Judge me…

When Jesus said in Matt. 7, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” He was talking about condemning others. In this case, “Judge” comes from the Greek word “krino” which means to condemn, punish, or avenge.  The Bible also uses the word “Judge” when it speaks of making a determination.  This “Judge” comes from the Greek word “diakrino” which means to separate thoroughly; to withdraw from, or discern and make a determination.  In respect to these two definitions, we are commanded first not to condemn one another, lest we be condemned.  However, we are to judge or decide on the matters of life, spirits and philosophies.  We are to decide, or judge, on the positions that people take.

Dr. King did not ask people not to judge him. Nor did he ask people to avoid an opinion about him.  Rather, King said, “Judge me…”  He wanted to be judged.  He wanted the writers of the present and future to judge him, but there were requirements imposed on this judgement.  Dr. King said, “Don’t Judge me by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character.”  He knew that there would be judgements, decisions, and positions taken. He knew that feelings would arise out of perceptions, but he wanted to be judged by the measurements of character and actions.

This is a common flaw among mankind: to determine people by appearance. Even Samuel, that great prophet of God, stumbled at the outward appearance. Samuel was to anoint a new king and he chose the eldest son of Jesse, but God rejected Eliab. Samuel was looking at his age and height. Eliab looked the part, but God was not looking at the outward appearance.  God was looking for the heart of a Shepherd to lead the people. God was and is looking for character, conviction, and a worshiper.  I’m preaching today, go ahead, Judge Me.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Hinges …

In regards to Vision….Out-Reach is certainly part of the mission that makes up the purpose of the Church. To see the lost saved and to teach the Gospel is a Primary, but Reaching in or “In-Reach” must also be present within the church.  We have been brought together as brothers and sisters by the Blood of Jesus Christ.  We are suppose to be the Family of God and to that end there are particular measures that we are expected to take. The Lord sees this church as His body and He is extremely concerned about how we treat each other.

Consider the Pharisee who sought to test Jesus concerning the Law.  He said to the Lord, “Which is the greatest commandment?”  It was a question designed to trap the Lord in a no-win maze.  So many laws and to pick the wrong one would start a never ending argument, but the answer that Jesus gave was an open display of the very heart of God.

Mat 22:37-40  “Jesus said, 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.”

Jesus said that everything written hinges on these two commands. Nothing stands if these are not the foundation.  There are no laws, principles or truths outside of Loving the Lord and Loving each other.  Even our desire to see new souls saved will fail if there is no love among the Body. The world will not believe that the church is for them if we are absent of the very thing they need most: Inclusion, Kindness, Acceptance. Our life’s story will one day be seen through the lenses of our compassion.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

People are talking …

For those of you still preparing for Y2K, Twitter is a way to express a thought through a smartphone or another device.  Twitter claims 974 million accounts: 247 million are active. Facebook boasts of 1.23 billion active accounts. This says nothing of the billions of emails, Snapchat, and other forms of communication. In short, a lot of people are talking. We’ve always been talking; it’s what we do, only now we have a forum to express our every thought. The danger, of course, is that there are no filters.

While there is some variance, Pew Research shows that people check their social media accounts numerous times per day and some have it on constantly through sound alerts.  This means that they are “talking” continuously.  Statistics also show an increase in contracts with counselors, life-coaches, psychiatrists, and other listening helpers.   People are talking.

All this is probably reasonable.  We are relational beings and it does follow suit that we would express ourselves; our feelings; triumphs and anxieties. Communication is part and parcel of the human experience.  What I’m troubled about is the last report:  Fewer Christians in all denominations say they pray less often than they did in prior years.   While statistical sampling often concerns me, I will say that consecrated prayer has faded since 9/11.

My hope is that this year will be one of concentration on healthy marriages and homes; devotion to the church in attendance; and a revival of new souls. And knowing that this is God’s direction for our lives, it will only come when we seek God through prayer.  So since we are all talking, why don’t we use some of that time and effort to speak to God through prayer.  Start out your day and year the way David did when he wrote: Psalm 63:1  “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek…”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Vulnerable and Meek

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Lost in the narrative of God’s might and power is the vulnerability that the Eternal God assumed when He came to this earth.  Unlike many other creatures  an infant child cannot survive on its own.  Newborns must be cared for, fed, clothed, and nurtured.  The position in which He put Himself is an immediate insight into His nature. Jesus, God in flesh, could not have survived without Joseph and Mary.  While it is true that He is the Lion of Judah, it is also true that He began as a vulnerable Lamb.

The prophets often wrote of His authority and power.  The Jewish people even looked for a great conqueror to overthrow the Roman Empire, but when He came, He came vulnerable and meek.  His nature is clouded in the minds of people even to this day; they see Him as omnipotent and thundering; both of which are true.  Yet Jesus is also tender and of great mercy.  He is like unto a gentlemen who is gracious and caring.  He stands and knocks.  He does not burst through closed doors.   Jesus is long-suffering and patient with people; reaching and touching even the unwanted among humanity.  Yes, He has justice and judgement in His mighty hand, but those same hands have nail prints that speak of forgiveness and love.  Matthew records Him in this way:  Mat12:20  A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench…”   The weaver knows that a bent reed is useless.  The candle maker knows that a smoking flax has little to no ability to reignite.  But the nature of Jesus will not break of a bruised reed.  His nature will not pinch off the possibility of the flame. His mercy is always new. His grace is beyond the telling. He came innocent and helpless and He understands our limitations because He embraced who we are in the same way. Emmanuel. God with us and like us, to save us.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Kindness …

Paul is at the end of an exhaustive list of directives when he comes to this final thought:  Ephesians 4:32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

I was reminded of a hard and detailed man who sought for others to be the same.  In time, his family felt the weight of his impossible demands as did all those who called him friend.  His church-life suffered as he found flaws and inconsistencies in people.  Time did not solve his appetite for perfection; they only alienated him from the very people who loved him.  I remember him being alone later in life; friendless and unlovable.  I cannot say that he ever came to know that the reason for his alienation was the absence of kindness.  This man was certainly religious. He believed in the Bible, but he missed the knowledge of the fruit of the Spirit and his heart was hard and hateful.

Paul was dealing with church issues when he wrote the above text.  Not all of those issues had to do with spiritual warfare.  Paul wrote about authority, doctrine, and the Blood of Jesus, but finally Paul dealt with the foundation of Christianity: Kindness.  I wonder if Paul recalled Solomon’s words: Proverbs 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

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Kindness might not sound spiritual to some.  Kindness doesn’t have the same allure as the Gift of Prophecy or the Word of Wisdom.  Kindness doesn’t always draw the same attention as intellectualism or musical talent.  Yet I submit that there are no spiritual gifts or talents that can override a coarse or brash spirit.  Rudeness is fundamentally adverse to the nature of Jesus Christ.

David described the nature of the Lord in this way: Psalm 103:8  “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” If this be the case, how can Christians act the opposite of the very God they claim to serve?  Furthermore, how is our Christianity revealed if it is not through our respect toward one another?  The proverbs declared that a soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.  James wrote, “Let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  The preached word was this, “Can the Church Survive the Church?”, and that because our existence is based upon how we treat one another.  If we fail it won’t be because of demonic influences or worldliness.  Both the power of the Name and the teaching of the Word can defeat those foes. No, our struggle will be the level of compassion that exists within the body.  Jesus said is like this…  “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”  He did not say one for another.  Love in this case is an action verb “to.”

As pastor, I’m less concerned with talent or ability and more concerned with tender heartedness.  And what shall we say about forgiving one another?  Is this not Bible also?  Paul said that we forgive as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us.  This means that He forgave us through the suffering of the Cross.  It means that while He knew our flaws, He chose not to expose them, but rather to carry them.  Kindness and Forgiveness. There is nothing else that declares the resident Holy Ghost.  Because long after you and I stop speaking in other tongues, as the Bible describes, it will be our Kindness that declares the infilling of the Spirit.  Long after we leave the awesome moving of the Lord in this house, it will be how we address one another that will show who we really are.   I propose a new thought:  Let Kindness, tenderness and forgiveness be the measurement for our church family.  And let the Love of Christ rule our lives.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Lamb …

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Consider with me:  Jesus is twelve years old when He is found teaching in the Temple.  Joseph and Mary have made their yearly journey to yet another festival as a family.  We won’t see Him again for 18 years and that will happen in Cana at a wedding. Tradition is a powerful thing and it appears that Jesus kept those traditions of Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkoth (Booths). We don’t know how many Passovers the Lord kept through the course of His life. It could be that He was there every year until the day in which He Himself became The Lamb.

Can you imagine a 25 year old Jesus walking through the crowded streets of Jerusalem at Passover time?  Lambs baying; people rushing from merchant to merchant; the streets lined with visitors from the tip of Philippi to North Africa. Jesus is walking among them the whole time.  He’s there, The Lamb, seen and yet unseen.  He’s among them watching the ritual take place.  It’s an empty offering of sorts with no remedy in sight.  Nothing in their lives have changed. but there He is, going about the people as they clamor to offer their lambs, some brought – some bought. How is it that Jesus can be present, but so hidden? How could it be that the Lamb, for which the Passover was made, could be so cloaked?  I suppose the greater question is: Could we have church and not see Him?  He said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath.  It was made for Him; because of Him; by virtue of Him. Passover was to be the day of Atonement.   Pentecost was to be the Day of His Spirit In-filling.  Sukkoth was going to show His sustaining Grace.  And it brings me to this season which should be about Him.  We cannot afford to lose Him in the crowd. Jesus is here among us.  He is the answer we have been looking for.  It’s Jesus Time!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

the Lord of peace…

John records four chapters of the Lord’s words to His disciples before His betrayal. Unknown to them at the time, these are the words of preparation which commence His suffering.  The disciples are not aware of what is about to take place. They are oblivious to the coming crucifixion as they are but a few days away from being guilty by association with this Jesus of Nazareth.  It’s here that the Lord speaks into their lives. Jesus said, John 14:27  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The Lord’s words were for their near future; for us; or all those who seek Him.  Fear was about to knock at the door of their heart.  Doubt was about to seep into their thoughts:  Maybe the last three and a half years was for naught.  The ruthless beating and scourging of their rabbi would soon lay heavy on their minds and it would invoke a horror that most of us cannot imagine. They were with Him and it was enough to convict them.

Jesus was offering something that would last through every dark time.  His words would not only feed their bewildered souls, but would speak to us in our time of loneliness and confusion.  Jesus said, “I’m giving you My Peace.” He could give it because that was Who He was. His name, according to Isaiah, would be called The Prince of Peace.  Hebrews named Him the King of Peace. Paul wrote about, “the Lord of peace…” and there is so much more.

I see a world in chaos.  People are lost and without hope.  Above all, they are living in angst and much apprehension. Anxieties are rising; confidence is falling, but I give you Jesus:  He’s the peace that surpasses all understanding.  He is the Prince of Peace and He has given His peace to us today.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Thankfulness …

Luke records ten lepers who came to Jesus with their physical need.  Out of options and waiting to die, the lepers had given up all hope except to plead their case to Jesus.  It’s unknown who the ten lepers were, as there are no attributing names, but we do know that the one who came back to Jesus was called a stranger, i.e., a foreigner (NIV). He was a Samaritan; an outcast; somewhere in between Jew and Gentile.

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I’ve looked into the healing of the lepers: I’ve preached the Difference between being Healed and being Whole. It is found here in Luke 17 and the answer is Worship.  Yet there is something else that leaps forward. The leper who returned, came back to say, “Thank You.”  Jesus didn’t have to heal them.  It was not His mission.  He came to die and become the ransom for the world.  He came to save people from their sins, but on that day, ten men were changed from waiting to die to learning to live. We know that the difference between the one and the others was Worship, but it was rooted in thankfulness.  Thankfulness separated him from the crowd. Thankfulness defined him and ultimately brought about his wholeness. Incredibly, the outcast; stranger; the leper was thankful.

If the numbers add up, only 10% of the healed are thankful.  Just a fraction actually come to realize that what has happened to them is beyond the point of salvation.  Healing and God’s provisions; blessings of every kind; a good church family; friends filled with love; the freedom to worship in a country like ours, and so much more are beyond the realm of salvation.  We could be saved without all these blessings, but God has been good to us. Knowing the goodness of the Lord and His healing power, it is imperative that we live a life of Thankfulness. Our worship today is giving Thanks for all He has done.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“keeps no record of wrongs”

Psalm 130:3-4  “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness…”  John writes that God is love.  This is not just an attribute borne from the self-will of a deity, but John said that Love is the essence of His nature. God is the definition of love; not just a response.

Paul defined this matter in writing to the church at Corinth.  In that narrative we find the quintessential definition of God toward us. Paul  said (1 Cor. 13:5)that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” A record is evidence of a fact.  It is the written description that dispels opinion and controversy.  A record is that body of proof that something exists which cannot be removed; it cannot be denied.  It lingers in time and never quite leaves the realm of awareness.

wrongwayDavid knew this to be true.  He knew of the nature of God and he sang about it.  David submitted this question to the world that if the Lord kept a record of sins, of wrongs, who could be saved?

 

Who could stand before His Holiness? The answer is “no one!”  But thanks be to God that He keeps no record of wrongs because He is merciful and kind.  He removes our shame andexpunges our failures from His sight.

When we are covered by the Blood, there is no remaining proof of our past.  When we are born again of water and the Spirit, there is no evidence of the infractions levied against the Cross.  He has taken them and they are buried in the waters of baptism because in Him, there is forgiveness.” Micah 7:18-19  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The work is in the field…

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Some time ago a prayer group started among several churches.  The concern centered around lost souls.  When the pastors made the appeal for the meeting they were surprised at the positive response. Attendance was almost triple their original estimates. The program changed due to the increased number and a steering committee formed.  Prayer meetings continued until the lead pastor decided it was time to put their prayers into action.  They even called it “Action.”  He called for people to go out and bring the lost to their respective churches. They all agreed to this directive as arrangements were made to meet in order to canvas their cities, but much to their dismay, almost no one came to the “Action” part of the program.  They loved prayer, but few wanted to witness.  They liked the fellowship of faith, but they did not embrace the work of the field.

In the course of my ministry, I cannot say that anything has changed.  In fact this account is not even new to our generation. Jesus said as much, Matt. 9 “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” 

The issue has never been the field. The problem is not about a depleted harvest. The harvest is Great. There are sinners and backsliders in every location.  There are wounded souls; displaced believers; children and more on every street. The harvest is plentiful.  The problem, according to Jesus, is that there are very few laborers in the field. Prayer? Yes!  But after prayer there must be a witness.  Fellowship of Faith? Yes! But after fellowship among the believers there must be workers in the field reaching souls and bringing them to the house of prayer. Our eyes are on the field, but our hands must be there too. The work is in the field.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole