A Place Called Arimathaea

Having spent too much time preparing and delivering the Word concerning the Lord’s death, I could not help but to continue in this vein. Joseph of Arimathaea “begged the body of Jesus Christ.” Joseph sought the permission of Pilate to care for the battered and depleted body of the Lord after the crucifixion. The crowds were gone; the miracles lay dormant in faint memory; even the disciples had scattered throughout the countryside. Joseph was there to care for His body when all hope and future promise had been wrung out. It was Joseph who was present to attend to the needs of what remained.

The narrative awakened my mind to the story of a church in the south that suffered greatly. The issues are too numerous to tell, but the result was a depleted church and a battered ministry. After all the dust settled, it devolved into a small, broken body. A young couple, however, stayed to care for the building and properties. You could find them in daily duties maintaining the grounds and keeping the sanctuary clean. They said, “someone has to keep the house open.”

Juxtaposed against that bleak image is the plethora of healing revivals and musical performances in churches across America. People are racing to fill the most coveted seats at conventions and conferences to see and hear whatever the new thing might be. Few want to attend to the wounded or depleted.

I see the church as the “body of Christ.” If this be the case, what shall we say of a wounded, broken, or depleted body? Who remains to care for a wounded ministry or broken heart? The compassionate spirit of Joseph of Arimathaea is in short supply. That spirit is attentive to the remaining matters when revivals and programs are over. He looks to the things that others reject. He’s there when the highs are fallen and excitement has turned away.

I present this thought in light of our hedonistic culture. Even Christians like to be gratified. I submit that caring for the Lord after Calvary is critical to the remaining story. Jesus’ body needed to be washed, wrapped, and placed in a tomb for there to be the possibility of a resurrection. Yet, anointing a dead Christ doesn’t sound glamorous. It’s not like embracing a living Messiah full of power and strength. In light of the Gospel and the fulfillment of Pentecost, someone has to care for what remains. I’m looking for the spirit of Joseph from a place called Arimathaea.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Harbor …

The reunion of Joseph, his brothers, and father was filled with emotion and tears. After more than 20 years of separation, Joseph finally saw the fulfillment of his dreams play out. When Jacob died, the brothers grew fearful that Joseph might seek retribution against them. It was speculative, but possible. They asked, Genesis 50:15 “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”

They sent a message to Joseph from their father about forgiving them. We don’t know if Jacob actually said the words, but the brothers thought it might ease the tension and release them from their past sins. The message was this: “I ask you to forgive your brothers, the sins, and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.” When Joseph heard the words, the Bible says that he wept. His reply is captured in the annals of time; an imprint of truth that provides a landmark for all to follow: Genesis 50:19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?

A harbor is a place where ships often settle before unloading. “To harbor” is to keep something protected. It could also mean to store things that should not be kept. Joseph did not harbor feelings of bitterness against his brothers even though they thought he might. Joseph did not hold back some suspicion or angst because he had forgiven them years prior. The revealing word came in the question, “…am I in the place of God?”

The church and everyone who considers themselves a follower of Jesus Christ, would do well to ask this question. When we keep things in our hearts; when we harbor ill feelings and bitterness, which turn into judgment, we are putting ourselves in the place of God. The fact is simple: We have no right to hold a grudge! Jesus forgave us and we must forgive, if we so desire heaven. There is no other way. To think that we can hold anger or wrongdoings against one another and still be saved is the worst form of self-deception. How tragic it will be when the Lord returns and we find out that we lost due to the things we held in our harbor!

I’m looking at my heart and I’m making sure that it is clean and pure. I am forgiven which is reason enough to forgive. My offering of forgiveness is not based upon the attitude or presentation of those who have wounded me. My forgiveness is based upon the suffering of the Cross. Are you in the place of God? Your harbor will answer that question.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Humble Beginnings

In 1965, Sister Mary Fell and her young daughter joined with Pastor G.E. Switzer to begin a new church called Home Avenue Apostolic Assembly. The church began and worshiped in a basement until the top floor sanctuary was built. Mary Fell is the last remaining founding member of the church we now call New Life Fellowship.

From those humble beginnings to this moment, New Life has remained a place of refuge for many people. We still preach the same New Birth message and teach the same principles of the scripture that Pastor Switzer taught some 52 years ago.

Today, we are standing in honor of hundreds of families who sacrificed their lives; prayed and fasted; and worked to keep this house of worship vibrant and alive. Most of those early saints and members will not be known by name. Most of their work will be hidden within the construct of our modern buildings and future vision. However, we are here to declare that we exist because of their commitment and love. They invested thousands of prayer meetings; conducted hundreds of bake sales; initiated countless bus routes, Bible studies, and functions for our benefit.

To this end, I write three critical points concerning our heritage:

1. Our heritage is based upon the Apostolic Doctrine, which was first delivered by the Apostles, not on the length of tenure to New Life.

2. Our heritage extends to every new member, because it is not based upon the natural blood-line or family background, but upon the Blood of Jesus. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are all baptized in His name and in His Spirit which makes us the family of God.

3. We honor our elders who fought for holiness, righteousness, and the Holy Ghost regardless of where they came from. This is a godly heritage tied to the axiom of truth found in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” and Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

To our elders, we say that we love you and honor you. Thank you for investing in our lives and in this house. Thank you for being faithful. You are highly regarded and cherished.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Lord’s provisions …

The book of Kings speaks of a famine induced by the voice of the prophet Elijah against the wicked King Ahab. The next verse depicts the instruction of the Lord to Elijah to… “hide thyself by the brook Cherith…thou shalt drink; I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” During the length of the famine a daily miracle occurred by Cherith. Ravens brought bread and meat to the man of God to sustain him. And the question is answered: Can God provide a fountain in the wilderness? Yes!

In the middle of it all, God provides everything we need. He was a shelter for His people as they escaped the grip of Pharaoh. He was the pillar of fire to lead them in the dark of night. He was the rock from which water flowed… that rock followed them for 40 years in the desert. In whatever situation they found themselves, the Lord provided help and strength.

The problem is that humanity has never truly been content with the Lord’s provisions. God gives, but the people want more. Carnal men and women push the boundaries of God’s sustaining power. Adam and Eve had everything to their disposal, but they wanted more and it became their downfall. Jesus set the example when He prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread…” but we want more than a daily provision. Israel murmured at the manna because it was redundant and could not be stored. Can you imagine that daily miracles can be despised? God will provide, but it might be for the moment.

Truth be told, we battle our sinful nature of greed, self-sufficiency, and pride. It’s hard for us to rely upon the daily bread that comes from the Lord. Prophecies of coming blessings can be intoxicating to a distrusting heart. I submit that the Lord has never failed His people and He will do what He said He will do. I believe that if we look closely, the Lord has already given what we need even if we think it is not enough. He has provided His Holy Spirit; a place of worship; a spiritual body of believers; and daily provisions for our lives. Knowing all these things I have come with a heart of thanksgiving and a mouth filled with praise. He is Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Who provides.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Mind of Christ

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

In light of the biblical narrative, the people followed Jesus because of the things that He did for them without understanding the higher calling of His mission. They were perplexed at His word as He presented Himself greater than the miracles which He performed. Jesus gave them bread, but the message was that He was the Bread of Life. He healed their infirmities, but He was the Resurrection. Jesus said, “you follow me because I gave you bread.” At one point He scolded the multitude saying, “Isaiah was right about you: Ye serve me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.”

God is good to His people of this I’m sure. The things which He supplies can be addictive until we no longer seek for Him, but for the provisions which He gives. The issue with the people of Jesus’ day was that they struggled to see His Kingdom purpose. They thought He would overthrow the Roman Empire, but He came to conquer sin, death, and the grave. They sought for physical healing, while He came to heal the dying soul of mankind. They loved the fish and the loaves, but failed to see the great Creator standing in their midst.

Things can cloud the Master. If we are not careful, we will praise Him as long as life is good and things are provided. If we are not aware, our adherence to His Word will be attached to natural bread and not His majesty. He is the Lord of lords and the King of all kings. Our lives are blessed because of Him and until we understand His Kingdom we might all be consumed by the temporal aspects of life. Yes, the Lord provides, but what if His provision comes in other forms than the physical? What then? Shall we lose faith because these things are not in our hands? Is He any less good based upon our health, wealth, or life position?

I submit this imperative: Crucify your flesh. Fall in love with His nature. Seek first His Kingdom. Seek Him and not what He can do for you. If Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, how much more should we seek for the same?

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole