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.
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.”
“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
“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
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