Hatkarwadi

Hatkarwadi is a speck on the map in Beed where more than a million people have been hit by drought. Beed is in the province of Maharashtra which is in the country of India. Seeing that there are 1.4 billion Indians, 20% of the world’s population, the one million struggling people are barely noticed. Hakardadi is not the only place without water, but it does represent a spiritual phenomena.

Why do people stay where there is no water?

The surrounding area of Beed casts a long shadow of tradition and normalcy bias. Only two of the 35 wells have water left. Farmers dig up to 650ft to extract enough water to grow their meager crops. Food is scarce and the skies are mostly empty. Long interruptions in rainfall combined with the depleted Godavari river has caused a ripple effect in food, farming, and business. Two of the major dams hosts what is called “dead water” which is contaminated with sediments and mud. Even still, the “dead water” is the only thing left. Nearly a thousand tankers transport the water, spiked with chlorine to some 300 thirsty villages.

And yet, people continue to live where there is no water.

Psychologists revert to their default answers when trying to explain why abused people stay in dysfunctional relationships. Business experts also muse why people stay in dead end jobs with no chance of upward mobility.

Most troubling to me is what we know as “The Stagnate Church.” This is the place where there are no baptisms of the Holy Spirit or renewal or change. Old natures persist and tradition becomes the constricting mechanism that offers no hope to the hopeless. The Stagnate Church offers minimal worship and no sacrifice. It seeks to fulfill obligation with attenders who seek to appease their church duty. These churches are made up of “religious” people who like to wear shiny crosses, but have no relationship with the bloodied one.

Jesus declared Himself to be the Living Water. Only when we yearn and seek for the flowing river of the Spirit will we find it. While I cannot speak for everyone, I am desperate for a move of the Spirit in our church and in our services. We cannot live in the dry. We were born in the River. Jesus said, John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

I’m not willing to live where there is no outpouring of the Holy Ghost. I cannot live where there is no water. This must be more than a community endeavor and a social gathering. Our God is not dead and His Water is not stagnate. It must be where the River of Life flows and where the Spirit prevails. If not, then our lives will be wasted in the dry.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

His mission

The simplicity of our directives were spelled out by Jesus Christ Himself. If we consider all religious and spiritual activities; biblical doctrines and understandings, we must recognize the greatest of them all.

The question was this:

Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The greatest of all is this: Love God.

The second is like the first: Love others. Jesus said that everything else hinges on these commandments. Paul wrote that the greatest of all is love – 1 Corinthians 13:13.

There is one more thing leaping from the pages of the scripture. It comes from the totality of the life of Jesus. Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Jesus went about serving. He was a minister, which actually means that He “attended to the needs of people.” Ministry is about serving people. While modern vernacular confines it to preaching or teaching, most of history defines it as serving people.

I submit that real believers are not takers, but givers. The authentic Church, which is no less than the Bride of Christ, are actively Loving God, Loving others, and Serving. Many may consider themselves as Christians, but Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Our mission is not complex. It lives in simplicity: Loving the Lord with all that we are. Loving Him so fully that there is no room for any other in our heart. Loving others, because all godly and holy things rest on it. And finally, serve: attending to the needs of people. Our mission is His mission.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Merry Christmas. Jesus is born.

Good news! It looks like Christ can stay in Christmas after all. Retailers, movie stars, and even government officials have begun using the term “Merry Christmas” again. Though some are still deeply offended by the words, there seems to be a resurgence in advertisement that includes both “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas.”

More good news! Jesus may also have a place in this resurgence of the yearly festival. It appears that we can say “Merry Christmas” and consider the baby Jesus all in one breath. As long as He is wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, there will be no major outcry.

However, there is a catch: Jesus must remain as an infant and “Merry Christmas” must be in reference to being with people you love. Christ the Savior or “the Lamb which takes away the sin of the world” is off-limits. Likewise, the holiday slogan must not be connected to “God with us – Emmanuel” or the Creator coming to save people. Certainly there must be no mention of people being lost or blind as this would only make them feel self-conscious about their preferred lifestyle.

As you may note in my script, I’m a little caustic. The world will never approve of Jesus and the Cross of Calvary. John 1:5 “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” The world can neither comprehend this light or accept it. To the world, Peter said that Jesus is… 1 Peter 2:8 “…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient…”

So just as a declaration, let it be known that when we say “Merry Christmas” we are recognizing that the incarnate God came as a man to die for the sins of His creation; that God gave His only begotten Son and whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John. 3:16.

When we say Jesus, we are including His infancy in Bethlehem; His teaching in the Temple at 12 years old; His earthly ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and His second coming. When we say Jesus, we mean The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We mean that we were purchased with His Blood on a cruel cross and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Christmas is the moment of the beginning of our Redemption.

Merry Christmas. Jesus is born.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The Battle of the Bulge

Tomorrow, decades ago, the world was holding its collective breath. The wooded region of Ardennes was soon to be left twisted and torn like that of a tornado’s rampage. While I often bypass this historical moment in leu of more pleasant Christmas thoughts, this year seemed to stall at the juncture of Winston Churchill’s declaration that this was “the greatest American battle of the War.” The six-week battle saw a suffering unlike anything we have ever seen in our modern era. Beside the 15,000 extreme cold weather injuries, over 100,000 men lay lifeless in the snow at The Battle of the Bulge.

The turning point of that battle was said to be made on Christmas Day. The ground froze over making it possible for tanks and heavy equipment to make headway. Even still, massive loss of life lay ahead for both sides. Hitler’s point in this most critical moment was to divide the Allies in their drive toward Germany. Had he accomplished his mission, military experts say that Germany would have crushed the resistance beyond recognition. Division, as we know, is the best way to stop the progress of any people. Hitler failed, though 30 German divisions attacked the battle-fatigued American troops across 85 miles of the densely wooded Ardennes Forest. He just could not divide them and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of all the tactics that the devil uses against the Body of Christ, none rise higher than simple division. In Paul’s God-inspired writing, he told the church about the necessity of a unified body. The apostle relayed the value of the whole body; each member being as important as the next. Then he wrote, 1 Corinthians 12:25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

Experience has taught me that divisions are so damaging that few congregations survive. The enemy has easy access when we are divided. People become disillusioned, dishearten, and altogether discouraged by the division even if they are not involved. Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” To the church in Rome he said, “Mark them that cause division.” Jesus said that a house divided cannot stand. Jude wrote, “They said to you, In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.” Jude 1:18-19

Tomorrow there will another attack in a region where the church will be challenged, because that is the design of the enemy. Still I pray that we will overcome through the bond of faith and the unity of the body.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Word Police

If you haven’t noticed, the “Word Police” are actively looking into your conversation. This week marked another series of culturally approved words while dispelling the formerly offensive ones. As you might imagine, we are in a hypersensitive society where appropriation can result in loss of jobs and friends. It’s also a time ruled by people who seek to smear the once accepted fact of gender separation. Even marital terms seem to be offensive, i.e., “husband and wife.” For some reason these words cause people pain and are said to be found too exclusive. Instead we are told to use the words, “life partner” or “them.”

Maybe these things have become so common that the church no longer feels outraged. I do wonder sometimes if the creeping world has numbed us toward sinful advances. The greater concern is the encroachment against The Word: God’s Word. While all words matter, His Word is the only word that will ever matter. So while we contend with the antics of a secular culture, we need to consider the root of the aggression.

Modern language is being turned as a weapon against the Holy Scripture. Paul told Timothy: 2 Tim 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul said that the Scripture was God-breathed and that it was profitable. He declared that through this inspired Word, “the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

If the scripture will make us “wise unto salvation” is it any wonder that the motivation to manage our words will eventually lead to a rebuke of the Bible altogether? These days are filled with great spiritual unrest. The devil is fighting the church on every level, but specifically against the Bible. So as we concede that some words and statements are insensitive and should be changed, the management of words is leading to an assault on Bible verses, scriptural concepts and moral truth.

Given this premise, if you share such a thought, we must be vigilant to maintain The Book; it’s authenticity and authority in our daily lives. Nothing is more critical than the Bible for in it we find hope, salvation, direction, and our knowledge of God.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“Powerful” Churches

Geoff Pender first turned me on to the news. Writing for The Clarion Ledger, Pender predicted the day when retailers in Mississippi would receive their first ever lottery ticket distribution. Vice chairman of the Mississippi Lottery Board, Gerard Gibert, was ecstatic to announce this week that the end of the opposition to the lottery in the southern state had taken place. What really peaked my interest however were the words of Danielle Genovese who explained the reason for the hold-out state. She wrote, “For decades Mississippi was one of only six states without a lottery due to strong opposition from politically powerful churches.”

Once the “powerful” churches folded, or became weak, the lottery prevailed. In fact, it was well reported that the only reason the gaming commission was held at bay was due to conservative churches which taught against the practice. Come to find out, they voted in favor of their beliefs. However, as those churches and their spiritual convictions declined, the introduction of new measures emerge.

The nation as whole is experiencing similar dismantling of convictions. Instead of standing for biblical teachings, godliness, and spiritual understandings, people are defaulting. The word “default” has multiple meanings, but I use it in its last form: “in the absence.” We have become absent in our duty to our communities by believing in the lie of “live and let live.” The statement sounds like a measure of peace until we realize how destructive and diluted it has become. The “live and let live” crowd has compromised their beliefs in favor of a false sense of security. Israel experienced similar issues. They forsook the God of their fathers and in time, they lost their children and families. Idols were erected in the very places where holy worship once took place. After the idols came grotesque sacrifices and offerings. They devolved into an idolatrous people full of carnality and debauchery. Nevertheless, it did not begin that way. It began when they compromised their convictions. They lost their “powerful” opposition to sin and it cost them the nation.

It seems only reasonable to inquire as to our direction, especially in light of our homes and families. What are your convictions? What do you stand for or stand against? While the world allows the introduction and acceptance of all things, I am wondering if the people of God can articulate their own powerful, spiritual opposition. I suppose Moses said it best when he asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Climate change

Climate change, I cannot think a more divisive debate in our world today. While the subject weighs on world economies, political positions seem to be impacted the most. In brief, the theory is that human activity causes an increase in carbon emissions, thus creating an increase in the earth’s atmospheric temperatures through a series of ozone failures. In layman’s terms, humanity’s proceedings is causing the earth to warm. California’s smog has been used as an example. When the winds are silent, carbon dioxide and other pollutions hover in the noonday sky. Beijing, China is dealing with the same issue. Too many people in a small space has caused an increase in air quality. So while the overall global, man-made change in weather has been debated, there is no doubt that people have a bearing on the environment around them.

The truth is people always affect the climate, but the climate I’m talking about is not physical. I’m promoting a spiritual change. Our activity in praise and worship creates an atmosphere where the Lord operates. In fact, He inhabits the praises of His people. Liberty is the result of the Lord’s presence. Our endeavors through worship, and singing can change the atmosphere. Paul and Silas proved the point when they were thrown into an inner prison. The Scripture tells us that they were bound hand and foot. They were trapped in stocks and bonds. However, the Bible also declares that Acts 16:25 “…at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. It was a change in the climate. Songs of praise changed the atmosphere. An inner prison cell was no match for the songs of Zion. Imprisonment had to give way to praise at midnight. Their activity; their human expression altered the place where they were bound. No one told them to sing and there is no indication that they knew what would happen if they did. It appears that Paul and Silas were less concerned with the outcome and more focused on changing the atmosphere around them. The climate changed and the other prisoners heard them.

Praise at midnight is so powerful that it changes the climate of everyone. People who praise in the middle of their dilemma cause a disruption in the dispositions of the bound, weary, and afflicted. The next verse is a display of how the human effort effects the spiritual realm. Suddenly, there was an earthquake and it shook the foundations of the prison and everyone was set free. I’m ready for a climate change!

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The heart

Consider King Amaziah, who reigned in Jerusalem some 29 years. Though there are many commentaries pertaining to his administration and leadership, none are more telling than the words found in 2 Chronicles 25:2 “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.”

It’s such a strange commentary that a man can do what is right, but not with a perfect heart. It could be read that he did “right things”, but his heart was not in it. Amaziah’s heart was divided; never truly submissive to the Voice of God. The most glaring instance of his tenure came when he hired mercenaries to fight for Israel. Amaziah thought that the end would justify the means, but God rejected his ill-conceived plan. Amaziah struggled with the odds and then eventually became bitter over the loss of 100 talents of silver (@ 120,000 oz.), which he had already paid for his army-for-hire scheme. Amaziah had “heart” problems.

The heart is described throughout the scripture in various forms.
Jeremiah called it deceitful. Solomon told us to keep our heart with all… Proverbs 4:23 “…diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

Jesus said, Matthew 12:34 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

The heart is the center point of a person’s consciousness. It is the hub of all passions, desires, and philosophies. Its worth is far beyond the muscular, hollow organ that pumps blood throughout our circulatory system. It is the core of a person’s life where all intent and thought emanates.

Through the Word we know that God did accept indifference to His command, even if it was obeyed. God wanted obedience with wholeheartedness. To execute the commandment of God was insufficient if the heart was not in it. Even Jesus said, “Isaiah was right about you in that you serve me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.” The Lord knew the difference, because it is He Who measured the deeds of mankind. His Word is described as a sharp two-edged sword capable of discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

God is interested in our actions, but even more so that we love to do what He has called us to do. Begrudging obedience is not the attribute of a servant of the Lord. He wants us to obey and believe what we are obeying. The first of all commandments is to Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. This is our plight; to do what is right with a perfect heart.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Queen’s Crown

No one really knows the worth of the Queen’s Coronation Crown. Originally it was called St. Edward’s Crown and was worn briefly by the new British monarch. The entire worth of the royal family’s collection of crowns, robes, scepters, and other ceremonial items housed in the Tower of London for the last many centuries is estimated at about $3.5 billion.

However, the Queen’s Coronation Crown is premier above all. Weighing nearly five pounds, the opulent headgear comprises gold, velvet, ermine, and a plethora of glittering gemstones. The stones were made permanent by King George V, Elizabeth II’s grandfather. However, if you pulled it apart and broke it down by individual pieces, the cost would be much lower than its present value. Based on current calculations of materials, to duplicate the crown would cost a respectable $4.5 million. Most of the cost would involve the 7 sapphires, followed by 26 tourmaline stones. The lush purple velvet, as regal and royal as it is, would only set you back $3.

It’s not the individual components that make the Queen’s Crown so valuable. Alone, a replica is far less expensive than the original. The value is found in its connection to the kings and queens who wore it. In fact, it is the uniqueness of the monarchs connected to the entirety of the royal jewels and artifacts that give the collection its worth. Without that connection, the pieces are merely measured against the going rate of their replacements.

The worth of the Church was never based on the individual lives of the people who were apart of it. Nor did the Church find its value in its collective talent or ability, regardless of their giftedness. Each person began in iniquity and was far from God. Each individual had their roots in lust and corruption; all were conceived in sin, as David so aptly wrote.

The value of the Church is its connection to the King of Glory and the precious Blood of the Lamb of God. We are made worthy by He Who sits on the throne of Heaven. Jesus, the Lord of Hosts, is the Creator of all things and because of Him we are the sons and daughters of the Most High God; joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

Pull this apart, if you will, but the worth of the Church plummets. Remove the name of Jesus out of baptism and our worth is gone. Diminish the necessity of Holy Ghost baptism and you have nothing, but a country club with menial endeavors. Our value is tied to something higher than us. We have value and identity because of Him Who sits on High. We have purpose because of His loving kindness. All that we are and hope to be is by virtue of His grace and mercy. In Him, our value is beyond this world.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Importunity

Importunity is not a common word in our modern vernacular. So when we read the parable of a Friend at Midnight, it might be difficult to understand the word that so described the main character. The end of the story rests on this statement: Luke 11:8 “…yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.” The parable speaks of need: A man needs bread, but the hour is late. He’s knocking on a door at the wrong time. The man inside considers him a friend, but it’s midnight. Besides, there are children to consider. The father must wake the children to supply the need. The father says, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are asleep. I can’t get up and give you anything.” Three reasons are given: The door is locked. The children will be disturbed. The hour is late. The father has spoken and the answer is “no.” “Go away. Can’t you see that it’s too late?” However, the father will change his mind because of his friend’s importunity. We call it, Persistence. He is Relentless. He just won’t go away.

I wish it were deeper than persistence. I know that many are looking for some theological revelation to answer their most difficult conflict. Jesus said, Matthew 7:8 “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The ‘eth” on the end of each word actually means “continually.” Jesus presented the plural to ask, seek, and knock. Jesus did not end this thought with one parable or a single statement. Jesus was emphatic! Jesus said, Luke 18:3-5 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

The widow received what she asked for because of her importunity. Constant coming. Continual asking. Repeated seeking. It was her insistence that brought about justice. There was no special gifting needed to receive her heart’s desire. It was just her request in repeat mode. I wonder how many have given up praying because they feel like they sound like a broken record. Maybe you are weary in well doing. I say, let your importunity be your resolve and never quit seeking for the thing that you long for. The answer may rest on your importunity.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole