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.
“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
“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
“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