… God’s Wonder …

Perhaps the greatest moment of Isaiah’s life came when he wrote; Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” Five decades of prosperity attended to Uzziah’s reign over Judah. Uzziah offered the people a lifetime of decent living. Isaiah lived comfortably in the environment and shadow of Judah’s king. Yet, it was only when the king died that Isaiah finally saw the Lord. Whether intentional or not, the king clouded the vision of the people. He led from a platform of human governance all the while eclipsing the God of Glory. Finally, when the natural king died, the King of all kings could be seen.

It’s hard to see the spiritual things when we are comfortable with our natural surroundings. This has been true since the beginning of time. God’s wonder is often masked by the pleasantries of daily life. Our need of Him seems to diminish when we are prospering. It’s only in the valleys that we seem to yearn for Him; calling on His name; crying after Him. Success rarely garnishes intercessory prayer.

The American lifestyle lends itself to more wants than needs. We are a people intoxicated with possession and pursuits. To be Kingdom-minded means we have to fight for focus. God has always been on the throne. His train, i.e. victories, has been established long ago. He is a mighty God and a victorious King, but we cannot see Him through the maze of our convenient lifestyle. It’s only when our crutch is pulled out from us that we learn to look to the hills from whence cometh our help. It’s only when we purposefully and intentionally decide to seek Him that we find Him.

Focus has been under attack forever, but never as much as today. Sound-bites mixed with quick images are constantly presented in every sort of medium. Media and gaming; television and movies; social media and the plethora of internet options all combined have arrested our attention. It’s difficult for people of all ages to keep their thoughts together.

I submit this word: We must make our time count and our eyes fixed. It is imperative that we stay sober in a shifting world. It is crucial that the church is determined to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ and be faithful in every area of life. As our year closes and another begins, I pray that our homes will become Christ-centered; our marriages will be healthy and whole; and our mission for a revival will become consuming. I’m looking unto Jesus, focused, Who is the Author and Finisher of my faith. I need to see Him, high and lifted up.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Simply Believe …

With an infinite number of commentaries about Christmas, I offer this remaining thought: Obedience must not be contingent on Understanding.

Layered in the angel’s message to Mary is one of the Bible’s most prophetic words. Gabriel said of Jesus, Luke 1:32-33 “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

A “Throne” and a “House” are mentioned in the scripture describing the positions and authority of the coming Christ. The “Throne” was Mary’s connection to David. She was a descendant of King David and the transfer of authority would now shift from a fleshly king to The King of kings. The “House of Jacob” was in consideration of the nation of Israel. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel by God at Peniel. Thus, the prophecy depicted Jesus as the coming Messiah Whose kingdom would rule over Israel in the millennial reign that is yet to come.

I submit that Mary did not understand the full meaning of Gabriel’s message. Jesus was coming to rule on a spiritual throne and reign over Israel. Gabriel was setting something in motion that would not be undone. Surely, Mary could not have seen the whole of what he said. All she knew was that she was to have a child by divine order of the Holy Ghost.

I wonder how many people have dismissed the Word of God because it was difficult to understand. God gives us dreams and visions that are often cloudy and obscure. His messages are not always revealed in simple terms. Even the parables of Jesus were masked with analogies. Jesus said: Mark 4:12 “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand…”

Mary could not have known the meaning of the entirety of Gabriel’s message nor could she understand the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. However, her response was what mattered most. She said: Luke 1:38 “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

In obedience, Mary simply believed God for an impossible thing. Jesus came through obedience. Obedience is the key that opens up doors and unlocks the mysteries of this life. It is the clear path we make for the Lord to enter in. Christmas came through obedience. God sent His only begotten son through a young girl who did not understand, but offered herself as a vessel and she did it through obedience.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Emmanuel, God with us

How long will Jesus be a baby?

It seems that for many, Jesus remains in the manger. Being trapped in a thematic tone, it’s difficult for us to see the greater picture. The Christmas season is so consuming. With all of its dinners and parties, we have a tough time looking past the nativity scenes.

A survey of modern preferences reveals that most Americans prefer the birth of Jesus over His death. When it comes to Easter, the greater majority seeks to bypass His death and talk exclusively about His resurrection. One surveyor wrote, “the gory details of the death of Jesus Christ is not family friendly. His birth is simply a safer subject for the whole family.” Therefore, based on the mindset of our age, keeping Jesus in a manger is more pleasant than wading through the wrenching details of the Cross. Thus, Jesus seems to be trapped in a crib, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Christmas is part of the American culture, of this we can confirm. As Amazon sales heat up, the reason for His birth grows cold. The truth is this: Jesus came to die for you. He came to take upon His physical, human frame the sins of the world. All who ever lived and would live, owe a debt they can not pay. For the wages of sin is death. Jesus only spent a small fraction of His life in a crib. In time, He will trade those swaddling clothes for a garment of scarlet. He will leave the comfort of Mary’s arms and embrace a wooden beam.

His birth is critical to our lives because He was Emmanuel, God with us. If you need to know how far He came, then you need to figure out the distance between deity to dust. The Great I AM wrapped Himself in flesh so that He could be the sacrifice for the world. In those early moments, the baby did not look like a sacrifice. He looked like an innocent child. When He was born, the celebration of magi; attending shepherds; and that heavenly choir clouded the thought that He was but a lamb in waiting. Christmas is the remembrance of 1 Tim 3:16 “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”

Therefore, while we rejoice at His coming, we must remember that the Gift was the Sacrifice and the manger was a momentary scene. Something more significant and awesome lay ahead for this King. Steve Richardson revealed it in one of his many lyrical thoughts. He wrote, “had there been no empty manger, there would be no empty tomb.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

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