Running of the Bulls

In case you missed it, Puerto de San Lorenzo’s fighting bulls were running through the cobblestone streets of Pamplona, Spain last week. Multiple bulls with an average weight of 1300+ pounds were racing around bends and curves while revelers ran ahead and beside. On the second day of the running, several people were injured. Medics were on site to care for those left bleeding and wounded. The years of running with the bulls have left many gored; some suffered head injuries, broken bones and other issues not soon repaired.

Regardless of the warnings, thousands gather to feel the rush of adrenaline as they dodge the pointed horns of these monstrous beasts. Everyone who hops the barricade to enter this chaotic scene knows the danger they are facing. It’s not a mystery that a 180 pound man is no match for a massive bull running full speed.

The question is “why”? Tradition comes to mind. Thrill seekers could answer the question, I suppose. Why would people intentionally put themselves in the path of a running bull? Why take the chance of being impaled by the horns of an angry animal? The bull has no feelings. He has no sympathy for the fools who stand in his way. Regardless of how many are injured this year; regardless of the bloodstained streets and forever-injuries, next year will be no different.

Solomon wrote of a man who stood in the street and said that a lion was there to devour him. He knew the danger, but did nothing to change his location. He just stood there, waiting to die. Paul said that the “wages of sin is death.” There is no mystery that sin devours the soul. Sin separates us from God and creates lasting pain. Nevertheless, we hear little of it because no one wants to feel bad about their poor behavior. The 21st Century Christian has modernized the definition of sin in order to cope with guilt.

Still yet, I rise to say, “Walk in the Light as He is in the Light.” Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. You’ll never survive running in the way of danger. Jesus is calling for a separated Church. I pray we can hear the voice of the Spirit. Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Cost Of Heaven

In light of popular prosperity doctrines and preachers, I wonder how many are being led astray by their false narrative.  While some post-modern pulpits promote gain and glory, could it be that God’s grace and goodness is even more profound in loss and suffering?  I submit it to be so.

The Lord’s great desire is to save us.  His purpose is for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  He did not die so that we could have a better job or more vacation time.  The Cross of Calvary was not intended to offer us a pain-free life.  It was meant to rescue the soul from sin; an atonement through the Blood.  Jesus came to give us Life and in the purview of the Almighty, our eternal salvation is far more important than any temporal thing.

Christianity was never meant to provide worldly success.  The single focus is to be saved when the Trump of God sounds.  All of which begs the question, “What will it take for you to be saved?” Because trouble and loss might be the vehicle to lift you out of this world.  Tribulation and suffering might be the only thing that drives you toward Heaven.  What difference would it make if you gained the whole world and lose your soul?  What good would it do if you are comfortable here, but you miss the rapture?

Please don’t misunderstand: I’m happy if you are blessed in this temporal life.  I rejoice at the testimonies of material blessings.  Praise God for increase!  I am thankful for the provisions that come from the Lord, even if they are temporal.  However, none compare to that Great and Terrible Day of the Lord when He shall split the eastern sky with a heavenly host.

I want you to be blessed, but not at the expense of your eternity.  I hope that your businesses grow and you are able to afford new things.  I’m happy if you are equipped with knowledge and that your stewardship is sound.  However, if you forfeit your prayer life, church attendance, and ultimately your salvation, then all of your accomplishments are a detriment to the eternity that awaits you.  If gain comes at the cost of heaven, then your gain is a reproach to the Cross.

This is the temporal versus the eternal.  This is the only thing that matters.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Carnal Christianity

It must have been a tense moment when Jesus rebuked Peter. The Lord and His disciples had gained the attention of the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. The sick had been healed; the blind received their sight and lepers were cleansed. However, when Jesus began to reveal to His disciples what manner of death He would suffer, Peter scolded the Lord. In fact, Peter said, Matthew 16:22 “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get thee behind me Satan, for you do not understand the things of God.” The only other time Jesus said “Get thee behind me Satan” was when He actually addressed Satan in the wilderness. Luke 4:8

Peter was so filled with success that he failed to see Purpose. He was so consumed with the favorable outcome, perhaps affluence, that he stumbled over the Will of the Father. The sins of the world hung in the balance, but Peter only saw their momentary popularity. He was carnal. His mind was corrupted insomuch that Jesus likened him to Satan.

Paul wrote, Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. The carnal mind chokes out the Purpose of the Kingdom. It looks inward to appease the flesh. It removes believers out of worship and sacrifice and buries them in gossip, lust, and pride. Sadly, many who are overcome with carnality do not know how far away they are from the Kingdom.

The media, with its worldly content, is not to blame. Hollywood, while a continual source of degradation, is not to blame. Bad influences, offenses from other believers, or even spiritual darkness bears no responsibility. Carnality is a choice. We chose light or we chose darkness. We will either reject the world or receive it.

Paul went so far as to say that the carnal mind is hostile toward God. I see this in real time as people scoff at modest lifestyles and outward holiness standards. They are carnal. I see this when Pentecostals profess faith with their mouth, but have no works to prove it. Carnal Christianity is on the rise as more people watch television than pray; as more seek pleasure than offer their bodies as a living sacrifice.

The Spirit is calling us deeper. We must choose to be holy, righteous, and set a part. We must contend for the Faith that was once delivered. This is a war that we must win. Anything that leads us away from total commitment must be removed from our lives. Any weight that besets us must be set aside. It is time for us have the mind of God.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“no-shows”

Luke 14:18 But they all alike began to make excuses. (NIV)

The wedding season is upon us. It’s a beautiful thing to consider the bride and groom with all the pageantry: Guests are invited; food is prepared; and a host of plans are made in light of the special day. I have heard a few remarks, however, about the disappointment of “no-shows.” Something came up and someone missed the wedding. After invitations were sent out and tables were set, the expected guests were missing.

The parable of Luke 14 is not so far removed from our day. Jesus said that a special banquet was prepared and guests were invited. Nevertheless, one by one each had an excuse why they could not attend. One guest said that he had some property to inspect, while another offered the excuse of a pressing business purchase. All of them had an excuse.

Ultimately, the value of the prepared banquet did not rise above their personal endeavors.

We have excuses too. There are many reasons why people are not committed to the church. I’ve heard a long list of reasons why church members do not attend Wednesday Bible Study class. Others have told me how difficult it is to make it back for Sunday Evening worship. The list goes on and on from church fellowships to prayer meetings to serving.

The real issue comes down to priorities. It might just be my age, but I’ve seen enough to know that everyone does what they want to do. Nothing more. Nothing less. Seeing that values vary, the “banquet” i.e., the church, worship, involvement, is left for those who believe that Kingdom work is greater than everything else.

I’ll mince no words here: Jesus said, Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. This is the only way we can tell the intentions of the heart. The treasure is time, effort, energy, passion… perhaps finances. Intentions do not reveal the heart. It’s what we do that reveals what we value. Excuses? Well… there are many. Anyone can make an excuse.

Jesus called the banquet, “a great supper” Luke 14:16. Jesus spoke of it as supreme, critical, and all-encompassing. When the original guests did not come, the Master sent his servant to the highways and hedges, which simply means that the table will be full. Someone will come. It might not be the original invitees or those who think they are qualified. Someone will come and those who do will be given a place by the Lord Himself that His Word may complete, “so that my house will be full.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Father’s

Maybe you’ve notice that the biological debate of paternalism has found new footing. With a rise in blended families, divorce, and remarriage, America is dealing with parenting and guardianship. However, our generation is not the first to confront this challenge. In fact, history tells us that both the Civil War of the mid-1860’s and World War 2, which ended September 2, 1945, had to confront this pressing issue. Missing fathers caused an upheaval in the aftermath of war that could not be denied. Almost 1.3 million men died in the Civil War, which left a major deficit in the structure of the home and family. Father figures (grandfathers, uncles, and other relatives) were pressed to take up the mantle of leadership. It was the only way to keep some cohesion of the nuclear family.

In more recent times, the dilution of the family unit has caused a plethora of unresolved issues. America is learning the hard way that children need a “father” in their lives. The absence of the male voice has caused a ripple effect in crime, poverty, and overall disciplines. There is no debate that the role of dad is much greater than just procreation. It takes more than just reproducing to be counted as a covering over children.

Thankfully, while the biological father might be missing or absent, other “dads” have stepped up. We never see this more wonderfully displayed than in the church.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, we recognize men who lead. Regardless of DNA, the blessing of fatherhood is clearly seen in the lives of so many families. Perhaps one of the great responsibilities of the church is to meet the needs of children and young people who do not have a paternal voice in their life. Men that lead are in high demand and I am confident that there are many who grace this house that fulfill that need.

Nevertheless, when our combined efforts fall short, the scripture tells us that God Himself will be a “father to the fatherless” Psalms 68:5. The Lord never leaves anyone out. He always makes up the difference. So as we give recognition to Father’s Day, let it be known that we are grateful for every man who takes the time to lead; give of their time; and offer wisdom and love to those around them.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“precious ointment”

Perhaps it missed our purview that the land of Israel is the only country that touches three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. Israel was not only the land promised by God, but it also served as the bridge to international trade. It’s important to note such a thing when reading Mark chapter 14. The scripture speaks of a woman of ill repute entering a house and pouring ointment of spikenard on the head of Jesus. Spikenard was a costly aromatic anointing oil extracted from an East Indian plant. Obtaining an alabaster box full of the ointment was not an easy task, which explains its high value. Judas described its worth as a “years’ wages.”

Most colognes today are not made with oil extracts. Chemical compounds can give a pleasant scent, but they do not invoke the same attention as the more expensive oil compound and they fade rather quickly. The oil, however, is a sustaining smell not soon forgotten.

The spikenard was not only a rare and sought after fragrance, but it was strong enough to saturate the whole house. Dinner just wasn’t the same after Mary came to call. The house was filled with her passion, repentance, and broken spirit. The pharisees took up the cause and murmured about her and what they considered the inappropriate scene. The disciples were most shocked by the move. Judas’ thoughts went to waste and money. Simon, the host, had to consider his own failure of not washing the feet of Jesus.

One woman with a precious ointment changed the entire mood and conversation of the house. Her brokenness filled the whole room.

Psalm 51 gives us both direct imagery and instruction by comparison.
David wrote that the sacrifices of God are a broken heart: “a broken spirit, O God thou wilt not despise.” We not only know what the sacrifices are, but by deductive reasoning, we know what they are not. Unmoved hearts and unbroken spirits cannot approach the altar. Indifference won’t find room before the Lord. Religious platitudes have all become benign. It’s the broken spirit that changes the order of the service. One desperate person seeking God can change the room with a fragrance not soon removed.

I pray today that you will come before Him. Give the best you have and open your heart to His love. Not only will you be blessed, but the church itself will change as you anoint the Lord with your “precious ointment.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Restoration

Earth science describes the difference between erosion and weathering. While both change the landscape of the earth, one simply moves material from one place to another and the other breaks down material (rocks and soil) without movement. These changes occur over long spans of time except for catastrophic events. The more major the event, e.g., earthquake or flood, the quicker the change.

Finances are relatable in so many ways. Massive shifts in gains or losses make for quick movements up or down the financial ladder. An inheritance or some windfall can bolster the status of any family while medical bills or a major loss can cripple them. The not so popular method of small investments also adds to the home, but the benefits are not readily seen.

In most cases, the human expression is to seek the immediate change. We are creatures of habit, looking for a quick fix to our situation. People in every age and culture have desired swift resolutions to life-long problems. The lottery has been around for a long time.

John 9 is a showcase of God’s immediate power. He can heal in a moment of time. God can deliver those that are bound in the blink of an eye; give provision in a single day; or resurrect the dead by a solitary word. He is able to do more than we can imagination. However, there is another way of healing which leads us to the thought of restoration. That truth is found in Mark 8.

John 9 is the instant miracle. The man washed his eyes “and came seeing.” John 9:7. Mark 8 is a progressive healing. The blind man in Mark 8 did not receive an immediate change. Though Jesus had the power to heal in an instant, there was a life lesson offered to all who would receive it. Here’s the Word: Mark 8:25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.

Restoration is a little different than the immediate miracle. Restoration entails change over time. It is the reworking of the human spirit; mending of the wounded places of life. Sometimes it happens so subtly we cannot see it for its great worth. Over time, a restored life is one where old things are removed and replaced by the new. Over time, the restored family, home, marriage, or individual finds strength and faith they never had before.

I pray for a John 9 moment in your life. We will rejoice and shout when it happens. God can! Nevertheless, I want to be careful to recognize the change over time and rejoice all the same. Some who read this are in process. You are being restored and that is just as powerful and wonderful as the immediate change. You have come so that Jesus can once more put His hands on you.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Celebrated Day

The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865. It claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and subsequently required the establishment of our country’s first national cemeteries. While families gathered to remember their fallen loved ones, the national scene also took notice. On May 5, 1866, Waterloo, New York became the birthplace of what we now know as Memorial Day.

It was celebrated, but not in the way of triumph or rejoicing. This celebration was felt in tones of the heart that gave thanks for the many men and women who died in battle serving our country. The number of fallen soldiers now line the fields of honor from wars over the span of these many years. Waterloo was only the beginning of remembrance.

I suppose that somewhere in this narrative a skilled orator might pull a Biblical application for the delight of the reader. I confess that it is my most natural instinct. Nevertheless, I wish only to say “thank you” to the tens of thousands who gave their life for my freedom. Our liberties did not come easy; they were purchased by the blood of people we will never know. The plight of our nation is made possible by the choice of so many; we can barely imagine the loss.

The World Wars were supposed to bring an end to the earth’s conflicts, but we know that no such thing can exist. The cost of freedom will grow and we will live, hopefully, free from tyranny. The ability of the church to thrive in this country rests on the shoulders of freedom bearers. The liberty to worship without governmental oversight or mob rule has allowed us the privilege to both gather and evangelize our communities. Many nations do now allow evangelism and in some countries, it is illegal to be converted to Christianity. We don’t know how blessed we truly are.

Graves tell the story. Those lined nameless, white crosses represent the men and women who paid the price for our religious freedom. Moreover, Memorial Day, while it boasts of car races, baseball games, and backyard barbecues is really about honoring the fallen who protected the unsuspecting citizen.

Perhaps too little attention is given to the reason for this “celebrated day.” Maybe the lack of knowledge has caused us to lose the feeling of hushed tones and broken hearts. Waterloo is a place of memorial that launched a bid for reverence. Each year on Memorial Day there is a national time of remembrance, which occurs at 3:00 pm local time. It is a moment of silence that gives pause to the noise of aimless ambition and helps us know that someone, somewhere, spilled their life’s blood for our sake. We honor you, our fallen hero.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

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