Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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

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DON’T LOSE HEART!

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Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart.  (Luke 18:1, The Amplified Bible)
And as for [the rest of] you, believers, do not grow tired or lose heart in doing good [but continue doing what is right without weakening.  (II Thessalonians 3: 13, The Amplified Bible)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (II Corinthians 4: 16-18)
What does it mean to lose heart? Let’s check out The Amplified Bible for a more detailed description of losing heart as found in II Corinthians 4: 16.
Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. (II Corinthians 4: 16)
So how have you been feeling?  Are you discouraged, disappointed, or fearful?  Does it sometimes feel as if you can’t catch your breath?  Well, if you are a believer, you have a secret weapon.  The life of God is within you, and the power of that divine life is progressively renewing you every day.  Even when your body is not thriving, your spirit can.  We’re talking about dunamis power within you, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead!
In the three scriptures that are our focus for today, notice 3 actions you can take if you feel your energy and determination slipping away.
1.  Pray continually. Just prior to Luke 18:1, Jesus had told the parable of the persistent widow who would not give up in asking the unjust judge to help her.  Finally, he gave in.  Jesus was saying, “If even an unjust judge responds to persistent petitioning, how much more would a Loving Father?”  Pray without ceasing.  Know that even if you don’t yet see change, God is listening, and He will act when the time is just right.
2.  Keep doing the right thing. Don’t quit. (II Thessalonians 3: 13) It’s so difficult sometimes to keep going when you don’t see the results you hoped for or expected.  But consider the farmer, who does not see his crop come up for a long time.  Yet he keeps doing for the crop all that is needed at the time.  And so we must if we expect to reap the harvest.
3.  Fix your eyes on the One Who is ever-present within you and on the faith vision of what will be. (II Corinthians 4: 16-18) Where are your eyes gazing?  Like Peter when he began to sink into the water, are you looking at the winds and waves (your circumstances)?  Or are your eyes fixed squarely upon the Lord Who has called you?  Do you spend time envisioning and “seeing” that which He has promised?  Have you noticed that where you look, your feet gradually turn?
So don’t give in or give up.  Persist. Pray. Keep doing the right thing.  Don’t lose heart! Change is on the way!
My Lord, sometimes I get really tired, and I feel like giving up.  But You, my God, are the Author and Finisher of my faith.  I will keep my eyes on You, and I will keep walking.

THE PERILS OF PAY-BACK

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See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek that which is good for one another and for all people.  (I Thessalonians 5: 15)

“Revenge is sweet.”  Or is it?

In this day and time you cannot turn on the news without the latest report of verbal battles, punches/counterpunches, and passive-aggressive pay-backs. Maybe you entertain secret thoughts yourself of getting even with someone.  I believe it’s time to look hard at this principle. Your health and well-being depend on it.  (So does the health and well-being of our nation, by the way.)

A further caution is that the “pay-back trap” can also be mental.  You don’t have to actively do a vengeful thing.  Rather, you’re telling yourself, “Just you wait.  He’ll get his, and I’ll be happy when I see it.”  Listen to what you just said.  If you reverse the order of that statement, you proclaimed a self sentence:  “I won’t be happy until…”  You tied your happiness to something that may or may not ever happen, and if it does, you may not be around to see it.  You just tightened the noose around yourself and your own emotional freedom.

The Apostle Paul clarified it for the believers at Thessalonica. Don’t repay “evil for evil. .Instead, back off and think:  “What is my best course of action, the one that will be best for all concerned?  How can I do my part to solve a problem instead of perpetuating the problem?”  The goal must not be just to score a bigger point and WIN.  Rather, consider and act on the good for all concerned. That’s the only way to move toward peace in relationships and peace in your heart.

Let me assure you of 3 things if you choose to engage in the game of revenge.

  1.  It will never be enough, and it won’t be over. Though you can experience a momentary rush, the pleasure will be short-lived.  The desire for more is tempting.  Further, you’ll be inviting an ongoing negative exchange with a person with whom you truly do not desire to be strongly connected.  Think about it.
  2.  You will keep yourself emotionally tied to the individual you don’t like. Your thoughts are tied to your feelings.  The more you allow yourself to dwell on your anger and bitterness toward that individual, the greater control he or she has on you.  Is that really what you want?
  3. You will miss positive opportunities because of being consumed with negativity.  What if your unwillingness to let it go takes up the valuable space that could be occupied with creative ideas, positive interactions, and the pursuit of purpose? What if your anger spills over into the relationships you value at home and work? (It will.)  How wise will it be to compound your losses and surrender your future to this individual?  Is it worth it?  Nope, didn’t think so.

Lord, teach me how to look to You and let it go.  I want to obey You instructions, even when my emotions and my pride tempt me otherwise.  Help me not only to refuse to get trapped in pay-back but also, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to return good for evil.  This is hard, Lord.  But I know it’s right, and You will always empower me when I’m walking in obedience to You. 

 

 

 

THE GREAT EXCHANGE

cross of Christ

He was despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and pain and acquainted with grief;
And like One from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we did not appreciate His worth or esteem Him.

But [in fact] He has borne our griefs,
And He has carried our sorrows and pains;
Yet we [ignorantly] assumed that He was stricken,
Struck down by God and degraded and humiliated [by Him].
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
We have turned, each one, to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]
To fall on Him [instead of us]. (Isaiah 53: 3-6, The Amplified Bible)

Friday before we celebrate Resurrection Day.  That Friday.

I’ve been studying the horrific experiences of Jesus on this day in order to teach it soon in our Bible class.  The brutality and cruelty of Jesus’ crucifixion will take your breath away when you allow yourself to really understand what happened to Him that day.  I’m not going to go into all of that this morning, but I would recommend you study it yourself to begin to comprehend the depths that His Love for you and me took Him so that we might have His life. (If you’re interested, one of the most helpful resource books I’ve found is, The Crucifixion of Jesus:  A Medical Doctor Examines the Death and Resurrection of Christ, by Joseph W. Bergeron, M.D.)

As gripping a study as the physical aspect of what happened at the cross is, allow me to turn your attention to what happened in the spiritual realm.  Jesus cut the New Covenant with all who believe and commit their lives to Him.  I don’t have the time or space here to teach covenant in depth, but if you’ve never studied covenant, you’ve missed the foundation of the entire Bible.  Just know ever-so-briefly that when two people, two families, or two nations enter into a blood covenant with each other, they declare that everything each one has belongs also to the other.  Every resource of a covenant partner is immediately availability for use by the other partner.  If someone attacks a blood covenant partner, they just attacked the other partner, who goes into all-out defense and offense to protect and conquer.  In covenant you see an amazing exchange.

So when Jesus entered into blood covenant with each person who chooses to enter into that relationship with Him, He made possible that great exchange.  All the covenant benefits He provided to believers are detailed throughout the New Testament, but this prophetic message from Isaiah details some of them.  Just looking at these overwhelms me.

  1.  He experienced rejection so that you and I can receive acceptance.
  2.  He was despised and considered of no worth so that we might be shown to have  infinite value.
  3.  He bore our griefs, sorrows, and pains so that we would have His comfort and healing of the emotions.
  4.  He took the punishment for our sins upon Himself so that you and I might experience the freedom of forgiveness.
  5. He died so that we do not have to receive the wages of death that we have earned. We can receive a new kind of life.
  6. His body was ripped apart with the stripes of unimaginable beatings, and He experienced the cruelest of deaths in order to make the way for our healing.

 

In short, He died (and rose again!) so that you and I might live, really LIVE.  And because He lives, and I live, I can face tomorrow!

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You, Lord!

 

HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW – AND ME

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So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10: 31)

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.  (II Timothy 1: 7)

I sought the Lord [on the authority of His word], and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34: 4, The Amplified Bible)

Sometimes the assignments God (or life) hands you are daunting. Many of them feel like just too much – no way you can do this!

And God says… “RIGHT!” Then He adds with a smile and a twinkle in His eye, “But I can!”

What are you facing this morning? Does it have you in an internal tizzy? Do your circumstances feel overwhelming?  Are you fearful that you won’t know what to do or that you are about to royally mess it up? Do some of these situations or people you’re facing cause you to quake in your boots?

Great! You are now positioned to learn or to re-experience that most important lesson. You can’t – but God can!

When Paul wrote his second recorded letter to Timothy, he was in a very tough spot himself. Nero was the cruel emperor who was persecuting Christians, and Paul was chained like a common criminal in a cold, dark dungeon. Many people had deserted him, and he was lonely. It was while living in this predicament that he penned these familiar words to his dear “son,” Timothy.

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline. (II Timothy 1:7)

Let’s break that down for a moment to understand better what Paul was actually telling Timothy – and us. First, a little word study.

What did God NOT give us? Fear – which means timidity, cowardice, and reticence. Are you hesitating to tackle “it?” Afraid you can’t do it? Feeling shy and timid about approaching him/her with it? Well, clearly, those feelings are not from God.

Then Paul goes on to tell Timothy and readers today what God does give us instead.

1. A spirit of power – dunamis! Regular readers of these devotionals, remember that we studied this beautiful and exciting word a little while back. It means “ability, abundance, strength, might, miraculous power.” It’s the root word of our “dynamite.”

2. A spirit of love. This word love (agape) may be translated “benevolence, affection, charity, good will toward others.”

3. Self control. Some Biblical translations say, “a sound mind.” Others call it “discipline.”

So now let’s put this back together and think about what it means to you this day. If you are feeling fearful and scared, relax. God wants you to succeed, and He is going to supply for you all you need. He didn’t give you that fear. He is your Source, and your total dependence must be on Him. He’s the One Who will give you – just when you need it – miraculous strength and dynamite power; supernatural love (good will) toward others, even those who mean you harm; and a mind that does not waver from dependence on Him and thus that keeps you on track with self-control.

You may be feeling out of control right now – but God is in control. Just entrust yourself and your situation to Him, listen well, and take the actions He directs. It’s all going to work out in time. Don’t allow yourself to be full of fear. Instead, embrace hope and His strength.

God’s got this!

Lord, You know that sometimes I struggle with anxiety and worry.  Thank You for reminding me of Your power and Your Loving intentions toward me and mine.  Teach me to trust You completely, my God.  I believe. 

WAITING!

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Those who wait upon the Lord (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. (Isaiah 40: 31)

I admit it.  I don’t wait well.  In fact, I waste time waiting because I’m trying not to wait (think, drive-throughs).  When I have carved time out of a busy schedule for an appointment somewhere else, I become irritated and impatient when the professional I am to see has tried to squeeze so many people into a time slot that there’s not a prayer of being less than two hours getting in.  I just don’t wait all that well.

So when I read about “waiting on God,” my conditioning to the experience of waiting kicks in, and I conjure up less than pleasant images.  In the past, I conceived of waiting as drumming my finger, looking at my watch, and impatiently wondering when “it” was going to happen.

However, I am slowly grasping that some waiting can be a positive, building experience. The study of the actual meaning of that word as used in the scripture helps us to understand how that can possibly be.

Interestingly, the word “waiting” in the Hebrew means, “to twist together, bind like a rope.”  Picture the rope, with its heavy threads going around and around – together, to be used for a purpose.  Waiting upon (with) God means to be twisted together and bound with Him so tightly that you become one with Him.  Together with Him, you will experience and fulfill the right outcomes. I’m loving that picture!

Another aspect of waiting in the original language is “to look for, hope for, depend on, order activities around a future event.”  In other words, before you see a promise fulfilled, you already rely on it.  You order the activities of your life around it.  You don’t just sit and do nothing.  You take all the actions you can within your current situation to align yourself with God’s beautiful plan for your future.  You allow God to work in you to clean you up and prepare you to prosper in the dream when it comes to pass visibly.  But because you know that it has already come to pass in the spiritual world, you can live in an active hope with your eyes peeled for the appearance in the natural world.  Hope fights frustration and fuels action.

It’s fascinating that God is also engaged in that same kind of waiting, according to Isaiah 30:18.  Here’s the paraphrase of that from The Amplified Bible:

And therefore the Lord (earnestly waits (expecting, longing, looking for) to be gracious to you, and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loingkindness to you.”  

So what is He waiting for?  Is His delay caused by the need to work within us the right attitudes and maturity so that we can handle the blessing well? That same principle goes on to give us hope that “it” will come  at just the appointed time – whatever the right “it” is.

Learning to be in an intimate partnership with God?  Growing up so that we can handle the blessings?  Now THAT is worth the wait!

Lord, teach me to get my impatient, time-conscious self out of Your way.  I know that Your timing is perfect.  Work all that is needed within me so that I am able to walk in Your purpose – just when all is aligned for the divinely-appointed outcomes.  I trust You, O God, as I actively wait.

HOPE DESPITE TROUBLES

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No mere man has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord.  (I Corinthians 2:9)

I would love to think that the I Corinthians 2 passage was a description of the Christian life here on earth.  However, I can tell you from hard experience, often it’s not.  Troubles and heartaches come calling, unannounced, and they hurt.

Oh, absolutely, a bazillion times over, I’d rather live this sometimes-difficult life in relationship with the Lord! However, a relationship with the Lord does not guarantee a consistently blissful life! Tragedy hits.  Stress happens.  Disappointments devastate.  Like our Lord, we grieve, and we grieve deeply.

But we do not grieve like those who are in pain without HOPE! We have hope on so many levels.  This capital-H Hope is so much more than simply wishful thinking. Christ-followers can KNOW that it’s not over, the enemy has not won, and it is definitely going to get better.  .

  1.  The Hope of eternity with God.  We have the blessed Hope that we will be with God forever after we exit this world. He has prepared a magnificent place for us, an environment of pure Love and beauty, greater than we could ever imagine.
  2. The Hope that God will bring us through.  He has promised to walk with us through anything, even those problems of our own making, when we call on Him and cling to Him.  He sees the beginning from the end, and whatever has happened does have an end.  He will not only bring us through it, He will miraculously cause it to work together for our good. Though it’s “not good,” He will bring good from it.
  3. The Hope that we always still have purpose. You can’t mess up enough for God to lift your purpose in life from you.  Paul told the Romans that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.  Though your circumstances may change, His purposes don’t.  You can always find opportunities right where you are to live His purposes for you.
  4. The Hope that our God is still on His throne, and He’s not stumped. You may be totally scratching your head and not be able to see how all of this could possibly work out.  God was not taken by surprise here.  All of His plans for you already took it all into account.  God is in control.  You and I are not!
  5. Our Hope in HIM.  To simplify and sum up our Hope, it’s in Christ!  In fact, it IS Christ!  He has made the way for you and me to have all that we need, no matter what.  He has torn down the walls and provided the open Arms for us, sinful folks that we are, to be in an intimate, covenant relationship with God.  My mistakes are exchanged for His perfection.  My pain is ultimately replaced by His peace.  My soul’s unrest finds His beautiful rest in the knowledge of all He is and all He has provided.  HE IS MY HOPE! (And yes, I’m shouting it!)

So even in an oh-so-stressful season, you and I can say, “It is well with my soul.” We can put one foot in front of the other and keep going because we know our ultimate destinations.  Better times are definitely ahead!

O God, thank You for being my Hope!  I praise You that nothing can happen in my life that catches You off guard or puzzles You.  I appreciate the fact that You make a way when there is no way.  You are on the throne, and I honor You as Lord of my life.

BE STILL

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Be still and know that I am God.  (Psalm 46: 10)

Severe weather this past weekend lasted for long hours throughout the night.  I’m a scaredy-cat when it comes to bad weather, especially when there’s a threat of tornadoes.  Unfortunately, I’ve been up-close-and-personal with a couple of them in the last few years, and it’s not my favorite thing.

So during the sequential storms last Saturday night, I was anxious and agitated.  My whole body felt it.  I had gone to my daughter’s because I did not want to be alone.  Yes, I know that God is always present, and I embrace that.  But sometimes human support is good, too.  So I was trying to calm myself by praying and writing in my prayer journal.  I was asking for the Lord’s help, and I heard the above verse in my spirit.

So I began to remind myself of Who God is and how He is.  He created all of nature, including the weather.  He’s definitely not caught off guard by its functioning.  Jesus spoke to the storm and said, “Peace, be still!”  The winds calmed down, and the waves became normal again.  When I began to “be still and KNOW that He is God,” my heart rate slowed, and my breathing became more rhythmic.

But first I had to get still.  Stop internally pacing, quit obsessing, and just get still before Him  Don’t be distracted by the flashing lightening and crashing thunder outside.  Stop looking at the circumstances, and look at the Lord.  Just get still in His Presence.

I’ve just described a weather storm, but you know that storms hit our lives on a regular basis.  The principles are exactly the same.

  1.  Get still in His Presence.  It’s hard to hear and experience God if you’re too busy scurrying about, obsessively rehearsing your best ideas for your options, and asking for the opinions of everyone you know.  Pull away, breathe, get quiet, and BE with Him.  Listen to the stillness, and you’ll be better able to listen to The Voice in your spirit.
  2. Take your eyes off your circumstances. In my head, I hear that old hymn:  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”  Remember when Peter had heard the Savior say, “Come!” and he began to walk on the water.  When did he begin to sink?  When he started looking at the winds and waves, and He took His eyes off Jesus.
  3.  Remind yourself of the truth about God.  There are two big things I need to remember:  1)  There is a God; 2) I’m not Him.  Referring to Number 1, He is in control.  There is nothing too hard for Him.  He never leaves or forsakes me; He’s always present.  He loves me and cares for me.  He has tender compassion for what I’m going through.  He has given me amazing gifts, if I will be take them.  He has a plan for my life, and He is working that plan.  He causes all things to work together for my good.  He is not worried, for He knows the beginning from the end.  He provides for my needs.  I could go on and on with these attributes of God, and He is no respecter of persons.  He is Who He is for you as well as me.

So when the “storms” threaten and even hit hard, just remember that simple but powerful verse:  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

God, I thank You that You never change, and You are always there for me.  When I am afraid, I can and will trust in You.  I crave intimate time with You daily, but teach me in that time just to be still in Your Presence rather than diving right into my laundry list of requests.  Holy Spirit, remind me about Your Loving nature and Your power so that worries will flee, and my courage will rise within me. Teach me to trust You more, O Lord.

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