Priorities

A pastor recently called me to lament his inability to raise money for a small church project. Rhetorically he asked, “Where are the givers who helped Moses build the Tabernacle?” I told him, “They’re at the movies.”

According to the Labor Bureau of Statistics, the average home spends about $230 a month on media per month. That figure includes paid-TV, monthly Netflix and other in-kind services; home internet; Redbox and DVD sales/rentals, etc. The figure does not include cellphone service, which could tack on another $40 to $80 per month, per phone. Nor does this figure include the price of a ticket to the cinema $7-$16 nationally). Of course, cinemas make their money at the concession stand. The price of a large popcorn and a large Coke costs $9.09 and $6.26 respectively.

Not only are church members spending 5-7 hours a day on media devices or sitting in front of their televisions, computers, or tablets, they are paying large sums of money for their daily addiction. Few would consider media a “want.” They consider it a “need.” Therefore, money is not an object because these things are viewed in the same light as food or electricity.

The children of Israel brought their best for the sake of the tabernacle. They brought fine linen, gold, and silver. Their sacrifice was so great that at the end, Moses turned away their offerings. It was too much! However, today there is a pastor burdened because he cannot seem to raise funds to build a handicap ramp on the side of his building. Make no mistake the money is there. It’s just being spent on popcorn and Coke. He’s not alone. People still balk at giving money to a missionary or building fund, but have no qualms about cable TV.

Our problem centers around priorities. We have heart issues, not money issues. Jesus said, Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The heart follows the treasure. It means that our will to invest in something creates a passion for the thing.”

I’m calling for the constraint of pleasure and the unconstraint of giving. I’m calling for the church to return to tithes and offerings which is the Word of the Lord. I’m praying that we will become givers; not based on need, but upon desire. I’m seeking for investors in the Kingdom just because God is good and our lives are built around His purpose and mission.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… go unto the House of the Lord …

  Let us not neglect our church meetings, (the assembling of ourselves together) as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (TLB)

College football is a growing sport, consuming more audience in the critical advertising segment 21-35 year olds. While the NFL lost 6% of its viewers 2 years ago and almost 10% in the past season, it is still a powerhouse of entertainment for Sundays. While televised sports consume the majority of the weekend, sports activities are also in full force as families flee the house in search of outdoor activities.

On another front, more people are trading 2 week vacations for 5 longer weekends, e.g., taking off Fridays and Mondays. Shift-work and seasonal jobs also add to a busy weekend and we haven’t even mentioned our own domestic obligations. To that end, a new survey reveals how Americans are making Sundays “home improvement days.” Add it all together and you have a perfect storm for worship competition.

Even though one of the Ten Commandments is clear about keeping a day for the Lord, Christians are not so inclined to observe Sunday as the Lord’s day. Instead, they are making Sunday a catch-up day. School projects are pressing; laundry piling up; reorganization before the new week begins and suddenly Sunday is the only day left. Something has to give and many are giving up regular, faithful church attendance.

This was not always the case. Sunday was for singing and preaching. It was for the family to gather at God’s House to hear, give, and receive. People used to look forward to attending church, morning and evening. There is much to do and little time left. It leads me to the question: If we only had service when you came, how many services would we have?

I wonder if we still believe in David’s declaration: Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the House of the Lord.” I wonder if we relish the simplistic things of Bible Study, morning worship, and evening sacrifice as we once did. Those were the things that held our lives together. They bound us around the Cross of Calvary and directed our thoughts. Church services brought structure into our lives and made us think about eternal things. Faithfulness to the House was premier and everything else was peripheral. I long to return to those days. I wish them upon your heart also.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Stone”

On a small knoll, Jonathon the son of Saul made a statement that echoes through time. He said, “There is no restraint for the Lord to save by many or by few.” He said, “God can work through and for any number of people.” The factor was always God. The catalyst for victory was Him from Whom all blessings flow. Jonathon was but a player, an instrument, in the hands of the Omnipotent One.

When the kings and armies of Israel were outnumbered by their opposing forces, it was the Lord Jehovah Who gave the victory. In addition, when they were hungry; destitute in the wilderness; bound by the oppressor, the Lord fed them and delivered them. He was and is the I AM.

The knowledge of the Lord’s deeds were so great that the psalmist wrote, Psalm 118:22-23 “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” The “stone” in this verse had a dual meaning. The first spoke of Israel’s king that the nations could not defeat. God made the king the head of the corner. The second meaning pointed towards the Messiah which Jesus referred to as Himself being rejected by His own people. He, Jesus Christ, became the Headstone of the Church. In both settings the results are the same: God can do anything. God is our Victory and our Provision. All that He has done is “marvelous in our eyes.” When we were left empty, He became our substance. When we should have been defeated, He became our strength. He straightened our path and established our feet. He made a way through the desert and gave us what we could not attain.

In the light of this very day, as we gather to rejoice over what He has done in the last 7 years, we stand in awe of the Lord’s mighty hand. This church; with revival, passion, properties, families, finances, ministries, and more is nothing less than a miracle. There is no restraint for the Lord.

We should not be here, but God…

We should not be together, but God…

We should not have anything – not love or acceptance; hope or a
future, but God…

Moreover, from where I’m standing, This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Balance …

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glowing in a translucent light. Atop that mountain were Moses and Elijah speaking with the Lord when The Voice came from the clouds. It was a scene of great spiritual significance unsurpassed by normal events and is often considered 1 of 5 of the Lord’s most pivotal moments.

I don’t have time to divulge the greater gravity of the mountaintop meeting, only to point out Peter’s response. Peter wanted to make three tents, or tabernacles in honor of the Lord, Moses, and Elijah. In essence, Peter wanted to established “shrines” to mark this most spiritual event. His out of balance approach was quickly rejected by Jesus.

While Peter goes on to become a great preacher and leader, he has an achilles heel in that he swings wildly from side to side. The pendulum of his faith will move out of control as he proclaims an undying loyalty to the Lord only to deny Him three times in the same night. He will reject the Gentiles’ entrance into the Gospel in one breath, but be found preaching to the house of Cornelius when the Holy Ghost falls. Peter, who rebuffed the Gentiles, will command them to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Acts 10

Peter’s not the only one who walked out of balance. History is replete with good-hearted people falling into the same trap. Years ago a man spent multiple hours a day praying. He went to his church and prayed for each member. It sounds spiritual except that he neglected his family. His children grew bitter as their father spent his life in “spiritual thought.” Another man did the opposite as he spent his days making money. He worked to gain what was so easily lost. His children were cold towards God, having never seen their father pray or read the Bible. To make up the difference for his absence, he bought them things that they came to misuse and eventually despised.

Out of balance living is an understated issue among many. The pendulum can swing so quickly from one side to another. Even ministry minded people can be misled by the disparity of spiritual highs. All pursuits are filled with infinite loops that are hard to relinquish: There is a ditch on both sides of the road.

The New American Standard Bible says it like this: Ecclesiastes 7:16 “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?

Jesus said, seek first the Kingdom and don’t be anxious about tomorrow. It’s called Balance!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Offset …

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”

1 Thessalonians 1:5

To be clear, I believe that we are commissioned to be good stewards of the environment. God gave this earth to us to manage it in the cleanest and most respectful way. We are commanded to be stewards of every area of our lives and it is incumbent upon Christians to be prudent, save, conserve, and reverence all of God’s creation. Sadly, this point has become politicized insomuch that the unbeliever worships “Mother Earth” instead of God the Father. I’ll side with the latter, thank you very much.

The issue here is not so much about pollution as it is about moral conviction. Years ago, a basketball player, Kobe Bryant, was found guilty of cheating on his wife. In response, he bought his wife a new multi-million dollar diamond ring and his mother-in-law a new Mercedes. The gifts were considered an “offset” for violating his vows.

Here are a few numbers for you: The Average home consumes 10,656 kilowatts of power per year. Former Vice President Al Gore has been an outspoken leader to reduce energy consumption. His platform, enhanced by his Inconvenient Truth series, speaks of global dangers from warming trends caused by human consumption of energy.

Once again, I think it’s important to conserve and not to waste. It’s a foolish thing to throw trash on the ground and waste fuel. I’m not even here to debate the nuances of climate change. However, it does strike me that Mr. Gore uses nearly 20 times more energy on his own house than the average American home. Last August alone he burned through more than 22,000 kWh of energy on his home. That is more than twice as much electricity in one month than most homes use in an entire year. Moreover, while he pronounces judgment on the average citizen, the electricity to heat his pool would power six homes for an entire year. I’m so glad the water’s warm.

In response to these alarming numbers, Gore does not deny them, but says that he plants trees and pays people to plant trees in order to “offset” his offenses. Really? So that means that you can do wrong, be wrong, act against your own speech as long as you buy diamond rings and plants trees?

Before we find joy in this communique, we better check our own record. We say that we love the Lord and people; believe in the Gospel; accept everybody and pray. People, we better have some evidence of our conviction. The Apostles did not come in “word only.” They did not just say all the right things without evidence of their message. There was power and authority that backed up the word. They lived a life that exemplified what they preached and there were no “offsets.” Even the pharisees knew as they tried to punish the disciples, but could not because of the hard evidence presented. They had real fruit to show the unbeliever.

If you are Christian then you must act like it. If you profess Christ, then you are required to live like Him. No excuses, or allowances, or “offsets” are permitted. It’s either real or fake; genuine love or fair speech. I’m not talking about being perfect; I’m talking about striving to live according the Word.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Entitlement …

When David sought a place to repent, he bought a threshing floor from a man named Araunah. The man would have given the land to the king, but David said, “I cannot offer God something that cost me nothing.” As many of you know, this verse is the pivot point of the ministry, which God has entrusted into my hands. My sacrifice to God is the burden I carry.

Sacrifice is a lonely word. In some cases, it’s a very distorted word. Some think that coming to evening worship service; giving their tithes; or singing in the choir is a sacrifice. Others believe that there is a cut-off age when sacrifice is no longer needed; that sacrifice is for those who are able.

In light of a much-needed revival, Pentecostal pastors have lamented to me how many middle aged people are removed from the matter. While younger generations are gravitating toward good-will endeavors and humanitarian work, millennials and older are chaffing at the thought of giving up something. The absence of this mindset leads to an era of entitlement. Therefore, instead of giving from our want, the idea of entitlement promotes receiving without a claim.

Entitlement is not just a term used among government officials and those who debate policies. Entitlement is seen in the church. Some believe that they have “paid their dues”, whatever that means, so they don’t have to volunteer or serve. Others think that simply showing up is deed enough to garnish favor or benefit. The entitlement crowd makes demands on God and the church in various ways. People now demand pleasantries without labor; friends without being friendly; spiritual insight without personal prayer. However, a church filled with healing and miracles requires something of us. Conversions don’t just happen because of Joel’s prophecy. They happen because church members make friends and invest time in people.

No one has a right to a good worship service. No one can make an ultimatum on a clean building or a loving Children’s Department. Who said that these things were a given? All of it requires time, effort, and most of all sacrifice. Because not only can we not offer God something that cost us nothing…God won’t accept something that costs us nothing.

Calvary came at a great cost.
Sustained Revival comes at a continual cost.
Enduring Love for each other comes at a personal cost.

Anything less lays empty and undone outside the door of Heaven.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Faith on Trial

If you could hear it with your heart, then please let me speak into the depths of your soul: Don’t lose faith and don’t give up. This life, with all of its ups and downs; the ebb and flow of both triumphs and tragedies are working on your behalf. Even things that tend to afflict our minds are working for us, or as Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

Peter presented the trial: 1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Can you imagine that your faith would be put on trial? A court trial has elements of witnesses, a judge, and a jury. Your faith will be challenged, opposed, and questioned. In another sense, your faith will be put through a furnace of fire, burning away impurity and pollutants. The examples go on, but the truth remains: These things are working on your behalf and you must not give up.

I would take issue with Paul’s words in which he submitted that our affliction is light except that compared to Eternal life and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is right. Whatever the affliction, issue, or conflict, all of it is a light thing compared to the moment when He Who was before all time shall appear and we shall be raptured into Glory.

The famed missionary once wrote: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to obtain what he cannot lose.” Therefore, I make this plea: Don’t lose sight of the prize, but press forward. Whatever it takes to be saved, that is what you must do. Whatever it takes to be present for worship and the Word, that is what must be done. There is something wonderful ahead that can only be seen through our spiritual sight. 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Secret Things …

In the middle of God’s numerous instructions and miracles, God inspires Moses to say to Israel: Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. It means that some things only God knows and those things belong to Him. We are not accountable for the hidden by God. However, the second half is altogether different. Moses writes that we are accountable for all that He has revealed to us, “that we may do all the words of the law” i.e., “to obey God’s instructions.”

The text is surrounded by major events and historical wonders. It’s almost lost in the holy writ. Yet the same command is given a few thousand years later when Jesus teaches of a faithful and wise steward. He says, Luke 12:48 “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” James will complete this thought when he writes: James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

All of it combines to form a cohesive thought: God has given revelation and understanding to His people. In His wise providence, the Almighty has chosen to reveal to us His divine purpose and Lordship. The knowledge of the doctrine of Jesus Christ is known among us: the Oneness of God, the New Birth experience, and the command to be holy as unto the Lord. We have been given a great light; not to boast or condemn, but to proclaim and teach. We are to abide in Him as He abides in us. Paul confronted those who had abandoned the Gospel when he asked: “Who perverted the doctrine that I preached unto you?” “Who was it that changed the Gospel into another?”

The secret things belong to God, but we are responsible for the things that are committed unto us. Stewardship is not just adjudicating our finances wisely. It’s also about how we handle the name of Jesus in Baptism and separation from the world in lifestyle. It’s about knowing to do good and doing it without excuse or apology.

Remember this word, it may be the most important you will ever hear: God is coming back for a bride that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. I urge you to remember what God has revealed to you and keep what is committed to you. Be faithful to the house of God and don’t forsake your convictions, but add to them each day. Run from the world and seek the face of God. Hold fast to the doctrine, which was delivered to you, and contend for the faith.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“what then”

God’s amazing creation consists of natural adrenaline which lifts the body and spirit above the realm of reality, even if but for a moment. The moment, regardless of what it might be, may not be felt until a few days have passed. Both highs and lows; successes and heartbreaks might not be felt for some time. Nevertheless, a few days later, reality sets in and the realization is settled.

I know that this is not considered spiritual, but I submit that God has made our bodies to be sufficient in physical and mental health. So in triumph or defeat, we are given the ability to enjoy or overcome the moment. The biblical description of the day after is found in the phrase, “and it came to pass.”

Given this premise, I am seeing the other side of the moment when our past choices affect our present reality. For instance, sometimes people win arguments, but afterward they are left with less than they began. Some prove their point, but lose the greater ground of moral authority. Our choices can result in spiritual gain or fleshly endeavors. Our decisions, both individually and corporately, determine who we are and what we become. If the new reality shows us carnal, then we know that we have sacrificed the wrong thing. However, if we have given ourselves to the things of God, then there will be a spiritual strength.

In short, the reality of our current day is directly related to our conduct, conversation, and thought. We are who we have decided to be. We are making a trade everyday of our lives. We are either trading individualism to be hid in Christ or we are trading holiness in order to be carnal. Being accepted by the world means that compromises have taken place. Being accepted by God might mean that we have been rejected by the world. We are and will be the conclusion of our cumulative choices.

Jesus said it this way, “And what shall man give in exchange for his soul?” The question has an answer and sometimes it is not “nothing.” For some the answer is “something.” Paul wrote, “What shall separate us from the love of God?” The list is extensive, but the point is that there are things that will separate us from God. Even writing this I feel it to be a turn off, as if it’s too much hyperbole. It’s like the “Preacher’s rhetoric” bellowing from his soapbox…just a man sermonizing on paper. Nevertheless, I am compelled to ask, “What happens afterward?” I’m compelled to ask you “what then” after the adrenaline has faded and the trade has been made? I am compelled not to go quietly into the sunset, and become a teacher who fails to challenge the lifestyle of the professed Christian.

We cannot gamble on our salvation, but we must make our calling and election sure. “And it came to pass” is on its way which should make us sober and intentional in the lives we are living.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Bunker Hill

Who would have thought that a loss would be the catalyst for a victory? That is what happened in a place called Breed’s Hill, more commonly known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. The colonists lost, but it propelled them to a greater triumph. Their momentary defeat gave them confidence to win the war.

The colonists fell in defeat, but they proved that the British were not invincible. The British general, Howell, saw the passion of the colonists and he said that they had done more work in one night than his whole army had done in a month. The colonist had built a 6ft high dirt wall and used it to protect their knoll.

The British fired cannons at the wall from their ships and then marched up the hill only to be slain by the masses. The colonists were told, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”

In the end, the colonists lost, but they killed 226 British soldiers and wounded 828. It was a defeat that gave them confidence that they could defeat the enemy.

Confidence is a curious thing. Its fibers are not always made up of trophies and finish lines. Immediate success is not always the firm ground where life is built.

In fact, trouble is often the ingredient that produces patience, long-suffering, kindness, and the attributes of Jesus Christ. Even defeat, as devastating at it might be, teaches far more than our cumulative successes. A mistake provokes an apology – humility is borne out of repentance. A misstep helps us to reevaluate our journey.

The early church was grounded by tribulation and it became the birthing place of prayer. The Gospel’s cost drove them to recognize its value.

There is a Bunker Hill in the lives of men and women. It’s the place where your temporary defeat becomes the foundation of your confidence in God. It’s the proving ground where your faith leads you toward greater victory. Rejoice not against me O my enemy for when I fall I shall arise… Micah 7:8

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole