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.
I recently had a friend of mine lend me his Chevrolet Corvette for me to take on a trip. He let me drive his beautiful, expensive car in all its aerodynamic, advanced-technology, high-acceleration glory!! I felt like a crop duster pilot who was offered the undeserved chance to fly an F-15 fighter jet.
Such an opportunity makes a context that is ripe for pretense. When I pulled into a parking space, people noticed me, particularly when it was a space in a Walmart parking lot. I must admit that I liked the attention. I would get out of the car with my sunglasses still on, stand by this beautiful vehicle that was not even mine, and try to look like I owned it. Even the low profile of the Corvette made me feel taller.
If someone commented on how nice “my” car was, I would just respond with a “thanks” and let them draw their own conclusions. Maybe they thought I was a successful businessman, perhaps a company CEO, or possibly a financial professional who maneuvers the stock market as well as the Corvette maneuvers turns. There was no doubt that it was extremely easy for me to use the unmerited privilege of driving that car to motivate me to walk with an extra self-promoting strut.
The truth of matter is that the opportunity to take my journey in that Corvette was my friend’s idea by his initiative. The underserved reality of such a request caused me not to even consider making it. There was nothing I could do to show I was worthy of benefitting from his investment. He bought that car. He invested time and resources in customizing it. For me to think that it should be available for me to drive would be arrogant entitlement at best. In opening that vehicle’s door to me, my friend showed me grace, giving me the chance to take my journey in a context of quality that I did not deserve.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. . . . So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:8,11 NLT).
What my friend did for me Jesus did for us on an immeasurably greater scale. He offers us not just hope for life after death, but a quality of life in the here and now, a journey of living in a right relationship with God. It was His idea by His initiative. He preemptively saw us in the broken down junkers of our own self-reliance and chose to offer us the unmerited opportunity to travel in style. By trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have the opportunity to benefit from His investment. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). The new vehicle of life in which we can travel belongs to Jesus. It is His. He invested himself in it, signing the title in His own blood. By His grace, He opens the door and we sit down by faith.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NLT).
So how do we respond to such a privilege? What do we do once we sit behind the wheel? We drive in such a way that honors the owner, understanding that the vehicle of life in which we are traveling belongs to Him, not to us.
“. . . You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NLT).
Before my friend allowed me to leave in his car, he went over some specific instructions with me. He gave me practical directions in how to properly steward his investment with which I was entrusted. Those instructions set a context that protected both me and the car. As he spoke to me, I did not ignore or reject his guidance out of some presumptuous sense of competency. I listened intently because I knew that the owner of the vehicle knew best how to operate it, and wise was I if I took his words to heart. Wise are we if we respond to God in the same way. Humble teachability enables prudent stewardship of the opportunity Jesus has provided for us and the investment He made to make it all possible.
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16, NLT).
My friend reassured me that he was just a phone call or text away if I needed any help. He was not abandoning me to steward his investment on my own. He would be available to help along the way. By the Holy Spirit, God offers us the same opportunity to an infinitely greater measure. While I drove the Corvette, I was reminded to drive in a manner of which I knew my friend would approve. The unmerited opportunity brings with it the responsibility to drive in a way that honors the owner. The Holy Spirit guides and enables us to drive the vehicle of life so that we are protected and others around us benefit from our choices.
The point is that others see the quality of life that we have and want it. Just as the Corvette was on display to others around me, we are to put the life we have in knowing Jesus on display. But don’t follow my example. When others look at you, tell them who the owner is. Don’t use God’s grace as motivation for you to do some pretentious, self-righteous strut. Relying on the Holy Spirit, drive in a manner that brings honor to the owner. Let people know that the same grace the opened the door to you is available to them. By faith, if they will choose to sit behind the wheel, the journey of a lifetime awaits!
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston
A Christmas Reflection
In this article, Pastor Jeff reflects on Mary's words in response to God's will for her life.
“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:38, NLT)
This statement, uttered from Mary’s heart, astounds me. This trust is not based on that fact that the plan of God has been completely explained to her. After the angel Gabriel gives her a summary of what is in store for her, Mary is in the position to have more questions than can be accurately counted. She has been told that she, an unmarried young virgin, is going to become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God. Through her, the One who transcends time and space, He whose right hand spread out the heavens (Isaiah 48:13) would become a baby. God would encase himself in human flesh and walk among us, and it would all happen through her.
What about all the cultural and social implications of her pregnancy? How would her and Joseph’s families respond to her expanding condition? How could she and Joseph convince the society around them that the only logical conclusion about the cause of her pregnancy was not the correct one? These are only the beginning of the questions that Gabriel’s pronouncement did not answer. Yet Mary’s response is, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Amazing!!
It seems to be reasonable for Mary to ask to know more about that for which she was signing up, or better stated, that for which God had signed her up. “God, I am willing to consider your plan, but I need to hash out some details with you. There is some need-to-know information that I have yet to understand. Explain those things to me, and I’m all in.” This approach to “trust” in God is typical to humanity – “Explain it to me, and I will trust You.”
Such an approach is humanism disguised as faith in God. It focuses one’s trust and reliance not on God, but on one’s own intellect as seen in one’s ability to understand the given situation. Proverbs 3:5-6 reveals the reality of Mary’s trust in God. She chose to trust in God with all her heart and not to depend on her own understanding. Mary chose to seek God’s will in all that she did, trusting Him to show her the path to take to effectively navigate, step-by-step, all the nuances of the circumstances that she and Joseph would face. Mary understood that she did not have to understand it all. She chose to trust that God already had all the answers to the unspoken questions that permeated her mind. Therefore, she chose to be a conduit for the miraculous, a means by which God performed a feat that challenges the wonder of creation itself. Through her, God became human and the world would never be the same.
The message is clear. When we approach God with the same trust that Mary exemplified, we are positioned to join God in the supernatural expression of His character and purposes. We become living channels through whom Jesus is revealed right into our situations and circumstances. This is the fountain from which transformation flows, both in our lives and the lives of others God uses us to impact.
As we approach the threshold of 2021, change in the upcoming year and beyond is not found in making “resolutions” that focus superficially on symptomatic behavior. True change is found in the attitude that motivated Mary’s humble words – “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” It is a statement of identity (“I am the Lord’s servant”) that establishes a context of trust that genuinely believes what God says to be true, regardless of our lack of understanding concerning how it will all work out. It is trust born of relationship, reliance on God that makes the time to listen to Him, allowing the Holy Spirit to progressively apply the truth of who God is to our lives, the truth of the character and purposes of God as revealed in the Bible’s pages.
Do you want 2021 to be different? Then take a lesson from the words of a teenager. Use the attitude and motivation of Mary as a template for your approach to life – “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
Running with Horses
“If you have raced with men on foot and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?” Jeremiah 12:5a
God is the biggest visionary of all. He envisions the minutest details of your life and how they fit with his grand vision of all creation restored to its original purpose. He is orchestrating those details and taking you on a journey of your complete restoration to the purpose for which you are created. On this journey you will continually be discovering who he created you to be.
There are a few things that God has taught me on my journey that have made me into the person I am today. He has taught me how to love well, how to trust him even when it hurts, and how to live from the place of knowing I am loved by Him. I have a lot more to learn, but I am so grateful for these lessons. Nothing I’ve done for the Lord has been as important as learning to become who he has created me to be, and that sense of being is what has allowed me to participate in his vision of loving people into their purpose.
It is my passion to help people rise above the impossibility of their situation into abundant life and the destiny that God has planned for them. Too often I’ve seen people, including myself, miss opportunities to realize more of their destiny. It is not the outside obstacles that trip us up, although it is easy to point to those things as the reason for our “can’t do” attitude. It is the inner issues of the heart; fear, self-pity, offense, pride, that so often way lay us and take us on a detour through the wilderness for 40 years when we could have gone right into the promised land. Another lesson I have learned on my journey is that the outward obstacles we come up against can be our scapegoat for why we can’t move into our purpose or they, through the grace of God, can serve to mold us into people of destiny. Destiny, at the end of the day, is not about what we do but about who we are becoming.
In Jeremiah 12 the prophet voices a complaint to the Lord. He asks, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” I’ve asked similar questions before. It usually goes something like this, “Why is this so hard? Am I doing it wrong? Is there a shortcut? Does this ever get easier?”
God’s answer to us is “I never said it would be easy, but will you trust me that it will be worth it?”
God, knowing that the process is difficult, will give us promises to hold onto during the journey. However, it is our choice whether we will embark on the journey he has called us to. During the journey, our mind is renewed so that we are able to carry the anointing and destiny God has for us. We begin to think like God thinks, recognize his will, and expel the lies we believe that keep us from carrying out his will. That is why I say destiny is more about who you are becoming than what you are doing. But it is not just in the process that we will be tested – even in the realization of our dreams we will continue to face challenges. That’s why we need the process. It’s the process of realizing destiny that develops the strength in us to steward our destiny. It never gets easy, but it is always worth it.
Article by Pastor Shawna Carpenter