Friday, April 27, 2018

Esperanza Para Mi Segunda Casa! (Hope For My Second Home!)

This week I have become consumed by the events taking place in the country of Nicaragua. Since the year 2000 I have been working in that nation, first with missionaries to build a Bible school, then helping lead a Christian school, working with a church, and helping with a child support program. First it was in the city of Matagalpa and then in the city of Leon.  In fact, over the past eight years, I have continually been in and out of the country, specifically to Leon, sometimes up to six times in one year. I have called the city of Leon, “Mi segunda casa”—i.e. “my second home,”—for it is a city with which I have become very familiar and in which I have so many people with whom I feel personally connected. I know not only the people with whom I have worked but as well shop keepers, hotel and restaurant workers, people within the churches, children and families who are part of our programs and school. 

In case you don’t know (after all, it’s not headline news here in the States), last week retirees and then students began protests against the government.  Quickly the police and military, as well as other pro-government forces, stepped in and became violent towards the protesters.  To date, 63 persons, mostly students, have been killed and 15 more are missing.  It has been a shock to the nation, as it all seemed to escalate so quickly and to a level no one could have predicted. 

Tens of thousands of people marching on Monday! 
My great concern has been for all of my friends there, many whom I count as family. My heart has been broken as I’ve watched a part of the city of Leon burn, as I’ve heard the fear in the voices of those I’ve been able to speak to, as I’ve realized with them that, the future of their city and nation right now seems so unclear. Yet, in the midst of it all, I know there is hope. In fact, the pastors, missionaries, and others with whom I’ve been in contact all speak of the hope that they have for their nation and for the people of Nicaragua. Thus, the churches are fasting and praying. Christians are proclaiming the gospel.  And, the hearts of the people are open.  Many are believing God for a change in the spiritual climate of the country. 

The Christians of Nicaragua have been holding onto the words of scripture,  “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 – NIV) Thus, filled with hope they are praying for their nation, believing that in and through the circumstances they currently face, God will bring forgiveness and healing to their land; God will bring his salvation to many. 

Their hope is contagious. Thus, as I pray with them for their nation I am praying filled with hope for them and their people.   Will you pray with me for the people of Nicaragua? Will you hope with me, not only for them, but for all the peoples of our world who today find themselves suffering—believing that out of each of these terrible circumstances, God is going to bring about something incredibly good!

Yo tengo esperanza para mi segunda casa, Leon! I have hope for my second home, Leon!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Grind!

You’ve probably heard it said, “Life is such a grind!”  Or maybe, after having gone through a difficult situation you’ve said, “I’ve just been through the grinder.”  Or some say about their daily life, “I’m just grinding it out!”  However it is said, the picture of grinding is always a negative one. It represents difficulty, tedious routine, and even pain.  The grind is never pictured as something positive.  It is never used to express something good. 

And, it’s true that sometimes life can seem like such a grind as we go through our daily routines often just trying to survive, trying to somehow keep our heads above water.  At times life puts us through the grinder as we face sickness, the death of our loved ones, the loss of jobs, the breaking of relationships, and personal failure.  No one likes the grind or going through the grinder. I know I don’t.  I’m sure you don’t.

But, this morning as I was grinding the coffee beans I had brought back on my last trip to Nicaragua, I wasn’t considering the grind in such a terrible way. The grinding of those coffee beans was going to result in the wonderful aroma of coffee making its way through our home—an aroma that even Kim who doesn’t drink coffee loves! And, shortly afterwards, that first sip of coffee would result in my first pleasure of the day!  (How I love that first sip of morning coffee!) The grinding of those beans early in the morning is not fun—it’s a bit of work—but as I was grinding those beans I was looking forward to that which was to come: my morning cup of coffee! Yes, the grind was about to bring about something good, wonderful, and pleasurable.

The Apostle James wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  (James 1:2-4 – NIV)  James tells us that, the grinding that we go through in life may not be that terrible after all for, the grinding results in the growth of our faith, the ability to persevere through hard times, maturity and wholeness.  We become all that God intends us to be by going through the grind! 

So, today I want to encourage you to place your life into the hands of God, believing that that he is able to take “all things,” even the grind of your life, and work them for your good (Romans 8:28).  I want to encourage you to believe that, in the end the grinding you may sometimes feel, can result in something of great beauty if you will give your lives over to the Lord. 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV) He often uses the grind to do so. 

Have a great day! And, go drink another cup of coffee!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Hope Of A New Season!

On Wednesday night, when I got home from Bible study, I put on the TV and stepped into the 7th inning of the Yankee game—they were playing against Boston.  As I was watching, Kim came into the room, glanced at the TV and asked, “Is it baseball season already?” When I answered in the affirmative, all I heard was a groan from behind me!  Apparently, Kim is not thrilled that baseball season has returned!

Now I don’t watch a ton of games, but I do like to catch a Yankee game now and then.  And besides, since my administrative assistant Conni is such a huge fan and is always ready to talk about the game from the night before, I feel a bit obligated to stay on top of what’s happening in the baseball world!  So, yes baseball season has begun and one can find me watching a Yankee game here and there—and, I guess more than “here and there” as we move through the season. 

Of course, it does seem like we just finished the last season of games.  It feels like just yesterday we who are Yankee fans were mourning the fact that they had not made it into the World Series, having been edged out by the Astros.  Yet, here we are at the start of another season filled with a ton of hope for our team.  In fact, each of us who follows baseball, no matter what team is “your team” is thinking, “Maybe this is the year our team gets into and even wins the World Series!”  The start of a new season is always filled with hope; hope that will be fulfilled for some and hope that may lead to disappointment for others.

The 2009 Yankees celebrating their World Series Win!
When we become followers of Jesus through faith in him, we begin a new season in our lives; everything starts new and fresh. The old season of life is past. All the failures, loses, and even sins of the old season are gone. In a sense, we get to start over.  As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “The old is gone! The new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – NIV) And, with the start of a new season comes new hope! As followers of Jesus we are given an incredible hope for our future—a hope that will never disappoint us, for God will be with us and fulfill every promise he has ever made to us! 

The Apostle Paul wrote these words:  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5 – NIV)  The writer to the Hebrews gives us this word of encouragement: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  (Hebrews 10:23 – NIV)  Again, the hope that we receive from God will never disappoint.  The hope that he gives to us will be fulfilled!  At the end of the season, we will come out as winners! 

Let’s keep on hoping!  Have a great day! (And, let’s go Yankees! J) 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, April 6, 2018

It Would Have Been Enough!

This past weekend we not only celebrated Easter in our home, but on Saturday night we also had our annual Passover Seder. In case you don’t know, I’m Jewish on my mother’s side. I began doing Passover with my family when my children were young because I wanted to help them understand their heritage and teach them the significance of God’s intervention in the life of the Jewish people (which includes our family), as well as his constant work among all of his people (which includes Jew and Gentile).  In fact, tonight I’ll be leading our church through the Passover Seder. 

One of the parts of the Seder is the “Dayenu.” It’s really one of the best parts of the ceremony. First of all, once we go through the Dayenu, including the singing of the song, we know that the matzo ball soup is about to come out, along with the rest of the meal!  Most importantly, however, the “Dayenu” reminds us of the incredible grace of God at work in our lives.  “Dayenu” means, it would have been enough.

Our Passover Table
During the “Dayenu,” the leader recites the work of God through the Exodus story beginning with the escape out of Egypt to the parting of the Red Sea to the provision in the wilderness to the entrance into the Promised Land (and details in between those points). After each line, the people declare, “Dayenu!”—i.e. “It would have been enough!”  In other words, since we don’t deserve anything from God, any act of God in our lives is an act of mercy and grace. Thus, we don’t demand of God but instead we are grateful for each and every work of God within our lives.

Think of it this way: God has not only given us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin through Jesus, he allows us to call him “Father.  And, he not only allows us to call him “Father, but he has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit. And, he has not only given to us the gift of the Spirit, but he has given to us the hope of eternal life…and, he provides for our daily needs…and, he minsters healing to us…and, the list could go on and on! Surely, we can cry out each and every day, “Dayenu!  It would have been enough!”  But, God is so merciful and grateful to we who are his children that he continues to give and to bless and to act within our lives! 

Can you think today of all God has done for you? Can you declare “Dayenu” as you recognize the incredible work of God within your life? 

 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.” (Psalm 143:5 – NIV)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” (Psalm 103:1,2 – NIV)


Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris