get up

I felt convicted to write this post after my personal bible study this morning. Matthew Chapter two is pretty straight forward compared to many chapters in the bible; however, I found myself re-reading this chapter many times, as the Lord taught me a lesson through His word.

Instead of  giving an overview on what Matthew Chapter 2 talks about, I encourage you to pause here to go and read it for yourself. I believe that when we read scripture for ourselves, it results in a much different experience and understanding then when we merely listen to others’ interpretations of the word. While blog posts, sermons, group study’s, and podcasts are great insights on God’s Word, Scripture is so perfect and Holy, that we should never want to take other peoples word for what it says. No summary of God’s holy word is as true and perfect than the word itself.  Maybe that could be a post for another day! Anyway…

  • Four instructions from God in the chapter:
  1. Matthew 2:12 says “….. for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
  2. Matthew 2:13 says “After the wise men were gone, and angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
  3. Matthew 2:20 says “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
  4. Matthew 2:22 says “But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee.
  • Each time the Lord the asked the wise men or Joseph to Get up, they did just that:
  1. Matthew 2:12 says “ When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route…”
  2. Matthew 2:14 says “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his Mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.
  3. Matthew 2:21 says “So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother”.
  4. Matthew 2:23 says “So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth”.

Usually when I read scripture over and over again, it’s because it is difficult to understand, which  usually results in me grabbing a study bible of some sort.  This morning it was different. Within this one chapter, the Lord gave four different instructions, and each time, they did just what the Lord commanded them to do. It seems that every time Joseph and his family got comfortable, the Lord commanded them to do something else.

When the wise men were asked to return to Herod, they followed the Lord’s instructions instead. When Joseph and his family were comfortable in Judea after giving birth to Jesus, The Lord commanded them to flee to Egypt. Once Joseph and his family settled in Egypt, the Lord commanded them to move back to  Israel after Herod’s death.  After being instructed to go back to Israel, He was warned in a dream to go to Nazareth.

Joseph and His family must have experienced fatigue, uncertainty, and fear through this time. However, they always responded to the Lord’s will and found rest in it. Like Joseph,  there are many times when the Lord seems to pull us in a different direction just as we get comfortable right where we are. This can mean spiritually, mentally, or physically.

Have you ever felt like the Lord is pulling you towards a different job than the one you’re  in, when you feel just fine right where you are? Maybe you’ve devoted your schooling and money to a specific major, and the Lord calls you into something completely different. Or, maybe the Lord calls you to anew church when you’ve grown up in the one you are at all your life.

When we encounter these dreadful experiences, we are called to “Get up!” and trust that what the Lord says in Isaiah 55:9 is true: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. This is true in both our comfort and discomfort.

I pray that when the Lord instructs us to “Get Up!”, we are able to respond to the Fathers will in looking to Joseph as an example of the Lord’s ways being higher than our own.

 

Author: Nola Preston

faithful

This has been on my heart  since my boyfriend told me news regarding our future after he graduates college (meaning his career). We had been praying for clarity, discernment, and answers for months, and finally, the Lord was faithful to answer. Was it the answer I wanted? No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t what I expected or what I would have chosen, but He answered.

The next day I was leaving campus after failing a midterm, and I began to pray for guidance in my writing and a better mood, as my heart was far from happy. The light turns green, and luckily I glanced to my left in time to stop before the car running the red-light plowed into me going over 45 miles per hour. He zoomed past and I continued slowly through the intersection, thanking God that He had spared me from that accident. I kept praying for my mood and patience until I got to Walmart. I was realizing that the Lord used that close call to make me see that the things that dampened my mood really weren’t that important. As I was making my way through the parking lot a car backed into me, putting a dent in my bumper. The man was quite frazzled, but I assured him that he wouldn’t get a ticket and it wasn’t a big deal. Despite the panic of almost being sent to the hospital in a car wreck and trying to calm a man who damaged my car (His was unharmed.), my mood had lightened; I was overwhelmed with the joy of Christ.

Both instances I prayed to God for answers and solutions, and He answered both faithfully. The Bible tells us in many different places to pray and cry out to God (Phil. 4:6-7, 1 John 5:14, Romans 12:12, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 18:6). It also tells us that God will answer (1 John 5:15, John 14:13, James 4:2). However, His ways transcend our ways by a long shot (Isaiah 55:9). If you would have asked me how I thought God was going to give me a happy heart, I would have told you: A) it would have just happened, or B) I’ll stop for some coffee and have a good cry. I would have never said, “He will allow me to almost be in a life-threatening car accident, then get rear-ended in the parking lot, and that is how he will give me a happy heart!” NEVER!

But that is what He did, and by His grace, those events did give me a happy heart, as they humbled me to realize that my problems are minuscule in the scope of eternity. He answered my prayer in a very unexpected way, BUT HE ANSWERED, just like His word said He would.

As we pray and wait, and wait and pray, we can feel like the Lord will never answer. We may think He doesn’t care or that He is too busy, but both of those are simply unbiblical. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11). Praying and waiting is not easy, but it is worth it. He will answer your prayers because He cares for you. It just may not be how you expect. It may be unwanted closed doors to answer a prayer for discernment, or it may be an almost car wreck that puts things in perspective. It could mean that He takes your mom to heaven as you pray for healing, as that is the ultimate healing. It is not always what we ask for, but it is what we ultimately need to be drawn closer to Him. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We can hold on to this truth as we wait for God to answer our prayers or try to make sense of how He chose to answer them.

Lord, I thank you for your goodness to your children. Thank you for always doing what is best for us, even if we do not agree with you. Let our desires fall in line with yours as we seek your heart, and show us your love for us even through the hard things. I praise you for your awesomeness and I am thankful that you are so much above us in all ways. I am even more thankful that we get to dwell with you forever if we trust in what Jesus did on the cross. Thank you for granting us salvation that can fulfill our every need, and I pray that we would dwell in that as we live this life. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen

Author: Jacque Dunton

Prayer-and-Fasting

 

I was asked by a friend to fast a few weeks ago and honestly, it was one of the hardest, yet best, things I have ever done. Day one was quite terrible. I had a caffeine headache; I was tired; my stomach hurt; I was light headed. The temptation to quit almost manifested itself into sin, going back on my promise to God to fast for two days, but by His grace and power I made it through with much fruit. Day two was a breeze as I felt strengthened by the Holy Spirit to pray fervently and make much of God.

Fasting is not comfortable. In fact, it is SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable The pain that comes with abstaining from something we enjoy (food, coffee, friends, social media, etc.) has a purpose: it reminds us why we are fasting. It is like a constant nagging to help us remember that whatever we are fasting for is worth this pain; our petitions to God are so important to us that we are enduring pain to remember to pray about it. The pain is a good thing and is part of what makes fasting so fruitful.

So what should we fast for? Really for anything you want God to do. If you are serious about God answering a request, fast and pray. You could fast for discernment in a certain situation. Fasting for someone’s salvation is a wonderful thing to do. I have fasted for a friend to be faithful to Christ and abstain from sin. You can also fast after you fall into temptation, repenting and pleaing with God to give you the strength to fight the temptation better next time.

Another big reason to fast besides asking God for things is to intentionally spend more time with Him, praising, worshipping, or learning more about Him. If you fast from T.V., social media, or another time-consuming activity, you should dedicate that time to God–even reading the Bible during a skipped meal is beneficial! During that newly available time, you could do anything that would draw you closer to God: praying, reading the Bible, worshiping, fellowshipping with other believers, memorizing scripture, journaling, or something else that you feel helps your relationship with God. That is the real point of fasting.

You may be thinking that fasting is only for the “model” Christians because it seems like not many people do it, but it is actually an expected discipline. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus discusses fasting while preaching the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” He says to do it in private and not look for attention from others, but the first word of this exhortation is “When.” Jesus doesn’t say “If you fast. . .” but “WHEN you fast.” It is expected. This command is coupled with “WHEN you give. . .” and “WHEN you pray. . .”  showing us that just as we routinely know to give and pray, we should fast as well.

There are many times in the Bible where people fast, and we can look to them as examples.

The Nineveh people in Jonah 3:7-9 fast as they repent of their trespasses against God. They pray that God would spare them from His wrath, and when He heard their fervent plea, He did indeed spare them.

Another example is in Ezra. Ezra is making a journey with a group of people, and he did not ask the king for a protective army. Before the group made it to their destination, Ezra called for all of the people to fast and ask God for protection. They made it there safely (Ezra 8:21-23).

Anna, the prophetess who was awaiting the birth of Jesus, worshipped God through fasting and prayer, night and day (Luke 2:37).

Queen Esther calls a fast for her protection and boldness as she went to make a plea to the king, and it ended in her favor (Esther 4:16).

The entirety of Isaiah 58 is about fasting rightly. Isaiah contrasts true and false fasting pretty clearly.

Our ultimate example is when Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He does so before He began His ministry, and it wasn’t easy for him. We can see how Satan tempted him to stop fasting. Satan tried to get Him to make His own bread to appease His hunger; Jesus responded with, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself down the mountain to be rescued by angels, putting God to the test, but Jesus says that we should not put our God to the test. Satan’s attempts a third and final time: “All these [kingdoms] I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus responds with power and authority: “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matthew 4:1-11)

What do we learn from Jesus’s example? First, He didn’t give in to temptation but fought it with Scripture. Likewise, we should fight all temptation we face with Scripture. Second, the Creator of the Universe, the perfect Son of God, fasted while He was on earth. If we are striving to be like Jesus (and we should be), we should look to His example and follow Him.

Fasting is a great spiritual discipline that we, as believers, should use to glorify the Lord. Fasting is personal, so no two people do it exactly the same. However, if we are fasting authentically it should bring us closer to God, give us more time with God, and cause us to worship God.

Author: Jacque Dunton

controlled-chaos-for-innovationGod’s goodness in the Midst of  Chaos:

Lord, I am nothing apart from you.

As christians, we hear over and over about the goodness of the Lord. There are plenty of scriptures that teaches us of God’s Goodness. Here are a few:

(Psalm 119:68) NIV “You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.

(Psalm 107:1 NIV) “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”

(Psalm 145:9 NIV) “The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation.”

(James 1:17 NIV) “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.

(Psalm 34:8 NIV) “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Even though these scriptures are testaments to the fact that the Lord we serve is good, christians can oftentimes be selective with praising and accrediting the Lord to be good. Yes, it is easy to notice God’s goodness when you walk outside to a beautiful summer day, or when your boss gives you a raise, or when you pass your math final with the grade you were hoping for. But, how often is it that we praise the Lord when we are discontent, uncomfortable, anxious, and chaos is all around us?

The scriptures above don’t teach us that the Lord is only good in our comfort, they teach us that he is just as good in our discomfort. He is always a good God! Yes, he is good when the Floridians return to find that hurricane Irma has destroyed the things they love. Yes, He is good when we don’t know where next month’s rent will come from, and Yes! He is good even when you pull an “all-nighter” just to find that you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for on your math final. When we have too many sunny day’s in a row we start to forget about our constant need for our Lord and Savior. We start to think we are strong enough to do life on our own. Storms are ways of reminding us that the Lord can carry our cross much better than we can. Because of this, we can praise Him on the most beautiful days, and in the strongest storm. We can rejoice in Him when we are blessed with a raise, and when our bank accounts are low. We can love Him when we get our best and lowest grades.

We must be reminded of the sovereignty of God in times of chaos.

(Colossians 1:17 NIV) “He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together”.

(Colossians 1:16 NIV) “for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth”.

(Psalm 147:5 NIV) “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension”.

(Hebrews 4:13 NIV) “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

(Jeremiah 32:27 NIV) “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?

So if God is sovereign over all, why doesn’t He do away with all chaos, discomfort, fear, anxiety, and troubles we are faced with; doesn’t he love his children?

God can do whatever He pleases. We must erase this image in our minds that when things don’t go our way, it is evil and we must drop to our knees and pray to God to put on His “hero cape” to “try his best” to come and save the day. No, He is sovereign over the universe and does whatever He pleases. The Lord can stop a category five Hurricane just as fast as he can stop a category one hurricane; and create one just as quickly too, if He pleases. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?”(Jeremiah 32:27 NIV). God always has a plan and executes it. Nothing happens without him controlling it. And because of his power, our tiny minds will never line up with His plan. “His understanding is beyond comprehension” (Psalm 147:5 NIV). Our job is to let go of what it means to be safe, free, content, and comforted in the world’s eyes and allow ourselves to feel free, safe, comforted, and content in God’s providence. Sunshine or storm, raise or no raise, pass or fail, the Lord’s plan is always the best.

Job’s life is a great example of how we can praise God in the midst of chaos. Job was the richest person in the area He lived in. He owned  many animals, several servants, and seven sons and three daughters. Job rejoiced in the Lord, and praised Him for his many blessings. “He was blameless- a man of complete integrity. He feared and stayed away from evil.” (Job 1:1 NIV). But thats not where his story ends. The Lord took away all of his oxen, sheep, and camels; and killed all his children. I can only imagine how Job must have felt. To go from having everything to no animals, money, or children. Job must have felt displeasure, anxiety, and discomfort. “Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Job recognizes the Lord’s sovereignty when he says:

Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, I came naked from my mothers womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job 20-21). There is nothing that doesn’t come from the Lord and there is also nothing that is taken from us that doesn’t come from Him. Following Job, and praising God in both situations, trusting in His will, is how we best glorify His name.

A prayer for when we are troubled:

Lord, you are so good. In your suffering you have given me the best example to follow. You never waste the suffering of your people. Jesus please remind me of your powerful sovereignty. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Roman’s 8:28) Lord I pray to find peace, comfort, gladness, and joy in chaotic times. For by Your wounds I am healed of  my sorrow. Lord teach me to lean on You in times like these. Jesus, here is my cross that is too strong for me to carry. No burden is too big for you to bear.

In Your name we pray,

Amen.

 

Author: Nola Preston

 

https://thelightlifewomen.org/2017/09/11/gods-goodness-in-the-midst-of-chaos

Spiritual-gifts-rectangle-2

With age and maturity, comes changes within ourselves. Ten year old Nola is a lot different from 20 year old Nola (and thank God for that). However, as you may notice in yourself, there are a lot of characteristics and gifts that linger and remain with us in our adulthood. Take a moment to think about what your strong attributes and weaknesses were when you were younger. Are they similar to those of today?

These characteristics are directly from God for the glory of the Lord and the unity of the body of Christ.

The Lord created all of His children individually with purpose– each with different strengths. With this, it is easy to compare our weaknesses with other’s strengths.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14  says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free– and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many”.

Imagine a world where everyone pursued the gifts that the Lord has given them. To pursue our God given gifts means to pursue unifying the body of Christ.

We should never think of others gifts as being more important than our own.

Imagine what would happen if our body systems were not content with the roles they were given to keep the body unified. Imagine if the nervous system stopped pursing its purpose and tried to take on the work of the cardiovascular system, just because it seemed more important. This wouldn’t end up quite well.

With this being said, no God given gift, talent, or passion is greater than another, because they all work together with one purpose: to glorify one God through one body.

Just as our body systems all play different roles in keeping the body running, we as Christians have each been given unique roles to pursue. No role is more important than another and all systems must pursue their purpose to keep the body healthy. We must pray to our Lord to make our purposes more clear to us with the goal of Unifying the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 18-20 says: “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

When we get distracted by the gifts others have and want them for our own, we must think of what exactly it is we are pursuing. Are you pursuing the glory of yourself or the glory of Christ and the Unity of His church? If you are content in your God given passions no matter how big or small they appear to be in the world’s eyes, you are also content in your purpose of glorifying God through them.

What are some of the specific gifts mentioned in the Bible?

1 Corinthians 12: 8-10; 12:28 mentions:

  • Prophecy: A message inspired by God, a divine revelation.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”
  • Faith: Strong belief in God, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. This gift is not the same as saving faith. All christians have received saving faith, but not everyone is gifted strongly with faith.
  • Gifts of healing:  Supernatural enablements given to a believer to minister various kinds of healing and restoration to individuals through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Wisdom: “Is also referred to as the “word of wisdom” or “utterance of wisdom.” The Greek word for wisdom is sophia and it refers to the intimate understanding of God’s Word and His commandments which results in holy and upright living.
  • Discernment: ” Being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment. In the New Testament it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14.
  • Tongues: “The spiritual gift of tongues is more accurately called the gift of languages. The Greek word for tongues is glossa, which literally means “tongue.” When it is used in the New Testament addressing the subject of spiritual gifts it carries the contextual meaning of “languages.” Speaking in tongues is the utterance of prayer or of a message glorifying God, typically spoken to God (1 Corinthians 14:2), in a language that is unknown to the one speaking it”.
  • Teaching: Teachers have been entrusted with the task of effectively communicating what the Bible says, what it means, and how we as followers of Jesus Christ are to apply it to our lives here and now”.
  • Administering: With this gift the Holy Spirit enables certain Christians to organize, direct, and implement plans to lead others in the various ministries of the Church. 
  • Serving: Refers to any act of service done in genuine love for the edification of the community. The word Antilepsis is translated “helping” and is found in 1 Corinthians 12:28. It has a similar meaning: to help or aid in love within the community”.

To view more descriptions of other spiritual gifts and/or learn more about what you may be gifted with visit: Spiritualgiftstest.com

 

Author: Nola Preston