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

WHAT PURPOSE ISN’T AND WHY IT MATTERS

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Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. (Acts 13: 36)

As we’ve established this week, God has placed His universal purposes within each of us. He also has given every individual a unique purpose on the planet.  However, some feel lost or demoralized about purpose when various life seasons pass, when their props get knocked from under them, or when they’ve achieved that goal that they were sure would satisfy.  Such discouragement often comes because they had a false notion about what purpose really is.

So first, let’s consider what purpose is not.

  1.  Purpose is not a role. “What’s your purpose in life?”  “My purpose is to be a mother/father.”  “My purpose is to be a (psychologist, nurse, pastor, business owner, etc).”  “My purpose is to care for my aging mom.”  So what happens when the kids leave home, or God forbid, something happens to them?  Is your life then without purpose?  And your profession.  What happens if you become debilitated, or you retire?  Has your life purpose vanished?  Even worthy work like taking care of your mom – when it’s complete, is your purpose on the planet done?  Roles come and go.  Truly, every one of the roles I’ve mentioned can be purpose-ful, but they are only temporary.  Likd David, your life purpose is not over on earth until you are.  So purpose has to be bigger and more lasting than any role.
  2. Purpose is not a goal. Good goals are good. They focus your energies and fuel greater achievement.  But no matter how great the goal, it’s not your purpose in life.  I had the privilege of working with various groups in South Africa during the transition from Apartheid. I remember a conversation at a break in one of the sessions I was facilitating with folks who had risked their lives to stand against the completely racially separate and violently-enforced governmental and cultural structure. They had won!  Not only was Apartheid being abolished, Nelson Mandela had now been President of South Africa for three weeks.  But this one man confided to me that he was strangely depressed, and he did not know why.  I asked his permission to bring up the issue with his colleagues while keeping his confidence.  Interestingly, one by one they acknowledged that mixed in with their joy at the turn of events, they, too, were experiencing an odd let-down, maybe even depression.  The big goal had been achieved.  Now what? No goal achievement, no matter how meaningful, satisfies for long.  There’s always a, “Next?” Even the achievement of that lifelong dream does not complete you.  Goals may certainly be purpose-ful, but they are not your purpose.
  3. Purpose is not a mold. I grew up in a day in which you found your lane and stayed in it until you had the retirement party and got the gold watch.  (Well, actually, I never was able to buy into that system.) Things have changed.  Furthermore, if you look at the people God chose to include in His written Word, they experienced different seasons of challenge, growth, and service. Over the course of your lifetime, the expressions of your purpose will be manifested in new opportunities, differing roles, and in the pursuit of new goals.  However, “who you are” at the core and your unique, divinely- created and God-appointed “why” will be reflected in it all.  The expressions of your purpose are dynamic.

Maybe as you read this message, you relate to that feeling of lostness and the sense (not the reality) of purposelessness.  Have we touched today any possible misconception that has entrapped you?  More tomorrow.

God, You know that my heart pounds when I’m sharing Your truths about purpose.  I intercede this day for every reader, and I pray that each one will discover and fully live the purpose that You have implanted deep within them.  You know how deeply that is also my desire for myself.  Please help me, Lord, to make a difference in Your world.

 

YOU, YES YOU, HAVE PURPOSE IN LIFE!

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For it is God Who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2: 13)

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  Before you were born, I set you apart.  I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.  (Jeremiah 1: 5)

God spoke to Jeremiah, and He told him that he had been on His mind long before he had been physically conceived.  He had a plan for Jeremiah’s life, messages assigned to him to bring to the people, and purposes formed long before Jeremiah formed his own first words.

Jeremiah was not unique in that.  God is no respecter of persons.  You and I may not be assigned to function as a prophet like Jeremiah.  However, God’s been up to something with every one of us before the beginning of our physical formation in our mother’s womb.   The talents, physical characteristics, and inclinations of motivation we received in our unique DNA were no accident.  God saw to it that you and I had the exact raw material needed that would be developed and refined by experience to ready us for each successive God-given assignment.

No matter what the circumstances of your birth, you are no accident.  God saw to it that you were perfectly suited to your callings and life-long, progressive assignments.

Ah, yes, then comes experience.  Some of it is obviously helpful, but not all of it is positive.  OK, a lot of it is not positive.

But when any experience comes to the individuals He loves (that’s each one of us), God has a miracle or two up His sleeve.  Let me clarify that God does not cause destructive choices made by others or events that affect us in a fallen world.  However, the miracle is that He can transform even those as He heals and restores, further equipping us to face and overcome personal challenges and to minister to hurting people. Truly, when we love Him and are called according to His purposes, He makes all things work together for our good.  (Romans 8: 28)

God is a Master Teacher.  He brings person after person, lesson after lesson, mind renewal after mind renewal that uniquely develop the person called you.  And that person has a purpose on this earth.  God knew it from the beginning.  We discover it and live it as we go along.

At least some do.  They’re ones for whom everyday routines have significance.  They are the  individuals who are attuned to God’s latest opportunities to express His Love through their unique methods and channels.  The ones who understand their purpose, see it in life events, and chose to fully engage with it are the people who find health, greater success, and joy in life do (says research).

What about you?  According to God’s Word, the Potter has created you with a special purpose in His mind.  (Romans 9: 21) If I asked you, “What is your purpose in life,” could you tell me in clear, succinct words why you’re here on the planet?  Are you living your everyday life and pursuing God-given dreams in accordance with the unqiue purpose God has placed deep within you?

Many are feeling lost on this matter because of certain misunderstandings about purpose.  We’ll talk about those tomorrow.

God, I am constantly astounded at Your miraculous work in me and in every willing person on the earth.  I want to fully use up every ability You’ve given me.  Help me not to waste any suffering.  Empower me to put to purposeful work any and every experience in my life.   I want to live on purpose for You, Lord.

 

 

YOUR LIFE’S WHY: Do You Know It and Live It?

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Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  (Proverbs 19: 21)

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful.  I know that full well.  (Psalm 139: 14)

Learning and living your God-given purpose in life can be a life-or-death matter! I’m heaven-bent on helping as many people as I can to live on purpose and thus to change the trajectory of their lives, no matter what their ages. That’s why I facilitate purpose retreats and coach people to become their best through knowing and living their purpose in life.  God nudged me yet again this weekend with the importance of purpose.

Yesterday afternoon I had the beautiful privilege of a long phone conversation with one of my favorite teachers from Columbia High School.  I’d learned from Kathy Henry, a high school friend with whom I reconnected on Facebook, that Ms. Hatten was still alive and relatively well at the age of 87. Kathy saw her at church in Jackson, Ms., every Sunday.  I had not seen my Mississippi History and Civics teacher or talked to her since high school, and well, that’s been a “couple of years.”

Ms. Hatten and I talked about the twists and turns of our own lives and how God had provided, intervened, and always been faithful.  Interwoven throughout our verbal wanderings were the discussions of God’s various callings and assignments on our lives and how those had given our lives meaning, though life had not always been easy. At 87, this beloved teacher was still teaching (Sunday School) and studying and learning and touching others with God’s Love.

Our conversation then turned to others we had known back in the day.  I asked about this person or that, and she did the same.  I sadly learned in that part of the conversation about one of the people we knew who, after retirement, had simply given up on life.  Predictably, this person had passed away not that long afterward. I’ve seen it happen way too often.

The mind-body-emotions-spirit connection is real.  The single most important decision of a person’s life is to have his or her spirit made alive through union with Christ, choosing to make Him Lord and to walk in all that He has provided. I’m convinced that way up there in rank, maybe even second to that, is to understand and live out your own purpose, the reason you are living on the planet, and the unique contribution you bring to your world.

But as life-changingly important as purpose is, many don’t even know those answers about themselves. Or once they thought they had it, but now they no longer believe it because life has changed. The purpose they thought they possessed has seemed to vanish because of a loss in their lives.  Others just wander through “disconnected” life experiences, and the world seems even crazier than it is because they don’t have a clear sense of their place or how they really matter.  They’re still inhaling and exhaling oxygen, but they’re not really living.

This does not have to be.  God has placed a purpose in your physical and spiritual DNA that is not lifted until you breathe your last.  Your roles may change, your goals may change – but deep down, your divinely-ordained purpose remains the same.  Want to know more?  Let’s talk about it this week.  If you have specific concerns or questions on this topic, I’d love to hear them.

God, I thank You and praise You because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I am filled with wonder over the fact that You made each of us unique and that You implanted special purpose within us. O Lord, help me – help all of us – to fully live Your assigned purpose in our worlds each day.  

 

THE PROMISED LAND? COULD THIS BE FOR REAL?

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For Christ’s Love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all. (II Corinthians 5: 14)

We are more than conquerors through Christ Who Loves us.  (Romans 8: 17)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (II Corinthians 4: 16) 

 I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds. (II Corinthians 7: 4)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4: 6)

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6: 18)

Your own Promised Land in Christ.  Pipe dream?  Only if you don’t believe that God’s Word is true.  Amazing benefits are stored up for the Spirit-controlled believer in Christ, ready for access just when they are needed.   I’ve cherry-picked only a few, but there are so, so, so many more.

  • Christ’s Love has the first and last word in everything we do. (II Corinthians 5:14)  Jesus spelled this one out clearly when the lawyer tried to trick Him about the law, asking him which was the greatest commandment.  Jesus let him know quickly that a 4-letter word was the answer:  L-O-V-E.  Love God, love people, love yourself.  In Promised Land living, agape Love is pre-eminent. And it is that Love that motivates our attitudes and actions; the scripture says it “compels us!” And may I add, propels us?
  • We are more than conquerors through Christ Who loved us.  (Romans 8:17) I love this verse.  First, it realistically lets us know that there will be challenges to conquer. (Don’t love that part too much.) However, in the power of the Spirit, we will not only overcome, but even MORE.  What’s the “more?” I have long believed that at least a portion of that “more” is the miracle that God brings unexpected blessings out of the worst situations.  He turns even what others meant to harm us for our good.  Not only does the enemy’s attack fail to take us under, God uses it to positively motivate us and to grow us.  The enemy does not win.
  • Despite difficulties and temptations to discouragement, we don’t have to lose heart. (II Corinthians 4: 16) A heart filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God has staying power.  We may experience setbacks, fatigue, and frustration.  But we have THE Hope inside, so there’s no way to lose hope!  Fatigue does not have to lead to our falling by the wayside.  Frustration is not destined to become debilitating depression.  We can encourage ourselves in Him.  No matter how bleak the situation, that does not change the fact that He is Lord of it, and we are in covenant with Almighty God.
  • When trials and tribulations come, we can actually be peaceful and even joyful.  (II Corinthians 7: 4) It’s positively ludicrous in human terms to be joyful and completely peaceful, though circumstances are going haywire.  Why, only God could fuel that kind of reaction.  Oh, wait, He does!
  • Though this world can be a scary place, we don’t have to worry.  We can “be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4: 6) and pray about everything (Ephesians 6: 18) Did you say, “anxious for nothing??”  Well, when I think about it, anxiety is really the opposite of trust in God.  What could possibly happen to me that would surprise Him, that He hasn’t already made provisions for, or that He won’t turn on its head and use it for good purposes? Instead of pacing and wringing my hands, I can focus that energy into fervent, earnest prayer.  And God inspired the Word, which let us know that when we pray intensely and confidently on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness in us, God moves. This type of praying “avails much.”

And that’s just a small sample of the benefits Jesus paid for with His blood. In the New Covenant, He has written His Word on our hearts.  The Holy Spirit within the heart of the believer is ready to implement it all in your life.  Don’t wait.  Possess the possessions that have been provided for you, and learn to live in your God-given Promised Land.

I do want to close by recommending a book to those of you whose interest has been sparked about moving into your own Canaan.  It’s Max Lucado’s Glory Days.  Lucado summed it up this way: “Caanan is a life defined by grace, refined by challenge, and aligned with a heavenly call.”  I like that.

What are you taking away from this series for your own life?

God, when I think of Your great Love for me and for what all You’ve done to give me complete access to You, I am astounded all over again.  Whatever I need, You are.  Whatever I need, You are.  Whatever I need, You are.

 

 

 

 

YOUR PROMISED LAND: Part 2

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But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.  (John 16: 13)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in Love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the Love of Christ, and to know this Love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 14-21)

That prayer of Paul for the Ephesians and for you and me) leaves me breathless. Yes, God, let it be so in my life!

 

Yesterday a girlfriend asked me, “Isn’t heaven the Promised Land?”  Maybe you wondered that, too.  In yesterday’s devotional, I laid out the metaphor of coming out of Egypt (being saved), wandering in the wilderness (living a carnal and defeated lifestyle, though saved), and entering the Promised Land (experiencing life completely controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit). Certainly, when we get to heaven, those who belong to Christ won’t have any problems at all.  However, the scripture teaches that there is a way to live that is far better than the “wandering in the wilderness” that describes the experience of many people who are born again but downed, again and again and again.

So what is the spiritual Promised Land?  Is it a problem-free existence?  No way.  Jesus said that we will have problems, but that we can cheer up because He has overcome them all.  When I’ve studied Joshua and his people, I see that the “land flowing with milk and honey” was also a land with some pretty scary giants and some violent, decadent people to conquer.   No, the Promised Land is sometimes tough.

However, the success keys in Old Testament times as well as today are:  1) to be in complete submission to God, 2) to listen to and obey His Voice, and 3) to walk empowered by His courage to achieve His plans on this earth. By honoring these principles, Joshua and the Israelites overcame all human odds and claimed their Canaan, which God had promised to Abraham hundreds of years before.

But what an advantage we have!  Joshua and all in the Old Testament heard from God, but His Presence was always external.  When the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God actually took up residence inside the believer!  What??  The Holy Spirit is in me, and I am in Him, and as the scripture says, on top of that we are hidden with Christ in God.  Unfathomable!  As dramatic as those stories of old are, they cannot compare to the potential and power available today to the believer who walks in the Spirit.

The Promised Land life is produced supernatually when any individual completely surrenders to God.  This involves making choices to open the heart, mind, the body to His work within and through.  It means setting aside the personal pride of believing you can do it.  (You can’t.)  Entering your Promised Land comes with a Declaration of Dependence.  All of this goes against the human foolishness of believing that you have the power to understand it all and fix it all.  (You don’t.)

Well, this devotional is already running long, and I haven’t gotten to the more detailed scriptural description of the benefits of entering into His rest.  Though the path He’s laid out is not easy sometimes, it comes with privileges that are “immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.” Let’s talk about that tomorrow.

God, it’s not by might, not by human power, but by Your Spirit.  Thank You for providing a new way for those who are willing to make You the Lord of their lives and to take You at Your Word.  I believe, Lord.  I believe. And I want to receive all that You have for me, which I know is far beyond anything I could imagine. You are my Lord!

HAVE YOU POSSESSED YOUR PROMISED LAND?

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After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.  (Joshua 1: 1-6)
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  (Ephesians 5: 18)

As I have shared with you, I’ve been engulfed in a study of Moses and the Israelites and Moses’ successor, Joshua, who led God’s chosen people into the Promised Land.  Fascinating series of events that spans 5 books of the Old Testament!  I’d say that’s a pretty significant story!

As I have studied, I’ve been struck over and over by the parallels between the Hebrew experiences and our lives as Christians.  One aspect is the claiming of the God-given inheritance of our own Canaan – our Promised Land.

So how does this relate to you and me?  First, allow me to lay THE foundation of it all. Jesus died for us, paid the price for our sin, conquered hell and death, rose from the grave, ascended into the heavenly temple, and placed His own blood on THE mercy seat.  Then He sat down, which earthly priests could never do because the atonement had been incomplete before this.  Jesus had finished it all, and our entry into the covenant was awaiting our “yes!”

When we enter into that relationship with Him, we receive the title deed to our inheritance.  No, it isn’t real estate.  Our own Promised Land is an amazing experiential journey of spirit, heart, and mind.  God promised to provide it, and He has failed in not a single one of His promises.

However, too many believers are still wandering around in the wilderness.  They’ve received salvation.  (They’ve left Egypt.)  But sadly, they still have not experienced a life completely filled with and empowered by the Spirit of God. Rather, like the Israelites of old, they spend their lives complaining and wandering around in circles.  Discouragement, depression, and pessimism are the fare of the day in the wilderness. This does not have to be!  The Lord has given all to prepare so much better than that for you!

So where are you now?  And what does a Spirit-controlled life look like anyway? What does it feel like? Is it totally without challenges?  And very importantly how do you go about “claiming your inheritance?” How do you cross the Jordan out of your own wilderness and into the Promised Land that God has for you?  Let’s talk more about that tomorrow.

God, Your Word is so rich with practical instruction for me! Holy Spirit of God, I open myself to Your work within me and through me.  I want to stay out of the wilderness and to claim all that You gave all to provide for me.  Teach me to walk in Your victory, O Lord!

DON’T SIT DOWN WHEN YOU HAVE A SETBACK

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These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace.  In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.  (Jesus, John 16:33)

I’ve been on this life journey for well over 6 decades, and I’ve learned a few things along the way – many of them the hard way.  One of those is, setbacks will come.  Jesus promised that.  But setbacks are usually a long way from fatal, unless the enemy of your soul can convince you differently.  Satan would simply love for you to believe his lies about you being sunk, about how nothing ever works out for you, and about themyriad of ways you are a colossal failure.  Never forget this:  if the devil’s mouth is moving, he’s lying. He is the “Father of Lies.”

Know 3 things about setbacks.  One, they are a very normal part of every learning curve.  Two, setbacks happen to people who are doing and trying.  Three, setbacks are opportunities to learn and to begin again, more wisely this time.

When (not if!) setbacks occur, move into action.

  • Acknowledge the loss, but don’t mentally exaggerate it, and focus on working with what you have left.
  • Remember how you’ve dealt with past setbacks, and draw on the best of those strategies and strengths.
  • Do something (even something small) that gets you out of inertia and moving in a slightly more positive direction.

And here’s a strategy so important that it deserves its own paragraph.  Learn to laugh at yourself!  From childhood, this one has saved my sanity and helped me put things back in perspective.

The scripture tells us that laughter does good like medicine.  (And medical science backs that up.)

Jerry Seinfeld in “Sein Language” summed up up the setback situation – with humor:

“Life is truly a ride. We’re all strapped in, and no one can stop it. When the doctor slaps your behind, he’s ripping your ticket and away you go. As you make each passage from youth to adulthood to maturity, sometimes you just hang on to that bar in front of you. But the ride is the thing. I think the most you can hope for at the end of life is that your hair’s messed, you’re out of breath, and you didn’t throw up.”

God, You know about the stresses I’m going through right now in my life.  It’s difficult to cope sometimes, much less find humor in them.  But I am relying on You to help me rebound.  You and I are in covenant together, and I trust You in this and every difficult situation I will ever encounter.  None of my setbacks take You by surprise, and I know that You are at work to help me come back from every setback..

 

 

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