the “low road”

Consider the final Passover meal and those present in that rented room. Jesus is serving His disciples as they blindly enter yet another festival in Jerusalem. Mere hours separate them from the chaotic scene that will unfold in Gethsemane. They eat without regard; make statements without knowing the consequence; and lounge together without urgency. Peter is boastful as he proclaims that he would never deny the Lord. He is convinced of his loyalty, as I assume they all were. Nevertheless, hours later he will swear a solemn oath that he never knew the Lord and he will deny such knowledge three times.

We all make statements about our loyalty to our Christian belief. Members talk about devotion, consecration, and servant-hood. Large proclamations sound so good until there is a conflict. We speak of forgiveness until someone offends us and we have to actually forgive. We speak of peace until we are given the opportunity to make peace and we choose to settle the score. Everyone sees themselves as a servant until the day they are treated like one and then they are offended. Most people even announce their adherence to spiritual authority until they are confronted with something that challenges their individuality. Peter is still boasting.

I submit the “low road.” Are you willing to be wronged? Can you stand to be cheated? Paul asked the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 6:7 Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Today, many are not willing to have something said about them that is wrong. It seems that we are more defensive than forgiving. While we all say that we are following Jesus, not all are following Him in humility. We just want His power; not His suffering. He said that we should turn the other cheek. He submitted an infinite number of times to forgive our brother (7 times 70). He was keen on building a church where the body would love one another without conditions; where there would be no schisms or disunity.

If we peel back the layers of our profession, I wonder if we would find grace for one another. Are we really Christ-like? If we are put to the test, do we text, post, or speak ill of leaders or other believers just to prove our point? Where did patience and long-suffering go? Are these just words to fill the biblical writ or are they attributes that we seek on a daily basis? I am concerned that we have found a niche in religion, but we are drifting from the bleeding side of a suffering, silent Christ. He opened not His mouth all the while He was crucified for something we did.

I pray that we can recover true Christianity where love covers the myriad of infractions that occur among us all. I pray that we live what we believe; not just profess our undying devotion only to deny the very nature of Jesus Christ in the midst of our offense. It is time for us to seek Him in sincerity and to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Truth not enough?

1 Kings 22:7-8 “And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.”

May I ask: Is truth based upon what is palatable? Is the word any less true if it doesn’t suit our disposition? Have we as 21st century Christians become so enamored with presentation that we have lost the message?

There is very little time to set the foundation of 1 Kings 22, but suffice to say, two kings are in need of a word from God. Jehoshaphat knew that though they were kings, autonomous in almost every way, they were in need of the voice of the prophet. Kings (Americans) are self-sufficient. They have castles (houses) and motes (garage doors) and are mostly opinionated about every subject. Nevertheless, it seems that Jehoshaphat had the wherewithal to realize that only the voice of the prophet could give them the necessary direction.

It was Ahab, the King of Israel, who rebutted the introduction of Micaiah, the prophet of the Lord. Ahab rejected the voice “because he never prophesies anything good about me.” The rejection did not center on truth or what was right. The King of Israel rejected Micaiah because the prophet never said good things about him.

Consider the cousin of the Lord. The people came to the wilderness to see John the Baptist. However, he offended many of them. He preached truth, but mostly without a filter. John would never have lasted in our society of feel-good pulpiteers and seeker-friendly church communities. John preached truth. He cut through the vain tradition wrought among the people by the religious ruling class. He entered the courtyard of Herod and openly declared the king a sinner because Herod had killed his brother and married his wife. In the end, the truth cost John his head.

I ask you: Is the Word of Truth not enough? Or have we become so intoxicated on being entertained that the preached Word must be agreeable, pleasing, and inviting? Would Micaiah be a welcomed voice in your life? Would Nathan, pointing out David’s sin, have an open door to speak in your royal court?

I’m praying for all of us that the Word of God would be welcomed without constraint. I’m praying for the Word to invade us; reshape us; and that we would love it regardless of the pleasantries that may or may not attend to it. Hear the prayer of Jesus Christ: John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… the response …

The emotional roller coaster was in full display the day Israel left Egypt. Each plague wrought havoc on the Egyptian family while Israel stood unscathed. Ultimately, they left carrying the treasures of their captors. One cannot imagine the exhilaration of that moment. Freedom.

Then came the Red Sea; that impassible obstacle. To make matters worse a cloud of dust confirmed that pharaoh had changed his mind. Death was on the way and Israel knew it. Instead of thanking Moses for bringing them out, they sought to stone him. Instead of seeking his counsel for God’s next move, they desired to return to a life of slavery.

It was Moses’ turn. He raised his staff and the gushing waters rolled back like a blanket exposing the seabed. The mystery of that moment took their breath away as they walked through on dry ground.

Nevertheless, Egypt’s armies caught up and Israel turned to see the enemy racing through those same open waters. Again, another moment of panic. However, God caused the waters to collapse and the Red Sea consumed the armies of Egypt. Their enemies were destroyed.

The next line of the scripture shows rejoicing, dancing, and singing. There’s a tambourine and a choir echoing the praises of God…”the horse and the rider He cast into the sea.” It didn’t last long. Three days later they happened upon the bitter waters of Marah and sank into deep depression. Dry and thirsty, they murmured against Moses as they cursed the rancid water.

Each present moment dictated their emotions. If they saw victory, they worshiped. If they faced trouble, they cried. If it looked like a poor decision was made, they denounced the leadership of Moses. Every situation provoked an in-kind response.

I wonder what would happen if we responded based upon the nature of God and not upon our present circumstance? What if the response was in consideration of our relationship to the Father and not to our environment? I know we praise Him when the report is good, but what if we praised Him because He is Good? I know we give when we have plenty, but I wonder if we would give because He is Faithful? I know we worship when there is Joy, but I am hoping we will worship because of Who He is.

While I cannot offer an answer to all of life’s dilemmas, the Bible commands me that in everything I am to give thanks.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Thumbs Up!

Thumbs Up! Isn’t it great to be validated by other people? What a wonderful feeling to have a “thumbs up” attached to our posts, pictures, and shared thoughts. In fact, the more “Likes” must mean we are doing good. Right? It is said that everything is defensible if enough people say so and everything is appropriate, cogent, and credible if the vast majority of replies send their affirmative emoji. Who could argue with a thousand thumbs!

Peter and John thought otherwise. After being rebuked; put in prison; held until the next day; openly forbidden to preach in the name of Jesus; and finally declared as the minority, Peter and John said, Acts 4:19 “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” No Thumbs Up. No “Likes.” No majority in favor of what they were doing or how they were doing it. Peter and John clearly were a couple of isolated preachers with no support or backing. But then again, Truth does not need a majority in order to be Truth. Right will always be Right even if the whole world gives it a “Thumbs Down.” Righteousness is not contingent upon the opinion of so-called spiritual people or the ungodly. Holiness is not subjective.

The current problem is that believers are being influenced, often discouraged, by the lack of support among friends, families, and co-workers. Moreover, because the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His name is frowned upon, we think that it would be better to “hearken unto men” rather than be a light in a dark world.

Therefore, while perversions, cuss words, false concepts, and sexual clothing are all given the “Like” button, devotion to a godly lifestyle is deemed judgmental. While individualism is promoted among Christians, church attendance multiple times per week is not. Even sex out of wedlock is considered a “rite of passage” by a majority of professing Christians. The clear data shows this as the prevailing thought. Surely, we have entered a time of great distortion.

I rise to say that we must not equate the support of people with God’s approval. Nor must we think that Truth need be accepted by the majority for it to have validity. Jeremiah was alone in his ministry as were many of the prophets of God. Joshua and Caleb were outvoted 10 to 2, which resulted in a 40 year detour. So remember, regardless of how many “Thumbs Up” you have, it won’t mean anything when it stands before the Lord.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

…. lack of vision ….

The famed preacher declared the effects of a lack of vision. He wrote that without a vision the people perish. Those words inspired a thousand sermons and lessons alike. The vision message entailed the future; a plan for the body; and a destination to reach. Many purport that all healthy organizations hinge on “visionary leadership.” Business models speak of early adopters and the bell-curve of rejection. All of it coming from the inception of the vision.

Today, the message seems caught in a spiral of motivational speeches and well-intended strategies. Something is missing. We find it in David’s reply to his eldest brother, Eliab.

Goliath has challenged the armies of Israel while the men huddle in fear. Goliath’s 9ft frame could not be missed. King Saul has set forth the vision: Kill the giant and become a hero. There is no question what the plan entails. No one is confused as to the mission that lies ahead. They all know what has to be done. Nevertheless, when David asked about the details, Eliab accused him of having the wrong motive, “I know thy pride…” to which David asked, “Is there not a Cause?”

The vision was set. The plan was in order. Israel’s mighty men knew what lay before them. They could rehearse the rewards that would be bestowed upon the man who defeated the giant. However, David asked the question that facilitated the vision. Come to find out, the Vision was supported by the Cause. The Cause is the reason we pursue the Vision. The Cause is that driving force of conviction that makes the Vision a reality. In David’s case, it was to preserve the name of the Lord and the people of God.

The Vision has been set by Jesus Christ Himself. He would that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. His Gospel is to be preached in all the world. We know this because it is written.

What we struggle with is the Cause. Moreover, we struggle because we forget that the Cause is not just What we do, but it is Who we are. It must become us and consume us until we are saturated with Kingdom work.

So I submit to you the Cause:

Be-Cause there is a Heaven and Hell and souls are on the line.
Be-Cause our city, friends, and family need to be saved.
Be-Cause our future lies in the balance of a sold-out body of believers.
Be-Cause unity is the key to a major Acts 2 revival.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Way

Some months ago, a pastor friend of mine met with a family. They had decided that outward holiness was no longer necessary and church attendance was optional. They told him that they were spiritual people and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ on their own. Their conclusion was that they no longer needed to be “under a man’s authority” and they were not interested in submitting to a regular service or worship schedule.

Philip Bump wrote in the Washington Post that this has become a 15-year trend. “The decline in church attendance has followed a decline in biblical belief.” Bump writes that Sunday worship services are somewhat sporadic while midweek attendance is almost nonexistent. Thom S. Rainer reported that “currently between 100 and 200 churches close per week in the U.S. alone.”

The Barna Group shows that while most Americans identify as a “Christian”, they do not believe in the same biblical values as their parents and grandparents. One researcher said, “Among Pentecostals, there has been a shift away from outward holiness, tithing, and Bible study. Even speaking in other tongues has become an elective, insomuch that the gift is rarely heard in their services. The change from the original tenets is so profound that it’s hard to tell if they were ever influenced by the former generation that taught them their beliefs.”

Paul wrote to the church in Galatia: Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:”
He asked, Galatians 5:7-9 “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

This deviation from what was to what is has come at a great cost. Self-justification combined with an absence of prayer has created an abandonment to the very things that brought us the anointing. The Shekinah glory comes through sacrifice, obedience, and worship. However, I fear that many are living diluted lives; thinking that spiritual disciplines and holiness are nonessential.

I feel the Holy Spirit calling us to return to The Way. We must become more committed, not less. We need to find new ways to serve in the church at every level. It’s critical that we are devoted and not diverted. It’s paramount that we push aside offenses which separate us from this house of worship and plunge headlong toward faithful attendance, prayer, and worship. We must defy the statistics and become a light to our city. I urge you not to dismiss the teachings and tenets of this Apostolic truth. Moreover, I pray that we would not forget the great sacrifice made by those who gave it to us.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… Great Depression ….

September 3, 1929 was the last day of an eight-year gain in the American Stock Market. By October of that same year, a mere four weeks later, the stock market was in a slide from which it would not quickly recover. The whole thing crashed as America plummeted into the Great Depression. A very smart man from Yale University, however, said that everything would return to normal. His name was Irving Fisher. His infamous statements were that investors had nothing to worry about; that the Market would bounce back. Fisher thought the indicators didn’t matter. He said the slide was temporary. By mid-November, Fisher was broke. More stockbrokers and wealthy investors committed suicide than at any other time in the history of the market. Fisher was not alone in his “didn’t matter” speech. The president of the Equitable Trust Company said, “I have no fear of another comparable decline.”

Jeremiah preached to a nation that thought their actions did not matter either. Even while Babylon was bearing down on them, the people lived without constraint. Their own “experts” told them that the Lord was not paying attention; that He was apathetic to their non-compliance. So-called counselors promoted philosophies while mysticism took the place of the Law of Moses. The high places and groves occupied their time and their sacrifices. You can read it in the prophets. Come to find out, it did matter. It all mattered, both then and now.

Holiness matters. Obedience to the Word matters. The investment of our lives matters. How we worship and where we worship matters. Being faithful to the church matters. I know I run the risk of sounding self-serving, but here it goes: Having a pastor matters. A few folks have tried in futility to denounce that fact.

Nevertheless, for all those who say that these things (tithing, the fruit of the Spirit, Spiritual authority, obedience, standards, etc.) are unnecessary, let me say, “I hope for your sake they don’t matter.” I hope that you can invest your life in a human system. I hope that you can say whatever negative thing you want about the church or men of God or biblical doctrines and you won’t be held accountable. I hope, for your sake, that servanthood and the prayer room can be rejected and it won’t work against you. Because if these things do matter… well, there is a crash coming that will make the Great Depression look like a picnic. Peter told us to be sober and live as obedient children. He called us to be holy, 1 Peter 1:16 “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

I say, don’t invest your life in things that will lead you away from the things of God. Be careful not to join yourself to people who lead you away from the church. Sometimes backsliders don’t know they are backslidden. Finally, make your life’s investment in things that lead you closer to the Lord and the operation of the church. Do it because it really does matter.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Conversation …..

The ancient libraries of Alexandria and Pergamum are a faded memory to our current “screen-age” society. Perhaps all printed material is destined for the same. Paper books took a tumble in 2007 when Amazon’s Kindle was released. The stacks of daily papers at corner newsstands; the early morning paper routes hosting a thousand kids on bicycles; and the rush to read the front page seems to have withered in light of 24-hour cable news and instant computer updates. Gutenberg has certainly lost his place in this “cut & paste” digital age.

There is so much information available today that it boggles the mind. If you want sports, there are thousands of in-depth stories of all your favorite athletes and teams. If you are interested in ecology, market trends, candle making, or the recent flood that afflicted India, the information is there. It’s all there, pressing for your attention with pictures and descriptions. Day and night the news is always “breaking.”

I submit that there is something at work here that goes beyond information overload. It is the not so subtle attempt to squeeze your thoughts into a world of disbelief and confusion. There is a work at play that is stealing your time, attention, and passion away from the things of God. We know that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” and is currently at work in the “children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). However, the next verse lends itself to our days. Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

News, information, sports, instruction, etc., are all considered “conversation.” Could it be that the enemy of our soul desires to occupy the thoughts and conversations of our lives through this nonstop media blitz? Would the enemy grant us a physical presence in the church as long as our minds are consumed with outside information?

Information controls our concern. We are outraged about government officials, crime, public school curriculum, and more. Nevertheless, maybe our outrage is misplaced. Perhaps our passion is being spent in the wrong place. When was the last time we felt the sting of unreached lost souls? Where is our hunger for prayer? How long has it been since we turned off the “news” and worked on reaching people with the Gospel?

I tell you that news is probably not news at all. It’s a diversion from our purpose. It is a rerouting of the Great Commission. Christians are watching television instead of looking for His return. Members are tuned into favorite websites, Facebook, Instagram, Words With Friends, and video games. There simply is no time to witness, read the scripture, and pray. I say, that while we have limited time, we must not have limited passion.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“These Stones”

It must have been some sight when the priests stood in the middle of the parted Jordan River holding the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua led the people across on dry ground as the whole of Israel took their first steps into the land of Canaan. Their promise came by way of yet another miracle. Before the priests left their post, Joshua commanded the leaders from each tribe to gather large stones from the middle of the river’s bed and build a monument along the shore. Joshua said, “When your children ask you the meaning of these stones, tell them how we crossed this river and how God brought us into this land of promise.”

The meaning of “these stones” was Heritage. It was the inheritance of the Lord in the form of a land flowing with milk and honey and a God Who saved them from their own unbelief. Israel’s identity with God became their Heritage. God’s salvation was their Heritage and so much more. Traditions rooted them and connected them to what the Lord had accomplished. He brought them out of Egypt and brought them in to the land of Promise so that both God’s power and this new land became their birthright. It was Heritage that connected them to the wonders of the past.

Perhaps an underlying weapon against the next generation of Pentecostals is the absence of connection to those who came before. It is well documented that America’s families are seeing the effect of an absence of a physical heritage. Family traditions are almost nonexistent. Financial inheritances are quickly diminishing. Even the ideas of home-life, work, and church are now in a constant state of flux. This all matters to the next generation of believers. We must know our Spiritual heritage, honor, and build upon it.

Our Apostolic Heritage is rooted in prayer and fasting. It is the baptism in the name of Jesus. It is demonstrative praise and worship with singing and dancing. Our heritage is the Covenant brought by way of the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Paul called it “the earnest of our inheritance” Ephesians 1:14. Therefore, whether you are new to the Gospel or grew up in the church, the Holy Ghost, which is the Holy Spirit of promise, is your Heritage.”

Today we recognize and honor those faithful saints who sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel and for our sake. Countless prayer meetings and days of fasting have already taken place. Men and women, most of which we will never meet, have given their lives so that we can have a place of worship. Our entire church stands on the commitment of the saints. They established a Kingdom mindset so that we could be here. This is our heritage.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Death By Self

Another tragedy unfolded last month along the cliffs of the Rock National Lakeshore Park in Michigan. A hiker stopped to take a selfie and fell to their death some 200 ft below. While the death toll is small, it appears that at least 54 people have now died taking selfies with about 5 deaths added per year. These losses are not in the same category as fatalities via heart disease, cancer, or automobile accidents. They cannot be listed as medically related or suicide/homicide. Instead, it seems that people are dying, howbeit few in number, by self-entertainment.

The incidents are occurring during what is called “Selfie-gaze.” Millions of people now engage in day trips and vacations for the single purpose of taking pictures of themselves at specific locations. Some pay up to $45 per pic for photos at unique sites. It has been verified that the “cloud” which stores information of individuals and businesses alike hosts mostly pictures. Cell phones are more for camera and video use than for making phone calls.

This small communique will not allow me ample space to tell the whole. However, the perilous times that Paul spoke of declares people being “lovers of their own selves.” More directly stated, among the perversions of mankind are people who love themselves.

It’s a far cry from the days of David who said, “I looked to the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.” Moses looked up and saw the mountain of the Lord. He did not see himself. God said, “Look to me and be ye saved.” Yet, today we are literally looking at ourselves.

In spiritual terms, I call it “death by self.” Self-engrossed people make excuses for why they do not attend church faithfully. They tell of their “important” duties and plans. Self-sufficient people talk about their resources and abilities. The proud boast of their reserved ways and the arrogant see their strength. Churches are even promoting the philosophy of self-actualization, which is rooted in humanism. Death by self entails no serving; no sacrifice; and certainly no commitment.

Paul said, Philippians 2:4 “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Then Paul related that this was the mind of Christ; that Jesus saw our need and not His own comfort. He would not have died for us had He considered Himself. Likewise, we will not reach our world; give of ourselves; make sacrifices and worship if we keep ourselves in mind. We must break free from the bondage of self. There is a cliff and many have already fallen and died by the venue of self. That is why the Spirit is calling for a sanctified church, void of the flesh. Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole