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

WHY CAN’T I CHANGE?

flower_changing

 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7: 15-19)

Oh, Paul, I feel ya! Why is it so hard to change a habit? You have the best of intentions, which are the bricks paving the road to you-know-where.  You resolve, and you start, and you fall off again.  Habit change is difficult.

But why don’t we follow through? What keeps us from sustaining the effort long enough to get and keep a great new habit?

  1. We try to get the old will power in gear and do it ourselves. The Apostle Paul was totally frustrated with himself in Romans 7, but he changed his tune in Romans 8.  What made the difference?  The Holy Spirit!  Yes, there’s necessary self-discipline and effort, but I have learned that I do not do well when I’m dependent on my own “herculean strength.” When I’m trying to focus on a personal habit, I desperately cry out for the sustaining empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, I’ve learned from hard experience, I’m sunk.
  2. The pain of same has not exceeded the resistance to change. So you’ve become uncomfortable enough that you’re toying with changing “it.” But the human tendency to stay the same is so alluring, usually the “pain” of the current habit’s consequences has to become more intense – so personally distasteful that it pushes you over into serious and determined effort. It is the wise person who can intentionally seek knowledge about the escalating pain of the end result and allow that picture to motivate them to change now.
  3. The gravity of self-will pulls us down when we really want to take off. We want what we want when we want it – a little nap instead of exercise, a trip to that ice cream bar at the church social, just one little drink, just a short phone call to/from that person you know is toxic. Just one won’t hurt…will it?
  4.  We think now rather than having long-term vision.  I’ve alluded to this one in Numbers 2 and 3. It’s the flesh that believes it has to be satisfied right now.  In God’s Kingdom, the Holy Spirit produces in the fruit cluster,  patience and self-control.  A toddler wants it all now.  Mature adults can look ahead to the future and make choices now that their future selves will thank them for. Bad habits will never be replaced with healthy ones until we grow up enough to hold in our hearts and minds the long-term vision over the immediate urge.
  5.  We go back into denial. Hmmmm…this is a pretty big one on its own.  I think i’ll save that the discussion on denial for tomorrow.

God, I know that You are at work within me, inviting me to keep growing and stretching toward You.  Your salvation brings wholeness, and Your Spirit will lead me there.  I pray for the self-control and perseverance to change unhealthy habits, one by one.

HAND IN GLOVE

hand in glove

 

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your Word with great boldness. Stretch out Your Hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4: 29-30)

Wait a minute.  The disciples were the ones who were there touching the people who needed healing and signs and wonders. But they knew the truth of how it was done:  “Lord, stretch our Your Hand to heal and perform signs and wonders.”

Sometimes when I am studying the Bible, I will get “stuck on” a word. (Actually, what I mean is, that word comes alive to me in a new way, and I want to know more about it, so I go searching.) This morning, it was “hand,” of all things. Interestingly, I learned that the word hand is used 1800 times in the scripture, which seems to make it pretty significant. I learned that the hand is used as a metaphor for power and strength, authority, and even the expression of the wishes and will of the entire person. The hand reaches out, works, and makes things happen.

I was reminded of this prayer of Peter and John in Acts when the Council had chastised and threatened them about healing the lame man.  Within the context of their assertion to themselves and to God that they could not help continuing the work, they prayed that God would stretch out His Hand to heal. But they knew that they were only “gloves.”  It looked like their skin on the hand that touched the people, but it was God inside doing the work.  They were only the physical conduits for God.

Even when you are exercising your God-given gifts, when you are drawing on your background of knowledge, or when you’re referring to experiences you’ve had in the past – get this.  It’s not you doing the life-changing deeds!  Only by the Hand of God’s Spirit can lasting, significant results be achieved. Like Peter and the others who had used their expertise as fishermen to fish all night without impressive results, when the power of Jesus got into it – everything changed.

It’s Christ in you Who is your Hope. It’s the Spirit of God Who empowers you.  It’s the Hand of God that does the work.  I love thinking about being His glove!

Lord, please let me always be aware of YOUR hand as the source of any results You allow me to experience. I function only as a glove.  A glove without a hand is totally powerless.

YIKES! THAT PILLOW WAS FEELING SOOOO GOOD!

sleeping_baby_girl

Well, I haven’t done it in a while, but it might have had something to do with getting about 4 hours’ sleep the night before. Sometimes the body just rebels against that alarm clock.  The devotionals will return Monday.  Have a great weekend!

Love to you,

Dr. Bev Smallwood

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Work in progress

 

Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1: 6)

This happens to be one of my favorite verses in the New Testament.  Why?  Because I need to be reassured after I’ve blown it, have slowed it down unnecessarily by procrastinating, or have allowed negative emotions to discourage me.  Do you ever have any of these experiences?

I am so glad that God doesn’t give up on you or me.  Even better than that, He weaves everything – yes, even that, into a process that creates the tapestry of a life worth living.

Your part?  (And my part?) Keep getting up, refuse to self-condemn, learn from every setback, and say “yes” to the Lord’s work within you over and over.  Let’s talk about those.

1.  Keep getting up.  Get knocked down 7 times, get up 8.  Stumble and fall down 99 times, get up 100.  Just don’t give up.  The Lord is not done with you!

2.  Refuse to self-condemn. What you say to yourself when you have a setback will have everything to do with how long you stay down.  If you tell yourself that you’ve blown it, that you’re a total failure, that nothing will ever work out for you, or that it’s no use trying – well, you see the impact on your motivation. And guess what?  If you so believe that you will fail that you don’t try, then you’re guaranteed that your prophecy will come to pass. Also remember, some things are completely out of your control.  Don’t beat yourself black and blue for not seeing those or preventing them.

3.  Learn from every setback. Change what you can; accept and emotionally deal with what is not within your span of control.  Don’t waste anything!  Not a mistake, not a tragedy, not an obstacle you can’t control – nothing!  Run to the Lord (don’t hide).  Ask yourself how you got there.  Take a look at how you handled it. Learn, and do it more effectively next time. Identify the early signs or initial small deviations off the path, and be wiser in your future choices.  .

4.  Say “yes!” to the Lord’s work within you, over and over.  God was not shocked when you made that poor choice.  Since He knows the beginning from the end, the positive plans He has always had for you have taken all of your foolishness into account. From even the tragedies that He did not cause or will, He will extract good.  Just surrender and trust Him to do it as He comforts you and walks with you through your grief. The key to continuing to develop and grow?  Keep saying “yes!” to the One Who plans to finish the good work He has begun within you.  He’s not giving up on you.  Don’t give upon yourself!

Lord, thank You for Your commitment to my wholeness! You made my spirit whole when I received You into my life.  I’m so grateful that You continue to work with me patiently, to Love me extravagantly, and to lead me in ways that create abundant life in You.  

ACHIEVING ASTONISHING BUSINESS SUCCESS (Part 3 of 3)

keep_on_keeping_on

 

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5: 1-10)

The four additional insights in this 3-part series, applied, could be game-changers for you, no matter what your profession.  Consider them prayerfully with me.

5.  Don’t keep waiting for some novel idea. Keep on doing the right things. I have been frustrated in some areas of my business, and I’ve cried out to God, “Please show me some new, creative ways to approach it!” But I have to notice here that Jesus did not give the men a novel new fishing technique.  They’d been doing the same thing all night.  He just said, “Come on.  Do it some more.”

Even those who are most diligent in their business often meet with disappointments.  You toil all night and seem to get nothing. Keep on working, and then leave the results to God. Peter said, “Nevertheless, at Thy word, I will let down the net.”

Felicia Johnson, my co-teacher in our “Rooted and Grounded” Bible study class, wisely reminded us all, “It may not be that you’re doing the wrong things.  It may be that you’re not doing the right things long enough and consistently enough.”  

6.  Recognize your own inability to do it without the Lord. Peter’s response to the miraculous catch was to fall down in worship of Jesus, recognizing his own weakness. He had seen that all of his fishing skill was nothing when compared to the power of Jesus to bring success. Educate yourself in your profession. Prepare yourself all you can.  But set aside self-pride and place it all in the Loving Hands of Christ.  He will bring the increase in His timing.

7. “Leave it all” to follow Christ. Astonished, Peter, Andrew, James, and John left it all to follow Jesus. These seasoned fishermen knew even better than others what a miracle had occurred. They left it all behind, even that huge catch of fish filling two boats!  They didn’t take off to the market to sell it and reap the windfall in their profession.  They had come to learn that knowing Christ was of much greater value than money! They started out on a journey of apprenticeship like no other.

8. Some of your harvest will be left for others.  Allow me one more observation. I can imagine that crowd that was running over to grab some of those fish these guys had left behind.  Listen, some of the harvest you reap from your work will not be experienced by you but instead will be provided for others that follow you.  As was promised in the Abrahamic Covenant, you will have been blessed to be a blessing!

Yes, Lord, I want that – to have Your blessings flow through me to bless others!  I want to succeed and to help others succeed in You.  Thank You for Your Word, O Lord, that lights the way for all of us!

 

 

 

 

ACHIEVING ASTOUNDING SUCCESS IN YOUR WORK (Part 2 of 3)

 no_excuses

Read all of Luke 5: 1-10, but our focus is on this portion today.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5: 1-10)

Yesterday we began an examination of this encounter between Christ and His future disciples, extracting from the story several principles of business success.  Continue “digging for treasure” on this important topic with me.

  1. Give what you work with every day into the hands of the Master.  Jesus asked for the use of the fishermen’s resources, that old boat, and there’s no record of hesitation. Don’t discount the significance of those everyday things you use.  Without Christ, this was a boat in which they had experienced frustrating failure.  Jesus transformed it into a vessel so loaded with success,  it almost sank and had to have back-ups.
  2. Commune with the Lord, then go to work. After Peter and the others had listened to the Word, Jesus told them, “Now let’s go back to your work!” And so He does with you and me. Time spent with the Lord in your mornings can make all the difference in your success on the job, whether you toil in the workplace or at home.  Your time with God befriends your time in your work.  Peter listened to Christ in His teaching, and Christ transformed Peter’s fishing.
  3. “Go on out into the deep waters, and cast your nets.” The best fish are not near the shoreline.  Often you and I cling to “the shore,” the familiar.  We want to be sure that we can stand up and touch ground.  If God is calling you to do something, you’re going to have to leave comfort and risk the deep waters. You’ll need to be in over your head so that you are not depending on your own prowess and power.
  4. Though you’re struggling with doubt and frustration, keep doing what is right and what God has instructed you to do. Peter struggled with doubt because of his state of frustration – but he obeyed. I can almost see a slight eye roll and hear Peter protest, “But I’ve already tried, Lord! But if You say so…” And Jesus answers, “Do it some more as I instruct, and watch what happens.”
  5. No excuses! Oh, Peter could have persisted in excuses, and he could have missed the blessing. Allow me a little freedom to translate Peter’s possible excuses into our own.  “I’ve been working hard, and I’m too tired to do another thing.”  (Yep, that’s it!) “I know a lot more about fishing than a carpenter does.” (“I’m tired of all this advice from my boss, who doesn’t know what we face out here in the real world. I’m the one out here doing the work.”)  “It’s weird that Jesus is saying to go fishing in the daytime. Doesn’t He know that   the best fishing is at night?” (The timing is just not right for me.)” “The fish have surely scattered, with all this noise of teaching and the crowds out here.” (“The conditions are not right for my success.”) “We already washed our nets.” (“I’ve already given up.”)

You and I are “in the same boat.” No excuses! Don’t miss what God wants to do in your life!

Lord, with You I will choose to launch out into the deep.  I will not hug the shore.  When it comes to the power of my Partner, no excuses apply.  I believe You, God, and I will obey Your Word.

HOW TO ACHIEVE ASTOUNDING SUCCESS IN YOUR WORK (Part 1 of 3)

catch_of_fish

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the Word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.

 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. 

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5: 1-10)

Do you have the courage to believe God for an abundant “catch” in your small (or big) business?  Are you prayerfully expecting astonishing results on that project you are leading?  Do you anticipate a God-given harvest beyond your wildest expectations?

I’ve recently been “stuck” on this story recorded in Matthew and elsewhere.  I’ve read it a gazillion times before, but you know how it is sometimes?  It’s as if you’ve never heard it before.  I see in this account several secrets of business success.  It is, after all, a story of a miracle related to the profession of these would-be disciples. No matter what kind of work you do, I believe that investing some time here and putting these principles to work will reap dividends for a long time to come.

First, let’s set the stage.  The vast crowds were starving for Jesus’ message, and the multitudes crowded all around him, actually pressing against him.  I can’t imagine trying to teach or speak with clamoring people surrounding me, up very close and rudely personal.

Enter Simon (Peter) and Andrew, along with their partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  They’d been out fishing all night, and they were washing their nets – frustrated as all get-out.  No matter what they had tried, nothing had worked.  Their nets had come up empty, time after time.  Jesus knew it, but He didn’t address it yet.  He asked Peter to assist him by allowing Him to get into the boat, and He requested that Peter push Him away from the shore a bit.  There, the water and winds would carry his voice.  He sat and taught the people who remained on the shore.

After all this, the miracle of provision began.  We’ll take about 3 days to explore the principles for abundant success in your work. In this first message, we’ll talk about the preparations you’ll need to make.

  1. This miracle of provision occurred while Peter and the others were working.  Jesus wants people to have a strong work ethic, but He wants us to know that our own work is not enough.  Publisher’s Clearing House and the multi-billion-dollar lottery are not high positive probabilities for your life plan.  If you expect overflowing results, you have to be diligent and industrious.  You have to work!
  1. The miracle happened when Peter and the others were tired and exhausted, having given up on their own efforts. They had worked all night, experiencing failure after failure. Ever feel like that?  Wonder if you should just throw in the towel?In fact, that’s the set-up for a miracle! It’s when, humanly speaking, your situation looks hopeless that the miraculous occurs. The Lord intervenes at a time when our conclusion can only be, “That was GOD!”
  1. Jesus calls us into greater intimacy with Him. These men had already met Jesus, had conversed with Him for several hours at the baptism of John (John 1: 40-41).  However, they were about to enter into a relationship with Him they could never have imagined.  If you want to be positioned to receive and recognize what God has prepared for you, you need to know Him.  Listen to Him, share with Him, study about Him, watch Him work, and learn His ways.    

So in this encounter between Jesus and His future disciples, we’ve seen 3 necessary steps of preparation.  Tomorrow and Wednesday, we’ll explore additional insights and actions that will enhance your work success as you trust and obey!  “For there’s no other way!”  (Those precious old hymns play in my head often!)

Lord, You know how frustrated I get sometimes with certain aspects of my work. Sometimes I even feel like giving up.  But then I spend intimate time with You, and I begin to see it all differently.  God, please infuse me with Your power to do all the work that You have called me to do.

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