Proxy War

Consider Paul’s own testimony. He said, “I delight in the law of the Lord but I see another law working in my members. There is another battle being waged in my spirit to imprison me.” Romans 7:22-23.

I am reminded of the decades old conflict in Syria, which still exists today. Bashar al-Assad has ruled the country for many years as a dictator would. Syria’s civil war has seen thousands of deaths by many means, not the least of which is poisonous gas. Over 7 million people have been displaced, the majority of them running away with their young families seeking refuge in other countries throughout the region.

Russia has entered the fray in this war-torn country by staging a proxy war with the United States. In recent years, Syria has become the battleground for these two superpowers to display their strength. While proxy wars are nothing new, they do reflect real tragedies and sometimes results.

There is a spiritual proxy war that exists in the world today. Paul told the church at Rome that a war was raging in his members: The battle in his own spirit was the battle of Heaven and Hell. While Jesus died for us and cares for us, Satan has no such affinity. The enemy will use our thoughts to bring our spirits into bondage. He will bind us and hinder our relationship with the Lord. However, he’s really in pursuit of the Lord’s authority. Remember, Lucifer is after the Throne. Our lives and minds are just the battlefield where this war is played out.

Paul will confess that he delights in the Law of the Lord. There is no controversy that Paul was spiritual, prayerful, and consecrated to the things of God. He was an Apostolic Statesmen and The Ambassador of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was the world’s premier disciple maker. Nevertheless, he saw this proxy war and admitted to another “law” working in his members (mind/thoughts).

Romans 7:23 “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

There is a battle ensuing that cannot be ignored. Regardless of our desire to follow the Lord, something else is at work, even now. The proxy war of Light and Darkness is being waged among mankind. For this cause, we must take up the Whole Armor of God and give the Holy Spirit sanctuary in our minds.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The little foxes

Song of Solomon 2:15 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. Little foxes spoil the vine.”

I often wonder how many people strive to tackle the major problems of life all the while ignoring the smaller ones that spoil the whole. I know there are major issues which cannot be ignored. However, small things rarely gain our attention until they metastasize into something unmanageable. Little foxes look too insignificant to worry about until they destroy the very thing that feeds us.

While I cannot exhaust the list, I will offer one of those “small” things:

Interruptions. In a not so subtle way, the interruption destroys clarity; thought process; peaceful moments; and conversations. The ping on our phone cutting in on present relationships to tell us that we have a new email… A tweet notification… A text or a series of texts… All of them are interruptions to our daily lives. Phones at dinner tables have paused a thousand conversations, but still we think nothing of it. Interruptions arise from different directions, which makes me think that there is something more sinister with this “fox” than just the function of life. Televisions humming in the background and the constant Internet surfing that barge into our family rooms are all contributors. Information overload has drowned out the Scripture, which are written to make us wise unto salvation.

Oliver Burkeman writes: “By one estimate, 70% of us take our news-delivery devices to bed with us at night.” The interruption is welcomed by the consumer like a sweet drink with diluted poison. It doesn’t do damage like sinful practices because it is not sinful. It’s just an interruption that steals our attention.

Solomon speaks of tender vines that are damaged beyond repair. Time thieves are everywhere and time is a tender thing. Listening, prayer, meditation, and Bible reading are all tender things. Little foxes can do more damage than the roaring lion if left unattended. The little fox seems so inconsequential until the day comes when you have no relationship with the church and the altar.

I’ve watched this too many times. People stop worshiping. They sit unmoved. They resign from serving and then miss a few services. They come infrequent until they don’t come at all. They still justify themselves by saying they love God, but they have no worship time; no serving; no altar experience and no pastor. They live in a backslidden state all the while absolving their inaction and disobedience as being busy. It didn’t start that way. Little foxes, perhaps an interruption, suspended their walk; broke their spiritual concentration and now they are no where to be found.

Remember, there are “little foxes” ready to take what is tender. So stand guard. Eternal life is too valuable to be stolen by an interruption.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Who needs to pray?

It might be difficult to imagine that hundreds of years ago people thought they had reached the height of technology. Each generation boasts of their human accomplishments: the creation of gears in Ancient China, tin extraction in Asia, the papyrus in Egypt. The list is exhaustive. Glass was first created in Egypt; the Phoenician alphabet and a water clock in the Middle East. Americans introduced similar wonders with steam engines, the telegraph, Whitney’s cotton gin, the Morse code…the list goes on.

Civilizations reached new heights of convenience and productivity. Each believing they had touched utopia. However, with each new invention, people moved farther from God. Our modern conveniences have made us less dependent on God and more secure in self.

The template prayer has been widely disregarded, “Lord, give us this day our daily bread.” There is little need to pray for such a thing. World statistics say that the poor in America are rich compared to the rest of the world. American people in poverty have smart phones and basic cable. While millions in India pick their food from waste sites, Americans can access food-banks in every city. Most of us are far from those thoughts.

Of the seven churches in Asia, God had a major problem with the Laodiceans: God said, Revelation 3:17 “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”

He said, “You think you are sufficient because of the material assets you possess when in reality you are pitiful. You think you have it all together, when in light of eternity and your spiritual state you are like a blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.”

I ask, “Do you have need of nothing?” Could it be that our gain has led us away from our need for God? We have heart transplants; gene therapy; floating gardens; 5G capability; cures via cell migration… incredible. Who needs to pray? Does anyone even need God? Maybe that’s why prayer rooms are meager and fellowship nights are full. Maybe that’s why we resist words like sacrifice, serving, and suffering. They just don’t mesh with our modern version of Christianity. Sunday morning religion is in abundance, but what about the evening sacrifice or a mid-week Bible study? It’s hard to find time for church when there are so many other options. We have enough of God to appease our conscience, but not enough to be convicted and committed.

I offer you the axiom of truth: Until you need Him, you won’t find Him. Nevertheless, as long as there are other priorities in your life, God and worship will be just one more obligation to mark off at the end of the week.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

What you do for Christ

Of all the questions Jesus asked none rise higher than the ones found here: Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus would not have asked the question unless it was possible or even realistic. Sadly, history is littered with men making trades for their souls. In biblical times, Judas traded away his soul for recognition and a few pieces of silver. Esau traded his birthright for a temporary reprieve from hunger. Demas traded his apostolic authority for the attractions of the world. Paul wrote that Demas “loved this present world.” He must not have considered the next world.

The exchange doesn’t seem rational in light of eternity, but there are no shortages of bad deals. Some trade fellowship and the preached Word for a football game. Some trade communion with Christ for the pursuit of money. Even worse, there are people who allow grudges and bitterness to separate them from the church. These things stand as deterrents to the Cross. Paul asked, “What shall separate us from Jesus Christ? Shall trouble or strife? Success or failure? He asked such things to provoke the reader to think about the loss in separation and to proclaim his own adherence.

Time in the ministry has taught me that those who make such trades never think that they are trading away their soul. Bitter or entangled people rarely think they are. They see it altogether different. The exchange is never viewed as spiritual death or turning away from the Truth. In the moment of conflict, pleasure, or pain, they do not recognize that they are forfeiting the very thing that matters most: Eternal life! While they are gaining things that rust and fade away, they are losing what cannot die. All the rest is like dust cast against the wind. All of it fades leaving emptiness behind.

What if, “he shall gain the whole world”? What would it amount to in the end? The loss of the never-dying soul is too great to bare. In fact, juxtaposed against a timeless state, nothing compares. Weighed against Heaven and all it entails, everything else is petty and meaningless.

Jesus asked the question and surprisingly there is an answer. Some speak of being disenfranchised, while others talk of busy work schedules. The list is endless, but so is Eternity.

Jim Elliot’s words ring deep in my heart. I’ll offer them to you:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. “

I leave you with an old lyric of deep meaning, “Only what you do for Christ will last.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Crown of Thorns, A Crown of Gold

Flora of Israel describes the many species of the acacia. The horn of Africa might boast a host of acacia types. In all, the genus Acacia entails about 160 species of trees and shrubs in the pea family (Fabaceae). Israel’s types range in size with almost all featuring stipular thorns protruding from the thin and flexible branches. These types of trees/bushes do not need much care as they can survive in dry and arid places. While most of these thorny trees have been pulled or covered up by concrete and the mass of seasonal tourists, Jerusalem once had them in abundance.

It would have been most common for Roman soldiers to play psychological games with those condemned to die. Humiliation and torment accompanied the physical suffering. When it came to executions, the Romans left nothing out. Jesus felt the full impact of those trained tormentors: John 19:2 “And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe.”

Calvary entailed the suffering of The Lamb of God in ways we can barely grasp. He was indeed led as a lamb to the slaughter. He died to take away the sins of the world, as John the Baptist so aptly said. Jesus, Who knew no sin, became sin for our sake and through His death we have forgiveness! Through His resurrection we have hope and life.

If Jesus had died and was buried, we would all be set free from sin, but there would be no further expectation. Yet the Resurrection gave us something beyond this life. It gave us a destiny with the Lord that reached beyond the grave. His resurrection brought Joy and Rejoicing!

Had Jesus only worn the Crown of Thorns, then my sins would have been paid for, but my future would be unknown, perhaps in jeopardy. However, Jesus Christ wore the thorns so that He could trade them in for a Crown of Gold.

We do not worship a crucified savior only: We worship a Resurrected King. John saw Jesus Christ and described Him in the final days of time: Revelation 14:14 “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

 

The Donkey …

In the end, Jesus will return riding a horse. It is the symbol of battle, which the Revelator described in the Bible’s last book. However, when Jesus first came He was riding a donkey. He declared Himself the Savior of the world. Jesus could have ridden a stalwart stallion, rippled with muscle and decor. However, He came to bring reclamation: He came as the King of Redemption.

Contrary to opinions, the donkey is an intelligent creature. Sure-footed and having superb eyesight, the donkey can scale the rockiest cliffs while carrying a heavy burden. The Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is layered with meaning, not the least of which is this most unobtrusive colt that He sits upon. While the modern Christian world might bypasses its significance, the pharisees knew the meaning and it angered them. They knew that Jesus was proclaiming Himself to be a king. They knew the intent of the donkey; their manuscripts were firmly imprinted in their minds. A king riding a donkey was always welcomed with shouts of joy and exclamation. That’s why they tried to keep the people from crying out, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

It might seem odd, but the donkey symbolized a strength in balance, wisdom, and authority. Kings chose the donkey to proclaim their arrival to end war and bring about a change. Solomon rode a donkey, (1 Kings 1:33) to signify his new role as the King of Israel. Many other kings did the same.

Zechariah saw it centuries prior: Zechariah 9:9-10 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

The King is coming! This King will make a trade, even today… He will give you beauty for ashes; the oil of joy for mourning; the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This King has come to preach peace, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captives. He will open the prison to them that are bound and announce the year of Jubilee.

Finally, in a distant view, Jacob gives a blessing to his sons. To Judah he says, “You , Judah, are like a lion. You, Judah, will be a ruler, “ Genesis 49:10 -11 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.”

Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the King of Redemption is coming!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

(re)build the wall

Nehemiah may not be as familiar to the Christian community as Moses or Paul, but his story is just as pivotal. In brief, Nehemiah will leave a comfortable and wealthy position in Persia to rebuild the gates and walls around the city of Jerusalem. Compelled by the news of constant invasions and a lack of protection for the Temple, Nehemiah was permitted by the Persian king to organize a rebuilding project. While Nehemiah accomplished his task in a mere 52 days, there are enduring lessons to learn.

First, Nehemiah had opposition from people who should have been assisting him. Sanballat, Tobiah, and others, were profiteering from their own countrymen and Nehemiah’s mission would cost them money and influence. No longer would they be able to profit from the misfortune of their own people. Nehemiah had to defend against the very men who should have been helping.
Secondly, Nehemiah used the same fallen stones to rebuild the walls. He restored the broken down gates and filled the breaches. The supplies might have been renewed, but they were not new. They might have been re-cut or reformed, but they came from the rubble. And finally, Nehemiah did not “build” the walls: he rebuilt them. This means that he did not set a new boundary or attempt to set lines according to his own ideas. He simply followed the pattern that had been laid long ago. He set the walls where they had been. He did not change the landmark; he only restored it.

The lessons are clear…

1) There will be opposition. Holy things of God and divinely appointed works will suffer a rebuff from people who should be with us. The spirit of Sanballat and Tobiah is always at work. Division inside the Church is more devastating than opposition from the world. We must defend against false brethren and those who cause doubt and trouble.
2) God can make something beautiful and strong out of the rubble. God wants to use us even if we think we are unqualified. He is the Master Builder! Sometimes, we are re-cut and reformed just so we can serve His purpose. David prayed to be broken, and molded in the image that God wanted. Strength comes from the remade life. Regardless of our past, God wants to use us. His mercy endures forever!
3) No one has the right to change the lines of holy living. The Bible tells us not to remove the “old landmarks.” They speak to boundaries of lifestyle, conduct, and convictions. The walls are there to protect the Temple. The walls are set to guard from the attacks of the world and vain philosophies. As the world drifts farther from truth and decency, we will trust the Lord.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“It Is He!”

1 Kings 18:24 “And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.”

I cannot say that my prayers are powerful, but I do know that my God is powerful. He is the God Who answers by Fire. He is The All in All. He is The Great I Am! So while I am commissioned to pray, it is Jesus Who does the Work. Paul said, Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” David said, Psalms 100:3 “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

The prophet, apostle, and king all leaned on the authority of the Lord. Their respective appointments did not determine the outcome of their missions. Rather, it was the Lord Who did the work. Elijah called down fire from Heaven, but it was the Lord Who sent the Fire. He heard the sound of abundance of rain, but it was the Lord Who sent the rain. Paul saw miracles; cast out devils; raised the dead during the course of his ministry, but it was the Lord Who gave manifestation to the spoken word. David was anointed King of Israel and obtained countless victories, but only through the authority granted him by permission of the Lord of Hosts. No one is powerful enough to send rain, fire, life, and victory but God. “…it is He…”

It is critical that we recognize Who it is that brings life, hope, and breath to all things. His name is Jesus and He is the Savior and Redeemer of the whole world. Without Him there is no power. Remove His Word and all things crumble beneath our feet. Everything is sinking sand, if God is not the God of our lives.

My only addition is that we are living in an era in which people believe they are the cause of the goodness in their life. It might seem that we are parsing words here, but our generation has become intensely spiritual. That is not to say that they are holy or obedient, only spiritual. As strange as it sounds, modern spirituality has nothing to do with sacrifice, submission, or the scripture. Many reject the authority of the Bible, but claim an inner spirituality. Some “believers” even decry God’s call to holiness in favor of their own subjective stance. They have become gods unto themselves. They believe in their own prayers, not in God’s Word. Today’s “believer” does not necessarily adhere to the authority of God, but to their own authority.

However, I say that the proof is in the fire and that fire cannot be reproduced by human thought or self-will. His fire is the Holy Ghost and after all is said and done, the truth remains… “It is He!”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Preventive Living

The American Medical journals have declared a tipping point that should arrest our attention. Sadly, many of us are blinded by the statistics, which reveal the growing need for rehabilitation and post-surgery meds/therapy. Diets combined with inactivity coupled with mounting stress and anxiety has caused a spiral of illnesses that can hardly be calculated. While preventive measures have been promoted, the vast majority of Americans have ignored the matter. The “low level” of living is actually more pleasurable than adhering to the disciplines of healthy eating, exercise, sleep, and rest. We are mostly rushing on to the next thing with a French fry in our hand, stressing out over the instability of our marriages and children. The most disconcerting to me is that the spiritual life of the church is following suit.

Daily prayer has been replaced with morning shows on television. Evening communication with our spouses and children have been supplanted by our favorite news program, sitcom, or sporting event. The national survey reveals that the only scripture most “Christians read or hear is during their Sunday a.m. only church gathering. The end result is an unhealthy spiritual life that requires a surgery followed by years of rehabilitation and therapy. The father, who fails to lead his children, will spend the next 20 years digging his adult children out of trouble. The mother, who decides that she deserves to be “happy” which leads her to worldliness, will spend years raising her unwed daughter’s children. Therapy takes a long time. Recovery, while needful and available, can be avoided by “Preventive Living.”

The routine of daily prayer and Bible reading works to keep us off the operating table. Love and forgiveness helps to maintain a clear conscious. Living the separated life of Holiness is the guardrail that keeps us from vanity and carnality. Spiritual disciplines, which are not always flashy or profound, establish both emotional and physical health.

The fact is that preventive living, with all the trappings of prayer, obedience, submission, worship and giving, is far better than recovering from a disjointed life of disobedience and flagrant living. Yes, we are a healing church. Thank God, this is true. Yes, we are in the business of restoration and reconciliation. However, how much better is it if we stayed true to the Call and the Commission? If in doubt, ask Samson. He recovered at the end and gave Israel a great victory. Nevertheless, he was blind, having had his eyes gouged out. He was wounded and bound having been beaten and chained. So while he pulled down the pillars on the heads of the enemy, it came at the cost of his reckless life. It would have been better had he “stayed” in obedience. It leads me to this final thought: Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Repeat

Consider the “Words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.” Ecclesiastes 1:9 “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Simply put, everything is repeated. Regardless of the advancements in technology, medicine, and literature, what has been will be again. All the pressures of this life have been lived before us. All the challenges of family, marriage, church, finances, etc. have been seen and felt long before we arrived. Whatever “road” you travel has been long since paved by the hardships and triumphs of the saints, most of which we will never know. There is nothing new under the sun.

Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Another version says, “since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses, run…” Our trials have already been experienced by the saints. That Cloud can work for us or against us. Paul wrote; 1 Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

There is a Cloud of witnesses that speak of overcoming sickness, death, and depression. That Cloud sings songs of praise all the while resisting temptations. They endured hard trials, gave out of want, worshiped with sacrifice, and served without recognition or reward. The witnesses that came before are sitting in the stands to encourage us to be overcomers. However, they also can speak against us. When we complain that no one understands us or that we are going through something unique, they raise their collective hands to say, “We’ve been there and we made it through.”

The scripture was written for our admonition to give guidance and direction. There is hope and reassurance in the pages of this holy book. The Word of the Master is in the Book and because of this truth; I’m looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole