The Voyager: Encouragement for Life's Journey
Below you will find articles from our Church's leadership meant to encourage you and give you insight into questions about life, faith, and God.
“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23, NLT)
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24, NLT)
“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.’” (Mark 8:34, NLT)
“If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (Matthew 10:38, NLT)
“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27, NLT)
In the Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that the reality of carrying one’s own cross is a vital, defining aspect of being His disciple. Jesus makes it a nonnegotiable part of following Him.
What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
Basically defined, a disciple is one who follows a teacher. The reality of a disciple encompasses far more than just learning from someone. A disciple is one who emulates the life of his or her teacher, making the teacher’s character, priorities, ethics, and philosophy a tangibly applied pattern for one’s own life. A disciple adopts his or her teacher’s worldview, reflecting that worldview in how that disciple lives. All this is enabled by and accomplished within the context of personal relationship with the teacher.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:6–11, NLT)
The above passage reveals the unique nature of being a disciple of Jesus. We have the opportunity to be in right relationship with God by the initiative of His love expressed by His grace. It is not something we have earned or deserved, but that within which we are positioned by faith. Romans 5:1 declares, “Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of
what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (NLT). By trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are positioned in right relationship with God.
Justification by faith means that being a disciple of Jesus is the reality of identity that produces activity, not activity that earns identity. We obey Jesus because we are His disciples, we do not obey to earn the position. Our obedience to Jesus is the vital outflow of relationship with Him in which we are progressively and continually learning who we are as disciples of Jesus. When we see Jesus’ statements in the light of the biblical truth of justification by faith, we see that Jesus views the carrying of one’s cross as a central, identifying characteristic of His disciple; it is not the means by which discipleship is earned. Obedience is the required effect of identity, not the cause of it.
What does it mean to carry one’s cross?
The answer to this question is revealed when we look at the context in which Jesus carried His cross.
“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21–25, NLT)
The cross Jesus carried was a practical expression of His choice to endure the offenses of others against Him. When others acted offensively toward Him, Jesus did not internalize those offenses and allow them to motivate His actions. He chose to trust Himself into the hands of God the Father. Why did He do this? He did it to be the means by which life was made available to all humanity!
The offenses that Jesus endured were not simply from those who were there at the time. They were not just the insults that He heard or the physical abuse and torture He experienced. The offenses that He carried were those of all humanity, including your sins and mine. He suffered the underserved insult of our rebellion, the disrespect of our presumptuous pride. In the face of our offenses against Him for which we deserve His judgment, He acted with love and grace.
“For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:19–22, NLT)
“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6, NLT)
No one forced Jesus to carry His cross. Jesus made this clear in John 10:18 when He stated, “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (NLT). In the midst of all the unjust treatment by others, Jesus focused on the goal of our salvation. Instead of reacting to the mistreatment, He acted to fulfill divine intent. He viewed the context of offense as a strategic, not-to- be-missed opportunity for the expression of God’s character and the fulfillment of God’s purposes.
This is the example that Jesus set for us as expressed in 1 Peter 2:21; these are His steps in which His disciples are called to walk.
How do we do so?
This is the question we will answer in Part 2 of this blog. We will learn from God’s Word how to use the context of offense as a strategic opportunity to join God in the reflection of His character and the fulfillment of His purposes. Together, we will see the footsteps of Jesus defined before us and learn how to depend on the Holy Spirit to walk accordingly.
“You are the God of miracles and wonders! You still demonstrate your awesome power.” (Psalm 77:14 TLB)
What is the miracle you need in your life? What are you asking God for? All of us have some area where we need God to intervene. Maybe you are facing an illness, overwhelming debt, or you are struggling with depression or in a tense relationship. Even people who wouldn’t consider themselves religious will often turn to prayer during hard times, hoping that maybe heaven is listening.
It is not unusual to wrestle with doubts and questions even while we are hoping that God will come through for us. Here are three questions we most often wrestle with as seek God for the miracles we need.
1. Can God?
Can God heal me? Can he deliver me? Can he provide for me? This is probably the easiest to answer. Of course God can. He is all powerful. God can in one moment take someone from death’s doorstep to perfect health. He can with one word erase the depression and anger we fight against every day. He has no limits to his provision and could easily provide for all our needs and even our wants without sacrificing anything. In fact, we are so convinced that God can that when God doesn’t some of us decide there must not be a God or maybe that God doesn’t love us and so that is why he doesn’t intervene. Surely if God exists and he loves us, he would intervene. This leads to the second question:
2. Does God want to?
Maybe you have settled the question as to whether God can but you wonder if he really wants us to be healed, delivered, and provided for. Any good Father would want his children to have the best possible life. We read the memes citing Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you… They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” If this is true, why do we still experience disasters? Of course we may not realize that the context of Jeremiah 29:11 is that the Israelites are going to spend 70 years in exile before they experience the promise of Jeremiah 29:11. God did want a good future for his people and he knew the way to get them there was to work on what was inside of them first before delivering them from the outside circumstances. This leads to the third question:
3. Will God?
Will God heal, deliver, and provide for us? If he can and he wants to then why wouldn’t he? As I ponder that question myself I can hear the Father ask me his own questions.
God is still and always will be God. His nature is unchanging. If our circumstances cause us to question if he is good and loving then we know that there must be something inside us that needs to change. Our faith ultimately shouldn’t be in what God can do for us but in who he is. Romans 4 uses Abraham as an example of someone who despite what his circumstances looked like, he trusted God because of who God is. As we grapple with the questions of why miracles do or don’t happen and why some prayers seem to go unanswered we must not let go of our assurance in the goodness and love of God.
The next time you pray ask God to show you how you can participate in seeing a miracle done in your life!
Article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter, 4/29/20
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Hebrews 6:19, NLT).
Hope is trustful anticipation, springing out of one’s trust in God. This hope is expressed in patiently waiting in confident trust in God’s future that He has for one’s life, both for this earthly realm and eternity to come. Carefully consider Isaiah 40:31.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (NIV).
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT).
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run, and not be weary; And they shall walk, and not faint” (KJV).
Recognize the connection between hope, trust, and waiting. When we place all our hope in God, trusting Him in the context of personal relationship, we will progressively learn how to wait on His timing without getting stressed out because things are not happening within ours. This waiting is not passive, but the reality of actively pursuing to know God more through one’s personal relationship with Him. How much we trust God is a direct result of how close we are to Him.
Let’s go back to our central text . . .
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Hebrews 6:19, NLT).
This hope with which our souls are anchored is the hope of access to God that Jesus died to give us. When we look at the cross, we see the fact that Jesus died for us. But to see why He died, we must look into the temple, “Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:50–51, NLT). The torn curtain in the temple proclaims the fact that we all have access to a direct, personal relationship with God. Through trusting in what Jesus did for us as the only way by which we are made right with God, we all can know the life that is found only in relationship with Him, a life of hope.
This is the hope that is an anchor for our souls, a bedrock on which we can rest our whole selves. The term “souls” that is used in Hebrews 6:19 refers to that unseen reality that animates life itself. One’s soul is one’s identity and definition, the source of the individualized “self” that we each possess. The soul encompasses one’s mind, intellect, will, and emotions. Therefore, the condition of a person’s soul determines how that person thinks and acts.
In this time of limited access due to the current pandemic, God is calling us to anchor our very selves in the access that we have to Him. Echoing from His heart, God is urging us to daily walk the blood-paved path into His presence that Jesus made for us. God is calling you into the Most Holy Place, the place of personal interaction with Him. God desires you to experience Him in personal relationship beyond anything you have experienced in the past. Will you answer that call? Will you make the time to spend with Him, focusing on getting to know Him more?
God did not design prayer and Bible reading to be superficial religious duties and rituals, but practical contexts for engaging Him in two-way communication by which personal relationship with Him is practically experienced. He invites us to talk with Him and learn how to hear Him speaking to us by His Spirit. It is in that place of personal connection and interaction with God that the anchor for our souls is found.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19–22, NLT).
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:14–16, NLT).
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston, April 24, 2002
"Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above. With Wisdom, Power, and Love. Our God is an awesome God." Song by Rich Mullins
A couple of years ago, I married a man who had been a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for over 60 years. He moved to Florida, where I lived, and we started our happy journey. We would read books and the Word of God together. We would sing the old gospel songs together. One night he woke me up praying in his heavenly language while weeping and laughing. This went on quite a while and then he turned over to me and continued. I laid in awe listening to this wonderful man commune with God. It seemed as if our dreams of living the last part of our lives would be a happy time in the Lord.
Within a couple of months he became sick. He spent a few nights in the hospital. Upon returning home, he said he wasn’t going to the doctor. He believed God would heal him. As time went by, he began to have serious issues so he decided to cooperate and do what needed to be done.
We had been married for over a year when he was diagnosed with cancer.
From that time forward, his body deteriorated and he had to go stay where
he could get the help that he needed. I didn’t understand any of this because
it wasn’t what we had planned. I kept asking God ‘why’ and He gave me
the Scripture “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your
own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NKJV). I settled in to caring for my husband to the best of my ability.
As time went on, many changes happened and I experienced a journey that was straight from the throne room of God. As my husband laid in that bed he sang gospel songs, he laughed and cried, he took imaginary communion, he preached, he spoke in his heavenly language while looking straight at God. He gave me the most beautiful word from the Lord that I had ever heard. I felt like I was standing before God and He was talking directly to me.
As I sat by my husband, I would weep from the beauty that I saw surrounding Him from the heavens. He never complained nor asked for anything. It was a journey that changed my whole life. I felt like I had been ‘born again’ for the second time. I saw that when you start to transition to the spirit world, there is NO stopping or
coming back. It is then TOO late if you are not ready to go into eternity.
My heart became so conscious of the many souls that weren’t ready to meet God and I would weep uncontrollably. I realized that nothing in this world that we would do was more important than going out into our world and telling the good news of Jesus.
When my husband passed on to the next world, I could almost hear him shouting victory and I knew that he also was kneeling at his Saviors’ feet. Now I am very somber and anxious to do the work that my Father has for me to do. I want to hear His voice saying. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).
I have a question for you. Have you taken time out from your busy days and or schedule to reflect on what you are really supposed to be doing in your christian walk? It's not about pomp or circumstance, but it’s about going to the cross daily and laying yourself all out to our Lord.
I pray that God, our Father, will lead you down a path that will make Himself more real to you than ever before. May God bless you and keep you. May he cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24).
Article by Glenda Blakkolb
COVID-19 has ripped from our grasp our past concepts of “normal.” Phrases like “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” have been infused into our regular conversations. It is a time of apprehensive uncertainty.
It is also a time of great opportunity. It is a very personal, individualized opportunity that contains within it a vast potential for great benefit or immense disaster. To seize this opportunity for the greatest benefit, we must adopt a mindset like that which David expressed to God in the middle of the wilderness . . .
”O God, You are my God; I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in Your sanctuary and gazed upon Your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise You! I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands to You in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise You with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of You, meditating on You through the night. Because You are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of Your wings. I cling to You; Your strong right hand holds me securely” (Psalms 63:1-8 NLT).
In the middle of great difficulty and uncertainty, David saw the potential of the opportunity before him and chose to seek God. He chose to allow the adverse conditions of the situation to propel him to pursue God in the context of personal relationship with Him. The scarcity of resources caused David to seek God as his Resource!
What about you? What will you do with this time? As we are “sheltering” at home, are we spending time growing closer to God, hungering to know more the practical reality of the fact that the greatest shelter we have in life is God Himself? David understood this reality, proclaiming it vividly in Psalms 61:1-4 . . .
“O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in Your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!” (Psalms 61:1-4 NLT).
This mindset will translate into time that is intentionally set aside to spend with God, purposefully allocated to giving God one’s full attention. It is in this that the great potential of this time is realized. God’s desire for each of us is that this time is a context through which we grow to know Him more through intentional pursuit. He is using the fear and scarcity of this situation to urge us to seek Him. How will you respond?
I want to share with you another moment of isolation in David’s life. As he was isolated in the wilderness, he also had a time of isolation in his own home. It was a moment of great potential. This time, David misused the moment and experienced devastating results that impacted his entire family. The disastrous potential of the moment became reality. Let’s look at the following passage:
“In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her . . .” (2 Samuel 11:1-4 NLT).
Once again, David was in a time of great stress. A war was raging. By his own choice, he was at home. Perhaps Bathsheba was a means of distraction from the mental burden of the war, a way of momentarily relieving some stress. It was a decision in the moment that led to consequences that impacted David’s family forever. Bathsheba became pregnant. David tried to cover his sin through the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, using the war itself to facilitate the homicide. The baby that Bathsheba carried did not survive. See the consequences expressed to David by God through the prophet Nathan . . .
“From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah's wife to be your own. This is what the LORD says: ‘Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.’ Then David confessed to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won't die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the LORD by doing this, your child will die’” (2 Samuel 12:10-14 NLT).
David was forgiven, yet the consequences were immense. In his moment of isolation, he made a devastating decision. In our moment of isolation, the enemy wants us to do the same. The stress of this pandemic can easily push us to apply coping mechanisms. Some of those mechanisms are destructive due to their inherent, biblically-defined sinful contexts. These are things that open the door to life-controlling dependencies that are fundamentally contrary to one’s dependency on God. Other coping mechanisms may be hobbies and interests that are not wrong in themselves. The inherent danger here is found when one tries to rely on these things in the place of spending time with God. To rely upon hobbies and other means of diverting entertainment to the neglect of one’s relationship with God is to place oneself on a destructive path. This is a time in which God is teaching us to intentionally pursue Him, using the present situation to teach us principles by which the rest of our lives must be lived. God does not want us to learn to just cope. He wants us to live. That life is only found through one’s personal relationship with God.
How about you? What will you do with this opportunity? The choice is yours.
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston
We all have children at home, some because we home educate, others because the school is shut down for Covid-19. All of us need something to keep our children busy during the long days of spring. April 12 is Easter Sunday, and while I can't promise the church will be able to meet on site together at that time, as uncertain as these times are, I can give you a dozen suggestions for celebrating Easter at home with your family. One a day for April, if you desire.
1. Make a bunch of Easter treats and share them with our firemen, doctors and nurses, or pharmacy teams. Look up how to make crispy rice bunnies or birds nests. Country Living has 50 Easy Easter Treats to choose from.
2. Decorate with plastic eggs in the yard, making a wreath for your door or hanging garland around the porch. Hang eggs on a tree or bush to liven up the outside. Plastic eggs are waterproof and easy to close over a string making colorful, fun decorations.
3. Take Easter pictures from the internet or a coloring book and place tracing paper over top to make your own dot to dot pictures. Then trade and see who can make the best reproduction from connecting the dots. You can have a coloring contest as well and then decorate the refrigerator with the entries.
4. Use Kool-Aid or shaving cream to color Easter Eggs. Better Homes and Gardens has 43 creative ways to color eggs. Try a few new ones and the old standbys as well.
5. Celebrate Spring and new life by sprouting beans. You can use dried beans that are in your pantry and place them in a wet paper towel in a ziploc bag and see them sprout in just a few days. Transfer to a cup of dirt and grow your own plants in the kitchen window.
6. Speaking of windows, why not transform a window or glass doors into a stained glass masterpiece with finger paint and painters tape? See Pinterest for more ideas along this line.
7. Make home made cards with colored paper and send them to loved ones who are unable to get out of the house. Bunny stamps can be made from toilet paper rolls glued together. Check out CraftyMorning.com for the samples.
8. Make an Easter Basket full of things around the house for loved ones and leave it on the porch. Then call and watch them open it from the car.
9. Watch a family Easter movie on YouTube, like the Story Keepers Easter. These were always a favorite of my children as they tell the tale of Easter in a cartoon way but with Bible truths.
10. Bake some Resurrection Rolls for Easter morning. These are marshmallows wrapped in crescent rolls with cinnamon and sugar spices. When you bake them, the marshmallow melts, and you open an empty tomb.
11. Watch Easter Contatas or plays on YouTube. There are many church productions from past years that can be very entertaining and moving. The Day He Wore My Crown is an excellent musical piece,
12. Have an Easter Egg hunt in the yard. Do a theme like each child has an assigned color of egg that they can only pick up, or a limit to the number so that everyone gets eggs. Or if your family is very competitive, see who can find all the eggs in the shortest amount of time. Hide and rehide for all day fun!
These are just some suggestions. Use websites like those mentioned above to find more fun ideas. Always remember to teach the true Easter story as children can get confused with lots of different themes. Read the story from the Bible to older children. Tell the story in a child friendly way to younger ones. It is not necessary to give graffic detail to young children, but focus on the fact that Jesus beat death and rose again to save us from our sins. Explain to chlldren that all the festivities like eggs and bunnies and chicks are to celebrate springtime and new life, like we have in Jesus. Have fun!
Article by Lowanda Mullican, Children’s Ministries Director
Everyone has a worldview. In other words, we all have lenses through which we see the world. As Christians those lenses should be the Bible because the Bible communicates the authoritative standards of God’s truth to us. As I have watched the world and the church respond to this crisis, I see how far we have gotten from a biblical worldview. I see some of my brothers and sisters in Christ responding like the world with fear and conspiracy theories. On the other side of the spectrum, I also see believers responding with a presumptuous faith that lacks wisdom and is irresponsible with the lives of others. Below are three biblical truths we should consider as those who claim to love God and follow his Word. While this is not an exhaustive list, it will help us adjust our lenses as we begin to seek answers about how God would have us respond to this crisis.
1. God's Sovereignty does not dismiss our responsibility.
When we say that God is sovereign we mean that God is in charge of everything. He is after all the creator of everything so he should be in charge. However, God, in his sovereignty, created human beings to have a free will. It was God’s will that we would be able to choose to obey him or not. It was also God’s will to delegate responsibility to human beings as caretakers of his creation. God created Adam and Eve not to be robots that carry out his every dictate, but to be in relationship with him and to have a part to play in his sovereign will being done on earth.
When we choose not to obey God and not to be good caretakers then bad things happen. I have often heard people ask why God allows bad things to happen. That is a faulty question. God is not to blame for the bad things that happen in the world. Evil, suffering and sickness is a result of humanity choosing not to obey God and in so doing we side with the one who first rebelled against God, the devil. Sometimes we pay the consequences of our own choices. Other times the suffering we endure is because of a world system that has come under the influence of evil as a result of humanity’s disobedience. Either way, God is not to blame.
The good news is that God will use whatever we go through for our good if we trust him. He is always available to us through prayer. He hasn’t just left us to our own devices but he wants to help us in our weakness, often times in miraculous ways. It is our responsibility in a crisis such as this to turn to God, seek his will, obey his will, and ask for his supernatural help. He has promised that if we call to him he will answer us and show us “great and unsearchable things we do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
2. Faith is not irresponsible.
Many times faith seems risky. Unreasonable even. But faith is never irresponsible or apathetic towards those impacted by our leaps of faith.
When your choices impact the lives of others then the governing parameter must be love. In fact, whenever our faith is not motivated by love we have to question who our faith is in because the Bible tells us that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and that “what is important is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6, NLT).
This is especially important for Christian leaders whether of churches or businesses. You may have full assurance that your faith protects you from Covid-19 but do you have enough faith for your entire congregation or employees? Are you willing to make amends if your faith ends up not covering them and they contract the virus? Everyone is at different levels of faith. Jesus did not give up on the disciples when they were still growing in their faith but rescued them when their faith fell short (Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20). As Christian leaders we should encourage believers to have faith in God and at the same time make allowances if necessary to protect them should they waver in their faith.
3. Faith in God displaces fear.
Notice that I didn’t say faith that everything is going to work out or faith that we will overcome. Our faith must be in who God is – his faithfulness and power. The greatest example of faith in Scripture is Abraham and we are told in Romans 4:21 that against all the evidence to the contrary, he believed God would do what he promised. He knew the nature of God. That he was good and faithful and loving and able. In the same way our faith must be founded in who God is.
During a time in my life where I was struggling with fear and wavering in my faith, the Lord spoke to me and asked me what exactly my faith was based on? I realized at that time my faith was in God doing what I wanted him to do. I wanted him to come through for me in a specific way instead of trusting that no matter what my circumstances looked like he would work it all out for my good because he loves me. As I learned to trust God and not my circumstances the feelings of fear and instability decreased and my peace increased.
I learned that the way to increase faith is to feed my heart and mind with who God is. To meditate on his faithfulness and worship him for his goodness. This isn’t a denial of the circumstances, just a realization that God is bigger than any problem and loves me so much he will never abandon me to my circumstances. I don’t deny the reality of Covid-19. But I deny the power of fear and chaos in my life because my God is greater than any virus.
If you are battling fear during this pandemic, please let us agree in prayer with you. Contact us for prayer using this link.
article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter
What does it mean when the Bible tells us that God owns everything? What is God's heart when he says that we belong to him? Pastor Jeff addresses the reality that something or someone is going to own you. Will it be God or will it be the circumstances of life?
“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” (Psalms 24:1 NLT)
“I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the One who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and His kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He does as He pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop Him or say to Him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’” (Daniel 4:34-35 NLT)
“But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.’” (Isaiah 43:1-2 NLT)
“God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure.”
(Ephesians 1:5 NLT)
What a humbling reality. God owns it all. The One who transcends the reaches of time and space owns everything within them. And He can do with it, with us, as He pleases. God answers only to himself. This reality of ownership is simply the unavoidable effect of God being God.
Yet that was not enough for Him. The above passages in Isaiah and Ephesians vividly reveal a reality of ownership based on relationship with God. In His ownership of us, God chose to give us wills of our own, giving us each the power to choose how we will live. Because humanity has used our power of choice to rebel against God’s ownership, God entered our world in the Person of Jesus and provided the way by which we could be made right with Him and be owned by Him in personal relationship.
The declaration of “you are Mine” in Isaiah 43:2 is not motivated by God’s infinitely superior position, but by His love. It is an invitation to be relationally owned by God so that we do not have to be owned under the tyranny of anything else. As expressed in Ephesians 1:5, this invitation from God is for us to know the life-giving reality of His ownership in which we progressively know Him not just as the Creator, King, or omnipotent Ruler, but as our Father. In giving humanity this opportunity, God has done what pleases Him. It is an initiative that flows out of the very pleasure of God, tangibly expressing the love that defines His character (1 John 4:8). The image of Himself that God has stamped on each of us (Genesis 1:27) is seen in our capacity to know Him in this way.
Look at the reality that Isaiah 43:1-2 reveals! When you are owned by God in a personal relationship of trust and reliance, nothing else can own you – not the deep waters of life’s situations, not the surging rapids of circumstances, not the fires of trials and problems that threaten to consume you. Jesus came to provide the way by which we can be owned by God in the context of personal relationship with Him. Belonging to Him in this reality invalidates the claim of the enemy over our lives. Willfully submitting to God’s loving ownership places a “sold” sign on one’s life, reminding life’s situations that they cannot own what has already been purchased. It is a reminder to us as well, reassuring us of our freedom purchased for us by Jesus’ sacrifice.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NLT)
The joy that James 1:2 expresses is found in trusting the love of God, in understanding that His ownership over our lives is motivated and regulated by His perfect love for us. Then we can declare, “Fear, you have no place in me. I am owned by God. Hopelessness, you cannot place your feet under my table. Anxiety, though I may hear you knocking at my door, you cannot live here. Depression, you will not own me because I belong to God!!” When Jesus truly owns you, no moment can! Regardless of the bad doctor’s report, the job that no longer needs you, the financial stress, the family tensions, or anything else, submission to Jesus’ ownership over our lives gives purpose to it all, anchoring our lives in the bedrock of His love.
If we do not submit to God’s ownership over us, we will be owned by life’s situations. The enemy will use the circumstances of life as a context to overwhelm us, robbing us of our identity in the process. We were created to belong to God in personal relationship and to find our value and identity in God’s loving ownership of us. What about you? To whom do you belong? What owns you?
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston
Storms in life are inevitable, but we all have a choice how we will face the storm. As painful as life is sometime, Jesus promised us that we can have the peace of God to shelter us in the midst of life's storms.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
1) Have Faith Like A Child.
Jesus told us that his kind of peace is beyond our ability to comprehend with our minds. However, just because it's beyond our comprehension doesn't mean it's difficult to experience. In fact, it's the opposite. It takes childlike faith in our Father God. Faith that he loves us and wants the best for us. Faith that even though he never promised life would be easy, he did promise he would always be with us. Faith that the problems that are so overwhelming to us, are easy for him. To have faith is to believe in what we may not be able to explain or understand. I can't explain or understand everything about God and how he works, but a god who can be explained isn't really God. A god that can be explained and understood is limited by our understanding. Our Father God has no limits and he loves us. So have faith, like a child, that your Father God will carry you through this storm.
2) Forgive anyone who has wronged you.
Sometimes the challenges we face are because people have failed us, wronged us, and disappointed us. Whether people acknowledge and apologize for their part in the hurt we feel or not - forgiveness is always necessary to experience peace. When you forgive others it's not just for their sake, it's for your sake. The Lord knew how important forgiveness was which is why he said that we would be forgiven by God only if we've forgiven others (Matthew 6:15). It's not that God is angrily withholding forgiveness from us, it's that he wants to rid us of all the bitterness and resentment we feel towards others so that we can have peace. The way he rids us of that resentment is by us forgiving others.
Choosing to forgive opens the conduit of God's peace and forgiveness into your life. What you do for others God will do for you. There is great freedom and peace in knowing you are forgiven and in being free of all resentment towards others.
3) Choose to Trust God.
Every time we face a storm in life we have a choice to make. Will we face it in our own strength and ability or will we allow our Father to carry us in the storm? Will we put our hope in him? Making the choice to trust God and worship him in the midst of a storm is what makes the peace of God a reality in our life. Like peace, trust will sometimes defy understanding. All I can do is tell you my own testimony that though people have failed me many times, and I have failed myself, God has never failed me. When I put my trust in God and not in my ability or the ability of others to rescue me, He has always come through. Not always like I was expecting but always in a way that surprises me with how good he is and how much he loves me. One thing I've learned is that God is trustworthy.
Are you facing a storm? Why not pray with me. "Father, I am overwhelmed with the circumstances I am facing right now. I don't know how I will make it through this storm but I trust in you. I know you have the answers and that even when I don't see the answer, you are with me. Thank you for carrying me in this storm. I ask for your peace that is beyond my understanding to shelter me right now. Thank you Father."
Article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter, March 2020
This article gives practical steps to cooperating with God as He heals your broken heart.
The things that break our hearts cut deep and sometimes we may feel that life will never be the same again. I would never want to trivialize the pain you're experiencing with easy steps to numb the pain. However, I do want to empower you in the midst of the pain. I can do this because I know what it means to have a broken heart. After losing my mother as a young woman and going through a painful divorce, I know that what I am telling you in this article is true. You do not have to let this time of pain devastate and destroy you. Maybe your life will never be the same again, but that doesn't mean it can't be good again.
Life will always have it's ups and downs, wins and losses. Learning how to grow through the down times and losses is imperative to our spiritual and emotional health. Ultimately, God is the one who heals our hearts, but there are things you can do to cooperate with the healing God longs to bring you.
1. Hang onto Hope
Whenever we face crisis and heartbreak the first thing we lose is perspective. Pain is like a narrow canyon with twists and turns. The walls close in around you and you can't see the way forward or out. It is important that you not let yourself be convinced there is no way out or that the canyon will go on like this forever. Don't lose your hope that you will make it through and that God will bring you into a beautiful spacious place once again. There is always hope because God is always good. If we trust Him, He can use the things that have brought us the most pain to bring something beautiful into our lives.
2. Pray Authentic Prayers
It can be hard to pray when our emotions are overwhelming us. It is normal to ask why God is allowing something to painful to happen. Expressing our emotions, even anger, and asking the hard questions are an important part of prayer. Even people in the Bible prayed like this. Many of the Psalms are authentic prayers asking God why. God can handle whatever emotions you are feeling and questions you have. It's not about praying the right words but about being honest with God who already knows you inside out anyway.
Everyone needs a little distraction from the hard things that life throws our way. While we don't want to check out completely (eventually we have to deal with the hard things) it is ok to take some time to regroup, rest, and do something that takes your mind off the painful circumstances. You will be able to think clearer and find strength to face the pain after you take the time you need to rest.
4. Ask for Help
Do you find it hard to ask for help because you're afraid of appearing weak or being rejected? You're not alone. Many of us struggle with asking for help when we need it the most. Consider changing the way you think about asking for help. First, asking for help isn't a sign of weakness but of strength. It takes strength to swallow your pride and admit you need someone else. Secondly, you could actually be helping someone by asking for their help. Many people want to be able to make a difference in the world and helping each other is the primary way we can do that. Wouldn't you be willing to help if someone asked you?
5. Find someone else to help.
There is something about choosing to help others, even when you're going through something painful yourself, that helps to heal your own brokenness. Maybe it helps us appreciate what blessings we still have or maybe it just helps get our minds off our own pain. It says in the Bible to "do for others what you would have them do for you" (Matthew 7:12, NIV). Some call this the golden rule because by following it you are actually doing everything the Lord would ask of you. Your obedience to the Lord in this way, even when it is the most difficult, will lead to opportunities for you to be blessed because of how you have given to others.
Article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter, 2/1/2020