In every thing give thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5 looks like a bullet list of instruction to the church. Quench not the Spirit. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. Receive prophesies and more. Then comes the above instruction in verse 18. I’ve often been asked about the “Will of God” and what it means to the individual. Often people want the Will of God to be subjective and relevant. We like specifics in order to unmask the murky generalities of loving the Lord and loving people. The scripture speaks in clear terms and here it is: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

According to the scripture, there are no conditions where we are absolved from giving thanks. There is no sickness, crisis, valley, or trial that can remove us from obligation of giving thanks. I understand the season of Thanksgiving. I’m concerned that if we don’t understand the Will of God for our lives, we will become nothing more than just seasonal saints. “We are not of this world; we are of God,” so writes the Apostle John. This means that January through December we are giving thanks. It means that we are neither conditioned nor directed by the calendar of our secular society.

Enter Job. News of his loss has culminated with the death of his children. Every material possession has been stolen or burned. It’s all gone. Job arises and in sorrow he tears his clothes and falls to the ground. Reality is a daunting scene. The cumulative tragedies could not be covered, but the next line says this: “he worshiped and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21-22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Giving thanks and blessing the Lord is easy when things are going well. Saying ‘Thank You’ is a pleasantry shared at the event of gain, but try to be thankful when you are shrouded in pain and confusion. It will take effort. When life is not so agreeable, the task will demand a mental focus and a disciplined heart. Paul said, “In everything give thanks.” This is the Will of God for our lives. In everything, we should give thanks, which includes every high and low. Everything is the totality of life, not just the intersection of blessing. When it’s not so easy to give thanks, remember that sometimes praise and thanks is a sacrifice.

Hebrew 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Prepare Our Lives

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

It must have been a lonely scene when Noah took to the stage to preach his message of world destruction. If he were alive today, we would call him a fanatic. I’m certain that Twitter would have a field day mocking a madman building a boat in his backyard. To that was the fact that it had never rained before. No one even knew what Noah was talking about. The skies opening up was both an unknown and ridiculous proposition, but there stands Noah on his heap of discarded gopher wood scraps preaching the end of the world and calling them to repent and find a place in the ark. He has no followers besides his own family, which doesn’t make for a very attractive group. He’s telling them to prepare… …and by the way, you’ll have to share space with the animals. It’ll be mostly dark and filled with an oder of the worst kind, but you’ll be saved.

 

Noah builds the ark and then fills the open crevices with tar inside and out. He secures the boat as best he can seeing there is no reference to the longevity of his stay. All he knows is that God said build an ark and get inside. He’s moved with fear of all things. The entire idea is so foreign to our modern Christianity with all of it’s feel-good sermons and prosperity doctrines.

Crazy Noah! All that preaching about things that have never happened. He’s redundant. Peter said that he preached for 120 years while the ark was being prepared. That’s a long time not to have some other thought. You’d think Noah would get some new material. Why should we bring our families back, if we hear the same thing we heard last week? We need some innovation around here. How about current events or life applications? Don’t you think those subjects would benefit us more than the same old, worn out “God is coming soon” message?

I hope you are getting this: It’s foolish until it starts raining. Paul wrote: 1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. The message of New Birth might sound nonsensical until the Trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ rise first. Being devoted to the church, worshiping, giving, sacrificing, prayer meetings, and obedience all sounds constricting until that Great and Terrible Day of the Lord come. As Noah believed in something not yet seen, so too we are moved to prepare our lives and families for the coming of the Lord.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

In the Name of Jesus!

Acts 26:28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

I’m peering over the edge at the end of Paul’s extensive life and ministry. The years of preaching and debating have afforded him the unique skill of persuasion shared by few. Hundreds of miracles, baptisms, and in-fillings have attended his journeys. Perhaps a thousand sermons have been delivered by his authoritative voice. He’s converted most of the known parts of Asia and established churches throughout the entire region. Now, Paul stands before King Agrippa to make a case for Jesus. My assumption is that a greater apostolic apologetic has never lived. Paul is profound, and Agrippa knows it. Paul can even see the belief in the eyes of the king when he says, “I know that thou believest.”

But in that moment of decision there is a line between life and death; between believing and denying. The line might be negligible, but it exists and it has separated many from the other side. Agrippa has consumed the world’s greatest preacher, and yet, he stumbles at the end. He’s standing at the threshold, but he hesitates to enter through the door of obedience.

Week after week I feel the Holy Spirit prodding me to persuade you of the Gospel, the Truth, the Way, and the doctrine. I’m making a case for Christ, though He needs nothing. Nevertheless, I present Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Sometimes I can see hesitations where the line between doubt and faith presses hard against minds and hearts. Hopefully, the hearer is working out their salvation with fear and trembling. Earnestly, I pray that the Word is received and we are all moving and abounding in the work of the Lord.

Even still, I’ve come to persuade. To stir up your mind’s remembrance to the miracles that you have seen. Remember the testimonies of deliverance found in the lives of so many. Know that the Blood of Jesus is powerful, and with His stripes we are healed. Be sober; be diligent. Look at the trajectory of our culture; how the whole world is morally bankrupt; how they are lost without the Cross. Know that the Word is forever settled and that the Lord has never failed. Speak His name at every juncture: Jesus! Remember the devils tremble and the earth rejoices over His name. He restores and makes all things new. Finally, there is no life greater than living for the Lord. I know you believe it.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Place Called Arimathaea

Having spent too much time preparing and delivering the Word concerning the Lord’s death, I could not help but to continue in this vein. Joseph of Arimathaea “begged the body of Jesus Christ.” Joseph sought the permission of Pilate to care for the battered and depleted body of the Lord after the crucifixion. The crowds were gone; the miracles lay dormant in faint memory; even the disciples had scattered throughout the countryside. Joseph was there to care for His body when all hope and future promise had been wrung out. It was Joseph who was present to attend to the needs of what remained.

The narrative awakened my mind to the story of a church in the south that suffered greatly. The issues are too numerous to tell, but the result was a depleted church and a battered ministry. After all the dust settled, it devolved into a small, broken body. A young couple, however, stayed to care for the building and properties. You could find them in daily duties maintaining the grounds and keeping the sanctuary clean. They said, “someone has to keep the house open.”

Juxtaposed against that bleak image is the plethora of healing revivals and musical performances in churches across America. People are racing to fill the most coveted seats at conventions and conferences to see and hear whatever the new thing might be. Few want to attend to the wounded or depleted.

I see the church as the “body of Christ.” If this be the case, what shall we say of a wounded, broken, or depleted body? Who remains to care for a wounded ministry or broken heart? The compassionate spirit of Joseph of Arimathaea is in short supply. That spirit is attentive to the remaining matters when revivals and programs are over. He looks to the things that others reject. He’s there when the highs are fallen and excitement has turned away.

I present this thought in light of our hedonistic culture. Even Christians like to be gratified. I submit that caring for the Lord after Calvary is critical to the remaining story. Jesus’ body needed to be washed, wrapped, and placed in a tomb for there to be the possibility of a resurrection. Yet, anointing a dead Christ doesn’t sound glamorous. It’s not like embracing a living Messiah full of power and strength. In light of the Gospel and the fulfillment of Pentecost, someone has to care for what remains. I’m looking for the spirit of Joseph from a place called Arimathaea.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Harbor …

The reunion of Joseph, his brothers, and father was filled with emotion and tears. After more than 20 years of separation, Joseph finally saw the fulfillment of his dreams play out. When Jacob died, the brothers grew fearful that Joseph might seek retribution against them. It was speculative, but possible. They asked, Genesis 50:15 “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”

They sent a message to Joseph from their father about forgiving them. We don’t know if Jacob actually said the words, but the brothers thought it might ease the tension and release them from their past sins. The message was this: “I ask you to forgive your brothers, the sins, and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.” When Joseph heard the words, the Bible says that he wept. His reply is captured in the annals of time; an imprint of truth that provides a landmark for all to follow: Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

A harbor is a place where ships often settle before unloading. “To harbor” is to keep something protected. It could also mean to store things that should not be kept. Joseph did not harbor feelings of bitterness against his brothers even though they thought he might. Joseph did not hold back some suspicion or angst because he had forgiven them years prior. The revealing word came in the question, “…am I in the place of God?”

The church and everyone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus Christ, would do well to ask this question. When we keep things in our hearts; when we harbor ill feelings and bitterness, which turn into judgment, we are putting ourselves in the place of God. The fact is simple: We have no right to hold a grudge! Jesus forgave us and we must forgive, if we so desire heaven. There is no other way. To think that we can hold anger or wrongdoings against one another and still be saved is the worst form of self-deception. How tragic it will be when the Lord returns and we find out that we lost due to the things we held in our harbor!

I’m looking at my heart and I’m making sure that it is clean and pure. I am forgiven which is reason enough to forgive. My offering of forgiveness is not based upon the attitude or presentation of those who have wounded me. My forgiveness is based upon the suffering of the Cross. Are you in the place of God? Your harbor will answer that question.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Humble Beginnings

In 1965, Sister Mary Fell and her young daughter joined with Pastor G.E. Switzer to begin a new church called Home Avenue Apostolic Assembly. The church began and worshiped in a basement until the top floor sanctuary was built. Mary Fell is the last remaining founding member of the church we now call New Life Fellowship.

From those humble beginnings to this moment, New Life has remained a place of refuge for many people. We still preach the same New Birth message and teach the same principles of the scripture that Pastor Switzer taught some 52 years ago.

Today, we are standing in honor of hundreds of families who sacrificed their lives; prayed and fasted; and worked to keep this house of worship vibrant and alive. Most of those early saints and members will not be known by name. Most of their work will be hidden within the construct of our modern buildings and future vision. However, we are here to declare that we exist because of their commitment and love. They invested thousands of prayer meetings; conducted hundreds of bake sales; initiated countless bus routes, Bible studies, and functions for our benefit.

To this end, I write three critical points concerning our heritage:

1. Our heritage is based upon the Apostolic Doctrine, which was first delivered by the Apostles, not on the length of tenure to New Life.

2. Our heritage extends to every new member, because it is not based upon the natural blood-line or family background, but upon the Blood of Jesus. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are all baptized in His name and in His Spirit which makes us the family of God.

3. We honor our elders who fought for holiness, righteousness, and the Holy Ghost regardless of where they came from. This is a godly heritage tied to the axiom of truth found in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” and Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

To our elders, we say that we love you and honor you. Thank you for investing in our lives and in this house. Thank you for being faithful. You are highly regarded and cherished.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Lord’s provisions …

The book of Kings speaks of a famine induced by the voice of the prophet Elijah against the wicked King Ahab. The next verse depicts the instruction of the Lord to Elijah to… “hide thyself by the brook Cherith…thou shalt drink; I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” During the length of the famine a daily miracle occurred by Cherith. Ravens brought bread and meat to the man of God to sustain him. And the question is answered: Can God provide a fountain in the wilderness? Yes!

In the middle of it all, God provides everything we need. He was a shelter for His people as they escaped the grip of Pharaoh. He was the pillar of fire to lead them in the dark of night. He was the rock from which water flowed… that rock followed them for 40 years in the desert. In whatever situation they found themselves, the Lord provided help and strength.

The problem is that humanity has never truly been content with the Lord’s provisions. God gives, but the people want more. Carnal men and women push the boundaries of God’s sustaining power. Adam and Eve had everything to their disposal, but they wanted more and it became their downfall. Jesus set the example when He prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread…” but we want more than a daily provision. Israel murmured at the manna because it was redundant and could not be stored. Can you imagine that daily miracles can be despised? God will provide, but it might be for the moment.

Truth be told, we battle our sinful nature of greed, self-sufficiency, and pride. It’s hard for us to rely upon the daily bread that comes from the Lord. Prophecies of coming blessings can be intoxicating to a distrusting heart. I submit that the Lord has never failed His people and He will do what He said He will do. I believe that if we look closely, the Lord has already given what we need even if we think it is not enough. He has provided His Holy Spirit; a place of worship; a spiritual body of believers; and daily provisions for our lives. Knowing all these things I have come with a heart of thanksgiving and a mouth filled with praise. He is Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Who provides.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Mind of Christ

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

In light of the biblical narrative, the people followed Jesus because of the things that He did for them without understanding the higher calling of His mission. They were perplexed at His word as He presented Himself greater than the miracles which He performed. Jesus gave them bread, but the message was that He was the Bread of Life. He healed their infirmities, but He was the Resurrection. Jesus said, “you follow me because I gave you bread.” At one point He scolded the multitude saying, “Isaiah was right about you: Ye serve me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.”

God is good to His people of this I’m sure. The things which He supplies can be addictive until we no longer seek for Him, but for the provisions which He gives. The issue with the people of Jesus’ day was that they struggled to see His Kingdom purpose. They thought He would overthrow the Roman Empire, but He came to conquer sin, death, and the grave. They sought for physical healing, while He came to heal the dying soul of mankind. They loved the fish and the loaves, but failed to see the great Creator standing in their midst.

Things can cloud the Master. If we are not careful, we will praise Him as long as life is good and things are provided. If we are not aware, our adherence to His Word will be attached to natural bread and not His majesty. He is the Lord of lords and the King of all kings. Our lives are blessed because of Him and until we understand His Kingdom we might all be consumed by the temporal aspects of life. Yes, the Lord provides, but what if His provision comes in other forms than the physical? What then? Shall we lose faith because these things are not in our hands? Is He any less good based upon our health, wealth, or life position?

I submit this imperative: Crucify your flesh. Fall in love with His nature. Seek first His Kingdom. Seek Him and not what He can do for you. If Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, how much more should we seek for the same?

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Chosen

The Jewish people have been referred to as the “chosen.” This concept is derived from God’s declaration in Exodus 19, “you will be my possession.” To further emphasize the matter, centuries of prophetic pronouncement declared that the Messiah would be born into the house of David, having a lineage tied to the Abrahamic Covenant. This message was imprinted in the minds of the Jewish people so much that they believed no one outside of their heritage could qualify to be Chosen. The Gentile was reviled and dismissed. The Gentile had no heritage; no truth; no scripture. Even on the day of Pentecost this thought prevailed as the Holy Ghost was first poured out on the Jews, which had traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of first fruits. It seemed like an exclusive salvation that would only serve those who considered themselves the children of Abraham. Ten years after Pentecost something happened that changed the narrative. A new branch was grafted in as salvation was opened to the whole world and it came through the house of Cornelius, a Gentile.

Consider the Word: Acts 14:27 “And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” A new thing happened and it came through the Will of God, Who would that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth. God opened the door of faith to people outside of the original. From that time to this, the message of Acts 2:38 has been preached in every country; to every people in every generation. The Gospel: His death, burial, and resurrection has been broadcast throughout the earth.

New Life is but a part of the greater whole. We are privileged to be counted in the elect of God. Our faith is rooted in the scriptures, which has made us “wise unto salvation” 2 Timothy 3:15. Today we are endeavoring to reach our community, our nation, and indeed the world with this great Gospel. While we cannot all travel to do this mission, there are men and women who have been called to the field beyond our borders to spread the message. To that end, we are making our commitments through prayer and finances to send missionaries into the field to reap the harvest. We pray for a world harvest and the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

You Fool! What then?

Luke 12 recites the parable of a wealthy man who did not understand the priority of life.  In his accumulation he built bigger barns to store more things.  In the end, God said to him, “Thou fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own all the things you have prepared?” In a related biblical version the words are, “You Fool! What then?”  

The prodigal spent all that he had, but he never considered the question, “What then?”  His inheritance was going to run out, but he lived for the moment never considering what might happen next.  In a rage, Judas betrayed the Lord, but he never considered what would happen afterward; what would they do with Jesus?  I wonder how many have lived life without ever asking, “What then?”  Okay, so you won the argument.  What then?  Okay, you’ve shared your grievance.  What then?  Many have raced to the finish line only to discover that there was something beyond the checkered flag.  Accomplishments are all brief and then comes the next day.  Moments of bitterness might also be brief and then comes the next day.  

Both success and failure; blessing and sufferings are not forever.  As I have often taught, words are like bullets, once they are spoken they can never be retrieved.  So before I speak I must ask, What then?  Our human existence is temporal and then comes Eternity.  What then?  Where will we spend Eternity? 

The rich man squandered his opportunities to do good to Lazarus.  He passed by him without ever considering how his present neglect might affect his future existence.  The one-talent servant buried his gift, but never thought about the response of the master.  These are momentary decisions without any consideration to the consequences they bring.  It’s the flagrancy of youth to do without thinking and not consider the effect.  God said, “Thou fool. You’ve done all this but what then?  You’ve spent your life doing what pleased you, but you’ve given no thought for the next day.”  

I say we must Worship, Serve and Pray as seed offerings, knowing that they will be harvested in the future.  We must work in the Kingdom knowing that this world is not our home and that we must do whatever we can to make it to heaven.  I’m working on building the Kingdom; seeking for revival; and searching for God’s wisdom and truth.  These things matter to my today and my tomorrow. 

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole