The LORD is on my side

Psalm 118:6  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

It’s a small passage of scripture that often captivates my thoughts.  In most cases I begin with the end in mind, i.e., the result based on the premise, but in this case the psalmist puts the Lord in His place.  The Lord is where?  “on my side.”   It is His location to me that provokes faith and not fear.  It’s where He is that makes all the difference. He is beside me and that fact alone changes the setting and scene.

Yet how easy it is for us to forget the intention of our God?  We struggle with doubt and bewilderment simply because we believe that we are all alone. When we forget where He is; when we are distracted by some circumstance in our life, that is when we are set at odds with the truth.  He said that He would never leave us.  He will never forsake us.  It’s only when we fail to see our place in Christ that we lean toward worry and fear.

How often have I stumbled in the face of men only to run back to the knowledge of this truth. The presence of the Lord is enough to sustain me.  It’s more than enough to thwart the attacks of the enemy.  This is not to say that harm is impossible. David is not saying that accusations and slander will not come.  He certainly did not imply that we are free from the pressing of people or tribulation. These things were experienced by the saints throughout the ages.  There were persecutions and pains to be sure, but in light of our faith and in the reality of our will, man can do nothing.  God is on our side!  The physical world cannot steal our faith or our hope without our permission. The natural realm cannot dismantle our doctrine or destroy our worship. No one can take your praise unless you let them.  The Lord is our Protector, Keeper, High Tower, Refuge, and Strength.  The Lord is on our side.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Sacrifice of Praise

sacrificeofpraiseIt was David, the ultimate worship leader, who wrote that God inhabits the praises of His people.  David presented this idea that praise is a form of construction in which the Lord Almighty dwells.  Most Christians of any length of time have heard this truth.  Yet I wonder if we have considered the cost of our praise.  Hebrews 13 speaks of the “Sacrifice of Praise” given to God through the fruit of our lips.  It implies that we must praise even when our emotional hearts are not fully engaged.  It means that praising God is a sacrifice in the same vein as a lamb being slain on an altar of fire.

 

The modern day Christian doesn’t always see it this way.  In fact, according to some worship forums and religious articles, praise should be an enlightening and enjoyable experience. Some submit that it should leave the person light-hearted or energized.  Others have redefined praise as a function with minimal effort, but if this is the case, where does the sacrifice of praise occur?  The Bible points to praise as the making of a building — a habitation.  David said that through praise we make God a place to live. No prerequisites required. No conditions considered. Just Praise.  In the good times or bad, we are to obey the Word, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”  Isaiah commissioned us to praise when we walk through waters, rivers, fires, and flames.  Just Praise!  Sometimes praise is easy and sometimes it’s work, but it’s always in order.  Sometimes we praise out of Joy and sometimes we Praise through grief, but we must Praise!  And finally, sometimes we praise for the wonders He has done, and sometimes we praise just to build a place for Him to dwell.  The last words of all the psalms says it like this:  Psalm 150:6  Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Conviction

When Joseph refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife he said, “how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”  Not only did Joseph believe that adultery was sinful, “great wickedness”, he also believed that God was watching him even if Potiphar was not, but it was more than just being caught that held Joseph in check.  It was his conviction that kept him from committing this horrible sin and ruining his life.  Joseph’s conviction was greater than any momentary pleasure that might have occurred and it protected him from falling victim to his own flesh.  No one was there to guide him; just Joseph and his belief of what was right and holy.

When David cut the garment of King Saul as proof of his ability to return retribution, he lamented to his men about his inappropriate action.  David had it in his hand to kill King Saul as he slept, but David walked away with a sinking feeling of regret.  David said, “Who can touch the Lord’s anointed and be found guiltless?”  David’s conviction kept him from taking vengeance upon his unsuspecting pursuer.  While he had the opportunity to end Saul’s life, David was convicted in his own heart and it kept him clean.

conviction

Conviction is defined as a firmly held belief, but you won’t hear it used very often.  The entire concept of such a thing has waned in the last many years.  People are mostly adverse to self-imposed barriers.  We like the free, open range that opinions, pleasures, and emotions offer.  It feels so much better to do what you want without those nagging voices reminding you about your infractions.  We don’t want to be constrained by the boundaries that convictions impose.  It is clear that our generation has abandoned Righteousness and taken up pleasures.

Yet a person without conviction is usually someone who is susceptible to temptations. They lean into moral decline, pulled by the attraction of lustful things.  They drift into fields filled with fleshly desires because there are no fences to keep them guarded.  Ultimately, in every case, a conviction-less life will lose out with God and turn away from truth.  In every case, those who have no customized boundaries will also dismiss holiness.

The scripture commands us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.”  It means that we must be sober and careful to live a life pleasing unto the Lord.  It means that we must guard our hearts and minds, even making a covenant with our eyes as Job once wrote.  It is my experience that convictions come from time spent in prayer.  As we see our Holy God more clearly, it provokes us to live differently.  We stop asking if what we’re doing is a ‘Heaven or Hell issue’ because we want to stay as far away from the world as we can.

I’m calling on all those who have ears to hear:  We must restore our Convictions that keep us and guard us. Where did they go?  Did modernism or hypocritical people cause us to nullify the very things that brought us to this point?  I pray that we will go back to those old landmarks and restore the fences that kept us from following the world.  We must make our Calling and Election sure!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

words of my mouth …

wordshavepower

Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  Upon review, it is clear that David prayed about what he would say when he concluded praying.  He wanted his words to be acceptable in the sight of the Lord and for good reason.  David knew that God was listening to his spoken words.

Jesus said: Mathew 12:36-37 “…every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”  The Lord implied that there is a record of things we say that will be reviewed by God. We will have to answer for our commentaries.  James 3:5-6  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!   And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.   

This is no trivial matter.  What we say about other people not only defines our living, but also determines our destinies. If we think that we can speak against other blood-bought saints and our words will go unnoticed, then we are fooling ourselves. Maybe we should pray for words that please the Lord.

James 3:10-11  Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things must not be. A fountain does not offer both sweet and bitter water!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“everything mom”

Moses was born in a very chaotic time. Pharaoh was on a war path, killing every young male child he could find.  In a bold move, Moses’ mother, Jochebed, hid him from the Egyptian’s wrath.  But after three months there was no safe place left to hide.  It was then that she weaved a basket; placed the young Moses inside, and pushed him into the slow, winding waters of the Nile River. Some distance away, Pharaoh’s daughter found him and drew him out, thus his name became Moses “for he was drawn out.”  Incredibly, pharaoh’s daughter called for a helper to both nurse and care for the infant child and Jochebed was chosen.  Jochebed became mother and teacher; employee and keeper to her own son.  It was a miracle ordained by God.

motherandbabyinpark

It is here that we see the many roles of motherhood.  Moses’ mother was the “everything mom.”  But she knew that her time was limited. Jochebed knew that if Moses was to learn about the one true God of Israel, he had to learn it in quick fashion.  She did not have the luxury of time to teach him about the ways of the Lord.  Hers was an immediate engagement.  There was a demand on her to root him in the ways of Jehovah before she released him into the world of the Egyptians. Whatever she taught him in those opening moments had to keep him for a lifetime.

While I submit that it’s never too late to start, the fact is that we all have but a little time to impart the things of God to others.  And while we celebrate Mother’s Day, we also know that there is a divine purpose given to every mother regardless of how young or old their children may be.  The purpose is to declare the ways of God and the Word of God so that they will not error in life.  God’s way is the only path toward salvation.  So, speak the truth, Mom.  All your children need to hear your voice.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Leaven

breadsmall

It was a simple error when the disciples forgot to bring bread for their journey across the sea. They had other food supplies, but someone left the bread.  Jesus took the opportunity to launch a life-lesson that resonates yet today.  He said, Mark 8:15 “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”  It was a double-edged warning.  First, He warned of the religious who guide without humility or servant-hood.  They talk about their spiritual insights, but are not submissive to authority or to the Holy Spirit.  They do not pray or fast, but always have a “word from the Lord” to all who might listen.  They criticized the church while pretending to care about the Body. They occupy pews and wait for opportunities to impugn leadership.  Jesus said that even a little of that leaven is destructive to the whole.

The second leaven comes from Herod who represents secularism and worldliness.  These seek possessions, money, status, and worldly pursuits.  They mix God with their religious experience, but ultimately they are fully corrupted.  They love the things of this world more than the things of God.  Church is not the first thing on their mind. Worship revolves around their schedule as they seek out fun times, personal gain, or educational plateaus.  This leaven causes carnality to rise while diminishing self-sacrifice. Sports might consume them.  Careers take center stage.  Even their physical appearance demands their attention and time.

Paul said a little destroys the entirety.  Galatians 5:9  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  A little judgementalism will cause all of it to be so.  A little worldliness will affect the rest. A carnal spirit doesn’t overwhelm the Christian.  It moves in incrementally.  “Beware” Jesus said.  “Take heed, and guard against the smallest of portions that destroy your faith and purity.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Except a man be born again …

In the 40 days after the resurrection, as Jesus tarried with His disciples, He foretold of the Holy Ghost giving them power to be witnesses (Act 1:8).  Those were among the last few words that the Lord spoke before He ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives.  Those words echoed in their minds as they made their way to Jerusalem to“wait for the promise of the Father.” They were going to receive power to be witnesses.  And when the Holy Ghost fell and they were filled with the Spirit, evidenced by speaking in other tongues (Acts2:1-4), they became witnesses to Jerusalem and throughout the whole known world.  The Holy Ghost gave them power to proclaim the mighty works of God. The reason for such power was to spread the message of salvation.  Hanging in the balance were the destinies of thousands and millions.  Everyone had to know about the Gospel: His death, burial and resurrection.  Everyone needed a chance to be saved from death and hell.  This Holy Ghost power helped them change the course of eternity for the souls of everyone they met.

Paul would later write that only through the Gospel could a person be saved.  It was the driving force of the Church. The Gospel: repentance, baptism in Jesus’ name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost made known through stammering lips and another tongue (I Cor.15, Acts 2:38) – only through the Gospel could the lost be saved.  That was the message of the early church.  It was the Apostles’ Doctrine first given to Peter by Jesus in what He called, the “keys to the kingdom of Heaven.”  There is no other message. There is no other Truth.  Even confessing Christ was only the beginning and not the totality.  Jesus said, “Except a man be born again of water and Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”  We have the power today and we must use it to be witnesses to reach our world. It is our calling.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

baptisminwater

BE the sacrifice

Recent discovery depicts a long list of challenges facing the 21st century church. It’s not uncommon to find opposition from governments or laws at the forefront.  Maintaining doctrines, complex family issues, and the moral morass, which has become our lot, also climbs into those top spots.  Yet I see something greater afflicting our times. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, Complacent Christianity leaps to the front of the pew (or to the back).  Being a Christian has never been easier. We have become very adaptive to our sinful world.  We can relate to our society much better than our apostolic fore-fathers could relate to theirs. Preachers and parishioners alike seek new ways to blend in with the culture.  From language to clothing, we are mostly adverse to standing out. Given this assumption it is clear that definitions have changed.  ‘Sacrifice’ doesn’t mean what it once did.  Worship is a song set while witnessing is waiting for someone to ask you where you attend church.  It’s easy to come to a building and view the attractions.  It’s something different altogether to BE the sacrifice!  

I submit that conforming to the world, which Paul taught against, rages in our Pentecostal circles.  Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice was not meant to be unique.  Paul called it our “reasonable service.”  The psalmist set the tone when he wrote:  Psalms. 69:9 “the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up!” The disciples remembered those words as they watched Jesus in action.   They knew that He was all about the House of God and it provoked them toward extreme dedication. They were consumed with the mission; burning for the Cause of the Gospel. It was all or nothing and it became the mantra for every major revival since.  Not all will hear this word, but I’m calling for someone to break out of complacency and do something you’ve never done before.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

See the Lord for Who He is

Much to the consternation of Jesus, the disciples abruptly dismissed the approaching children and their parents.   They thought it inappropriate for the children to take up the Master’s time. Little did they know that the opposite was true:  He wanted to touch them.  The Kingdom demands for us all to become as children.  In that moment it was about their age, but it was also about their disposition and the conditions of the Kingdom.  Children exhibit untarnished faith and trust. They come in the most innocent way, without skepticism or suspicion.   They see the Lord for Who He is: Loving and faithful.  They believe without the tethers of so-called maturity.

Mark 10:13  And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.

Mark 10:16  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

I would gladly denounce the disciples for their arrogance and oblivious nature except that I fear we haven’t moved too far from their rebuke.  Many still feel that children are less consequential than adults because of their level of understanding.  Some even think it a waste of time to teach children or to be involved in children’s ministries.  On the other hand I am not given to that false notion that “it’s all about the children.” There are balances in ministry, but it is true that some of life’s great lessons can only be learned by viewing the way the younger age approach the Lord. They come  without contempt or scorn; without the convoluted conditions that our days bring.  In response, Jesus declared: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. Children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”  The Message

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

childrenlookingatjesus

Order precedes the Miracle

mancleaninghouse

In the same passage that describes Jesus cleansing the Temple, it also depicts Him performing notable miracles. Jesus begins by casting out merchants that bought and sold in the Temple.  He overthrows tables of money, spilling their wears on the floor.  The scene is chaotic as men scramble to salvage their enterprise.  Their manipulation of people combined with the absence of prayer provokes the Lord to wrath.  The Bible says that “he drove them out.”  He called them thieves and made an open display of their sinful activity.  He was putting the House in order. He was restoring the intent and purpose of the Temple by removing their ill-conceived activities.

Yet, I’m most interested in the next line.  Matthew 21:14  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.  After the cleansing came the healing.  After order and purpose was restored, the blind and the lame were healed.  The chronological events began with a house cleaning followed by an open display of the healing power of the Lord.

Consider the healing of the daughter of Jarius.  Those present laughed at Jesus when He said she was sleeping.  They knew she was dead, but the Lord gave a different answer. The Word says that He put them all out and allowed only Peter, James and John with the parents to enter the room. Only then, after He had put the house in order did He heal her and raise her up. Jesus first cast out doubt, sin, and corruption before He showed His power. His first act was to clean up the atmosphere; His second was to the perform the miracle. When He saw a man being lowered through a roof in Mark 2, the Lord first forgave him of his sins.  Afterward He said, “Take up thy bed and walk.”  All of it and more makes me know that the miracle comes after the cleansing.  Both now and then, Order precedes the Miracle.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole