Dr. Beverly Smallwood

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New Morning Devotionals promotes deeper spiritual understanding, meaningful living, and practical Christianity at work and home

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KNOW YOUR GIFTS – AND YOUR WORTH!

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Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12: 14-26)

Paul brilliantly used the human body as a metaphor for understanding ourselves, our gifts, and how we fit together in community.  Let’s talk about the first two first this morning..

We are often confused and frustrated because we don’t recognize the unique gifts with which God has entrusted us.  Our vision is limited by a narrow definition of gifts, seeing the grand talents in music or speaking or (fill in the blank – one you don’t have) as “the real ones.”  We discount our own because they come easy, and “anybody could do that.”  No, they come easy to you because you’re talented that way.  We are not.  Further, we become more discouraged because of the habit of comparing ourselves to others, and in our view, we usually fall short.

This should not be!

Returning to the human body now, Paul tells us that every part of the body is essential, and each part needs the other.  Until I say what I am about to say, it is not likely that you are thinking about your little toe.  But get up in the middle of the night and catch that lil’ baby on the bottom of the bed, and see how important it can become!  It assert itself front and center in your thoughts!  An when you try to walk in your shoe on that little broken toe the next day, it will throw off your gait and eventually give you pain elsewhere.  As Paul said, when one part of the body hurts, the whole body does!

So what does all of this mean to you about yourself and your gifts?

  1.  You have a purpose.  Every part of the human body and Christ’s body is there for a reason.  Come to know yours.  (Email me for free resources on this if you like. Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com)
  2. You are gifted. Each body part is structured just as it needs to be to function as it is intended.  God has given you the talents He wants you to develop so that you are prepared for every assignment He will place in front of you.
  3. You are valuable to the world! God has placed you on this earth at this exact time with your exact talents, abilities, and experiences.  If you aren’t fully fulfilling your callings with those gifts, someone will feel it!  Those you were assigned to touch will be missing something valuable.  You are equipped and called to make a unique difference in this world, and God does not make mistakes!

God, the beauty of Your creation and redemptive plan astounds me!  The idea that You cared enough to make each of us a unique person in looks and talents bowls me over.  Lord, I intercede for every person reading this devotional.  Holy Spirit, please reveal to each individual Your purpose, grace gifts, and assignments in their lives.  Show all people their great worth in Your Kingdom and in their own worlds in which they have influence.

 

 

 

KEEP WALKING – BY FAITH

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For we live by faith, not by sight. (II Corinthians 5: 7)

The other day I was talking with a friend who has been going through a boat load of adversity.  She’s tried to hang on, to keep pushing against a wall of hardship, and to keep the faith.  However, she confessed to me, “I’m running very low on faith in this.  I’ve just about used it all up.”

What she didn’t realize at the time was the God has a ready supply of His faith – new every morning and throughout the day. You don’t have to conjure it up on your own. He has plenty for you, and He will not withhold it from you if you ask and surrender.

I believe that every encounter with significant adversity will bring a crisis of faith.  Either your faith will ultimately become stronger, or it will grow weaker. Your faith won’t stay the same when you’ve been through tragedy and trauma.  Some ups and downs are certainly normal, but in the end, your vote will be the deciding one about how you will land – angry and distant from God or clinging to Him more tightly than ever.

Especially when you cannot see, you must dig deep into the reservoir of faith that God has placed inside you and that the Word has increased within you! If your faith tank feels about a quart (or more) low, begin to fill it up with these 3 proven strategies.

  1. Devour God’s Word.

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ.  (Romans 10: 17)

The more of God’s Word that you hide in your mind and heart, the more faith builds within you.  You gradually begin to believe what God says – no matter what your situation looks like, what your emotions feel like, or how the nay-sayers pontificate.  Stay away from those negative people, anyway.  And that leads us to Number 2.

2.  Surround yourself with positive, faith-filled people.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (I Thessalonians 5: 11)
The people you hang out with will affect your courage, and boy, do you need courage when you’re struggling with troubles!  They will either be en-couragers (infusing you with courage) or dis-couragers (robbing you of boldness and bravery in the midst of hardship).  Which should you choose to surround yourself with?  Well, that’s a no-brainer!

3.  Invite the Holy Spirit to completely control you and fill you to overflowing.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  (Ephesians 5: 18)

What happens when an individuals get drunk?  The alcohol controls their thinking, their speaking, and their acting.  Unfortunately, giving oneself over to the control of alcohol does not end well.  However, Paul used this “drunk’ situation as a metaphor for what happens when folks surrender to the Holy Spirit, letting go of personal control.  Yes, their thinking changes, and they perceive their situations differently.  Their words become more positive and aligned with God’s beliefs about them. Their prayer life comes alive.  People who have been filled with the Holy Spirit (over and over again) live differently.  They are not without life struggles, but their desperate reliance on Him fuels their faith.  The Holy Spirit will do the same for you and for me.

My Lord, You said that You have given me the measure of faith.  In the same way that I walk in faith though I don’t see it, I choose to believe in faith even though I can’t feel it. Holy Spirit, fill me with faith!  Let Your faith overflow into the lowest and the highest places in my life.  Give me the courage to pick up one foot, then another, and keep on walking! 

 

CATARACTS! (YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET OLD TO HAVE THEM!)

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The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6: 22-23)

Last month I had cataract surgery on my right eye, which was worse than the left one.  One day I’ll have the other eye done. for I kinda sorta need to see! With cataracts, night driving is challenging because lights are blinding.  Color perception is impaired.  (Please let me know if you see me wearing weird color combinations together.)  The color of the blouse has not changed; my perception of it is off. A person with cataracts just doesn’t see as vividly or as accurately.

I was reading this scripture in Matthew, and I started thinking about the concept of spiritual and emotional cataracts.  Your vision can be clouded and distorted by any number of factors.  You can be looking right at someone or something, “seeing it clearly,” but perceiving it all wrong because of various filters. Here are a few of them.

  1. Beliefs. Whatever you currently believe, you’re likely to see.  The evidence supporting your position leaps off the page or the screen, while you choose to ignore or discount all to the contrary.  You actively seek to confirm what you believe.  (Note which cable stations you choose to watch.)
  2. Old scars. When you have been hurt or traumatized in the past, you may become hypersensitive to anything that in any way reminds you of your previous experiences.  A molehill can quickly become a mountain.
  3. Fear.  Similarly, people perceive in the direction of their fears. You’re wired for survival when you believe there’s a threat.  The body prepares for fight or flight by becoming  aroused.  You scan the environment carefully on intense look-out for danger.  We “jump,” emotionally or physically, at the slightest provocation, even when objectively safe. Anxiety impairs your ability to perceive correctly.
  4. Bitterness.  O’boy, is this one a vision distorter!  It’s like putting on glasses with an angry tint.  Everything is seen through the lens of hostility, paranoia, and bitterness.  Have you been around a bitter person?  You can say the least little thing with the best of intentions, and that individual will be off and running with negative assumptions.
  5. Low self-worth.  When you fail to recognize your value, when you constantly compare yourself to others, and when you have believed and digested the negative words spoken over you by others – a “cataract” of low self-worth can cloud your vision.  You believe you can read the minds of others, thinking that they think negatively about you.  You hear yourself in conversations with others through an insecure filter that assumes you sound stupid – or you avoid people because you fear that occurring..  You size up a situation, and your view is, you could never succeed there.

I heard a story about a lady who went to her doctor, complaining that she was hurting all over.  He said, “Show me where it hurts.”  She touched her shoulder, then leg, then stomach, then neck – and each time, she yelled, “Ouch!”  The doc examined her closely, then concluded, “Ma’am, you have a broken index finger.”

Whether it’s eyes or fingers, when your “perceiver” is off, your perceptions will be off.  If you have particular feelings often when you’re out there in the world, you may have a perceptual bias caused by personal “cataracts,” dimming or distorting your view  Rather than assuming everyone else has the problem, even if that looks as plain as day to you, entertain the possibility that your vision may be out of whack! Remember…

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6: 22-23)

God, please give me clear vision!  I want to see others as You see them.  I don’t want my past experiences or current emotions to cause me to misperceive a person or situation.  Cure me, Lord, of the tyranny of first impressions.  I want to choose to hold my interpretations lightly, recognizing that my perceptions are fallible.  Show me truth through eyes completely open to Your instruction, my God.

DON’T WORRY!

 

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Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6: 25-34)

Are you a worrier?  Do you toss and turn at night, unable to turn it all off?  Do you entertain some kind of unconscious magical thinking that you need to worry to show that you really care about it? (Incorrect.)

If you struggle with these issues, settle these 5 truths in the mind where worry’s been having a hey-day.

  1. God’s into the details of every part of His creation.  This scripture in Matthew is so rich!  Imagine the God of the Universe, Creator of heaven and earth, attending to a little bird, being sure that she has food to eat.  He’s taking care of the wild flowers.  Why not you and me, members of the human race – His highest creation?
  2. Worry doesn’t change a thing. Test it out; I dare you.  Sit on your sofa, wrinkle up your face, and worry hard! Repeat.  Repeat.  Did anything change?  Didn’t think so.
  3. Get your priorities in order. Take your mind off all the bad that could occur and place your focus squarely on all the Lord’s promises.  Seeking Him first means making Christ your Lord, but also placing what He says above the imaginations of your mind.  No matter what it feels like, God’s Word is true!
  4. Take one day at a time. Try to deal with a lot more than that, and you’re anxious, overwhelmed, and paralyzed. Today has plenty of problems of its own. The 12-step folks have this one right:  one day at a time! Just get up and do what’s in front of you today.  And by the way, the busy-ness of that is distracting from the worries about what you fear might happen in the future.
  5. Choose to focus on faith – the positive view. Worries are actually negative faith!  You picture them, dwell on them, start to believe in them, unconsciously align your words and actions with them – and so the worrying actually makes it more likely that they will come into reality.  NO!  Feast on the nourishment of God’s Word.  Let faith arise within you.  Dwell on His Word, believe His promises, speak His truth, and watch Him be faithful!

Don’t let worry rob you of today’s opportunities.  Remember, rumination can be your ruination!

Lord, You care for every detail – even for the flowers and birds.  Every hair of my head in numbered.  So I know and trust that You know all that’s going on, and You are completely in control.  I am not.  You’re on it!  I trust You!

ROOTED AND GROUNDED

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So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2: 6-7, NIV)

 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3: 18-19, KJV)

Rooted. Like a tree, roots are critical for you and me.  Long, deep, wide roots in the Lord.

Some trees have a large root system, called a tap root, that goes far down into the ground.  They have depth. Deep roots stabilize the tree when the strong winds blow. For you and me, deep roots in Christ and in His Word are essential when the storms of life arise- and every day.

But most tree roots grow out horizontally from the tree in the top 6-18 inches of soil. A mature tree’s roots can spread 2-3 times the diameter of the tree’s crown or canopy. A tree that’s 30 feet tall can have roots that reach out 60 – 90 feet from the trunk. That’s far outside tip of the branches. The nourishment we receive from being rooted in the Lord is far-reaching, extending into every part of our lives and well beyond as we take His Love out to the world.

No matter what their natural shape, a tree’s roots shoulder quite a responsibility. I learned, as my curiosity led me to look it up, that the roots of all plants serve to anchor the plant, absorb water and soil nutrients, and take in oxygen. For the tree, roots take in what is needed for vibrant life – and so it is for the believer.

Reminds me of a little song we pre-schoolers at church used to sing loudly and with vigorous hand motions:  “Deep and wide, deep and wide….” Anybody remember that one?

Are you strongly rooted in God’s Word, fed constantly by God’s Spirit?  Are you spiritually nourished so that you can be strong in Him, no matter what winds of life try to blow you down?

A tornado hit my neighborhood a couple of years ago, and one tree made an indelible impression on my heart.  I’m so glad I took pictures of it before they took it down in the cleanup.  It was completely twisted by the ferocious winds, but it wasn’t uprooted.  You’ll find pictures of it below..

O Lord, I want to be rooted and grounded in You! Thank You for the nourishment for life from Your Word.  Thank You for Your presence and Your on-time interventions in my life.  You are my strength, my God.

 

TOO BUSY WITH BUSY-NESS

angry woman or crazy busy housewife ironing shirt lazy at home k

As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42)

I’ve always felt a little sorry for Martha.  After all, they had guests in the home, and that house wasn’t going to clean itself, nor would the food cook itself. Somebody had to do it!  I can understand her frustration with her sister, and one can imagine this might not have been a new issue in their home.  One of the spiritual gifts is that of serving, and Martha apparently had it.  She wanted everything to be just right for the Lord and His disciples.  I don’t believe her legit preparations were the problem.

I believe the key words are  distracted, worried, and upset.  She was so busy with busy-ness that she was distracted from the most important thing she could have been doing. Though Martha was serving, she had an attitude problem. Her sister Mary nailed it.  She sat at Jesus’ feet and loved Him and listened to Him and learned from Him.

It is entirely possible to be so busy “serving the Lord” that you miss a real relationship with the Lord.  You can do many things for the Lord and miss being with the Lord.  

If you’re too busy to carve out that intimate time with Him at least daily – you’re too busy! Set your time with Him as an irrevocable, non-negotiable appointment.  Nothing is more important.  And I promise, you’ll get a lot more done in all the time that’s left.  Furthermore, all of those activities you do will take on deeper meaning and purpose!

Lord, my time with You is so precious to me!  You fuel my spirit, light my way, and energize me with renewed purpose.  

THE BEAUTIFUL POSITION OF HELPLESSNESS AND TRUST

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I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it (Psalm 81: 10)

I had one understanding of this passage for most of my life, and there were times I was comforted by it.  When I’d be facing a speaking engagement that made me nervous or a meeting in which I wasn’t sure how to handle a tricky situation, I’d call on this verse.  I would assure myself that at just the right time, God would fill my mouth with just the right words. I leaned on Him and walked confidently onto the stage or into the meeting room.  God came through, as He always does.

Then I heard a powerful Bible teacher, well-versed in the Hebrew, who explained that David was drawing on an image he often saw out there while tending sheep or later, on the run from Saul.  Is there anything more helpless and trusting than a nest of baby birds?  Those little babies know that their mama is going to search for and bring in the food.  Their jobs are not to climb out of the nest, full of pride and determined to do it on their own.  No, they are to wait expectantly, in total trust of their source!

Desperate dependence on the Lord – do you dare?  Spiritually presenting your weakness to Him and knowing that He will give you what you need – is that even right in this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture?  Fully acknowledging that you can’t do this on your own – is that an admission of failure?

When I was younger, I’d give motivational speeches that admonished, “You can do anything!”  As time has gone on, as I’ve grown spiritually, and as I’ve learned more about how life works, my rah-rah speech would be, “You can’t do this!”  Alone, that is.

And by the way, this passage follows a statement about God bringing His children out of Egypt – the symbol of slavery.  The way out of whatever has you bound is the acknowledgment of your personal powerlessness to break free on your own and the dependence on Almighty God, Who totally wants you free and will show you the way out.  Then comes…open your mouth wide, and I will fill it!

If you’ve ever been to my office, you may have noticed a framed picture of a nest of baby birds – waiting on Mom, trusting in her faithfulness, and doing what they are supposed to do.  I never want to forget.

Want to become a baby bird with me?

Lord, I fully acknowledge my weakness, and I draw on Your strength.  I don’t know what to do, but I open myself to Your wisdom.  I don’t have enough, but You are my Provider.  I open my mouth wide, Lord.  I completely trust You to fill it!

 

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