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

Choose the Gift

Would we choose a job for which our wage was less than we deserved?  Most likely not.  Would we consider a job where on our very first day we were granted the greatest gift ever imagined?  Of course we would!

This is the difference between choosing the path of sin or receiving eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Sin will always give us less than we deserve because it keeps us separated from God and His desire for us to join Him in eternity.  Persistent, unrepented sin leads to death which is the opposite of what our Heavenly Father wants for us. 

The Bible says in Romans chapter three that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and again in chapter six that “the wages of sin is death”.  But, God’s Word also tells us in the parable of the wandering sheep (Matthew 18) that he would “leave his 99 sheep to go look for the one that wandered off”.  And, in 2 Peter 3:15 and 17 it says, in part, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”, “since you have been forewarned, be on guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position”.

Our Heavenly Father is a patient, loving God who longs for humanity to quit the job which leads to death (i.e., sin) and to ask Him on day one of our new job for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  It really is as easy as that because it truly is a gift.  There is nothing we can do to earn salvation; it is found only through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.

Sometimes I try to go back to my old job; I return to sin.  God knows this about me.  Praise be to God that He has provided me the way back to the new job – eternal life. (see 1 John 1:9)  Praise God that He is long-suffering and patient with me.  I have done nothing to deserve eternal life except ask for and receive God’s free gift.  It has been the most important request I have ever made.

If you are ready to ask God for the gift of salvation, let me encourage you to say a simple prayer.  It might go something like this, “Heavenly Father, forgive me for my sins.  I acknowledge Your Son, Jesus Christ, as my Lord and Savior.  Salvation is found only through the Name of Jesus.  I ask You right now for the gift of salvation through Your Son, Jesus.  I receive that gift from You, God, not because I deserve it, but because You are the God of grace and mercy. Thank You for loving me and providing me the way to eternal life with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Disappointment into Blessing

A little more than a year ago I was struggling at work.  I had been in the same department for 20 years and it was time for a change.  A few positions opened which piqued my interest, so I applied.  After interviewing for two of the jobs which I thought I would have been a shoo-in for, I was disappointed to learn that the positions were offered to others. 

I started to focus on my feelings about being passed over for the jobs.  I was sad, disheartened, angry and a little confused.  I had prayed about each position.  I believed my years of experience and commitment to our organization would make me the top choice.  I asked God for “favor” in the eyes of those who interviewed me.  So, why God, was I not offered either position?

I realized that I had forgotten to pray the prayer which never fails, that God’s will be done.  Sure, I asked God for favor and I “told” Him how much I “really wanted” the job…but, I never thought to ask that His will be done.  A while after this another position opened.  It interested me, but the hours were considerably less.  I almost did not apply.  Another employee in that same job role sought me out and encouraged me to apply.  This interview “felt” different.  There was a peace during the interview.  I realize now the peace was from our omniscient Father God. I see now that even though I had forgotten to ask for it, God’s will was being done.

The job was offered to me, I accepted, and the experience has been so amazing!  My new colleagues are wonderful, I am gaining even more experience and meeting so many new people.  This job has been a “perfect fit” for me.

Recently Covid-19 has created a pandemic in the world; what we once knew as “the norm” currently no longer exists.  There have been so many individuals across our nation who have lost their jobs due to mandated business closures and the failing economy.  I praise God daily for the job I continue to have.

Today as I was thanking God for my job I heard this quiet voice within me say, “Do you remember how frustrated you were when you did not receive those other positions?  Those two jobs are no longer in place; the individuals who accepted those positions have been furloughed.  I knew which job you were to have, even if you thought otherwise”.

Our God knew Covid-19 would happen.  He knew well before I applied for a new job over 14 months ago which positions would be furloughed.  Our God is not a God of coincidence; He is omniscient, and He grants favor to those who believe in Him. My disappointment in not getting the positions I “thought” I deserved has turned into so many blessings that I cannot even begin to count them.   It is entirely because our Heavenly Father knew where I needed to be during this unprecedented pandemic that both my employment and my joy are secure.  How about you?

“Heavenly Father, thank You that Your Word says You have plans to prosper us (Jer 29:11).  Lord Jesus, thank You that You alone know what is best for us.  You Word says in 2 Sam 22:33,” It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure”.  Praise be to God that our way is secure in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Thank You, Father, for Your provision in our lives. Thank You for knowing our future from before we existed and for turning our (perceived) disappointment into blessings. In Jesus’ Name we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Liar

Deception is Satan’s main motive in trying to accuse those who belong to the family of Christ.  Satan takes no greater pleasure than when he whispers lies to us attempting to lead us to doubt ourselves, our calling, or our decisions.  In John 8:44b (NLT) Jesus says of Satan, “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”. 

Do you sometimes hear, “God did not call you to lead”?  Or, perhaps, every door you try to step through for the work you have been chosen by God to do seems to close in your face.  Maybe strife in your closest relationships keeps you focused on life’s problems.  Are you feeling sad or discouraged? Lonely or afraid?  I believe these are but a few of the ways Satan tries to deceive us. 

Why does Satan try so hard to deceive us?  The reality is he is already defeated.  If you do not believe me, just read the book of Revelation and see exactly what Satan’s fate is.  It is because Satan knows full well that he is defeated by Christ that he lies to us.  He lies, hoping that we will believe him for even just a moment, so our work for the kingdom of God will be side tracked.  It is Satan’s primary objective to keep us in chaos and confusion through his deceitful ways. But, Satan knows he cannot defeat the children of God; our victory is secure because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The old testament book of Isaiah tells of our victory over Satan’s weak and pathetic attempts to deceive and discourage us.  In chapter 54 verse 17 it states, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  THIS is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. (emphasis mine)

Psalm 118:13-14 (AMP) also speaks of our triumph in the Lord; “You [my enemy] pushed me violently so that I was falling, But the LORD helped me.  The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation”.

We have a decision. Whose voice will we listen to?  Will we allow the father of lies to distract us or will we do as the Casting Crowns song says and “choose to listen to the Voice of Truth”? By getting into the Word of God and into prayer we can hear the Voice of Truth. 

Satan is ALREADY defeated.  I encourage you to waste no more time listening to his lies.  God HAS called you for a very specific purpose.  Listen for His voice.  He will lead you, encourage you and show you His truth.

“Lord Jesus, thank You for the victory we have in You.  Turn our ears to Your voice today and always.  In Jesus’ Name we tell Satan that his lies are not welcome here and that NO weapon of his shall ever prosper against us because we are Your children and we have victory with you.  Praise be to You, Lord Jesus.  Use us daily for Your kingdom’s glory.  In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Fellowship

Sometimes I read Scripture and the imagery brought to my mind is so vivid and clear it is as though I see myself in the stories being told.  What an amazing and awesome experience it would have been to follow Jesus while he walked this earth. 

One chapter of Scripture I recently read was in Acts.  In Acts chapter two Luke writes about the day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the apostles.  The visible tongues of fire which came to rest upon each of them would have been stunning to see.  And the speaking of other languages as the Holy Spirit enabled them; what an astonishing experience to witness.

There were many who observed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and who obeyed the command to repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Luke writes that “about three thousand were added to their number that day”.  It was like an instant mega church.

In the days that followed Pentecost the believers continued to meet regularly.  They did this for fellowship with one another.  The Greek word for fellowship in Acts 2:42 is koinonia which essentially means partnership.  They gathered out of deep love for one another and a partnership to further the kingdom of Christ.  Because of the gift of the Holy Spirit the believer’s hearts were bound together in supernatural affection for one another.  They were now all part of one family.

As the apostles and converts met others would gather to witness the signs and wonders being performed.  They also witnessed the genuine joy and love of believers who ate, worshipped, and fellowshipped together.  I imagine the people of Jerusalem watching all of this and thinking, “I want to be part of this group!”.  As Acts chapter two concludes Luke tells us that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.  Can you envision it?

Gathering with other believers is vital.  We are to spur one another on while meeting together.  We are to encourage one another.  (Heb 10:24-25) Believers should worship together with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit singing to God with gratitude. (Col 3:16) 

I believe we are to gather so that others may see the koinonia we share through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  I also think we are to gather to strengthen our koinonia.  We are to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”. (Heb 3:13) God never intended for us to live a life of solitude.  We need the fellowship of other Christians and it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can enjoy that.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the supernatural gift of koinonia.  Thank You for a family of believers with whom we can fellowship and grow.  We need each other, Father.  The body of believers is a gift for each one of us. Fellowship with like-minded, Holy Spirit-filled believers builds us up through mutual love and encouragement which comes from You.  May we never stop meeting together.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Action Required

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood…but against the rulers…the authorities…the powers of dark…and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  So, the battles we have with others and the actions we let consume us should not be where our energy and focus go.  We should set our minds on things above, on the spiritual battle raging between good and evil in the heavenly realms. 

This is not an easy feat.  It is much easier to hold a grudge toward someone who has hurt you or to spread gossip about the coworker you find annoying.  Unfortunately, it is even easier to cause strife and discord within the body of believers.  Maybe the Pastor did not respond the way you “expected” so you become bitter and try to cause dissention in the congregation.  When these things occur, we need to look again at what God is telling us in Ephesians 6:12. Our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood it is against the spiritual forces of evil, i.e., Satan and his minions. 

One of Satan’s goals is to cause confusion and chaos in the life of a believer, so they spin their wheels over miniscule, worldly issues.  This keeps the believer ineffective for God’s purpose for their life.  Satan loves to keep our focus on ourselves and on issues with others because he knows that if our attention were truly on God we would be dangerous.  How can we protect ourselves against Satan’s feeble attacks?  We must act.

James 4:7-8 clearly tells us the actions we must take to defeat Satan.  “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.  Did you catch the verbs in those phrases?  Verbs are action words and these two verses command us to perform quite a few.  Submit, resist, flee, come near, etc.…  When we initiate the action, God honors us by responding.  We first submit to his authority.  Then we resist the devil and the devil MUST flee!  And when we come near to God He responds by drawing near to us as well. 

Salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone.  His death on the cross is what allows us access to God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift we have done nothing to deserve.  But, our continued responsibility is to act (James 4:7-8) to fight the battle waging in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  Draw near to God and to His strength and He will draw near to you.

“Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of Your salvation.  Thank You for calling me to battle for Your kingdom’s glory.  I choose to submit to Your authority and to draw near to You so as I resist the devil in Your Name he will have to flee.  Use me today to further Your kingdom.  In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Spirit, Soul and Body

Before accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior my decisions were dictated primarily by my soul (i.e., my psyche; my mind, will and emotions).  If I “felt like” doing something to make myself happy I would do it without concern for others.   I would choose to do things that I thought made me happy but in reality did not; even to the detriment of my body.  As an example, going out and getting drunk and waking up without a clue as to what happened.  Perhaps even abandoning a friend or two in the name of finding “more fun”.  Usually, this degree of drunkenness had some associated ill side effects.  My body suffered the consequences of my soul’s decision to party hard. 

Once I became a believer Christ’s Spirit took up residence within me.  I no longer had only a soul living in a body.  I now had a spirit living within me; the very same Spirit as Jesus. It is this spirit which now guides my conscience.  This spirit which separates me from my “old” self and which leads me to make right choices.  It is this spirit that I desire to be in control of my life, though in my humanness this is not always the case. I praise God that Jesus Christ is always there to forgive me for wrong choices and to guide my spirit back to His.

The Bible states in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (AMP), “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you through and through [that is, separate you from profane and vulgar things, make you pure and whole and undamaged – consecrated to Him – set apart for His purpose]; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete and [be found] blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 

I am by no means perfect.  I made bad choices before I had Christ’s Spirit living within me and I have continued to make bad choices, at times, since then.  As Paul writes in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing”.  I try not to judge others because I see the imperfection in myself; I experience my own bad decisions.  Praise to God that His Spirit refuses to leave me but draws me back to His Word.  It is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit within me that leads me to repentance and back into right standing before the throne of God.  Our Father wants this for me and for you; we need only ask.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the free gift of Your Holy Spirit.  If we do not have Your Spirit living within us, we pray right now for forgiveness in the Name of Jesus Christ.  We say with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord. We invite Your Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts.  We accept Your salvation because of Jesus’s death on the cross in place of us; He took our sins upon Him so we could experience eternal life.  We thank You, Father, for this precious gift.  In Jesus Name we ask these things.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

The Healing of Reconciliation

Most of us would agree that we receive Spiritual healing when we seek forgiveness and are reconciled to our Heavenly Father through the saving blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.  What about other manifestations of healing?  Do we receive emotional and mental healing?  How about healing and restoration of severed relationships?  Are we healed physically through forgiveness and reconciliation?  As the Word of God says in Isaiah 53:5 (AMP), “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed”. 

This verse does not identify a specific “kind” of healing.  It simply states we are healed because Jesus lovingly and willingly took all of our sins; past, present and future, upon Himself and He suffered a horrible death so we could have salvation and healing.  It is because of God’s great love for us that we can experience this. (John 3:16) And if we believe that we, too, have been crucified with Christ (see Gal. 2:20) than it is Christ who lives inside of us.  Because we have Him in us we are compelled to be like-minded toward others.  That is, as God through Jesus readily forgives us, we are to also forgive others. (Col. 3:13)

I have heard many a Pastor preach on the truth of Matthew 11:25. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins”.  If we hold unforgiveness in our hearts we are separated from God because God is love (1 John 4:8).  I personally believe it is impossible to be unforgiving toward someone while having the love of God in my heart for them.  In fact, I would say my unforgiveness leads to bitterness and the bearing of grudges.  Now if those two things don’t sound like a breeding ground for sickness and disease (of all kinds) I don’t know what does.

But, in whom exactly is the sickness and disease breeding?  Unforgiveness toward someone does not seem to adversely affect them.  No, it is the one holding on to the bitterness of unforgiveness and who is bearing the grudge; they are sick and diseased.  How so, you ask?  I can only speak from experience.  My bitterness has led to mental issues (depression, anxiety), emotional issues (anger, impatience), relational issues (marital discord, strife with others) and physical issues (fatigue, pain). 

Take a moment to consider your state of well-being.  If you find yourself longing for healing of any type I challenge you to get before our Lord and Savior and ask Him to reveal to you any areas of unforgiveness you may be holding onto.  If He brings anything before you, ask Him to forgive you for the sin of unforgiveness and choose to forgive. This includes forgiving yourself.

“Lord Jesus, it is by Your great sacrifice that we are healed.  By revelation of Your Holy Spirit show us all areas of our unforgiveness.  Make us quick to repent.  Thank You, for Your salvation and healing.  In Jesus Name we pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner