“What do you do with a buried god?”

Genesis 35 finds Jacob on his way to Bethel.  He’s leaving Laban and the current conflict behind, but on the way Jacob discovers Rachel’s hidden gods.  They were household figures made of soft stone and wood.   They were family idols common among Laban’s faithless crew.  Genesis 35:4  So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. The question quickly came, “What do you do with a buried god?”  In the realm of all things human, what is buried is concluded.  What is buried is closed, finished.  When Jacob buried those gods, he did so with the knowledge that they would stay there.  Buried gods have no way out.  Buried gods decay with the passing of time and the elements of earth.

Move ahead and you’ll find another assumption.

When Pilate and the temple priests released the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, they did so with some confidence that the matter was concluded.  After all, whoever heard of a god, or in this case, The Son of God, coming back from the dead.  They thought that a dead and buried Jesus would have ended the matter. It was written in the history of the lives of their patriarchs.  However, this Jesus was like none other and the purpose of His burial was meant to reveal the power of His own Resurrection.  In fact, the only way for Jesus to rise from the grave was to first be buried.  And in this case, even a watch (guarding soldiers) and a sealed tomb (with a signet ring) could not and would not keep Jesus in the earth.  In three days, just as He said, Jesus rose from the grave.  And in His hands He held the most significant keys to mortal man: Revelation 1:18  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

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Rejoice greatly

ShofarA messenger was sent to declare a new king in Israel. The Bible describes him as a madman in attire and in conduct. It sounds like John the Baptist, but this happened in that older testament. The Word of God was in his mouth; the prophecy and appointment of this new king was sure and sound. When the message was given, the men around him, “…took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted….”
(2 Kings 9) The new king was Jehu and he was sent to destroy the sinful kingdom of Ahab and Jezebel, as well as establish the Law of the Lord in Israel.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people shouted, “Hosanna, blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord!” It was a reflection of the story of Jehu. They too blew a trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!” The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew the stories of the Old Testament which provoked them to quiet the crowd. They should have seen the semblance. Jesus was the King! The people were spreading out their coats before Him, just as it happened for Jehu. The people were shouting out their recognition of Him, but the leaders rejected their praise.
There are no less than 44 prophecies foretold of this King Jesus. Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophets. He was the reflection of the righteous kings. He was from the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:10) He was born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) They called Him Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14) And today, we have come to recognize Him as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Hosanna! Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord. His name is and forever shall be, Jesus!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

take up your cross and follow me …

take up your cross

In an open display of prophecy, Jesus will tell His disciples about His impending death by the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law.  He said that the “Son of Man must suffer many things…”  The disciples hear His words, but cannot understand their meaning.  The message is far from the victorious Messiah they hoped He would be.  Yet the next statement was more troubling than the first.  Jesus said, Luke 9:23  “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

It was no longer just about the suffering of Christ.  Now it was about the cross each man must carry in order to follow Him.  Jesus made it clear; if you wish to follow Him, you must deny yourself and take up your own cross.

The statement repels the flesh.  To the modern Christian, it’s also very un-American.  Who wants to deny themselves anything?  We tell ourselves the opposite.  We believe in a painless journey with Jesus Christ.  Many think that the current Christian experience excludes personal suffering.  We speak of one Cross and that belonging to Jesus alone.  We rarely, if ever, talk about our cross. It seems so counterintuitive to talk about the overcoming power of Jesus and self-denial at the same time.   Cultural Christianity is not so keen at selflessness or abstaining.  We don’t want to think about carrying our own 80lbs. transom up a lonely hill.  Yet, the words of Jesus are as true today as they were among those men. To save your life here means to lose your life in the end, but to lose your life for His sake is the pathway to save it upon His return.  Jesus did bear a Cross, but He won’t bring anyone with Him who rejects their own cross.  Instead, Jesus is calling for His people to deny themselves and bear the burden of the Gospel and the message of this Holy Way.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Think on these things

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Knowing the growing pressures of the early church, the apostles made a declaration about priorities.  Acts 6 is a display of the growing pains that occurred naturally in the church.  The apostles were knee-deep in feeding the hungry; helping the widows and the needy. While the function was important, the demand was taking time away from their calling.  The apostles made a decision of higher priority.  They would devote themselves to “prayer and to the ministry of the word.”   Devote comes from the Greek word meaning “to persist at” or “remain with.”

The decency of caring for the widows stood in the way of the ministry of the word.  We call it, Sacred Substitutes. It occurs when a good work is at odds with more important things.  It’s when we miss prayer because we are doing other “good things.”

Sacred Substitutes have grounded the work of the church as they divert our attention from faithfulness to the house of God.  Worship is bypassed as other duties are attended to.  It was the separation of Mary and Martha: Wholesome activities interrupt the attention given to the preaching of the Word and to prayer. This is an emerging conflict in the lives of busy Christians. Joshua told us to meditate on the Book of the Law (Josh 1:8). Paul said, Phil 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Yet, we have no time to devote to thinking or meditating because we feel pressed to do that other good thing. The Spirit is calling us back to prayer and deep intercession where we shut out the busyness of life.  I feel the Lord calling us back to His house for Worship; forsaking the cares of this world.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

…them that obey him

After living a good life; contributing to society in a positive fashion; or leaving a legacy of giving, the census is that you will go to Heaven in the end.  It’s what I call, The Human Equation.  This equation adds person to personality or individual to accomplishment resulting in eternal life. To the rational mind, decent people must invariably make it to Heaven.  Evil people must not.  However, we should take note that none of these assumptions are based on the Bible.  To some church-goers, and most secularists, the Bible is an ancient writing with only a few redeemable points.   They do not adhere to its message of sin, redemption, salvation, and obedience.  Thus the Human Equation is a consensus of the human will, “Do good and you’ll make it to Heaven.”   But Jesus said in Matthew 19:17  “There is none good but one, that is, God.”  He also condemned human goodness and said that if people did not repent they would die in their sins.  Paul wrote, Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  The Bible is clear that human goodness plus person does not equal salvation.  Rather the Bible declares that Jesus is the source of Eternal Salvation only to Hebrews 5:9  “…them that obey him.”  All who disobey Him and eject the Gospel will be lost.

Remember, Jesus called Himself the Door.  He said that He alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man can come to the Father except through Him.  And this same Jesus commanded us to be born again of water and the Spirit – John 3:5.  Heaven is for those who have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb.  Heaven is the home for the righteous; the dwelling of those who have been set apart and Redeemed.  The Real Equation for Eternal Life begins with the Cross of Calvary, the Blood of the Lamb, and my obedience to His Infallible Word.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

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The law of the LORD is perfect

Psa 19:7-11  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

In consideration of the new emergency managers that have been placed in school districts and local governments, I am reminded of the principles of the scripture.  Also, after years of lowering the standard of civility and decency, both in dress and conduct, we are now seeing the result of what can only be explained as a lack of God.  All sustainable laws come from the foundation of the Word.  When God’s Word is dismissed, people recreate new definitions for family and learning.  Naturally, we fail when we live outside of the law of the Lord.  The family unit is destroyed when we reinvent morality. Government is corrupted when adherence to the scripture is dismissed. Education, justice, and sensibilities decay in the dark shadows of humanism. Carnality is like a black mold that permeates the air.

If there was ever a time for the scripture to be heard, today is the day. There is a Light and a Truth, but you won’t hear it in the halls of government.  You’ll hear it in the House of God. There is a way to keep your family and marriage strong, but you won’t view it in Hollywood.  It comes from the presence of the Lord and submission to His Word.  I’m inviting you back to the Word where the soul is converted, and wisdom, rejoicing, and righteousness can be found.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

After the storm …

At His bequest, the disciples will board a boat and cross the sea.  Weariness has overtaken the Lord as He falls asleep in the lower part.  At the helm are seaworthy men who have traversed these waters many times, but a tempest arises that takes control of their vessel as they face the inevitable: They are going to die.  Waking Jesus was their last resort.  They must have thought that He too would toil with them, but Jesus simply stood atop the deck and commanded the storm to cease.  At His word the water became placid and the waves bowed in silence.  It was then that the men looked at each other and said, “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”  The fact is clear; they did not know Him until after the storm.  After the storm they realized His power and authority.  After the storm they learned that He was more than them.  After the storm they understood that He was in control the entire time.  All their worry and combined fret was wasted as the Master of all elements and time rose to calm His creation.  They didn’t begin to know Him until after the storm.

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When Jesus forgave the sins of a paralytic and then healed him to prove His authority, the crowd marveled.  One version says, “they were filled with awe.” Only after Jesus had exercised His grace and power did they realize Who He was.  The lame man was healed leaving a witness that Jesus had all power. Even after the Lord’s death and resurrection, the disciples began to understand more clearly that Jesus was the Life-Giver; the Healer; and God-incarnate.  Afterward they realized that all their fears were both unfounded and unnecessary.  Jesus had been with them the whole time, but they only grasped His wonder after their storm.  The truth is common among us; we always know Him better after the storm.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Intentions will not save us …

Mark 1:8  “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”

In the scripture, John preached that his baptism in water was only preparatory for the baptism that Jesus would bring.  Modern theologians agree that John’s baptism was also a precursor to the baptisms given by the disciples after the resurrection.  However, while they admit that baptism of water and Spirit was experienced by the early church, they now argue that the intention of the heart is more important than the actions of the person.  Meaning the intention to follow Christ is more important than conversion by baptisms.  In highly contested forums the vast majority of denominational scholars conclude that if a person simply confesses, “Jesus is Lord” they are then converted.  This admission, they say, by virtue of its utterance, contains both repentance and baptism.  Thus according to a modern theologian, there is no need to repent with tears or sorrow, nor is there any need to be submerged in water or seek for the baptism of the Holy Ghost because the declaration is sufficient in and of itself. Their entire conclusion is based upon the intent of the heart.   However, the Bible does not offer salvation by intention. In fact Jesus said in John 3:5 “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  John the Baptist himself decried this idea of salvation without the action of repentance. John said in Luke 3:8 “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.”  Paul wrote a similar thought: 2 Cor. 7:10 “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation.” Peter said that just as Noah was saved by water, “baptism doth now also save us.” Irrespective of modern commentaries, intentions will not save us.  Only obedience to the Word of God can bring us into communion with the Lord.  Marvel not, You must be born again!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

 

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Security is mortals’ greatest enemy

cslewis“You all know,” said the Guide, “that security is mortals’ greatest enemy.”

C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleeting is the life that we all share.  Like a gust of wind, our days are swift and often unnoticeable.  To most of the population, even congregations, as long as people feel secure there is no need for concern. Striving usually ends when complacency sets in, and complacency sets in when people feel “secure enough.” Carnality dominates when the yearning is wrung out; when security in this world is achieved.  At some junction we witnessed prayer being regulated as a tool for the needy.  Some only use prayer when there are issues they cannot solve on their own, but that was never its intent.  Prayer was and is our communication with God.  Our relationship with Him comes via prayer: talking and conversing with the Lord; speaking of His Word.  We must not wait until trouble or conflict comes to employ this most critical aspect of the Christian walk.

Think of it…    When the laws of the land became contrary, Daniel opened up his window and prayed louder.  When David found himself pressed by the enemy, prayer became his weapon. When the early church faced a tyrannical government, prayer shook the house where they were assembled.  Talent and intelligence are meager utensils in this life compared to prayer.  Great insights pale in the face of fervent prayer.  If we think that we are secure then we lend ourselves to becoming obsolete.  There is never a time when we should go without seeking the face of God.  Not even for a day. Decisions are tainted and corrupt without prayer. I am urging you to gain the footing that only time on our knees can bring.  Time with God.  Time spent in prayer.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Behold the beauty of the Lord

Hanukkah is not a part of the Christian Christmas observance.  Many probably do not notice it’s time or reason with the date falling near the winter solstice, Dec. 22.  It’s also called “The Feast of Lights”, but in the Bible it was noted as “The Feast of Dedication”  John 10:22.  While it was not an O.T. feast, The Feast of Dedication served as a memorial for the dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in December, 165 B.C., after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated it in 167 B.C.  Dan. 11:31.  The Temple was then reopened, restored and dedicated. The Jews wanted to remember the moment when this place of worship was dedicated, thus Hanukkah began.  The temple, however, has long since been destroyed; only remnants and outer walls mark its perimeter. The artifacts and tools of sacrifice are also a faint memory. So why retain the Feast of Lights?  Why keep up the observance of a place that no longer exists?  The answer is found in Who is being dedicated; not in What.  No one can dedicate a building without being dedicated themselves.  It is a wasted endeavor to consign credence to stone and mortar without purposed people that give their lives to the cause.  Lifeless structures of every age sit idle if the people are not dedicated along with them.  Dedication of any church is a temporal transaction unless the people are dedicated to the purpose behind it.

prayinghandsMy prayer is for a greater dedication of our lives for the sake of the church.  Our building is a blessing from God, and yes we have dedicated it to the Cause of Christ.  Yet the church house is only as good as the desire of those who call it their place of sacrifice and worship. The building is an empty relic without prayer echoing off the walls; without worship and singing within its boundaries.  I’m returning to David’s heart cry:  “To behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole