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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LIFE-OR-DEATH POWER! WIELD IT WISELY!

tongue_no_bones

A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.
A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life,
But a perversive tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15: 1, 4, The Amplified Bible)

Life and death are in the power of the tongue. (Proverbs 18: 21, KJV)

I don’t care who models harshness, it’s not right.  Don’t copy it!

It matters not to me how provocative the invitation to a foul response.  Don’t say yes to it!

Though the other person lets a hurtful tongue run free, don’t allow careless, hurtful speech to sneak into your own habit system!

You are responsible for you and for the life or death your mouth sends into the minds and hearts of the people you touch.  Don’t get hooked by the temptation to stoop.  Those words, when uttered, go out into the emotional atmosphere to build up or tear down. Your tongue will be a catalyst for LIFE or a weapon of death.

Which will you choose?

This is a short devotional.  However, I believe this is the end of the message I was given, and I don’t ever need to just make something up to reach a word quota.

“‘Nuf said!”

Lord, I want to be Your instrument to bring LIFE to all I touch.  No excuses.  Please, Holy Spirit, help me manage my most unruly body part – my tongue! 

 

 

WHEN YOU PASS THE TEST, YOU WIN BIG!

pass_the-test

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. (James 1: 2-4, The Amplified Bible)

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12, The Amplified Bible)

Before I go any further and sound too Polyanna-ish, let’s ponder a keyword in the very first sentence of James 1: 2.  The writer (most likely James, the brother of Jesus) did not say that it feels joyful to go through a trial.  He instructed, “Consider it nothing but joy.”  

We’ve shared recently about the power of your thoughts and attitudes to transform your experiences.  We noted yesterday that it’s a fact:  “I just love this test,” was said by no one in her right mind ever.  That’s a factor from the feeling realm.  However, James wouldn’t have said it if it were not possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.  When you can rise above that trial, hovering over it with perspective, or else when you see it with hindsight, you recognize that along with the hardships, that trial comes bearing gifts.

Can you look back on a stressful, lingering situation you faced; a hades you plodded through; or a complex mess you never thought would unravel?  I can assure you, those were crises of faith.  Your belief and trust in God either became stronger or weaker.  When such a crisis occurs, if you chosse to draw close to God in desperate dependence, that trial is set to become a life-changer in your faith walk. You deepen your relationship with Him and learn things about His faithfulness that you could not have discerned in calmer, happier times. On the other hand, many a person has tragically gotten way off track because they became bitter with God, deciding that He could no longer be trusted.  Defiantly decide that you are now in charge, and you ultimately derail.

“Consider it all joy.”  How can you do that?  Recognize that God uses the inevitable trials of  life here on this planet for a good purpose – if we let Him.  What possible good can come from seasons of hardship? I can think back on many in my own life, among them wake-up calls, a more accurate perspective on what really matters, and a more intimate relationship with the living God. James describes 4 more.

  1. Endurance. I’ve done some endurance races, and I can tell you that preparation for them is nothing but grueling.  However, when you’ve sweat and mumbled and traversed those training hills, you are thankful on race day for the stamina you have developed.  And so it is when you walk with God through a torturous training process.  You learn that you have more inside you than you ever thought possible, and you are prepared for the endurance run called life.
  2. Maturity. To understand maturity, contrast it with immaturity.  How does a toddler react?  It’s all about him.  Everything is hers.  That little tyke is entitled.  He wants it now.  Others are supposed to be at her beck and call.  Flip all of that on its head, and you get a picture of the maturity you can develop when you have walked with GOD through a trial.
  3. Strong faith. Like physical muscles, your faith muscles are developed by resistance.  Without the “resistance” in the gym of difficulties, your faith muscles become flabby. You learn to believe that God will sustain you through anything by practice in the “anythings” of life.
  4. Victory crown.  When all of the trials are complete, God’s promised eternal rewards for those who love Him.  Think, the awards ceremonies at the conclusion of the Olympics.  Ultimate victory is guaranteed because Jesus, the One, has already won it for us.  Knowing that helps (it helps a lot) when your life looks at the moment like anything but victorious.

Well, understanding all of that doesn’t completely take away the taste of the bitter pills we often have to swallow.  However, the focus on God and His goodness does keep that nasty taste from poisoning our systems!

God, You are good.  You walk faithfully with me through situations that are not good.  Lord, let not one of my experiences of suffering and trial be wasted.  Use everything to grow me up and to become a resource to help hurting others.

 

 

I JUST LOVE THIS TEST…

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Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. (James 1: 2-4, The Amplified Bible)

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12, The Amplified Bible)

“I just love this test…”  said no one in her right mind ever.

Whether in a college classroom or the crucible of life, tests are not my idea of fun.  Persevering in sweat and tears when you don’t see how you possibly can.  Scratching your head raw because you don’t know the answers. Struggling to breathe because you’ve been sucker-punched.  Tests.

So why do we get tested?  Does God need to find out how we will respond?

No, He’s GOD.  He already knows.  Original scripture language describes Him as the Knower of Hearts (e.g., Acts 1: 24).  He knows exactly the talents He has placed within us.  He already understands where we are right now in our development toward Christlikeness.  He understands our vulnerabilities, our strengths, and our sensitive pressure points.  He desires for us to be whole, and He comprehends exactly what it will take to get us there.  He doesn’t need to have anything revealed or proven to Him. He’s on it!

So who on earth could need the information that comes out in a test? Let’s each take a quick break and walk into the bathroom.  Pause at the mirror.  Gaze into the eyes of the individual who will learn and profit from the laboratory of experience called a test.

You and I have blind spots.  We are either over-confident in our own abilities or under-confident in God’s.  In either case, we need to see it – up close and personal. No matter how far along we are in our Christian walk, there’s more to learn about God’s faithfulness and our need for desperate dependence on Him.  We need to know that when hope is scarce, THE HOPE is not. Jesus is right there.  There’s so much to learn.  And yes, there’s so much to love about tests!

The experience of a test is a long way from fun, but the outcomes are BLESSINGS.  (Let’s talk about those tomorrow.)

But for today, just keep trusting, and keep walking!

God, I wish there were another way to get the kinks out of me! And yet, I look back on my life, and I can see that my times of greatest growth have been my times of greatest testing. My flesh doesn’t like it, but I embrace Your beautiful work within me in the midst of hard circumstances.  You are faithful, O God, and I am learning to trust You!

 

 

 

 

KIND IN THE MIND – TOWARD YOURSELF!

positive-thoughts-about-self

 

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

I know, I know.  Maybe you’re like me.  When you have read the Psalm 19: 14 scripture, you’ve thought about cleaning up your inappropriate thoughts and your secret little “cuss words.”

However, I believe this passage takes the sincere seeker much farther than even that.  It plunges you headlong into a confrontation with one of the enemy’s most clever and destructive schemes.  If Satan can convince you that you are defective, beyond hope, disqualified, less than, or over the hill – he has effectively paralyzed you.  And oh, how he loves that! The devil does not want the talents and Love God has placed in you to be used in implementing God’s plans for reconciliation and salvation in your world.

To make matters a lot worse, the enemy does all of this in sneaky disguise.  He convinces you that the messages he whispers in your ear are either your own or those of people who matter. Either way, if you buy into the concept of your pervasive ineptness, you’re a goner.

Your thoughts about yourself are some of the deepest and most pervasive “meditations of your heart.”  If these are to be “acceptable in God’s sight,”  they must be aligned with what He says about you, the thoughts He thinks about you, and how He deals with you in His grace.

In other words, when words you’ve heard from hateful others echo in your mind, just know that these are not from God. He would never inspire hate nor the words that vomit from it because He is Love.  They are not acceptable to Him.

That self-criticism that turns an experience of failure into, “I AM a failure?”  The accusing sound of thoughts focused on your setbacks?  No, not divinely inspired.  That’s not what the God of a second, third, and infinity chance has to say about you.  At all.

Your secret thoughts about yourself come forth in what you say and how you say it.  Habits of self-condemnation reveal themselves in your words and actions, and prophetically, success becomes elusive.  Conversely, “humble confidence” is attractive, and such an attitude will take you where God wants you to go.  (Yes, I said humble confidence.  That’s not an oxymoron.  Humility is not weakness but “strength under control.”  It’s founded on the confident knowledge that alone you won’t make it, but in Christ you can do all that He assigns you to do.)

Mental confidence and resilience show up on the outside.  If your habitual thoughts are pleasing to God, your words and behavior are likely to follow. That most certainly includes what you say to yourself about yourself.

God conceived you long before you were humanly conceived.  You are here for a reason. People are placed in front of you who need God’s Loving touch from you.  Adversity can’t rob you of it, and mistakes can’t disqualify you from it. Nothing can take away the purpose God has placed in your life.  However, if you hear the enemy’s lies about you, meditate on them, and ultimately believe them, you’ll choose to pull back from expressing your purpose.  That would be tragic for you and a loss to God’s world.

When it comes to your thoughts about yourself, may the meditations of your heart and the words of your mouth be acceptable in God’s sight.  He Loves you so much.  He wants you to rise up and keep going, knowing that He is not through with you at all.  You are beautiful in His sight.  You have purpose. Don’t mentally agree with the enemy of your soul.  Choose to agree with GOD!

Lord, I want to continue to renew my mind so that I think Your thoughts about myself.  You know me, Lord.  I can get super-critical about me.  I can spend too much time looking over my shoulder at my past.  Spiritually, I know that You don’t.  I choose to reject demonic lies about me.  Teach me Your ways, O God.  May I always meditate on Your thoughts and speak Your words.

 

CAREFUL! ONE DAY IT’S GONNA POP RIGHT OUT!

Portrait of a surprised young man wearing eyeglasses

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

“Oh, I might think it, but I’d never say it.”

Really?  Let me caution you.  If you think it long enough, if you dwell on it hard enough, it will find its way into expression! It will either break out in actions, or the words you wish you could take back will come spilling into the air.

Your words have power.  According to the scripture, they inspire life, or they wield death.  They help, or they harm.  Words build up or tear down.  What you say matters.

How you say it also matters!  A sarcastic or harsh tone of voice has the power to negate even a feeble attempt at positive words. Your facial expression (particularly your eyes) and other body language more accurately depict your heart than the words you carefully choose.

What’s in there comes out – particularly when you’re squeezed.  When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out.  Squeeze a lemon?  That’s right.  Whatever is inside comes out when you press on it tightly.  And so it is with you and me.  Whenever we’re stressed and “squeezed,” whatever we have allowed to live in our minds and hearts comes bubbling out.

“I don’t know where that came from, don’t understand why I said that!”  It wouldn’t have been stored there uninvited in the secret places of your mind and heart. It festered there until the opportune (maybe surprise) moment for its expression. If it comes out of you, you can’t blame it on someone else.

Words and actions are preceded by thoughts.  If you want your words to be genuinely kind, work on the mental habits of respect and appreciation for others.  If you’re finding yourself chronically irritated by a co-worker or family member, ask God to help you see that individual as He sees them.  Recognize that you have no idea how the person developed those prickly habits.  Pray for him or her, and don’t become prickly yourself.

Also work on your thoughts and words toward yourself!  You are God’s child, too, and you have no business mentally downgrading yourself and calling yourself names when you mess us.  Let’s talk some about that tomorrow.

This is all a big challenge.  The secret “meditations of our heart” are the last frontier of spiritual growth and maturity.  The problem is, our thought habits may even be outside our conscious awareness.  We must tune in and know what our own habitual mental reactions are so that we may fight the destructive ones. Renewing the mind (Romans 12: 1-2) is our most significant challenge, for as we learn to think like Christ, our actions will follow suit.

I want to think like You do, Lord.  Teach me Your ways.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer.

3 WAYS TO GROW AND GROW SIGNIFICANTLY (Part 3)

Stakes-0-0

Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left…
(Isaiah 54: 2-3)

  1.  Enlarge your vision; think bigger.
  2.  Increase your intimate time with God.
  3. Strengthen your infrastructure that will be needed to support significant growth.

You can have a huge tent capable of spreading out into the wide open spaces.  The enlargement of the place where you “live and work” can even be God’s best plan for you.  However, if you don’t have strong stakes that go deep and also big, durable cords to anchor the tent to the stakes, you’ll get a big crash right down on your head when you least expect it..

It’s true that what got you here may not take you there.  If you want to experience growth that is both expansive and significant, strong support systems are essentials. Your tent needs long cords and strong stales.  What are those stakes and cords?

  1. Priority of God.  Matthew 6:33 sums it up.  When you seek God first and put Him first in your life, other things fall into place when you need them.  If you chase the “other things” without having God in your life, you come up empty on all counts. Put that principal stake down deep. Make God “Number One” in your life.
  2. Character.  I’ve seen it too often, and so have you.  A person’s talent takes them to a place that their character sabotages.  Athlete, corporate exec, movie producer, government leader, teacher, preacher – doesn’t matter.  Integrity means “no cracks in it; solid.”  Strong character comes from the consistent repetition of choices aligned with God’s principles. Character is based on deep beliefs and convictions, which are “decisions already made” when you face a tempting situation.
  3. Practical systems. Our God is a God of order and not confusion.  Without plans and systems, randomness and impulsivity turn into chaos.  A strong infrastructure of flexible but proven systems is essential if you are to grow and grow significantly.
  4. Habits of self-management.  Well, I don’t know about you, but I can be my worst enemy.  I sometimes build tasks up to giant size in my mind, get overwhelmed, and procrastinate.  I spend so much time taking care of others that I often fail to take care of myself.  I’m distractable, and I can go chasing my latest hair-brained idea while neglecting steadiness on a previous, God-given goal. I could go on.  Maybe you have a list of your own.  Diligent dedication to changing self-sabotaging habits is doubly essential if we ever expect to “expand the place of our tents” and to “spread abroad to the right and to the left.”
  5. Dependence on God. And so we come full circle.  “Growth” fueled by pride that you can do this on your own is folly.  You may see some temporary progress when you work very hard, but the scripture is clear that pride is the precursor to failure.  Not only putting God first in your life but also recognizing your utter and desperate dependence on Him – those are the key secrets to significant and sustained growth.

God has big plans for you – superabundantly beyond what you could ask or think.  Prepare yourself by opening the eyes of your heart to see and believe that He wants you to expand.  Spend plenty of time with Him to absorb His vision and His strength for your personal world and your business.  Then ask Him to show you how to put the pieces in place to support the blessings He wants to bring into your life!

Wow, this passage in Isaiah has come alive once again in my heart!  What is God saying to you about you through it?

God, You overwhelm me with Your Love again and again! Thank You for speaking life and growth into my heart! Now I totally trust You to lead me to it, in it, and through it.

 

3 WAYS TO GROW AND GROW SIGNIFICANTLY (Part 2)

prayer+meeting

Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left…
(Isaiah 54: 2-3)

“Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not.”

So is this just one more way of reminding us to think bigger to get bigger?  To stretch on out into a more positive future?  No, we already learned about that principle yesterday. A little research into the word meanings reveals much more – a second prerequisite to significant and sustainable growth.

The word is “mishkan,” which is a noun meaning dwelling, tabernacle, or sanctuary.  The most significant meaning of the word indicates the dwelling place of the Lord, the tabernacle.  The tabernacle was called, “The Tent of Meeting,” for there the Lord met with His people.

Are you starting to get it?  Stretch out your private meeting time with God!  Don’t be quick or skimpy with it; “spare not!”

Listen; hear me out.  You can’t do this on your own!  If you are being launched into significant growth related to assignments that matter, it’s essential to go daily for refueling. Significant growth requires power outside your human capabilities.  You’ll have to have wisdom not justified by your intellect or your experiences.  To sustain the energy you will require, you’ll be wise to take extra time daily in your prayer closet and in studying he Manufacturer’s Instruction Manual (AKA, the Bible).

Don’t spare!  Crave that time with the Lord, and carve it out of your day.  Make your one-on-one time with Him the life-or-death priority that it is.  Without it, you will either burn out or fizzle out.

A major positive growth shift is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.  To finish your course, you must have nutrition for energy, and you must have hydration.  The Bread of Life and the Living Water constitute a great pre-race meal!

God, I know I need you.  I don’t just mildly need You;  I can’t make it without You.  May I never become so prideful that I delude myself into self-reliance.  You and I know that I’ve done that before, and we both know what happened.  I believe that You are positioning me for significant growth, and I want more and more intimate time with You so that I can hear You clearly and receive Your power for sustained action. I say it again from the depths of my heart.  I need You, God.  I can’t make it without You.

 

 

 

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