Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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New Morning Devotionals promotes deeper spiritual understanding, meaningful living, and practical Christianity at work and home

"This Wasn't Supposed to Happen to Me" Group Video Series

HOLD ON; IT’S COMING!

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So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10: 35-36)

Sometimes you just have to hold on – and hold on some more.

I’m going to confess to you, I become impatient.  I want my prayers answered on my time table.  I want to see great results in my business -and quickly!  Never mind about all this “seed-planting stuff!”  And my little impatient self thinks that when I’ve done all that I know to do, it’s time for God to just do His thing and make it all come together.  I often ask the Lord about some things I’ve prayed about for a long time: “When, O Lord?”  Why is it that I don’t get the answer I want, when I want it?

Then when I was reading these passages in Hebrews, I was reminded that sometimes when you are going through “it,” you just have to keep trusting, keep depending on God, and keep walking.

Now in case you think that this perseverance is simply the passive endurance of suffering, consider the original meaning of the word. “Hold fast” and “persevere” are very active verbs. They indicate what you should do while you wait for change. These mean to “intensely seize.” When you are believing for something that God has promised, you can grab that promise and hang onto it with all the strength and gusto the Holy Spirit can give you. You seize it with belief in mind and heart, even when your circumstances invite you to believe otherwise. You latch onto God’s Hand with the dependence of a little child – which is how Jesus told us we have to enter into His Kingdom blessings.

Interestingly, those “hold on and don’t swerve” words we are considering are also nautical terms, which give an interesting slant to the process. This insight involves steering a ship toward the safety of land, holding that vessel firmly on track. Again, we’re pointed to a very active process of implementing the principles we know, being vigilant for and working to avoid dangers and obstacles, and refusing to give up until you reach the shore.

Don’t get discouraged and “throw away your confidence.” Keep trusting in the One Who cannot lie and is fully able and willing to fulfill His promises. Keep doing the will of God, honoring His principles in your mind and heart and behavior. Your answers are on the way – in HIS time.

But sometimes, you just have to hold on, and hold on some more.

Lord, if I’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s perseverance.  It’s is only the knowledge of Who You are to me and Your faithfulness that have kept me going.  I praise You that You have shown me that You bring what I need at just the right time. You are so faithful, O God.  So I press on, knowing that You are here, You are good, You know the beginning from the end, and You will provide just what I need when I truly need it.  I trust You, and I hold tightly to Your loving Hand!

JUSTICE BEGINS WITH ME

Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue | My Jewish Learning

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)

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As the Derek Chauvin guilty verdicts came down yesterday, multitudes breathed easier because George Floyd’s death had been vindicated. I heard in the post-verdict interviews over and over that justice had been done. The evidence, including that horrendous video, predicted the outcome. I prayed for the right verdicts to be rendered.

God said through Micah that justice is a good thing, and I believe it. But in that familiar Micah 6:8 scripture, God’s instruction is personal. Do justly. Don’t just wait for something to happen, but be about living with integrity and the demonstrating the daily practices of being respectful, fair, and just to all.

Micah goes on to state that, in addition to doing justly, God expects us to love mercy and walk humbly with God. This trio, which reflects God’s definition of goodness, tempers justice with mercy and humility. I grieve for the family of George Floyd and all others who have been harmed unjustly. I remain respectful of the fact that we need our police who act with faithfulness to honor and integrity. But I also tell you that I grieve for the tragedy that is Derek Chauvin. How did his heart degenerate to the point of urging him to that murder? God loves every single person in this sad saga, and as a Christ-follower, I must not dignify any murderous spirit by participating in hate of any kind. I will pray for all.

It’s easy to project onto various groups or society-at-large the fault for biased perceptions or unequal treatment. But the questions I must answer are piercing.

  1. Where are my own hidden biases?
  2. Do I feed into my mind via all kinds of media the kind of information that reinforces justice, mercy, and humility, or am I digesting messages of division, contempt, and arrogance? (What you put inside comes out when you are squeezed.)
  3. Looking around in my own personal world, how can I lift up someone of any ethnic background who’s been treated unfairly and pushed down unjustly?
  4. How can I be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem?

Christ has given every believer the calling to be a minister of reconciliation. A just society begins with just people. I want to be one of them. What say you?

You’ve shown me, God, what is good. Create in me a clean heart, and empower me to walk in this broken world in Your goodness.

ON YOUR MARK…..!!

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So prepare your minds for action, be completely sober [in spirit—steadfast, self-disciplined, spiritually and morally alert], fix your hope completely on the grace [of God] that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. (I Peter 1: 13, The Amplified Bible)

The first part of that verse really struck me – then the second, then the third.  Wow, what a 3-part formula for developing the right mindset for productivity in the right things! I believe something that important is worth parking on for a bit.

The launch pad is to prepare your mind for action.  When I look back over lags and snags in my own productivity, nine times out of ten, my mindset was involved.  In other words, I had a belief problem.

You can believe in God and yet not experience the belief that is necessary for the motivation to take action. It’s available to you, but you may not have grown into possessing it.  According to motivation research, a person will be motivated for action when he/she believes at every link in this formula:  Effort – Performance – Desired Outcomes.  Allow me to break it down.

  1.  Belief that Effort – Performance:  The individual must perceive that if he tries, he’ll be able to do it adequately.  The flip side is, if another person does not believe she can, she won’t try.  (And by the way, her belief will be confirmed by the not trying.  Nothing happens. She was “right.”  She can’t.)  You could promise me a million dollars if I go out to our local airport and fly a jet to Atlanta.  I’d love to have that million dollars, but I’m not going to be motivated for any real action.  I’m not getting into that cockpit.  I’ve never had a flying lesson. I don’t believe that I can do it, so that potential pay-off sits there unclaimed. The scripture is chock full of assurances that help us at this level of belief – the belief that, with God’s help, you can achieve it.  If God has called you to it, He will equip you and empower you to do it.  We’re told to study, yes, for God approves of “workmen” who are prepared. But God through human writers encouraged us over and over that He is with us, and we can thus have courage to step forward into action.
  2. Belief that Performance – Desired Outcomes:  A second essential element for action is the belief that if you do it, it’s going to bring you results that you want.  You must perceive at least the possibility and, better, the probability that the action you’re about to take will bring either short-term pleasure or valued long-term gains. Additionally, you have to believe that the potential benefits outweigh the costs; in other words, the effort you will put into the task is “worth it.”   God has laid out clearly for us the goals that have lasting value.  Aligned with that, the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually God’s purposeful assignments for us. Some spend their lives chasing outcomes that will never satisfy for more than a minute.  The scripture says, “Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth.”

The principles of motivation have been provided for us in God’s Word for centuries and centuries.  Isn’t it nice when science “discovers” what God already revealed?

If you find yourself immobile and procrastinating on something important, look inside and examine your mindset.  Your beliefs could be tripping up your steps of action.  I hope I’ve provided some tools this morning to help you in that process. I’m going to use them myself.

Lord, I surrender any negative thinking and lack of belief in “You in me.”  I know that whatever You have called me to do, You will empower me to do.  Renew my mind, O God, so that I may have the courage to tackle what You assign and to live out Your will boldly in my life.

DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO HURT YOU; THIS IS HARD!

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessings, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  (I Peter 3: 8-9)

That’s easy for you to say, Peter!  As I recall, you didn’t always follow your own instructions perfectly either! 

Aren’t you glad that the people God chose to feature in the Bible are very imperfect folks like you and me?  Gives me hope. And, like you and me, Peter got a lot better at it when he became filled with the Spirit of God.

Anyway, Peter first summed up the principles to implement continually in our lives, and they are challenge enough.  Be like-minded, allowing the values of LOVE and community to permeate our souls.  Be sympathetic and compassionate in Love toward one another.  Sympathetically CARE about what is happening in the lives of others.  Be humble, not thinking of ourselves as better than other people and understanding that without God and other people, we could never succeed.Whew!  That’s a lot if we do it right and consistently..

But Peter doesn’t stop there.  He addresses how to handle it when someone hurts you.  First, the “thou shalt not’s.”  Don’t seek revenge.  Don’t give back the hurt and negativity that someone else gives you.  “She/he did it first” doesn’t fly.

AND…(gulp!) actively do something nice for the person who hurt you.  When you pray, bless that person rather than asking God to “get ’em.”  If the individual is not available to you or even alive, make a donation to a worthy cause in that person’s name. ind a way to bless the “perpetrator,” even if it’s secretly.  Especially if it’s secretly.

I interviewed an inspirational man for the video series on my book, This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.  His wife was killed in a heinous criminal act – committed in the presence of his young children.  If anyone had justification for being bitter, it was he. Yes, he wanted the righteous consequences under the law to take place.  However, he knew that he had to work with his own heart for two reasons.  One, he was responsible before God for the condition of his own soul.  Two, his children needed a healthy father now more than ever.  He purchased a Bible and took it to the jail for the man accused of the horrific crime on his family.  In the divine miracle of a forgiving spirit, he genuinely wanted the accused to come to know the Love of God.

This “living in Love” thing is a big deal.  I can assure you, it’s more than you and I can accomplish on our own.  Human impulses cannot reign supreme.  The sharp tongue must bow to the power of the kind heart.  The deteriorating physical body wreaked by the spirit of bitterness gives way to the blossom of health ushered in by Love and forgiveness.

And now, to drive these points home, I want to share our scripture text (I Peter 3: 8-9) from The Amplified Bible.

Finally, all of you be like-minded (united in spirit), sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted (courteous and compassionate toward one another as members of one household), and humble in spirit.  And never return evil for evil or insult for insult (avoid scolding, berating, or any kind of abuse), but on the contrary, give a blessing (pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection).  For you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing (from God Who brings well-being, happiness, and protection)  

No matter what you hear to the contrary in popular and political cultures, God’s way is the best way. Really, it is.

Lord, I believe.  Help Thou my unbelief. I want to exhibit Your attitudes, but that’s hard.  Help me not only to forgive but to go that step further and pray for and do good to those who hurt me. I’m going to need a lot of strength from You, God!

WHERE DO YOU PLACE YOUR BIG “BUT?”(Part 2 of 2)

5 Ways to Avoid Starting A Sentence with “But” or “And” - Robbi Sommers  Bryant

 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13: 26-33)

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Where you place your “but” matters! “But” is an eraser; it erases all that went before it! A misplaced “but” can eradicate belief that propels you forward.

This example in the 12 spies account is a great example of this principle. Let’s go there first.

Twelve men representing the tribes of Israel were sent by God’s direction and Moses’ instructions into Canaan to scout out the land to aid in strategy and planning. It was a reconnaissance mission for information-gathering. As we discussed yesterday, God never charged them with the decision regarding whether they were able to take the land. He’d already told them He’d give it to them. Notice how the ten vs. the two (Joshua and Caleb) described what they saw. Mind you, they went together, but they focused on different things. In particular, I want you to pay attention to the spoken or implied “but.”

The ten spies first acknowledged that the things they’d been told about the richness of the land were indeed true. In fact, they had brought back a sample of grapes that were so large, it took two men to bring them back on a pole between them. Then they uttered that fateful word, “BUT.” At that point they started describing all the negatives about the big, strong people occupying the land, the big, fortified cities, and the perception that all of it together was overwhelming. All of that part about the wonderful land faded after the “but” in favor of the facts presented after that big word.

Caleb spoke up in opposition to the others. His “BUT” is not recorded, but it is implied as he argued with his colleagues. After their fear-filled statements, he made a sharp pivot to the truth of what God had said. “We should go up and take the land, for we can surely do it!”

BUT the ten were not done issuing their bad report to the rest of the people, and they countered with more talk about the giants and how they felt like grasshoppers when compared to them. They went on to mind-read the giants and draw conclusions that they were thinking the same thing.

So, what does all this have to do with you and me? Plenty. This Old Testament story has laid out two thought habits that make all the difference between optimism and pessimism, between hope and depression, between success and failure

People with a God-positive point of view are aware of the facts; they’re not delusional. BUT they know what God has said that supersedes what the eye can see. That’s called faith. They know they’re sick, BUT God is the Healer. They understand about the losses they’ve incurred, BUT God is their Provider. They’re relationship is struggling, BUT God is the Restorer of the Breach.

The alternate approach takes people down. “I used to trust in God, BUT I prayed for something, and it didn’t happen.” “I love my wife, BUT lately she just doesn’t understand me, and I’m not in love with her.” “It sounds like a great opportunity, BUT I could never do something like that.”

Are you seeing the principle? Never sabotage God’s best for you by erasing it with a BUT followed by negativity. Place God’s Truth and the positive evidence of your God-given strengths and abilities after the BUT. This positions hope in the sentence in such a way that the hope is what you hear and carry with you. .

If God said it, there are no if’s, and’s, and BUT’S about it!

Lord, I want to say “yes” to all Your yesses. Your Word said that Your promises are “yes and amen.” Holy Spirit, elbow me if I start to argue with God and His callings, His power, and His great faithfulness.

WHEN GOD SPEAKS, PREPARE YOURSELF! (Part 1 of 2)

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The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 

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When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.) (Numbers 13: 1-3, 17-20)

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In the next two days, we’ll look at a familiar Old Testament story that has your and my names written all over it. I’ve been studying the early parts of the Old Testament lately, and this story has come alive afresh to me. We’ll lay the foundation today on what to do when you believe God has given you an instruction with a promise, and tomorrow we’ll talk about the toughest past – managing your mind about it.

The Israelites were in the wilderness after God had brought them out of Egypt. God had long before given Abraham “the Promised Land,” when He cut covenant with Abraham and made the promise for Abraham’s numerous descendants to inherit the land. He repeated to Moses, “I’m giving this land to the Israelites.” He never told them to go look at the land to decide if they could successfully take it. But that’s what 10 of them did, and when they added that mental “if,” they sabotaged their fulfillment of their assignment along with the riches God had in store for them. Only two heard right, thought right, and spoke right. More about that tomorrow.

So what was God actually meaning when He instructed, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan?” Even though victory was assured because God said so, these people would need to know what they were dealing with as they went in. First, they needed to have the encouragement of seeing that this rich land was worth some courage and some effort. Second, because it wasn’t going to just drop in their laps, they needed to know the facts in order to develop and understand the strategies God would give them along the way. Third, they would need good facts on which to base good decisions. Notice what Moses told them to look for, all aspects of the terrain and the people they’d encounter in their challenging assignment.

The same is true for you and me. God has made so many promises for our provision, our healing, our restoration. However, He usually won’t just lay it on you. He will empower you to find the answers in His Word and in the resources available to you. He expects you to work diligently to prepare for and work toward the goals and dreams He has dropped in your spirit. In order to do that, you have become informed and armed with solid information so that you will be able to listen and understand God’s instructions about moving forward.

This principle is true whether you are struggling to believe God for a chosen goal or one thrust upon you without your permission. Is there a dream stirring in your spirit? Are you reeling from a diagnosis you don’t want? Do you want to start a business? Are you trying to find your way back after a detour?

God has given promises in His Word about all of these. One of the ways He works to fulfill His promises is through your discoveries, and those discoveries come when you actively pursue the avenues for learning that the Lord has made available to you. How amazing these journeys are, when you already know that God will bring good from it all! But sometimes you first have to take action to explore, to learn, to implement the wisdom that’s available. For instance, when you ask God for healing, educate yourself about and implement healthy practices.

God works in partnership with you and me. (He’s the Senior Partner!) Our responsibility as we walk in faith is to do our part to understand and prepare so that when He says it’s time, we’re ready to move!

If you struggle with doubt when you’re trying to walk in faith, you don’t want to miss tomorrow’s message. See you then!

God, I want to learn all that I need to know in order to prepare me to go where You instruct me to do and to do what You want me to do. Teach me Your principles and Your ways, Lord.

IS THAT ROAD BLOCKED FOR GOOD REASON?

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Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” And Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” (Numbers 22: 31-35)

I get frustrated sometimes with God’s little and big no’s.  I’m “pretty sure” I know that the thing I’m praying for would be just great.  Then – “crickets” from heaven.  God doesn’t seem to be answering me.  However, the reality is, He is answering me with the response I don’t want to hear.

Recently, I was reminded of a related principle demonstrated in a passage I studied a most interesting Old Testament story.  This story involved a pagan prophet named Balaam, who was being sent by Balak, king of the Midianites, to curse Israel.  Balak was very threatened by the Israelites as he had come to the brilliant conclusion through observation that God was blessing them.  Balaam had the reputation of being “tops” when it came to sorcery and pagan divination, and Balak had to have the best for this critical assignment. Balaam agreed to accept the job.

A scene in the middle of this story, which spans Numbers 22-24, forms the backdrop for our reflections this morning.  Balaam was riding his donkey on the way to see the king.  All of a sudden, the donkey balked, refusing to go forward and detouring into a field.  Apparently more spiritually astute than the famous seer, that donkey had seen an angel with a drawn sword standing in the middle of the road.

This unplanned detour ticked Balaam off!  Frustrated, he beat his donkey to get them back onto the road.

As they went on on their way, they passed through two vineyards with walls on either side of the road.  Once again the donkey spied the angel, and that animal wisely pressed as far to the side of the passageway as possible.  In the process, Balaam’s foot was caught against the wall.  This resulted in another beating for the poor donkey.

A third time the angel appeared, standing in a narrow place where there was no room to turn.  This time Balaam’s donkey just lay down.  “This trip just isn’t working out,” the donkey must have thought.  For this behavior, Balaam’s donkey endured yet another beating.

Now the story gets very interesting.  God actually allowed the donkey to speak!  That animal asked Balaam, “What have I done to you to deserve three beatings?”  The furious Balaam responded, “You made a fool of me! If I had a sword, I’d just kill you now.”

The donkey reasoned with Balaam, “Have I ever done this to you before?” Balaam had to admit that the answer was no.  Just then, God opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the huge angel with sword drawn that his beast had been seeing.  Then the angel spoke:  “Why have you been beating your donkey?  I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one.”  The angel went on to say that the donkey had actually saved Balaam’s life.

This story continues with some very interesting outcomes.  Go to Number 22-24, and read it.  But I’d like to park right here and ponder the relevance of this portion of the story to our own lives.  Does such a series of events ever happen to you and me?  Is it possible we don’t even know that it’s happening?

Remember with me times in your life when God’s no could have reflected a situation similar to this one.  You were headed to a destination you wanted to go, pursuing a relationship you thought you couldn’t live without, or simply making a series of choices that gradually were seducing you into a destructive habit.  Perhaps what you were craving did not seem inherently to be bad.  But little did you know that there was danger lurking in that path.  If you’d gotten what you wanted, you would somehow have missed God’s best or even would have proceeded toward your worst.

When that road keeps being blocked, misplaced frustration plagues us. So we try harder, just sure that this time we’ll be able to make it work.  Then yet another barricade appears.

Is it possible that these roadblocks are not challenges to be overcome but instead signs from God that we are on the wrong path?

Lord, please help me to trust that You are Wisdom.  You can see the beginning from the end, and You want me to have Your best for me.  I breathe deeply, and I exhale my determination to get what want, and I inhale blessed surrender to all the treasures that You have stored up for me.

LORD, I NEED A DO-OVER!

Good Morning Sunrise Picture

Because of the Lord’s great Love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want a do-over!  I wish I hadn’t, but I did.  I wish I had, but I didn’t.  I don’t want to dwell there, but I want to do it differently if I can just have another chance.  Does this resonate with you?

One of the great things about a new week is the feeling of a fresh start.  Turn the calendar page.  Take a deep breath.  Dare to think what can be this year. Make a plan.  Begin some small steps.   It’s a do-over, and it’s happening today!

But wait! I have even better news than that.  God gives new opportunities every single morning – well, actually more often, but let’s start with that! I love the scripture in Lamentations 3 about His compassion and mercy for us being replenished every single morning, for He is faithful to His Word.  No matter what occurred the day before, you get the chance to begin again, more wisely this time.

Have you noticed that the name of this devotional blog is “Dr. Bev’s New Morning Devotionals?”  Well, there’s a reason for that, and it’s found in Lamentations 3: 22-23.  The amazing idea that you and I can awaken each morning with the Creator of the Universe ready and waiting for a time of intimacy, ready to pour out a fresh supply of grace and help – well, that’s just too much to fathom!

So yes, you and I are getting a do-over today. And the crazy thing is, we also get one tomorrow, the next day, the next day… His compassion for us just keeps going and going and going…

You don’t have to do it all perfectly; you couldn’t if you tried.  You just have to commit yourself to the One Who did.  And you trust that His Word is true., for it says:

He Who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1: 6)

God is faithful!  Now that’s something to celebrate in this new week, new day, new hour, new minute…

I give this week to You, my God.  Thank You for a brand new day to serve You.  Work with me, Lord.  Help me to become the person You already see in me. 

RELEASE, RECOMMIT – THEN…!

The Light has Come | CBN.com

Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth, and your righteousness will go before you.  The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, “Here I am.” (Isaiah 58: 8-9)

The prophet Isaiah was telling the people of Israel what would happen after they humbled themselves before the Lord, prayed diligently, fasted with a repentant heart, and committed themselves to Him completely.  God has not changed.

God is always WITH the believer – no matter what.  However, I know from multiple times in my life, I can too easily stray from the personal experience of His Presence.  The ultimate Power Source is always there.  However, I’ve sometimes slowly begun to rely on my own strength and have wanted to do it my own way.  I’ve learned (I hope I’ve learned!) that’s a recipe for heartbreak and even disaster.  Has your experience paralleled mine?

Who wouldn’t want the benefits Isaiah described?

  1. Your light – your positive influence – will spread out over your world.  You will make a difference as significant as the sun coming up in the morning.
  2. You’ll be resilient.  Your recovery from the ievitable difficulties and setbacks of life will happen quickly.
  3. God will go before you. Christ is the righteousness of the believer, and He will lead you by His Spirit into all that He has planned for you to do.
  4. He will also be your rear guard.  Rear guard is a military term, and it refers to a detachment of the army which guards the rear of the troops from sneak attacks from the enemy.
  5. You will communicate with God Himself, two-way! God is always there, and He is always ready and willing to relate with your intimately.  However, it’s when your heart gets to the right place of submission and quiet that you can hear His Voice clearly.  His is truly, “The Voice.”

As we come to the close of this week, the message for reflection is simple, the charge is challenging, and the outcomes are priceless.  When asked about the most important laws, Jesus called it LOVE.

If you’ve gradually wandered into your own way, come back!  Come back to love God with all your mind, heart, soul, and strength.  Return to loving your neighbor through action.  Embrace the gifts God has given you, and deploy them to make a difference to others. Don’t give up on the dream!

Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth, and your righteousness will go before you.  The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, “Here I am.” (Isaiah 58: 8-9)

~~~~

O God, I want to love You totally, my neighbors compassionately, and myself respectfully.  I want to walk in Your ways, not my own.  I don’t want to stand in the way of any work You want to do in me or through me.  Lead me, O Lord, and teach me to do Your will.

HAVE YOU FALLEN OUT OF LOVE?

Distant Couple Using Gadgets in Bed - Stock Photo - Images

You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2: 4-5)

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  (Romans 12: 11)

The “cooling of love.”  It’s at the root of some of the most common complaints I hear in marital counseling sessions.  Or most likely it starts the other way around, with the root more accurately being defined in the accumulation of absence of caring behaviors.  Which comes first – your stop doing what you did when you “fell in love” and so you “fall out?” Or your love grows cold, and thus you cease those caring behaviors that produce the warmth of intimacy?  Probably a little of both in this self-reinforcing downward spiral. Either way, “it’s just not how it used to be.” Many wonder, “Am I where I’m supposed to be?”  And, “Is this all there is?”

The remedy is found not in trying to conjure up some false emotion but in changing what’s happening on a daily basis.  Emotions finally respond to how you think and what you choose to do.

As the scripture says, “Repent, turn around.  Do the things you did at first.”  I often ask a couple to tell me about when they met and fell in love.  What were they doing in their thoughts and interactions with each other? Were they dwelling on their partner’s positive attributes and strengths?  Were they looking for ways to get quality time with each other?  Were they thinking up little ways to please and impress the person who had captured their heart?  (It’s amazing how those blah or angry faces light up when they are talking about how it used to be.  They may even sneak a knowing smile at each other.) And – wha’ happened??  

At a time when they thought differently and behaved differently, they felt differently. Important principle!

The same thing happens in your walk with the Lord.  You begin with much zeal, but then your love begins to run cold.  Is it possible that how you are thinking has been a part of that decline? Have other aspects of your life assumed front-and-center place in your mind?  Those expressions of love that used to come so naturally to you – wha’ happened?  For example, are you making it a priority to experience quality time with God?  Are you remaining completely faithful to Him?  (Or are you flirting with “other lovers?”) Do you talk about Him to others any more, both as you go about your daily life and in gatherings of others who are in love with Him? Are you voraciously reading His Love letters to you? Are you passionately engaged in pleasing Him by serving others?

Do the things you did at first. Don’t tolerate the “loss of your first love” in any relationship of value – and especially in your relationship with God! In that relationship, you have the Perfect Partner.  He Loves you lavishly and provides for you faithfully.  Why would you allow yourself to drift away from Him?

My God, Lover of my soul, please forgive me when I’ve allowed other priorities to come between us.  Spirit of God within me, please keep drawing me back.  I say “yes” to Your overtures of intimacy.  You are my First Love.

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April 2021
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