Category : Devotion of the Week
Category : Devotion of the Week
Our devotion today was provided by guest blogger, Tina Hunt, one of our Pearls of Promise devotional contributors. Tina is a writer and speaker from Ohio. She is also a theologian with a Masters of Divinity. To find out more about Tina, you can go to her website at: about.me/tina_hunt. You can also follow her on Twitter @tinamhunt.
This morning a cat was sleeping at the base of one our maple trees in the front yard. She was snuggled into the roots with her back to the wind. I watched out my kitchen window while I washed some dishes. She occasionally looked up into the tree, clearly keeping an eye on something hidden up in the limbs.
As I watched, she stood, cautiously circled the tree, and then headed for our front porch. I walked from the kitchen to the living room picture window to see what she was up to. I peeked around the curtain and we were face to face. She froze. So did I. Then I began asking her what she was up to.
She quickly tired of my questions and headed back to the tree. I went back to the kitchen to watch. She looked up into the tree. Then she put her paws up the trunk and gave a big kitty stretch. Then she jumped, landing half-way up the trunk to the first crotch. I thought she might give up at that point—it was still quite a distance to the first limb. But no, she worked and pulled, pulled and climbed until she was not only to the lowest limb but moving on up higher.
I waited to see what would happen next. She was only up in the tree for a few minutes before she decided she needed to come down. She quickly moved to the lower limb, but stopped to contemplate her next move. It was too great a distance to jump. I wondered if I needed to offer assistance, but decided to watch the feral cat instead.
The brave climber made her first move, inching down the tree front paws first. This quickly proved to be the wrong choice as the weight behind her overpowered her frontward climb. Her backend swung around and she looked like she might fall. To my surprise, what looked like a disaster in the making turned into what seemed like a strategic movement. Her back legs completed the swing while her front paws released from the tree and in a blink she was hanging to the tree and descending the same way she had climbed it.
It was a move that would have rivaled a gymnast’s release on the uneven bars. I was in awe. I stood at my window and applauded as the kitty ran out of my yard.
Now if you are a return reader, you have already begun to wonder what spiritual implications I might draw from a cat in a tree. Have you seen any yet? What Bible reference pushed its way to the forefront of your mind?
Are you thinking about the persistence of the widow and the judge? Did your thoughts flow to doing what comes naturally? Or was it more about finishing strong?
Those are all good, but the thought that niggled its way into my heart was the oft repeated “don’t fear” that weaves its way through both the Old and New Testaments, and finds prominence several times in the Christmas story.
I was so sure if Kitty saw me as I peeked around the curtain she would skitter away instantly. But it didn’t happen. There was no fear in her eyes at all as I gazed into them. Then to watch her determined effort to both get up into and down from the tree, left a deep-seated impression on my heart.
I am facing the daunting task of finding a new job. Without going into the entire list of things that makes this so difficult and discouraging, just trust me when I say if I were the cat and job hunting was jumping into the tree, I would be much more tempted to just walk away.
But I’m not wired that way. Walking away isn’t in my nature. So I’m looking at the tree like the cat. It’s a leap for sure, not without risk, but well worth the effort.
Nothing in scripture tells me to leap into the tree. But all of scripture resounds with “do not be afraid.” So here we go…one, two…..threeeeeeeee!
Have you ever been at a crossroad in your life, not knowing which way to turn? Oftentimes God allows us to go there because he wants us in a place of total reliance on Him. Should I take this job? Should I continue in this ministry? Should I attend this school or that? There are many intersections we face over the years that can affect us long-term. The path can often seem unclear. It reminds me of the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz trying to give Dorothy directions to Oz. Do you remember that dialogue?
Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me, this way is a very nice way.
Who said that? [Toto barks at scarecrow]
Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk.
[points other way] It’s pleasant down that way, too.
That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
[points both ways] Of course, some people do go both ways.
Yes, sometimes we feel like the scarecrow. It’s confusing! But confusion is not of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. I’m a firm believer that God gives us clear direction if we ask Him and lay our potential decisions at His altar. I am currently finishing up a book, applying for jobs and desiring to continue in ministry if that is the Lord’s will. I am confident the Lord will whisper in my ear, This is the way; walk in it. However, I also believe I have to do the work so that God has some options to choose from for my life.
The Apostle Paul knows firsthand about God’s holy direction at crossroads. Paul had a plan for his journeys but at one point, he was warned not to preach the word in the province of Asia. Instead he was given a vision to go help the people in Macedonia. He was at a crossroad and the Lord whispered which direction to go in his ear and he changed his direction. Paul had some experience in being detoured by God!
If you are at a crossroad right now, just remember the word “cross” in crossroad. Take your decision to the cross. Know that the Lord is with you and if you ask Him, he will guide you to your destination. This is the way, walk in it.
Our retreat theme this past weekend was “It’s a Jungle Out There: Trusting God to Be Your Guide” and we quickly began to live out the theme. The week of the event we lost a speaker, our Christian humorist fell ill and our Prayer Coordinator and small group discussion leader came down with a nasty respiratory infection and could not participate in the retreat. It changed up the retreat timing and we had to find replacement leaders. As we scurried to make adjustments, all we could do was trust that God was guiding the retreat in the direction He desired it to go.
I love a plan and an agenda but acting as the retreat MC, at one point, I almost told the participants to just tear up their agenda because God had replaced it with a different plan. He loves to do that to me and is teaching me that I am definitely NOT in control. At the Jungle Retreat, God made His way to the front of the line to direct our steps.
As it turned out, The Lord knew what was needed at this retreat. While those we lost were all missed, it was about loosening up the schedule for more discussion and bonding time. The extra minutes also translated into additional prayer time and windows for reflection on all the messages presented during our 24 hour refuge. I am thankful our grip on the retreat schedule was not so tight that we couldn’t let go. By releasing the agenda to Him, God was able to heal and work in the lives of many women. Praise God!
What about you? Do you have a difficult time changing directions from your own personal plan for your life? Or do you give your plans over to God for editing? Isaiah 58:11 says, The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
We have to trust that God’s plan for our lives is a whole lot better than anything we could ever dream up. I don’t want my life to look like a dried up piece of land because I insisted on my way. I want my life to be watered by God and be that beautiful, lush green garden bearing fruit that will last.
My life belongs to The Lord and He is my guide. Will I keep writing out plans and agendas? Yes, but never in permanent ink.
The Lord has asked founder Lisa Burkhardt Worley to be still and sit at his feet for a while (Psalm 46:10). So because of this, Pearls of Promise will be re-running some of its most popular devotions from the Pearls archives. Today’s devotion was last published on April 6, 2013.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Last night in The Bible mini-series, these were Paul’s last words before being carried off to be executed. Paul’s life had been a battle: he suffered imprisonments, beatings and had been pummeled with stones. He had been shipwrecked and had endured hunger and extreme cold. Paul stepped into the ring many days to engage in the boxing match called life.
What kind of battle are you in now?
Years ago, I was struggling with a difficult move to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. My husband had been working in Dallas four days per week for about four years while I remained back with the kids in San Antonio. It had been challenging to be apart so much but at long last, my husband’s work moved us to North Texas and the family was together again. In our new home, I imagined a blissful marriage, neighbors waiting at my door to welcome me to the neighborhood and a smooth transition to a new church, but it didn’t happen like I envisioned. I was attending seminary at the time and there were many days where I was so battle weary I could barely put one foot in front of the other to walk to class.
One day as I was taking my car into the shop, I heard the words, “Fight the good fight.” I knew that verse from 1 Timothy but was this really the Lord speaking to me? It did come out of left field, which is what usually happens when I receive a God message.
Ironically, I had picked up a little Beth Moore pocket book to read the day before receiving this word from God. The pamphlet happened to be on the subject of spiritual warfare. It’s called Arm Yourself Against the Enemy’s Schemes. The book had been sitting on my desk for at least a half-year but for some reason I decided to read it while my car was being looked at by the mechanic. I thought, “This is interesting in light of what could have been a message from God.”
The next morning, God confirmed the message. There was no longer any doubt. My husband and I do a devotional together in the morning and we happened to be on 1 Timothy 1, verses 18-20. I began to read the words and could hardly get through them, They read: I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience. There it was. I knew there was no coincidence. What were the odds of this happening? I then told my husband what had occurred and he too believed this was God’s confirmation.
You see, I had been very discouraged the day before I received this call to listen. I had been praying fervently for my situation to change and had still not seen total resolution. I was battle weary and God knew I needed encouragement from him.
What does it mean to fight the good fight? I’ll quote the words I read that day in my Holman New Testament Commentary:
“The good fight is the struggle which all Christians engage in when their efforts are focused toward honoring Christ and accepting responsibility for personal holiness. It is about keeping the faith individually as well as in the church. This is a militaristic term that admits to a hostile environment: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
God was telling me that life here on earth is a daily spiritual battle and that I needed to not give up. It was important to stay on my knees fighting for truth and holiness in myself and others. I was not to allow the enemy to win.
Our Father in heaven knows that life is not perfect. Jesus says in John 16:33 says, In this world you will have trouble but he gives us good news, Take heart! I have overcome the world.
A good boxing match will go the full twelve rounds before the final bell rings. God wants us to know he’s in the ring with us and his son Jesus Christ, has already taken the knockout punch for us. Our job is to stay in the ring and fight the good fight, then we have victory.