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

GOD, OUR WORLD NEEDS HEALING!

philippians-4-6

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicales 7: 14).

All the horrific things that are happening in our world bother me.  So often I have to tell myself, “Turn off the TV, and quit devouring all the news about it.  Go into the bedroom, and pray about it!”

That’s what God says to do – pray and more.  If you and I are willing to follow God’s advice, we won’t have time in our days or space in our hearts to obsess about it all. He addresses these instructions to believers, those of us called by His Name.  

  1.  Know and act on the authority of the Name of Jesus.  Let’s park right there for just  a moment.  We’re believers, but do we really believe? We’re “called by His Name,” but do we exercise the spiritual authority He has given us? In Christ and by the Holy Spirit, God has given us the Name of Jesus to use to defeat “principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.”  First, we defeat them as we assume our rightful places in our intercessory prayer closets. Then we are able to be overcomers as spiritual wickedness confronts us in our world.
  2. Humble yourself before God.  We need to understand that the problems in our country and world are way bigger than we are.  Sure, we try to figure out solutions, but to do this simply within the capacity of our own minds is foolhardy.  Only God has the kind of wisdom these kinds of problems are going to require.  He will freely share strategies and ideas with us when we believe and when we humble ourselves before Him.
  3. Pray! Cry out to God on behalf of people who have been hurt and devastated by the evil acts of others.  Humbly ask God to use you as His instrument of Love in your world. Listen carefully to what He reveals and His ideas about what you can do to make a difference right where you are.  Prayer is a two-way conversation.
  4. Seek God’s face.  This is an old term that means essentially, seek to know God intimately.  How do you develop intimacy?  By spending time with Him.  By communicating with Him.  By sharing your inmost self with Him and delving into His Word to learn all you can about Him.  It astounds me when I consider that the Creator of the Universe desires to be intimate with me!
  5. Turn away from known sin in your own life. No matter how “small,” sin corrupts. It’s very dangerous to nurse and protect secret sin in your life.  Sin seeds grow, and they destroy.  Your enemy wants nothing more than to block the flow of your communication with God for all of the above reasons.  He relishes the idea of “destroying” you and rendering you ineffective in the Kingdom. Give him no toehold to work in your life!  Live under the total lordship of the One Lord.

“It seems that there’s nothing I can do about all the evil in this world!”

Yes, there is.  Begin with your own world.  Start with your own heart.

O God, when I see unspeakable heartache and senseless violence, I feel powerless to do anything about it.  But I choose to believe what You tell me and not what I see with my natural eyes.  You said that if I humble myself to pray in Your Name, if I dedicate myself to intimate fellowship with You, and if I guard the cleanliness of my heart, YOU will act on our behalf.  As far as I know how, I am trying to do that, my God.  Move mountains in our world, O Lord!  My faith and trust are in You.

 

OVERCOMING THE EVIL OF VIOLENCE

Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. (Genesis 6:11)
 
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:13)
 
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil. (Romans 1: 28-30)

 

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicales 7: 14).
My stomach was churning last night, and it’s still queasy this morning.  Senseless, evil violence!  Survivors who are about to learn what the initials PTSD stand for.  Families whose lives have been changed forever. A young man who allowed bitterness, then hatred, then murder to consume him.  Unspeakably catastrophic results. All ingredients in a recipe for tragedy that will resonate for decades and more!
But the tragedy of violence also plays out more privately in homes across this country and the rest of the world.  Even this week, domestic violence has captured headlines.  An exponentially greater number of violence headlines are buried in the secrecy of the minds and emotions of manipulated and threatened survivors.
Domestic+violence
Felicia Johnson and I are co-teaching a Bible study, and right now we’re in Genesis.  A week from Sunday, I’ll be teaching about Noah and the flood.  I had just been noticing in my study that when God concluded that mankind was beyond repair (except Noah), He kept naming violence as His evidence of the earth’s utter depravity. Violence was so despicable to God, He decided to wipe out the earth and start over. (He promised never to do that again via the flood method.  See the rainbow and remember.) God IS LOVE, and hate, violence, and murder are Love’s antitheses.
Ultimately, violence and the demonic inspiration for hate will be made powerless and will be removed from the earth.  In the meantime, we run the risk every day of turning on the evening news and having our eyes and ears assaulted with the latest manifestation of hatred.  For that matter, we are not immune from being the latest violence victim as we go about our days, minding our own business.
When will it ever end?  How does it end?  And oh, Lord, what do we do? Some way, somehow, we have to bring Your light to illuminate this dark world.  Love ultimately overpowers hate. We cling to that, and we want to be your Love vessels.
The passage that is resonating in my spirit this morning is:
If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicales 7: 14).
And that’s God’s recipe for change.  More on that tomorrow.
Oh, God, please help us!  In the mighty Name of Jesus, I come against the hatred and violence that are rampant in our society. This day, my Lord, may I show Your Love to everyone I encounter?  In this dark world, help me to reflect Your light, God.

GOT SHAME? EMBRACE WHAT GOD SAYS INSTEAD (Part 3 of 3)

shame scripture
If I am guilty—woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full
of shame and drowned in my affliction.  (Job 10:15)
 
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34: 5)
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  (Isaiah 61:7)
If you’ve been following this series, you know that shame is not from God!  The voices in your head are either those of unhealthy humans in your past, or they are the words from your spiritual enemy. For goodness sake, reject shame messages, no matter what their source.  If it’s already too late to say, “Pay those shame messages no attention ever,” it’s not too late to fight them and ultimately beat them and replace them.  Here are 5 ways to do just that.
1.  Distinguish healthy guilt from unhealthy shame. Go back and read Part 2 and memorize those questions! Sometimes those voices sound so realistic.  The Liar is good at taking a teaspoon of truth and mixing it with his discouraging, disparaging, and false spin – which makes his conclusions a lie.  If you find that your feelings are “good guilt,” correct the problem and move on.  If they’re shame, reject that!  Move on to Steps 2-5.
2.  Stop condemning yourself; God doesn’t! The scriptures tells us in Romans 8: 1 that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Will you make some mistakes?  Of course!  But those foibles never warrant some hopeless self–label that continually predicts failure.  Believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit inside, and He is always at work to help, to comfort, and to encourage you to keep moving.
3.  Consider what happened at the cross. This is all possible because of what Jesus accomplished on a hill called Golgatha. He didn’t just take our sins on Him so that we could be forgiven.  He also bore our griefs, our sorrows, and our shames.  In the same way that you received salvation by faith in Jesus and His grueling work on the cruel cross, now receive a gift in your existing salvation that Satan may have tried to hide from you.  Jesus already bore your shame.  You don’t have to!
4.  Ask God to forgive you, then agree with Him! Before I talk about this one, let me preface it with the truth that much of the shame that precious people are carrying is not because of their sin at all but due to the evil deeds of others.  That being said, if you are chronically living in shame because of some mistake in your past, this is for you.  You know that the scripture says that confessing your sins is an important part of release from their hold.  Did you know that the word “confess” actually means, “to agree with God?”  So you must not only agree with God about His forgiveness, you must agree with God in your self-forgiveness. (This negates the familiar statement, “I know God has forgiven me, but I just can’t forgive myself.”) God is Lord.  His Word goes.  I cannot place my opinion above His.  If He says I’m forgiven, then I must wisely affirm His judgment.  My sin was already judged at the cross.  Over.  Done.  Finished. Confess that!  Agree with God!
5.  No matter what has happened in your past, step out in courage, and live life well.
Today is the day you have!  Your God-given purpose is not complete (or else you would not be breathing). Worried that others will criticize and remember?  That’s not within your control.  The only viable choices you have involve what you will do with this day.  Giving up on this day would be another big mistake! God is calling you to come on out and to live the abundant life He has for you. If you don’t have the courage yet to take a giant leap, then begin in His power and strength to take small steps.  God is not through with you!
He Who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1: 6)
_________
Deliver us from the satanic trap of shame, O God!  Thank You, Jesus, for the suffering and victory You already accomplished that make that delivery possible.  Help us to live life out loud in Your power and Your strength and Your righteousness and Your beautiful purpose for our lives! 
P.S.  Would you be willing to share your most important take-aways from this 3-part series on shame?

GOOD GUILT OR DESTRUCTIVE SHAME? (Part 2 of 3)

Crooked politician hiding face from photographers after political scandal
If I am guilty—woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full
of shame and drowned in my affliction.  (Job 10:15)
 
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34: 5)
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  (Isaiah 61:7)
This shame topic seems to have struck a nerve, judging by the messages from readers.  Even this day in the clinical office, I was painfully presented with more examples of shame’s destructive impact.
But how do you know if what you are feeling is a God-given guilt reaction to help and restore you or a demonically-inspired feeling of shame designed to depress and paralyze you?  .Consider 4 questions.
1.  Is your guilt unrealistic, or is it based in fact? It’s way too easy to slip into the quicksand of making yourself responsible for things or people over which you have no control.  Other people make choices, and they are accountable for those.  Further, you made decisions with the information you had at the time.  You can’t look back now with hindsight and more information and beat yourself mercilessly for not knowing what was unknowable at the time.  All of these are shame-based assumptions, and as you entertain them, you will find yourself ever deeper into that sinking sand.  On the other hand, if you are doing something wrong or strongly considering it, the Holy Spirit will place a prickly conviction on your heart.  You will be reminded that this is going nowhere good and that now is the time to turn it around.  That’s good guilt.  It’s changeable.
2.  Is your feeling of guilt general, or is it specific? When the Holy Spirit points something out to a believer, it’s specific.  He will refer to something unhealthy you are thinking, an attitude that needs changing, or an action or habit that is destructive.  He will never accuse you with  such general condemnations as being stupid, useless, worthless, a loser…well, you get it.  Such negative generalities are not from God at all.  Your enemy tries hard to shame you with them, to convince you that “that’s how you are, and that’s how you’ll always be.”  Do not buy it!  It’s a devilish trick to rob your hope and your motivation to try.
3.  Is your guilt long-lasting – hanging on for a long time after the alleged offense has occurred and long after you have corrected the mistake – or is it time-limited? God-given guilt relents when you repent.  When you correctly stop or start, that good guilt has done its job. It’s not God who hammers you with it on and on.  That culprit would be “the accuser of the brothers and sisters.”  The devil loves to combine this one with some name-calling in #2 above.  Good guilt “goes on vacation” after it’s done its job of helping you turn around and go the right way.  Shame tries to move in and live with you forever. Evict it!
4.  Do your guilt feelings contain condemnation, or are they infused with hope? I so want you to understand God’s Love, His forgiveness, and His willingness to provide another chance.  It’s then that you can begin to recognize that no matter what has happened, your life is not over unless you believe the devilish messages of shame.  Condemnation screams, “You are a mess, and it will always be this way.  You are miserable, and you will always be this way.  You are useless, and your purpose in life is over.”  If you listen to that death-breathing voice, shame will be your everyday misery. You won’t feel like reaching out to God; rather, you’ll run from Him.  Conversely, conviction whispers, “You can do better.  Make a better choice right now, and turn things around.”  When that happens, conviction invites you into the arms of God.
So what if you are saying, “I see that I have unintentionally allowed shame to take up residence in my emotions.  But how do I stop it?”  Let’s talk about that in Part 3.
Oh, Lord, thank You that You bore my shame already, and it’s not mine to bear.  I run into Your arms for help, my God.  Teach me about the me You see.  I will choose to believe You, and in so doing, I choose to become who You want me to be!

SHAME, SATAN’S DECEPTION (Part 1 of 3)

shame
If I am guilty—woe to me! Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head, for I am full
of shame and drowned in my affliction.  (Job 10:15)
 
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34: 5)
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.  (Isaiah 61:7)
After working with literally thousands of individuals in well over three decades, I have become convinced that shame is one of Satan’s oldest, cleverest, and most insidious tricks. I just finished teaching in a Sunday morning Bible class about the fall of man. The minute Satan had been successful in getting Adam and Eve to say yes to him and no to God, that first couple began to feel shame.  They hid from each other (remember the fig leaves?), and they hid from God.
In Adam and Eve’s case, they felt legitimate guilt.  Truly, they had sinned, and in the process, they had handed over to Satan the earth God had given to mankind.  A big deal. But sometimes individuals carry a load of shame because of the evil of other people and what was done to them. They are in no way responsible, but the enemy tries to make them believe that somehow they are.  Even innocent children carry shame, and often they carry that same sense of shame right into adulthood. Or, people carry shame long after a mistake has been corrected.  They say, “God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself.”
Shame is not from God!
There’s a difference between guilt and shame.  Some guilt is God-given, a nudge of the Spirit to get you back on track.  It’s the prick of the heart that says, “No!  Don’t do that!” or “No!  Don’t do that again!  Turn away, and do it God’s way!”  It’s the road sign that warns, “Stop!  Bridge out!”  Good guilt serves a purpose – to guide your attitudes and behaviors in ways that will allow you to live a healthy and productive life.
Shame, on the other hand, serves no such purpose.  Rather than indicating a specific, do-able change that you should make, shame is globally condemning.  It’s not that you did something wrong; you are wrong. You’re dirty.  You’re inadequate. You’re irreparably flawed.
No! No! And triple NO! No matter how it feels, God says something very different about anyone who has received His Life.  Embrace what God says rather than the whisperings of Satan, called The Accuser of the Brothers and Sisters, and also called, The Great Liar. We will go into that in greater detail in another message this week, and we’ll learn to do combat with the enemy on this critical matter.  But if you’re going to be able to fight successfully, you’ll need to develop the skill of discerning God-given guilt from Satan-inspired shame.  Let’s talk about that tomorrow.
I invite you to ask any questions you’d like answered in this series on letting go of shame.
Jesus, You took our guilt and our shame on the cross.  All that Satan uses to try to paralyze us was bought and paid for by You, and we don’t have to carry it.  O Lord, teach us to know who we are because we know Whose we are!

HUMILITY: 5 KEY BENEFITS

humble_yourself

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.  (James 4: 10)

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicales 7: 14)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11: 2) 
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15: 33)
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18: 12)
Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22: 4)
 
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Jesus, Luke 18:14)
As we acknowledged together yesterday, humility is difficult to maintain consistently. To clarify the answer to a question someone asked yesterday, it’s O.K. to rejoice when you’ve reached a small or large milestone, “being proud of yourself.”  Encouraging yourself for progress gives you the motivation to keep moving.  The problem comes in when you proudly take all the credit, leaving God and others out of it.
So if you cooperate with the Lord and do the work to develop humility, will it be worth the effort? Oh, yes, it will.
1. God will lift you to it, out of it, or in it.  As I was meditating on this, I saw that when you humble yourself before God, His “lift” could occur in at least 3 ways.  If you are stretching to achieve a God-given goal, you may sometimes experience His Hand – opening doors, reducing the strain, bringing in a powerful human supporter, or giving you an unexplained energy infusion so that you progress faster and more creatively. Sometimes you need deliverance from a situation that is potentially catastrophic, and God does just that. You can’t see how it will happen, but it does.  Finally, sometimes the Lord does not deliver you out of trouble, but He lifts you in that situation.  He gives You His perspective.  You learn to trust Him through it.  That well-developed trust continues to lift your spirits as you move forward in life, no matter what happens.
2.  The Lord will hear and answer prayers. Genuine, heartfelt communication with Almighty God begins with the acknowledgement that you need Him. We need Him.  Our country needs Him.  Our leaders need Him. He is God. From that view, we are ready to pray in faith.  He will hear and heal our homes, our lands, and our hearts.
3.  You won’t be disgraced, and you’ll come out wiser on the other side. If you try to set yourself up as better than others, the fallacy of that will be revealed.  People who judge, negatively label others, and even name-call will be brought low.  The scripture says that when proud and hostile people need mercy (and they will), they will receive only the degree of mercy they have given others.  Taking humility and love as a lifestyle brings wisdom, and it is among the best of immunizations against personal disgrace.
4.   You will be honored. If you constantly tout your achievements, others won’t.  Just do the work in the right spirit, and God and finally others will recognize it.  Even if others never do, that “audience of One” is the One Who counts..
5.  Your life will be filled with God’s riches. Are all godly, humble people financially wealthy?  Nope. Are all who humble themselves before God and live a life of service rich in the ways that matter most?  Oh, yes, a billion times, yes.
Finally and soberly, let’s consider the words of Jesus in Luke 18: 14.  Pardon my expansive paraphrase, but I do not believe I am stretching the scripture.  Every bit of what I’m about to say is found in other passages as well.  Jesus told us, “One way or the other, you’re going to be humbled.  For your own good, you have to learn that you are not in charge, that you are not better than anyone else, and that the way up is down.  In other words, if you want to lead, you must do it through service.  So really, you have two choices.  You can humble yourself, which is the best and easiest option, or We (God) will bring you through life situations that humble you.  Which will it be?”
Dear Lord, YOU are God!  Not me! I acknowledge before You that You are in charge.  I bow before You, God, and I say, “Thank You!”  Thank You for giving me breath to breathe, a mind to think, creative ideas to develop, and the ability to work.  Help me never to forget that without You, I can do nothing.  Thank You for the people You have placed around me to support me and to help me succeed.  Thank You for Your Love in my heart that urges me and gives me the privilege of showing Your Love to others.  You Love and desire us all equally, God.  Every individual is of equal value to You.  May I see it all with Your eyes, Lord, and may I walk humbly with You in the world You have given me.

THE POWER OF HUMILITY

Humility-1

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.  (James 4: 10)

If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicales 7: 14)
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11: 2) 
Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15: 33)
Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18: 12)
Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22: 4)
 
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Jesus, Luke 18:14)

Benjamin Franklin once claimed that he had been successful in working on the other “virtues.” Howver, he had failed in humility. He said that every time he achieved it, he got proud of it!

Yes, humility can be elusive.  Its deadly opposite, pride, can sneak in to corrupt it without warning.  However, when we peruse both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we find the call for humility throughout.  I’ve cherry-picked only a few instances here.

Looking at these scriptures, we see that practicing humility must be pretty important. But first, let’s understand what humility is and what it’s not.  It’s often mistaken to mean that you become a doormat, setting no limits and allowing people to walk all over you. Not true. Humble people are strong, but they don’t boast about it.  That God-given strength is under control and is in its place.  Humility simply means first that you don’t habitually put yourself OVER others. Further, it means that you know that without God-given talents and divinely-imparted power, you’re sunk.  It also calls for the sincere acknowledgement that without the contributions and the help of others, your long-term and sustained success will be out of reach.

In other words, you understand the principle repeated over and over again in the scriptures in different forms for emphasis:  pride is the black ice on which falls are a certainty. A prideful individual sees himself over other people, is arrogant.  A proud person is constantly tuning up with, “Me! Me! Me!” and then singing, “I Did it MY Way!”

I come back to it over and over.  The core temptation in the Garden of Eden was to choose to assert one’s own power, to be the one in charge instead of THE God.  “You shall be as gods.” You’ll get to be your own boss.  You can call the shots.  YOU can be in control.

No wonder humility is discussed so often!  The failure to get this one guarantees a life controlled by the enemy of our souls and an ego fueled by devilish superiority.

To live obediently in the Spirit, we must begin with the understanding that we are not in control.  God is, and that settles it. We are not more valuable than any other human being.  We have to get that the job of all followers of Christ is to lift others up rather than subtly trying to tear them down to make ourselves feel superior. (Take gossip, for example.) At the same time, the humble person understands his or her value in the Lord. Each of us are loved, are called to purpose, and are of amazing worth.  A humble person has the courage to stand for what’s right, but that’s done in an attitude of love and respect. Walking in God’s Spirit is, of necessity, walking in humility.

Jesus said that any individual who will lead, influencing others for the Kingdom of God, must first become a servant.  This is hard.

More tomorrow.

Lord God, as much as I understand how, I humble myself before You.  I reject and fight the pride that tries to sabotage me – in the mighty Name of Jesus!

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