Friday, June 30, 2017

Unpredictable Waters!

Now that we live along the Jersey Shore, Kim and I can pop over to a boardwalk or beach just about anytime we want without too much hassle or too long a drive. We think it’s great!  All year long we are able to walk the boardwalks or even go out on the sand.  And now with summer upon us, we look forward to afternoons spent in the water, swimming in the ocean and riding the waves!

In fact, just last Saturday Kim, Nathaniel, and I went down to Ocean Grove, one of our local Shore towns.  I had heard that the water had become relatively warm just a few days before (which probably meant 68-70 degrees for this time of year). To our surprise, however, the night before the water temperature had dropped significantly. A different current must have come in bringing the water temperature down to 60 degrees. Although Nathaniel got into the water, that was a bit too cold for me.  When I needed to cool down, I went to the shower up on the boardwalk. 

At Ocean Grove in September 2016!
One thing we know about going to the beach is that the water can be quite different and even unpredictable from day to day. Unlike a pool or even a lake, the waters of the ocean can quickly change. Different tides cause the water to be warm one day and cold the next. One day the water is calm and easy to swim in (which is not great for the surfers); on the next day, the water might be rough and the red flags are out (and the surfers are rejoicing!). One day the water is clear and the next it can be filled with seaweed or jellyfish or who knows what!  Yes, the ocean waters are unpredictable waters!

That’s how it was for Jesus and his disciples as they went out into their boat one night to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  When they got into the boat, the waters must have been calm. But in the middle of the night a storm came upon them and the waters threatened to sink the boat and drown them.  As the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus stood up and “…rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”  (Mark 4:39 – NIV) 

That’s very much the way life is for us.  Even while we are enjoying times of smooth sailing and calm waters, we know in the back of our minds that just one turn of events can roughen the waters of our lives.  One event can create the kind of turbulence that threatens to pull us under and even drown us.  The waters of our life can be quite unpredictable!  Thankfully, we have a Savior who is Master over all of the waters of our lives. The best we can do is to trust him with our lives, believing that he is able to step into our lives and speak his peace into every situation we may face. 

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God
(Johnny Otis, Shuggie Otis, Joseph C. Liggins)

Have a great day! And, get to the beach—i.e. the Jersey Shore!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Partly Right Information" or "The Geranium-eating Deer"

Earlier this year I spent some time looking up flowering plants that deer supposedly don’t like to eat.   One of those that came to the top of the list was the geranium. So, based on the information I received via the Internet (which we all assume is 100% reliable!), I planted four nice size geraniums in a section of our front yard.  And for a number of weeks, everything was fine. I thought the information I had received was correct. The deer weren’t eating my geraniums.  Until one morning…I’m sure you know where I’m going. 

Yes, one morning I noticed that one of the geranium plants was missing its flowers. When I got closer I saw that, although the plant itself was still in tact, the flowers were gone. Just the leaves and flower stems were left.  A very neat looking job!  The next week, one of the plants was missing altogether—until I found it sitting just a couple of feet away again, ripped out of the ground with the plant in tact and just the flowers missing.  I replanted the plant.  In subsequent weeks, every so often it has been obvious the deer have been by the night before, for a flower or two is gone.  What I have come to learn is that the deer don’t eat the geranium plant, but they do like the flowers. And, most of the time they are very good at just picking off the flower and leaving the rest of the plant in tact.   I guess the information I received was only partly right! 

This could be at my house, but it is not!
None of us likes receiving information that is only partly right. After all, partly right information can lead us astray.  It makes us think we are on the right course or doing the right thing, yet causing us to end up with unforeseen consequences. Partly right information can make us feel safe and secure when we really should be more on our guard or take better steps to prepare ourselves for what might come. 

I’m reminded that the Bible, as God’s Word to us, is not just partly right, but completely right and true.  The Bible gives us the full information we need to know God, to live the way we ought to live, and to experience the blessing of God upon our lives.  The Bible doesn’t give to us just partial information or just a piece of the story, but all we need to know regarding forgiveness, salvation, and the grace of God at work within our lives. 

Jesus said As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice...they are like a man building a house…(who) laid the foundation on a rock.”—i.e. with a foundation that was able to withstand the storms of life. (Luke 6:47-48, NIV) The Psalmist wrote these words:  All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” (Psalm 119:160 - NIV)

Let me encourage you to read God’s Word, to study God’s Word, and to live according to God’s Word, the Bible.  God’s Word is completely right and true. Thus, it is upon the His Word that you and I can build our lives without the fear that one day we will wake up and find that we were given only partial information.  He will never give to us information that is only partly right!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 16, 2017

Room in Our Dad's House

With Father’s Day upon us, it’s natural for many of us to think back to our childhood days with our dads.  Many of my memories of my dad (who passed away in May 2014) are tied to the house in which my siblings and I grew up. In fact, once having purchased that house in 1963 (for $19,000!), it was the only house my dad would live in for the rest of his life.

Having been built in the 1920’s there was always lots of work to be done around the house.  And, although he grew up in an apartment in the Bronx, somehow my dad learned how to do plumbing, electrical work, and roofing. He even figured out how to lay a foundation and put up walls—all from books and magazines (after all, this was long before YouTube!). Somehow he figured out how to close in the screened porch to add a family room and how to expand the garage to make room for all of our stuff!

The house I grew up in...3 Park Ave. Monsey, NY 
Most of all, I remember my dad adding bedrooms to the house as our family grew. Originally the upstairs of the house had two bedrooms and an enclosed sun porch.  One bedroom was for my parents and the other for “the kids” (my two sisters and me). In 1967, when the fourth child, my first brother, was born, dad took the sun porch and turned it into a bedroom for my brother and me.  Now we had three bedrooms—one for my parents, one for my two sisters, and one for “the boys.”  In 1971, when my mom became pregnant with my youngest brother, Dad had to figure out a way to sleep a family of seven.  That’s when he took what had been a landing area on the second floor and enclosed it to create a bedroom that was about 6’2’’x 6’2’’ with a small closet. That room became my bedroom through my teen years.  In the end, we all had a place to sleep, hang, play, etc.  There was room for each one of us in our dad’s house!   

Jesus said,  “Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:1-2 – NIV) In other words, just as my dad made sure there was a place for each one of his children in his house, God has a place for each one of his children in his house. No one is going to be left out. No one is going to be told that there is no more room. And in fact, right now Jesus is helping prepare that room for you and for me!

Let’s live our lives trusting God, knowing that there will be room for each one of us in our Dad’s house! 

Have a great day…and, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Pastor Tim Harris


Friday, June 9, 2017

The Empty Nest!

I know that the title of this Pastor’s Devotion makes most people think that I’m writing about that period of time when one’s grown children move out and leave mom and dad to live alone in their “empty nest.” However, that’s not what I have in mind. Rather, I’m thinking about the robin’s nest that was built in a very odd spot along the side of our house. Instead of building her nest in a bush or a tree, this robin built her nest on top of our electric meter, only a couple feet off the ground. It was a spot that left her nest very much exposed to danger.

When I first came across the nest, it was empty. A day later there were two little blue eggs in the nest.  For the next couple of days, whenever I went near it, the mother bird would fly to a nearby tree and make a racquet, yelling at me in her bird language, trying to chase me away.  And, I would oblige. After all, I wanted to see the babies hatch and see how the mother bird would care for them. At the same time, however, I was quite concerned that she had built her nest in a place that left the eggs and subsequent baby birds exposed to predators.  Sure enough, just a few days later, I went to check on the nest again and rather than see the two eggs or find two baby birds hatched, I found an empty nest.  Apparently some predator had stolen the eggs.

What a strange place for a robin's nest! 
In some ways, I felt badly for the mother bird that continued to hang around the spot for a few more days. After all, she had just lost her two babies. On the other hand, she had not been wise in where she had built her nest and laid her eggs.  She had found an easy spot to build her nest (no going in and out of the branches of a bush or flying up into a tree). But, she had not been careful enough to put her nest in a place that would be safe.  She had not protected her young ones properly from those predators that threatened their lives.  

At times, the Bible likens God to a mother bird very much unlike the mother robin in my backyard. The Psalmist wrote, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4 – NIV)  We read in the book of Deuteronomy, “He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft.” (Deuteronomy 32 10b-11 – NIV)  It’s no wonder Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26 – NIV) 

I want to encourage you today to know that God is watching over your life.   He will not leave you exposed to danger, but He will protect you. He will not foolishly put his children in harm’s way. But, like a wise mother bird who diligently takes care of her young, so God will take care of you. 

Have a great day.

Pastor Tim Harris