Jerusalem …

jerusalem-temple-mount

Jerusalem.  That city set on a hill was the birthplace of the first church.  It was the epicenter of the first great Holy Ghost outpouring.  Peter preached the Keys to the Kingdom on the streets of that city while thousands looked on, but it was not received well in those days. The Roman Empire tried to handle the ever increasing issues among the Jewish leaders.  The Sanhedrin despised this new Gospel of repentance, baptism in Jesus’ Name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in other tongues.  They worked tirelessly against the apostles’ efforts and the culmination of Rome’s oppressive measures mixed with Jewish opposition caused havoc among the early believers insomuch that they scattered throughout the known world.  They were spread abroad almost by default.  Rome stomped its foot in the middle of that Born Again multitude and they were dispersed to all parts of the world for safety sake.

Yet from that scattering came revivals in Samaria and the northern parts of Africa, reaching toward the upper coasts of Ephesus and beyond.  Trouble opened the door for revival.  Opposition unlocked the boundaries of peoples far and wide and the Gospel soon knew no limits.

What was once a centralized revival in the City of David became a world-wide phenomenon.  There were no language barriers that the Holy Ghost could not penetrate; no cultural differences that the Gospel could not bridge.  The message of Jesus spread faster than its opponents could manage, and the more they tried to stamp it out, the more the fire of Pentecost spread.  Through the centuries, even religions made their attempt to squash the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.  In some cases, speaking in other tongues was ruled against; banished from the religious communities.  Others wrote articles declaring that it didn’t matter how people were baptized and that the Name of Jesus was merely semantics.  Poverty poked its head up against this Gospel message.  Educators said that it was nonsense.  The elite declared Acts 2:38 an outdated message that was reserved only for the disciples and that the Holy Ghost was not for people in this dispensation.

All measures of opposition have tried and failed to stop the message of His death, burial and resurrection.  Jesus said it, “you must be born again of the water and the Spirit.” (John 3)  Peter said that “baptism also saves us.” (I Peter 3)

Paul said that when we are baptized, we put on Christ. (Romans 6)  Paul asked the question, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” indicating that belief is just the first step.  They answered “no” so Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost and began to speak in other tongues. (Acts 19)  What a message… And to think that it endures still today.

We are here to both celebrate the Gospel Message and to help facilitate this Soul-Saving Truth.  There is only One Gospel.  What the apostle wrote 2,000 years ago is still true today. Ephesians 4:5  One Lord, One faith, One baptism.  

Our missionaries that make their way across the globe are really extensions of our church family.  They are preaching in places we cannot go, but we are with them when we invest in their lives as they spread the Gospel to the world. They are our ambassadors of the Apostolic Doctrine and we are sending them to fulfill the Great Commission. I pray today that we will catch the vision of a lost world, not only in foreign lands, but also right here in our own city.  This is our purpose.  It is our Soul-Purpose.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Milk …

The last of the skim milk containers were almost empty when I visited our local coffee shop.  It has been reported that more people are using the less fattening milk than ever before.  The attendant told the person in front of me, “We just can’t keep skim milk in stock.”  Reluctantly the patron said, “Okay, I’ll take the 2%.”

Call it culturally cache, but less is more popular than whole.  Milk, bread, cheese, beer, yogurt, and yes, doctrine all fall into that cauldron of less.  In fact, it could be said that the Believers Lite Club is the fastest growing segment of Christianity in America today.  People want less than ever before.  Even the Catholics have reduced the number of miracles a person must have in death in order to become a Saint or “sainted.”  It’s down from 3 to 2.

This is not to say that people don’t want to taste the Lord, they just don’t want all that heaviness that fills them up.  You know, the heaviness of consecration, vows, tears, burdens for the lost, intercession, fasting, daily Bible reading, etc. They want the Prayer of Jabez and Your Best Life Now.  They want quick fixes and instant resolution to life long struggles.  They want absolution from self-imposed conflicts so as not to deal with the guilt of their sinful choices.  Most of all, they don’t ever want to hear a rebuke or correction from the pulpit.  Goodness, that’s like heavy cream laden with fat.

Skimmers like the songs that talk about having a relationship with Jesus and how He makes them feel.  Lyrically they are enamored with His provisions and power which tend to be on the safe side of the song list.  Yet try to sing “I Surrender All” or “I will give you all” and they clam up.  Likewise they tend to steer away from their own ineptitude.  Who needs all that butter when Margarine has all the taste with none of the commitments, uh I mean, calories.  Sure David called himself a worm and wretched, but that’s so Old Testament.

Regarding inappropriate clothing; social drinking, curse words, white lies, a few grudges here and there, illicit movies with sexual scenes or overtones… Lite Christians aren’t really that bothered by these minor infractions.  Whose counting anyway?  To them gossip is normal conversation and accountability is seen as an intrusion into privacy.  Speaking of which, Skimmers espouse the “private life” theory.  They see it as their Church life versus their Private life.

Church attendance is a box to check for this growing group of lessers.  They love the Lord, but not with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  They’ll argue that God is not judgmental (as if He’s not the Judge).  They’ll tell you that God is love and that they are doing enough to get to Heaven.  Besides, they’re not as bad as other people in the world and then comes the comparisons.

Skim milk is in high demand for this generation of “deep thinkers” who believe that: Stepping out by faith to give an extra offering is financially foolish:

Faith is a mystical method to entrap the weak minded:

Obedience to a pastor (a man) is obviously dangerous:

Demonstrative worship is reserved for a select group of personalities:

And of course, Convenience is the ultimate filter for every decision.

milkglasses

Few reach for 2% and no one touches that radical idea of Whole milk.  Whole is for those crazy, religious fanatics who spend all their time reading the scripture and praying at the altar.  Whole is for over-the-top Bible thumpers who don’t know how to have fun. Besides, why endure a whole sermon when we can just get the Cliff Notes later?  Any one for a skinny au lait?

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Why did you leave me?

mansiting

God never makes mistakes. God never errors in judgement.  God is never late or tardy.  These are axioms of truth. To add to these declarations, I point your attention to the only glimpse of a young Jesus who has traveled with Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem from their hometown of Galilee.  It was a Jewish festival that brought this young family to the large city.  People from northern Africa and the outposts of the western regions came joined together as well. We would be correct to assume that this was not the first trip Jesus made with His parents, but on this particular trip, the Lord made His way to the Temple.  When Mary discovered His absence she hurried back to the city to find Him.  She had never lost Jesus before and it is evident through the scripture that she worried about the matter.  They found Him in the Temple, sitting and teaching the learned men. No one had ever heard such wisdom, especially from a twelve year old. Mary will ask the question that many have asked the Lord, and I paraphrase, “why did you leave me?” “Jesus, where were you. I looked for you and you were not with me?”

Now that most critical axiom:  If we are removed from Him, we are the ones who left.  Jesus never leaves.  Jesus never fails. Jesus never changes.

Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

It was the story of the children of Israel who waited on the Cloud of Glory to move before they would move.  If the Cloud tarried, so did the people.  If the Cloud moved quickly or tarried long, they waited because they were, and we are, Nothing without the Spirit/Cloud.

Moving might seem reasonable to the human mind, but without Him there is no life.  So I say, Jesus is the God of all life.  He is the Water, the River, the Bread, the Word, and the reason for all things. And we will wait on Him.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Red Cup

redcupRight after the invention of the wheel, the next big thing might be the Red Solo Cup. Just kidding, but it is interesting how reliant we have become on disposal things. It’s easier to use paper plates and expendable items than retain longer lasting articles that need attention. Cardboard, plastics, paper products, and a host of other items have lessened the time of cleanup and expanded the time of leisure. Almost everything today has a limited lifespan. This was not so a few decades ago. Things were kept; cleaned and reused over and over again. Care was taken to maintain an item for the sake of money and decency. Maintenance was a built-in expectation for the duration of the things that had value.

Society as a whole moved away from that kind of care. Today we rush through our day to get to the next thing on our busy schedule.  Relationships of every kind are treated much the same way as paper plates.  Most relationships must survive on minimal maintenance so that we can move to some pressing thing next in line.  That’s why social media is so appealing. It takes so little time to develop these shallow relationships.

Predictably, and probably inevitably, this type of rapid and abstract response toward things and people has made its way into our walk with God.  Prayer, Bible reading, and fasting never come in paper or plastic.  To be engaged with any of these three takes concentration and expense.  Hours are demanded instead of seconds; days instead of moments. Let’s face it:  Jesus takes time to maintain.  He’s more like porcelain than paper. Seeking Him with your heart and soul cannot be done through Twitter.  And finding Him?… goodness, sometimes He hides Himself in a maze that demands months of time.  Jesus is not that kind of disposable deity.  He takes time and lots of it.  David said, “early will I seek thee.”  Maybe David’s statement was more pragmatic than ideological or emotional.  Maybe David knew that it might take all day so he started out early.  The Lord spoke a parable of a bridegroom who was long in coming.  Ten virgins waited and waited; half lost concentration and ran out of oil in the days that followed.  The lesson might include the fact that anyone who wishes to join with Christ will have to devote an enormous amount of time and endurance. While its not palatable to our American quick-fix mentality, following and finding Jesus is a life-effort not a momentary junket.

I submit to you also that Jesus takes up space.  His presence consumes whatever place He occupies.  He can’t be tucked away or broken down for convenience or minimal use.  The only way that He exists in our lives is to be front and center: taking up time and energy of the believer.  He’s not a single-use Savior.  He demands attention and contemplation. His words are provoking to the point of challenging our mindsets and attitudes.  Jesus doesn’t want a Sunday affair.  He asks for a daily devotion, or as Joshua wrote, “meditating day and night on His law.”  Even walking into His house takes praise and thanksgiving.  I know that this is not necessarily congruent with our modern approach to life, but the fact of the matter is that in order to have Him we must keep Him and care for Him.  He is, after all, the most important part of life because He is Life.  In conclusion, I would offer that to have Him demands constancy, commitment, and adherence; none of which come in the form of a Red Solo Cup. Jesus must be our All in all.  He must be the Lord of all, not the Lord of some.  His purpose must be our mission and His Word must be our bread.  He is the Sun that our lives and living must revolve around.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

This is the LORD’S doing

When I see the provisions of the Lord, I stand amazed at what He has done.   The psalmist put it succinctly: Psalm 118:23  This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  From a humble beginning in a basement church in 1965 to our two campuses, God has guided our steps and made a way for our assembly.  No one could have imagined what great things the Lord had in mind. Some might have even thought it impossible.  There were meager years where both money and membership waned.  There were times of sorrow and loss when faith seemed all but depleted.

Yet God kept us and led us to this place.  What began as a vision became a reality, and the vision was not just for a building, it was for reaching souls.  In fact, we said that this was “More than a Building.”  It would be a house where the hurting would be healed; the weary would find strength; the lost might be found.  We saw a place where families were mended and the Gospel would take center stage.  We saw the building as the Crossroads of Life, not just a place to occupy.  God gave us this building and the property. God made it possible for us to have the necessary funds to finance the construction even when the original loan was not sufficient. God drew the people to join in worship and it was He Who poured out His Spirit and Love upon all those that entered the doors.  The scripture bears witness: Acts 17:28  For in him we live, and move, and have our being…” 

ThankYouwebEverything that has been done is of the Lord.  Every chair and table; desk and microphone was the blessing of the Lord.  Every good and perfect gift, which includes this campus and all the parking places, came from God.  So we say “Thank You” to our Father who has given us these many wonderful years and we pray that we might use it for His glory until the day He returns.  To God be the Glory now and forever.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Loose him, and let him go

John 11:44  And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them,Loose him, and let him go.

Lazarus was a personal friend of Jesus.  It is without question that Jesus stayed at the house in Bethany many times.  Yet when Lazarus fell sick, and seeing the lack of medical resources available, Mary and Martha sent word for Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother.  The Bible describes the Lord purposely waiting several extra days before making His way to the scene.  By the time that Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. They said, “by this time he stinketh.”  

This was as pivotal juncture in the ministry of Jesus, but equally as important in the life of every believer.

The lessons here are literally layered in a fashion too grand for this small communique.  Yet I point to the Voice of the Master Who called Lazarus from the grave and the things that Jesus did not do.  Jesus told them to roll back the stone.  After He called Lazarus forth, He told them to unloose him; unravel his grave clothes and set him free.  Jesus, Who raised the dead, could have rolled back the stone all by Himself.  He could have unraveled those grave clothes by the sound of His own Voice.  He certainly had the power to set Lazarus free without anyone stepping forward, but herein lies the lesson for the church: He will transform them – resurrect them – but we must untangle them. He will give them a new spirit, but we must remove the obstacles from their path and untangle their remaining constraints.   I urge us all to do the work that the Lord has left for us to do.  He will bring them out, but we must usher them in.  He will breathe new life into them, but we must work to provide them a place. This is the call to the church.  It is our mission to seek and restore lost souls.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

New Direction

newdirection

Repentance is a widely used term in most denominational settings.  Christians far and wide begin and end with this concept.  Most think that it means saying that we are sorry for what we have done wrong.  While this is part of the process, repentance is really “an about face.”  It is a turning away from our past life of sin.  Repentance is akin to the first sacrifice made as they entered the Tabernacle or Temple.  Paul reminded us that the Gospel included His death which we find in repentance. Peter preached Repentance, baptism of water in Jesus’ name, and baptism of the Holy Ghost in Acts 2.  Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see or enter Heaven a person must be born again of water and of the Spirit.  The Lord also said that unless we repent we would all likewise perish.

When we repent, there is response from the throne of God.  We remember our past life.  We see the scars that sin has left behind.  There may be unpaid debts or words that must be offered  after our moment of repentance, but while we remember, God does not.

Jesus carried our shame, but He cleanses us through Repentance and the waters of Baptism.  Then comes the word painting of David:  Psalm 130:3 (NIV)  If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 

Psalm 130:3 (MSG)  “If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?

The difference between God and those without love, according to I Corinthians 13:5, is that God keeps no record of wrongs.  If God would allow Himself to remember, then none of us would survive. The prophet said it right:   Micah 7:19  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.  We call it God’s Sea of Forgetfulness.  This is the beauty of our Savior. I give you Jesus!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

to live is …

While perusing through the plethora of Christian material, I discovered something glaringly absent.  There were insights into family; marriage restoration; stewardship and finance material, but nothing about Prayer and Fasting.  It provoked me to investigate books written about self-sacrifice and I found very few. Gethsemane where Jesus accepted the cup of sorrow was not found.  Power over sin?  check.  Livin’ the Good life?  check.  Being an Overcomer? yes.  I found the secrets to Giving and how we can expect grand blessings in return.  What I did not find was Paul’s admonition that becoming a living sacrifice was called “reasonable.”  I did not find the modern version of Abraham’s mountain trek to lay Isaac on an altar.  It’s just too far from for our thinking.

toliveisAmerican Christianity has absorbed too many prosperity sermons to yearn for less-than living.  Paul’s view of life and death is a foreign subject to our religious culture.  He said,“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  We think that to die is sad and pitiful.  Death is almost viewed as punishment against those that remain, except if our loved one is very sick and in pain.  Then we say that it was better not to be in pain, but that is not Bible.  The early church viewed death in Christ as the accomplishment of life.  Hear the scripture.  Ecclesiastes 7:1-4  A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.  It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.  Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. I offer a counterculture. It is Christocentric which offers Eternal life through sacrifice.  It offers a crown through a cross and life through death.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Healing is three-fold

After reviewing the course of our lives and the things the past has brought about, it is clear that many of us are dealing with hurt levied against us.  A damaged root is not always the fault of the wounded.  Nevertheless, issues remain and may cause lifelong struggles.  Life has a way of grounding even the most positive person.  Yet as we will learn through the scripture, God has the remedy for all afflictions. The Lord knew the heart and conflict of people.  The Creator prepared the way for full redemption even before we came to be.  He redeemed us from sin and the affect of it long before we were born.

Isaiah prophesied about this Savior:  He was “wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.”  Isaiah 53:5.  Jesus was both wounded and bruised.  He took on Himself the cumulative pain of the world when He drank the cup of death. Wounds are considered cuts from without.  They are punctures of the skin and muscle, sometimes even more severe, that cause extreme blood loss.  Bruising is not considered a wound as it is revealed through the inner broken blood vessels that show up under the thin layer of skin.  With bruising, the muscle and bone suffer the heavy hit that tenderizes the tissue. Sometimes bruising takes longer to heal than wounds.  Jesus suffered both.  He took it all on Calvary so that we could be free.  He was wounded and bruised for the sins of mankind.  Every internal conflict as well as every open sin was placed upon His body.   He was the Lamb of God that took away sins, shame, heartache, abuse, confusion, abandonment, and so much more.  It was the greatest redemption plan in human history; that God Himself would become a man and die for us.

bandagecrossed

The way for us to be healed is three-fold:  First we must ask and then accept His forgiveness for our lives.  He doesn’t hate us for the things we have done wrong. He is full of love and compassion. God is slow to anger, slow to wrath and of great kindness.  When we repent and bring ourselves before Him, He forgives us.  Repentance means an about face. We turn away from our old life to follow Him.  Secondly, we must learn how to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes.  There is no condemnation like self-condemnation.  This is the place where we are overcome with feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, and humiliation, but herein lies the beauty of the scripture.  1 John 3:20  For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

Finally, we must learn how to forgive others.  Even if they don’t ask for it; if they won’t admit to their infractions against us, we must learn how to forgive them openly and personally.  We cannot receive forgiveness from Christ if we do not sincerely forgive those who have wounded us. The Cross of Calvary is the clearest picture of this kind of forgiveness. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Forgiveness then becomes the healing balm for every wounded and bruised life.  When we forgive others of their wrongs we not only release them, but we also set ourselves free.  The roots of our lives can become healed which in turn creates the fruit of peace, patience, and mercy.  If these things do not exist, then we must go back to the root and work to restore what is damaged. Jesus said that all men shall know that we are His by the fruit that we bear. He didn’t say “by the leaves” or by some personal commentary. We are known by our fruit. This means that we must seek every level of forgiveness in order to walk upright before the Lord. How wonderful it will be when our lives match our profession!  Speaking the truth in love that we may grow up in Him.  We are Taking Root.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Nuclear family

At the most basic level, a healthy Family is critical to a healthy church.  In fact, the family unit, also called the nuclear family, is the basic building block of all peoples, nations, and lands.  There is no other structure that can take the place of the Family.  God’s first institution was the marriage and that marriage was intended to result in the Family. Therefore the Root of a strong Church is a strong Family.  There is no such thing as a healthy church filled with dysfunctional families.  If we are to let our light shine unto men, then it must begin at home.  Fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, single parents, grandparents all share in this mission to create a healthy, vibrant, and positive root system so that the Light of Christ might be seen in this dark world.  The responsibility of the healthy root is the basis of our witness and ultimately our ability to reach lost souls.

fatherwithchildbylake

The appearance of a Christian family should be an overspill of what is beneath.  Leaves might look good, but if there is not fruit, then there is no help to others.  If we are known by our fruit then it must begin in places that cannot be seen:  Prayer. Devotion. Bible reading. The fruit suffers without prayer.  In fact, a life without prayer and devotion creates an unstable life.  In a recent nationwide survey we found less than 10% of churchgoers spend more than 10 minutes of prayer a month.  Many said that outside of praying over dinner, they pray only when they attend church and that for a brief time.  Obviously the Root of Prayer is weak.  Anemic prayers create weak families which results in a lack of Faith. Open power and anointing are borne in private prayer and devotion.  No wonder why people feel so empty in times of trouble; they have no root to draw from.  For these reasons it is imperative to plant deep roots for the sake of our families, our church, and this great Gospel.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole