Selfless Directive

JFK’s best quote has been debated for a few decades. I tend to lean toward this one: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” While Kennedy probably took the quote from a private school professor where he attended, the truth behind the words are profound. The statement is a selfless directive. It rebuts the consumer mentality which has afflicted our age. Jesus lived the life that embodied the idea of selflessness. The disciples’ deaths, found in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, describe the same. They were not self-seeking or egocentric. They were constantly thinking about the Body, the Church, and the Kingdom. The early church itself had this mentality. They were men and women who did not come to consume or take, but rather came to give. They gave of themselves in every way and mostly in time and in prayer.

Our nation was founded on the same concept. The cost of our freedom was laid on the backs of people who made the ultimate sacrifice. Most of their names lay hidden beneath the plethora of conveniences which we now enjoy. Even today, as we come together to worship, we are standing in a place of liberty, borne out by spiritual men and women. The church exists because of the labor of love wrought by the hands of families and ministries concealed by time and distance.

My great desire is to offer God something that comes at a cost. I hope that you might find the satisfaction in the same. As odd as it might sound to the carnal mind, the more I give of my life to the things of the church, the more thankful I am to be a part of the church. The investment of prayers and fastings, the time and energy given away has only embedded my desire for the things of God. This is our mantra, that the commission of Jesus Christ guides our ambitions. This is our heritage that people died to provide us this great Gospel. This is our desire to be wholly centered on the Lord and let the world go its way.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

No Room for “Common”

Num 11:29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

It was a moment of correction when Moses spoke the above text to a young and perhaps naive Joshua. God was about to anoint 70 leaders with the spirit of Moses, but two of the men were not present. In short, Joshua thought that the two men should not qualify because they had not made it into the Tabernacle, but instead, were outside among the people in the camp. Moses spoke a word that transcended time when he wished that the entire congregation would become prophets and spiritual leaders, not just the 70 men.

By the time John the Baptist entered the scene, a clear separation had occurred. It was etched in their mind that only a few would be “prophets” or spiritual leaders while the rest would become common. Interestingly enough, the term “laity” actually means “common.” By the 15th century most of the church world bought into the false notion that clergy and laity were separated by God. The idea of “laity” comes from the Greek “laos” meaning distinct from any priestly class. Later, the French word “laite,” taken from the Latin “laicus” solidified this idea that there should be no cross over. You were either a minister or you were common.

Moses prayed for the whole congregation to be prophets. Moses wanted the entire nation to seek after God, but they had grown accustom to a high priest and a veil. This separation removed them from their need to minister. It was not until the death of Jesus Christ that the veil was torn and the line was removed. Jesus became our Mediator and High Priest. The apostle made it clear when he wrote Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. The early church believed this truth and it caused all of them to embrace spiritual endeavors and the preaching/teaching of the Gospel. Everyone became a disciple. Everyone taught the New Birth Experience spelled out in Acts 2:38. The heartbeat of Moses had come to fruition and today we must heed those same words to become preachers and teachers. There is no room for “common”. We are all responsible to share the Truth and the name of Jesus! I say, “Would God that all the Lord’s people preached the Gospel!”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Darkness and Light

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.

Moses stood before Pharaoh and threw down his rod.  The scripture tell us that it miraculously became a serpent.  Not to be outdone, Pharaoh’s magicians used a trick of the hand to do the same; only Moses’ serpent devoured theirs.  Moses turned water into blood, which provoked the magicians to duplicate the same. Time and again the forces of darkness attempted to mirror the things of God.  Darkness always attempts to counter the Light.  Paul and Silas experienced this when they encountered a girl with the spirit of divination.  The evil spirit desired to boast of itself in the same light as the Apostle’s through revelation.

To be clear the world has things to offer.  Though it is filled with darkness, there are pleasures to be had.  Hebrews tell us that Moses chose to suffer than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.  On the surface the things of the world can even come close to the things of the church:  family, fellowship, friendships, etc.  When we read the words of Jesus in John 14:27, it is clear that Jesus knew what the world had to offer.  He didn’t say that the world offers nothing.  Jesus said, “I give not as the world gives” meaning that substance can be obtained.  The world gives security in money and finances.  The world can offer a form of peace and tranquility.  The replicas are wide and varied.  Only Jesus said that His peace was not like the world’s version.  His peace calms storms and makes raging waters tranquil.  His peace lifts us over confusion.  It is the peace that surpasses all understanding.  His security is not wrapped up in temporal things that rust or fade.  This is Lord’s Day and He has come to offer you peace and there is no parallel.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Living Sacrifice

On a weekly basis I write within these narrow margins hoping to inspire something virtuous or encouraging within this body of believers.  The scripture itself provides a plethora of subjects from faith to sacrifice and everything in between for our benefit, but today I write a warning and a truth.  May I simply say:  The Devil is a liar.  He is incapable of telling the truth.  Jesus called him the father of lies.  He is the Deceiver of mortal man and to that end we must walk uprightly and sober.  What the enemy wants more than anything is to snare the Blood-Bought Children of God.  Sure, he is after the sinner, but there is no greater trophy than those who have been Born Again of the Water and the Spirit. The enemy, your adversary, will do anything he can to steal your joy and change your focus.  It is his only mission on this earth.

While I hesitate, not wanting to give the devil credit, it is true that you and I are in the fight of our lives.  There is a battle raging even now.  Marriages are under serious attack.  Homes and children; teens and young adults are facing decisions that will determine their very destiny.  And to be sure, no one is exempt.

The Bible declares this moment will come:  Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.  This refers to the Elect of God.  Can you imagine someone filled with the Holy Ghost standing at the White Throne Judgement trying to explain their faithlessness?  The witness against them might be people who never heard the truth.  The apostle wrote that it would have been better that they had never known than to have known and turned away from it.  I hope you are catching this.  The enemy will lie to you and make you believe that your present condition is good enough to be saved.  His plot is to numb you to the conviction that once tempered your life.  His plight is to destroy every level of commitment from your walk so that you are merely lukewarm.

I know these are not comforting words, but they might just be the seed worthy enough to grow into something useful.  I feel the Holy Spirit calling out to the church today to turn back toward total commitment; total praise.  Nothing less than a Living Sacrifice will suffice in this hour.  So I call on you to pray like you’ve never prayed.  Take a day and fast.  Turn off the mass media and social media for a day or two and then open up your Bible and meditate on what you have read.  Finally, turn back to the day in which you were the most involved in the activities of the church.  Don’t let summer dictate your attendance.  Comeon Sunday night.  You need an evening sacrifice to further strengthen your life.  Hebrews 10:25 commands the assembling of the saints “so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”  The Lord is calling and I am burdened that our resolve is being strained by the cares of this life.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Potter’s House

An insight into the Mind of the Omniscient One….

Paul writes in Romans 9 that God has the authority to show mercy upon whom He will have mercy.  The apostle asks, “Who is man that he should talk back to God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”  Paul declared that God is the Potter and we are the clay. The psalmist said, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.”

The question then is ‘Can God do with us as He pleases?’  Paul asked the church if God had the authority to make something noble out of something common.  He writes, “What if God withholds His judgment against the people that are destined to be destroyed? Or What if God shows mercy on those who should be punished?”

We are filled with finality.  We see in black and white, but God is the Judge of all mankind.  He is like a potter who holds the discarded clay that is good for nothing, but decides to recreate something worthy out of it.  Everyone knows the condition of the clay. The onlooker, the other ‘pottery’ determines the clay to be unusable and worthless, but the pottery is only a creation of the potter.  Can you see it now?  How is it that we decide who is worthy of God’s promotion and who is not?  Isaiah said,  Isaiah 64:8  But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.  The prophet confessed that whatever we might become, it is the work of the Hand of the Lord. We are not our own creation.  We are only blessed to have been in His Hand.  Jeremiah’s vision revealed it so…

Jeremiah 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Crown of Thorns

Often lost in the mix of the Passover story and the wonder of an empty tomb is the process of the Lord’s sacrifice.  Before He walked up the Hill of Skulls,

Jesus was given a tightly woven crown of thorns.  Every aspect of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection speaks to both prophecy and our salvation.  Nothing happened in those 72 hours without great weight of redemption hanging in the balance.

Consider with me the multiple curses levied against Adam and Eve and upon mankind.  From pain in childbirth to headship, their departure from Eden was layered with strife.  Sin came with a price and it is never more clear than when God cursed the ground saying that it would produce thorns and thistles (Genseis. 3:18). The most basic aspect of life, food, would be difficult to obtain.  Instead of fruit and vegetables, the earth would bring forth thorns and thistles.  Thorns were always considered a curse; both on people and on the earth.

I submit for your consideration the infallible Word of God:

Hebrews 6:7  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:   Hebrews 6:8  But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Thorns remove peace.  Thorns have no nourishment.  Thorns cut and pierce. Thus pressing of the Crown of Thorns into His brow was the emblem of our mental and emotional anguish.  He paid for our peace when He wore the Crown of Thorns.  Isaiah prophesied that “the chastisement of our peace” was upon Him. (Isaiah 53)  Isaiah was writing about the pressing of the Lord’s Crown of Thorns.  Not only did the prophet speak of the Lord’s bruised, wounded, and beaten body, but he spoke about the Lord’s head covered with thorns.  Each part of the Lord’s suffering spoke to the needs of people. Thorns deal with our minds: the great battlefield of our lives. Matthew, Mark, and John wrote, “they twisted together a crown of thorns and pressed it on Him.” The scripture is replete with this image. Abraham is walking up Mount Moriah as he obeys God’s commission to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  It was the Type of Christ being sacrificed on Calvary, but on that trek, Abraham had to walk through a sea of low hanging thorns, cutting his feet and ankles.  In the end, Isaac is spared because a lamb is caught in the thistles. Thorns and Thistles. The curse and it’s redemption has come to light on the mountain of sacrifice.

Hebrews speaks to the Lord’s suffering and subsequent glory:  Hebrews 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Jesus was first crowned with Thorns.  He took the pain of our lives upon His brow.  When He walked out of the tomb, He brought with Him the victory of every pain, disease, emotional issue, anxiety, and anguish we would ever suffer.  He is the Victor.  He is the Conqueror.  He purchased our salvation and our deliverance. He also became the Prince of our Peace because He wore the chaos of our minds upon His head. He is our King Eternal, and today He wears a Crown of Honor.   Jesus is the Lord of All.  He is the Resurrection and the Life.  He is the Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

We lay down our lives

Today we remember the beginning of the ending of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. This was His triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the people shouted“Hosanna, Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.”  They tore branches from trees and laid their coats before Him.  Little did they know that He was a mere seven days from the Cross of Calvary.  Praise would soon turn to scorn; worship to slander.  The Pharisees had plotted for years and this was the final straw.  They could not afford to allow this Jesus of Nazareth any more fame.  They were losing their footing among the people and His death was the only answer.  Lost in their rage was the fact that Jesus came to die for their sins as well.  They could not see His purpose for the anger that filled their eyes.  He was a ransom for many.  He came as the Lamb of God and gave Himself on the day they called Pesach, i.e., Passover.  For centuries they had remembered the night in which God spared them.  They had eaten the lamb and recalled their salvation from Egypt, but after years of remembering the event, they missed the moment of their present Messiah.

My message revolves around the purpose of our gathering.  Worship and the Word must be more than a ritual and ceremony.  The service itself, while needful, is but a forum where the revelation of Who He is and Why He came is witnessed.  He came to save us.  He came to redeem us.  Jesus is here to pour out His Spirit upon all who seek for Him.  He is here to receive our praise, but we must not forget the meaning of the same. He brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  And for it, we do not lay down our garments or branches before him; we lay down our lives.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

I Surrender Some

A challenge is set before us.  Malachi recorded the matter succinctly when he wrote about the people of God who lived as if worship was too tiresome.  Of course the word “worship” was not referring to clapping and singing, but sacrifice, duty, and time.  God spoke against them in Malachi as they treated their relationship with Him in the most casual way.  It seems that not only did Israel bring lame and crippled lambs for sacrifice, but they also came when they wanted to and left in the same manner.  Over time, their worship became a haphazard affair.  Today we call it, “Casual Christianity.”

Casual service was far from David’s mind when he spoke about being a Doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.  The Doorkeeper was to be attentive, on time, and watchful.  There was nothing flippant about his service to the House of his God.  It was a purposeful, pointed, and altogether anticipated service. The Porter also cared for both the congregation and the holy things of God. His was no trivial matter. The Doorkeeper, the Porter, singers, and musicians believed in wholehearted worship.

The challenge today is that many have dumbed-down their church going experience.  Today we promote “come as you are” instead of coming with reverence. While I understand that everyone is welcomed regardless of how they come, there is an underlying thought that we are absolved of our responsibility to give God our best.  Remember that Moses had to take off his shoes as he approached the burning bush.  God said the ground was “holy ground.”  I say that Casual Christianity has minimized our faithfulness and flattened our expectation to see the wonders of His power.  Casual Christianity might fit into the social realm but, we come with intent before our God; giving Him our best.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A view of compassion

Cast in the frame was a picture of a little girl sitting on the edge of a sidewalk holding her favorite doll.  Her black hair ruffled against the light red coat she wore.  A small scarf dangled from the end of her sleeve as she sat with narrowed eyes and an indiscriminate smile.  I would have passed by the photo without a thought until I saw the next frame. The photographer opened his lens to reveal the wider picture.  No longer did I see a single girl aimlessly sitting on the edge of some random sidewalk.  My mind no longer made the typical assumptions of family and home.  The picture’s broadening view showed a rubbled, war-torn city.  A bloodied soldier was walking by with a bandage wrapped around his neck.  The lifeless remains of the aftermath could be seen just beyond her right shoulder, under which the half-fallen building could not hide.  Her smile no longer looked like it had in the first frame.  I wondered if it was a smile at all.  The lens pointed toward bewilderment and abandonment.

Safety was no longer part of the picture and a winter war was more certain than her casual approach to a chilly spring.

Had I only seen the first photo there would have been no stirring in my heart.   Had the photographer simply narrowed his focus and left it as such, no one would have known the real story behind this isolated child, but he gave us more and it invoked the heart and not just the head.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible speaks of the nature of Jesus Christ.  Mark 6:34  And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.

The fallacy of mankind is our judgement based upon our narrow view.  We often see so little of the picture that it makes us bypass the real story, but lives aren’t always captured in a small frame.  The casting of an entire life with all it’s entanglements, fears, losses, and pains cannot be seen in the smaller scene.  We tend to look minimally when seeing other people which keeps the mind appeased, but the heart cold.

It was the Lord’s sight and the actuality of their lives which moved Him.  He responded because He saw them through a wider lens. Jesus ministered, not based upon a passing glance or a whimsical view, but through the knowledge of their reality – they were sheep without a shepherd.  In consideration of His people who often failed Him, the psalmist wrote:  Psalm 78:38-39  But he,  being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.  God saw us in the wider frame of our true self and it provoked His mercy.

I am convinced that God loves us because of His complete view.   What I’m concerned about is the way we see one another.  Our struggle is not spiritual.  It’s a physical, natural, and common issue. We must look broader, wider; more intently to see the wider view of the lives of people.  People need our compassion which only comes with what Paul Harvey once called, The Rest of the Story. The lost need to be found; the saints need to feel wanted; the prodigal needs to feel welcomed back home.  It all comes with our view.  It is the look of compassion that comes from our look of love.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Be of Good Cheer …

Jesus prepared a young group of disciples for the Gospel mission. They were to be His voice; His hands; His feet. He spent 3 1/2 years preparing them to face the world; demonic forces; and the religious sects. And among His many lessons He said, “it is impossible, but that offenses will come!”  Jesus said that no one will bypass being offended.  No one has ever worked in the Kingdom and not been offended. Peter wrote:  1 Peter 4:12  “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”  There will be issues regardless of where you are in life.  An offense is not strange or rare.  They are common. They come to every person in every place.

My concern is not if you are offended in life. We have all felt that sting from  inside and outside the church.  Some will say something off-color or insulting.  My concern is our response to what has been done or said.  I rise to say that it’s time for the Body of Christ to realize that wounds are common to the Walk.   No one will avoid rejection, neglect, gossip, or hurt.

Jesus was wounded, bruised, despised, rejected, alone, abandoned by His men, scorned and mocked.  Paul said, 1 Corinthians 10:13  “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man…”  The word “temptation” here comes from the Greek word that means adversity.  The word adversity is synonymous with distress, crisis, and trial.  So before we believe that offenses are enough to cancel our commitment, let it be known that offenses are part and parcel of this life.  Jesus said that in this life we will have issues to face, but then He said, “be of good cheer, I have overcome them” meaning, “you can too.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole