Friday, February 23, 2018

Another Billy Graham

As you most likely know, this week Evangelist Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99.  Since his death, I’ve been following the news and tons of Facebook posts speaking of his life and honoring his work.  He’s been called by many, “The Pastor to the Presidents.”  He’s been recognized for his unwavering faith, his consistency of lifestyle, and his ability to cross racial, religious, and political boundaries. He was a pioneer in the use of radio and then television to spread that gospel. Most of all, his message was always clear, unclouded by the politics of the day, except for the strong stance he took against segregation. (In 1952 he insisted that his crusades no longer be segregated.)  At the end of the day, he always remained true to his calling as a preacher of the gospel.   

I would suggest that what we need today in the church and in our world is another Billy Graham.  Not that we can necessarily duplicate his crusades, as some have tried to do. But we need Christian leaders, who will make the preaching of the gospel and the call of Christ their primary focus. We need leaders who can cross boundaries and yet remain true to the gospel message. We need men and women who will not allow the politics of the day to suck them in to the point that they lose their ability to preach to all people regardless of their race, religion, or politics.  We need leaders with strong convictions and moral fortitude.  We need Christian leaders who can speak into the lives of our presidents and other civil leaders in a way that builds bridges rather than burns them.  Yes, we could use another Billy Graham, even multiple Billy Grahams. 

I know I will never be another Billy Graham.  My influence will never be as broad as his was. I will never be able to preach as he did, nor lead as many to Christ as he did.  And, the list of the differences between Billy Graham and myself can go on and on.  Yet, as I have reflected upon his life this past week, I’ve been challenged to learn from him and see how it is I might incorporate into my life some of the qualities and virtues that were his—qualities and virtues that caused him to live as he did and have the kind of influence he did.  I’ve been challenged to be more true to my calling, to be more consistent in my lifestyle, and to make sure that I build more bridges than I burn so that the gospel I preach can be heard by all, regardless of race, religion, or political persuasion. 

Towards the end of his life Billy Graham penned these words, "Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God."  That’s the kind of assurance with which I want to live…and die.  I trust the same is true of you.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of meI press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12, 14 – NIV)

Have a good day.

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 16, 2018

Going For More Than Gold!

This past week the 2018 Winter Olympics began with all of it’s fanfare and glory.  The athletes entered the arena to music and cheers, waving to the crowds, and waving their flags.  Each of them had put in their time, training hard—eating, breathing, and sleeping their sport.  They entered the arena filled with hope, many of them dreaming that they might just be the one to stand on the podium and receive Olympic gold! 

On the other hand, most of them know that their chances for gold are slim. Each sport is filled with a few extremely talented athletes who are the favorites to win.  Then there are the long shots whose chances are slim, but they are not totally out of the picture. Finally, there are those who know they have no chance at all, but they are there simply to be part of this incredible event.  I think of the guy from Tonga who took up cross-country skiing.  He had never even seen snow until he decided to train for the sport! For guys like him it’s not about the prize, but about participating and finishing. For him it’s about being able to say he was there and did his best. 

The skier from Tonga who had never seen snow!
The Bible shows us that one day God is going give out prizes of a sort. Those prizes, however, aren’t for the fastest, the most talented, the greatest, the strongest, or the most outstanding. They are not for those who are able to outdo the others. Rather, the prizes of heaven are for those who have participated, persevered, and simply done their best as they have sought to live out this life of faith.  The “gold” of heaven is for people who will run not for the prize, but for the sheer privilege of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life and being faithful in their walk with him.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in writing about his own life of faith, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12, 14 – NIV)

I want to encourage you today to remember that God has in store a prize for each of us who will “press on toward the goal.”  You don’t need to get there first or as the strongest or fastest. You just need to keep on running to the end.  After all, we are going for more than gold!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 9, 2018

Beaten By The Wall!

You may not know it, but one of my personal activities has been going to the rock climbing gym. It’s a great workout as one uses just about every muscle in their body and there’s always a new challenge. Of course, the first challenge for me was getting used to the height—i.e. climbing a wall that at some points is over 40 feet high—and getting over the fear of dangling in the air, suspended by a rope attached to my harness.  One has to have a lot of faith in the rope, the harness, and the person down below who is belaying your rope. And, then there is the challenge of actually climbing the wall as one follows the routes laid out, routes that vary in difficulty.  I usually do the lowest grade routes, but as time has gone on I’ve been able to conquer some that are a step up on the difficulty scale.  In my mind, I’m trying to conquer the wall!

Yes...that's me up on the wall!
Sometimes, however, the wall conquers me! I will start a route, get part of the way up the wall, and then begin to struggle getting to the next rock or unable to make the next move. I knew that it was going to be a challenge, but thought I’d be able to make it to the top. Well, it doesn’t always work out that way.  It’s always a terrible feeling when I have to say to the person who is belaying the rope for me, “I can’t do it. Let me down!” Ugh!  In that moment I feel like, I’ve been beaten by the wall!

No one likes that feeling of defeat. We all want to be conquerors, victors, winners!  But, sometimes things don’t turn out that way. Some of the routes of life are harder than we anticipated.  Part of learning how to make it through life is learning how to deal with “the agony of defeat” (as per the old “Wide World of Sports” opening!). What do we do when something in life seems to have gotten the upper hand over us? How do we respond?  The truth is, we have a choice: (1) hang our heads, give up, and walk away in despair or, (2) allow ourselves to be challenged and motivated to continue climbing—maybe trying again or simply finding a new route in life. 

We who are followers of Jesus Christ need not walk away in defeat. We have an advantage called, faith! Faith helps us persevere through the defeats of life. Faith tells us that God is always at work in our lives and is able to help us, direct us, and give to us victories in ways we never expected.  Faith causes us to look beyond the defeat of the moment and trust God for something better in the days ahead. Faith reminds us that God is always there and always in control!

“… for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4-5 – NIV)  

You need not be beaten by the walls of life. Put your trust in God. Live filled with faith in the One who is able to give to you “a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) As the song says, “Our God is greater; our God is stronger….” He’s greater and stronger than any wall in your life.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Squirrel That Won't Give Up!

A number of people have asked me recently how I’ve been doing in my battle against the squirrel that I wrote about a few weeks ago—the squirrel that was getting into my birdfeeder. The short answer is, not so well.  I tried the cayenne pepper; that didn’t work. (He must like spicy food!) I put a rounded metal top over the feeder so he can’t come from above.  In fact, I watched as he tried to climb onto it and subsequently fell to the ground. I’ve seen him try to climb the pole from the bottom and just slide down, especially when it’s cold.  His only strategy is to now leap from a nearby branch and land flat onto the side of the birdfeeder, grabbing onto it with all he’s worth!  I’ve seen him try it and fail. But, I’ve also seen him succeed—and, he’s getting better at it with practice.  He just won’t give up! I must say, he’s quite a persistent little creature, not only persistent but also resourceful and smart. 

This guy reminds me of my squirrel!
Like that squirrel who is fighting to get to the birdseed in my feeder, we all face challenges in life that have the potential to keep us from our goals or that in some way hinder our lives. And, we all have our own ways of responding. Some of us just naturally fight back. Some of us climb into bed and hope that tomorrow will turn out a little bit better.  Most of the time, we try to work it through for a bit, but when after one or two tries things don’t turn out the way we thought they would, we tend to give up.  Sometimes our success might be just around the corner, but we never experience it for we give up just a bit too soon. Maybe we all need to become more like that squirrel that keeps on attacking my birdfeeder.  

The Apostle Paul prayed that the people of the church in Colosse would “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” and that they would “(bear) fruit in every good work.”  But, he also knew that plenty of challenges and hindrances would come into their lives. Thus he also prayed that they would be  “…strengthened with all power according to (God’s) glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience….” (Colossians 3:11 – NIV)  It’s a good prayer for us to pray for ourselves, as well as for one another.  After all, we could all use a little more endurance and patience. More than that, we all need to be strengthened and filled with the power of God that is able to help us persevere, especially when it comes to our life of faith. 

Let’s pray that God would fill us today with his “glorious might” that is able to help us persevere through whatever may come our way this day!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris