One Church

I sometimes wonder how many denominations out there profess Christianity.  I am no theologian, but I think Christianity is less about religious affiliation and more about Christ and following His ways.

My friend, DaNita, has mused over how much can be done for local communities when denominations work together.  Resources increase, talents within the body of Christ are multiplied and needs are met.  Instead of one church working to bring people into their building we see an assortment of denominations pooling their assets to help the community. 

I admire DaNita’s heart for serving others. I admire her desire to bring various denominations together to reach others where they are at.  I hear the passion in DaNita’s voice when she talks about churches who look beyond their four walls to see the bigger picture.  I believe that this is the church Christ intended.  One church with One head reaching out to those in need.

This church has at its core the One Who died to bring all to salvation.  Christ did not die only for the Roman Catholics, or the Evangelicals or the Protestants.  He died for them all and He died for every other denomination and individual on this earth.  I think that this is the church DaNita talks about.  This is the church whose focus is not on increasing numbers within denominations or buildings, but rather being intentional and working collectively to serve others. 

I believe in this church.  I believe that Jesus Christ died once and for all.  I think that this is how our God longs for us to live; not fighting over which religious affiliation is correct but loving everyone and serving others.  This is Who Christ was and is.  He is our Savior who exemplifies what being a servant is all about.  He is our example.  Imagine the difference we could make in this world when we choose to serve like Christ. 

“Heavenly Father I thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for the opportunity to serve others in the Name of Jesus.  I ask that our community of believers band together to meet the needs of the hurting and the lost.  I pray that our focus not only be on increasing attendance in churches, but that our focus also be on intentionally serving others where they are at. I ask these things in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.”

Rev 21:2          2Cor 11:2         1Cor 12:12       Mt 23:11         Rom 12:13       Rom 12:5

Kami R. Lobner                      

Void

I was experiencing self-pity this week.  I felt lonely and wanted someone to talk to and to spend time with.  My husband and I work opposite hours and time together can quickly get away from us.  I tried to make time with a friend, but we had conflicting schedules.  I spent more time alone this week than I usually do. It made me preoccupied with myself and my feelings.  Instead of using my “alone time” to fellowship with God, I wallowed in self-pity because I missed people.  I thought I had no one to talk to, when in fact God was just waiting patiently for me to spend time with Him. 

My introverted friends might not understand my loneliness in this situation.  I don’t really understand it myself.  God created me as I am; an extrovert who loves the company of others.  I do not think God made a mistake in His design.  I do believe I sometimes forget that His company is the most important.  I don’t “see” Him.  I don’t “hear” Him.  I can’t “hug” Him.  So, I look for someone I can see, or hear, or hug.  I sometimes look for human interaction over time with my Lord.  God knows this about me.  I am no surprise to Him.

Even though I am no surprise to Him, He continually surprises me.  I read from three different devotionals I have and God spoke the same thing to me through each one of them.  He reminded me that my pity and preoccupation with self were just distractions to keep my focus off of Him.  He reminded me that salvation is not the only thing found in Christ Jesus.  I was reminded in these devotionals that Jesus is the only One Who can truly fill the void in my heart.  My soul has this empty shape inside of it which can only be filled by His Presence. 

I wasted a few days this week being frustrated and sad.  I had more time alone than I usually do and I could have spent some of that time with God.  In the end, God revealed His wisdom and taught me something valuable.  He taught me to put Him first.  He reminded me that being a Christian involves more than just showing up on Sundays.  It means completely opening up and surrendering my life to Christ.  It means bending a knee in complete worship to the only One Who can truly fill the void in my life. 

My prayer is this, “Heavenly Father, thank You for who You created me to be.  Thank You for placing within each one of us a void which can only be filled by Your Presence.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your patience and Your gentle nudging as You guide me back into fellowship with You.  Thank You for the body of believers and the fellowship found within it.  Protect my mind and my emotions daily, Lord, as the Enemy tries to lure me into a pit of self-pity and loneliness.  Remind me, Father, to call out to You in praise and thanksgiving.  When I do, I trust Your Spirit to fill the void within my heart.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Hebrews 12:1-2                       Ps 86:7                         Acts 4:12

Kami R. Lobner

A Hotchy Potchy Friend

 Hotchy potchy was my Grandmother’s made up creation.  It was nothing fancy, but I loved to eat it.  The meal consisted of eggs over easy and homemade fried potatoes.  Oh, and the name came from mixing those two foods together in a big, hotchy potchy mess on my plate.  If the friends of my youth only knew what they were missing out on!  My adulthood friend, Mary, remembers me telling her about hotchy potchy.  She laughingly jokes about us needing to make some to eat.  Sounds good to me! 

In all seriousness, I was thinking of Mary today, as I do most days.  I miss her.  Thinking about Mary today made me think about how life can be “hotchy potchy” sometimes.  What I mean is, life can hand us multiple things which sometimes can get mixed up on our plates of life.  I have experienced this and I have seen Mary experience it, too.  We have both been served  plates of hotchy potchy by the Enemy.

Mary’s plate of hotchy potchy has been different than mine.  Most everyone’s is unique to them.  I have learned much from Mary, watching her sometimes deal with the same plate of hotchy potchy more than once.  Mary has not always cleaned up her plate perfectly, but who of us has? I have seen her plate piled high with hotchy potchy and by God’s grace and mercy she has wiped it clean and has come out stronger and healthier.  Was it easy for her? By no means.  Did she struggle? I’m going to guess that she did.  But, one of the MANY things I love and admire about Mary is her faith in God and her trust that Jesus Christ will always help her clean her plate. (1 Cor 10:12-13)

I am blessed and grateful that Mary has faithfully been by my side when life’s hotchy potchy messes have overwhelmed me.  I praise God that Mary never judges me.  I thank our Lord that through my repetitive hotchy potchy living Mary never gives up praying for me.  Mary reminds me that I am not alone.  She knows of her own humanness and struggles and she quickly informs me that she is in no position to cast stones.  I am able to say the same to her during her times of struggle.

How awesome is our Father God in providing  Christian friends to love, support and encourage us.  Mary is this kind of friend.  She is always there when I need to talk.  She is always willing to pray.  Mary encourages me and never tears me down.  Mary is my hotchy potchy friend; she reminds me I am not alone.  (Ecc 4:9) My prayer for you today is that God provides you with a hotchy potchy friend if He hasn’t already.  A hotchy potchy friend is a friend for life! (Jn 15:13)

Kami R. Lobner

Through the storm

Peter and the other disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  They were being buffeted by wind and waves when they saw a man walking upon the water.  At first, they were afraid. The Man said to them, “Do not be afraid, it is I”.  Peter stood and asked the Man to prove that He was Jesus and to command Peter to also walk upon the water.  Jesus told Peter to come.

I imagine Peter gingerly stepping out of the boat.  Perhaps, still holding on to the other disciples or the side of the boat, he finally lets go and to his amazement he is standing on the water.  Peter begins to walk toward Jesus.  I envision Peter picking up the pace with his heart pounding as he gets closer to Christ.  Suddenly, and for only a moment, Peter takes his eyes off Jesus to look at the waves.  It is then he begins to sink.  Peter cries out to Jesus to save him.  The Lord reaches out and grabs hold of Peter saying, “oh ye of little faith”.  Jesus lifts Peter up and together they walk to the boat.  As Jesus climbs in, the wind and waves cease.

What happened here?  Peter seemingly doubts that the figure on the water is Jesus, however, when Jesus tells Peter Who He is, Peter believes and takes a step of faith.  As Peter is walking through the storm, his eyes are fixed upon Jesus.  There is no wind which can blow Peter over and no wave to push him down.  There is only his Savior helping him navigate the storm.  Then, for a moment, Peter looks at his surroundings.  As he looks at the storm, he is no longer focused on the One Who was helping him, and he begins to sink.  Remembering Jesus, Peter regains his focus over the tribulation and cries out, again, for his Savior.  Jesus immediately responds and comes to Peter’s aid.  The two walk together and get into the boat.  But, it isn’t until Jesus steps foot inside the boat that the wind dies down and the waves stop crashing.

I see this story in my life.  I sometimes doubt that the Lord is there, in the storm of my life.  I cry out to Him and He says, “it is I”.  With renewed confidence in Him I begin to walk through the trial I am facing.  But, I become distracted.  I take my eyes off Christ and I begin to sink.  I need encouragement from my Christian family and friends, or to be reminded through my Pastor’s sermon, to focus upon my Lord and Savior.  When I do, Jesus is right there with me.  He is stepping into the boat I am in and He is calming my fears.  He is quieting the storm around me. 

It may take days, months or even years to get to the other side of a stormy sea. When Christ steps into the boat we are in, the turbulence of life is less daunting.  He knows we are “of little faith”, but when we place our seed of faith in Him anything is possible. 

Today, I encourage you to focus upon Jesus to get you through whatever storm you are facing.  He longs to walk with you through it.  He wants to climb into your boat and ride it out with you.  All you need to do is ask.

Matthew 14:28-32                             Luke 17:6                                Philippians 4:13

Kami R. Lobner

A friend for eternity

Today I celebrate the birthday of a dear friend.  I haven’t known her long, but I will know her eternally.  From the very beginning she has been the Proverbs 27:17 kind of friend.  She challenges me to get into the Word of God.  She encourages me when I share my dreams with her.  She is the most amazing listener and provides words of wisdom from her heart.  This friend is iron to my iron; she sharpens me.  As the Benson Bible commentary states about the Proverbs 27:17 friend, she “quickens her ingenuity, enlivens her affections, strengthens her judgment, excites her to virtuous and useful actions, and makes her, in all respects, a better woman”.  I am most definitely a better woman for knowing this friend.

My friend is also this kind of person, also described in Proverbs: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov 17:17).  Matthew Henry’s commentary defines this kind of friend, in part, as one who, “intimates the strength of those bonds by which we are bound to each other and which we ought to be sensible. Friends must be constant to each other at all times.  That is not true friendship which is not constant. It will be so if it be sincere, and actuated by a good principle”.  This is her.  She loves at all times.  She is constant, sincere and lives a life based upon good principle.  The love of our Lord radiates from within her and touches the lives of those around her.  I trust her to be there for me through times of adversity.

One thing I admire about my friend is her humility. Another quality she exudes is a quiet confidence.  She would be embarrassed if placed upon a pedestal.  She would be the first to remind others that her Source is our Savior.  She has often said that she is “just the vessel”.  She is “devoted to” others in love and “honors others above” herself. (Rom 12:10)

This is the kind of friend God calls each one of us to become.  He gives us His written Word as a guide on how to be a friend who “loveth at all times”.  Our Father provides us with a body of fellow Christians with whom to have relationships and from whom we can learn.  God’s Word commands us to “love each other” (John 15:17).

In loving others I still mess up.  I can read God’s guide book in the morning and by the afternoon have dropped the “love others” ball.  None of us are perfect in this; not even my dear friend of whom I have written.  But, we can seek forgiveness when we mess up and we can pick up the “love others” ball and start over again.  We can do this because God is Love and His mercies are new every morning (1 John 4:8 and Lamentations 3:22-23).  Thanks be to God for His never-ending love.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy which is new every morning.  Thank You for Your love and provision.  God, I praise You for the body of Christ and the loving friendships You have brought into my life.  On this day, Lord, I especially thank You for my dear friend.  Bless her today and always just as she blesses so many people. May You grow me into this kind of a friend and use me in the lives of others to become a friend for eternity.  I ask these things Jesus’ Name. Amen.”                                                      Kami R. Lobner

Choose your food wisely

Galatians 5:19-26

I was reading in Galatians today and I had this image come to mind.  I was in a banquet hall and there was food on both sides of the room.  On the right was a beautiful arrangement of ripe fruits; crisp red apples, fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, green and red grapes, kiwi, strawberry and pineapple.  The fruit on this table was sweet, delicious and never ending. This represented the fruit of the Spirit and Its live-giving blessings.

Across the room on the left side was another table.  It had on it moldy cheese, rotten eggs, sour milk and spoiled fruits and vegetables.  There was an odor surrounding this food.  Those who were eating from this table became instantly ill. This represented sin and its consequences.

Then a thought came to my mind.  My life has been a series of choices as to which buffet table I would prefer to eat from.  I would love to tell you I have always chosen to eat from the table on the right, but that would be a lie.  I have eaten from the table on the left; the table where I chose sin and its devastating consequences.  I have eaten from this table more times than I care to admit.

But, praise God that choosing the table on the left has not been the end of my story.  I have suffered the ill effects of choosing the rotten food from that table; things like strife, depression, anxiety and hurting those I love.  But by God’s mercy and grace I found my way back to the beautiful table on the right.  Because of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit I have been given access to the table on the right; the table which fills me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

I don’t deserve a second trip through the buffet line.  But, Jesus Christ bought it for me and He says I am worth receiving the better food; the food on the right side of the room. I have even been so wrong that I have gone back from the delicious, life-giving food to the rotten, sickening food and, still, Jesus offers me a clean plate. It grieves the Lord to watch me choose the table on the left.  But, He is patient, kind, loving and forgiving.  He calls me back to the table on the right.

“Praise You, Lord Jesus, for continually offering me Your life-giving food.  Thank You, Father, for Your patience when my belly is full of the rotten food I have chosen to eat.  And, thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your sacrifice which provides me the life-giving food.  May Your Spirit continue to fill me and lead me to the table on the right.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Winning Team

Sometimes life trips us up.  We are cruising along seemingly carefree and then wham, from out of nowhere we are blind-sided.  These moments present themselves in many ways.  The car breaks down and so does the washing machine.  Situations arise at home or at work bringing fear and strife into our relationships; both personal and professional.  We lose a child.  We lose a spouse.  We lose a job.  We are bullied and harassed and we do not understand “why”.

I have experienced life’s struggles.  In those moments a fear wells up inside of me and I give in to anxiety, frustration and anger.  I often need time and a trusted friend or two to listen to me and help me through prayer support and words of encouragement.  Sometimes it takes a moment before I see that being temporarily blind-sided is fleeting.  I am reminded through God’s Word, prayers of support and words of encouragement that I am forever part of the winning team.

I believe Satan is behind most of life’s distractions leading to strife. This is Satan’s modus operandi.  Keeping us distracted with relational issues, broken down items and financial woes is how he sidetracks us from our purpose. But, our God is bigger than Satan’s plans and attempts to foil us.  Our Heavenly Father tells us in His Word that Satan is already defeated and we who believe in and call upon the Name of Jesus are victorious.

First Corinthians 15:57 states, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Psalm 149:4 says, “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory”.  Again in 1 Corinthians He says, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”.  (1Cor 15:55) And, in the final book of God’s Word we read the assurance of our faith in Christ, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”.  (Rev 20:10)

Satan’s future is already determined.  And so is ours when we put our trust and faith in the One Who saves, Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I thank You for the sacrifice of death upon the cross and the salvation it provides.  I praise You that I am protected by You and the promise of eternity with You in heaven.  I thank You for those brothers and sisters in Christ who pray for and encourage me when I get blind-sided.  There is no fear in the things of this world because You are the only winning Coach and by Your grace and mercy I am forever on Your team.  Thanks be to Jesus.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner