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.
"At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and
have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”
There is something about a story that connects with the heart of its hearer in a way
that didactic teaching cannot. Perhaps that is why Jesus told so many stories, which the Bible calls parables. The parables of Jesus have been a favorite subject of theologians and Sunday school teachers alike. They are memorable and relatable. The metaphors and allegories of the parables can be adapted to our own culture and circumstances. However, if we are not careful we may miss Jesus’ meaning, why he told stories, and what they really say to us today.
I know that you probably have no desire to distort the meaning of Scripture, but we
all tend to read from our own context and on our own terms. We want the Bible to speak to us in our world with our lenses and our preconceived ideas. This is something we don’t require of any other story. One thing my childhood fairy tales have taught me is that we all have the capacity to surrender to the story and let it take us on its own adventure. We have the same opportunity with the Bible. I have learned that I must be willing to surrender to the story of the Gospels before the story can truthfully speak to my life. The Bible wants to speak to me on its own terms and from its own context. Those of you who are new to the Bible may actually have an advantage over those of us who have grown up with it as a part of our daily life. You probably aren’t sure what to expect, where I, and others like me, had it all figured out a long time ago. We know the stories by heart. We can tell you what they say and what Jesus meant because we’ve been told by people we trust what to expect. Those kinds of expectations rob us of the experience of exploration and fresh adventure.
As a student of theology and teacher the temptation is to mull over the meaning of
Scripture in my mind, to study every word looking for a deeper meaning, to try to
condense the story down to practical points I can give my students to take home and
apply. However, if we are to surrender to the story we must engage more than our
minds, we must engage at the heart level and allow our heart to respond.
God’s Word is meant to be experiential. So what do you experience when you
enter the story of Jesus’ life and ministry as told in the Gospels? Maybe you see Jesus
as a Gandhi figure bringing peace and happiness to all. Do you picture yourself sitting at the feet of the gentle teacher? Maybe you see Jesus as the miracle man, the knight in shining armor, or maybe you don’t know what to make of him. Maybe the stories are so familiar that they are little more than ink on a page. Maybe you feel guilty because you know you’re supposed to be getting something from your Bible but overall you just can’t seem to engage. Wherever you are starting from, it’s time to lay down your past experiences, preconceived ideas, and expectations. It’s time to humbly ask, “who does the story tell us Jesus is?” It’s time to pray, “Holy Spirit, show us Jesus in the story.”
There is an unexpected adventure waiting for us if we can lay down our expectations
and surrender to the story.
In this study of Ephesians 6:14-18, we will be looking at the whole book of Ephesians in order to understand what each piece of armor represent. We will find that putting on the armor of God isn’t a daily declaration that “this morning I am putting on my helmet of salvation, I am picking up my shield of faith…” Putting on your armor is living in the reality of your position in Christ Jesus! It is believing the truth about what God has done for you because of his great love for you (Ephesians 2:4; 3:18-19).
We start with the belt of truth…
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13).
“…you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21).
The Belt of Truth: The Ephesians have heard the truth by the gospel having been preached to them. The result of them hearing and believing the truth is that they are now included in him who is the embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ.
“…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
The Breastplate of Righteousness: Before Paul instructed them to “put on” the armor of God (Eph. 6:13) he instructs them to “put on” the new self, provided to them through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 2:15). By putting on the new self they are in essence putting on the breastplate of righteousness since that is part of the nature of the new self.
We should not be thinking individualistically about this righteous and holy new self. In fact, self isn’t a very good translation of the Greek word here. A better translation would be “new person” and it is the same Greek word used in Ephesians 2:15. Paul tells us in chapter 2 that this new person is created in Christ Jesus and made up of all those, Jew and Gentile, who have been reconciled to God. When we put on the “new person” of the Body of Christ our spiritual DNA becomes the DNA of that Body which is righteousness and holiness.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14-15).
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
Feet Fitted with readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace: Are you starting to see how interdependent these pieces of armor are? The good news about peace is that inclusion in God’s plan is no longer limited to those with whom he made the Sinai covenant. The law of that covenant created animosity between Jew and gentile because gentiles represented everything that Israel was to be separated from. But now, through Jesus, we all have the opportunity to be reconciled to God. Peace with God results and peace with each other! That is good news worth sharing.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Helmet of Salvation: To understand this verse in the correct tense it should be translated, “For by grace you are saved…”. What does it mean to be saved? Paul describes it for us earlier in Ephesians 2…
“…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (v. 1).
“God made us alive together with Christ” (v. 5).
Once you had evil at work within while following the prince of the power of the air…
“following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2).
Now you are in Christ, seated in heavenly places…
“…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6).
Once an object of wrath…
“…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 3).
Now an object of grace…
“…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v.7).
Salvation isn’t just that he forgave us our sins, but that he has repositioned us in His Son seated above the demonic princes that once dominated us. He changed our very nature from objects of wrath into objects of grace. When the truth of your position in Christ gets down deep into your heart your mind is also impacted. Confusion about your standing with God leaves. Fear that the enemy will get you disappears. Performance motivation and anxiety is replaced by the assurance that Christ has already done all this for you!
“This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:11-12).
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...” (Eph. 3:17).
Shield of Faith: Faith is the key that allows us to unlock all the benefits of salvation and our position in Christ. It is also what allows the Lord access to dwell inside us. If we are within Christ and he is within us, what access does that give the enemy to us? Appropriately, Paul uses the Greek word that describes a full, body length shield that will cover the whole person, in contrast with a small round shield used in closer proximity. The purpose of this shield is to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). In ancient warfare flaming arrows or spears were hurled at the shield of the enemy in an attempt to get them to throw aside their shield and leave themselves unprotected. To deflect this kind of attack the Roman soldiers would cover their wooden shields in skins and leathers and soak their shields in water before a battle. If our shield is faith then the water it is soaked in is our communion with Christ. Without that ongoing communion (described in John 15) our faith can become dry, vulnerable to the attack of the enemy, and in the worst case scenario we may throw it aside in an attempt to fight the battle without it.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13
Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God: Notice that the sword Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:17 is given to us by the Spirit of God. This is the same Spirit who secures and authenticates our position in Christ’s Body. The “word” of God mentioned in 6:17 is the same “word” mentioned in 1:13 and should be associated with the Gospel that the Ephesians and heard and believed. How is the gospel like a sword? When the gospel of salvation is preached the kingdom of darkness is raided and its prisoners rescued and brought into the Kingdom of God!
Summary: So if we were to take away the metaphoric reference to armor and state the truths that Paul is representing here what might that sound like?
Remember the truth you first heard and believed about Jesus, that you are now a part of the new person, the Body of Christ, and that you have peace with God! This is the peace that you proclaim to others! Remember that he has taken you out of the kingdom of darkness and evil no longer has dominance over you. Believe that you are now positioned in Christ Jesus above every demonic spirit. It is faith in your position in Christ, and his presence within you, that protects your from any attack the enemy might hurl at you from below as you remain in communion with Jesus. When you share this good news and true word about salvation in Christ you are doing damage to the demonic kingdom.
“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)
“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.”
(Luke 14:27, NLT)
As indicated in the title, this is Part 2 of a blog that I started on May 21, 2020. If you have not read Part 1, you can do so by using the following link:
God has been teaching me about the reality of what it means to carry my cross and follow Him. It is an ongoing journey of experiential learning, a journey in which the Holy Spirit is progressively applying the truth of the Bible to my daily life.
“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).
As we learned in Part 1 of this blog, the example established by Jesus to which 1 Peter 2:21 refers is the reality of how He dealt with the offenses that others committed against Him. Jesus used those offenses as a context by which He made life available to others. Before the offenses occurred, Jesus purposed in His heart to be the means by which salvation was brought to all who acted offensively against Him, encompassing those who were culpable in the immediate situation as well as all of us who have insulted and dishonored Him by our sin. This is the example that God wants to enable us, by His Spirit, to follow.
How do we do this? What does this look like in the context of daily life?
Jesus purposed in His heart how He would handle the offenses before they occurred. For us to be channels of God’s purposes through the offenses we suffer, we must purpose in our hearts to be so before the offenses occur. If we are currently struggling with offense, we must choose how we are going to take the next step in effectively addressing the offense. We must make that decision before the next step is taken, not decide in the moment we are taking that step. This is done in the context of our personal time spent with Jesus, in the time we make to be alone with Him and allow the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives, progressively transforming us to practically reflect the character of Jesus. Our public actions are determined by the priority we place on our private pursuit of God.
It is in the place of private pursuit that we can reflect the same heart that David expressed . . .
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NLT)
Repentant, specific surrender of all that is in us that offends God enables us to effectively handle the offenses of others. Death to our sin positions and authorizes us to deal with the sins of others according to God’s loving, eternal purposes.
“When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” (Isaiah 53:11, NLT)
The above passage from Isaiah, which is a prophetic pronouncement concerning Jesus, also applies prophetically to us as we allow the Holy Spirit to express the life of Jesus through our repentantly surrendered lives.
Jesus uniquely bore all the sins of humanity, taking the punishment of our sins in our place. No one else could ever do that. No one else needs to do so. That work was exclusively and permanently completed by Him. However, when people act and speak offensively against us, we bear the impact of their sinful choices. We suffer the pain that their course of action produces.
We follow Jesus’ example when we choose to see each offense against us as an opportunity to reflect the character of Jesus to those who are offending us. In those strategic moments, the Person of Jesus can be exhibited through us, showing people by our example that He is real. In the place of personal pursuit, the Holy Spirit will enable us to respond to personal attacks with love, to insults with forgiveness, to disrespect with selfless patience, and to accusations with purposeful compassion. In doing so, we make it possible for others to see Jesus and to respond to the salvation that He offers to them. By seeing Him reflected through us, they can be drawn to Jesus and understand their need to know Him personally. As a result, they are attracted to the real life they see in us, to the freedom they wish they had.
Resounding through our lives, they will hear the Holy Spirit inviting them to trust in what Jesus did for them as the only way by which they are made right with God. As we respond to the experience of offense by following Jesus’ example, we will join God in making it possible for others to be counted as righteous before Him. This is the reality of Isaiah 53:11 being prophetically expressed through us.
God is calling us to see every offense we feel as a strategic, God-given opportunity to be coworkers with God in the fulfillment of His purposes in the lives of others. When we feel offense, we must see opportunity. That perspective is developed in the context of the private pursuit of God.
Get alone with God and allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart. As He illuminates your attitudes and motivations, repent of all that is contrary to Jesus’ character. God will empower you to walk in freedom over offense as you join Him in using the offenses you feel to bring His life to others.
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston
IfWhen I was a kid I spent hours and hours in the cornfields and woods behind our house. I had forts and hiding places. I knew where to find berries, and good climbing trees and where to cross the river (also known as the irrigation ditch). There is something about discovery and exploration that is written in our bones. When we are caught up in discovering our Father it is easy to take the perspective of a novice – I’m having too much fun exploring Him and his Kingdom to worry about being an expert!
If you’ve stopped discovering it’s because you’ve stopped exploring. If you’ve stopped exploring then you’ve stopped growing, taking risks, and finding treasure.
If you’ve stopped exploring it may be because you think you’ve figured it all out – discovered everything there is to be discovered. Maybe you’re even offended with people who claim to be exploring where you’ve never been. “That’s not on the map!” or as we frequently hear “That’s not in the Bible!” Are you sure? Maybe you just don’t see it because you’re not looking with exploration in mind – only to defend the territory you’re familiar with.
Several times in the Gospels Jesus uses parables to describe what the Kingdom of God is like. In Matthew 13:31-33 the Kingdom is a mustard seed that starts small yet grows big and leaven that works through the whole batch of dough. The Kingdom of God is always increasing (Isaiah 9:7) and the knowledge of his glory is filling the earth (Habakkuk 2:14), giving us more and more territory to explore!
In Matthew 13:44 the Kingdom is a treasure hidden in a field and the man who finds it sells everything so that he can buy the field. Have you ever wondered what he was doing in someone else’s field? Maybe the same thing I was doing as a kid. Exploring!
There is something about the Kingdom that compels us to move, to grow, to risk and discover. If we just hunker down with our one talent until Jesus comes back we are missing it! In Luke 19 Jesus tells a version of the parable of the talents in which the servant’s reward for stewarding and increasing his investment is to be given cities to rule. That’s our role in the Kingdom! To rule and reign with Christ!
“For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
“You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
This verse in Revelation 5:10 is interesting because it shows us the tension between the past action of having been made a kingdom (in the Greek it actually says that we have been made kings) and the future tense that says we “shall” reign on the earth. I know that some teachers like to put the entirety of this verse in the millennium. I’m not saying that there isn’t a future glorious reign when we will be given “cities” to rule. However, just like in the parable of the talents there is an already and not yet aspect to reigning. In fact, the parable seems to indicate that way we reign now will determine what we reign over later. If we are faithful with the talents he has given, he will give us cities to govern.
Reigning now isn’t sitting back on our throne and admiring the Kingdom, although we are seated in heaven in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Reigning now means we are taking risks, investing, exploring and discovering new territory. It’s what the 72 disciples did when Jesus sent them out in Luke 10 and they returned to him excited about what they had discovered! Jesus rejoices with them saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will” (Luke 10:21).
Discovery is what keeps us childlike novices with nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s what keeps us dependent on the Father because we may not know what is coming around the corner but we know that he is faithful! It’s what keeps the awe and wonder in our hearts as we see some new aspect of the Father’s nature and the way he thinks.
I know that familiarity is more comfortable then discovery. Being familiar with something is what makes us experts. The problem is that things that make us comfortable breed a false sense of reigning. We think that we are the master’s of our own domain but we’re just sad little people stuck in a box. Comfort is a counterfeit for reigning.
The good news is God is shaking everything that makes us comfortable so that we will embrace the only thing that is unshakeable… His Kingdom!
“At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:26-28).
We may think that we are secure in our familiar little box, but really the only secure place is right in the middle of discovery. That’s what the writer of Hebrews is saying in Chapter 12. You’re not coming to what you’re familiar with, to what you can see with your natural eyes and touch with your natural body, to what you know with your natural mind. This is all new – a whole new reality. You are coming to that which is heavenly and supernatural. Yet it’s more real then what you see with your natural eyes. It may be scary to those of us use to relying on our natural senses and empirical evidence. Expertise is safe. But if we really believe that God is a good Father then we will grab hold of his hand and step into the unknown. After all, there are no experts in the Kingdom of God. There are only children and explorers.
Article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter
“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
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
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