Word Police

If you haven’t noticed, the “Word Police” are actively looking into your conversation. This week marked another series of culturally approved words while dispelling the formerly offensive ones. As you might imagine, we are in a hypersensitive society where appropriation can result in loss of jobs and friends. It’s also a time ruled by people who seek to smear the once accepted fact of gender separation. Even marital terms seem to be offensive, i.e., “husband and wife.” For some reason these words cause people pain and are said to be found too exclusive. Instead we are told to use the words, “life partner” or “them.”

Maybe these things have become so common that the church no longer feels outraged. I do wonder sometimes if the creeping world has numbed us toward sinful advances. The greater concern is the encroachment against The Word: God’s Word. While all words matter, His Word is the only word that will ever matter. So while we contend with the antics of a secular culture, we need to consider the root of the aggression.

Modern language is being turned as a weapon against the Holy Scripture. Paul told Timothy: 2 Tim 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul said that the Scripture was God-breathed and that it was profitable. He declared that through this inspired Word, “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

If the scripture will make us “wise unto salvation” is it any wonder that the motivation to manage our words will eventually lead to a rebuke of the Bible altogether? These days are filled with great spiritual unrest. The devil is fighting the church on every level, but specifically against the Bible. So as we concede that some words and statements are insensitive and should be changed, the management of words is leading to an assault on Bible verses, scriptural concepts and moral truth.

Given this premise, if you share such a thought, we must be vigilant to maintain The Book; it’s authenticity and authority in our daily lives. Nothing is more critical than the Bible for in it we find hope, salvation, direction, and our knowledge of God.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Powerful” Churches

Geoff Pender first turned me on to the news. Writing for The Clarion Ledger, Pender predicted the day when retailers in Mississippi would receive their first ever lottery ticket distribution. Vice chairman of the Mississippi Lottery Board, Gerard Gibert, was ecstatic to announce this week that the end of the opposition to the lottery in the southern state had taken place. What really peaked my interest however were the words of Danielle Genovese who explained the reason for the hold-out state. She wrote, “For decades Mississippi was one of only six states without a lottery due to strong opposition from politically powerful churches.”

Once the “powerful” churches folded, or became weak, the lottery prevailed. In fact, it was well reported that the only reason the gaming commission was held at bay was due to conservative churches which taught against the practice. Come to find out, they voted in favor of their beliefs. However, as those churches and their spiritual convictions declined, the introduction of new measures emerge.

The nation as whole is experiencing similar dismantling of convictions. Instead of standing for biblical teachings, godliness, and spiritual understandings, people are defaulting. The word “default” has multiple meanings, but I use it in its last form: “in the absence.” We have become absent in our duty to our communities by believing in the lie of “live and let live.” The statement sounds like a measure of peace until we realize how destructive and diluted it has become. The “live and let live” crowd has compromised their beliefs in favor of a false sense of security. Israel experienced similar issues. They forsook the God of their fathers and in time, they lost their children and families. Idols were erected in the very places where holy worship once took place. After the idols came grotesque sacrifices and offerings. They devolved into an idolatrous people full of carnality and debauchery. Nevertheless, it did not begin that way. It began when they compromised their convictions. They lost their “powerful” opposition to sin and it cost them the nation.

It seems only reasonable to inquire as to our direction, especially in light of our homes and families. What are your convictions? What do you stand for or stand against? While the world allows the introduction and acceptance of all things, I am wondering if the people of God can articulate their own powerful, spiritual opposition. I suppose Moses said it best when he asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Climate change

Climate change, I cannot think a more divisive debate in our world today. While the subject weighs on world economies, political positions seem to be impacted the most. In brief, the theory is that human activity causes an increase in carbon emissions, thus creating an increase in the earth’s atmospheric temperatures through a series of ozone failures. In layman’s terms, humanity’s proceedings is causing the earth to warm. California’s smog has been used as an example. When the winds are silent, carbon dioxide and other pollutions hover in the noonday sky. Beijing, China is dealing with the same issue. Too many people in a small space has caused an increase in air quality. So while the overall global, man-made change in weather has been debated, there is no doubt that people have a bearing on the environment around them.

The truth is people always affect the climate, but the climate I’m talking about is not physical. I’m promoting a spiritual change. Our activity in praise and worship creates an atmosphere where the Lord operates. In fact, He inhabits the praises of His people. Liberty is the result of the Lord’s presence. Our endeavors through worship, and singing can change the atmosphere. Paul and Silas proved the point when they were thrown into an inner prison. The Scripture tells us that they were bound hand and foot. They were trapped in stocks and bonds. However, the Bible also declares that Acts 16:25 “…at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. It was a change in the climate. Songs of praise changed the atmosphere. An inner prison cell was no match for the songs of Zion. Imprisonment had to give way to praise at midnight. Their activity; their human expression altered the place where they were bound. No one told them to sing and there is no indication that they knew what would happen if they did. It appears that Paul and Silas were less concerned with the outcome and more focused on changing the atmosphere around them. The climate changed and the other prisoners heard them.

Praise at midnight is so powerful that it changes the climate of everyone. People who praise in the middle of their dilemma cause a disruption in the dispositions of the bound, weary, and afflicted. The next verse is a display of how the human effort effects the spiritual realm. Suddenly, there was an earthquake and it shook the foundations of the prison and everyone was set free. I’m ready for a climate change!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The heart

Consider King Amaziah, who reigned in Jerusalem some 29 years. Though there are many commentaries pertaining to his administration and leadership, none are more telling than the words found in 2 Chronicles 25:2 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.”

It’s such a strange commentary that a man can do what is right, but not with a perfect heart. It could be read that he did “right things”, but his heart was not in it. Amaziah’s heart was divided; never truly submissive to the Voice of God. The most glaring instance of his tenure came when he hired mercenaries to fight for Israel. Amaziah thought that the end would justify the means, but God rejected his ill-conceived plan. Amaziah struggled with the odds and then eventually became bitter over the loss of 100 talents of silver (@ 120,000 oz.), which he had already paid for his army-for-hire scheme. Amaziah had “heart” problems.

The heart is described throughout the scripture in various forms.
Jeremiah called it deceitful. Solomon told us to keep our heart with all… Proverbs 4:23 “…diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Jesus said, Matthew 12:34 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

The heart is the center point of a person’s consciousness. It is the hub of all passions, desires, and philosophies. Its worth is far beyond the muscular, hollow organ that pumps blood throughout our circulatory system. It is the core of a person’s life where all intent and thought emanates.

Through the Word we know that God did accept indifference to His command, even if it was obeyed. God wanted obedience with wholeheartedness. To execute the commandment of God was insufficient if the heart was not in it. Even Jesus said, “Isaiah was right about you in that you serve me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.” The Lord knew the difference, because it is He Who measured the deeds of mankind. His Word is described as a sharp two-edged sword capable of discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

God is interested in our actions, but even more so that we love to do what He has called us to do. Begrudging obedience is not the attribute of a servant of the Lord. He wants us to obey and believe what we are obeying. The first of all commandments is to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. This is our plight; to do what is right with a perfect heart.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Queen’s Crown

No one really knows the worth of the Queen’s Coronation Crown. Originally it was called St. Edward’s Crown and was worn briefly by the new British monarch. The entire worth of the royal family’s collection of crowns, robes, scepters, and other ceremonial items housed in the Tower of London for the last many centuries is estimated at about $3.5 billion.

However, the Queen’s Coronation Crown is premier above all. Weighing nearly five pounds, the opulent headgear comprises gold, velvet, ermine, and a plethora of glittering gemstones. The stones were made permanent by King George V, Elizabeth II’s grandfather. However, if you pulled it apart and broke it down by individual pieces, the cost would be much lower than its present value. Based on current calculations of materials, to duplicate the crown would cost a respectable $4.5 million. Most of the cost would involve the 7 sapphires, followed by 26 tourmaline stones. The lush purple velvet, as regal and royal as it is, would only set you back $3.

It’s not the individual components that make the Queen’s Crown so valuable. Alone, a replica is far less expensive than the original. The value is found in its connection to the kings and queens who wore it. In fact, it is the uniqueness of the monarchs connected to the entirety of the royal jewels and artifacts that give the collection its worth. Without that connection, the pieces are merely measured against the going rate of their replacements.

The worth of the Church was never based on the individual lives of the people who were apart of it. Nor did the Church find its value in its collective talent or ability, regardless of their giftedness. Each person began in iniquity and was far from God. Each individual had their roots in lust and corruption; all were conceived in sin, as David so aptly wrote.

The value of the Church is its connection to the King of Glory and the precious Blood of the Lamb of God. We are made worthy by He Who sits on the throne of Heaven. Jesus, the Lord of Hosts, is the Creator of all things and because of Him we are the sons and daughters of the Most High God; joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

Pull this apart, if you will, but the worth of the Church plummets. Remove the name of Jesus out of baptism and our worth is gone. Diminish the necessity of Holy Ghost baptism and you have nothing, but a country club with menial endeavors. Our value is tied to something higher than us. We have value and identity because of Him Who sits on High. We have purpose because of His loving kindness. All that we are and hope to be is by virtue of His grace and mercy. In Him, our value is beyond this world.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Importunity

Importunity is not a common word in our modern vernacular. So when we read the parable of a Friend at Midnight, it might be difficult to understand the word that so described the main character. The end of the story rests on this statement: Luke 11:8 “…yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” The parable speaks of need: A man needs bread, but the hour is late. He’s knocking on a door at the wrong time. The man inside considers him a friend, but it’s midnight. Besides, there are children to consider. The father must wake the children to supply the need. The father says, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are asleep. I can’t get up and give you anything.” Three reasons are given: The door is locked. The children will be disturbed. The hour is late. The father has spoken and the answer is “no.” “Go away. Can’t you see that it’s too late?” However, the father will change his mind because of his friend’s importunity. We call it, Persistence. He is Relentless. He just won’t go away.

I wish it were deeper than persistence. I know that many are looking for some theological revelation to answer their most difficult conflict. Jesus said, Matthew 7:8 “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The ‘eth” on the end of each word actually means “continually.” Jesus presented the plural to ask, seek, and knock. Jesus did not end this thought with one parable or a single statement. Jesus was emphatic! Jesus said, Luke 18:3-5 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

The widow received what she asked for because of her importunity. Constant coming. Continual asking. Repeated seeking. It was her insistence that brought about justice. There was no special gifting needed to receive her heart’s desire. It was just her request in repeat mode. I wonder how many have given up praying because they feel like they sound like a broken record. Maybe you are weary in well doing. I say, let your importunity be your resolve and never quit seeking for the thing that you long for. The answer may rest on your importunity.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

 

Prayer

What if you received everything you prayed for? Be careful before answering too quickly.

Prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of the believer. It is our communication to God, Who is Faithful to answer our needs. It is the process of bringing our petitions to Him as we boldly approach the Throne of Grace. Prayer combined with Faith is the language of the Holy Spirit. The scripture speaks of praying correctly. Jesus offered the pattern of prayer to His disciples, which has been referenced, as The Lord’s Prayer. This pattern features the recognition of God and His Holiness. His Kingdom is included and His divine will is invoked. There is forgiveness offered and forgiveness sought.

The Bible also warns against foolish prayers. Let us not pray “amiss” or use “vain reputations as the heathen do.” All prayers are not the same. Some seek for personal gain or profit. Some think of prayer as an escape mechanism to remove the consequences of poor decisions and carnal living.

Balaam prayed a prayer for permission to travel with unsavory men. God said, Numbers 22:12 “Do not go with them.” Balaam desired to join a group contrary to Israel and God clearly rejected his request. However, Balaam would not take “No” for an answer. So after repeated attempts to get his way, the Lord finally said, Numbers 22:20 “Go with them.” The coming scene was not in Balaam’s favor. He received what he thought he wanted, but God’s judgment was against him. He got what he prayed for, but the result was God’s wrath upon him.

There is a growing chasm between fleshly prayers and spiritual desires. Just because it is a prayer does not mean it is godly. I can only imagine that it is the goodness of God that keeps us from getting everything we pray for. When we filter God’s written Word out of our petitions we become carnal. Seeking for things that are contrary to God’s Word and His Will work against us. It could be that He protects us even from our own human desires, which are designed to lead us away from eternal life.

Paul prayed three times that a “thorn” would be removed from him. Nevertheless, God rejected that prayer and said, “My grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” It was the Will of God to keep Paul in check and ultimately, he accepted God’s answer which allowed him to experience profound grace.

I pray today… “Thy Kingdom come in my life and Thy Will be done in me.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Fire”

Having gathered the wood himself, Elijah rebuilt the broken down altar left by the false prophets of Baal and of the grove. Mount Carmel had never seen so many people as the moment became an event. The prophet had come with a challenge that the God who answers by fire, “let Him be God.” But first, the altar. First, the sacrifice. God’s “Fire” has always been present. He has been and shall always be. God is from before time and He shall reign when time is no more. The altar is my part. The sacrifice is me. God’s fire has been waiting on someone to offer themselves upon the altar built by their own hands. This means work. Altars demand focus and attention. They take time to construct and energy to maintain. In brief, altars are demanding.

Elijah saw fire fall as it consumed the sacrifice, the water, and the dust. He rejoiced to hear the sound of abundance of rain. He killed 850 false prophets and gave commands to the people and the king. The scripture indicates that he outran Ahab’s chariot down a nine mile stretch. All of it, however, came after the altar. It did not take much searching to find studies on time spent on media devices. The number of hours of cellphone use and surfing is staggering. Surely our age is entrenched with entertainment and communication. The problem is that there is no time left for personal altars. In fact, it’s doubtful that altars are found in individual homes. Most people think of an altar as a fixed location in their local assembly. They think that church is for God and homes are for everything else. We want the “fire” to fall. In times of famine, we seek for rain. Prayers are prayed for God to display His power among His people and the unbeliever. But first, comes the Altar. First comes the building of the place of sacrifice.

You see, when the altar is not present, no one thinks about the sacrifice. We tend to just pray for the miracle. Prayers without sacrifice are often words of convenience. When the altar is absent, there is no need to give up time, money, ambition, or entertainment. Altars are intrusive and taxing. They remind us that we are to present our own bodies as a living sacrifice. They feature the remnants of self-imposed loss and total reliance upon God. We want the miracle and we need it. However, the miracle may very well rest on the presence of the Altar.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Respect

Uzzah is an uncommon name in the Bible. His epitaph is among the most egregious ever written. For twenty years, the Ark of the Covenant resided among his family. In the process of moving, Uzzah put forth his hand to keep it from falling. God struck him dead where he stood for touching the sacred box. Casualness and familiarity produced a lack of regard for Israel’s national treasure, and it costs him his life.

Value is often seen through respect. What we find valuable is reverenced, honored, and kept. People who hold such places of acclaim are approached carefully and with caution. One of the fundamental aspects of a healthy culture is found in honoring those to whom honor is due (Romans 13). God instilled this truth in the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:12 Honor thy father and thy mother.” Israel was told to rise in the presence of the aged and show respect to those who are older (Leviticus 19:32). Paul will follow up on this directive in his letter to the church at Thessalonica; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13“…know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.”

The Bible is replete with these same commands over and over again. It begins with the fear of the Lord and moves to His written Word. As with all things holy, there is an opposing force. The absence of honor has been the affliction of many societies. Without respect, lawlessness prevails; families become splintered, and the things that should be treasured are treated carelessly. The Gospel also suffers when believers devalue the Church and the Mission. If we consider the preached Word inconsequential, we will invariably dismiss it as optional. Even Jesus’ miracles were thwarted because He found no honor among His own country.

Though respect and honor have fallen on hard times, we should not give up our attempt to restore such things among the believers. While many westernized cultures have diluted the holy scriptures, it seems only reasonable to follow God’s plan for our lives. Casual living is destroying holiness. Complacency and apathy are enemies to the demands of the Cross. However, the call of God is pressing us to restore these virtues that hold us together. Honor. Respect. The Fear of the Lord. The Word and our leaders. We must strive to instill the value of these most precious things in our everyday lives.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… Our Family ….

Perhaps the most notable commentary about David was Paul’s inclusion of Israel’s king in the New Testament. Paul said, Acts 13:36 “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers…” David fought many battles and obtained as many victories. He was the nation’s favored king; a worshiper, songwriter, and a man after God’s own heart. However, Paul depicted him simply as one who served his own generation by the Will of God. At the conclusion of it all, the Will of God is premier. His Will supersedes all other accomplishments that may be attributed to this life. Thus, Paul gave credence to the greater accomplishment of King David: he served his own generation by the Will of God.

The time we have is limited, even now. We all have a window of opportunity to reach the lost. These days are God’s allotted time given to us to spread the Gospel and the Apostolic doctrine. It is our single purpose for living. Our mission has been set long ago from which we must not deviate.

The last 20 years have been filled with the blessings of God. While challenges remain, I am convinced that our plight is a collective thought: To reach our city with the only saving message of Acts 2:38. This is no small task as it consumes our thoughts day and night. We are pressing for the Mark for the Prize of the high calling of God which is in Christ Jesus. It is His divine Will for us to reach the Harvest. This exclusive doctrine demands as much.

New Life Fellowship has been a refuge for so many people. Through the years, hundreds of families have found the Lord and so much more. Many have been born again of the water and the Spirit. The name of Jesus has been our constant source of power and authority. What a joy to know the Truth and to share it!

Tami and I honor you as a congregation for your faithfulness and commitment. Our family is indebted to you and to those who have served the Lord and have passed from this life. Our greatest desire is to experience a city-wide revival and to serve our own generation by the will of God.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole