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

THIS IS A TOUGHIE

love-your-enemies 

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6: 27-28)

OK, maybe the image stretches it a bit, but we’ll talk about that in a moment.

I know you’ve experienced it, as I have.  You trusted someone – even invested your time and money trying to help them.  Then they abuse that trust and stab you in the back.  Rough! That does not necessarily make them an “enemy.” However, such a series of events packs a wallop that you’re left to deal with, spiritually and emotionally.

Yes, the scripture is clear that forgiveness is the response God requires.  You and I have been forgiven much, and with that same grace, we’re instructed to forgive those who harm us. Forgiveness is a spiritual transaction between you and God in which you release the care of that situation to Him, and as Dr. Charles Stanley says, you “give up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

But does forgiveness necessarily mean reconciliation?  That depends.  If the other individual has recognized the destructiveness of what he/she has done and is genuinely working on changing, then be ready to do your part in the healing process.  The Word says (and I paraphrase), “As much as it is possible, as much as it’s up to you, be at peace with all men.”

But then, yikes!  Today’s scripture passage takes our responsibility a step further.  Do actions of love for the people who have hurt you, and pray for them.  Pray?  Sure, no problem.  Actually go out of my way to do acts of kindness?  Yes, that’s a toughie – but so was the cross.

I’m convinced that the Biblical way of dealing with those who have harmed you is just about humanly impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.  Christ in you – the Holy Spirit – can do His work through a willing mind, heart, and body.  Will He have yours to use?

God, I cannot live Christ-like on my own.  Please do it in me and through me.  I pray that You will bless those who have harmed me.  Draw them to Yourself, and teach them how to live in You.  I release to You my hurt and any temptation to seek revenge.  You are the Lord of my life, and You are in charge.

 

IRREVOCABLE: WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORD!

God's gifts

 

For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable (Romans 11: 29)

What a comforting verse this is! And how beautiful is that word, “irrevocable!”

God places exactly the right gifts within each of us.  When your talents have been matured and developed, they equip you for all the assignments God has in store for you over a lifespan.

But wait!

  1. Can you mess up and lose it?  What about when you make a lollapalooza of a mistake and royally torpedo your life?  (And you will.) Is it all over?  Have you then been disqualified for service?  Not according to God’s Word.  The scripture tells us that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. Can you even believe it? Get up, dust off, learn the lesson, and ask God to use you in your wiser condition.
  2. Can you lose it if you don’t use it?  You can certainly miss some opportunities, but you do not lose what God has implanted within you.  But what about that parable about losing your talents?  Well, in the first place, that talent was a denomination of money.  And yes, you are instructed to be a good steward of all the resources with which you’ve been entrusted.  But even if you’ve wasted some opportunities or even some years, it’s not too late. He’s the God of a second chance, third chance, thousandth chance.
  3. Can your circumstances paralyze your effectiveness?  When God gave you those gifts, He already knew all you’d be going through.  And yet, He put into you life purpose, abilities, heart motivations, your physicality – all of it.  The Great Conductor already knew how He was going to cause all of those to work in concert within the exact circumstances in which you find yourself.  God’s not stumped by your situation. His call on your life is persistent, and His gifts are just what you need right now.

God, thank You for entrusting me with gifts and for giving me the privilege of Your callings on my life.  It is such a privilege to be on Your team.  Thank You for Your mercy in that You have not tossed me away because of my many mistakes.  I want to serve You with all You’ve given me until I breathe my last.

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE IN OVER YOUR HEAD

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 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61: 1-2)

It’s – a lot.

In fact, it’s more than you think you can handle.  It requires more knowledge than you possess.  God’s called you to do something you’ve never done before.  Life’s handed you a check your soul doesn’t have the available funds to cash.

Has God made a mistake here?  Did I hear Him correctly when I said yes?  Doesn’t He know how ill-prepared I feel for this?

No. No. And yes.

When you have prayed before leaping, listened to Him before your tongue got into gear to say yes, and entered the new venture with proper trembling over your own inadequacy – you’re right where you’re supposed to be. How foolish it would be to tackle a God-given assignment “out in the deep” with overflowing self-confidence!

When you find yourself in a circumstance that’s way over your pay grade, consider these four

  1.  Trust God’s plan. If you prayed about it before you said yes, and you listened to the answer from God, and you felt that this was something He had for you – well, there you have it. If you didn’t, and you jumped impulsively, better go back to the prayer closet.  But wise believers will not deliberately take on a big project without seeking God about it first. Sometimes you’re in over your head because life has hit, and you had no cnoice about it  Just recognize that, no matter what the circumstances, God has a plan.  Trust it.  No, trust Him.
  2.  Review your divine preparation. “But I’ve never been in this situation before,” you say. Are you sure?  Recall what David did before he went to fight Goliath.  The lad had never been in this exact situation, facing a 10-foot hostile giant.  But he remembered those times when he had been in an overwhelmingly tight spot before, facing ferocious wild animals.  God came through, and He came through.  He had “transferrable skills,” and He had the same mighty God.  Sometimes I do career counseling.  I can recall times with stay-at-home moms who become ready to re-enter the work force.  They often lament that they’ve just been staying at home, and they have no job skills.  “Oh, really?” I challenge.  “Have you had any experience organizing projects?  Dealing with difficult interpersonal situations and peacemaking?  How about managing a budget?  Stretching resources for their maximum use?”  Soon they see that they really do have transferrable skills.  You may feel as if you’re way in over your head in completely foreign waters.  But God has been preparing you all along.
  3.  Use as resources people with differing gifts. God made the Body of Christ like the human body.  Various parts have different functions. One person can’t do it all.  Set aside pride, and ask for help.  Know your strengths, and move in those.  Whenever possible, hire folks or recruit volunteers who are strong in your “not strengths.”
  4.  Depend desperately! I have found this to be one of the most important mindsets a believer can hold.  I learned this one the hard way.  A crippling accident and family tragedy combined to remove all my familiar forms of security – except God!  As never before, I had to completely depend on God for every need – physical, emotional, financial.  I prayed, “God, even when I’m well and functional, please never let me forget this desperate dependence on You.”  And I have not.  Don’t wait until you’re in a life-shattring crisis to grasp this one.  Each and every day, your very breath depends upon the Lord.  Your ability to work and earn a living, your mobility, your voice, your functional memory and mind, everything – in His Hands.  Learn to constantly and desperately depend! And always remember to give thanks for what you’ve taken for granted.

Lord, no waters in which I feel I’m drowning are too deep for You.  No storm takes You by surprise.  You are my Hope.  I place my absolute trust and dependence on You.

 

 

IS IT SELFISH TO PULL AWAY?

set-self-on-fire

 

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, He saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.  He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on Him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to Him, and He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

When Jesus saw the crowd around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. (Matthew 8: 14-18) 

Well, in answer to the question in the title, Jesus did it.  And He did not wait until all were healed, delivered, and whole.  Oh, He’d already been engaged in the intense work of ministering to needy people.  But please notice that people were still clamoring for His touch when He told the disciples, “Let’s leave and cross over to the other side of the lake.” Jesus needed to get away.

In my past, I’ve made some pretty big mistakes around failing to take care  of myself.  Oh, being attentive to others’ needs?  I’m your girl.  I’ll wear myself out doing it.  But somehow, it seemed to me that time for myself or just doing something that I wanted to do was selfish. I’ve learned the fallacy of this belief as the years have passed.

From talking with thousands of clients over the years, I do not believe that I was alone in holding the hidden belief that pulling away and “doing something for yourself” is “being selfish.”  My clients will say, “I know I’m being selfish, but I just need some ‘me time.'”

But is this the definition of selfishness?  If so, then Jesus was selfish – and He wasn’t.  He regularly took time away from the needy crowds to spend time alone with the Father.  Jesus set limits with people.  Even though there were still many with needs, and He took the time to replenish Himself spiritually and emotionally.  He had learned an important life secret, which I will share with you shortly.

So if selfish is not defined as “taking care of yourself,” then what is it?  At what point would you become a selfish person?  Selfishness is the consistent pattern of focusing on yourself at the expense of others. You’ve met truly self-centered people, and it’s not fun. And to tell you the truth, if you’re worried about whether this or that is a little selfish, you’re probably not. The truly selfish either have no self-awareness or don’t care!

Back to Jesus; what secret had He learned?  He knew that taking care of yourself may be one of the most unselfish things you can do.  Why is that?  If you break down and burn out, you’ll be able to help no one.  If you don’t set boundaries and the little resentments about your tiring interactions grow, your attitude will be grouchy.  If you don’t refuel and replenish, you’ll become exhausted and irritable – and an ineffective helper.  If Jesus needed daily (or more often) replenishment, on what-on-earth basis would you and I believe we didn’t need it even more?

Release the guilt about doing what it takes to take care of yourself.  It’s one of the most unselfish and spiritually-healthy things you can do!

Lord, You told me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  But I often fall down on that last part.  Holy Spirit, please remind me when I’m neglecting Your temple, my body.  I invite You to produce Your fruit within me to help me manage my emotions.  You’ve given me “myself” to steward so that I can be used to help others for a long time to come.  I don’t want to neglect any part of my job.

 

 

EGO-DRIVEN LEADERSHIP? JESUS SAID NO

servant_leadership

Thank you Jefferson Santos for this thought-provoking insight.  This principle applies to leaders in every business and service sector, in every community, and in every echelon of government. I’d ask you to keep this in mind if you are in a position to hire or develop and mentor a prospective leader.  SOMEONE  I esteem the highest (His Name is Jesus) laid this out as a criterion for leader selection and for becoming a leader that others should follow.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9: 35)

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.  (Mark 10: 43)
love my work as an Executive Coach to top leaders in service industries.  At the beginning of a coaching relationship, the task at hand it to assess what’s working and what needs to change in order for the person to have maximum influence toward worthwhile goals. In Executive Coaching, we want to know whether the individual is perceived by peers, managers, and direct supervisees as respectful, engaging, empowering, encouraging, focused, and purposeful – or not.
However, at the core of the leader’s attitude that gives rise to those behaviors, is an understanding of the leader’s role.  It’s not to lord authority and power over others.  Rather, in a spirit of respect, the approach is to serve.  It’s to take the initiative to really know the person being led, identify his or her strengths, deploy that individual where contribution is potentially the greatest, set challenging but doable goals, and encourage and reinforce progress while serving as a resource.
Jesus was a patient teacher and coach of His apprentices, the disciples.  He knew that “winning” happened when He was teaching and empowering others to win in the Kingdom, and that meant refusing to trample others to do it. Develop them, encourage them, and take them up with you.
Humility out-produces arrogance any month of the year. Pride goes before a fall.  Running over people may look like it’s the way up, but I remind you, you have to pass those same people on your way back down.  Disregarding the genuine needs of others while looking out for your own ambitions won’t work.  Rather, that failure to attend to the least – and the greatest – of these will bite you in the long run.
I’m starving for courageous and humble and respectful leadershp.  Thankfully, I experience that in my church.  Even this past week, I was working with coaching clients who are eager to learn to live that kind os leadership more effectively.  Exciting! I’ll remind them of the truth that the end does not justify the means when it comes to discounting others.  Servant leaderhip is the Biblical way. Touching people who will touch many other people thrills my soul.
I challenge you, pay attention to the Jesus way of leadership – servant leadership.
Become  one, attach yourself to one, follow only a model you’d want your children and grandchildren to follow.  Teach others how to lead in a way that brings out the best in team members, making it possible for the right things to get done!
Jesus:  “He would lead must first become a servant.”  Don’t believe anything else our culture tries to feed you.
Lord, I want to influence others for good and to help people become all they can be in You.  I lay myself before you, and I confess as sin any ego that I allow to intrude.  Use me as a servant leader, O God.

THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION

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All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5: 18)
When talking to myself about the craziness across our country, I begin with THE starting point of principle.  I say without reservation, I am a Jesus-believer and a Christ-follower. I know that many of you are, too.  As a disciple of Christ, that commitment supersedes political persuasions, any hostile divisiveness on the basis of any kinds of differences, family culture, power struggles, fear of loss of human approval, or the pursuit of money. If any one of those contradicts what the Word of God says, the decision is already made.  They lose; God’s way wins.
So in these chaotic times, what is God’s way?  What would He have the believer do, say,  think, or feel? Oh, I can have my opinions like anyone else.  But those opinions must bow to the mandate of God to be a healer in this world, a minister of reconciliation.
I hear you saying, “But it’s all too big.  I’m only a pebble thrown into the ocean.  What possible difference could I make?”  Well, every day many of you come in contact with people – people similar to you and those not-so-similar.  Your kindness, your smile, your acceptance toward all – those make a difference in the world God has assigned you.  Isolated at home alone?  PRAY.  Pray for the reconciliation of our country. In your secret thought life, in the reading material or the TV you watch, make choices that do not input a steady diet of blaming, accusations, and anger.  Garbage in, garbage out.  If you don’t want nastiness oozing out of you, don’t put it into you.
Midterm elections are over.  The results are what they are.  All kinds of circumstances will arise in the new structures.  Do NOT let them hook you! Refuse to allow them to distract you from the mission Jesus assigned to you – to be a minister of reconciliation. You can’t change things near the top or even at the top except by the exercise of your votes when those rare opportunities come around.  But you can choose this day, right here and now, right where you are, to be the change that will invite reconciliation in your world.
Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  Be it.  Live LOVE in the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
God, sometimes I get discouraged by all I see.  But then I remind myself that I don’t walk by sight but by faith.  You are not caught off guard by anything.  Heal our land, O God.  But first, heal me and use me to heal others.  Help me to stand for and walk in the greatest force in the universe – Your Love.

ARE YOU IN DENIAL?

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At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do… (Deuteronomy 28: 29)

The blindness of denial  is one of the most powerful deterrants to change.  It’s one of the enemy’s cleverest tricks.  He’s a big liar, you know, and he is so, so skillful at inspiring you to twist the facts so that you do not need to do anything differently. If you can convince yourself that you really don’t need to change or that you’ll change later, nothing happens now.  Any decision you make about your life based on a half-truth (lie) is not going to end well.

I’ve found in many years of clinical practice that people tend to deny at one (or several) of 5 levels.

  1.  They deny the existence of a problem. This stage is “clueless.”  They can’t see what those around them are concerned about and see clearly. They are completely unaware of how their actions affect themselves or someone else.
  2.  They deny the significance of the problem. Oh, they may acknowledge there’s a problem.  However, then they minimize its significance, compare their habits to someone worse, or deny the hold it has on them.  (“I can quit any time.  Why, once I quit for two weeks!”)
  3. They deny that there are any viable options for change. They look around them, and they see others who have tried but failed to get their lives in order, despite… (going to church, going to rehab, going to counseling, etc.)  They convince themselves, “That stuff just doesn’t work.”
  4. They deny that anything will ever really work for them. So even if the person admits to a problem, a significant problem, and even when they acknowledge that some people can change – they can hold onto the belief that it’s no use.  Nothing will work for them.  “That’s how it is in our family. I guess it’s in my genes.”  “I’ve tried before and failed.”  “There’s no hope for me on this one.”
  5. They deny the time urgency. Oh, dear, I believe this is one of the biggest snares.  I’ll start when…life isn’t so stressful, this event is over, I can get more cooperation, I’m not so depressed, I get some time off…” There’s never a convenient time.  Life is not going to become a whole lot less stressful or leisurely.  There’s no upcoming milestone that will make it easier to change.  Armed with the truth of God – about yourself, about His power, and about His desire for your positive future – you can begin the change journey on that thing. Don’t wait.  Don’t procrastinate.  Do it now.

Jesus said, “You’ll know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Stop believing the lies that are holding you back from becoming all God intended for you to be!

My God, teach me Your truth about me, about my situation, and about the future You want for me.  This day – not tomorrow or “Monday” – help me to align my actions with Your truth!

 

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