Thursday, June 28, 2018

Running Uphill!

It’s been a couple of weeks now, but I am still excited about the fact that eight of us from our church, Shrewsbury First Assembly, ran as a team at the Red Bank 5K Classic.  It was a beautiful day. The energy level was high. We did our pre-race photos. And before you knew it, the race had begun. So, off we ran with almost 900 other runners!

Now, I’ve been running for about a year and I do most of my running on the boardwalk, which is very flat. At other times I run in my neighborhood, which is mostly flat. The fact is, I never run hills.  So, here’s where this particular race became a bit difficult for me: it had a huge uphill! Thus, like many of the other runners around me, I found myself pushing hard to get up to the top, one step at a time, doing my best to keep some sort of pace. I remember thinking to myself, for every uphill there has to be a downhill! That was my only consolation, though it seemed like an eternity until the downhill came.  In no way, shape, or form can I say it was fun running uphill.  It was a necessity if I was to finish the race—truly a necessary evil. But, it was not fun at all! 

The fact is, uphill’s are never fun! They’re not supposed to be. Yet, sometimes it is the only way to get to one’s destination. At times it is only by means of the uphill that you get to where you need to be. And, uphill’s teach us much that the downhill’s and flatlands cannot teach us.

The Shrewsbury First Assembly Team!
I tend to think that, God actually allows some uphill’s to come into our lives.  At times, he causes us to have to run uphill through the difficulties of this life, to help us learn patience, endurance, and to strengthen our “faith muscles” (to take a phrase from Patrick Morley).  More than that, it is often in the uphill’s of life, as we are pushing through, struggling to get to the top, that we receive a new revelation of who God is and his incredible grace at work in our lives.  Yes, God’s plan for our lives may take us up and over some hills, hills that we would rather not have to run, but ones that our heavenly Father knows will get us to where we need to be, help us become who we need to become, and help us to know him better.

The Apostle Paul wrote of,  “the God who gives endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:5 – NIV) Elsewhere he writes of, “…being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience….” (Colossians 1:11 –NIV)  If course, it is only in the uphill’s of life that those words make any sense. 

So, let’s not fear the uphill’s of life.  Rather let’s allow them to become an opportunity to experience God’s grace at work in our lives, believing that he will get us to our final destination!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 15, 2018

Just When I Thought I Lost The Battle!

Back in February I wrote about “The Squirrel That Won’t Give Up!” (See February 2, 2018)  Since then I have had a continual battle with two squirrels that would repeatedly get onto my birdfeeder and in one day eat up all the birdseed.  I tried everything in to book to keep them away—moving the bird feeder, cayenne pepper, a beveled metal top, greasing the pole with motor oil.  Multiple times, even as Kim and I were eating dinner, I would suddenly go running out of the house towards the bird feeder, making all kinds of mean squirrel noises to chase the squirrels away, causing them to scamper up the trees. Within a few minutes, however, they would be back.  I thought it was a lost cause!  I thought I had lost the battle!

Then it happened! I came across what claimed to be a squirrel-proof bird feeder.  I had to try it. And, guess what! It works!  The food is put into an inner section that then has a wire metal sleeve over it. When the birds sit on the outer sleeve, they have access to the food. When a squirrel sits on it, its weight pushes down the sleeve causing the seed to become inaccessible.  Thus, each time the squirrel climbs up the pole and makes its way onto the feeder, it finds itself wondering what has happened and to his sadness and my joy, he makes his way down the pole and leaves with a seemingly look of defeat.  Yes, I think I finally beat the squirrel!  (And, believe me the birds are having a party!)

Squirrel relegated to the ground!
Now the birds can enjoy the bird feeder

Have you ever felt like something in life had you beaten? Maybe you were about to give up. Maybe you are about to give up. It might be the disappointment of applying to job after job and repeatedly coming up empty. It could be the illness that just won’t leave your body alone, no matter how many doctors’ visits you make.  You might have tried time and again to repair a relationship, but to no avail.  Maybe it’s that sin that keeps on rearing its head or that bad habit you just can’t break.  Whatever it is, you feel like it’s a lost cause; you feel like you’ve lost the battle!

I want to remind us, however, it is not God’s intent for us to live our lives filled with feelings of defeat.  With him, there is no lost cause.  Oh, the situations of life may not always turn out the way we would like them to. You may not always find that quick fix on a shelf at the local store. Yet, God is able to work in our lives in such a way that, at just the right time he breathes into us new hope, reveals a solution, brings an unexpected healing, or takes what is so seemingly terrible and uses it for our eternal good. God speaks, works, touches, moves—often at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways; just when you thought you had lost the battle!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “And, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 – NIV)

The battle’s not over! God is working in your life. Keep on looking to him. He has—he is—the solution to all that you are facing in your life today! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 8, 2018

Trimming, Cutting, and Pruning!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had to spend some time trimming, cutting, and pruning the trees and bushes around our property.  Some of it has included cutting off dead branches that were just taking up space and threatening to break off in a storm.  Much of it has been cutting back excess growth in order to keep the trees and bushes from becoming overgrown and taking over the yard.  And, some of the work was about pruning back shoots that potentially sap life from the main tree, rather than add to the life of the tree. I’ve had to take out the clippers, power trimmer, and even the chainsaw – sometimes even getting up on a ladder. Yes, it’s a lot of work! 

But without the work of trimming, cutting, and pruning, the trees and bushes on our property would become well overgrown and at times unhealthy.  No longer would they be for us an asset to our property, but instead a liability.  We wouldn’t be able to enjoy sitting in our back yard or even just driving up to our home. Rather, we would find ourselves overwhelmed by trees and bushes that had taken over; a landscape that had become somewhat of a monster, rather than one of peace and beauty. 

Our lives are much like those trees and bushes on my property (and maybe on yours). When properly cared for they are beautiful, bringing peace and joy and life to those around. Left to go their natural way, they tend to become filled with excess and even death.  Our natural appetites can quickly become exaggerated, leading us into sin. We take on baggage that saps our strength from us and leaves us unable to function the way we ought. Parts of us die and we become angry, bitter, or filled with despair.  Thus, sometimes we need someone to come along and help us do some trimming, cutting, and pruning lest we become that monster we never wanted to become. 

Some of the newly trimmed trees & bushes in our backyard!
Thankfully, we have a Great Gardener who loves us enough to help us with the hard work that needs to be done in our lives.  Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2 – NIV)  God is working to create a beautiful garden called, the Church. And, as the Great Gardner, he gets rid of that which is dead, he cuts back that which is growing in excess, and he prunes away that which will destroy. His goal is that his people—i.e. each one of us individually and all of us corporately—would become a beautiful garden that will bring peace, joy, and life to the world around us!

Won’t you trust God with your life today, enough to allow him to do his work of trimming, cutting , and pruning in you?

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  (Isaiah 58:11 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, June 1, 2018

Keep On Climbing!

As some of you may know, for a number of years my sons Jonathan, Nathaniel, and I have been going to rock climbing gyms. A few years back we all took a class to learn how to belay the ropes and then got our own gear (shoes, harness, chalk bag).   It’s been both fun and challenging to develop the strength, stamina and technique to climb 30-40 foot walls using routes of greater and greater difficulty.  However, this past week we faced our greatest challenge of all (that is, when it comes to rock climbing): we went climbing on real/outdoor cliffs!

About a month ago, Jonathan took a class to learn how to set up the ropes for outdoor top rope climbing.  And, he purchased all the gear needed: specialized ropes, belay device, carabiners and helmets. On Monday, when Kim, Nathaniel, and I were down visiting with Jonathan and his wife Danielle we went to some cliffs by the Potomac River known for top rope climbing. Jonathan set up the ropes and first he, then Nathaniel, and then I scaled our first cliff, about 40 feet high. 

It was quite different from climbing indoors and, at least for me, quite intimidating.  When it came my turn to climb, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I started a few times and had difficulty getting past the first section of the climb. After a few tries I wanted to give up. But, my sons wouldn’t let me. Once past that first section, I began to climb higher and again got to a point where I felt stuck. I was ready to give up and come back down. Now, however, not only were my sons calling for me to continue climbing, but so were my wife Kim and my daughter-in-law Danielle!  With four voices below me yelling to me to keep on climbing and shouting, “You can do it,” I finally made it all the way to the top!  And, I was glad I did. In fact, I even did it a second time!

Yes, that's me on the wall!
I’m reminded today of the incredible affect our words of encouragement can have on one another. After all, we all hit times in our lives when we want to give up. We might say, at times we all find ourselves unable to climb any higher—or so we think.  That’s exactly when we need each other.  That exactly when we need people around us who will encourage us and even challenge us to keep on climbing!

The Scriptures say, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 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 10:23-25 – NIV)

Let’s be reminded of today of how much we need each other and the important role that we play in each other’s lives, especially when it comes to this life of faith.  I need you to encourage me. You need me to encourage you. So, let’s find ways to shout into each other’s lives and into the lives of those around us, “Keep on climbing!”  With each other’s help, we will make it all the way to the top!   

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris