Thursday, February 21, 2019

Eating Like a Bird!

Whoever came up with the expression, “He eats like a bird” to refer to someone who eats tiny amounts of food was terribly mistaken.  In fact, I have come to realize that they knew nothing about birds.  After all, we are told that the average bird eats ¼ to ½ of their body weight every day. That means a 2 lb. cardinal eats ½ to 1 lb. of seed a day!  That’s like me eating up to 75 lbs. of food every day! It’s no wonder my bird feeder gets emptied so quickly. 

Yesterday morning, before the winter storm came upon us, I filled up the birdfeeder thinking the birds will need food for the next day or two. By around 3 pm, it was empty!  A bunch of birds had flocked to my feeder and I didn’t see one bird that ate “like a bird!”  In fact, I’ve noticed that especially when the temperature drops or a storm is coming, the birds in my backyard begin to eat like crazy, almost as if this could be their last meal ever!  They eat frantically and furiously; and, they eat a lot! Apparently, birds have appetites that are not easily satisfied.

The birds eating in the midst of the snow storm! 
We all have appetites, don’t we?  And, I’m not just talking about our appetite for food (although that can be quite prominent for many of us). But, we have appetites for companionship, affirmation, comfort, pleasure, stability, security, recognition, etc.   Often our lives are driven by whatever appetite seems to be the most prominent at the moment.  And unfortunately, most of our appetites are not easily satisfied. Thus, we often end up living our lives trying to fulfill the appetites of our body, mind, and spirit, constantly striving and yet continually coming up empty. We might say, we are constantly hungry and thirsty.   

I wonder if that might be one reason why Jesus called himself the “bread of life” and the “living water.” In fact, Jesus said,  “Everyone who drinks this water (speaking of physical water) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (John 4:13-14 – NIV) Later he said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 – NIV)

Jesus’ point is that he and he alone is able to satisfy the deepest cravings of our hearts. Through faith in Jesus, all of our appetites can be satisfied once and for all—most especially our desire for a relationship with God our heavenly father. Thus, we no longer need to strive, eating frantically and furiously of the things of this world. Rather, as we put our faith in Jesus we can say with the Psalmist, “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” (Psalm 63:5 – NIV)

Let’s not eat like birds. Rather, let’s allow Jesus to fill us with his love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope, etc. In the end, he is the only One who is able to satisfy every longing of our hearts.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Real Valentine's Day!

I know many of us just celebrated Valentine’s Day with cards, candy, flowers—maybe even a candlelight dinner.  That’s pretty much what St. Valentine’s Day has been turned into; it’s become an excuse for a little bit of romance.  But, did you know the day is named after a real person? He was a third century leader in the church who was martyred for his faith.  

The stories surrounding St. Valentine are many. What we do know is that, he lived during one of the most immoral periods within the Roman Empire.  Sexual promiscuity was rampant. And, at one point The Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage so that men wouldn’t have an excuse not to go to war.  (Newly married men would not join the army to fight; some say such was Roman law.) St. Valentine, however, not only preached the gospel and led people to Christ, he then performed secret weddings for these new believers.  Eventually, St. Valentine was arrested for breaking the law. 

St. Valentine - A Third Century Bishop
One story says, as St. Valentine stood before his jailer and judge, he began to preach the gospel to him. The man responded by saying, “If what you say is indeed true, I want you to prove it.”  Valentine laid his hand on the judge’s adopted daughter who was blind and immediately she was healed!  However, although the judge may have converted to Christianity, the Emperor eventually called for the death of Valentine.  We are told that, just before his death, St. Valentine wrote a letter to the little girl who had been healed and signed it, “Your Valentine.”  St. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 269 AD because he refused to renounce his faith in Christ.  

Now that doesn’t sound like a very romantic story to me!  However, it is a story that is filled with love. It’s the story of a man who had come to experience the incredible love of his Savior, Jesus Christ—the One who had loved him all the way to the point of death on a cross!  It’s the story of a man who, in return so loved his Savior that he was willing to die for that love. St. Valentine was willing to be martyred for his faith because he had come to understand the incredible love of God shown for him through the death of God’s Son, Jesus. 

The Apostle John wrote, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16 – NIV)  Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13 – NIV) 
I surely don’t mind a little romance complete with cards, flowers, and candlelight dinners. But I’m reminded that real love goes far beyond an evening of romance. Real love is wrapped up in all that God has done for us through Jesus. And, real love will always cost us something, if not our lives. Like St. Valentine, let’s live our lives as examples of that love, loving God with all our hearts and loving one another as he has loved us.  That makes for a real Valentine’s Day!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 8, 2019

Not What I Expected!

This past week, we had a couple of really nice days; they felt like a touch of spring! On one of those days, I decided that rather than go to the gym I would go for a run outdoors. And, since it was so nice out, I decided to take a ride to the ocean and run the boardwalk, my favorite place to run.  That was not the best decision I’ve ever made!

You see, when I left my house the thermostat in my car read 64.  However, when I got about a block from the boardwalk, which is about 5 miles from my house, the thermostat suddenly dropped to 55.  By the time I got to the place where I parked my car, it had dropped to 48—and, it was quite breezy.  I began my run, heading south and into the cold breeze that was beginning to pick up force.  Those walking on the boardwalk were dressed in hats, gloves, and winter coats. I had no hat or gloves; I was freezing in my shorts, t-shirt, and running pullover, which I had thought for sure I was going to have to take off. By the time I finished 2 ½ miles, which was all I could get myself to run in those conditions, the temperature had dropped to 43.  Of course, I was kicking myself, realizing that I should have run in my neighborhood. This was not what I expected!

Now, running in a temperature of 43 degrees with some wind is no problem if one is ready for it. But, I was not ready for these conditions. I was expecting to feel the warmth of the sun on my face, take off the pullover, and find myself in a sweat.  Instead, my face and hands were cold, and my ears began to hurt. I was definitely not prepared for the conditions I found myself in. Again, this was not what I expected. 

This is what I expected!
Have you noticed how that happens to us in life in so many different ways? We are expecting life to go a certain way, yet so often things turn out so differently.  The unexpected has a way of raising its head at the most unexpected times in our lives. And, if we are not careful we can become overwhelmed, thrown off course, disheartened and discouraged.  Maybe in some ways, we ought to expect the unexpected; we ought to always be ready for the unexpected. How? By building our faith and trust in the One for whom nothing is unexpected!

In Psalm 46, the psalmist speaks of what had to have been for him the unexpected: the earth giving way, mountains quaking and falling into the sea. He says, “nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall.” He writes of the earth melting! No one expects earthquakes, wars, and the falling apart of kingdoms and nations—at least not in their lifetime.  It had to have all seemed quite terrifying.  Yet in the midst of it all, the psalmist declares, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Vs. 1) Twice he says, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  (Vss. 7, 11) It seems to me that, somewhere along the line the psalmist had prepared himself for the unexpected. 

I don’t know what unexpected things might happen in your life and mine today or in the days to come. All I know is that unexpected things do happen and will happen. Thus, the best thing we can do is prepare ourselves for the unexpected by building our faith and confidence in God, so that when the unexpected happens “we will not fear.”  (Vs. 2)  Let’s put our trust in the One for whom nothing is unexpected! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, February 1, 2019

It's So Cold...

How cold is it? Well, it’s been so cold in parts of the US that it’s colder there than it is in the Artic or Antarctica. It’s been so cold that in some parts the postal service stopped delivering mail, schools closed, and whole cities stayed indoors. It’s so cold the whole of Lake Michigan has been frozen over. It’s so cold people are blowing soap bubbles in order to watch them immediately crystalize in the air in front of them! Tragically, it’s been so cold that as of today, 21 deaths have been blamed on this polar vortex. I think many of us are dreaming about warmer days to come. I know I am. Actually, just over a week ago I was in that warmer weather when I was down in Nicaragua. It felt so good not having to wear a bulky winter coat, hat, and gloves. I could just put on a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, and I was good to go. It felt so nice being able to jump into the ocean, lie out on a hammock, and just feel the warmth of the sun. Ah, now I’m dreaming again…dreaming of those warmer days to come!

The cold and ice of Chicago....

The warmth of Leon, Nicaragua...I know which I'd choose!

Our longing for warmer days reminds me of another longing within each of us—a longing that is so much deeper, a longing for something much more critical than just another warm sunny day. I’m reminded of our longing for a world beyond the one in which we live—our deep desire for a world filled with the warmth of God’s presence. I’m thinking about our longing for eternity.

The Bible says that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV) That is, God has built within each of us a mechanism that causes us to yearn for the eternal, a mechanism that causes us to seek after and strive towards something that goes far beyond what this world is able to offer. Unfortunately, all too often we block out that mechanism with the pains and the pleasures of our lives. We forget about the eternal and end up living our lives for the material and temporal. But, somehow that mechanism finds ways of once again kicking into gear within our hearts and minds. There are times in our lives when somehow we find ourselves once again longing for and even dreaming about something beyond this life—i.e. we find ourselves looking towards the eternal.

I want to remind us today that God has a wonderful eternity planned for his children. It’s an eternity that is filled with joy and peace, goodness and love. It’s an eternity that is filled with the warmth of his presence. Thus, we ought to long for, dream about, and look ahead to that day when we will find ourselves in eternity with him. We ought to live our lives filled with faith and hope, as we lean towards that which is eternal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18 – NIV)

Have a great day…and, stay warm!

 Pastor Tim Harris