Friday, October 20, 2017

Brothers Who Run Together...!

Last weekend, my sons Jonathan and Nathaniel came home and together we ran a race in Asbury Park. (Actually, I ran the 5K and they ran the 10K!)  Since they knew that their pace would be faster than most, the two of them began at the front of the pack.  And, they ran the bulk of the race side by side, keeping each other on pace and encouraging one another to keep on going. 

At the end of the race, there was a little awards ceremony at which Jonathan and Nathaniel were recognized for coming in 2nd and 3rd among the men.  As their names were called, people recognized that they had the same last name, and then that they looked so much alike. People around us began to comment how nice it was to see brothers running together.  (Someone even asked if they were twins.)  Of course, Kim and I were both glad and even a bit proud (in Yiddish, kvelling) to see our two “boys” enjoying the moment together. For us, it was really cool to have seen them as brothers first running together and now winning prizes together. 

Nathaniel & Jonathan with their "trophy mugs!"  
It makes me think of how it is we who are followers of Christ are meant to live our lives: together!  The writer to the Hebrews wrote, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 – NIV)

As followers of Christ, we are meant to run this race called the “Christian life,” together.   Unfortunately, we so easily get caught up in our own little worlds or fall prey to self-centeredness and even conflict, the end result being that that each of us ends up running much of our race alone.  Rather, that being there to cheer each other on and keep each other going, we end up running by ourselves, having to make it to the finish line on our own rather than with the help of our fellow runners.   

I want to remind us today that we are called to be brothers (and sisters) who will run together.  We are not meant to run alone but side-by-side, encouraging one another, picking each other up when necessary, and making sure that each one crosses the finish line. As we do we look ahead to the day in which we will receive our eternal reward, together! 

We might say, brothers (and sisters) who run together, win together! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, October 13, 2017

Too Late!

At the beginning of September, we had Rev. David Kim, his wife Rebecca, and their six-year-old son, Elijah at our church and in our home.  At one point, Elijah saw a picture on the wall of our home of my three children when they were young—probably 5, 3, and 2 years old.  When Elijah saw the picture he asked, “Who are those kids?”  I told him those were my children Jonathan, Nathaniel, and Joanna when they were little.  I then proceeded to show him a more current picture of them—ages 25, 23, and 22.  Elijah’s eyes widened and went back and forth between the two pictures. Finally, looking at the earlier of the pictures he said, “I’d like to play with those kids.” Then after a pause blurted out, “But, too late!” 

Well, he was right.  If Elijah wanted to play with Jonathan, Nathaniel, and Joanna at that earlier stage, he would have needed to show up about twenty years earlier—i.e. long before he was born!  Of course, he had no choice in the matter.  Yes, he was too late, but of no fault of his own. 

I wonder, however, how many times we have been too late, and it was our fault.  How many times have you and I missed out on something because of our poor decisions, lack of motivation, bad habits, or lack of foresight?  We think we have lots of time, but before we know it time has marched on and we find it’s too late—too late to restore a relationship, to do good for someone in need, to serve our community, to fulfill God’s call.  We wait for just the right time or fail to realize that it is just the right time, and end up allowing the opportunity to pass us by.  Before we know it, we are, too late! 

I think of Queen Esther of the Old Testament who had before her a great opportunity to help turn around a terrible situation for her people who were being threatened with slaughter.  As she debated what to do, her uncle came to her and said, And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 – NIV)  In a sense, her uncle was saying “Esther, this is your moment in time to do what must be done.  Don’t let it pass by. Don’t wait until it’s too late!” 

What is it that you need to do today, now, in this moment in time? Is there someone to whom you need to show a little more love? Is there something significant that you need to get done? Maybe there’s someone you need to forgive. Maybe it’s time to follow God’s call on your life. Maybe it’s time to pick up the phone and make that call or sit down and write that letter (or email).  
You know what it is that you need to do.   

Now’s your time! Don’t wait until it’s too late! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, October 6, 2017

Violence as Entertainment?

Sometimes I’ve wondered where our acceptance of violence as entertainment would lead us as a culture.  Our movies have sensationalized every aspect of violence, from battle scenes that have become bloodier and bloodier to horror flicks that seem to have no limit.  The video games played by both our kids and adults put the individual behind a gun or tank and allow them to experience some sort of pleasure from killing people or blowing things up in a very realistic manner.  And, without getting into the gun debate, I will admit, I’ve never quite understood how it is that so many people have become enamored with objects that are meant to kill and destroy—not only those needed for protection or for hunting, but ones that are used for complete destruction.  Even our sports have become increasingly violent. When you put it all together, it seems we’ve created a culture that accepts violence as a means of entertainment.  In some ways, we’re not that far off from the ancient Romans who entertained themselves with gladiators who fought to the death or cheered as lions chased and killed Christians or anyone else they considered disposable. 

I know that there is no simplistic answer to what happened in Las Vegas this past week. And, I know that not everyone who watches a violent movie or plays a video game or goes to a shooting range to try out an automatic weapon becomes a killer.  That is for sure.  But, I am concerned that we have drifted away from God’s heart for us as a society in this area and moved towards something he never intended for us as the highest of his creation. And, I’m concerned that we have created a space for those, albeit few among us, who will take the leap from violence as entertainment to violence as a way of life.

I know none of these things are easy for us to work through.  Each of us needs to process them, ask the right questions, and determine how we will allow ourselves to be entertained and what it is we will find acceptable for our lives, our families, and for our society.  For me, as I have sought to live out a biblical lifestyle, I have done what I can to reject violence as a form of entertainment in my life.  I avoid movies that glorify it, refuse to play games that create pleasure from it, and have decided that I will not allow myself to become enamored with instruments that are meant to produce it.  Most of all, I will mourn the violence I see around me—not only when it rears its head in the massacres we’ve seen, but the violence that rears its head daily, quietly destroying the lives of our people one at a time. 

In Genesis 6 we read, Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence…So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.’” (Genesis 6:11, 13 – NIV)  I know that there are many sins within our culture and society of which we can speak and for which God can judge us. But, in light of not only what happened this week in Las Vegas, but what we find in our streets, schools, homes, etc., on almost a daily basis, it may be time that we as followers of Christ take a stand and reject where our culture has taken us.  It may be time that we say “no” to violence as entertainment. 

After all, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  (Matthew 5:9 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris