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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‘THEY” NEED TO CHANGE!

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2: 3-4)

Sadly, sometimes it seems as if our national culture has rearranged a few of the words in Paul’s letter to the Philippians:  “Do everything out of selfish ambition and vain conceit.  In pride, value yourself above others, not looking to the interests of others but each of you to your own.”

Yikes!  Way too familiar! And what a price tag is affixed to such a mentality!

At a national government level and trickling down through the culture, the divisions go well beyond differences in ideology.  Many leaders and too many others rip each other apart.

Here’s what I believe, and God’s Word backs it up.  We can disagree on issues while respecting each other as human beings.   We can argue concepts and ideas without slandering and demeaning others.  It is entirely possible for mature individuals to attack problems rather than attacking people – especially folks with any maturity in the Lord.

Why do we see such venomous attitudes and speech?  The scripture spells out the answer.  It’s the focus on SELF – selfish ambition, vain conceit, and self-interest.

But Christ talked and walked a more excellent way.  Though Jesus was strong and courageous, He demonstrated humility.  He taught that the meek (humble) will inherit the earth.  Such an inheritance is not for those who think of themselves more highly than they ought or those who trample over the rights and feelings of others to claw their way to the top.  He instructed us to love our neighbors as ourselves, balancing one’s own needs, rights, and opinions with those of others.

Whenever you win because you aggressively caused someone else to lose, your victory is short-lived.  The price of winning is becoming the object of the revenge plans of the loser, who wants to get back on top.

As Rodney King once said, “Why can’t we just all get along?”  Add to that, why can’t we give the respect we would like to get?  Why can’t we learn from each other so that all can live more effectively? Why can’t we disagre without being disagreeable?

But wait!  I can bemoan the state of the nation and point fingers at those who should be leading us “the Jesus way.”  OR, I can take my own advice, right here, right now, right where I am! Is it possible that the change in my world must begin with the person in the mirror?

Oh, God, I pray for our country! However, help me not to slide into a mode of expecting others to make the changes in attitude but rather to be an example of the change I crave to see.  Help me, Lord!  Please, help us all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEAR: STOP, THIEF!

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I sought the Lord, and He answered me;
    He delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34: 4)

What’s are the costs of living in worry and anxiety? Some of you know all too well.  The tolls anxiety exacts on your body, your emotions, and your productivity are legendary.

Additionally, consider another aspect of the stolen booty of the thief, fear. When you’re chronically experiencing anxiety, this usually means that you’re feeling threatened in some way.  When you’re feeling threatened, your focus is on “survival” – in other words, on self-protection.  Though you may have talents and callings in relating with people, you lose the capacity for going outside yourself to offer empathy to others. The sacrifice of purpose fulfillment is an exhorbitant price!

The thief fear also belongs to a gang, and he brings his buddies along with him.  In other words, anxieties multiply and grow when you give them place in your life.

Look, I suffer from some post-trauma anxieties, too, so I don’t speak as one who has all of it together.  I’m a work in progress on this one.

However, I come to you as one who knows the Truth. When I listen to God rather than to the anxieties that can sucker-punch me before they try to rob me, I am defended against those enemies of my soul.  When I call to the front and center of my mind my covenant with Christ in which His strength and His provisions are mine, the nervousness dissipates.  When I call out to Him, He hears me.  When I am willing to hear Him, He delivers me from all my fears.

The same is true for you!  The scripture says, “You’ll know the Truth, and the Truth make you free.”

Arrest that thief!  Jesus says you don’t have to live this way!

Lord, anything that could happen today, You already know about and You’ve already provided for; You have me covered.  That’s Your job.  My job is to trust You more than I trust my worries.  I believe You, Lord – and please help my unbelief.

“TRY HARDER” IS NOT A PLAN

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Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both “Yes, yes” and “No, no””  (II Corinthians 1: 17)

This past weekend, my daughter Amy and I attended the Rodan and Fields Convention in New Orleans.  New products and business ideas were abundant, and they sparked much conversation between Amy and me about where we go from here. We joked and laughed together about some of the vague strategies we and other teammates have verbalized in the past:  “we’ll be more consistent this time,” “we’ll work together to make it happen,” and yes, some version of, “we’ll try harder. ” Not surprisingly, a productive plan requires more than great intentions. Amy and I had a great initial conversation, but we ran out of time.  Three important questions lingered:  exactly what are we going to do, how are we going to do it, and by when are we going to do what? For us or for you, unless those questions are addressed, you have a nice dream, but you do not have an attainable goal.  And yes, my daughter and I discussed our plans further and made commitments to each other for certain actions in specific time frames.

“I’m going to try harder…”

How often have you and I vowed it, only to find “the flesh” resisting harder than our trying?  You mean to do better (on your eating, on your exercise, on your procrastinated tasks, on your business plan, on your relationship,  on your time management…).  And  you plan over and over, week after week, to start fresh Monday.  Well, today’s Monday!

But what will you do, how will you do it, and when will you do it? Without a workable plan, I promise that you will not sustain the motivation, not even for a week.  Try as you will, you will fail – again, which makes it more difficult to pick yourself up and try again.  

When I work with leaders in organizations who are coaching employees having performance problems, I caution them against an “I’ll try….” agreement.  I’d rather have someone make a smaller commitment to action  than to supply a grand “I’ll try.” There’s no accountability in that.  When the follow-up discussion comes, despite no real change, the person can protest, “Well, I tried!”

So this Monday morning, as you polish off the week’s to–do list and as you review those “priorities” that have been languishing there too long, take the word “try” out of your self-talk vocabulary.

Shorten the list!  (You can move part of it to another page so that it does not drop off your radar screen.) Decide what is most important to do in light of what’s most important to you. Some things have an urgent deadline, and we tend to get those things done.  But what about the ones with the greatest long-term potential that are ignored, week after week, with the promise that you’ll try to get to them “as soon as…”

“I’ll try” is not a plan.

God, managing myself – my efforts, my time, and my commitments – that’s my greatest challenge.  Give me Your vision, Your clarity of thought, and Your energy for action.  I need Your help today, Lord!

 

THE PROBLEM WITH HAPPINESS

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)

Ask the man and woman on the street what they want in life, and the typical individual will say, “To be happy.” But is “happiness” really consistently attainable, and is that the most worthy goal anyway?

Of course, it’s fun to be happy. I like it – a lot. But much of happiness is situational; we are more likely to have it when things are going “right,” when there’s been a stroke of good fortune. “Happiness” and “happenings” come from the same root word, and we all know that happen-ings are fickle and do not deliver a steady stream of happi-ness.

Truth is, often situations are out of our control, and the “good and bad” of situations ebb and flow. There will be times (plenty of them) when life drops bombshells or when things do not go as planned. We’re definitely not happy then. So does that mean we are totally off track? Not necessarily.

There’s something greater than happiness, and that’s PEACE. When you have real peace, that Shalom in God that I wrote about not long ago, you can thrive in difficult circumstances as well as “happy” ones. You can choose to focus your mind and heart on what’s good, even in bad times. You can zero in on the sure and certain provision of all your needs (not necessarily all your greeds!). Even in stressful times, you can have a calm assurance of God’s Love and care – and that will supercede what the circumstances look like at the time. You’d have to be a bit deranged to be HAPPY in such times. But it is entirely possible, even when you’re not happy, to have peace. And that is a more worthy goal. (See Phillipians 4: 6-7)

So…happy as a goal? Well, take it when you get it.  But a much more excellent goal is peace, and that is consistently attainable in Christ.

Lord, You ARE my Peace. No matter what is going on in my life, You never change.  You are always faithful.  Keep me centered in You, Lord.

 

 

Run the Race Marked Out for YOU

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

What would happen to a marathon runner who kept turning around and around and around, checking out the other runners to see who’s ahead and who’s behind her?  How successful would a competitor be who  stopped moving his own legs because he was intensely studying the strides of other racers?  How would you rate the success chances for the woman or man who spent time in the race giving in to the emotions generated by comparisons?

Despite the fact that these are ridiculously obvious answers, too many people spend their lives in the land of comparisons.  They walk into a room and quickly evaluate how their looks stack up to the attractiveness of the other folks.  They look at their own performance and judge its inadequacy based on how it compares to that of their co-workers, to the unreasonable standards someone set early in their lives, or to some mythical individual they’ll never be able to surpass.  Some more narcissistic types use comparisons insecurely to convince themselves of their superiority by putting others down or by hyping their own achievements.

This false belief that your worth is determined by how you compare to others is a mind-consumer and a misery-maker.  The desire to prove yourself by casting yourself against someone else is insatiable.  It’s never satisfied.  The temporary moment of a comparison goes away quickly, giving way to “next!”

Listen, God made you in a special way for the path He has laid out for you.  He has given you the unique talents and abilities that you will develop intentionally and by experience over time.  It serves no purpose to envy another person’s assets.  You don’t need them.  You have exactly what you need.  You’re not supposed to look like her or sound like her.  You weren’t meant to act like him or perform like him.  She’s running her race, and so is he – and so are you.  God intended it that way.

When you really begin to get that, you can start to relax. No, I don’t mean sit down and do nothing.  I mean thatyou may rest in the knowledge that your physical attributes, your personality, your talents, and your experiences are custom-made to give you all you need to persevere in your own race.

So just delight in being yourself.  Everyone else is already taken!

Lord, it excites me to know that You have a special path in mind for me and that You have fully equipped me to do what I was placed on this earth to achieve. Help me, Lord, to embrace the me that You made and to fully live out my own purpose and all of the assignments You will give me over my lifetime.

PUSH THROUGH AND PERSEVERE IN PURPOSE

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12: 1-2)

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5: 2-5)

As I was sharing with a Purpose Partners coaching group this week, the ability to persevere is an essential spiritual/emotional skill if you are going to fulfill the reasons you are on the planet.  Even when you are clear about your own life purpose, and even when you’ve clearly and accurately heard a “yes!”from God about a particular opportunity, “it ain’t gonna be easy.” Expect it.  Count on it.  Running into obstacles and stepping into potholes is just part of it.

Paul encouraged the Romans to persevere for good reason.  He described a chain reaction that leads to beautiful outcomes for you.  Unfortunately, the first link in that chain is suffering and troubles – not a welcome beginning.  However, for some growing people, the development of perseverance is a blessing that rises up out of the difficulties.  Perseverance involves holding on when you feel like letting go, continuing to work when you’re bone-tired of working, and persisting despite the negative opinions of others. As you continue to draw on God’s strength and His wisdom when your own is in very short supply, you develop character and integrity.  With those assets, you possess hope for the future that God has in store, no matter what it looks like at the moment.

But how do you persevere when you feel you can’t go much further and when you’re having trouble catching your breath?  Check out the sage advice in Hebrews 12.

  1. Be encouraged by others who have made it. Anyone who ever achieved anything worthwhile had to exercise plenty of perseverance.  Learn the best lessons from them, and be inspired. I happen to believe that the “great cloud of witnesses” are people who have already left this earth and are cheering us on from heaven.
  2. Throw off the weights. We all have them. These are weights like thought habits that threaten to sabotage success.  Examples are those voices try to convince you that it’s no use; poor time management or disorganization; toxic relationships; addictions to chemicals, to approval, or even to work; or comparison-based worth.  (More about that one tomorrow.)  Throw them off!  These stones around your neck will hold you back.
  3. Fix your gaze on Jesus.  This is the most important instruction of all.  Don’t be scanning the faces of others for signs of approval.  Don’t look in the mirror with pride or with doubt.  Look at Jesus.  He is the One Who goes before you and prepares the way.  It’s Jesus Who knows what you’ll face, and He already has the solutions.  He is the Source of your faith, the Focus of your faith, and the Completer of your faith.

Trust Him, and keep on walking.

God, I want to be faithful to Your call, even when I feel like throwing in the towel.  I look to You for my strength for endurance, for You never let me down.  

 

I’M DISCOURAGED…

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Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. ” (Joshua 1: 9-11)
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.  (II Chronicles 20: 15)
You started out strong, full of optimism and courage.  But sometimes courage leaks!
Despite a powerful vision and even though you have clarity of purpose, real life doesn’t always cooperate.  People don’t “get it,” and some of them live under your roof and eat at your table and even sleep in your bed.  Giants of old mental and behavioral habits rise up to defend the territory they’ve possessed in you and in your relationships for too long.
Change can be hard. In fact, any God-given quest to grow and to take your own “Promised Land” will be sure to offer plenty of obstacles and battles.  God provided epic examples of such struggles and of His provisions in the Biblical accounts of the Israelites doing just that.  I challenge you to dig into these Old Testament accounts, for God illustrates so many practical principles there.  However, this morning let’s just focus on 3 key thoughts that will enable you to fight discouragement.
1.  Get ready. Don’t be surprised when fierce battles come.  God has duly warned you that they’re ahead any time you’re doing something worthwhile.  “Giants” are not indications that’s you’re off track or that you heard wrong.  You understand them for what they are:  attempts by your enemy in a spiritual battle to discourage you and persuade you to turn back.  Don’t.
2.  Know that God is with you wherever you are. Not only will God be WITH (big word) you wherever you go, He’s WITH you wherever you’ve gone, wherever you are right now.  God is not dis-couraged.  He still has an abundant supply of it, and He has strategies and provisions beyond your imagination.  He’s not just walking alongside you.  He is within you, and He won’t let you down.
3.  God will fight for you. If you are facing a battle because you’re trying to move into positive change and trying to do the right thing, never fear.  Not only is God with you, He will actually fight any battle that is His.  When He calls you to it, He empowers you through it.
I read a powerful quote by William Ward that has startled me and challenged me in my approach to discouragement.  He said, “Discouragement is dissatisfaction with the past, distaste for the present, and distrust of the future. It is ingratitude for the blessings of yesterday, indifference to the opportunities of today, and insecurity regarding strength for tomorrow. It is unawareness of the presence of beauty, unconcern for the needs of our fellowman, and unbelief in the promises of old. It is impatience with time and impoliteness to God.”
Wow!
So do not be afraid.  Do not lose heart.  And by all means, do not quit.  God is giving you what you need, right here, right now.  He is fighting for you!  Don’t be dis-couraged.  Take His courage, and keep walking.
Lord, You know what Ive been going through, the giants I’ve been facing.  My discouraged emotions have tugged on my motivation. BUT YOU, O God, are my Strength, my Shield, and my Courage.  Refill me, Holy Spirit, with vision, purpose,and perseverance. I will keep on walking in You.

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