Political

Politics have become one of the most divisive things in our world today. There is little debate over the raging differences that exist in our nation’s capital. From local governmental bodies to the halls of Congress we are seeing a polarization of immense proportions. While many are keenly aware of these divisions, history speaks to such factions. Europe has been overran numerous times. Africa has seen bloodshed. America was divided in the 1800’s as fathers took up arms against sons; brother against brothers in the Civil War. I am not submitting that our day is the only time of conflict. The difference is a great departure from biblical foundations.

As judges are appointed to fill empty seats, the Senate is given the task to interview each occupant. In an exchange with a conservative judge, Senator Cory Booker asked if Judge Neomi Rao believed gay relationships are a sin. The point of the inquiry was to point out that Judge Rao would be unqualified to sit on the bench if she thought that the LBGTQ community was sinful in practice. Senator Booker has been joined by a host of other congress people who also decry the idea that sex outside of marriage (a man and a woman) should be considered a sin. In fact, in his opinion, anyone who describes gay relationships as sinful should be removed from public office and government jobs.

You see, the next great division is about the Holy Scriptures. Political leaders are denouncing these biblical teachings. Sin with all of its definitions has been approved and the Bible is being outlawed. The political world is stepping into the church and removing the very foundation of our beliefs. So while there have been many wars and conflicts in world history, these days boast of a war between holiness and the works of the flesh.

The matter is not whether worldly men and women will demand the removal of biblical truths; the matter is whether Christians will stand up and be counted. Are we ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are we hiding in the shadows, hoping not to be noticed that we are a set apart people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood? Hear me… we are The Church – The Bride that will be presented to Him without spot or wrinkle.

Let me answer the senator’s question. Yes. Sexual activity outside of marriage which features one man and one woman is a sin. Yes. All adulterers and fornicators are engaging in sinful practices and are acting in opposition to the Truth found in the Bible. Finally, “Yes” the precious Blood of Jesus Christ has been given to forgive and pay the price for the sin of the whole world.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

He loved us …

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”

American ingenuity and freedom have become interesting bedfellows. We are both creators while enjoying the benefits of self-expressions. Our constitutional platform is unlike anything in the world. W. Cleon Skousen wrote how Americans have leaped over thousands of years of struggle to come to this moment. However, with all of our self-will and open-door opinions, there seems to be a deficit in our thinking. Societal benefits have caused spiritual hindrances to the Church. In short, we are saved by Grace; not by ingenuity or intelligence.

Paul wrote that our salvation came by way of God’s love. He loved us when we did not know Him. He loved us when we were unlovable and had nothing to offer. No one came by way of their own knowledge or goodness. The Bible says that none are good and all have sinned. We did not come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ by our own initiative. It was not our ambition that brought us into this great salvation. We came by way of His Love.

The modern day believer doesn’t always recognize this fact. They think that they have earned their way into the church. They think that their opinions, responses, and feelings should account for something of significance. Some even think that spiritual lineage has allowed them access into the Body of Jesus Christ.

Paul said that we were all “dead in sins.” Paul submitted that our salvation came via a love that we cannot fully grasp. Paul writes about our limited comprehension of the Cross and our human sight. We look through a cloudy mix of understanding. Our eyes and spirit cannot fathom the depth of God’s love for us. The Cross itself was a perfect love. God robed Himself in flesh to die as a sacrifice for our sins. It was the pivot point of the whole world.

So tell me why we deserve to feel the Love of God. Somebody tell me what we have done to garnish the grace of this Holy God. I’m curious why we enter His house and wait for someone to prod us to praise a Savior Who gave Himself for our sins? Is it the music that provokes us to worship? Are we waiting for our favorite song or the right rhythm to rejoice?

I would rather just say, “I’m here to worship Him because of what He has done for me before I ever knew Him.” While we were dead, He died. He died so we can live. So… “Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you are God.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

I must decrease …

Before John the Baptist appeared on the scene, there was an obvious absence of Spiritual authority. The prophets had faded into the shadows of that older time even though the Temple work prevailed. John became an instant hit. His preaching was without a filter. His message was unique. Most of all, he did not mince words when it came to the deeds of his counterparts: the pharisees. However, the greatest statement of John’s ministry concerned himself and Jesus Christ. He said, “I must decrease and He (Jesus) must increase.”

John’s statement is better seen as a weighing scale of importance. God’s presence prevails when there is less of me, i.e., He can only increase if I am willing to decrease.

The greatest opposition that has the power to confine the work of the Spirit is the flesh. His glory is always proportionate to my pride. His authority is limited by my acknowledgment of my weakness. The greater my person, the smaller His Presence. The more profound my view, the less clear His Word.

God’s competition is not the devil. His competition is me. Satan has no power to resist God…but I do. God gave us the power to reject His love, favor, and truth. God wants to be great in our midst, but He can only work to the extent that we allow Him. He stands at the door and knocks. He is a knocking Savior, a gentle Redeemer. He is not an abrasive God that kicks down doors and demands us to serve Him.

He will not change my will. He has ordained my will to be an affront to His Authority, if I so choose. Incredibly enough, my will can supersede His divine order. Flesh, arrogance, and haughty spirits are the elements of a carnal man and they are the very things that crowd out the Glory of the Omnipotent Savior.

If we desire His glory, then we must become humble before Him. I must decrease in order for Him to increase. I must become empty of opinions and personal thoughts so that He can be the great God in my life. The ratio is set. Less of me means more of Him. Less of my will means more of His will. Go see Gideon. God does His greatest work when there are no resources left to manage. He does His most magnificent things when all we have is Him to lean upon.

His Glory can be seen, His power known, but all of it is contingent upon our choice. Heed the voice of the one crying in the wilderness.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… Stones …

The stones of Bolshoi Zayatsky Island are intriguing things. While most people are not overly concerned as to their intent, it is interesting to consider their labyrinths shapes, weaving and spiraling on the ground. The clusters have perplexed tourists for many years. I suppose that they once served some purpose, though no one knows what that might have been.

Some surmise that the stones were used in spiritual rituals while others say they were templates for fishing nets. The stories, however, have all turned into fables. Whatever their purpose, it has long since past. Today they are now just tourist attractions on a lonely island on the outer banks of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia.

When Joshua crossed the Jordan River, he commanded the leaders to gather stones from the dry bedrock of the parted water. They gathered those stones on the shore and built them up as a memorial of their crossing. Joshua said, “When your children ask you ‘what meaneth these stones’ you will be able to tell them of this day and of the Lord’s power.

Joshua saw the stones as a reminder of God’s promise. He wanted the people to have something to mark their entrance into the land of promise. A short two generations later, they forgot Joshua and the works that God had done for Israel. Those stones lost their meaning. They were shaped and formed, but no one understood their intent. Gratefully, God sent prophets, judges, and kings to resurrect His truth and keep His voice in their lives.

The knowledge of God may be assisted by the physical realm. I do concede that buildings and land; stones and monuments all serve a purpose. However, Israel kept the Law via oral tradition. In their darkest times, when the scrolls were burned and the nation was bound, God’s people taught their children in their homes. Fathers and mothers spoke of God. They invested conversation in their families so that regardless of the condition of the monument, the Law was planted. David said, Psalms 119:11 “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

I hope you will remember the physical blessings of your life. I hope that you will always acknowledge the Lord’s provisions. I pray that you will never forget this Holy Ghost experience. I hope that you will be thankful for things, which you see and hold, but I pray that you will remember the reason why they exist. God did this. God gave this. He brought us out and ordered our steps. These stones speak of His mercy and His grace. They talk of His love and His power. His Truth; the Gospel and His name are the treasures of this life. As for the stones, they must be remembered because they reveal a time when God did the impossible.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Be the Shekel …

In a religious age where the church and the Bible’s doctrines are under-valued, I submit The Temple Shekel.

Without the means to measure proper weight of monies in the market place, merchants would often shave the outer edges from their currency to retain more of the precious metal. In relatively short periods of times, the common shekel might weigh much less than its original form. The only way to measure the market’s money was to weigh it against the Temple shekel.

Inside of the Temple was a chamber that kept and protected the original. All the other pieces were compared against it. The command was to bring the outside shekels and compare them with the inside standard. In short, the Temple became the beacon for what was true and what was false.

While some religions have shifted away from the Bible, the fact remains that the Church must be the standard of what is true. The Church reveals how respect is offered; forgiveness is given; and people should live. If the House of God is kept holy and unblemished, then the world will know what decency and honor looks like.

In a society rife with strife; where tensions seem to flourish and divisions are the order of the hour, it is critical that the church sets the standard on how to live and love in harmony. New Life Fellowship must be a lighthouse; a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. We are commissioned to keep holiness in the fear of God and to display the love of Jesus among one another. Racial tensions and political divisions will persist in this world. However, the proper way must be found in the church.

While many will set aside this day to remember a singular voice, as we have also done so many times, I am compelled to write that the Church is the current sound, which signals the standard of conduct. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did what he could while he lived. To merely reflect on his accomplishments is to fall short of our responsibility. Paul said that we are an epistle read of all men. We are the current chapter in the book of love. We are the living witnesses of what society should follow.

Therefore, I rise to admonish this body: Be the Church! It is the only standard bearing shekel that can bring order to a world in chaos. Be the Body of Christ and reflect His righteousness. Be a people, not a segmented group that is defined by the outward, but by the Word and the Spirit. Be the Shekel.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Individualism

It’s nothing new. You know, the idea that everyone should be accepted for what they do. Individualism has always been prominent among people full of carnality. Cain was the clear winner when it came to self-justification. He thought that a grain sacrifice was just as good as a blood sacrifice. Even though God had clearly established the way, Cain was enamored with his own offering. And why not? Shouldn’t we all just be accepted? What difference does a sacrifice make? Isn’t it all just about intent? Truth is, offerings to God are useless unless He receives them.

How is it that Christians post half-naked pictures on social media sites and then complain if others are disgusted by them? Or what about comments, thumbs up, and a host of ‘likes’ supporting sinful activities and ideas? How far have we gone when the godly are criticized for not accepting what people do when those actions are against the very Word of God?

To be sure, personalized salvation is not a biblical thought. No one gets to decide what is good or evil. The Bible alone is the sole provider of Truth. In this era of self and the selfie, we are led to believe that God accepts people just as they are. While this idea is the beginning step, Jesus calls us to be a new creature in Him. In other words, He never leaves us the way He finds us. We are commanded to be Born Again. Old things must pass away.

The reason for our transformation is simple: Our God is a holy God.

Leviticus 20:7 “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.”
1 Peter 1:15 “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;”
1 Peter 1:16 “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Holiness is a command not an option. Holiness is not a man-made venture. It is a God-initiative and not subjective or open for debate. No unclean thing can enter the realm of a holy and righteous God. Hebrews 12:14 “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” Paul wrote; 2 Corinthians 6:17 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

I’m seeking to make a sacrifice that He will accept. I’m seeking to lead a church that is more concerned about pleasing God that justifying individual intent. 1 Thessalonians 4:7 “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Heart of Worship

I’m writing in hopes of building a heart of worship. I’m working on my own heart. I’ve peered over the edge of time and found my days moving too fast to waste. Whether we see it or not, truth is, we all have a small window to live this life.

The Bible’s oldest book is Job. However, his life’s work and accomplishments are not listed there. The pages are filled with unimaginable trials and afflictions. Perhaps the greatest moment in the book is Job’s words of praise and worship. In spite of his turmoil, Job refused to curse God. Rather, he blessed the Lord. I wonder what we would do if it had been us? What if praise was inconvenient? Would we still offer God the same? Would we lose our heart of worship if the conditions of life were set against us?

When Malachi called Israel back to sincerity and sacrifice, the people responded, “What a weariness this is…” (Malachi 1:13). They considered worship as a constricting obligation. Pleasing the Lord had vanished from their minds. Their hearts were far from worship. Purity had been replaced with pleasure. Obedience had been exchanged for subjectivism. Convenience looked so much more inviting than sacrifice. They did not realize that a heart of worship can only be develop through purity, obedience, and sacrifice. God’s response to Israel was four centuries of silence.

The American Pentecostal church is showing signs of the same. Conferences now boast of profound orators and relevant worship bands. Buildings need to be warm and inviting. Even the service time is measured because of the waning attention spans and schedules of the attendees. I’m praying that we would shed these fleshly requirements and dive deep into worship and praise.

Both individually and corporately, Jesus is the Center of all those who have a heart of Worship. Situations and circumstances; even turmoil will not halt a person whose heart is focused on worship. Whether in trial or triumph, the Lord is worthy of our praise. If He is not the center; if He is a secondary and if His house is an option, then we will struggle to worship Him. This is the demand of our lives. We must seek Him and create an atmosphere where He can dwell. It begins with a heart of worship.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… God’s Wonder …

Perhaps the greatest moment of Isaiah’s life came when he wrote; Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” Five decades of prosperity attended to Uzziah’s reign over Judah. Uzziah offered the people a lifetime of decent living. Isaiah lived comfortably in the environment and shadow of Judah’s king. Yet, it was only when the king died that Isaiah finally saw the Lord. Whether intentional or not, the king clouded the vision of the people. He led from a platform of human governance all the while eclipsing the God of Glory. Finally, when the natural king died, the King of all kings could be seen.

It’s hard to see the spiritual things when we are comfortable with our natural surroundings. This has been true since the beginning of time. God’s wonder is often masked by the pleasantries of daily life. Our need of Him seems to diminish when we are prospering. It’s only in the valleys that we seem to yearn for Him; calling on His name; crying after Him. Success rarely garnishes intercessory prayer.

The American lifestyle lends itself to more wants than needs. We are a people intoxicated with possession and pursuits. To be Kingdom-minded means we have to fight for focus. God has always been on the throne. His train, i.e. victories, has been established long ago. He is a mighty God and a victorious King, but we cannot see Him through the maze of our convenient lifestyle. It’s only when our crutch is pulled out from us that we learn to look to the hills from whence cometh our help. It’s only when we purposefully and intentionally decide to seek Him that we find Him.

Focus has been under attack forever, but never as much as today. Sound-bites mixed with quick images are constantly presented in every sort of medium. Media and gaming; television and movies; social media and the plethora of internet options all combined have arrested our attention. It’s difficult for people of all ages to keep their thoughts together.

I submit this word: We must make our time count and our eyes fixed. It is imperative that we stay sober in a shifting world. It is crucial that the church is determined to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ and be faithful in every area of life. As our year closes and another begins, I pray that our homes will become Christ-centered; our marriages will be healthy and whole; and our mission for a revival will become consuming. I’m looking unto Jesus, focused, Who is the Author and Finisher of my faith. I need to see Him, high and lifted up.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Simply Believe …

With an infinite number of commentaries about Christmas, I offer this remaining thought: Obedience must not be contingent on Understanding.

Layered in the angel’s message to Mary is one of the Bible’s most prophetic words. Gabriel said of Jesus, Luke 1:32-33 “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

A “Throne” and a “House” are mentioned in the scripture describing the positions and authority of the coming Christ. The “Throne” was Mary’s connection to David. She was a descendant of King David and the transfer of authority would now shift from a fleshly king to The King of kings. The “House of Jacob” was in consideration of the nation of Israel. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel by God at Peniel. Thus, the prophecy depicted Jesus as the coming Messiah Whose kingdom would rule over Israel in the millennial reign that is yet to come.

I submit that Mary did not understand the full meaning of Gabriel’s message. Jesus was coming to rule on a spiritual throne and reign over Israel. Gabriel was setting something in motion that would not be undone. Surely, Mary could not have seen the whole of what he said. All she knew was that she was to have a child by divine order of the Holy Ghost.

I wonder how many people have dismissed the Word of God because it was difficult to understand. God gives us dreams and visions that are often cloudy and obscure. His messages are not always revealed in simple terms. Even the parables of Jesus were masked with analogies. Jesus said: Mark 4:12 “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand…”

Mary could not have known the meaning of the entirety of Gabriel’s message nor could she understand the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. However, her response was what mattered most. She said: Luke 1:38 “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

In obedience, Mary simply believed God for an impossible thing. Jesus came through obedience. Obedience is the key that opens up doors and unlocks the mysteries of this life. It is the clear path we make for the Lord to enter in. Christmas came through obedience. God sent His only begotten son through a young girl who did not understand, but offered herself as a vessel and she did it through obedience.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Emmanuel, God with us

How long will Jesus be a baby?

It seems that for many, Jesus remains in the manger. Being trapped in a thematic tone, it’s difficult for us to see the greater picture. The Christmas season is so consuming. With all of its dinners and parties, we have a tough time looking past the nativity scenes.

A survey of modern preferences reveals that most Americans prefer the birth of Jesus over His death. When it comes to Easter, the greater majority seeks to bypass His death and talk exclusively about His resurrection. One surveyor wrote, “the gory details of the death of Jesus Christ is not family friendly. His birth is simply a safer subject for the whole family.” Therefore, based on the mindset of our age, keeping Jesus in a manger is more pleasant than wading through the wrenching details of the Cross. Thus, Jesus seems to be trapped in a crib, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Christmas is part of the American culture, of this we can confirm. As Amazon sales heat up, the reason for His birth grows cold. The truth is this: Jesus came to die for you. He came to take upon His physical, human frame the sins of the world. All who ever lived and would live, owe a debt they can not pay. For the wages of sin is death. Jesus only spent a small fraction of His life in a crib. In time, He will trade those swaddling clothes for a garment of scarlet. He will leave the comfort of Mary’s arms and embrace a wooden beam.

His birth is critical to our lives because He was Emmanuel, God with us. If you need to know how far He came, then you need to figure out the distance between deity to dust. The Great I AM wrapped Himself in flesh so that He could be the sacrifice for the world. In those early moments, the baby did not look like a sacrifice. He looked like an innocent child. When He was born, the celebration of magi; attending shepherds; and that heavenly choir clouded the thought that He was but a lamb in waiting. Christmas is the remembrance of 1 Tim 3:16 “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

Therefore, while we rejoice at His coming, we must remember that the Gift was the Sacrifice and the manger was a momentary scene. Something more significant and awesome lay ahead for this King. Steve Richardson revealed it in one of his many lyrical thoughts. He wrote, “had there been no empty manger, there would be no empty tomb.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole