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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THIS BATTLE IS NOT YOURS! (Part 3 of 3)

battlelords

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.  So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day. Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. (II Chronicles 20: 22-30)

God had spoken through the prophet to assure Jehoshaphat that He would fight the battle; that battle was not theirs but His.  They fell down in worship, and they praised Him for His provision.  God had instructed them that they were to go out the next day, and He told them just where the enemies would be found. They were to go on and face their problems while completely trusting God to take care of it all. (Neither can you or I hide from our problems, even when depending on God.  We have to face them.)

So today, we get to peek in on the unique way God intervened.  The Lord moves in mysterious and sometimes seemingly bizarre ways, and He may intervene in a completely different way specifically suited to you and your situation.  That being said, let’s return to the story and see how God kept His promise to Jehoshaphat and his people. There are principles embedded there for us.

1.  As they went out in obedience while praising God,  the Lord set ambushes, and the enemies turned on each other.  When they stepped out, moved in obedience, and praised God as they went, God went to work!  He astounded them with the methods He used to produce amazing results.  He will do the same for you and me, if we only trust Him completely and keep walking (unless He says to stand still).

By the way, think about Judah’s enemies turning on each other.  Hostile, bitter people are always being who they are.  When they are attacking you with gossip, sabotage, or other attempts to destroy you, the boomerang effect can easily express itself.  What they are putting out against you can return to them.  The principle of sowing and reaping applies; they sow it, they are highly likely to reap it.  It’s a divine principle.

2.   When the tribe of Judah got to the place where they would have had to fought, the battle was already won.  When they peered over at their “fierce” enemies, they were lying dead on the ground.  They had sequentially turned on each other and destroyed everyone – except Judah.

God often defies all of our well-laid plans, and He acts brilliantly to win the battle for us.  Believe me, He knows the ins and outs of it.  His ways are higher than our ways.

3.  They not only were the victors, they left with a lot more than they brought.  God delivered his children out of a monumental mess.  He stands ready to do the same for you and me.  That would be miraculous enough, and it would be a reflections of His great mercy.  Then He piles on the grace – so much more than we deserve! The scripture says that He wants to do superabundantly more than we could ask or think.  Sometimes the riches He bestows may be found in tangible wealth.  However, even more valuable “spoils” are the wealth of spirit and of wisdom acquired in the valley of adversity.

4.  God saved them, and then they had peace. May I tell you emphatically, the goal is not happiness.   Happiness is fleeting.  “Happiness” comes from the same root word as “happenings.”  In other words, happiness depends on external situations.  You win a drawing.  Your student achieves.  You get a promotion.  You’re happy! However, you cannot have your well-being dependent on happenings outside your control.  A much greater and more fulfilling goal is peace.  God’s peace is deep and lasting, no matter what the conditions within which you are living. Like Jesus commended the winds and waves, “Peace, be still!”

One story – three days of reflection.  I pray that these thoughts have ministered to you if you find yourself in a humanly impossible situation.  If you aren’t right now, life will hand you one before too long! That’s just life – and that’s just the enemy of your soul.  Just know without doubt that the blood covenant you entered with God when you received Christ guarantees that God is working on your behalf.

This battle is not yours, but God’s. Take a moment and listen to Yolanda Adams bring home this powerful message!

 

Lord, teach me to fight my battles on my knees. You are my Source, my Power, my Victory.  This battle is Yours!

 

TRUST AS YOU FACE IT!

believe it to see it

 

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets, and you will be successful.” After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of hisholiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” (II Chronicles 20: 11-21)

Jehoshaphat cried out unto the Lord in the middle of his life-threatening predicament.  (See yesterday’s devotional for the back story.)  Then there was a pregnant silence a little like that pause just before a decision is announced on a reality show.  Then the prophetic voice of Jehaliel rang out, and God’s words through him were in complete agreement with Jehoshaphat’s prayerful expectations and with their covenant with God Almighty. God would take care of them.  The battle was His, not theirs.

(My imagination…”)

Israelites:  “Whew!  So we can just sleep in tomorrow! Great!”

God:  “Not so fast.  I want you to go out and face your enemies. You will move in complete faith in Me, taking action as if it were up to you.  However, as you go, you will see me take care of it all.”

Though they were trusting God to resolve it, they had to do their part.  They had to face their problems, not hide. And here’s another most important additional point.  They did not know just how it would all come down, but they had to choose to obey the part that God revealed to them. 

The people fell down and worshiped the Lord of All, Who was not threatened or upset in the least.  They praised Him loudly.  (I would have, too.)

The next day, they headed out as instructed.  As they went, Jehoshaphat re-encouraged them in the Lord, and they began again to sing His praises.

Now before we talk about what God did, let’s notice a couple of things. First, they believed, and they thanked God as if they had already seen His intervention.  In essence, they had.  They didn’t know exactly how, but they saw in the eyes of their spirits that God would come through. Second, though God had instructed them to take up their positions and stand firm, they understand that the meaning of this was not to stand still and do nothing.  They were solidly confident in the authority of God’s Word to them.  They walked in obedience, ready to act in faith on any future instructions from the Lord.  

I’m going to wrap up this study tomorrow.  But for now, l invite you to look back at all the observations in bold, and it wouldn’t hurt to review the key points in yesterday’s message.  Reflect and meditate on them.  About which of these is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?  Write them in your prayer journal, and share an insight with us if you’d like.

God, I want to be completely sure that You are fighting on my behalf, even if I can’t yet see the results.  I praise You for all You are doing, and I stand ready to move anywhere and any way You want.

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO POSITION YOURSELF FOR A MIRACLE WITHIN A MESS

anxiety-person

 

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom,from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: Lord, the God of our ancestors, are You not the God Who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your Hand, and no one can withstand You. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory You would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them.See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession You gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (II Chronicles 20: 1-13)

King Jehoshaphat got some really bad news! A vast army made up of fierce enemies was headed their way.  The Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites – tribes that God had prevented them from attacking when they came into the land – had turned on them and would demolish them the next day unless God came through.  BTW, have you noticed that sometimes the people you go out of your way to help can be the ones who turn on you?  However, as I shared with you last week, God is never stumped.

Jehoshaphat recognized immediately that he was way in over his own head.  However, at the same time he knew that he had a Covenant Partner, and he knew that his Covenant Partner was in no way overpowered in this crisis.  You see, in covenant, if your partner is attacked, you are attacked.  You call forth all your resources, and you fight as if the enemies had directly attacked you.  That’s blood covenant. God stood ready to do just that.   (We have that with covenant God through Christ, too!)

So Jehoshaphat called a fast and went before the Lord.  What he told the Lord provides a great template for each of us when we’re in a situation that is way above our pay grade.  He said the Lord words very familiar in my own prayer time: “We’re powerless in this situation.  We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

Park there and ponder all of that for a moment. In the ways completely available to you and me, Jehoshaphat was positioning himself for a miracle!

1.  He immediately went to God, and he didn’t try to figure it out himself. How often we squirm and worry and sweat!  We think we should be able to solve it ourselves. Look, if God let us only get situations we were completely capable of handling, we would not recognize that we cannot do this on our own. We would not understand our need of Him.

2,  He acknowledged his powerlessness, confusion, and weakness. Jehoshaphat did not mince words with God.  He was in a big mess, and he knew it.  He was overwhelmed, and he did not know what to do. Don’t let pride be a killer obstacle.  Humble yourself before God, acknowledge that you desperately need help, and release control to Him.

3. He rehearsed examples of the faithfulness of God. Jehoshaphat remembered, and he described out loud a sample of the incidents previously when God had come through in impossible circumstances.  In so doing, he was stirring up his faith.

4,  He placed his eyes on the Lord, not on his problems. Whoa, this is a big one! When Jesus was in the storm hitting the boat he was sharing with his scared-to-death disciples, He asked, “WHERE is your faith?”  I believe that he wasn’t just admonishing them for not having enough faith.  I think the emphasis was on the where.  In other words, “Is your faith in these winds and waves, or is it in Me?” In another wind-and-wave story, Peter was doing just fine walking to Jesus on the water until he quit looking at the Master and started looking at those rolling waves under his feet.  So where are you and I placing our eyes today?  On our frightening situations or on our Lord?  Now that’s a very important question.

Jehoshaphat just set himself up for the supernatural intervention of God.  He was about to see a miracle.  You and I can do the same!

More on this story tomorrow.

Lord, grow my faith.  Teach me to expect miracles! God, I want to keep myself consistently in the attitudes of humility and faith and open heart so that I may walk with You, no matter what my circumstances are at the time.  Even this morning, Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are upon You!

 

DON’T LET YOUR PIER COLLAPSE

collapsed pier

 

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2: 14-18; 26)

I vividly remember the day President John F. Kennedy was shot.  I was in Spanish class.  I was devastated.

President Kennedy was not just remembered in his death.  I am not sure how kind official history is to him, but as a celebrity-struck high-schooler, I respected and admired him.  I’ve learned about character flaws of his as the years went on, but then I hung onto his every word.

One of the things President Kennedy said resonates across the decades.  He stated, “There are risks and costs to a program of action.  But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” 

“Comfortable inaction.”  Let that phrase roll around in your mind a moment, and remember how often those words have described you.  You say you want your life to be different, but you don’t do anything differently.  You are involved in a horrific and abusive relationship, but “better the devil you know.”  You ruminate about a dream, but you don’t pursue it.  All – inaction due to fear or apathy about prayerfully getting up out of your daily routine and choosing to go for it.

The scripture often talks about today being the day and now being the accepted time.  You can have all the faith in the world (or say you do),  but true faith leads to action.  “Faith without works is dead!”

Why are you sitting still and avoiding action?  If nothing changes, then nothing changes.

I like what John Goddard said:  “Some people wait so long for their ship to come in, their pier collapses.”

Lord, I don’t know why I sometimes procrastinate on actions required on assignments I believe you have given me.  Oh, I have plenty of excuses,  I’m busy.  I’ll get to it.  I’m nervous about it.  However, I know that You empower me as I go! Forgive me, Lord, for loving my comfort more than Your Word.  What do You want me to take action on today?

 

SOOTHING PROMISES FROM MY PAST

isaiah-41-10

Oh, my, how this scripture passage takes me back!  I was a 9-year-old when my mother read it to me and talked with me about it every single night for months after my dad passed away.  He had been a pastor, and we lived in the pastor’s home provided by the church.  She had to figure out where we were going to live, deal with her own grief, parent a grieving child, go to her teaching job to earn significantly less than $5K a year back in the day, and face the prospects of a life of challenges without her beloved husband.  In retrospect, I know that she was reading it over and over to herself as much as to me.

Me?  Yes, I was scared.  And I was very, very sad.  I had been very sure that my daddy would not die though he battled cancer.  After all, he was “God’s man,” and everyone had prayed.  But he did.  Spinning in my young mind were lots of questions that took decades to answer, and many still have question marks.

However, over those same decades and more, I came to embrace the truth of Isaiah 41: 10.  If I had a birthday cake today, the army of lit candles could set the house on fire. I’ve been around for a while. Over and over in my life, I’ve walked through dark valleys of adversity (and thanks be to God, I’ve been blessed with some mountaintops, too).  God spoke truth through the prophet Isaiah.

  1.  No matter what’s happening, you don’t have to be afraid.  Oh, yes, I get anxious sometimes, but that does not change the absolute truth of God’s promises.  GOD is always with you to comfort you, to protect you, and to work within you and through you.  Yes, Lord, we hear it!  Fear not!
  2. Don’t be looking over your shoulder, scared of what’s about to happen. You don’t have to be skittish, because your covenant partner is GOD!  Can you even fathom that?  His supply of everything is yours when you need it.  If someone attacks you, they attack Him.  He is ready to fight for you.
  3. God is pleased to express His great Love and to lavish you with the gift of all He is.  If you’re weak, He’ll be your strength.  Out on a limb?  He stands ready to help you.  Feeling powerless to change a person or a situation?  The Bible uses “right hand” to portray power.  He is all-powerful, and He is not stingy with it.  Just before Pentecost, He told his disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit was given to them.  Get this straight. The word for that power is dunamis, which shares a root word with dynamite.  And yes, that’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  It’s that power that is within you and me, and His power is greater than anything you are facing.

Thank you, Mother, for drilling these truths into my head and my spirit.   Thank You, Lord, for bringing this magnificent scripture back to my mind.  Thank you, reader, for not rushing over this passage.  Roll it around on your spiritual taste buds.  O, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Lord, seems this week I’m being reminded over and over again, “Only trust Me.”  I do.  I choose faith in You over doubt.  I fill up with Your Love, and that casts out fear.  I exchange my weakness for Your strength.  You, O God, are all, and we are in covenant partnership.  I can’t even fathom it, but I say, “Thank You, Lord, for Your great faithfulness!”

GOD’S NOT STUMPED!

god-knows
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
Often tragedies and disappointments cause your life to come crashing in, and they invite you to scratch your head until it bleeds, wondering, “Why?”  Not only do you feel confused and stuck, you are completely stumped on what to do next.  You don’t know, but God has a plan for you. He’s not stumped.
You have a situation in your life about which you’ve perspired and prayed, and you’ve put every ounce of smarts and effort you have into attempting to fix it.   You’re tired of trying to figure it out.  You’re really ready to throw in the towel.  God’s not.  He has a plan for you. He’s not stumped.
You have a habit that’s an albatross.  You resolve to change it, and you do OK “for a minute.”  But then those old urges sneak in, and despite your promises to yourself, you stumble and do it again.  Then you’re off and running in the wrong direction, and you feel like taking a paddle to your own backside.  You’ve had it with yourself!  But God hasn’t.  He has a plan for you. He’s not stumped.
“Well, why the heck doesn’t He show it all to me?”
He will – at just the right time.
He knew all about this when He called you to Him.  He has been right there with you every step and in every stuck place.
He is working within you, within your situation, and within all the other people involved, tapping people you don’t even know – masterfully moving all the pieces into place.  God knows what you are to do.  It may be to pray, to say something, or to do something.  The Holy Spirit will speak it to you or otherwise reveal it to you at just the right time.  He’ll gives you a “word of wisdom” about just what to do, when.
In the meantime, keep praying, keep learning, keep guarding your heart against bitterness or other sin, and keep on devouring God’s Word. Keep doing the right things that you know to do.
God is definitely not stumped! He has a plan for you, and He will reveal one small step at a time – that is, if you really, really listen!
My God, You are GOD! You are all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful.  i’m not any of that, but I am in covenant with You.  You are pledged to work and fight for my good, and I trust You in this!  

Become the Best Version of YOURSELF!

diverse community

 

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12: 14-26)

So how do we relate to each other, and how do we use our gifts to help each other in a faith or other close community or else when God places a stranger in front of us?  Again, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and his brilliant use of the metaphor of the human body give some key insights. We can also think about our own experiences with our bodies.

I have a hearing loss, and I wear hearing aids.  Put me in a dark room and talk to me, and I have trouble.  Even in a lighted room, if you turn your back to me, I will have greater difficulty hearing you and accurately discerning your every word.  I’m not even aware of how much I depend on my eyes to hear until I don’t have them at work.  My eye has a completely different structure and function than the ear, but that eye helps my ear do its job of hearing.  Eyes are always helpful to ears, but especially when ears are not at their best.

Two other sense organs provide examples of the interdependence of body parts and functions.  Consider taste, served up primarily by the tongue, and its relationship to the sense of smell, primarily courtesy of the nose.  I have a friend who lost her sense of smell, and now she hardly tastes her food.

So, when it comes to the senses (and you could take any other bodily system as well), which is most important?  Each one has its rightful place in helping individuals to have awareness and to fully experience the world in which they live. God put it all together just right.  The ear won’t be complaining about not being the eye.

So what does all of this have to do with you and me? How has God ordained that we should work together and help each other? What does this mean about our attitudes about ourselves and our own gifts?

  1. People with differing gifts are brought together to achieve results. Have you noticed?  People are different!  If everyone were just alike, nothing would ever get done.
  2. When one individual falters, God places another there to help out. Like my eyes help my ears, at just the time you’re feeling weaker, the Lord sends someone your way with an encouraging word, a willingness to coach, or an offer to help with a practical task.  We need each other – especially when we are struggling.
  3. As a helper, it’s not about creating a clone of yourself.  The goal is to help that individual become the best version of himself/herself.   My eyes are helping my ears hear, not see.  God and those He calls understand that He placed certain unique gifts in a particular individual for a reason.  A true coach and mentor honors that, and helps the person develop her/his strengths and does not try to make people something they’re not.
  4. Comparisons are unnecessary and harmful. God knew you from His beginning – and He did not have one!  You were always in His heart.  He designed you with exactly the abilities that you would need every ability that you would need in order to fulfill His callings and assignments on your life. You don’t need what that person has; you need what God gave you.

Lord, thank You for Your magnificent plan and how You gave each of us a purpose and the gifts we need to fulfill it.  Thank You that we are not alone, and that you knit us together in community like the amazing human body.  Your ways are astounding, my God.  I worship You!

 

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