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

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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.

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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.

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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

The Root was pride …

Carelessly Esau sold his birthright away for a bowl of soup.  Notwithstanding Jacob’s deception or Rachel’s complicity, Esau did not live a sober life.  He was so confident in himself that he considered his own ability greater than his priceless birthright.  Unfortunately at the end he found himself empty and without the final blessing of his father. The Root was pride. Arrogance made him numb to the value of the birthright.  A haughty spirit possessed him as it does in so many people who think that they can recover, regardless of their flippant approach to the most sacred things in life.  Esau worked on the outward, disregarding the inward and it cost him everything.

Consider Samson.  He disrespected his parents and their years of commitment regarding his life.  He dishonored the Lord’s anointing as he played the game of power and retribution against the Philistines.  In the end,  Samson lost his anointing; his eyesight, and his life.  The root was much the same as Esau.  Both ignored a root issue that metastasized into a perilous moment.  Paul said 1 Corinthians 10:12  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

The Lord’s Prayer considered this point when Jesus said, “Pray,  …give us this day our daily bread…”  It was meant as a reliance upon God.

Jesus knew that not all needed food.  He knew that not all were hungry, but this was meant as a confession that even our most basic needs come from God.  It was a statement of humility that declared without Him we have nothing. The Root was the acknowledgement of God!  All things came from Him. He is the source of all things.  Acts 17:28  For in him we live, and move, and have our being…”  If we can get the Root right; the one where God is the center and we acknowledge that He provides all anointing and blessing, then we will thrive and flourish.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Take Root

2 Kings 19:30  And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward.

Isaiah will repeat this prophetic word in his self-titled book.  The promise was simple:  Those that remain faithful; dutiful; retaining the covenant from old time, shall take root downward which will be manifest outwardly or upwardly.  Within the prophecy lies a basic truth that mirrors the Law of Harvest and in that law lies the Root.  The Root is the origin, the genesis, the tuber that brings life and nutrients to the trunk and then to the leaves.  What we see in both fruit and leaves is enabled by the Root system.  Concerning ourselves with the outward only will never remedy the issue that lies beneath. It begins with the Root.  Our lives are similar.  If our Root system is healthy and strong, then it will be revealed.

takerootA downward root will manifest itself in an upward fruit.  Yet lives without strong Roots always find conflicts above the surface.  Families with little or not godly Roots become spiritual nomads, birthing confusion instead of confidence in Christ. Single issue people develop over time because there is nothing below to balance their lives.  In the next four weeks we will investigate Root causes to conflicts; Root remedies; Scriptural understandings of the Church and the Family; the difference between a Leafy Life and a Fruit-bearing one, and much more.  Our quest is to be solid and stable or as Paul wrote:   1 Cor.15:58  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” 

We are on a mission to make our calling and election sure. We are seeking a life pleasing to the Lord that will manifest itself above.  For that reason I submit:  Take Root.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Freedom came at a cost …

America is 240 years old this year. The earliest settlement began May 14, 1607 in a place called Jamestown.  Before that this land was occupied by natives and tribes of people who lived here and raised their families in their traditional way.  America has a rich heritage hosting opportunities and windows of possibilities.  Through the course of time and the belief in natural law, we established ourselves upon religious principles. Those biblical fundamentals guided this land with a clarity until a few decades ago.  With the abolishment of slavery, voting rights for women, and the progress made through the civil rights movement, America began correcting its course.  While there is much more to do, it was the belief in God’s Word that guided us in those course corrections. His love was to be shed abroad to all men and women. America did not strive to simply rectify her own issues.  She looked to the world and offered her sons and daughters in a sacrificial way.  No country in world history has done more on the behalf of other countries like ours.  No one has ever offered itself in blood and sacrifice for the unknowns like America . Liberty drove us to help those in need across the oceans way.  Those overarching principles drew us into world conflicts as we fought for the same freedoms we enjoyed at home.  The principles of liberty and individual freedom is seen in the countless graves in Europe, the Baltics, the Middle East and beyond.  Freedom came at a cost. Not just for us, but for the world. I stand thankful for our country.  God gave us this land and the opportunities which we so richly enjoy. I am thankful for the men and women I’ll never meet who paid the price and who died to give us this land of liberty. Most of all I pray that God would still bless America and that we would be a nation He can bless.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
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The Value of Forever

Quick.  What is the most valuable thing you can think of?  Gold?  Diamonds?  Rubies?  How about property somewhere in Manhattan?  I would concur that each hold great value. but Jesus asked the most probing question of all pertaining to worth and value.  He asked, “What would a man give in exchange for his soul?”  The fact is that the soul is the most valuable thing in this world.  Not land or jewels; not money or precious metals.  All of those things will one day fade from view, but the soul of mankind will exist forever.  If we are truthful in our answer to this critical question, then our reply must be that nothing is worth that exchange. The rapture will happen and I submit that we are very close to that moment. So to strive to keep your life free from sin and ready for heaven is the greatest quest of all.  Partial participation in God and in church is the same as complete disassociation. Consider I Peter 4:18 “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” This subject of salvation is no trivial matter. It’s not a passing conversation. It demands attention and rightly so. Nothing in this life is worth missing the rapture.  Nothing rises above hearing the last trump of God and being caught away as the Bride of Christ. 

Not for us only, but we are keenly aware of the lost souls of our community.  We reach for every sinner.  We seek for every wounded and hurting heart to find these altars of repentance and restoration.  The Lord’s Great Commission is our common mission because we value their eternal existence as well as our own.

No one can afford to forfeit that moment which Paul called “the catching away”  for any amount of pleasure or worldly pursuits.  Our careers which seem so important today will soon be nothing juxtaposed against eternity. Our hobbies which consume our days will be cast aside as fading flowers in that moment when the Lord returns. In fact, everything you see today or this week will have no value at all when He splits the eastern sky.  

I once believed that the church held to the rapture, but I am concerned how many are making massive investments in things that are temporal at best.  It seems we have moved away from preparing ourselves as Jesus taught in His parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  Christians seem out of focus with the Cause of Christ; the subject of salvation; and that inevitable moment which is called “that Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.”  Financial ambitions might be acceptable in the right context, but even the loftiest of goals pale in the face of the never-dying soul. 

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Educational pursuits, vacations, home purchases, and all things noble cannot match The Value of Forever. Surely we are not trading our soul for these things. 

I wonder if we have been enchanted by the pleasures of this world so much that we have fallen asleep in the Light. I wonder if routine; the busyness of the day; and the cares of this life have overwhelmed so that we no longer think about Heaven and Hell.  I’m not talking about sinful things, just life.  Paul writes to lay aside every sin and weight that so easily besets us.  Weight and sin are two different things, but they both lead us to the same place:  Away from God.  Sin is non-negotiable. It’s being separate from a holy God, but weight is more obscure.  It not only binds us, but it constrains our pursuit of Christ. Weight is more easily negotiated.  We make excuses for our weights, but not a few have succumb to the seduction of permissible pursuits without ever realizing their affects: A diminishing prayer life, Bible time, and distance from the altar.  We must return to living a sober life, looking for His appearing, and preparing ourselves for the day when our souls shall be counted.  It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“We would see Jesus”

John 12:21  The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

It was a great feast which hosted a large number of people. These feasts might be considered festivals with visitors coming from surrounding cities. Attractions and readily available merchandise lined the narrow, cobblestoned streets, but of all the things accessible, the Greeks sought out Jesus.  “We would see Jesus.”  Philip went to Andrew, who in turn took action.  These traveling Greeks bypassed the celebration and festivities.  They seemed uninterested in the temporal times afforded them.  They just wanted to see the Lord. This is the desire of the lost soul. Whether they are aware or not; whether they can consciously make that statement or not, they are desperate to see Him!  Yet the only Jesus they are going to see is us.  Yes, we are the image of Christ on the earth.  We are the ones to whom He gave the commission.  We are His hands, His feet, His mouth.  If the world is going to see Jesus today, they will see Him through the people called by His name.

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The burden on the church is at an all time high.  Never has the darkness overshadowed the world like it is today.  Our society is morally bankrupt; spiritually adrift; and emotionally damaged.  While religion has grown, the Word has faded. Christianity must become full of Christians again.  Spirit filled and Spirit-led churches must function under the integrity of the Word so that the Spirit can move.  When the light grows strong enough, lost souls will make their way toward it, but if the church lives like the world, there will be no reason for the lost to seek out this great salvation. We want to see Jesus, but more than that, we want to live in His image so the world can see Him too.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole