Mercy Washing

Titus 3:3-5 (NLT) states, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient.  We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures.  Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.  But, when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and a new life through the Holy Spirit”.

A definition of mercy is “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm”.  When we compare this definition to Titus 3:3-5 we should rejoice, fall on our faces before the Lord and praise His Holy Name that He chose to pour out His mercy upon us; bathing us in His underserved compassion and forgiveness.  We should do this because God very much has the power to punish each one of us, and yet He does not.  God is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love (Ps 103).  We do not “get what we deserve” from our merciful Father.

Personally, I find that needing God’s merciful compassion and forgiveness is on-going.  It would be great if it were a “once and done” deal for me; I wish I could say that.  But, just as I require bathing with soap and water daily to remain physically clean, so my spirit needs and is renewed by God’s mercy washing. 

Being bathed in our Father’s mercy is available, I believe, as often as necessary when we turn to Him with a truly repentant heart and with a contrite spirit and we call out to Him for forgiveness.  Just because our Merciful Father will compassionately forgive us when we genuinely cry out to Him does not give any of us “license” to sin.  Sin has consequence and the Bible says that each of us will stand before the judgement throne of Christ to give an account of our sins. (2 Cor 5)

As I write this I reflect upon my sinfulness even from today and my need to confess that sin.  I am not proud of my failure and I must genuinely repent and seek a mercy washing from my Heavenly Father.  I am confident that He hears my prayer, knows my heart, and washes away my sin.  He does this for me because of His great mercy.  I cannot grasp the expanse of God’s ability to pour out mercy, but I can accept His gift of it.  As can you. 

“Abba Father, You alone know our hearts.  You are patient, loving, merciful and kind.  Lord God praise You for providing a way to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is by His shed blood that we are saved.  It is because Jesus bore our every sin upon the cross that we can receive Your mercy washing.  God, we do not deserve Your forgiveness.  Thank You, Father, that You are long-suffering and call to us when we sin against You and others.  Praise You, Jesus, that Your Spirit convicts our hearts to acknowledge and confess our sin so we can be in right standing with the Father once again.  Holy Spirit continue to develop in me the image of Christ so that others may see more of Him for the glory of God the Father.  It is in Jesus Name we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Hurt People

When I am hurt my human instinct is to avenge myself and how I am feeling.  I want to seek justice, my own vengeful justice.  I want the person who hurt me to experience some of the same. The bottom line is, hurt people hurt people.  

I know that the Word commands me to leave vengeance to God alone.  Romans 12:19 states, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay”, says the Lord”.  The Bible also instructs us to forgive others as often as necessary.  In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus tells Peter that he must forgive those who sin against him “seventy times seven”.  Essentially, Jesus is telling Peter he must infinitely choose to forgive those who sin against him.

You might read that and say to God, “that is not fair, they hurt me and now you expect me to forgive them?”.  You are right, that is not fair. But, God is also not fair to us when we are the ones hurting someone else. We would not WANT God to be fair.  We instead want God to be gracious.

Let me say it like this, IF God were simply being fair it would have been you and I nailed to the cross at Calvary.  By the grace of God Jesus freely took our place and we were given the gift of forgiveness through Christ.  As a believer we must set aside our own thoughts of what is fair.  We must rid ourselves of vengeance and seek to forgive as often as required. 

Forgiving others does not mean forgetting what they have done.  We do not need to remain in a situation where someone hurts us repeatedly if they are unrepentant and do not change their actions.  Forgiveness is not for the one who has sinned against us, but it is for each of us who have been wronged.  When we choose to forgive we are not doing what is fair, but we are doing what is gracious.  We are doing what God has done for us, we are offering someone that which they do not deserve. 

So, let us not go on being hurt people who hurt people.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus so that we do not grow weary and lose heart (Heb 12:2-3).  Let us forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven us (Col 3:13).  Let us not do what we think is fair, but rather what is gracious. 

“Heavenly Father, by Your grace we receive forgiveness for our sins through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  It was not fair that Christ took our place at Calvary.  It is not fair that we must forgive seventy times seven, but how many more times have You forgiven us?  Help us to offer grace to others in the same measure we have received Your grace.  Heavenly Father heal this nation of hurting people.  May the hurting end in Jesus Name!  Use us, Lord, to demonstrate Your grace.  We ask all these things in Jesus Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Goodbye Shadows

When a light shines it radiates out in every direction moving in a straight line.  But, when a solid, opaque object stands in the way of a beam of light a shadow forms behind the object.  The light is blocked and no longer shines beyond the object in its path. 

The Bible says that Christians are to let their light shine before others so they will see our good deeds and thus glorify our Heavenly Father (Mt 5:16).  Who is the Source of light in the hearts of believers?  Second Corinthians 4:6 tells us this, “For God, who said, let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (emphasis mine). We are to reflect the face (light) of Christ as His followers.

So, what causes the Light within us to be blocked from the world around us?  What “objects” get in the way of Christ’s Light in our hearts shadowing Him from others?  Perhaps fear of rejection?  Maybe jealousy, rage, bitterness or unforgiveness stands in the path of our light.  Whatever the reason there are ways to remove the “object” and once again let our light shine.

If fear of rejection shadows your light ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with His courage and strength.  If you are harboring the sins of jealousy, rage, bitterness or unforgiveness toward others, repent of them to God in the Name of Jesus Christ.  The Power of God’s forgiveness in you will smash those sinful “objects” allowing your light to again shine forth. 

The Word of God also tells us that, “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2Cor 4:4).  But, Praise to God that His Word also says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1John 4:4).

So, let us shine our Greater Light from within so that the minds of unbelievers will no longer be blinded by the enemy.  Let us pray to God asking Him to remove any “object” in our lives which blocks His Light to the world around us.  Let us say, “Goodbye shadows”.

“Holy Spirit of the Living God, come now and search our hearts.  If there is fear, give us Your courage.  Reveal to each one of us any area of sin we are holding onto so that we may quickly repent.  In the Name of Jesus Christ, we confess all things in our lives which might cast shadows and prevent others from seeing Your Light.  We commit our lives to You, Lord.  Use us this day to reach the hurting and the lost in this world.  We pray all of these things in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Kami R. Lobner

The Sheepfold

A sheepfold is a pen built to provide protection for sheep from thieves and predators.  Sometimes multiple herds of sheep are brought into the fold at one time.  There is a doorway or gate to enter into the sheepfold and it is here that the shepherd lays to provide protection for his sheep.  It is also through the gate that the shepherd will lead his flock out to pasture.  The sheepfold provides protection, especially at night, from thieves and predators.  The gate is the only true way that the sheep can safely be led into the protection of the fold and also out again, following their shepherd who leads them to green grass and fresh water. 

The Gospel of John talks about the Gate of entry into the sheepfold and the Shepherd who calls to, protects, and provides for His flock.  (John 10:1-10)  Jesus Christ is both the Gate by which we, the sheep, enter the fold, as well as, the Shepherd whose voice we know, trust and follow.  John 10:1 tells us that anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate (“but climbs in by some other way”) is a thief and robber. Verse three states that the gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd and “the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”.  Jesus is our Shepherd and when He calls to us we recognize His voice and we follow Him. 

We need to have a discerning spirit about those who would try to rob from us.  The enemy is a thief and a liar; he will deceitfully climb into the fold and try to drag us away from our One True Shepherd.  Satan wants nothing more than to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), but as we listen for Jesus’s voice and follow Him we become increasingly aware of His voice.  Just as the intermingled flocks of sheep within the fold can identify the call of their shepherd and correctly follow him,  It will become easier for us to recognize our Shepard and to go where He leads us.  By remaining in the fold we are protected from the futile attacks of the enemy and by following His voice we are led into green pastures of provision and blessings.

“Lord Jesus You are our One True Shepard.  We praise Your Holy Name.  Thank You for Your protection and provision in our lives.  We also thank You for the entry we have into Your fold through You, the Gate.  In the Name of Jesus we claim protection over the enemy who tries to steal, kill and destroy.  Thank You, Heavenly Father, for providing us with the most loving Shepherd, Your son Jesus Christ. We choose to remain in the fold as we continue to grow increasingly sensitive to the voice of our Shepherd.  In the Name of Jesus we pray that many are added to the fold every day for Your kingdom’s glory.  In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Self-Pity

For a few days I have felt exhausted and full of self-pity and doubt.  I felt as though I was being led by God and doing the work He has called me to do when suddenly I was overcome by fatigue.  I wanted nothing to do with others; I did not want to encourage them or pray for them or really even be around them.  This is not who I normally am. 

So I took a self-inventory.  Why was I exhausted if I was truly doing what God called me to do?  I realized that in doing the work that God has called me to do I would look to others for affirmation.  I wanted to be valued and appreciated by others.  Wow! How selfish and vain!  I became frustrated with myself because of my erroneous motivation to “do God’s will”.  I believe that my exhaustion came from God lifting His hand from me in order to allow me to do a little soul searching.

Tonight I came upon this Scripture in Jeremiah 15:19 (Amp), “Therefore, thus says the LORD [to Jeremiah], If you repent [and give up this mistaken attitude of despair and self-pity], then I will restore you [to a state of inner peace] so that you may stand before Me [as My obedient representative]; and if you separate the precious from the worthless [examining yourself and cleansing your heart from unwarranted doubt concerning my faithfulness], you will become My spokesman. Let the people turn to you [and learn to value My values]- But you, you must not turn to them [with regard for their idolatry and wickedness]”. (emphasis mine) Thank You, God.  Soul successfully searched.

Please do not get me wrong.  I believe that God made us to be relational beings.  I believe that we each, to varying degrees as given to us by our Creator, need fellowship with and encouragement from other believers.  When that need for relationship and encouragement gets outside of God’s desire for our lives I believe we can end up exhausted and empty.  The primary relationship God created us for is fellowship with Him.  We must first spend time with the Father before we can give to others.  God IS faithful and He will honor us by strengthening and encouraging us as we spend time with Him.  He will lead us and guide us to do His will.  His hand will be upon us as we seek Him first and rely upon Him fully.  Our inner peace will be restored when we repent of our selfish ways, place our primary focus back on Him, and allow His will to truly be done.

“Heavenly Father, thank You that Your Word speaks so clearly to our hearts.  May we always be quick to respond to You and the leading of Your Holy Spirit within us.  If we lose focus on and fellowship with You, guide us gently back to Your Presence and Your Word.  Give us a discerning spirit to sense if we are being selfish, vain or doubting Your faithfulness to us.  Use us daily for Your plan and purpose.  May Your will alone be done in our lives as we seek Your face.  In You alone we move and breathe and have our being.  We give our lives to bring glory to Your kingdom.  In the Mighty Name of Jesus we pray. Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Refill

I love coffee.  I cannot function well without it every morning. The first thing I do when I wake up each day is turn on my coffee maker and fill my favorite mug. Then I refill that mug because I need it to keep me going through the day.   It is such an easy thing to do because it has become a habit.  Without my daily coffee I am exhausted, sluggish, and drained of energy.

Why is it that I sometimes forget to fill myself up with the things of God?  Getting into daily devotionals and reading the Word are as necessary to keep me spiritually filled and moving forward as coffee is for my physical body.  I know that I need to fill up on Scripture and even grab a refill before I head out each day, and yet, this is NOT always my habit. Unfortunately for me the results are exhaustion and feeling spiritually dried up.  It is in these moments when I have nothing left to give anyone. 

When I run into this wall of exhaustion I must press on!  It is in these moments when searching God’s Word and calling out to Him in prayer are essential.  Much like coffee wakes up my physical body, reading the Bible and seeking fellowship with God through prayer wakes up my spirit.  Basically, I need to return to the Source of my strength before I can give to anyone else. 

I cry out to God as King David did in Psalm 3:3, “But you, o LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high”.  And, again, in Psalm 22:19, “O LORD, do not stay far away! You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!”.

When I am spiritually drained I need a refill of the truth of God’s Word.  I need a reminder of His love for me.  I need to focus on Him as the One true Source of my strength. It is only then that I am able to be used by Him. It is only then that my Joy is restored.

How about you? How do you fill up on God? Do you find yourself in need of a refill? If so, join with me in praying:

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Strength in us.  Make us quick to fill ourselves with Your Word and quicker to get a refill of You often throughout the day.  Your Word says that You are our strength.  We ask in the Name of Jesus for Your strength to come upon us right now.  We agree with Your Word that You will hold our heads high and that You will come quickly to our aid.  We praise You, Lord, in the mighty Name of Jesus for Your supernatural Presence in our lives.  Fill us and refill us, Lord.  It is in the Name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Delight

The first time I read Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”, I thought, “WOW! I just need to ask God for whatever I want and (because I am a good person) he will give me whatever my little heart desires”.  Um, not quite.

While I certainly believe God can, will, and does give us things we ask for (according to HIS will), I have come to understand Psalm 37:4 a bit differently.  My humble understanding of this verse is that as I revel in God, as I savor WHO He is, and as I become captivated by His Word and His promises, it is then that He places desires in my heart.  In other words, as I have relationship with God he places His desires in my heart thus making them my desires.  As I draw closer to God he supernaturally changes the desires of my own heart to align with His heart and His purpose.

So, how exactly do we delight in God?  How do we receive His desires as our own?  For me, it is taking time to get to know Him through His Word.  I enjoy reading the daily verse on my phone’s Bible App or getting into some of my favorite devotionals.  I love to open my leather-bound Bible and read Scripture, as well as, the notes I have written over the years listening to various Pastors preach on certain verses.

Another way I delight in God is through prayer.  Sometimes this is a quick word offered up during a stressful or busy moment in my day. Other times it is when I quiet myself before the Lord and find a solitary place to converse with my Heavenly Father. 

Finally, for me, I delight in God through worship and fellowship with like-minded believers.  I delight (revel, savor, am found captive) in God through corporate worship, lifting songs of praise unto our Lord and Savior. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” Matthew 18:20.  Also, spending time talking with and praying with other Christians who have a similar passion for the things of God.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17.

How about you?  What is it that causes you to delight in the Lord?  How do you align your desires with God’s?  In what ways can you spend more time with the One Who created you?

Let me encourage you with this prayer, “Father God, we long to be filled with Your desires.  You know what is best for us.  Your Word says you want to prosper us and not harm us (see Jer 29:11).  As we commit to drawing closer to You we trust that You, in turn, will draw closer to us.  Fill our hearts with Your desires.  Open our hearts to the things of God and use us for Your great purpose and for Your glory.  We ask these things in Jesus Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Wounded or Wronged?

I was recently asked to forgive someone.  I said to her that I did not think forgiveness was necessary, but I accepted her request and extended my forgiveness.  At the time I could not quite put into words “why” I felt forgiveness was not required, but tonight I read a devotional which has helped me formulate my thoughts.

In the devotional it talked about the difference between being wounded and being wronged.  To be wounded is to be hurt or injured; in this instance my feelings were unintentionally bruised.  To be wronged, however, implies intent.  It is a deliberate act to attack or harm someone emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually.

As I thought about this person asking me for forgiveness I was reminded of the word agape.  I believe that the definition of agape is a Love originating from God.  Agape love occupies the hearts of those who have invited the Holy Spirit to reside within them.  It is because of the Love of God within her heart that this sister in Christ sensed that I was wounded.  So, even though I was not intentionally wronged by her, but instead had experienced my own feelings over a situation, she still sensed that I was hurting and asked for my forgiveness. 

I struggle to find the words to express how deeply impactful her asking for forgiveness has been for me.  It has been an example to me of how I should be toward others.  She demonstrated the love which comes from God as 1 John 4:7 states.  This person, whom I am just beginning to know, wanted to make sure I was no longer hurting.  Since we have only just met she could have simply walked away.  Isn’t that how the world works?  Yes, indeed.  But those in the family of Christ are not of this world and that is the amazing difference.

The demonstration of agape love (the Love which originates from God) is what separates us from this world.  How would it look if we all let that agape love exude from our hearts?  What would it look like if we swallowed our pride to ask for forgiveness? What if we gave without asking in return? What if we loved one another regardless of skin color or intellectual ability? 

This woman led by example in asking for forgiveness when none was necessary.  The genuine kindness behind her request has made me question myself and areas of my own life.  Her actions have spurred me on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).  And isn’t that what being a Christian is all about?  Shouldn’t we love as God loves, encourage one another, and lead by example?

“Heavenly Father, we praise You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit within us.  Thank You for the presence of Your Agape Love in our hearts.  May we be quick to extend Your Love to others, Lord.  Thank You for the example of Your Love in the actions of this woman; may we all take her example to heart and learn from it.  May Your Love abound and grow in us and through us.  Use us, Lord, to reach this hurting world.  Make us quick to ask for forgiveness and even faster to extend it.  Thank You that You have begun a good work in each of us and Your Word says You will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  May Your will be done in all things and for Your glory.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

A Way Out

It is easy to say, “The devil made me do it” when we choose to sin.  But, let us not give Satan credit where it is not due.  With full knowledge and, dare I say, the “allowance” of God, Satan absolutely tempts each one of us.  It is, however, our ultimate decision which leads us down a path of victory or sin.  And, praise God, His Word says He will “always provide the way out”; we just need to choose His way.

I love the Amplified version of 1 Corinthians 10:13.  “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word – He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy]”. 

You may read this verse and wonder how to find God’s way out and how to endure the temptation without succumbing to it.  I would say to you, “Read on”.  In the very next verse God tells us exactly how to find our way out.  His Word says, “Therefore, my beloved, RUN [keep far, far away] from [any sort of] idolatry [and that includes loving anything more than God, or participating in anything that leads to sin and enslaves the soul]”. (1Cor 10:14 AMP; emphasis mine)

We MUST take action in order to find the way out of temptation.  We must RUN! Turn away from whatever is tempting us or from whatever idol we have put in place of God and run the other way.  Remember, God is faithful and He has already provided us the way out.  He only asks that we participate by running away from the temptation toward His path to freedom.  We also are encouraged to read and memorize the Word of God so that we can use it as a weapon against the enemy’s attacks.

Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan.  In His humanness, Jesus could have chosen the path of sin.  This path is typically the easy path.  It is the path of instant gratification.  It is also the path which leads to death and destruction.  Instead of choosing this path, Jesus quoted Scripture (Matthew 4:1-11) and Satan (who is already defeated) HAD to give up. Satan had to leave because Jesus chose the way out of temptation.  We have the ability and the same tools as Christ to find the way out of temptation.  We just need to run away from temptation and stand firm on God’s Word in the face of Satan’s feeble attempts to thwart us.  Our victory over temptation and sin is secure because of Jesus’s death and resurrection.  Sin and death have no hold on us.

“Heavenly Father we praise Your Holy Name for the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Thank You for the promise that we have a way out when temptation comes upon us.  In those moments, Lord, give us Your wisdom and Your strength to turn from temptation and to run in the other direction.  Bring any and all idols we revere before our eyes that we may repent and receive Your forgiveness.  Lead us and guide us daily.  We claim victory over sin because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  It is in His Name we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Hope

“I hope he likes me”.  “I hope she says yes”.  “I hope you feel better soon”.  These and others like them are the “hopes” of wishful thinking. Biblical hope goes beyond wishful thinking; it is a confident expectation based entirely upon God’s faithfulness.  Biblical hope is trusting in things we have not yet seen and believing  what God says is true.  This hope is a living hope which comes only through Jesus Christ and His resurrection. (1 Peter 1:3)

As a Christian I can experience peace and joy, even in the midst of trials, because I have hope in Christ and assurance of eternal life through His death and resurrection. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit living within me that my hope is overflowing. (Romans 15:13)  I know that my eternal life in Heaven is secure even if everything in this life seems to be heading in the wrong direction.  I believe that my non-verbal, autistic son will speak, sing, run, laugh, and dance because of the faith and hope (confident expectation) I have in things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1).

Sometimes I lose focus of this Biblical hope.  I know when this happens because my peace and joy are missing.  It is a miserable and lonely feeling.  There is a quick fix for this, however. It is opening up the Word of God.  When I put Scripture before my eyes the Holy Spirit breathes hope back into my heart.  I experience, again, the overflowing hope found only in our Father God.  My peace and joy are restored and my spirit is renewed.

 I believe that the enemy (Satan) comes to steal our hope, peace, and joy.  He tries, anyway.  But let me remind you that he is already defeated.  So, I  encourage you to read the Word of God daily so that you are continually filled with the living hope of Jesus Christ and with His peace and joy. 

“Heavenly Father, we come before You now with confident expectation of the many promises written in Your Word.  We praise You, Lord, for Your faithfulness.  Keep Your Word ever before our eyes.  May Your Holy Spirit fill us with peace and joy as we trust in You.  Protect us from the enemy’s attacks.  In Jesus Name we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner