Friday, May 31, 2019

A Season of Celebrations!

As I look at my calendar for this coming month, it is filled with celebrations: three graduations and a wedding! That’s a lot in just a few weeks time. But, such is the case for many of us.  The months of May and June become quickly filled with events and parties that celebrate the completion of a student’s education (at least that stage of their education), academic and athletic accomplishments, and weddings that inaugurate the start of a couple’s new life together.  This is a season of celebrations.

In spite of the busyness that so many celebrations can bring into our lives, I think we would all agree that celebrations are a good thing. After all, imagine life without celebrations, a life wherein one has nothing to celebrate. That picture is quite dreary. No congratulatory parties. No banners or balloons. No excitement. Nothing to look back on.  Nothing to look forward to.  That would be terrible.  Yes, we need our lives to be punctuated with celebrations. 

But, maybe some of us today feel like we have very little to celebrate in our lives. Or, maybe we’ve not been invited to any celebratory parties. It could be that there are some of us whose lives have recently been punctuated by pain and disappointment, even a bit of depression and despair.  You may be wondering whether or not there is anything worth celebrating. 

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables that tell of something that was lost and then found: a sheep, a coin, and a son. At the end of each story there is joy and celebration. In fact, in the third story, the father whose son returned home throws a huge party complete with the roasting of a whole calf, music, and dancing. It must have been quite a celebration! In the middle of these stories Jesus says, “…I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents...” and “…I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:7,10 – NIV)

Jesus’ words tell us that, even when life is not going the way we would like it to go, if we’ve have been forgiven of our sin and have come to know God as our heavenly Father, we have reason to celebrate. In fact God and all of heaven is celebrating over us. And, I can’t help but believe that he continues to rejoice over us as we grow in our faith, trust him with our lives, and fulfill his purposes.  And, that’s reason enough for us to celebrate!

In the midst of this season of celebrations, let’s remember that our heavenly Father is calling his angels to rejoice with him over our lives as we live our lives in relationship with him through faith in Christ.  He’s that glad to be our heavenly Father.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he…will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17 – NIV)

Have a great day!

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Rhythms of Summer!

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer. For those of us who live near the Jersey Shore, that means a lot more traffic on the weekends, especially on the Garden State Parkway. It means the boardwalks and beaches will no longer be ours alone.  It means having to pay for parking close to the beach. And, it means that for the next few months the nearby restaurants, stores, and hotels will be filled with people looking for a bit of rest and relaxation; a break from the normal pace of life; a different kind of rhythm to life. 

In fact, I find that by nature summer creates a whole different kind of rhythm to life. With its longer and warmer days, summer makes it possible to go down to one of the nearby beaches in the late afternoon or evening and take a swim or just sit and watch the waves before it gets too dark.  During the summer, people seem to be much more social as they tend to be outside of their homes more often. Even when going for ice cream, it’s not uncommon to strike up conversations with people you don’t really know.  Life in general just seems to be a little more laid back as we spend much of our time in flip-flops, t-shirts, and shorts.  Summer definitely brings with it a different kind of rhythm.

That's the rhythm of summer!
The only problem is (and I don’t want to be a killjoy!) is that summer doesn’t last. In a few months it is gone. Then what happens?  Are we content with just going back to the normal rhythms of life—rhythms that so often leaves us feeling exhausted? Do we have to live our lives as if we are trapped on a train that is constantly racing to nowhere?  Is there any way that, in midst of what some call the “rat race,” we can find rest, not just for our bodies, but even more so for our hearts and our souls? 

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:28-29 – NIV)

I find in his words a different kind of rhythm—a sense of peace, a sense of rest. His words remind me that through a relationship with Jesus, we can experience a different kind of rhythm within our lives. I know that sounds far-fetched. But look at his words. Hear them again. Read them aloud if you will.  Can you grasp the fact that Jesus is offering to us a rest that goes well beyond a summer vacation or season of the year?  Rather, he invites us to bring to him all of the burdens that the rhythms this world places upon us and to exchange them for a new kind of rhythm, the rhythm of his rest. 

Let me encourage you today to bring all your burdens, needs, and weariness to Jesus.  Lay them at his feet. And, allow him to possibly lead you into a new season within your life—a season of faith, trust, and hope; a season of rest.

“Cast all your cares upon him, because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)

Have a great day! And, let’s get out and enjoy a little bit of summer!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 17, 2019

Consistency Is The Key!

Now that we’re really into the heart of spring, the neighbors are all out working on their lawns cutting, trimming, weeding, and planting.  I too have been out doing my share of yard work (that is, in between all the rain!). And, I don’t really mind doing some yard work. After all, I do like the end result of seeing a freshly mowed lawn or a newly planted flowerbed.  The only problem is much of the work has to be done again and again throughout the spring and summer.  Except for the planting of the flowers, the lawn will need to be mowed just about every week, the bushes will continually need to be trimmed, and the weeds will continue to grow and need to be pulled out. But, I have found, as you may have as well, that the key to maintaining one’s yard is consistency. By maintaining a consistent schedule of cutting and trimming, etc. the yard is kept from becoming an unmanageable jungle. 

I don't think I'll ever get my lawn to look like this!
And, such is the case with most areas of life.  Consistency is the key to maintaining a healthy body—i.e. a consistent exercise routine and diet. Consistency is the key to keeping one’s house clean. Consistency is the key to maintaining good grades in school. Consistency is key to maintaining a well-functioning car.  Without consistency most of areas of life get out of control, become quite unmanageable, and even begin to break down. 

Most importantly, however, consistency is the key to maintaining a vibrant spiritual life. Sometimes we wonder how it was that the early believers were so vibrant in their newfound faith. Well, in the book of Acts we read that those early believers, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42, 46-47 – NIV)

Notice that they “devoted themselves” and they “continued to meet together.”  That is, there was consistency in what they did. It wasn’t hit or miss or just when they felt like it or just when they had time. It was part of their regular routine to receive teaching, to fellowship, to pray, to worship, etc.  Consistency was the key to experiencing all that God had for them. 

If you’re like me, you want to have a nice looking yard or clean house or properly functioning body—all of which takes consistency. Most of all, however, let’s not neglect the importance of a vibrant spiritual life.  Thus, I want to encourage us today to be people of consistency when it comes to our spiritual lives—i.e. consistently reading the Word, praying, attending worship, gathering with the believers, etc.  Let’s build strong routines that will strengthen our walk with Christ and thus help us become all God would have us to be.

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, May 10, 2019

The In-Between of Life

Five years ago today we buried my father on what would have been his 86th birthday. It was almost odd and yet somehow appropriate that his funeral service was on his birthday.  Thus, the day of his birth is in essence the day we also remember his death—and, the life he lived between those two dates. 

Between the day he was born (May 10, 1928) and the day he died (May 7, 2014), my father grew up in a Greek immigrant family in the Bronx, served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War, married my mom at the age of 29, raised five children, taught high school physical education, played tennis, played the sax, and the list can go on.  Between those two dates, my dad did some things wrong (as we all do) and he did lots of things right (as we all hope to).  Between those two dates, my dad provided for his family, took care of his wife (my mom), helped lay a foundation of faith in our lives, and for the most part seemed to enjoy his life.

My dad's grave marker
From one perspective, it might seem as if my dad had a very long life. To him, the time between those two dates must have seemed to go by very, very quickly.  I’m sure to his 16 grandchildren, “Grandpa” seemed to have been quite old. From his perspective, I’m pretty sure it felt as if the years had gone flying by.  And, such is usually the case for each of us. 

The Apostle James wrote, What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 – NIV) Think about that: a mist; a vapor; the steam coming out of the kettle on the stove. You see it…and then you don’t! It’s here and then it’s gone!  It’s no wonder the psalmist prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)  That is, since the in-between of our lives is so limited and goes by so quickly, we ought to make sure we are using the time we have between the day of our birth and the day of our death very wisely.  

All of this causes me to ask myself, how am I using the in-between of my life? Am I using my time well?  How about you? What are we doing with the time between those two dates?  Are we living our lives in such a way that we are growing in our faith, doing what God has intended for us to do, and being a blessing to those around us?

Let’s ask God today to help make the most of the in-between of our lives! 

Have a great day.

Pastor Tim Harris