Spilled Milk

I am a die-hard Washington Commanders fan. Growing up in the Washington Metropolitan area, fans knew them by a different name. I began the season believing this year would be different from the last. Most fans of the iconic hogs would state the same. No matter how bad last season was for the NFC contenders – I shake it off and believe this year will be different. Beyond the taunting and sarcasm as the season gets underway – I turn my gaze forward. Whether they win by ten or lose by twenty, I look to see who is the next team they will face. Usually, I can catch ESPN highlights from the previous game on Monday morning in case I missed something. Even then, there is no going back and running plays to change the outcome of that particular game. The only thing we can do is review where our team went wrong and pray the coaches will make proper adjustments to try and win the next game. But some fans can’t let it go and are still talking about particular game weeks (even years) later. It may have been a win or a loss, nevertheless, they still reference the game and give a play-by-play of what took place. For me I try to let it go, prepare for next week’s fun, and not cry over spilled milk.

Now the Lord said to Samuel; you have mourned long enough for Saul.

~ 1 Samuel 16:1 NLT ~

King Saul was Israel’s choice for King, and Samuel was the prophetic voice of that day, giving Godly counsel to Saul. Most kings had a prophetic voice during the monarchical era to help guide them. The prophets, appointed by the Lord, were a plumbline for the kingdom if they followed in obedience or disobeyed the commands of the Lord. Saul became disobedient and defiant of the laws and authorities of the Lord (1 Samuel 15). Samuel grieved when Saul lost the kingdom, but the Lord had moved on.

I know what you are thinking – that sounds harsh, but in essence, this was Saul’s consequence. If only he had done things the Lord’s way. I am reflecting on some of my own decisions and the consequences of those decisions. I, perhaps like you, tend to dwell on them too long, causing me sadness or grief, but I am learning that we must not focus on what we cannot change. Because if we stay there, very seldom is it for our benefit. These are moments of prudence. I am not talking about if we learn from the lesson and do better. Like Samuel, we can focus on the past, and the Lord says I am moving on. Have you ever felt like Samuel? Mourning for something that there is nothing we can do to fix, change or re-create.

Friend, here are two perspectives. One is regret, and the other is a new beginning. Remember, spilled milk cannot be poured back into the container once it is out. We can decide to clean it up and move on from there. Some decisions are costly, and sometimes we wish we could go back and do better. That is not always available to us.

Consider this – the Lord knows what is best. Do we believe this? I know we react with lip service but are we convinced by faith that this is true? I always say this, but I do not always exercise it. We must know unequivocally that the Lord knows what is best. He knows that if we dwell somewhere too long, we risk becoming stuck, unable to see past the embarrassment, the regret, the pain, or our pride. At times, I can find myself drifting to a pastime and replaying a scenario involving my children, my church, or just life – that leaves me sad because of the outcome. Then the Lord gently whispers, I know what is best. When we follow His promptings, we do not miss His promises.

The Lord will work out His plans for my life, for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

~ Psalms 138:8 NLT ~

Secondly, when the Lord speaks, we must move on. Regret can keep our minds tied to the past while our eyes see a glimpse of the future. So you missed the opportunity because of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, or maybe just sheer disobedience. The Lord knows and tells us we have dwelt here long enough that it is time to move our thoughts, behavior, and attitude forward. Moving on is different for many of us; it may require us to ask for repentance, seek forgiveness from another or truly make peace with ourselves and understand the Lord has spoken. Friend, you are not able to fix some situations. Sometimes, we can only seek true repentance from the Father, make up our minds that we will respond better, and purpose our hearts toward change.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

~ Ezekiel 36:26 NLT ~

No matter where you find yourself, you can start fresh and receive the blessings from the life the Lord wants us to live. A fulfilled life – the new life that only He can offer when we surrender our pain, regrets, mourning, and sinfulness to Him. The Lord gives us a fresh start by washing our sins away, just like spilled milk.

Time to Move

When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, “You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6-7 NLT ~

In November, it will be two years since I moved from my home state. Just sitting here thinking about where the time has gone and how home was where I was comfortable. Where all my immediate family and friends still are. In fact, both of my sons are still back there too. As I am reflecting it makes me think about when the thought was presented to consider moving – it really was not on the table.

A few things happened before I moved that definitely would give anyone pause and make the decision to move difficult. The most difficult decision, (let me just reiterate again) was leaving my family behind. There were dynamics before me that had not been ironed out, however, it felt like the Lord was orchestrating every move, even the difficult ones.

If I can be honest. There were still two problems, I could not see where I was going and second, I was not sure if I wanted to go. Neither of these matters to the creator of all things but still. Have you ever felt that way – you believe the Lord is calling you to some place, task, or person but you are not certain it lines up with your plans?

I recently read the book of Deuteronomy when I stumbled across this passage of scripture about the children of Israel and Mount Sinai. And this time it stopped me long enough to reflect back to when I had to move. Amazing how God in his infinite wisdom will bring us to a passage to create a moment of reflection. I think of other times past when the Lord has directed me or told me to stop something and I have disobeyed. I wonder in those moments of reflection, what did I miss or if I had listened and obeyed what would life look like?

I think about the Israelites at that moment when an imperative is spoken and the Lord seems to almost say I am tired of waiting for you to do something. Just like an awesome God, to remind us that there is more, do not settle for where you currently are. In this case, Israel has embraced and left Egypt behind, it has been about three months and they are in transition camped at the base of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:1) And now the Lord is calling them to leave transition.

I would like to just leave you with a few thoughts to hopefully encourage you to not stay in a place of transition (Mount Sinai) but move to the place of promise. We may not have an actual Mount Sinai today, but it represents where the preparation took place, where promises were given/spoken based on obedience and it provided temporal provision for a purposed people. In other words, it was comfort for that season. I have found myself here and honestly, am quite content staying in this place, can you relate?   

I am learning that faith is fundamentally formed by fear not only being forgotten but forsaken. The Apostle Paul tells us, to forget those things behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. (Phil 3:13) The older I get the more I realize there is no easy way to grow in faith except by a willingness to surrender control to the Father. Sometimes the Lord requires us to leave comfort to gain confidence and sometimes to gain confidence we must move quickly. Just get up and do it!  

You have stayed at this mountain long enough.

~ Deuteronomy 1:6 NLT ~

What, where, or who is your Mount Sinai? Physically this may represent a relationship, a career, or a health move. Spiritually it may be a habit or perspective, a way of thinking that we need to change to reach true fulfillment.

We have to leave our comfort zones and keep traveling. The Lord has already told them where they were headed so why did it seem as if his words, through Moses were a surprise? In Exodus six, Yahweh tells Moses to tell Israel he will bring them into a land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And the same message applies today, the Lord moves us in a direction that seems unclear but with His encouragement, we can make it.  

Second, the Lord tells them, It is time to break camp. (Exodus 1:7) The camp represents a temporary dwelling that we erect and tear down before moving. It could be in our minds, emotionally, or physical things that we put together. If you have ever been hiking, camp is considered the place with temporary accommodations, that we do not stay in. We may have to tear down some stuff that has been erected temporarily that we are attempting to make permanent. “Break camp” with insecurity, poor self-image, nasty mouths, attitudes, laziness, selfish living, too serious (laughter is good for the soul), and demonic appetites that are robbing us of God’s best (pornography, lustful behavior). We make excuses for tolerating our sin condition or behavior instead of leaving guilt for repentance. We are living in a time when we need to break camp with religion and seek a relationship with more than the name God, but Jesus Christ. Relationships birth intimate knowledge of not only who Christ is but who we are in Christ. And what He desires for us.

Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.

~ John 14:6,7 NLT  ~

Lastly, action is required friend. It is not enough to hear and be motivated to move but do nothing different. This is the hard part. The Lord can have much in store for us but if we will not believe and trust His leading, we will stay hindered, never meeting our purpose.

So here is the question, what does Action look like to you? What has the Lord been reminding or speaking to you in reference to action? Whatever it looks like, I would encourage and challenge you to get moving.

Do not Let It Linger

A weed had grown adjacent to our fence in the back of our home. It was growing so tall that it looked like a plant. I did not see it as a real threat, so I pulled it up at the point where it appeared to begin. A few weeks later, that weed was back, but this time it had spread across the back of our fence in every direction. I ended up pulling it out beneath the root and cutting it off – so that that problem was dealt with not just at the surface level but at the source.

There is a valuable lesson in this that often gets overlooked in our everyday lives. It never gets better when we don’t deal with nuisances at the root and allow them to linger. God instructed Israel to attack Midian causing them to become consumed with sexual sin and idolatrous behavior. (Numbers 31) The Lord wanted them to be free of the things that appeared harmless on the surface but kept them in bondage. Instead, Israel began to mingle with the Midianites leading them to Baal worship and entertaining sexual immorality.

Why have you let all the women live? These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice.”

~ Numbers 31:15 NASB ~

Moses was asking if they had gotten rid of the problem at the core. The same question can be asked of us today. I wonder at that moment what Moses was seeing. Outwardly did they get to the core of the issue in their lives, or just put a band-aid over it. We must be careful of our feelings that may lead to acceptance of corruption. In the past, I have known what needed to take place but just ignored it. Truthfully this broke the Lord’s heart and pushed me further away.

Here is a thought, what things do we allow to linger in our lives? Israel attacked Midian and killed the men but allowed the women to live even though God said to destroy all. What things have we justified keeping?  Have we dealt with the lingering stuff that we think is not that bad? Have we acknowledged not only that gossiping is wrong but why do we find joy in passing information about others? Do we recognize that pornography is wrong and examine why we are looking for impure satisfaction? Perhaps this is a season of singleness and it is hard to embrace for some. Learning to not be selfish or learning to discipline one’s finances, thoughts, or home, before we bring another into our lives is sacrifice.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.

~ Hebrews 12:1 LASB ~

I am thankful for the reminder not to allow sinful behaviors and habits to linger. The challenge is normally the overcoming lesson used to stretch us. When we obey God, in some capacity we are blessed.  

Partial obedience is not obedience. It is not enough to obey partially what God has confidently and consistently told us as Christians to do. We can only receive His best and embrace His love for us when we follow His instruction. Obedience is the ultimate gesture of love that we can show to our Lord. I thought partial obedience was better than no obedience. I am thankful for the revelation that Jesus desires us all to receive.

 “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment.

~ Mark 12:30 NASB ~

The challenge is not in the knowing but in the doing. We must deal with it all. In other words, we have to look in the mirror and do the work. In Numbers 31, v.17 reads, So kill all the boys and all the women who had intercourse with a man. God gives a command that seems harsh. I pondered why does God command the boys and a specific group of women to be slaughtered? In ancient culture, the boys would have grown up to avenge their father’s legacy. The command to kill the women because they had turned the hearts of the entire kingdom away from their first love, God.

It is not the women or the boys that the Lord was addressing (on the surface it seemed to be). It was the allowance of something that should be removed to change the trajectory of our destiny. We all can think back to a time or situation that created conflict, but by the grace of God, we are still here. Do not let it linger.

Lord, thank you for your grace and unconditional love. Help me to remove anything that prevents me from continued growth or change in my life. When you show me things that need to be removed that hinder my growth let me not hesitate to take action. I ask that you will allow me to go beneath the surface and get to the root of those things that keep me from becoming more like Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Refined

“Forged In Fire” is a popular show that consists of four bladesmiths competing in three rounds of elimination contests that test their skills with steel and/or other metals. The four contestants must compete in an area known as “the Forge” to create a blade (or another weapon) of the judges choosing. After the smith’s blades are put through a series of tests to demonstrate their durability, sharpness, and endurance. The judges critique and give the Smiths back their blades to address any refining issues, consisting of addressing the blemishes or issues pointed out by the judges.

Refined in Hebrew is Zaqaq, meaning to strain, extract or clarify. The word refined, according to Webster, means impurities or unwanted elements having been removed by processing. The process of refinement is necessary for this Christian walk.

For you have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, Yet you brought us out into a place of abundance.

Psalms 66:10-12 NASB

We have a tendency to forget that process does not always feel good and just like the refinement of the blades created on “Forged in Fire, ” there is a price. I have disappointed the Lord more than a few times and have caused some of the dearest, closest people in my life much pain. I am not proud of it at all. When I think of the actions and people I have hurt, I am grateful for God’s grace. I reminds me how imperfect I am without His touch. I am thankful for His compassion and love. Yes, we suffer for our disobedience and sometimes we carry the scars of that disobedience for the rest of our lives. However, I am thankful for Him looking beyond our blemishes and dark spots allowing us a spot at the Master’s table to be refined and not discarded. The truth is without Him there can be no refinement.

Like a careful craftsman, the Lord put Israel through the furnace and removes the impurities plaguing them. Israel has disobeyed God and the Lord has punished them for their sin. The Jews had turned and departed from the instruction of God. They fell in a backslidden state and instead of pursuing the right relationship with God- the Lord turns from His chosen people, leaving them to their own consequences for a moment. But when they turned back to the Lord (wholeheartedly), He transformed their shortcomings into abundant blessings.

This was encouraging because God’s punishment for Israel is only a moment but His mercy is everlasting. Mercy is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 NASB

Here is the gift that the Lord gives each and every one of us to experience when we allow Him to reign in our lives. Jerusalem experienced suffering for their disobedience but the Lord’s mercy prevailed in the end. He removed their punishment, he defeated their enemies, and Jew and Gentile were accepted by the Almighty. This is the refining work that we are promised that sin will be removed and our repentance leads to salvation.

Even when I reflect or feel regret for past mistakes and disobedience. Even when I do not deserve mercy, The Lord whispers in my thoughts that He has refined me. There is no need to walk back down the road of rebuke. It is a new day, a new mindset, and a new season. This is what we tell ourselves but often we find ourselves looking back down that road. I do not know about you friend, but I am striving daily to walk in the will of the Lord (even when I am bombarded with thoughts of failure). This is when we must allow “the mighty Warrior” to battle for us – battle against our thoughts, our insecurities, and our doubt. So that we are victorious.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalms 51:17

The practical for me is that if we have strayed away from the Lord’s will and experienced His discipline. When we turn in repentance with a broken and contrite heart, confessing our wrongdoing then the Lord will receive us again and make us stronger than ever before.

Thank you, Lord, for rejoicing over me because I can remember a time when you did not and were not pleased. We pray for those of us that are going through refining now, let us feel your presence and hope. I ask you to delight in each and every person reading this prayer. You are the “Mighty warrior that saves”. What I deserve is nothing but you have offered me redemption. I am grateful for your love and for forgiving me. Please Lord remind us of this truth daily- that you are with us daily, moment by moment, in dark and dry seasons. Give us a fresh perspective and let us appreciate the refining you are doing in us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.