Sin

Perhaps someone will read this in years to come and wonder what the coronavirus was all about. The virus seems to have originated in Wuhan, China, basically the middle of the country. The WHO has reported that nothing has come close to the casualties and infections since the SARS outbreak 18 years ago. Several countries are taking steps to deter the spread as 30 airlines have suspended flights to China. The problem is that there is no fixed quarantine that will suffice. The interaction of people, through degrees of separation, cannot be managed. In plain terms, it’s too late. Too many people have connected and we can only hope that the appropriate vaccines can deter the growth. Far beyond the borders of America, medical facilities and municipalities are ramping up to stay ahead of the spread. The reports are vague as many who are infected are not identified.

However, I write to declare a greater sickness is infecting the world and has so for centuries of time: Sin. Sin has destroyed the lives of countless millions. It has ravaged rulers and paupers alike. It has devastated homes and marriages; communities and churches, leaving them empty by its introduction of lust, greed, and perversion.

There is no quarantine for the likes of sin. Instead of seeking for a solution, most have accepted its presence; embracing it with open arms. Sadly enough, some have promoted it in all circles of life. With proof positive, and decades of evidence, the infection is treated as a rite of passage – typical of the human experience – instead of the tragedy that it really is.

Christians far and wide are not generally disturbed by sin. Over the last five decades, the outrage has diminished. Christians spend sufficient time to watch sinful activities via movies and television programs. While they might not engage in sinful practices, they find pleasure in the promotion of them. Violence, fornication, nudity, cursing, and other forms of anti-god and anti-bible message fill homes, computers, and phones of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ. They claim salvation and yet, if they were accused of being adherent to the Bible and a follower of Jesus, a prosecutor would be hard pressed to find enough evidence to convict them.

Sin is a disease and it’s far worse than any virus we have ever seen. The job of our health experts is to tackle the worldwide coronavirus. The duty of the pulpit is to reveal the works of the flesh and the path of Salvation. We have the cure for the deadliest infection the world has ever known, but before we offer the cure, we first must consider our own lives. There is hope. Grace and Mercy are available. However, I remember the prophet crying in the wilderness, telling the people to Repent. It is the only way to healing.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Anchor

Hebrews 2:1-3 “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;”

The search for a missing boat along the Florida coastline came to a conclusion when it was discovered stranded against a rocky edge. The investigation spoke of the tragic end of its passengers. They said the boat was adrift in the sea while the small group of people slept. The combination of a lack of experience and alcohol was the cause. An experienced investigator said that had they simply put down their anchor, the boat would have stayed in its place. The drift took them away from their familiar surroundings and caused a series of events from which they would not recover.

The drift is often subtle, even muted in our daily lives. It is a movement of incremental steps; a meandering away from the central place. You might not even realize how far you are from your original port of call. Anchors, in all their spiritual forms, might seem restrictive and constraining, but they are the mechanism of the “keeping.” Without an anchor there is nothing to keep you from the drift. Without a mainstay, some rock or cornerstone, you may find yourself believing in false concepts or what Paul called, “doctrines of devils.”

It doesn’t come all at once. The drift doesn’t work that way. It begins with a small thing; some offense or hurt. Disappointment adds its part and then more serious things persist until we are fully alienated from the very thing that we loved. Hebrews 2:1 refers to it as the “slip.” The word “slip” comes from the Greek word, pararrhueo, which means to “flow by,” carelessly moving away without notice. Slipping is one excuse combined with another. Flowing away from commitment. How shall we escape in the end if we neglect the Truth that saved us? Are you closer to the Lord than when you first believed? Have you drifted from serving and sacrifice? What holds you to the church? What keeps you from accepting corrupt ideas propagated by “smart” backsliders or worldly influence? I’m looking for an Anchor: an Anchor for my soul. Storms will come Trouble will attend to this life. Nevertheless, as long as I am rooted and grounded, I will be stable and abounding in the work of the Lord. The drift is set against me. It works against my resolved. And yet, I know the Anchor holds.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… warm thoughts …

What do you do in times of crisis? That question was posed to the attendees at a corporate training conference. Everyone had an answer. Depending on the moment, some replied that 911 was the most appropriate call. Others talked about technical support staff. Managers said they would seek out senior staff members or those with experience. In all, human interactive dependency dominated the conversation. The conference leader then probed the subject of sickness or death. He asked, “Where do you turn in times of physical loss?” The crowd became silent. Few, if any, knew what to say. A handful spoke of doctors; others of friends or family.

I have watched the degeneration of our society in times of crisis, sickness, and death. There once was a day when people gathered in the church to pray and seek God. Later they moved to the town square or some other public arena. The evolutionary movement saw people sending out thoughts and prayers. Most recently people are sending out what they call “warm thoughts” to those who are suffering. Secularism has become so prevalent; God is so distant and prayer is so foreign, people now send out “warm thoughts” in times of loss.

My question is, “What are warm thoughts?” Do they save the sick? Do they comfort the hurting? Can our thoughts restore broken lives and wounded hearts? No one is allowed to say, “We are praying for you” for obvious reasons. Prayer denotes that Someone is on the other side of that prayer. Uh oh. Prayer means that there is a God and our society cannot give credence to God. The acknowledgment of prayer is the thread to creation. If we propose prayer, it might mean that we did not come from the RNA molecule, but that God formed us and spoke the worlds into existence. Psalms 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves…”

Paul wrote of this nonsense. 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.” Paul said, 1 Corinthians 1:20 “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” The world’s idea of “warm thoughts” is nothing more than foolishness. Prayer is our connection to God, Who is our strength.

When there is sudden death, I’m praying for the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace and comfort from The Comforter. My thoughts won’t help no matter their temperature. My God is the Help and Strength. He is the lifter of my soul and my refuge in times of trouble. I submit that we call on God, especially in times of crisis. We turn to Him from Whom all blessings flow. For He is God and there is no one like Him.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Nothing”

“Something” is an interesting term. It normally denotes a thing of substance; perhaps a fixed item. Something has a realness to it. There is matter in something. When I am asked to give, it feels good to know that I have something to offer. When I am asked to meet with someone, I am happy to report to them that I have some time to be together. Something might also represent a position to defend; a debate with content. There are so many things that attend to this “Something” subject.

But “Nothing” is not “Something.”

Nothing has no foundation or substance. It carries no weight; no points to argue or validity. It’s just… well, nothing. I’ve found that much of what I thought was Something turned out to be Nothing. We often make those miscalculations in life. We think temporal things are so important, when in reality they amount to very little. Stress rises in our minds, fear gripping our hearts as we deem the insignificant to be critical until we realize how insignificant it was. Our Something turns out to be Nothing. Some people think they cannot live without some item, but they live.

My best explanation is to compare or consider what really matters in life to all these other things and then work backwards. Thus, I must begin with Eternity. Heaven and Hell. Whatever will lead you to Heaven or Hell should be front and center. When the Lord returns and the Trumpet of God sounds, I wonder how much all these things in this life will matter. People tend to spend energy on fleeting emotions; passions, anger, grievances, sports teams, politics, etc. Some spend their time pursuing money or ambition. There are a myriad of things we might see as important that are far less crucial juxtaposed against Eternity.

Consider this: You are going to spend forever somewhere. Your soul is being weighed in the balance everyday you live. So if you are offered anything that leads you away from Heaven, then that thing is Nothing. No matter how good it looks, it is not worth your eternal soul. There is no job or amount of money worth your salvation. There are no offenses that you have suffered worth your eternity. Heaven and Hell are too important to ignore. Worshiping the Lord is high on that list of Something. A personal time of prayer and Bible reading is up there. Church involvement and
serving in the Kingdom ranks as a matter of importance. These are the things that really matter. We cannot allow the Nothings of this life to become Something, only to find out too late, that they were not what we thought them to be.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Fine China

One of my earliest memories was setting the table for my mother. It must have been a special time because we used her strawberry dishes from the curio cabinet. The setting would boast of homemade bread and mom’s red sauce pasta. A salad plate was on top as usual; a side plate for the oil. It might just be my nostalgic sense, but I was saddened to read of the reasons for getting rid of “grandma’s china dishes” in the Associated Press. Younger couples are either uncultured or just don’t have room to store the occasional plate wear. Some spoke of being more casual than their parents while others decried the hassle of moving, carrying boxes from city to city.

Neda Ghaffari, a 37-year-old San Francisco resident who married last summer, opted to register for modern dinnerware she could use daily. “China feels outdated,” Ghaffari said, “and difficult to maintain, as it normally has to be hand-washed.” Modernists echo her response: “It takes too much time for busy lifestyles. In short, the dishes of the former generation seem taxing for many people today. ”I wish that was the whole story, but it seems to be a microcosm of other things far more important.

It’s not just the blue garland china and strawberry plates that have been rejected. Church ministries and involvement is also in the mix. Church attendance across denominational lines report that most will attend one service per week and not more than three services in any given month. The Pareto Principle states that about 20% of the congregation will engage in 80% of the work. No one really feels guilty about their lack of effort as we have entered an age of full self-affirmation. Time reading the Bible pales in comparison to time spent on the internet or social media. Prayer is regulated to need-based only. It is not seen as a daily communication with God. And finally, serving others must fit into the framework of emotion of personal satisfaction.

My expression here could be viewed as old fashioned, although the real truth is that I am counter-culture. I believe the most meaningful things in life cannot be held in our hands. I believe our lives and schedules should revolve around worship times, church involvement, and personal devotion to the Lord. I promote giving without a cause, not giving because there is a need. The need is my need to give, because it is more blessed to give than it is to receive (Jesus said that).

Mom never thought it was a struggle to put out the fine china for guests or a special day. We assumed her red glasses and silver spoons meant something. I assume that worship is critical; giving is essential; and sacrifice is part of our reasonable service. My prayer is for us to choose to offer our lives to the Kingdom. It is not too much to go up to Jerusalem. 1 Kings 12:28

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Dreaming dreams . . .

Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

Dreaming dreams . . . it is so very different from seeing visions. In some respects and among those who decipher such things, to dream a dream implies a deliberate act. It attends to the consciousness; the hope of a person for something good or profound to occur in the future. Visions are different. The biblical references to seeing visions lends itself to a supernatural sight. Thus the vision is from the sight of God and the dream is from the heart of man.

By the time Dr. King came into national prominence, a myriad of civil conflicts had already occurred. Whatever we might think of our current national unrest, none of it compares to the chaos of the 1960’s. On the heels of desegregation, a shift in how America viewed its citizens began to change. However, it did not come without a fight. Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas showcased one of the many struggles. Sit-ins, which are almost foreign to this generation, were becoming routine. High pressure water hoses abused the rights of African Americans in multiple cities as they attempted to exercise their rights for fair and equitable treatment. I have not even scratched the surface.

Dr. King had a dream. He preached his heart and delivered his burden. As I review his words, they remind me of the image of the Church where character is premier; people exude love and not judgment; and a higher law is raised to honor all of God’s children. King’s dream seems to be a picture of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a house of refuge and inclusion.

My dream of our church is the same. God has given me a vision for the church, but I have a personal hope that New Life Fellowship will be a place where the outside conflicts and divisions of this world are suspended. I dream of a church family, a body, that is concerned about one another more than themselves. I dream of a place where we all have a VESTED interest in each others lives. Where we help the hurting and lead people toward Jesus Christ. I dream of a place where ethnicities are celebrated and embraced; where everyone has a ministry place; a future; and a home.

While we are not the only church to have this hope, let it be that in our city, on this corner – at the Crossroads of America – we dream dreams of unity, hope, and love.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Serve

I wish I could count how many times I have heard the statement, “There are only two different kinds of people in the world.” The answer is usually a showcase of polar points in some facet. Christianity is no different as it hosts its own “kinds” of people. Some are filled with doubt and others with faith; some with boldness and others with fear. However, when I strip away the myriad of examples, I always seem to land on those who Serve and those who are Served. It is the difference between the Takers and the Givers.

Consider the day Abraham sent his servant, Eliezer, to find a bride for Isaac. The journey ended when Eliezer found Rebekah serving. Her inclusion into the lineage and Abrahamic covenant began with a servant spirit. The defining moment of Rebekah’s life was written:
Genesis 24:19-20 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels.

Rebekah served her way into the covenant. Jesus came as a Servant. Paul remembered the words of Jesus when He said, Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The Giver – the Servant – is always more blessed.

The proof was Elisha’s authority, not the miracles he performed. He was known as anointed and credible by a single statement. 2 Kings 3:11 “But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.”

Elisha served Elijah. He served his way into the anointing.

The act of serving is greater than talent. It exceeds knowledge, ability, or status. Though many proclaim faith in Jesus Christ, not all can claim to be a servant. It concerns me how many Christians are confident in their salvation, but have never offered themselves as a servant. It is nothing more than religion without relationship.

This is why I am challenging you to set aside some time, even in this house, to engage in some serving ministry. It is, after all, the path of the Savior we purport to love.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Hatkarwadi

Hatkarwadi is a speck on the map in Beed where more than a million people have been hit by drought. Beed is in the province of Maharashtra which is in the country of India. Seeing that there are 1.4 billion Indians, 20% of the world’s population, the one million struggling people are barely noticed. Hakardadi is not the only place without water, but it does represent a spiritual phenomena.

Why do people stay where there is no water?

The surrounding area of Beed casts a long shadow of tradition and normalcy bias. Only two of the 35 wells have water left. Farmers dig up to 650ft to extract enough water to grow their meager crops. Food is scarce and the skies are mostly empty. Long interruptions in rainfall combined with the depleted Godavari river has caused a ripple effect in food, farming, and business. Two of the major dams hosts what is called “dead water” which is contaminated with sediments and mud. Even still, the “dead water” is the only thing left. Nearly a thousand tankers transport the water, spiked with chlorine to some 300 thirsty villages.

And yet, people continue to live where there is no water.

Psychologists revert to their default answers when trying to explain why abused people stay in dysfunctional relationships. Business experts also muse why people stay in dead end jobs with no chance of upward mobility.

Most troubling to me is what we know as “The Stagnate Church.” This is the place where there are no baptisms of the Holy Spirit or renewal or change. Old natures persist and tradition becomes the constricting mechanism that offers no hope to the hopeless. The Stagnate Church offers minimal worship and no sacrifice. It seeks to fulfill obligation with attenders who seek to appease their church duty. These churches are made up of “religious” people who like to wear shiny crosses, but have no relationship with the bloodied one.

Jesus declared Himself to be the Living Water. Only when we yearn and seek for the flowing river of the Spirit will we find it. While I cannot speak for everyone, I am desperate for a move of the Spirit in our church and in our services. We cannot live in the dry. We were born in the River. Jesus said, John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

I’m not willing to live where there is no outpouring of the Holy Ghost. I cannot live where there is no water. This must be more than a community endeavor and a social gathering. Our God is not dead and His Water is not stagnate. It must be where the River of Life flows and where the Spirit prevails. If not, then our lives will be wasted in the dry.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

His mission

The simplicity of our directives were spelled out by Jesus Christ Himself. If we consider all religious and spiritual activities; biblical doctrines and understandings, we must recognize the greatest of them all.

The question was this:

Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The greatest of all is this: Love God.

The second is like the first: Love others. Jesus said that everything else hinges on these commandments. Paul wrote that the greatest of all is love – 1 Corinthians 13:13.

There is one more thing leaping from the pages of the scripture. It comes from the totality of the life of Jesus. Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Jesus went about serving. He was a minister, which actually means that He “attended to the needs of people.” Ministry is about serving people. While modern vernacular confines it to preaching or teaching, most of history defines it as serving people.

I submit that real believers are not takers, but givers. The authentic Church, which is no less than the Bride of Christ, are actively Loving God, Loving others, and Serving. Many may consider themselves as Christians, but Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Our mission is not complex. It lives in simplicity: Loving the Lord with all that we are. Loving Him so fully that there is no room for any other in our heart. Loving others, because all godly and holy things rest on it. And finally, serve: attending to the needs of people. Our mission is His mission.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Merry Christmas. Jesus is born.

Good news! It looks like Christ can stay in Christmas after all. Retailers, movie stars, and even government officials have begun using the term “Merry Christmas” again. Though some are still deeply offended by the words, there seems to be a resurgence in advertisement that includes both “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.”

More good news! Jesus may also have a place in this resurgence of the yearly festival. It appears that we can say “Merry Christmas” and consider the baby Jesus all in one breath. As long as He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, there will be no major outcry.

However, there is a catch: Jesus must remain as an infant and “Merry Christmas” must be in reference to being with people you love. Christ the Savior or “the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world” is off-limits. Likewise, the holiday slogan must not be connected to “God with us – Emmanuel” or the Creator coming to save people. Certainly there must be no mention of people being lost or blind as this would only make them feel self-conscious about their preferred lifestyle.

As you may note in my script, I’m a little caustic. The world will never approve of Jesus and the Cross of Calvary. John 1:5 “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” The world can neither comprehend this light or accept it. To the world, Peter said that Jesus is… 1 Peter 2:8 “…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient…”

So just as a declaration, let it be known that when we say “Merry Christmas” we are recognizing that the incarnate God came as a man to die for the sins of His creation; that God gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John. 3:16.

When we say Jesus, we are including His infancy in Bethlehem; His teaching in the Temple at 12 years old; His earthly ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and His second coming. When we say Jesus, we mean The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We mean that we were purchased with His Blood on a cruel cross and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Christmas is the moment of the beginning of our Redemption.

Merry Christmas. Jesus is born.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole