Leading by Example

Within the famed speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resides a single statement that has long been forgotten. He said that we should be judged on the content of the heart not on the outward appearance. Dr. King was speaking of character versus skin color.
However, it seems we have drifted far from this truth.

Solomon commanded us to, Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. The Bible often speaks of the matter of the heart; integrity and purity. The prophet Samuel toiled as he considered who would be anointed the next King of Israel. Samuel would have chosen Eliab because he looked the part. David did not fit the profile. In fact, David wore the attire of a shepherd and was the youngest of eight brothers.

Samuel saw Eliab, the eldest, and deemed him fit for the throne by birth order and stature. 1 Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. The heart is where we understand a person. No one is inherently good or evil by genetic code.

As millions pause to celebrate Dr. King’s life, I am concerned that they have rejected his message. Let it not be so with us. Our actions, words, and deeds matter. Jesus said that by our own words we are either condemned or justified. The Church must set the example for a superficial world. We represent a higher law and a deeper truth which is the basis of the New Birth experience found in John chapter 3. Paul said that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, it is only by the Cross that we find our value. Birth order, stature, and countenance do not constitute salvation. We are chosen and set apart by the Blood of the Lamb. This is our message. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has changed our lives. We were not a people, but now we are the children of God. So if we are to be judged, let it be by the Cross of Calvary and our pursuit of Him Who died for our sins and gave us New Life!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Guard Your Memory

Oscar Wilde wrote, “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” The chorus who concur with Wilde have written the same. However, memory can be easily distorted. At times we remember what we want to be true, even though it is not. Some recall partial events from a perspective that doesn’t tell the real story. In more recent days we have seen historical revisionists. These are people who twist the annals of history to fit into their preconceived narrative or political opinion. Historians, which was once a noble profession, has become a cloudy mix of motivated activists.

This is nothing new. The Children of Israel said: Numbers 11:5-6 “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna.”

The memory of the Children of Israel was a lie borne from their disgruntled spirit. They spoke of the “good life” before they followed Moses. They saw his leadership as inept and the food from Heaven unsatisfactory. Egypt was a land of torment. The people were slaves; living without freedom. And yet, after years of eating manna, they remembered things that never happened so they said, “it was better in bondage.”

If memory is the diary, then we must maintain its truth. Regardless of our struggles living for the Lord, the world is not better than the church. Lost in sin is not better than being found in the Lord. Even if the “manna” tastes the same, -same sermons and similar lessons – it will always be better than living bound by the elements of a godless society. Spiritually minded people understand the value of the church. Those who are carnally minded complain about the House of the Lord; the very place where the Word of Life is sown.

I caution you to guard your memory. While we are moving through these uncertain times, we must remember where God has brought us from. I urge you to recall the goodness of the Lord and the value of the church house for all it has brought to you. Do not rewrite the history of your past. It was not better elsewhere. It was darkness. God brought you out and He set up this place for our benefit. I’m leaning on the old song, “When I look back and see where He brought me from…”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The failure of “seeking”

A research team was commissioned to report on the transition of college graduates into the workforce. One of the findings disturbed the administration and it was buried in the back of the document. It appears that job placement, though generous in nature, has caused a lack of pursuit among the graduates. They are told that it is the university’s responsibility to help them find the right career path, i.e., a job. Ultimately, the failure of “seeking” or searching has caused a stir, especially when the transition does not occur.

I submit that there is a value in the search, all by itself. Seeking makes a demand of us. It takes focus and effort. We rearrange our time and energy during the pursuit. That effort alone can be the catalyst for other disciplines. When the “thing” we are searching for is found, a spirit of thankfulness also emerges, perhaps even a relief.

Remove the seeking and we also remove desire, expectation, and discipline. The psalmist commissioned us to “seek the Lord” on multiple occasions. Solomon wrote that they that Prov. 28:5 “seek the LORD understand all things.” Amos gave a glimmer of hope to Israel when he said, Amos 5:6 “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live.” Paul even wrote that God ordained the times just so men would “seek the Lord and find Him.”

The concern is that the modern day believer often thinks that it is God’s obligation to find us; that we have no part in this relationship. Millions have been misled, thinking that prayer is nonessential and fasting is out of date. Daniel prayed three weeks without an answer. He never stopped seeking. I wonder how many have given up too soon or became discouraged because the answer did not come when they prayed. Jesus’ parable pointed to the unjust judge who answered the desperate mother: “because of your importunity I will grant your request.” It was her continual coming and persistence that brought the answer.

If we are to find what we need; see the miracle that we desire, then we must press forward in seeking the face of God. The best things in this spiritual walk come through pursuing and searching. There is no transition team handing out answers to prayers. The Kingdom demands our focus, time, and energy. What we find along the way is a rearranged life; a new set of priorities and a desire for God Himself.

My prayer for you is that you find Him. My prayer is that while you are seeking for the “thing” that you want, you will draw close to the Giver of the gift and the gift will be far less important.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Focus

Photography John Watson wrote, “focus is more than simply sharpness or being able to see what you are looking at. Focus is enhancing the subject by making it stand out from its surroundings.” The famed Caravaggio thought the same. Caravaggio used dark shades of color to pull his subjects to the forefront. Some artists/photographers forget this principle, leaving the viewer with no central figure. Watson noted that without focus, the picture or scene is devalued.

Consider the environment around the birth of Jesus. A virgin brings forth a child; a guiding star and a choir of angels are present. Bethlehem fulfills the prophecy of old; subsequent chaos ensues in the courtyard of King Herod. There is so much background, all of it significant in its own right. Even still, the focus is The Eternal taking the form of the mortal. God comes as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is the Consolation of Israel and a Light to the Gentiles. There is so much to see that the focus can easily drift from His purpose. He came as a sacrificial lamb, born to die for the sins of the world.

Decorations are temporary. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” has but a few verses. “Joy to the World” will be a brief melody sung by the choir and our decor will soon be replaced. His purpose was far greater than our momentary celebration: His sacrifice more significant than the season in which we find ourselves. Besides, seasons change, His Blood remains.

I offer more than just a holiday. I present the “Logos” conceived in the dimension of the heavenly long before His arrival. Redemption demanded a blood sacrifice. Paul wrote that we were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish and without spot.

We sing and give gifts in honor of His birth, but we know that He is the reason for our salvation. Jesus said that he gave his life as a “ransom for many.” However, if we keep Him as just the “reason for the season,” then we might miss the purpose of His coming. He came to die for and take away the debt levied against us. I urge you to pull Him to the forefront and make all other things obscure.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Heart Transplant”

Truth be told, the prophet Jeremiah cried more than he preached for the majority of his ministry. The people of Israel had abandoned their faith in God which activated the prophet’s burden. Israel had devolved into a backslidden nation and Jeremiah became the weeping prophet. He preached and prayed for 40 years without a single convert. The pleasures of life had consumed the people, along with the trappings of carnal living – too much to relate in this small communique.

The problem was the heart of the people. Israel had a heart problem. Even still, the Lord’s intent was this: Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. God followed it up with these words: Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Are you getting this? The people had heart issues. They were consumed with things that led them away from God. The fact is that no one can serve two masters. Divided hearts always end in tragedy and God is the first to opt out. He is a jealous God and will not share your heart with other things beside Him.

Our hearts are like limited reservoirs: They can only hold so much emotion and love. We are not able to love the things of the world and still have passion for the things of the Lord. When we are consumed with the things of the world, God has no place to dwell. It takes a “Heart Transplant” for us to connect with His Kingdom. If not, our lives become cold and indifferent. Even the most basic things can lead us away from the feet of Jesus.

Ask Martha and Mary. One is busy about the task while the other has chosen the one needful thing. Ask Amaziah, who at 25 years old became the king, but was defined this way: 2 Chronicles 25:2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.

I urge you today to give God your entire heart. Don’t be consumed by the things of the world. They fade so fast. They never satisfy the never dying soul. Learn to serve, to give, and to worship. Give God the best of your days, and in return, He will give you a heart to know Him. The promise of total commitment is the most profound words you will ever hear. In the end, He will give you life everlasting.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Seasons

Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

As long as the earth exists there will always be seasons. Seasons are ordained by God. They are without rebuttal. Daniel said that God alone changes the times and seasons. He removes kings and sets up new ones. God has the sole authority over all times. At His Will, He can change their length or breadth. He casts them into form.

Harvest is a wonderful time. However, a season denotes an expiration date. Contrary to some, every season is not Harvest. Even the best soil needs rest. Spring is refreshing, and yet, it is only known by the preceding season of winter. Solomon wrote there is a time for everything; not
“Everything All of the time.”

There will always be seasons in our lives. Regardless of how much seed is planted or how great the harvest, there is coming a time when there is nothing. There are moments of gain and of loss. Those who boast of understanding all things are not telling the truth. There are moments of bewilderment. Jesus did not answer every question. I cannot tell you the complexities I have faced without an answer. I simply did not know. I stood still and waited on God. In His time (which was not my time) He gave the Word. Some situations, however, still trouble me.

Through patience we are stronger and through recognition we are more determined. The night is not always pleasant, but it is vital. There is no light without darkness; no joy without pain; no crown without a cross.

God is in charge of the Seasons. We cannot manipulate our path away from His times. Programs will not keep us from the struggle. Shame on anyone who boasts of such things. We strive for the mastery. We lean on the Lord and accept His times in order to know Him.

Job did not put himself into suffering. God did that. And yet, God brought him out and doubled his blessing. Joseph did not sell himself to those traveling merchants. God allowed that. And in time, God elevated Joseph to the saving of his family. Moses did not pin the people in between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. God ordered it so He could part the waters.

Seasons have made me more fervent in summer and more patient in winter. His “change” made me work harder in the opportunity and trust deeper when the sky was empty. This is how I proclaim Him to be the Lord of all.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

A Little Leaven

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.”

Notice the words in the text. Things were going so well for those believers in Galatia. However, someone added something detrimental to their “run” and it hindered their relationship with God. Paul emphatically denounced the change. Paul’s persuasion was that of perseverance and faithfulness. Regardless of life’s circumstances, Paul believed that nothing and no one should be allowed to hinder the path of the believer. And then Paul speaks of leaven. It doesn’t take much, he said, to affect the whole.

Notwithstanding, these words were written 2,000 years ago, they are more current and applicable than ever. The Bible is a living organism. It breathes. It lives, and in this respect it is both a settled truth and a living document. The Bible is God’s Word for our lives in the present and Paul is preaching a message that demands to be heard. His is a question of  calling out people who hinder people. He did not say, “what” hindered you. He said, “who” hindered you. Who was it that caused you to turn away from the truth that was given? Who spoke into your life that tripped you up and caused you to lose faith and then doubt the very tenets of the Faith?

Not a few have been tainted by a “little leaven.” Many have fallen away, because they allowed a negative voice to enter their world. It happens over dinner or lunch. It happens among friends, on the phone and on social media. Questions are asked and doors are open that hinder faith and faithfulness. We may be equipped in fighting spiritual oppression, but many are failing to guard their ears from “a little leaven.”

Contrary to popular belief, the enemy of our soul does not need a large opening to cause confusion and doubt. He just needs someone with an issue to offer a small hindrance. And to this end, the enemy uses people, even other believers, to hinder our lives. So instead of moving forward; running the race with perseverance, the first persuasion is dismantled and the race is lost.

The Holy Spirit is speaking to us through His forever settled Word: Stand fast. Don’t be shaken. Be unmovable; rooted and grounded in the Word, the Faith, and the church. Don’t think that little things won’t cause damage. Be sober. Be awake and on guard. Love everyone, but invest yourself in whatever and whoever is honest, right, pure, and of good report.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Sin

Perhaps someone will read this in years to come and wonder what the coronavirus was all about. The virus seems to have originated in Wuhan, China, basically the middle of the country. The WHO has reported that nothing has come close to the casualties and infections since the SARS outbreak 18 years ago. Several countries are taking steps to deter the spread as 30 airlines have suspended flights to China. The problem is that there is no fixed quarantine that will suffice. The interaction of people, through degrees of separation, cannot be managed. In plain terms, it’s too late. Too many people have connected and we can only hope that the appropriate vaccines can deter the growth. Far beyond the borders of America, medical facilities and municipalities are ramping up to stay ahead of the spread. The reports are vague as many who are infected are not identified.

However, I write to declare a greater sickness is infecting the world and has so for centuries of time: Sin. Sin has destroyed the lives of countless millions. It has ravaged rulers and paupers alike. It has devastated homes and marriages; communities and churches, leaving them empty by its introduction of lust, greed, and perversion.

There is no quarantine for the likes of sin. Instead of seeking for a solution, most have accepted its presence; embracing it with open arms. Sadly enough, some have promoted it in all circles of life. With proof positive, and decades of evidence, the infection is treated as a rite of passage – typical of the human experience – instead of the tragedy that it really is.

Christians far and wide are not generally disturbed by sin. Over the last five decades, the outrage has diminished. Christians spend sufficient time to watch sinful activities via movies and television programs. While they might not engage in sinful practices, they find pleasure in the promotion of them. Violence, fornication, nudity, cursing, and other forms of anti-god and anti-bible message fill homes, computers, and phones of people who profess faith in Jesus Christ. They claim salvation and yet, if they were accused of being adherent to the Bible and a follower of Jesus, a prosecutor would be hard pressed to find enough evidence to convict them.

Sin is a disease and it’s far worse than any virus we have ever seen. The job of our health experts is to tackle the worldwide coronavirus. The duty of the pulpit is to reveal the works of the flesh and the path of Salvation. We have the cure for the deadliest infection the world has ever known, but before we offer the cure, we first must consider our own lives. There is hope. Grace and Mercy are available. However, I remember the prophet crying in the wilderness, telling the people to Repent. It is the only way to healing.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Anchor

Hebrews 2:1-3 “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;”

The search for a missing boat along the Florida coastline came to a conclusion when it was discovered stranded against a rocky edge. The investigation spoke of the tragic end of its passengers. They said the boat was adrift in the sea while the small group of people slept. The combination of a lack of experience and alcohol was the cause. An experienced investigator said that had they simply put down their anchor, the boat would have stayed in its place. The drift took them away from their familiar surroundings and caused a series of events from which they would not recover.

The drift is often subtle, even muted in our daily lives. It is a movement of incremental steps; a meandering away from the central place. You might not even realize how far you are from your original port of call. Anchors, in all their spiritual forms, might seem restrictive and constraining, but they are the mechanism of the “keeping.” Without an anchor there is nothing to keep you from the drift. Without a mainstay, some rock or cornerstone, you may find yourself believing in false concepts or what Paul called, “doctrines of devils.”

It doesn’t come all at once. The drift doesn’t work that way. It begins with a small thing; some offense or hurt. Disappointment adds its part and then more serious things persist until we are fully alienated from the very thing that we loved. Hebrews 2:1 refers to it as the “slip.” The word “slip” comes from the Greek word, pararrhueo, which means to “flow by,” carelessly moving away without notice. Slipping is one excuse combined with another. Flowing away from commitment. How shall we escape in the end if we neglect the Truth that saved us? Are you closer to the Lord than when you first believed? Have you drifted from serving and sacrifice? What holds you to the church? What keeps you from accepting corrupt ideas propagated by “smart” backsliders or worldly influence? I’m looking for an Anchor: an Anchor for my soul. Storms will come Trouble will attend to this life. Nevertheless, as long as I am rooted and grounded, I will be stable and abounding in the work of the Lord. The drift is set against me. It works against my resolved. And yet, I know the Anchor holds.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

… warm thoughts …

What do you do in times of crisis? That question was posed to the attendees at a corporate training conference. Everyone had an answer. Depending on the moment, some replied that 911 was the most appropriate call. Others talked about technical support staff. Managers said they would seek out senior staff members or those with experience. In all, human interactive dependency dominated the conversation. The conference leader then probed the subject of sickness or death. He asked, “Where do you turn in times of physical loss?” The crowd became silent. Few, if any, knew what to say. A handful spoke of doctors; others of friends or family.

I have watched the degeneration of our society in times of crisis, sickness, and death. There once was a day when people gathered in the church to pray and seek God. Later they moved to the town square or some other public arena. The evolutionary movement saw people sending out thoughts and prayers. Most recently people are sending out what they call “warm thoughts” to those who are suffering. Secularism has become so prevalent; God is so distant and prayer is so foreign, people now send out “warm thoughts” in times of loss.

My question is, “What are warm thoughts?” Do they save the sick? Do they comfort the hurting? Can our thoughts restore broken lives and wounded hearts? No one is allowed to say, “We are praying for you” for obvious reasons. Prayer denotes that Someone is on the other side of that prayer. Uh oh. Prayer means that there is a God and our society cannot give credence to God. The acknowledgment of prayer is the thread to creation. If we propose prayer, it might mean that we did not come from the RNA molecule, but that God formed us and spoke the worlds into existence. Psalms 100:3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves…”

Paul wrote of this nonsense. 1 Corinthians 1:21 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Paul said, 1 Corinthians 1:20 “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” The world’s idea of “warm thoughts” is nothing more than foolishness. Prayer is our connection to God, Who is our strength.

When there is sudden death, I’m praying for the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace and comfort from The Comforter. My thoughts won’t help no matter their temperature. My God is the Help and Strength. He is the lifter of my soul and my refuge in times of trouble. I submit that we call on God, especially in times of crisis. We turn to Him from Whom all blessings flow. For He is God and there is no one like Him.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole