

Joanna & me by the river in Easton, PA
On the other hand, it's also a bit sad for us as parents, for we know that once our children graduate they begin to focus on the stuff of their own life much more than on the stuff of our lives. They become much more independent from the home and from us as their parents, and rightfully so. In fact, Joanna will be moving within just a few weeks to New Haven, CT for her first post-college job.  Thus, with this final college graduation, Kim and I know that we ourselves are moving into a new stage within our lives. For us, it's as if a chapter of our lives is coming to an end.

As it does, I look back with great thanksgiving for the years we have spent together as a family. I know I speak for Kim when I say that we are glad to have had the privilege of raising our children. And, with God's help we will continue to do our best to bless them as each of their lives progresses. Truly each of them is a gift from God—which is the meaning of each of our boy's names: Jonathan and Nathaniel. And, each of them is a sign of God's grace upon our lives—which is the meaning of Joanna's name.

My prayer for them, for each of you who is reading this blog, and for Kim and me as well comes from the last few words of the book of Hebrews:  “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21 - NIV)

I pray that in each stage of life, God will bless and use each of us for his glory!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Lesson From My Mom: Live in the Moment!

Yesterday I went to visit my mom who has been struggling with dementia since 2014.  Mom is only 79 years old and yet she can hardly speak due to really bad aphasia, is wheelchair-bound, and is unable to feed herself or take care of her own daily needs.  Thankfully, she still recognizes our faces (although she can’t come up with our names) and seems to get excited when she sees one of my siblings or me, or even our spouses or children. What strikes me the most, however, is that my mom has very little concept of either the past or future.  She is pretty much just living in the moment. 

A great moment with my mom and dad in 1960!
With Mother’s Day coming this Sunday, I stopped at a nearby supermarket on my way to see her and picked up a Mother’s Day card and flowering plant.  Since mom can’t read, I needed to make sure the card would be visually attractive to her, so I got her a card with lots of little kittens on the cover (she always loved cats!).  The plant had large daisy-like flowers in a very bright peach color. Again, I wanted to make sure it would be visually appealing to her.  Although my mom doesn’t understand that it is Mother’s Day or what that means, when I gave her the card and plant her face lit up.  It was for her, a moment of pleasure. And, that’s our goal: to simply make the most of the moments we are with her and the moment in which she is living. 

The Apostle Paul speaks of “making the most of every opportunity” or literally, “making the most of every moment.” (Ephesians 5:16) The writer of Ecclesiastes writes, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12)  Later on he writes, “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6 – NIV)  In other words, we are challenged us to enjoy and use well the moments in which we find ourselves living.

We all know we have a tendency to keep on looking back, often holding onto regret and pain; while at the same time looking ahead, often with anxiety and fear. We can become so taken up with the past and the future that we begin to miss the moments at hand. Before we know it, the moments we were meant to enjoy and use wisely have passed and we are left wondering where life has gone. 

Although I grieve over my mom’s current condition, she has reminded me to not allow myself to become trapped in the past nor to obsess over the future. It’s as if she is teaching me another lesson: Don’t forget to live in the moment!

Have a great day! And, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 5, 2017

Heroes of the Faith

Last night Kim and I had the privilege to attend the 50th anniversary banquet for the Walter Hoving Home, a Christian rehabilitation program.  Modeled after Teen Challenge, the Walter Hoving home has seen hundreds of women set free from drug and alcohol addiction and set on a new course of life as they experience a nurturing environment, learn new life-skills, and most of all receive spiritual care. 

I remember as a child and teen how every year on Thanksgiving Eve, the women of the Walter Hoving Home would come to our home church in Spring Valley, NY. The women would sing and share their testimonies under the direction of Elsie Benton, followed with a message by John Benton. (The Bentons were the founders of the ministry.)  After the service, the women would join us for a time of refreshments and then be sent off with bags of groceries for their Thanksgiving meal. 

Last night I suddenly found myself face to face with the Bentons.  They are, of course, much older and a bit frail. Yet, as they were making their way through the crowd of people who had come to the banquet, they greeted people and stopped for pictures.  I greeted them, told them of my childhood memory, and that I am now a pastor of a church that supports the ministry.  We took a picture together. And, I felt like I had just taken a picture with a couple of heroes!

Kim and I with the John & Elsie Benton 
I’m sure if the Bentons were walking through an airport, few people would stop and ask them for an autograph or a photo. After all, they’re not rock stars, actors, or athletes.  Few people would recognize them or have any idea what they have accomplished through their lives. Yet, their achievements far outweigh those of the man or woman who can sing or act or hit a ball or throw a pass.  Through their lives hundreds of women have been brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ, set free from lives of addiction, and had their lives restored.  That is truly much more significant than what any rock star, actor, or athlete can accomplish on a stage, a screen, or field. 

The writer of the book of Hebrews writes a whole chapter wherein he lists heroes of the faith—i.e. men and women of faith—and citing their accomplishments. At the end of that chapter he says, “These were all commended for their faith….” (Hebrews 11:39 – NIV)  He then goes on to write, 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)

John and Elsie Benton are two people who will one day be “commended for their faith” and who will one day become a part of that “great cloud of witnesses.”  In the meantime, they are two people whose lives even now challenge and inspire the rest of us to keep on running this race called the life of faith.  I count them as heroes of the faith. 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris