a word of encouragement


in pursuit of Him

{a monthly devotional}

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.