Dr. Beverly Smallwood

601-264-0890

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

IS PATIENCE A VIRTUE?

teach_limits

Well, sometimes it is.

Distinguish between patience and the inability to set limits.

Patience in its healthy form is a virtue. It’s actually one of the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within the maturing believer. Patience enables you to believe, to persevere, to endure despite the difficulties. (And those difficulties are laboratories in which you develop patience.) Patience helps you to love others in spite of poor performance. It empowers you for influence because you are able to take people where they are, see the best in them, and visualize with them the next step.

Yet those very strengths can become weaknesses if taken too far. In the extreme, you can unwittingly encourage unhealthy or even abusive behavior because you put up with too much. You focus in on those times you remember when the person was “acting nice” and you hold onto false hope that this is the way that person “really is.” So you continue to tolerate behavior that is destroying you because you hope against hope that this will somehow magically turn around if you just love enough, adapt enough, or even rescue enough. Do not be deceived. The inability to set healthy limits is not a virtue.  It’s a flaw that will burn you out and ultimately take you out if you don’t take hold of truth and learn about boundaries.  

Pray for discernment about when you are exercising God-given patience and hope – and when the most “holy” thing to do is to say, “Hold it! Enough is enough!”

God, sometimes my “love” and “patience” get expressed in unhealthy, out-of-balance ways.  I need Your wisdom, Lord, and the courage to set limits when that’s what’s really best for me and for others.  Help me with this, please, God!

HOW TO MOVE FROM YOUR WEAKNESS TO HIS STRENGTH

faith-Turns-Weakness-into-Strength

 

Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected (and is completed and shows itself most effectively) in (your) weakness.  Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.  So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]. (II Corinthians 12: 8-10)

As we discussed yesterday, life constantly hands us checks for which our personal strength is overdrawn.  David was one who openly acknowledged that his soul (mind, will, emotions) was overwhelmed, and He turned to the Rock that was higher than all of his problems and “assignments.”   And so can you and I!

But first, we have to recognize and discern what we can and cannot do.  Consider these 3 prerequisites for drawing on God’s strength so that you can do anything He calls you to do or face any challenge that the devil throws at you. 

  1.  Recognize your insuffiency.  The first step for getting help is to admit that you need help.  Two things are stumbling blocks here.  On one hand, we may experience over-confidence in our own abilities.  Yes, God has given you talents, and you have honed them over time.  But they alone are not enough for a person who wants to live a fully productive and purposeful life.  It takes more.  On the opposite extreme, you may be so intimidated at the size of your challenges and your own low self-worth that you see no hope, and simply you withdraw and quit.  So where’s the balance?  It’s in recognizing your own insuffiency, but at the same time fully embracing the Hope (not just a wish, but a solid, divinely-granted HOPE) that strength that far exceeds your own is freely available.
  2.  Surrender your pride. Whoa, this can be a tough one! Forget the motivational speeches (some of which I’ve given) that intimate that YOU can do anything you set your mind to.  Hard years of experience have taught me what the Bible could have saved me from learning the hard way.  SELF-dependence (pride) goes before a fall.  I believe that Paul was saying, “When I recognize that I am weak, then I’m ready to access God’s strength.”
  3.  Learn to live in dependence on God’s Spirit. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, He has placed His own Spirit inside you.  Get that.  GOD lives inside you!  He wants good for you more than you want it.  He sees the positive possibilities when you can’t.  His strength is limitless.  What He wants from you and me is a big “YES!” framed in desperate dependence on Him.  He will never leave you or forsake you, and He’ll never let you down.

God, my best efforts without Your power are never best.  I fully acknowledge that before You and before the world.  I desperately need You, Lord.  Help me to set aside the pride of SELF-confidence while rejoicing that in YOU, I can do all things You call me to do.

FROM HUMAN WEAKNESS TO SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH

Nerd guy with dumbbells

Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected (and is completed and shows itself most effectively) in (your) weakness.  Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.  So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]. (II Corinthians 12: 8-10)

I’m facing a task later this week that has me in complete recognition of the truth of this passage.  This one would be more than I could do in my weak human self.  ( And this is true ALL the time, but some situations bring my inadequacy into undeniable, full focus.)  About 2 years ago, my Uncle Cecil asked me if I would share some thoughts about our Hannaford history and about him as seen through the eyes of extended family at his funeral.  (He was such a planner.) His memorial service is Saturday, and the time has come for me to be strong and honor that promise, though I am grieving.  I’ve prayed, written, and rewritten my remarks, and I am trusting God that they will honor him.  I am also totally dependant on God for an infusion of divine strength that will allow me to speak calmly and boldly about this wonderful and beloved man – the last in our family of his generation.

I’ve always liked and quoted, “When I am weak, then I am strong…for His power is made perfect in my weakness.”  But this morning when I read the passage in The Amplified Bible, which supplies the original word meanings more deeply and richly, I saw this truth vividly. Re-read that passage above slowly, and let it really sink in. I hope that you will also grab the miracle of it for that situation you are facing that is way beyond what you can handle.

“When I am weak, that’s when I’m strong” sounds paradoxical and nonsensical unless you grasp it spiritually.  Old voices compete in your head for first place with this truth.  Those negative whispers in your head tell you, “You’re weak, you’re less than, and that’s how you’ll always be.”  Other familiar ones chime in: “And others are going to see just how deficient you are.”  Believe that garbage, and you’re paralyzed.

Yes, it’s trash talk, because God begs to differ! God tells us in His Word through the Apostle Paul that He LOVES to show up and be and do what we cannot.  He can, and He will when we allow it.

However, becoming infused with HIS strength requires a few things on our side of the equation.  More about that tomorrow.

My God, my God, I so need You ALL the time!  Too often I’ve headed out headlong into situations or challenges or projects with SELF-confidence, and what a mess those became! Other times, my knees have been knocking so badly that I just gave in to my weakness and quit.  Holy Spirit, please remind me of the truth that YOU have promised to be strong in me when I am weak.  I rely on Your promise, Lord, and I move into this day in YOUR strength.

 

 

HE IS SO READY TO GIVE!

god-gives

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (John 4: 7-9)

Some unfortunate souls have grown up with very warped ideas about God.  He’s an ogre just waiting to zap you.  He’s a grouch who wants to keep you from everything fun.  The heavenly Father is like your abusive father.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Our God has revealed Himself to us over time as He has interacted with His people.  When certain events occurred, He would add for them another of His Names, and in that culture a name was more than a cute selection out of a baby book.  The name revealed character and function.  So God called Himself our Provider, our Healer, our Peace, our Banner, our Shepherd, our Ever-Present Companion – and the list goes on.  Then God even came in the flesh to show us about Himself (and to achieve some other important business!).  Jesus, in a human body like ours, walked out His primary nature – LOVE – right here.

It’s one of the first verses a child learns in Sunday School:  God is LOVE.  (Why do we forget?) Love gives.  Love wants for the beloved all experiences that are truly good.  Love provides all good things within its power.  When you think about our God, Who IS and has all that we need and has a heart of overflowing Love to boot – now this is getting exciting!

Is God a great big Santa Claus Who brings us every extravagant present we put on our lists?  Ah, no.  Does He deliver on demand when we are sure we should already have it?  No, sometimes He helps us grow up by learning patience in waiting while trusting.  Do some things happen we just don’t understand?  Yes, that’s true.

However, this I can tell you.  Our Lord has provided so much in salvation that leads to our wholeness.  Like living water (running water; not still, stale water) that refreshes, cleanses, and provides life-giving hydration, His Spirit works within us.  The Spirit of God has brought His Kingdom inside us – righteousness, peace, and joy!

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 14: 17)

 

Don’t run past that!  The prophets told us and Jesus verified that after He completed and ushered in the New Covenant, He would write His laws in our hearts and empower us with the Holy Spirit, enabling us to be righteous, to be in right standing with God and to choose to do right.  That eliminates a whole lot of consequential problems right there.  And peace covers a wide span of blessings, doesn’t it? To have the ability to be still and confident deep down, no matter what is happening?  Whoa, you can’t buy that at Walmart!  Add to those joy!  Extreme happiness and bliss, illustrated in one place in the Bible as the emotional experience at the birth of a new baby.  People go in search of this kind of happiness, when all along it comes in the package with an all-out commitment to God.

So like the Samaritan woman at the well, we’ve been confronted with some important choices when we encounter the living Christ.  Ignorance of God’s Word and the negligence of asking are robbers of quality of life.

If you knew…. you would ask…and I would give.

O God, You are such a Giver!  I want everything that You have for me!  I don’t want to miss anything that You say belongs to me in Christ.  Holy Spirit, teach me as I continue to seek to discover all that is provided in salvation. Remind me to ask, and open my heart to receive Your gifts and use them in Your Kingdom.

 

ASK!

prayer_sun rise

 

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (John 4: 7-9)

Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7: 7, The Amplified Bible)

You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4: 2, NKJV))

Those “ask” scriptures could go on and on.  Amazing God has not only given us an audience with Him any time we want it, He has given us permission to ask Him for anything among the riches of His Kingdom and the blessings of His grace.  Not only do we have His permission, but He urges us to do it.  Sometimes the reason we don’t have is that we don’t  actually know what all came along with salvation, as we discussed Friday.  But often we don’t have because we don’t ask.

Someone died and included you in his will, leaving you a fortune.  That will was properly executed, and you legitimately had $100 million deposited into your bank account.  However, if you never make that trip to the bank or complete a transaction online or write a check to draw on it, you never reap the benefits from the benefactor.

Too many of us never access the benefits of the New Covenant that Christ shed His precious blood to provide us.  A Testament, after all, is related to a will (last will and testament).

God intensely desires for you and me to have everything that is good for us and is aligned with His best plans for us.  He also sometimes wants to develop our strength of character by having us learn the patience and trust of waiting.  But make no mistake about it, He has asked us to ask (and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; knock, and keep on knocking). He wants to give us all things that are beneficial and essential for abundant life.

Does our asking sometimes get out of whack?  Oh, sure.  The scriputre validates that sometimes we “ask amiss,” requesting the wrong things for the wrong reasons.  No one over 20 can’t look back on things or people you wanted so badly you could taste it, and you prayed so hard to get.  Now you bump into that heart throb in Walmart, and you pray another kind of prayer – praise and thanksgiving that God didn’t say yes!

Take the time to understand God’s Word on whatever situation you are facing, then courageously ask in accordance with His principles. He so desires to give you all that you need to fully become all that He has called you to be, “the living water.” Ask, and keep on asking! (And listen, and keep on listening!)

Dear Lord, I want to stay in regular communication with You about everything. You are my Loving Father, and You want me to have all that is good for me.  Cure my foolish pride that causes me to believe that I can handle it all. You are always there for me, and You provide all that I need.  You know the things I’ve talked with You about so many times.  Now, God, I am asking again, and I will continue to do so.

 

 

IF YOU ONLY KNEW…

Jesus-with-the-Woman-at-well

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered her, If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” (John 4: 7-9)

Ever read a scripture you’ve read a bazillion times in the past, and it comes alive to you as if you’ve never seen it before?  That’s what happened to me this morning with this passage.  Right now I’m reading Beth Moore’s book, Audacious, for the second time.  I read it the first time in October, so it’s not like she sneaked something in here overnight.  And I don’t believe the gospel writer John did, either.  But the Holy Spirit has punched me with a new challenge from this familiar passage.  Maybe I can communicate it so that it has meaning to you, too.

First, let’s set the stage.  This Samaritan woman was shocked when Jesus spoke to her at the well.  Not only were the Samaritans looked down upon by the Jews, she’d messed up enough on her own to earn the scorn of her own people.  Rather than coming to the well early in the morning with all the other women, she came in the heat of the day.  This woman carried her shame and isolation along with her water pot.

Maybe you, too, feel “less than” for whatever reasons or non-reasons. Perhaps you don’t know how God really feels about you.  Perhaps you can’t grasp Who He is, what He has for you, and what He is able and willing to provide for you if you only ask. 

Lately, I’ve had it weighing on my heart that many, if not most Christians are living in poverty.  No, I’m not talking about financial poverty.  Too many simply don’t understand their inheritance as believers.  Yes, they’re going to heaven because they have believed in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on their behalf.  However, some don’t really comprehend the provisions that came in that New Covenant relationship.

Suppose your rich relative died and left you a fortune.  However, you did not attend the reading of the will or someone did not inform you..  You’d have it, but you would not experience the benefits of those riches. I so deeply want God’s kids to KNOW what they have in Christ.  He’s been speaking to me about some new avenues of ministry along these lines.  He has so much more to provide for those of us who believe on Him.  I am struck by Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman…

“If you only knew…you would ask…and I would give it to you…and your life would be totally changed.”

We’ll continue this discussion next week.

God, I want all that You want for me, and I desire that for every believer.  Teach us, O Lord.  Enlighten us in Your Word.  You paid such a price for us to have it.  May we leave nothing of You on the table.

 

 

PERSISTENT PEACE

Peace

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. (Philippians 4: 4-7, The Amplified Bible.)

First, let me apologize for being unable to write the devotional yesterday morning.  When I opened the case I brought from the office, I had my laptop cord but not my laptop!  I tried to go into WordPress on my phone to at least let you know what happened, but technology (and user!) being its often-difficult self, I could not get in to write a message to you.  Sorry!

So for three days this week and last, we’ve been savoring this rich passage from Philippians 4.  We thought together about choosing joy in the Lord, no matter what our circumstancesWe underwent a tough little biblical examination that laid out the qualifications for having a gracious and gentle spirit.  (How did you do?) Then we hit that really big challenge, to stop worrying! We end this series today with the beautiful result of choosing joy in the Lord, possessing a gentle spirit, and refusing to be a worrier.

It’s called PEACE.

Let’s break this message about God’s peace down into a few chewable morsels by looking at the Greek meanings of certain keywords in the above passage.  .

  1.  Peace – total well-being and wholeness (not just the absense of conflict or war);
  2.  Understanding  – faculty of the mind, intelligence, thoughts, perceptions;
  3.  Heart – desires, feelings, affections, passions, impulses.

So let’s get this straight.  When you totally place your trust in God and take delight in Him, something amazing happens.  It goes way beyond what you can figure out with your intellectual skills.  It touches and transforms all of your insides – your desires, feelings, affections, passions, and impulses.  You become less egotistical, more full of grace, and more considerate of others.  You relieved of the delusion that worry somehow keeps you and your loved ones safer.

And one adidtional, priceless benefit:  you experience the God kind of peace! This peace is the surreal type that goes immeasurably beyond what the human mind can conceive.  It does not depend on “happiness” from “happenings.”

This type of well-being and wholeness not only supersedes chaotic circumstances, it’s actually most vividly demonstrated within them. Think about a precious diamond on display.  That gem actually shines brightest against a black background! And so does God’s peace.

If you’re a worrier, if peace is elusive, if your soul is at war with your soul – STOP NOW! Stop, focus on Who God is, how He Loves you, how He provides for you.  He was not surprised by anything that happened, and He already has the way prepared for you.  He is GOD, and you are His beloved child.

Be still, and KNOW.  Thus, experience the startling PEACE of God!

Lord, when I pull away from my silly worrying and focus on You, the Problem-Solver, I relax into Your peace. You ARE my peace.  I trust You.

 

 

 

 

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