Look unto Jesus

Upon hearing the Gospel, the Ethiopian Eunuch asked Philip the question, “What hinders me from being baptized?”  This was the opening step that led to the New Birth experience for a man of position and authority, but notice that his query came before his conversion and it entailed a “What?”  The answer of course was that nothing was in his way.  There was no reason or thing that kept him from being baptized.  For the seeker and sinner, there are many “things” that get in the way of salvation.  Before we come to obey Acts 2:38, life is in the way.  Time and material things cloud the path toward God and church attendance.  We might even think about the things that we have to give up, but after we are saved the “What” always seems to turn into a “Who.”

Paul asked the church members of Galatia the question:   Galatians 5:7  Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  The Ethiopian Eunuch talked about the What before he was converted, but Paul addressed the Who to a church already saved.

There may be many things that can keep you from serving God, but I have found that after we see the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ and we are baptized in the name of Jesus, the “Who” is the most prominent hindrance to our walk.  I’ll speak plain:  People, sometimes church people, can hinder us from running the race more than the things that come our way.  Paul opened his questions to the church in Rome the same way.  Romans 8:35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  He went on to talk about things like tribulation and famine, but his initial question focused on the Who.  For this reason I admonish you to keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t allow others to dictate your devotion.  Hebrews 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…”is the only way to stay focused.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Healthy Life

What I write to you is layered with meaning. From the fall in the Garden to this day, we all have been separated from God and from one another.  We’ve also struggled with our internal thoughts.  We began separated from God; one another, and self, meaning that we do not see ourselves correctly. Repentance is the path back to God. The love of Christ then brings us into fellowship with one another, but it is that last portion of self that is the most conflicting.

The struggle of that final separation is revealed in marriage and homes. The inner man/woman must be revealed in order for true healing to occur. Yet the most difficult perception is self-perception.  We just cannot see ourselves very well.  James wrote that it’s like a man who sees himself in a mirror, but later forgets what manner of man he was. Self-perception was destroyed when Adam disobeyed. One might contend that Adam did not know he was naked and that he did not have self-perception before the sin, but that would be an incorrect assumption.  The fact is that sin distorted his view of himself.  Disobedience revealed his nakedness, but it cloaked his heart.  He and all who would follow would wade through the mire of self-awareness.  This is why the Bible says that we must confess our sins.  We must see ourselves as sinners before we can be saved.  Religious people; church people no less struggle in this way also.  It’s hard for us to see our own expressions. While others see us; feel our spirits; hear the inflections in our voices, we have forgotten what manner of person we are. Some with biblical knowledge do not apply the scripture to their lives because they cannot see their own need.  They bypass the scripture which eventually damages the marriage and the home.  For this reason we look to the Lord to both reveal us and then to heal us. The key to all these things is our adherence to the Bible which in turns builds a healthy life.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Healthy Marriage and Home

Proverbs 18:22  Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.

Yesterday, twenty-two years ago I found a good thing.  I’ve blinked my eye and the time raced by.  She is the love of my life and I stand on the foundation that our marriage has built. From the start we were ministering to people; preaching revivals, youth camps, conventions; conducting seminars; leading churches, but the existence of our ministry came from the strength of our marriage.  If we were in dispute, our ministry suffered.  If we were in unity, our message was effective.  The basis of the external always comes from the internal love that is shared by husband and wife.  Joy and pleasure; peace and security is all wrapped up in that union.

Sadly we are living in a world that has denied this fundamental building block.  Many have rejected the truth that Marriage is the first and primary aspect of all societies, nations, and peoples.  Today our culture is focused on self, thus comes selfies, but marriage is about a bond that demands selflessness.  A healthy marriage results in a healthy home.  In turn, a sound and spiritually secure marriage produces God-centered children.  While a host of people are working on bettering their children, they have forsaken the primary aspect of their marriage which is counterintuitive to the goal.  After a thousand books on marriage, it is incredible that the Bible is still the only book that covers the subject completely. God ordained this union as the image of Christ and the Church.  He gave it to mankind for the perpetuation of civilization and to have dominion over the earth.  Our world is far from this truth because they are far from God.  Today we focus on the first part of our vision:  A Healthy Marriage and Home.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

I sought the Lord

Exodus 33:7  And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp.

In the text we know that the first tabernacle was not placed in the middle of the people; it was “afar off from the camp.”  To seek God, they had to leave their dwelling and make the journey. Though everyone was invited, Moses did not make it convenient.  Prayer, supplication, and intercession was all a part of that first tabernacle which was also called the Tent of Meeting.  It predated the Tabernacle of Moses which held the Table of Shewbread; the Golden Candlestick, and the Ark of the Covenant.  This was a common place of prayer where everyone could make a conscious effort to come and pray.

I suppose that if there is a single thing that most separates us from every other generation, it is this matter of convenience.  Jeroboam’s words echo in my ear, 1 Kings 12:28  “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.” Prayer and sacrifice; time and money; consecration and fasting have all been measured out like grain on a scale.  On the other side lies the heavy weight of convenience and options.  All of us enjoy the pleasures of technology. All of us look for ways to make life a little easier.  Yet there are some things that must be pursued with fervency and will not come with comfort.  Seeking the face of God; fasting food; an hour of prayer are all resisted by the flesh. The carnal nature will reject them and seek for something else, but if we are to find Him in the depth of His Spirit, we will have to humble ourselves and follow that well-worn path laid out by Moses; “everyone which sought the Lord went out…”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Invisible War

1 Pet 4:12  Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:   To be sure, the enemy of your soul will do whatever he can to bring destruction to your life. We know that The Battlefield is the mind and there are no limits to which the enemy will go to replace our faith with doubt. Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:”  John 10:10

Every step we make toward God is a step away from the grip of the enemy and in return there is resistance in the spirit world.  Every godly commitment will be met by a challenge of will. Every move of holiness will be treated with contempt by the enemy of your life.  This tug-a-war exists in the realm of our thoughts and contemplations.  To this end, we pray a hedge of protection around our minds and thoughts.

This is not new as people of all ages have fought through this battle. In 1965, Donald Barnhouse wrote more thoroughly about it in his book, “The Invisible War.” The author called this war intense, saying that Satan never plays fair and the battle is unrelenting. Barnhouse wrote that the reason this war is so fierce is that your mind is your greatest asset.  It’s no wonder then why Paul penned “…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, just, pure, lovely; are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.   Phil 4:8

We control the input. We are compelled  to guard our eyes, mind, and heart.  And the reason for this biblical admonition is this: The Invisible War is raging.

Prayer and fasting; reading the scripture and good communication build the hedges and fences that protect our mind.  The enemy will enter through any avenue we give him.  That is why we are commanded to “take every thought into captivity” 2 Cor 10:5.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Judge me…

When Jesus said in Matt. 7, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” He was talking about condemning others. In this case, “Judge” comes from the Greek word “krino” which means to condemn, punish, or avenge.  The Bible also uses the word “Judge” when it speaks of making a determination.  This “Judge” comes from the Greek word “diakrino” which means to separate thoroughly; to withdraw from, or discern and make a determination.  In respect to these two definitions, we are commanded first not to condemn one another, lest we be condemned.  However, we are to judge or decide on the matters of life, spirits and philosophies.  We are to decide, or judge, on the positions that people take.

Dr. King did not ask people not to judge him. Nor did he ask people to avoid an opinion about him.  Rather, King said, “Judge me…”  He wanted to be judged.  He wanted the writers of the present and future to judge him, but there were requirements imposed on this judgement.  Dr. King said, “Don’t Judge me by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character.”  He knew that there would be judgements, decisions, and positions taken. He knew that feelings would arise out of perceptions, but he wanted to be judged by the measurements of character and actions.

This is a common flaw among mankind: to determine people by appearance. Even Samuel, that great prophet of God, stumbled at the outward appearance. Samuel was to anoint a new king and he chose the eldest son of Jesse, but God rejected Eliab. Samuel was looking at his age and height. Eliab looked the part, but God was not looking at the outward appearance.  God was looking for the heart of a Shepherd to lead the people. God was and is looking for character, conviction, and a worshiper.  I’m preaching today, go ahead, Judge Me.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Hinges …

In regards to Vision….Out-Reach is certainly part of the mission that makes up the purpose of the Church. To see the lost saved and to teach the Gospel is a Primary, but Reaching in or “In-Reach” must also be present within the church.  We have been brought together as brothers and sisters by the Blood of Jesus Christ.  We are suppose to be the Family of God and to that end there are particular measures that we are expected to take. The Lord sees this church as His body and He is extremely concerned about how we treat each other.

Consider the Pharisee who sought to test Jesus concerning the Law.  He said to the Lord, “Which is the greatest commandment?”  It was a question designed to trap the Lord in a no-win maze.  So many laws and to pick the wrong one would start a never ending argument, but the answer that Jesus gave was an open display of the very heart of God.

Mat 22:37-40  “Jesus said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus said that everything written hinges on these two commands. Nothing stands if these are not the foundation.  There are no laws, principles or truths outside of Loving the Lord and Loving each other.  Even our desire to see new souls saved will fail if there is no love among the Body. The world will not believe that the church is for them if we are absent of the very thing they need most: Inclusion, Kindness, Acceptance. Our life’s story will one day be seen through the lenses of our compassion.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

People are talking …

For those of you still preparing for Y2K, Twitter is a way to express a thought through a smartphone or another device.  Twitter claims 974 million accounts: 247 million are active. Facebook boasts of 1.23 billion active accounts. This says nothing of the billions of emails, Snapchat, and other forms of communication. In short, a lot of people are talking. We’ve always been talking; it’s what we do, only now we have a forum to express our every thought. The danger, of course, is that there are no filters.

While there is some variance, Pew Research shows that people check their social media accounts numerous times per day and some have it on constantly through sound alerts.  This means that they are “talking” continuously.  Statistics also show an increase in contracts with counselors, life-coaches, psychiatrists, and other listening helpers.   People are talking.

All this is probably reasonable.  We are relational beings and it does follow suit that we would express ourselves; our feelings; triumphs and anxieties. Communication is part and parcel of the human experience.  What I’m troubled about is the last report:  Fewer Christians in all denominations say they pray less often than they did in prior years.   While statistical sampling often concerns me, I will say that consecrated prayer has faded since 9/11.

My hope is that this year will be one of concentration on healthy marriages and homes; devotion to the church in attendance; and a revival of new souls. And knowing that this is God’s direction for our lives, it will only come when we seek God through prayer.  So since we are all talking, why don’t we use some of that time and effort to speak to God through prayer.  Start out your day and year the way David did when he wrote: Psalm 63:1  “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek…”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Vulnerable and Meek

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Lost in the narrative of God’s might and power is the vulnerability that the Eternal God assumed when He came to this earth.  Unlike many other creatures  an infant child cannot survive on its own.  Newborns must be cared for, fed, clothed, and nurtured.  The position in which He put Himself is an immediate insight into His nature. Jesus, God in flesh, could not have survived without Joseph and Mary.  While it is true that He is the Lion of Judah, it is also true that He began as a vulnerable Lamb.

The prophets often wrote of His authority and power.  The Jewish people even looked for a great conqueror to overthrow the Roman Empire, but when He came, He came vulnerable and meek.  His nature is clouded in the minds of people even to this day; they see Him as omnipotent and thundering; both of which are true.  Yet Jesus is also tender and of great mercy.  He is like unto a gentlemen who is gracious and caring.  He stands and knocks.  He does not burst through closed doors.   Jesus is long-suffering and patient with people; reaching and touching even the unwanted among humanity.  Yes, He has justice and judgement in His mighty hand, but those same hands have nail prints that speak of forgiveness and love.  Matthew records Him in this way:  Mat12:20  A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench…”   The weaver knows that a bent reed is useless.  The candle maker knows that a smoking flax has little to no ability to reignite.  But the nature of Jesus will not break of a bruised reed.  His nature will not pinch off the possibility of the flame. His mercy is always new. His grace is beyond the telling. He came innocent and helpless and He understands our limitations because He embraced who we are in the same way. Emmanuel. God with us and like us, to save us.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Kindness …

Paul is at the end of an exhaustive list of directives when he comes to this final thought:  Ephesians 4:32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

I was reminded of a hard and detailed man who sought for others to be the same.  In time, his family felt the weight of his impossible demands as did all those who called him friend.  His church-life suffered as he found flaws and inconsistencies in people.  Time did not solve his appetite for perfection; they only alienated him from the very people who loved him.  I remember him being alone later in life; friendless and unlovable.  I cannot say that he ever came to know that the reason for his alienation was the absence of kindness.  This man was certainly religious. He believed in the Bible, but he missed the knowledge of the fruit of the Spirit and his heart was hard and hateful.

Paul was dealing with church issues when he wrote the above text.  Not all of those issues had to do with spiritual warfare.  Paul wrote about authority, doctrine, and the Blood of Jesus, but finally Paul dealt with the foundation of Christianity: Kindness.  I wonder if Paul recalled Solomon’s words: Proverbs 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

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Kindness might not sound spiritual to some.  Kindness doesn’t have the same allure as the Gift of Prophecy or the Word of Wisdom.  Kindness doesn’t always draw the same attention as intellectualism or musical talent.  Yet I submit that there are no spiritual gifts or talents that can override a coarse or brash spirit.  Rudeness is fundamentally adverse to the nature of Jesus Christ.

David described the nature of the Lord in this way: Psalm 103:8  “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” If this be the case, how can Christians act the opposite of the very God they claim to serve?  Furthermore, how is our Christianity revealed if it is not through our respect toward one another?  The proverbs declared that a soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.  James wrote, “Let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”  The preached word was this, “Can the Church Survive the Church?”, and that because our existence is based upon how we treat one another.  If we fail it won’t be because of demonic influences or worldliness.  Both the power of the Name and the teaching of the Word can defeat those foes. No, our struggle will be the level of compassion that exists within the body.  Jesus said is like this…  “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”  He did not say one for another.  Love in this case is an action verb “to.”

As pastor, I’m less concerned with talent or ability and more concerned with tender heartedness.  And what shall we say about forgiving one another?  Is this not Bible also?  Paul said that we forgive as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven us.  This means that He forgave us through the suffering of the Cross.  It means that while He knew our flaws, He chose not to expose them, but rather to carry them.  Kindness and Forgiveness. There is nothing else that declares the resident Holy Ghost.  Because long after you and I stop speaking in other tongues, as the Bible describes, it will be our Kindness that declares the infilling of the Spirit.  Long after we leave the awesome moving of the Lord in this house, it will be how we address one another that will show who we really are.   I propose a new thought:  Let Kindness, tenderness and forgiveness be the measurement for our church family.  And let the Love of Christ rule our lives.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole