a word of encouragement


in pursuit of Him

{a monthly devotional}

Be Joyful | By Tricia Milligan | October 2020

We have been looking at joy over the last couple of months. Remember my little song…Jesus, others, and you what a wonderful way to spell joy. The first two seem to be kind of natural and understandable and even somehow acceptable. Putting Christ first and thinking of others before ourselves, those are things that seem right and good and unselfish, but sometimes we have difficulty in focusing on our own joy. We think we are being selfish if we focus on ourselves. I recently started working out again and have been doing some old DVD’s I have at home. Leslie Sansone says in one of these DVD’s, “When you are taking care of yourself, it is your gift to others.” Her point is that if you are not taking good care of yourself, then you cannot take care of others. It has also been said this way, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is okay and very necessary to spend some time focused on us, on our own needs, and on our own relationship with Christ. Even Jesus went away from His disciples and those He ministered to, to have time alone with the Father. It is necessary to refocus and refresh, so we are ready for what is ahead, both personally and for those that the Lord brings into our paths.

When I first started thinking about my own joy, I thought, there really isn’t a specific verse that addresses this. As I have mulled this over the past couple of weeks, several passages have come to mind. One of them is in Romans 12:12, Paul writes, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” As I thought about this, I guess I have always thought about these three as separate instructions, but I think that they are very much linked. Our joy comes from the hope that we have in Christ and all the promises that we have through our reconciliation with God. We know He is with us and will never leave us. We know He is our strength and shield. We know that His grace is sufficient for us. These truths and the hope that we have helps us to be patient in affliction and to find joy in the midst of the struggle. We are reminded of our hope and the promises of God when we are faithful in prayer and when our focus is in the right place, on Christ.

Our focus begins with our mind. Our thoughts are very much tied to our joy. If our focus is on the negative and the difficulties, we will find ourselves discouraged and frustrated. If our focus is on the positive, our whole countenance can be transformed. We are told in Ephesians 6 that part of our armor is the Helmet of Salvation which protects our thoughts and mind. In Philippians 4: 6-7 we are told, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we pray, choosing to be thankful for what God has already done and resting in His promises, He gives us His peace, which will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. This helps us to find joy in all circumstances because we are remembering the hope and the promises we have through Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul tells us to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. How do we do that? What does that even mean? I got to have lunch with a dear friend and mentor not too long ago and was sharing some of my thoughts about what I had been learning and she shared a story she had read in a study many years ago. The woman who wrote the study shared how when she was a young mom many years before with one baby on her hip and a toddler hanging on to her legs, one day there was a knock at the door. It was a vacuum cleaner salesman. She let him in. As he began his demonstration, she realized her mistake. She tried to tell him she didn’t want a vacuum and to get him to leave, but now he was in and didn’t want to go. She thought, if I had only left him at the door and shut it firmly it would have been much easier. In the same way, if we take each thought and ask, “Is this true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?” Before we ever let it enter in, we will be much better off. We need to accept and dwell only on those things that are in line with God’s word and His truth and discard anything that does not.

There are times when those unwanted thoughts creep in though. Kind of like the little pebble that has found its way into my walking shoe. I usually don’t notice it at first, but at some point when I am walking, it works its way out of its hiding place and makes itself known. I kept forgetting to dump it out when I got home. I even asked Brent one day to remind me…we both forgot. A couple days later I was walking with DeAnna and told her to remind me when we got home. I finally tried to dump it out, but I guess it had lodged itself in the edge of the shoe and did not leave, because it was there the next time I walked. After another thorough dumping of my shoe, it is finally gone. So what do we do about those unwanted thoughts, the lies that the enemy loves to whisper in our ears that leave us discouraged and feeling unworthy and useless? We take them to the Lord. As Pastor John says, we do that spirit driven manual override of our thoughts so that we reset. We allow that Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds to be like Christ. He is there to help us. It is where that faithful in prayer comes back in, asking Him to help us. We also must be faithful in the Word. We cannot recognize what is true and right and pure and pleasing to Him and what is in line with His truth, if we do not know what His truth is.

The other thing that came to mind as I sat here writing is how worship of the Lord can transform our attitude and our thoughts, even on the toughest days. I remember one day, many years ago when I was teaching in Dallas, it had been a particularly rough day when everything seemed to go wrong. I was not happy or joyful as I was leaving school. I had a long drive back to our apartment in Arlington and I began to pray and then I began to think of a chorus that we used to sing in Youth. I couldn’t exactly remember all the words, but I kept singing it until I finally remembered all of it and sang all the way home. When I walked in the door with a smile on my face and laughter in my heart, I told Brent about my horrible day. Worship of the Lord puts our focus back on Him and reminds us that we are not alone and of the One who stands beside us, goes before us, and has our back. Isn’t it wonderful to know we are completely surrounded by His love and protection? It brings joy to my heart just to think about it.

So, my dear sisters in Christ, it is my prayer for all of you, that you will have a life filled with joy. That you will find peace and hope in the hardest days as you remember the things that God has done for you. May the God of peace guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus as you focus on His truth in all things. May you be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. May your joy overflow as you testify to all that God has done for you and rest in His tender love and care.


Love One Another | By Tricia Milligan | September 2020

Joy! “Jesus, Others, and You, what a wonderful way to spell joy.” I don’t know about you, but in this time in my life, I find myself seeking some hope, some joy. I long for some sense of normalcy. But this time has also been a time of reflection and evaluating what is important and possibly some things that need to be changed.
In the August devotional, we talked about putting first things first and giving Jesus His proper place in our lives. Today, I want to focus on the second part. “O is for others we meet face to face.” In this weird time of our lives, our interactions with others is severely limited in a lot of ways, but we do still have contact with others in some form. So, what should our attitude be toward one another?

The other morning, I woke with another little song floating through my head from many years ago,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, that your joy may be full.”

God does not do anything halfway. He does not want us to have a little bit of joy. He wants us to have a heart full of joy, a life full of joy. In John 15:10 – 12, we find the passage that this song comes from. Jesus knows He is headed to the cross and He is giving His disciples His final instructions. He is sharing with them His heart and what He desires for those who follow Him. He indicates that there are two important elements to having a life filled with joy. The first is our abiding relationship with Him and walking in obedience to the Father. The second has to do with our relationships with one another. He clearly says here, “Love each other as I have loved you.” This is not a suggestion. This is not a recommendation. This is a commandment.

The problem comes, at least I know for me, when there are those people that rub us the wrong way, those are the people that make it difficult to be obedient in this. But if we are following the example of Christ, we are told in Romans 5:8, that God demonstrated His love to us by sending Jesus to die for us, while we were still sinners. We were not desirable. We were not lovable, yet God loved us and Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him – that we would be reconciled to Him. We are to have this same love for another, especially those that rub us the wrong way.

So how do we do this? Thankfully, we are not left on our own. If we look at Romans 12, Paul gives similar instructions. Romans 12:9-12 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” That sounds good right, but how do we do that? I think Paul gives us the answer back a few verses in this chapter, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, that is in the process of renewing our minds. He is changing our attitudes to be more like Christ. One of the fruits of the spirit is the patience that we need for one another. Another key element here is being faithful in prayer. Praying for those that we are in contact with, as well as praying for our own attitude toward the difficult relationships, can help change our focus and lead to a transformation in our hearts.

In Romans 12:3 – 8, Paul tells us that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but with sober judgment. As I read this the other day, I wondered if Paul was not thinking back to who he was before he had that encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was an important man, who was sure that he was doing the work of the Lord. He was getting rid of those filthy Christians that were threatening all that he knew. But God intervened and showed him just how wrong he was. Sometimes we think we are in the right, but we need to stop and consider what is God’s perspective. Am I about doing the things that are honoring and glorifying to Him, or what is pleasing and honoring to myself?
Paul goes on in Romans 12 to talk about the body of Christ and functioning together in harmony. Each part is important and significant. We all belong to one another and need to function together. In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the church in Philippi to be united in Christ, with tenderness and compassion for one another. He asks them in verse 2, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” The unity of the body, working together and not against one another, brings joy to the whole body of Christ. I know it is hard for me to be joyful and at peace when there is conflict and dissension around me. We should be coming together for the joint purpose of glorifying God and spreading the gospel message to those that have not heard. We should be working together, supporting and encouraging one another and not tearing one another down.

I came across a little story just yesterday that demonstrates what we should be about as fellow believers demonstrating the love we have in Christ.
An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told them that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he gave them the signal to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat in a circle enjoying the treats. When he asked them why they chose to run as a group when they could have more fruit individually, one child spoke up and said, UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?
UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means, “I am because we are.”

We all form one body. We are the body of Christ. I cannot be apart from the body of Christ. I cannot do what I am called to do without the support of my brothers and sisters in Christ. We were never meant to live this Christian life alone. As we come together in love as we were commanded to by our Savior Jesus Christ, we will find joy and make an impact on the world around us. We will be lights in the darkness and bring hope to the world as God intended, a testimony of His great love and grace.


First Things First | By Tricia Milligan | August 2020

Since the Brunch back in July, the idea of joy has been floating around in my head. One of the things that came to mind is a little song that I learned as a child, J-O-Y. It goes something like this:

Jesus, others and you, what a wonderful way to spell JOY.
J is for Jesus, let Him take first place.
O is for others, you meet face to face.
Y is for you, in whatever you do.
Put them together and what have you got?
Joy, Joy, Joy.

I think there may have been a little more to the song, but this is what I remember.
I recently started going through a new Bible study on the book of Philippians, when I was reading through the first chapter, I noticed that Paul’s primary focus was on the Philippian’s relationship with the Father and wanting them to grow deeper in their faith and knowledge and understanding of who God is. As I started thinking about it, chapter 2, Paul focuses on our relationship with others and not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, but instead serving our fellow believers, as well as, being lights to the world around us. Then in chapter 4, he turns to self, telling the Philippians, and us as well, to rejoice in the Lord, to be anxious for nothing, and to give thanks to the Lord. There is so much more packed into the four chapters of Philippians, but Paul got this combination too…Jesus and God first, then others, and then yourself, Jesus – Others – You, leading to a life filled with joy.

I want to spend a little time today just focusing on first things first, putting Jesus first. Of course, the first verse that came to mind was Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.” In the Message it is put this way, “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” What is your life steeped in? If I am totally honest, mine has not been steeped in God, but rather in anxiety and uncertainty. During times of uncertainty, people often offer us the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” That is totally true, God does want us to prosper and to give us a future and a hope, but we can’t stop there at the end of that verse because then the focus is on us and what we gain from it. How does God give us that future and hope? If we look in the next few verses we find, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14) When we turn our hearts to Him, when we seek after Him first, when we give Him His rightful place in our lives, then we can become the one He created us to be, because we have things in the right order.

I remember many years ago, we had a young missionary come through our home. She had come to share at the missionary convention that our church had every year. As a young teen girl, it was exciting to have this young woman in our home and sharing with us. One of the things she did while she was there was share her story with our youth group. She shared with us how God had worked in her life through different circumstances and had given her the desires of her heart. She shared the verse with us in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In my young heart, my focus and what I heard was that God will give me the desires of my heart…I missed what she was really trying to tell us. First things come first. The first thing here is to delight yourself in the Lord. When our delight is in Him, then the things we desire are in line with what He desires for our life and that is where we find joy and contentment, not from having the desires of our hearts met. I learned this lesson the hard way, as my stubborn heart is apt to do. God gave me the desires of my heart. He gave me a loving and wonderful husband. After some struggle and heart ache, He also gave us, not just one child, but four, exactly what I wanted and desired. But what I discovered was that my heart still lacked the joy and contentment that it longed for. My thoughts of, “I will be happy when…” only found disappointment when I had those things and I still wasn’t happy. That is when God started to show me that I had my priorities wrong. My husband and my children could not bring me joy and fulfillment. It is not even fair to ask them to do that. My joy, my peace, my hope, could only be found in an active and thriving relationship with Him.
Has it all been easy since then? Absolutely not. There are times when life gets crazy and my priorities get skewed once again. But there is a peace and joy that comes when I turn my heart back to Him. When I get things back in order and put first things first. When I seek after Him, He shows Himself to be true and faithful. He fills my heart and life with joy and opens my eyes to see where His hand has been at work that I have been too busy or distracted to see.

Later in Psalm 37 the Psalmist writes, The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. (Psalm 37:23-24) I saw this verse along with a prayer that a friend shared on Facebook just yesterday that I think is a good thing to add to my daily routine right now.

Dear Lord,
Help me to be strong – in You.
Help me to love – through You.
Help me to have joy – in You.
Help me to do good – through You.
Please direct my steps and help me to follow You today.
Amen

Sisters, may your steps be firm. As you stumble, may you find His strong arms wrapped around you. May you feel His hand in yours, guiding you and giving you strength. May you find your future and your hope as you delight yourself in Him. May you put Him first, and find every need met fully in Him.


Bloom in the Desert | By Tricia Milligan | July 2020

Have you ever felt you are in a desert place in your life? Trapped in the wilderness with nothing around you for miles? A place where there is not much hope? We live in very troubling times. There is a lot of uncertainty and there does not seem to be much hope of relief. The Israelites found themselves in this same position several times during the Old Testament days. God sent prophets to speak truth, repentance, and hope to the people. We have those words recorded for us, that we can turn to in such times.

One of my favorite prophets to go to is Isaiah. In chapter 35 he offers some hope for us when we are in that desert places in our lives. We are not without hope. Our God is the Creator who spoke the world into existence out of nothingness. He is the One who promises redemption. He can turn those desert places of our lives into something beautiful, a testimony of His grace, mercy and love.

Isaiah writes, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom. It will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.” Through the last several weeks, I have felt the Lord impressing on me to bloom where I am planted. Boy, sometimes, that is hard to do. We would love to be planted in a beautiful garden. One that is well tended and cared for. We want to be in the place surrounded by more beauty and where there is plenty of nourishment and water, so we know we will be well fed. But sometimes He asks us to bloom in the desert, in the wilderness. I know that when we are out hiking or there is a flower blooming in an unexpected place, that it brings a smile to my face and fills my heart with joy. So maybe when we are asked to bloom in the desert places, in the wilderness, it is because the Father has placed us there to bring joy to the world around us. To offer hope to a world that is lost and hurting that has no hope.

Paul encourages the church in Philippians 2, to do everything without grumbling or complaining. Ouch! That steps on my toes right now. I can honestly say, that has not been my attitude lately. But when we do, we will shine like lights in the sky as we hold firmly to the Word of life.

Going back to Isaiah 35, he goes on to say, “The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.” If I stop to think about it, when I go to a beautiful garden, I am struck by the beauty of the whole garden. I seldom focus on the beauty of just one bloom. So maybe, I don’t want to be planted in the garden. Maybe it is better to be planted in the desert or the wilderness so that I can reflect and display the glory and the splendor of the One who planted me in that place.

It is in the wilderness and the desert places that we find souls that are hurting, so what are we supposed to do? Isaiah tells us in verses 3 and 4, “Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way, say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, He will come with vengeance, with divine retribution He will come to save you.’”

My sisters, we have a job to do. We have been given a mission in this world. We are to bloom in this dark world and offer hope to a lost world. We are to strengthen feeble hands. We are to steady the knees that give way. We have words of hope that we are supposed to be sharing with those around us. We are not abandoned. God is not watching from some distant place. God is here with us. He is at work, even when our eyes are blinded to it. We cannot give up hope. We need to continue to hold on to the Word of life and share it with those around us. We need to stop grumbling and complaining, and start asking God to direct us to those that need to hear His message of hope. We need to lift one another up in prayer, asking God to strengthen our feeble hands and our weak knees, so we may stand firm in our faith, and bloom where He has planted us.


Finding Refuge | By Tricia Milligan | June 2020

I have struggled some this month about what to share for this devotional. I went to my parents’ home three weeks ago, expecting to spend time hanging with my mom and keeping her company while my Dad was in the hospital. God had other plans. He knew I needed to be there to say good-bye to my Dad and to help my Mom in the first couple of weeks after his passing. I definitely have seen God’s hand in the timing and in the outpouring of love for us during the last several weeks. But my heart and my life has felt like it has been turned upside down.

As I was taking my morning walk the other day, I was thinking of several things that I could write about. When I got home and sat at my computer, I stared at the blank page and could think of nothing to write, nothing that seemed to fit or be the right thing. So I closed the computer and went on with my day.

Yesterday morning, I again was taking my morning walk. Conversing with God about those that touch my life who are continuing to face difficult circumstances and in the back of my mind was what to write to share and encourage each one of you. The word that came to mind was empty. The page from the day before stared at me empty. I felt empty. My soul cried out to the Father, “How can I share with others and encourage them, when I feel empty? I have nothing to give right now God. What do I do?”

As I continued to walk, a truck drove past me. As it turned the corner up ahead of me, I noticed a sticker in the middle of the cab window with one word, REFUGE. Now, I have no idea what that meant to the person that was driving that truck, or what it represented, but I know what it meant to me in that moment. When I am empty, I have a refuge where I can go. When I am completely depleted and at the end of myself, there is a refuge where I can go. When I am weary and burdened, there is a refuge for me.

A refuge is defined as shelter or protection from danger or distress. It is a place where we find the resources we need for refreshment and renewal. It is a place where we can escape for a bit and rest in the peace that is there. For us as believers in Christ, He is that refuge for us. No matter what we are facing.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

Psalm 18:30 says, “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him.”

Psalm 31:19 says, “How abundant are the good things that You have stored up for those who fear You, that You bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in You.”

Psalm 36:7 says “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

So I will take the advice of the psalmist in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” I will turn to Him and fully put my trust in Him. I will pour out my heart, and give my grief and pain to Him, to find the healing and comfort that is only found in Him. I will seek refuge in Him. He is my stronghold. He is my shield. He has good things for me, even in the midst of my present circumstances. His love has not failed. He is with me and invites me to come and take refuge in His love and care for me.

Father, I thank You that You never leave us on our own. I am thankful that I do have a refuge in my time of trouble, a place I can turn when I am at the end of myself and find myself feeling empty. I am not alone. There is peace, there is hope, there is healing and restoration found in You. Be our refuge today.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen


Who Do We Trust | By Tricia Milligan | May 2020

We are living in such an uncertain time. Each day I read conflicting reports from every direction. Some people say we should not have quarantined. Some people say we need to open things right now. Some people say we should stay isolated longer. Some people say that masks are needed. Others say that they really aren’t necessary and can be more harmful than good. So how are we supposed to know what to do? Who are we supposed to trust?

When we are facing times of fear and uncertainty, I only know of one sure place to turn. We have access through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to the One who knows the end from the beginning. We know the One who has a plan for us, to give us a future and a hope, who wants us to proper and to thrive. (Jeremiah 29:11)

In Psalm 20:6-8 it says, “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to His anointed. He answers him from His heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” We could rewrite verse 7 for our times in this way, “Some trust in doctors, some trust in statistics and reports, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” God hears us when we call. He will guide us and direct us if we are seeking after Him. He is the One who knows each day ordained for us and it is written in His book before one of them even came to be.(Psalm 139:16) We can fully place our trust in Him for every single day of our lives. Verse 8 tells us what the result is when we put our trust anywhere other than in our God, we will be brought to our knees and fall. We will survive, but it will not be on our feet. We will be knocked down by the challenges of life. But if we put our trust in the name of the LORD, if we look to Him for help and for hope, then we will rise up and stand firm.

This phrase “stand firm” brought to mind an acrostic that I wrote several years ago. It helps me to remember how to stand firm in times of trouble.

Seek His

Truth

And

Never

Doubt

 

Faith

Increases

Resting in the

Master’s Hands

So what are His truths? What do we have that we can stand on?

Romans 8:38 -39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavished His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands.

Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is none on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

The Scripture is full of truths that tell us who God is. When we know and remember who He is and what He has already done for us, it brings us to a place of rest, a place of peace.

Have you ever had a really hard day where things have just seemed to go wrong at every turn, and then you come home someone you love, and you stand for a moment in their embrace and feel the burden you have been carrying lift even for a brief moment? There is a safety and an ability to breathe in that moment and in that place. That is what God wants to be for us. He wants us to come to Him and allow Him to wrap us in His love and mercy and grace. He wants us to be still for a moment and know that He is God and that He’s got this. All of it!

Are you feeling uncertain? Are you not sure what to do or where to turn? Pause for a moment. Remember who you are and whose you are. Remember the One who holds you securely in the palm of His hand, and then rise up and stand firmly planted on His truths and promises. He’s got you and He will not let you down. He is the One you can trust.


The Treasure of Wisdom | By Tricia Milligan | April 2020

I don’t know about you, but I am often at a loss as to what to do when certain situations arise. As a friend, wife, mother, teacher, daughter, woman, there are situations that enter my life and I wonder, what am I supposed to do now? We are definitely in some uncertain times at the moment. We have to make choices and decisions that we never would have expected to be making. We often lack wisdom as to what is right and what is best at a moment.

There is a wonderful promise found in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” What an amazing promise and assurance. I have prayed for wisdom on many occasions and as I move forward dealing with whatever the situation is, a new thought or perspective pops into my mind, and I know that God has answered that prayer. But I think I am often taking this promise out of its context. There is more that He wants us to see and to understand about what this means and what true wisdom is.

This promise is sandwiched between two very different passages. In verse 2 James encourages us to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” James goes on to say that if we persevere through those trials, we will be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Then he says, if any of you lacks wisdom? I think he is reminding us that we are not there yet. The trials will continue to come throughout our lifetime. Jesus said, in this world you will have troubles, but take heart I have overcome the world (John 16:33). We need the wisdom that God offers to see us through those trials.

In 1 Corinthians 1:24 it says, “But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Isaiah speaks of our Lord, the Messiah, in Isaiah 33:6 saying, “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to their treasure.” In Colossians 2, Paul echoes the words of James in his desire for believers to be mature and complete. He says, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3). The wisdom of God is a gift given us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the key to the treasures and the resources at our disposal as children of God. Whatever we face in this life, we do not face it alone. We have Jesus. We have His strength. We have His grace. We have His peace. We have His wisdom.

The verse in Isaiah 33 called Jesus, “a sure foundation.” I believe this is echoed in the thoughts of James that follow this promise of wisdom. James gives the warning that when we ask, we must believe and not doubt. “Because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” The Message puts it this way, “Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” When I read this verse in this way, I was reminded of Jeremiah and the charge that God gives him against the people of Israel. Jeremiah 7:9-10 “Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My Name, and say, ‘We are safe.’” The people of Israel were keeping their options open. They were trying to cover all of their bases, in case they were wrong, so they would be safe. James is warning us about doing the same thing. We cannot pray and ask God for wisdom and then go about life doing our own thing, trying to figure things out on our own and creating our own contingency plan in case God doesn’t come through for us. Our idols look much different today, but not the sin. We cannot look to the world for security, hope, peace and then go to God, so we will be safe. We cannot go on sinning, so that grace abounds. We are called to live life differently than the world. We are called to find all we need in Him through Christ.

I know that I often feel just like James describes here, tossed around by the waves of life, unstable and knocked off of my feet. That is not what God intends for His children. He wants us to stand on His firm foundation. He wants our lives built on Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 19:23, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, then one rests content – untouched by trouble.” This brings us full circle, back to wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise” (Psalm 111:10). Wisdom is what is right and true and just. Wisdom gives discernment and direction. Wisdom gives us insight and understanding. We cannot find wisdom in the world. We cannot find it in our own heart, we can only find that wisdom in the Lord, in understanding who He is and giving Him the honor and glory and praise that it due His Name.

So consider it pure joy, my sisters, that we are in this trial at this time in our lives. God is at work in our hearts and lives to make us mature and complete, not lacking anything. Let’s ask Him for wisdom to guide us through this time, secure and strong in our faith, trusting Him and Him alone to get us through. May we seek to know Him more, so that we can rest content no matter what happens next. May we be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that we may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.


Mountain Moving Faith | By Tricia Milligan | March 2020

There are two rugs in our kitchen with the saying, “Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible.” I apparently liked the saying when I saw them, or they would not have ended up in my home, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about what that means until recently. The saying caught my eye and I read it again.

Wouldn’t it be nice if faith made life easy? Remember the old TV show Bewitched and Tabitha would wiggle her nose and things would just be made right. (I probably just dated myself with that reference.) Wouldn’t it be great if we could believe something or have faith that it would happen and pray about it and it happen? But that is not how faith works. Faith does not make things easy, it makes them possible. It makes life possible. Faith is more than just a religion or a set of beliefs. Faith is defined as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” We are called to have faith. We are placing our faith in God. We are placing our complete trust and confidence in Him.

As I thought about the saying, my thoughts turned to the verse in Matthew 17:20,”Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” That sounds like the kind of faith that makes life easy. Moving mountains and getting them out of our way. That would make life easy, but would it make it good? We often pray for the mountains of life to move, financial issues, difficulties in our marriage, health issues, infertility, loneliness, or whatever difficulty life throws our way. But there are times that God’s answer is not to move the mountain, but to help us conquer that mountain. He knows that the things we learn as He helps us climb and navigate that mountain is beneficial to us and will bring glory to Him. The struggles of life are beneficial. They strengthen us and build our character.

I have read several articles recently about the changes we are seeing in kids and the high rate of depression and anxiety. They have not been taught to deal with the struggles and challenges of life. In many ways, we have swung too far and have made life too easy for our kids, and life is not good. They don’t know how to navigate life. Chores and responsibilities are good for our kids. Disappointments are good for our kids. They don’t have to get everything they want…and my Heavenly Father knows that disappointments, challenges, and struggles will teach me what I need to know to face the seasons to come. I don’t have to get everything I want or think that I want.

As I sought to expand my thinking a little more on the subject of faith, I ran across an article by Heather Riggleman on Crosswalk.com called How to Undo the Hustle and See What’s Holy. In the article she describes a time in her life when God removed something that was extremely important to her. She had her dream job and seemed to be excelling and then it was gone. It left her questioning and searching for answers as to why this was happening. She realized through different circumstances that God was attempting to refine her life and strip away some false thing that she had accepted as things that should be of high importance and priorities in her life. She realized she needed to start looking at God’s expectations for her and not the world’s.

She writes, “It is radically freeing because when we become who we were meant to be in the first place without all the heavy. Unbecome, undo, unearth, untangle, unravel. Right now is your chance to trade the hustle for the holy. Imagine who you could be if you could unbecome by trading, striving for surrender, hype for hope, running for rest, busy for being, scarcity for abundance, anxiety for joy. There is a better way to be a ‘better you.’ It doesn’t begin with a bunch of worldly, shallow, already set-up-to-be-broken self-made promises. The better you is already found in God’s Word. But it’s been buried in the lies that hustle-is-better-than-holy life.”

Her use of the word untangled, reminded me of Hebrew 12 where we are called to set aside the sin that so easily entangles us and fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith. As we continue to place our faith in Him, He continues to refine us and purify us. He strengthens our faith and makes who He meant for us to be.
Toward the end of her article Heather continues, “I loved the hustle more than I loved God. And He wasn’t going to have it. God will stop at nothing to remove the obstacle between you and me.”

As I thought about that, I thought, maybe the mountains we see in our lives are not the mountains that need to be removed. Maybe what we see as mountains are really challenges that we need to face in our lives and they are God’s way of removing the mountain of pride, the mountain of fear, the mountain of self-reliance, or other mountains that stand in the way of being who He created us to be. Maybe they are the tools to remove these mountains so I can have a closer relationship with Him and know Him better.

I need to look to Him. I need to lift my eyes up to the mountains. I need to turn to the One from whom my help comes (Psalm 121:1). I must fully trust and with full confidence, put my faith in Him and allow Him to help me navigate this life. Faith is not about making life easy, it is about making a full and abundant life possible in the midst of the difficulties. Finding peace, hope and joy as I rest in Him.


God’s Extravagant Love | By Tricia Milligan | February 2020

It is February and of course our thoughts turn toward love with the stores decked out with decorations and displays to encourage us to buy elaborate gifts to show those we care about how very much we love them. The love that we have for others or that they have for us cannot even begin to compare with the love God has for us. Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 1 John 3:1 says, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

There is a song that I hear often on the Christian radio stations, Reckless Love. I know that there are some do not like the song. Some have said that it is not right to describe God’s love as reckless because it is not reckless. God purposely and with determination loves us, and I would agree. However, I do not think that is what the songwriter intended. I have always thought that he meant that from the world’s perspective, God’s love is reckless and incomprehensible. To the world, God’s love is foolish, because the world says you have to earn love. The idea that we should receive God’s grace, His great riches at the expense of Christ is foolishness to the world. But that is exactly what God did.
The world also says if you fail me, then I don’t have to love you anymore. That is not what God says. In Jeremiah 31:3 He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” The Psalmist declares over and over again in Psalm 136 that God’s love endures forever. Paul encourages us in Romans 8:38 -39 with these words, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have an aunt whose husband left her for another woman years ago. He lived with the other woman, but my aunt refused to give him a divorce. She did not believe that it was what God wanted. To many this appeared foolish and reckless. She continued to pray for him and God answered those prayers. He returned to the Lord and he returned to her. That is God’s grace and love in action.

God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute, who then leaves him. When she returns, God tells Hosea to take her back. From the world’s perspective, that is foolish and reckless, but it is grace and God’s extravagant love that He has for His unfaithful people clearly demonstrated.

A convict on the cross was promised that he would be with the Savior in paradise…to the world, that is unfair and inconceivable, but that is grace and God’s amazing love.
So, what should be our response to this great love that God has poured out on us? In Psalm 5:7 in the Passion Translation it reads like this, “But I know that You will welcome me into Your house, for I am covered by Your covenant of mercy and love, so I come to Your sanctuary with deepest awe to bow in worship and adore you.” To even begin to understand the love that God has for us should lead us to a place of worship and awe for our Heavenly Father. He has done what no one else would have done or could have done.

I think it also calls us into a deeper love for those around us. God sometimes calls us to step out of our comfort zones to do things that don’t make sense to the world. They might say we are foolish or reckless, but God calls us to it so that He might demonstrate His love to others through us. We must be obedient and share His grace, love and compassion to the hurting world around us.

Relish His great love for you today. Let Him wrap you in the comfort that can only come from knowing an all encompassing love that is not of this world. Then, allow that to compel you to step out in faith and obedience to live for Him as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”


2020 Vision | By Tricia Milligan | January 2020

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection. We think about the things that have happened during this past year. We have thoughts of gratitude for the things God has brought us through, and then sometimes wonder how God will resolve those things that still hang over us. We look to the upcoming year sometimes with great excitement and other times with great trepidation and uncertainty. I, for one, am thankful that I do not have to face this new year alone.

There have been some years that I have picked a verse to focus on for the year. Some times with better success than others at sticking to the task of learning and seeking throughout the year. I have a friend who has switched to picking a single word that she prayerfully seeks God through during the coming year. We have done that in the Women’s Ministry as well the last several years. We prayerfully pick a word that is our theme for the year. We ask God to teach us more of Him as we seek the truth and understanding of what that word means to us as believers and allow it to impact us throughout the year.

This year, I also feel like God has given me a prayer for the year. Over the month of the December I was reading a couple different devotionals to help keep my focus where it needed to be, on Jesus, the greatest gift ever given. One of the books I was reading was Max Lucado’s book In the Manger. On the last page of the book he records this prayer:

Heavenly Father,
Restore my spiritual sight to 20/20, that I might see Your Son as He truly is and that I might know Him for all that He is. May I proclaim Him,” my Lord and my God” just as truly as Thomas did. Help me to see more of Him today.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen

What an awesome prayer for the year 2020, that I might have 20/20 spiritual sight; that I would have the ability to see Christ more clearly and know Him for who He truly is. We can have knowledge of Him and still not see Him and understand who He is.

In Mark 8, Jesus for the second time feeds a huge crowd of people, this time 4,000. When He is again alone with His disciples, He gives them the warning, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” (vs 15) The disciples had no idea what Jesus was talking about. So He responds, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?”(vs 17-18) He did not want them to be like the Pharisees who had the truth of God, but did not see or understand why He had come. He wanted more for His disciples. He needed them to see and to understand that He is the Messiah, the Redeemer, the One who came to meet all of our needs. He desires the same for us.

Oh, that we might have a clearer vision of who Jesus is. May His light and truth will shine in our lives so that we may see and understand who He is and what He has for each of this in the coming year.


True Friendship and Genuine Love | By Debbie Fetter | November 2019

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’ You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:10-17

A believer cannot withdraw from the circle of God’s love by being disobedient. Of course God does not stop loving His disobedient children. But Jesus is instructing His disciples that obedience is the key to abiding. Through abiding, we can experience joy as a blessing of His love. Joy is fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) which is a result of abiding in Christ’s love. The “Abiding Believer” is motivated by the wonder of God’s love for him or her. Jesus now commands His disciples to “love one another, just as He had loved them.” Jesus teaches His disciples more about love here by explaining the five characteristics of genuine love.

1)Love is obedience to Christ’s example and teachings. (Keep my commandments)

2)Love is sacrificial. (That one lay down his life for his friends)

3)Love always communicates truth. (All things…I have made known to you)

4)Love takes the initiative in meeting the legitimate needs of others. (I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.)

5)Love will bear fruit with abiding results. (That your fruit would remain)

Obedience:

A person can be a casual friend, a close friend, or an intimate friend—depending on his or her love and loyalty. Likewise, all believers are God’s “friends” in the sense of their justification. But abiding believers are His “special friends” on a deeper level, because they seek to obey Him consistently.

Sacrificial:

“Love” for a friend reaches its pinnacle when someone willingly sacrifices something, even his or her life, for a friend. Jesus had spoken of His love for His disciples (v. 12). Jesus would shortly show them how great His love was by making the supreme sacrifice of dying for them. After that, they would also have His example to follow. The most you can do for a friend is to die for him or her. However, Jesus even died for His enemies! Believers have given different degrees of sacrifice to serve others while serving Christ. We are not just talking about giving away our excess possessions and money here. Seldom do we even come close to reaching the level of sacrifice for our friends that Jesus is describing here. The closest to it is getting martyred for the gospel, but no believer has ever approached the high level of sacrifice that Christ gave when He left Heaven to become a man and die for our sins.

Communicating Truth:

What is the difference between a servant of God and an intimate friend of God? Jesus proved to His disciples that they were His “friends” as well as His servants, because a master shares his plans with his friends, not with his slaves. He had told them what was coming, therefore treating them as His friends. The friends of the king had the closest and the most intimate connection with him and had the right to come to him at any time. Remember Esther could not just speak to the king at any time, right? “Slaves” receive orders without explanations, but friends have an intimacy with their Master. Saved believers have Jesus’ teachings, the privilege of reading it in the Bible, and of understanding it with the Holy Spirit giving enlightenment. What a blessing! We get the privilege of being Jesus’ friends and knowing God’s truth, too.

Jesus Chose Us to Meet the Needs of Others:

A servant (doulos in Greek) must obey his master without questions. God didn’t call Abraham and Moses slaves but called them His friends, they both asked God questions and received answers. Jesus also raises His disciples (and us) from the level of being used as tools, or as slaves, to the position of being full partners with Him in His work.  Jesus says I no longer call you slaves. Jesus revealed His plans to the disciples, as His friends. Following His ascension, Jesus gave them even more revelation at His transfiguration. He had chosen them to be His friends, and He also appointed them to a specific task: a mission to spread the gospel. We, as Jesus’ disciples, have also been given that same mission.

Bearing Fruit with Abiding Results:

Jesus linked going with bearing fruit. It is impossible for us to produce fruit for God on our own; we can only bear it. If we abide in Christ, attached to the vine, we can bear much fruit. Making new converts is the most important fruit Jesus has planned for us. This fruit will be everlasting, because people’s salvation will remain in effect for all eternity!

This section concludes with “whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.” Jesus is linking prayer and fruit-bearing in a cause and effect relationship. Therefore, prayer plays a very essential role in the believer’s fruitfulness.


Abide in Me | By Debbie Fetter | October 2019

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:1-9

“Abiding in Christ” is one of my own greatest struggles. Others tell me it is theirs, too. It is one of the most serious failures in the Christian life. The benefits of abiding are as great as the dangers of neglecting it.

Jesus had just explained to His disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things and would also bring to remembrance all things that Jesus had said to them. Jesus also told them that He would be going to the Father. Here Jesus continues to prepare His disciples for His departure.

What inspired Jesus to use this “Vine” metaphor? A visual cue might have sparked His words. Some suggest it may have been the cup of wine during the Last Supper, or perhaps the elaborate vine on the Temple gate, placed there as a symbol of Israel by Herod the Great.

Jesus wanted to teach them the “One Thing” needed was to abide in Him. Abiding would result in them bearing much spiritual fruit. This is the “One Thing” that we need to learn too, to produce the right type of good works: spiritual fruit generated by the Holy Spirit, which results in works that will be acceptable at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Jesus often used a grapevine to describe the nation of Israel. This passage has three metaphors. Israel had been an unfaithful vine, but Jesus was the faithful one, the true vine, who fulfilled all that the Father required.

The Father is the Vinedresser and Believers are the Branches. In the spring, the branches got “taken away.” The Greek word “airo” translated “take away” probably means the vines were lifted up on a pole off the ground so light and nutrients can get to the branches. The Father lifts them up to make sure that the branches will not get moldy or diseased, so they will bear fruit in the future. In the fall, the branches are pruned and the dead non-productive parts get trimmed away. The dead wood is not useful because the value of the branch is in the grapes that it bears.

Throwing into the fire and burning is an allegory for something done to the useless branches. If we are the branches, does this mean the unproductive ones have lost their salvation? No, of course not! Why not? Because Jesus is NOT telling this story to explain justification. Jesus uses “abide” here to speak of our sanctification. Some teach this refers to our unacceptable post-salvation “dirty rags” that go up in smoke, not done in the Spirit. Others view it as illustrating the disciplining process, where God removes certain aspects of your life that prevent you from being productive for Him. God’s purpose in discipline is loving, but the process may be painful.

Abiding means believing, depending, appreciating, and trusting in Christ. The principle of abiding is both positive and negative. Negatively, it is impossible to produce fruit for God on our own; we can only bear it. Positively, if we abide in Christ, attached to the vine, we will bear much fruit. The benefit of abiding is fruit bearing. If we don’t abide, it prevents us from bearing fruit, breaks fellowship, and severs us from Jesus, who is the source of life.

How do we abide? Picture yourself sitting in a recliner, resting only on Christ’s love for you. The Greek word for abide is “meno.” The meaning of meno is “to remain.” I am resting in the undeserved aspect of God’s love for me, given to me, an undeserving sinner; a love that God has for me whether I am performing well or not! You can understand abiding, and still not be able to do it. Abiding takes practice!

To abide we practice awareness of God’s perfect love. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19). He gave Himself as a ransom for our sin. (Matt. 20:28) A ransom is a sum of money paid for the release of a prisoner. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) How often are we being fully cognizant of the fact that, in our sins before salvation, we were prisoners and in terrible bondage to sin and death, yet God still loved us? This thought is staggering, that Jesus loved me so much that He died for me.

Jesus wants all His disciples to continually abide in these truths. A close relationship with Christ is not obtained by focusing on my success or performance. It only occurs when I am abiding in His unconditional love for me.


Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled | By Debbie Fetter | September 2019

“Do not let your heart be troubled; (you) believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3

I remember two years ago feeling really worried, stressed and agitated about moving here. When it came right down to it, the stress wasn’t really about getting everything in its place. It was more about getting us back into a place where we belonged. I also felt unsettled for many days after our dog was attacked. I didn’t sleep well and my heart was very troubled! My new home life in our nice new neighborhood suddenly felt very unsafe, and I felt quite threatened and agitated.
Jesus’ disciples also had reason to feel troubled and agitated. Jesus had just announced to them that He is going to go away. He was going leave them, after they had forsaken all to follow him! Jesus had also just said that Peter would deny Him, implying that some great trial was imminent. How shocking this must have been to them! In a very short time, life for the disciples was going to fall apart. Their sun was going to set at midday. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around them.
To comfort them, Jesus has some instructions, explanations, and promises.

In Verse 1, Jesus says “do not let your heart be troubled; (you) believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus was literally saying “stop being troubled.” The verb pisteuo means to believe, trust, rely, depend on someone or something, or to take as truth what someone is telling you. This is in the imperative mood, which means it is a command. This is in the active voice, which means they must choose to believe it. Jesus was telling the disciples to trust in Him, just as they trusted in God the Father. This was a strong claim to His deity. Since He is God, they could rely on what He was about to tell them as coming directly from God. Jesus wanted them to stop letting their hearts be internally agitated.

God allows us to be in situations that are very much out of our comfort zone. He does this to mature us and to prepare us for future ministry. Why does God do this? He puts us in a situation where the only thing we can do is trust in Him. There are many times God has done this with me. Instead of being agitated, I have to decide to look at the unwanted situation the way God is seeing it. God may want me to be a witness of the gospel to somebody, like the vet. Or God may just want me to trust Him more. So, it is totally correct for me to ask, “God, why are you allowing this to happen right now? What are you doing with me? And by the way, I trust you, while I am waiting for the answer.”

In Verse 2, Jesus reveals the purpose of His going to the disciples. He says “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. “ This is said to quiet them and to also give them some additional information about why He is going. In the Jewish culture, a dowry was given to allow a man to build a room onto his Father’s house as preparation for marriage so as to make ready a place for the new couple to live. The groom would build this add-on dwelling place. When it was finished, the groom would go and get his bride and bring her home. The bride did not know when the groom was coming! The Jewish father’s house was an analogy that Jews were aware of. Jesus says he is leaving to build a dwelling place for His bride, the church, to live in, in Heaven. There are many rooms or add-ons to God the Father’s house for each of us. “Prepare” is the Greek word “hetoimazo,” meaning “to make ready.” The Lord is saying He is preparing a future place for those who believe in Him next to the throne room, or dwelling place of God. This is very comforting! Jesus Himself will take me to Heaven where I will be safe from all harm, danger and all the unfair things that seem to happen in this life, and where I will be cared for in the utmost of perfection. No disease, violence or harm will come to me there, and there I will relating to God as a member of His family who lives in His house.

Some Applications:
1. It is important to not get so caught up in what is happening today that we loose sight of eternity. Jesus promises to come again, He has prepared a place for us, and our future home is guaranteed. Christians already own real estate in Heaven. We are already legal residents there and we are merely “renters” here on earth.
2. We can depend on this. Stepping into our custom-designed heavenly dwelling places, we will each realize that we’re finally home, and that throughout eternity we can never be separated from our heavenly Father.
3. It’s tempting to amass a lot of possessions during our days on earth, but the Bible says only what’s truly important—the things we’ve done for Him—will last.
4. When we get to the eternal home we are anticipating, we won’t need to plan for or to organize anything; everything will already be in its place.


Share the Load | By Tricia Milligan | May 2019

Sometimes life is hard. At times it can be very overwhelming. A few months ago I heard a song for the first time called River of Mercy. It talks about carrying a load we aren’t made to carry and taking it to the River of Mercy and letting it go. It reminds me of the verse in 1 Peter that talks about casting our cares on Him for He cares for you. It also is reminiscent of Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When I read this verse the phrase “and learn from Me” really stood out to me. I thought I had heard something one time that they would pair a younger oxen with an older one to train them, so I started looking to see what I could learn about oxen or cattle and yokes. I did not find this, but I did find some other interesting things.

The yoke itself can weigh up to 60 pounds. The yoke is made to be carried by two, so if I am not yoked to Christ, then I am dragging around the yoke in an awkward way and not getting very far at all. I also learned that cattle do not like to do work. They will do what they can to avoid work, so they must be taught to wear the yoke and to be obedient to the farmer. I definitely relate to that…I would tend to avoid the hard lessons of life, but I must be trained to be obedient to God.

The cattle when they are put in the yoke have to be taught to be obedient to the commands of the farmer. The farmer has to be consistent in his routine and commands that he gives the cattle. They have to do it every day. This reminds me that I need to be consistent both in the Word and in prayer. I need to learn to listen to the Fathers voice and respond in obedience.
Cattle must be taught to work together, always going in the same direction so that they will travel well together. If I am yoked with Christ, then I must learn to go the same direction. This reminds me of Proverbs 3:5 -6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. “ Jesus walks right beside me and we follow the direction of the Father. My focus needs to be the same as that of Christ, so that we are heading in the same direction and working together well, accomplishing the task the Father has given me.

Cattle are slower than a horse, but they are also determined and will continue at a task as long the farmer is encouraging them to continue. The Father has also given me a book full of encouragement. There may be difficult tasks ahead and it may take time to complete, but if God has asked me to do it, He will be there to help me accomplish it. He will not leave my side, but will continue to encourage me until it is accomplished.

There is no task that we are meant to do on our own. When we do, then we grow weary and burdened. When we fight against Him, then we are making the task more difficult on ourselves and carrying heavy burdens we were never meant to carry. But when we bring it to Jesus, He helps shoulder the load. He is gentle and patient with us and will bring us to a place of peace and rest. We will find it easier to walk through the most difficult of situations if we will trust in Him.


Deliver Us | By Tricia Milligan | April 2019

We have come to the end of the Lord’s prayer and I think it really is the most crucial part of our prayer. Jesus closes the Lord’s prayer with, “Deliver us from evil for yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen”. I have always thought of these as separate phrases. First we have “Deliver us from evil” and then we have the closing praise of the Father, but that little word “for” connects the two phrases. Jesus knows that we will face evil in this world. He tells the disciples, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Sin entered the world and we face an enemy that prowls around masquerading as an angel of light, but who is really a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God daily so that we are ready to fight the enemy and to put on each part with prayer.

Jesus knows that there is only one true defense against evil and that is God. Only He can deliver us from evil. He is the one who established His Kingdom. He is the one who conquered sin and death on the cross. He is the power. When we are weak, then He is strong. His power, His strength, His grace displayed in our lives and it brings glory to the Father.
Jesus prays for Peter in the midst of the chaos in the Garden for He knows that Satan wants to sift him as wheat. Jesus prays for Peter that his faith should not fail and that he will return and strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus knows the enemy. He knows his tactics, but He also knows who has already won the war. We can depend on Him to intercede on our behalf and we know He is able to defend us against the enemy. Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world.

So let us walk in the fear of the Lord, seeking to walk in obedience to Him, loving Him with our heart mind and soul, serving Him faithfully, asking for His guidance and protection daily for our good and for His glory (based on Deuteronomy 10:12-14).


Lead Us Not Into Temptation | By Tricia Milligan | March 2019

We have come to the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation.” I have always struggled with this phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. To me it seemed to be in direct contrast to the verses in James 1 “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;  but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”( James 1:13-15) If we go back further in James 1, he encourages us to consider it joy when we face trials of many kinds because God is at work to develop our character and to make us more like Christ. With this in mind, God brings us to situations where we have a choice how we are going to react and respond. We are to pray for His protection that we do not follow our sin nature, but chose to follow Him and lean on Him for wisdom and hold firm to our faith.

Jesus before He goes to the cross He prays for the disciples and those that will follow them in faith. In John 17: 11-12 Jesus prays I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” His heart was for these He loved. He wants them to be protected. He wants us to be protected. He knew that only the Father could protect them by the Power of His name.

I know that way too many times, I attempt to handle situations on my own. I don’t have to and actually I can’t. I cannot even trust my own heart because God’s word tells us the heart is desperately wicked. We saw in James, that we are lead away by our own evil desires, but we have God on our side. Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. In his book, The Prayer of Jesus, Ken Hemphill, says, “…we must lean on Him every day – and at frequent points throughout the day – in order to escape the power of sin. We waste our time when we fight temptation with only our higher goals and our loftier reforms, for God alone can give us strength to overcome our shortcomings.”

Life is messy, and we often are messed up, but we have God on our side. When life gets rough, we can come to Him in our mess and ask for Him to lead us away from the temptation. We can focus our eyes back on Him and know He is with us and able to deliver us or grant the grace as He walks with us through whatever it is. He can keep our feet from slipping and help us stand firm in His truth and in our faith.


Clean Slate | By Tricia Milligan | January 2019

Forgive Us, Help Us Forgive Them

When we think about a new year, we often think of a clean slate. Starting everything new and things are going to be different. That is not always the case though. The challenges of life that were present in December follow us into January. New challenges arise often more quickly than we would like and we end up frustrated and discouraged. Our new year already tarnished and battered.

We have been going through the Lord’s Prayer the last several months and have come to the part,  “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Forgiveness if we accept it and apply it in our life and let go of the guilt can bring that true clean slate, both in our relationship with God and our relationship with those around us.

This request is a two-fold request. First, we are to seek God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness, but we are also to extend that forgiveness, mercy, and grace to those that are around us. As recipients of the marvelous grace and forgiveness we have received through the work of Christ on the cross, we are called to extend forgiveness to those that are around us.

Several months ago when Pastor John was going over the passage in 1 John 2, verse 12 really stood out to me, especially how it was worded in the NASB translation. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.” First, we are forgiven, not because of anything we have done, but because we come to the Father bearing the name of Christ. The other thought I had is that forgiveness is for the sake of glorifying the name of God. The focus of much of the Lord’s prayer is to bring our focus and attention to the character of God and giving Him the honor and glory that He deserves. The act of forgiveness shows the character of God. It shows that He is merciful, compassionate, long-suffering, gracious, and loving. So when we as Christians, follow the example of Christ, and forgive those that we feel have wronged us, then we are displaying the character of God to the world. We are bearing His image and bringing glory and honor to His name.

Growing up in the church and being a rule follower by nature, I had a tendency in younger years to be very judgmental of others. As God began to work on this area of my life and as I asked Him to teach me to be more merciful to others, what I began to realize is that some things that I took as offense against myself were often my own interpretations of the circumstances. I realized I don’t know what the other person is thinking and the more I dwelled on the something the more I made it personal, even if it had nothing to do with me. I learned I have to let things go, which is not always easy to do.

As I was thinking about forgiveness, I began to wonder what if my first thought when I feel like I have been wronged is to pray and ask God to help me forgive the person, instead of the impulse to tell others how I have been wronged? We are told not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the body of Christ. My tendency to “share” with others when I feel I have been wronged is not beneficial to the building up of the body of Christ. It doesn’t promote unity, but taints the opinion of others of the person I am speaking of. If I take it to the Lord first and ask for His help and guidance, I know it would make me pause and think before I share with others because it will allow Him to help me change my perspective.

Forgiveness is not our natural tendency. It is not our first impulse when we have been wronged. But it is what God desires for us and requires of us. He has forgiven us much. He has extended His abundant mercy and grace and as His children, created in His image, bearing His likeness and His name, we need to extend forgiveness to those around us, no matter what the circumstances Psalm 130:4 says, “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” It is our act of obedience and necessary for us to live productive lives in service to our King and our God.


This Day | By Tricia Milligan | November 2018

Give us this day our daily bread. As I read this phrase the two words “this day” have really stood out. I recently received a new picture with the verse, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” So again I was drawn to the words “this day”. On the one hand we are supposed to have a future focus. We are supposed to be seeing beyond this life and having an eternal perspective. But I think we are also supposed to be presently focused. What is it that I need right now? Am I present in the events that are happening right now, or am I preoccupied by things that are happening tomorrow? Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We are not meant to solve everything at once. We are only expected to take things as they come. I think we add pressure to ourselves by borrowing tomorrow’s trouble today. When I was in NC recently, I was sharing with a young mom who was feeling very overwhelmed by her little ones at home, you just take one day at a time. Enjoy each day. Be present in the moments. Cherish them.

I also thought about the word bread in the phrase. Bread is the most basic of needs. To me this shows God’s care over the smallest thing in our lives. God is in the details of each day. When we say, Give us this day our daily bread, we are extending an invitation to our heavenly Father to be present and to be involved in our lives even to the smallest detail. A few months ago, Brent and I got to go see Celtic Women. The one song they did was From a Distance. The whole song is haunting and repeats God is watching us from a distance. If there is distance there, it is because we have placed the distance there. God is a personal God. He sent Jesus to be Immanuel, God with us. God has said, if we seek Him, we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole hearts. He delights in walking with us and being with us. A friend was sharing the other day about shopping with her daughter for an outfit for a special event. They were having trouble finding the right thing, so she suggested they pray about it. But her daughter said, “About an outfit?” God cares about all aspects of our lives, even an outfit for a special event. God wants to be involved in the details of our lives.

So, how does this change how I pray? As I was walking this morning, I started thinking about what do I want or need of God today? To guide and direct my steps. To allow the time Brent and I have with our children today to deepen our relationship and connection with them. That I would be present in the moments and remember that God desires to be present there with me. For my children to know their purpose, to be at peace, and to seek after God.

I think it also encourages us also to pray continually as we are commanded to. We are to give all the details of our lives to Him, sharing in the joys and sorrows, big and small with our Heavenly Father. He delights in His children and wants us to know He is present with us this day.


Thy Will be Done | By Tricia Milligan | October 2018

One of the hardest phrases for me in the Lord’s prayer is “Thy will be done.” It is hard to set aside our own wants and desires and ask God to do as He will and completely trust. As I thought about these words I was reminded of James 4:13-15. It says:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

To pray asking, Thy will be done, we are acknowledging first and foremost that our life is not our own. We have been bought with a price. But to pray this way, goes against our very nature at times. We desire to feel like we are in control and that we are the one in charge. I know I often balk at a situation when I feel like I am being forced into something and that I don’t have a choice. I want to have that semblance of control and to make my own choice and decision as I see fit. But like Paul we are the bondservants of God. Our life is a gift from Him. Our salvation is a gift from Him. We are nothing apart from Him. We were created to honor Him, serve Him, worship Him, and to love Him. It is not about what I want. It is not about the outcome that is best in my mind and fulfilling my wishes and desires. It is about submitting to His will. It is choosing to let go of control and allowing Him to lead and guide us. It is about trusting Him even in those difficult times when we do not understand.

I can think of no more difficult situation than what lay in front of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus calls out to the Father, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He knew that everything is possible with God, even that He could send His angels to deliver Him and He would not need to suffer. He knew what lay ahead for him on the cross, but He still chose to follow and to obey. He chose to submit Himself to the will of God the Father. It was not the easy way. It was not the comfortable way. But it was the best way. It was the will of God. He was that perfect example for us.

To pray, Thy will be done, involves complete trust and dependence on the Father. It is letting go of our control and allowing Him to direct us. It means that we pray and pour our hearts out to Him, and express what we would like to see happen, but then we submit to His will when the situation doesn’t change, or the mountain isn’t moved, or the obstacle is not removed, or the illness isn’t healed, or the family member continues to walk away from God…. We say, God I don’t understand, but I will trust You. I will trust Your timing. I will trust that You are in control and that even though I cannot see Your hand at work, I know You are there.

When we submit to His will and His plan, then God is glorified, not us. We bear witness to His faithful care and His marvelous deeds. David went through many difficult situations he probably would have preferred to have been handled in a different way, but he saw and testified to the faithfulness and marvelous way God intervened in his life. In Psalm 40 David declares, I waited patiently for the Lord, He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)

 


Hallowed Be Your Name | By Tricia Milligan | September 2018

I always had the idea that when it said “Hallowed be Your Name” in the Lord’s prayer, it was a reminder that God is Holy and we are not. That it was there to be a check and a reminder that we are approaching God Almighty and that we are to approach Him in humility and the fear of the Lord recognizing and acknowledging who He is. That is good and puts us in the right perspective, but I learned a few things as I took the time to study these words and the meaning behind them.

The literal translation is “May or Let Your name be Holy.” It does imply the idea of adoration and praising God for who He is, but if we are looking at it to find out how we are to pray, Jesus gives us this example saying, “May or Let Your name be glorified.” Jesus uses this as a direct contrast to the prayers of the Pharisees according to the commentary of Matthew Henry. The Pharisees were praying to make a name for themselves, to draw attention to themselves. The motivation was for them to be recognized and Jesus is showing us that our goal in all things should be bringing glory to God and not to ourselves.
Matthew Henry expresses it this way, “Father, let thy name be glorified as a Father and a Father in Heaven, glorify thy goodness and thy highness, thy majesty and mercy. Let thy name be sanctified for it is a holy name; no matter what becomes of our polluted names, but Lord, what wilt thou do to thy great name?”

This idea of praying for God’s name to be glorified brought to mind John the Baptist when He spoke of Jesus that he knew would come after him. He said, “He must become greater and I must become less.” John’s desire was to point the people to the Messiah. Jesus’ desire was to point all men to the Father. We are to follow His example. We must become less. It is not about our wants and desires, but about what will bring glory to the Father. It makes me pause and ask, “Are my prayers focused on bringing ease and comfort to my life or do they focus on bringing glory to the Father?”
We are called by God to be His light and salt in the world. We are Jesus to those who have not heard and do not know Him by the lives we live. So the prayer, Hallowed be your name, becomes a call also for our own sanctification, that we might be a reflection of Him to the world around us. We are asking Him to make us holy so that we can bring glory to His name. We are asking Him to grow is in holiness that we may reflect His holiness to the world.

And that is the whole purpose of prayer. We are spending time with the Heavenly Father. We become like the ones we are with, the more time we spend fellowshipping with the Father in prayer and seeking to know Him and follow His ways, the more we will be like Him. Our desires come in line with Him. David says in the Psalm, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps 37:4) As we spend time with the Father, as we dwell and delight in His presence, we desire to honor Him and the desire of our heart is to bring glory to His name.


Praying to Our Father | By Tricia Milligan | August 2018

Have you ever stopped to consider the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer? It begins with the words, “Our Father.” When you pause and consider a word or two from a verse, it is amazing how the Holy Spirit can speak to you through simple words and teach you more than you could ever have imagined. So what meaning is held for us behind these two small words “Our Father?”

I came across a website that teaches on the Lord’s Prayer. There I found a sermon by a Pastor Warren that focuses on “Our Father.” One of the things that Pastor Warren shared that I found fascinating is that in the Old Testament, God is only referred to as Father 15 times. When Jesus came and began His ministry. He refers to God as Father over 170 times. There is a shift in our relationship with God through the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are adopted and given the right to be called children of God. We are now His daughters. We have a father who takes a great interest in us. He hears us every time we call. He is never too busy for us. He is our protector, our helper, and our support. He is our caring, generous, faithful, faultless, perfect, thoughtful, loving Heavenly Father. We have been given the awesome privilege of calling Him our Father, just like Jesus called Him Father, because we are now co-heirs with Christ.
So how does knowing this impact the way we pray? Martin Luther said, “God invites us to believe that He is our real Father and we are his real children, so that we will pray with trust and complete confidence.”

God has said, if we seek Him, we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. A Daddy loves to spend time with his children. He wants us to share what is going on in our lives. He wants to comfort us when we hurt. He wants to provide shelter in the storms of life, but He also wants us to come to Him and does not force His way in.
Pastor Warren concluded his sermon by asking the question, “What is the basic motivation for prayer?” He shared that included in the Heidelberg Catechism it says, “Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.” As I thought about this I remembered a story Max Lucado shares in his book on grace. There was a strike in major league baseball. As a result, many players from the minor leagues had an opportunity to play for major league teams that year. It is said that that year, some of the best baseball was played and some of the most exciting games. Those players knew they were getting an opportunity that was beyond their abilities. They made the most of the opportunity presented to them and shared their love of the game of baseball with the world.

We do not deserve to call God Father, but He chose us to be His daughters. He chose us in our hopeless state and He declares, “That one is mine.” We have been given mercy and grace. How can we do any less than respond with gratitude and love by sharing our hearts and our lives with Him through our prayers? It should not be a burdensome thing, but a delight and joy to spend time with our Father in prayer.