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.
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
“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
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