Crown of Thorns

Peel away the outer layer of today’s modernized event and you’ll find the Passover. Israel remembered this day when God saved them from death through the blood of an innocent lamb. The fulfillment of their Passover occurred when Jesus, The Lamb of God, died on the cross. The work done on Golgotha paid the ransom for our sin. Nevertheless, while our sin was atoned at Calvary, the power to live an abundant life came on the third day when Jesus rose from the grave! Jesus paid it all as He conquered the grave. O death where is your sting; grave where is your victory?

The scripture is filled with Types concerning this momentous occasion. All of it stands as a witness to the wonder of His divine plan. Yet I am consumed by a small word found in the narrative of Abraham. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. This is the same mountain where the Temple would be built and the same region where Jesus was later crucified. Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son until the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. Then God provided Himself a lamb (ram) caught in a thicket. The sacrifice was held in place by thorns.

The Hebrew word for thicket or thistles is çebâk, derived from the Hebrew word çâbak, which depicts interwoven branches with thorns and thistles. Thorns trapped the sacrifice so that Abraham could make the sacrifice. The curse levied against Adam was thorns: Genesis 3:1 “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…” Jesus was The Lamb crowned with thorns. He took the curse on His head to set us free. Incredibly enough, Moriah was the early habitation of a small tree or shrub called acacia. It was the same wood used to make the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark where God rested, or where they “arrested” God, produced the thorns that held the ram for Abraham and were later woven to create the Crown of Thorns that adorned The Lamb!

Jesus wore a crown of thorns…but that was before the empty tomb. Today He is crowned with Glory and Honor (Hebrews 2:9). He is the King of all kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Resurrection and the Life.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

The I AM …

The scripture records two reactions to the Lord’s Triumphant entry into Jerusalem:

First:
Matthew 21:9-11 “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.”

Second:
Matthew 21:15 “But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.”

Besides the obvious differences of acceptance by the people and rejection by the religious sects, there is a more notable message lying within the holy writ. Both the people and the pharisees did not know Who Jesus was. To the people, Jesus was a prophet; a healer Who originated from a city called Nazareth. To the pharisees, Jesus was a troublemaker Who sought to disrupt their ceremonial practices. Both saw Him in a different light, but neither understood that He was The Light. Both saw Him as unique, but none comprehended that He was The I AM.

Maybe it was a step in the right direction to proclaim that Jesus came in the name of the Lord, but it could not end there. He was the Lord. Besides a handful of disciples and the women, which followed, none of them viewed Him as the Resurrection and the Life. The people cried Hosanna, but no one saw Him as the Alpha and Omega, The Almighty (Revelation 1:8). They all shouted praises and laid branches and coats in His path, but Isaiah’s declaration was a blur (Isaiah 9:6) – “The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.”

The seven days from His entry to His crucifixion is noted as the greatest week in human history. In some ways, I find the words of the Roman soldier as the real capstone of the Lord’s identification. The soldier witnessed the Lord’s death and in that moment, he lifted up his eyes and said, “Surely this was the son of God.”

As we enter this house of worship, there must be recognition of Who He is. It is imperative that we call Him Savior, Master, Redeemer. He did not just come in the name of the Lord. He came as the Lord of all. His name is Jesus and He is the Lord of Glory, the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings. We cry, “Hosanna,” because He is the Light of the World and the Lord of Glory.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Balance …

Solomon wrote under the same direction of the Author, Who breathed His Word to all the anointed writers of the Bible. In his book, called Ecclesiastes, Solomon promoted a Balanced Life. Perhaps his years of success and failure had carved out a truth that God wanted us to learn. Solomon wrote of seasons and times; designated moments that are polar and yet appropriate. He also wrote: Ecclesiastes 7:16 “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?”

The verse means that we should not think ourselves too righteous to repent or too ceremonially perfect that we forget what God has done for us. It gives us caution not to be too wise in our eyes lest we destroy ourselves, i.e., “don’t outsmart yourself.”

The concise term is Balance. There is a time for everything, but not everything all of the time. Nature teaches us balance. The human anatomy is an artistic display of balance. The temperature of the earth; gravity and those invisible barriers that allow the sun to penetrate the earth’s crust is kept in check by the same. The stars and galaxies are all held by the poise of God’s order. Balance.

I submit that our actions, thoughts, and ideas must follow in kind. There is a time to speak of the condition of our sinful world. Our culture is corrupt. Carnality is a disease wrought against humanity. Nevertheless, the scripture would offer a balance, or in this sense, a counterbalance. Paul said that where sin abounded “grace did much more abound” Romans 5:20. There is a time to preach against wickedness, of this I’m sure. However, sometimes I wonder if we should stop rebuking the darkness and just turn on the Light.

Jonathan paused to taste the honey and it enlightened his eyes. The honey gave him strength even in the midst of the battle. There will be trouble, but along the way, God has provided encouragement. It is appropriate for us to rejoice in the blessing, instead of continually recalling the trial.

The church struggles from time to time, but it also has victories and benefits. We all experience deep valleys, but a balanced life will produce miracles on the same path as the affliction. It’s only when we are out of balance that we find ourselves out of order. “Out of balance” people are either too proud to admit their failure or too fearful to recognize that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” They are either full of themselves or wallowing in despair. We are seeking a Balanced Life, which is a life in Jesus Christ.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Preemptive Forgiveness

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Paul’s writing cannot be overstated as the most pivotal point in human history. Sin separated us from God. All death, disease, and human conflict was a result of sin. David said that we were shaped and made in sin. The scripture states that “all have sinned and fallen short.” None of us even knew our wretched condition. Nevertheless, Paul wrote, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It means that before we were aware of the debt we owed, Jesus was paying the price. What a miracle! What a gift!

Not only did Jesus forgive us on Calvary, but He commanded us to forgive one another. His eternal pattern was set, as Romans 5 so aptly declares. I call it “Preemptive Forgiveness.” The Bible teaches us that unless and until we forgive our brother, our Heavenly Father cannot forgive us. Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

There is no vagueness in the scripture. It is plain: Forgive and you will be forgiven. Without the same and you will retain your sin. However, there is another measure that is tied to the above text. We must forgive one another even before we are asked: Preemptive Forgiveness. Real Christians forgive at the moment of the offense. Not when they are sought after by the offender. Real Christians immediately recall what Jesus did for them and they measure the offense against them by the pain of the Cross suffered on their behalf.

Preemptive forgiveness is an attitude, not just an action. It is a lifestyle predicated by the work done on Calvary. He suffered and died before we knew Him; before we understood how far we were from God. Offenses will come. Denial, rejection, abuse, misuse, and more are sure to find us in this life. However, Jesus forgave us and restored us and we are to follow suit.

I’m not looking for religious people who tout doctrines, sacrifice, or scriptural insight over Mercy. Jesus said that He desires Mercy more than sacrifice. All those other aspects are good, but they are built upon the foundation of Mercy and Forgiveness. We cannot reject the scripture or take things out of context to justify ourselves. I’m preaching here a little: Just because the Bible does not work in your favor does not mean that you can ignore it. We are here because He forgave us of our sins. We are commissioned to forgive every offense in this life – even preemptively.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Religious, but not Spiritual

It seems odd that these two things can be mutually exclusive. I’ve often wondered about the evolution of such a thing: To be ritualistic, but have no relationship. Yet, this tragedy has become prevalent in these modern times.

Religion should help us think beyond ourselves. It is designed to move us toward action. James wrote of it’s true purpose: James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The first portion has become a regular aspect of the church. We do care for the fatherless. We are active in comforting and caring for the widows. However, it’s the latter portion of the scripture that many ignore. We are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Real religion is spiritual! It is a spiritual endeavor that causes us to refrain from evil; run from sexual perversions; flee fornication; remove ourselves from vain conversation and much more. We are to be spiritual!

I ask:

• When did we think that we could stop praying and still make it to Heaven? Is prayer just for people who need something from God?
• Who decided that minimal church attendance was sufficient?
• Did someone white-out Hebrews 10:25?
• Has tithing become a last century teaching or is Malachi 3 true?
• Is withholding tithes and offerings still stealing from God?
• When did Christians conclude that God wasn’t concerned with their musical choices? Or when did we buy into the lie that watching perverted movies and scenes would not stain our minds?
• Can we consume Hollywood and stay pure?
• It’s okay to gossip, talk about other people, and spread hurtful information? Is it no longer an abomination to God to verbally attack people?
• When did the Bible become obsolete and the scripture become silent when it comes to submission and obedience?
• Did our American citizenship remove us from spiritual authority?
• Should we just erase Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”?
• Who has the rule over you? Who is your spiritual umbrella? Who told you that receiving the Holy Ghost negated your spiritual authority?
(Jeremiah 3:15, 2 Timothy 4:2, Acts 20:28, Ephesians 4:11-14)?

I ask because these matters are serious and critical. It is not enough to be “Religious” and still be spotted. We must seek to be spiritual, which comes through Prayer, Fasting, Sacrifice, and a daily diet of the Word.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

King of Israel

Noted by Marvin Olasky, Paris has three chefs for every one lawyer while Washington D.C. has 15 lawyers for every one chef. Our capital also has 10 economists for every one clergy. There are also more chefs than ministers. If you can’t see it, then let me brief you on the matter: The fading figure is the ministry and the church. I suppose the point is reflective in Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

The king of Israel was part and parcel of the nation’s leadership. Along with a prophet and a priest, the king organized the armies and defended the land against paganism. However, there came a day when spiritually appointed authority was disbanded and every person “did that which was right” in their own eyes.

While our nation hurls towards a $21 trillion debt, America is lauding gender fluidity; censorship; abortion; gay and lesbian advancements and I’ve only scratched the surface of the debauchery. What we need is a return to the scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I almost feel apprehensive to reference the above text because it has been so overused and under-practiced. However, it is the only way to regain our direction and purpose. When we place ourselves, and our church, in the context of these things it can be somewhat bewildering as to what, if anything, we can do. Nevertheless, take heart. We are the people of the Most High God. We lead by exampling the scripture in our everyday lives. If I’m reading the Bible correctly, 2 Chronicles begins by addressing people called by His name.

Suddenly the accusation of “Jesus only” people is working in our favor, “called by my name.” We are people of the Name. To that end, we must humble ourselves and pray. Seeking His face becomes an ongoing process, not a single event or a scheduled program. We are commanded to turn from our own wicked ways, which simply means anything that is contrary to the Spirit.

Then…then comes the promise. God will hear from heaven. Heaven is His throne. Earth is His footstool. Heaven is limitless. In response to our actions, God will forgive sin. The result of forgiven sin is a healed land. The land, our city, state, and nation may very well rest on the response of the Church to the scripture.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

“the Evil day”

Ephesians 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The church of Ephesus was given a powerful admonition to take on the whole armor of God and be strong in the Lord. Paul lists a plethora of items relating to the Spiritual fight, as we will discover. However, the most perplexing words in the narrative speak of the time in which we will need these spiritual weapons. He wrote that we will need them “in the evil day.”

I ask, When is the evil day? What time, era, or environment denotes such a day? I suppose that it could be the day of great tribulation when the world unites around the antichrist. It could be when wars and rumors of wars abound; earthquakes rattle the foundations of the world; and sin is normalized. (If so, then we are living in that day this very moment.)

I submit that the most common “evil day” occurs when we are personally attacked and the enemy of our spirit has waged a war against our faith and mind. This is the time when we “wrestle” with truth, doubt, courage, and consistency. It’s an evil day when the devil plants seeds of unbelief in our thoughts so that we question the veracity of God’s love and kindness.

Whatever day constitutes “the evil day” the fact remains for us to be armed with the elements in Paul’s sermon.

• The Belt of Truth: holding the other pieces together through honesty, integrity, and commitment.

• The Breastplate of Righteousness that protects the heart. The scripture says to “guard the heart.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence” Proverbs 4:23.

• Shoes advancing the Gospel; stamping out darkness and spreading the message of Acts 2:38.

• The Shield of Faith quenching and deflecting the arrows of doubt and skepticism.

• The Helmet of Salvation protecting our thoughts and providing peace in the midst of trouble so that false doctrines and vain philosophies cannot cause confusion.

• And finally, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. The Sword being unique in that it is the only item of Offense. Jesus used it against Satan in the Wilderness. Jesus said, “It is written…”

I encourage you to Stand Fast and put on the Whole Armor of God against that evil day.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Money …

 

Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

It is interesting that Jesus put money in the category of a master. In fact, Jesus said that a person can only serve one of two masters: God or money. He did not say God or the world; God or Lucifer. Jesus said that the opposing master is money. If you lean toward statistics, then consider that 16 of 38 parables deal with handling money or possessions. One of ten verses in the Gospels (288 in all) speak directly with the subject of money. In the entire Bible, about 500 verses speak of prayer; less than 500 deal with faith; but over 2,000 verses talk of money and possessions.

I understand the damage religious charlatans have made concerning giving, but we must not withhold tithing, offerings, or sacrifices because they misused the subject. Solomon wrote, Proverbs 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: Abraham gave his tithes before the Law of Moses was written. All of Israel gave tithes and offerings, then made a sacrifice to the Lord. Jesus followed this teaching in Matthew 23:23 scolding the Pharisees because they gave their tithe, but did not obey other parts of the Lord. He said, “you should have done both.”

A tithe is based on your Firstfruits. The first 10% of your income belongs to the Lord. God said to bring our Firstfuit into the storehouse. The early church understood the “storehouse” to mean the place where spiritual food is offered. Offerings are above the tithe. Afterward came sacrifice. This is what happened in Acts 5 when people made pledges and brought their sacrifice to Peter. They knew that a sacrifice is something that we give that is not in our budget. A sacrifice is something that you give up without expectation of a return.

Tithing, offerings, and sacrifices, however, have fallen on hard times. Once again, the statistics say that most church-goers give about 2.3% of their income in total. The reasons vary, but in general they believe that if the church is doing well then they don’t feel obligated. Thus, they give according to the need, not according to the Bible’s command.

I offer this to you today because it is the Bible. I do not write because New Life is hurting for finances. I write because you and I cannot afford to miss Heaven over money. How foolish it is to neglect the scripture? We are obligated to the Word and we must follow! Therefore, I admonish you not to neglect giving tithes, offerings, and a sacrifice.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Tug-of-War

In the dark hours of prayer among the olive trees, Jesus roused His disciples and said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus knew that their battle, even His own, would be between the human will and the Father’s Will. After His own all night prayer meeting struggling with the sacrifice that lay ahead, Jesus Himself said, “Nevertheless, thy Will be done.” It was and is Flesh versus Spirit: Humanity opposing Divinity. It’s a tug-of-war; pulling and grappling for position.

The word “flesh” doesn’t resonate with our generation. It is an odd term, perhaps old in nature. Greater still, the concept of fleshly desires is just as foreign. Modern vernacular does not include these terms. However, the human will is full of lust and pride. Flesh is everything that opposes the Holy Spirit and no one is exempt from this battle. Consider Paul’s powerful life and ministry. Yet, Paul wrote: 1 Corinthians 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Our spirits want to do right, but our flesh is waging a war. There is a war raging inside of our members. Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. We are in the fight of our lives and it is greater than this forum can explain. Maybe this is why the Lord instituted the structure of worship and a sacrificial offering. Both are spiritual tools that put the flesh under subjection.

I have discovered that a scattered, unfocused, and undisciplined life is a haven for the flesh. Seeing that God is a God of order, the opposite can be said of humanity. God instituted feasts and festivals for the Jewish people to give them an order to their year. These were to remind the people of their past and of God’s goodness. They worshipped and made sacrifices to the Lord. Even the Sabbath was to provide structure on a weekly basis. It has been said that while the Jews kept the Sabbath, in reality, the Sabbath kept them.

I submit that Sunday worship is the pivot point of defeating the flesh. I submit that as we keep our Sunday, it will keep us. We are giving rise to the Spirit with worship and sacrifice. We have come to offer Praise and say, “Thy Will be done in my life.”

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole

Undeniables

Only the Gospel of John records the miracle of Lazarus. Luke will speak of a different Lazarus who is described as a poor man begging for food. John, however, writes of a resurrected Lazarus as he declares the Lord’s deity. John said that Jesus was the Word in flesh, the Light that lights every man. He said that Jesus made everything that was ever made.

It was John that gave us Mary and Martha’s dying brother Lazarus. Jesus will arrive four days late to find a sealed tomb and a family in mourning. We are probably familiar with this biblical narrative, but I wish to expose a not so well known portion of scripture. In fact, few even take the time to discover the other part of Lazarus’ story after he rose from the dead.

John 12:9-11 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.

Lazarus was a problem for the chief priests. His mere presence; breathing, living body was a major issue. They hated Lazarus because he validated the preaching of Jesus Christ. They hated Jesus because He was taking their followers. Jesus was talking about a new Kingdom and a new covenant. His parables mesmerized the people and His teaching captivated their hearts. Jesus understood the Law and He brought it to life among the people. He came to set the captive free.

The chief priests tried to stop Him and would have defamed Him had it not been for a living Lazarus. Dead Men Walking always pose a problem for the Unbeliever. You can mock the Bible; call it “old fashion” or not relevant, but you can’t dismiss the miracle. Lazarus needed to die by the hands of the unbeliever because he boosted the prominence of the Lord’s Gospel and posed a threat to their kingdom.

You see, the enemy has a kingdom also and the greatest threats to his kingdom are the walking miracles among us. People can deny speaking in other tongues, but they can’t deny the blind being able to see. They can deny holiness and righteous living, but they have a difficult time belittling cancer healed and the deaf talking and the lame walking. I’m praying for those “Undeniables” this year.

Because for that reason, verse 11, many will come to hear the saving message of Acts 2:38.

Pastor Jeffrey Harpole