Are you well?

There is a hymn which I love entitled “It Is Well With My Soul” written by Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. From the original lyrics, it is the second stanza which speaks most to my heart:

            “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

Horatio Spafford lost nearly everything.  He was a successful lawyer. He had invested in a large amount of property which he lost out on financially during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. His son had died at a young age.  He and his wife and their four daughters were to sail to Europe together but Horatio was detained in Chicago.  The ship collided with another vessel and sank, killing all of their children with only his wife surviving.  (Wikipedia and references therein)

That much loss would certainly do most people in.  But not Horatio.  He met up with his wife and they added to their family only to lose yet another young son.  Through it all He focused upon God and he expressed that focus, that faith, so eloquently in the hymn he wrote.  Horatio had hope and faith in God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord and he never took his eyes off of his eternal home yet to come.

Can we say it is well with us? Would we become violently ill if our physical health mirrored the current state of our spiritual health? Or, would we instead remain steady through the storms of life as we continue to place our hope and faith in Christ alone?

For myself I can honestly say I am continuing to grow in this area of spiritual health and well-being.  I have experienced my share of loss, sadness, pain and the sort.  I have not always remained steadfast during those times because I allowed my spiritual health to deteriorate.  My focus shifted from Christ’s sacrifice for my soul’s eternity to the here and now problems of life on earth.  I did not remain in God’s Word nor did I continue in faith and hope.  I was NOT well.  My soul was not well. 

Horatio Spafford suffered, as have you and I, but the One Who suffered most was our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He shed His own blood for our souls.  Christ died to make it possible to spend eternity in Heaven without the loss, sadness or pain.  He died so that our souls could be well.

If you are facing a trial right now have courage in Christ  Who is your strength.  He is the One Who can make your soul well through it all. 

“Lord Jesus I praise Your Holy Name.  I thank You, Lord, for shedding Your blood for my soul. Thank You for the spiritual health and well-being found only in You, Lord.  Thank You for eternity.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.” (3 John 2, Jer 17:7-8)

Kami R. Lobner 

Return to Me

One amazingly cool thing about God is His willingness to forgive us of our sins.  Not only is He willing to forgive us, He calls us to Him for the very purpose of redemption. When we turn to our Heavenly Father with a contrite and repentant heart, He honors us by wiping our slate clean.  Isaiah 44:22 says, “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you”. 

Think about the imagery that verse produces.  With an easy brushing of His hand, God breezily pushes aside the offenses we have brought before Him in genuine repentance.  He does not require great effort to do this.  Like a cloud that gently drifts away in the sky or the morning mist which quickly disappears when the sun begins to rise, our Heavenly Father erases our offenses forever.  He does this so that we can return to Him. 

Sounds easy, right?  For us it is simple; we need only confess our sins and He is faithful and just and He will forgive us. (1 Jn 1:9) For God, I suppose the act of brushing away our sins seems effortless, but the sacrifice it took to bring about the path of redemption was horribly difficult.  God sent to earth His only Son, Jesus, who was mocked, hated by leaders of the time, ostracized by society, tortured and crucified.  Jesus faced rejection and pain so that we could return to the Father.  God had to TURN His back on His Son so that through Jesus’ shed blood we can now ask God to put BEHIND His back every single sin we commit.  What a gloriously undeserved gift we have been given.

I have abused this gift.  I have willfully chosen sin over asking God to forgive me and to help me out of the sinful situation.  I dare to say I am not alone in this.  But, Praise be to God that He never stopped loving me.  He never stopped longing for me to repent so He could once again bestow upon me His gift of forgiveness. He did this, so I could return to Him. 

I have learned that, while this gift is always available TO me, it is NOT meant for me to take for granted.  I must learn from the mistakes I make and from the forgiveness God grants me and I must not continue to sin (1 Jn 5:18).  Again, the amazing thing about God is that when I return to Him, He will return to me.  (Zech 1:3)

“Heavenly Father forgive me for my sins.  Bring to my mind any unconfessed sin in my life that I can repent and return to You.  Thank You, Father, for providing the Way to You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice for me and all of humanity.  Lord Jesus, may I not take Your sacrifice and the gift of forgiveness for granted.  I ask that Your Holy Spirit lead me and guide me every day.  May Your Spirit speak clearly to my heart so that my daily choices bring You glory and honor.  I ask all these things in Jesus’ Holy Name.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Gifted

Each of us has been given a gift from God; maybe even more than one gift.  God doesn’t make mistakes in handing out gifts, nor does He revoke the gifts He has given.  (Romans 11:29)

It took me a long time to accept the gift God has given me which is to write, but I can tell you without a doubt that when I write I have a sense of purpose and joy. The more I use this gift from God the more I learn and grow.  I pray regularly that God’s Spirit will lead me and guide me to write what He impresses upon my heart.  I pray that He uses my gift for His purpose.

So, how about you?  What gift(s) have you been given by God?  Are you gifted in hospitality? If so, pray for opportunities to open your home or your life up to those who need fellowship and love.  Perhaps you are gifted in the area of prayer.  Ask God who it is you can pray for each day (Pr 15:29).  Maybe you have been gifted with the voice of an angel.  Pray that God uses His gift of singing in your life to bless and reach others.

There are countless gifts which God gives to us.  The point is, if you do not know for sure what your gift is, ask God and He will reveal it to you. Also, I want to urge you to accept the encouragement you may receive from another believer when they speak to you about the gift(s) they see God has given to you.   Each of us has our own gift from God; it may not be the same as someone else’s gift (1Cor 7:7).  My prayer for you and for me is that we each use the gift(s) we have been given in order to glorify God and to bless others (and ourselves). 

Sometimes we are afraid to use our gift(s).  What if we are not accepted for what we say or do?  What if we make ourselves vulnerable by opening our hearts to others, using the gifts we have been given, and we end up rejected and hurt?  God’s Word tells us that even Jesus was rejected (Act 4:11, Lk 17:25, Is 53:3).  But the Word also tells us to, “cast all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]” 1Pe 5:7 (AMP)

God does not make mistakes in giving gifts to His people.  When we use those gifts, trusting in Him to bring glory to Him through our gift(s), He then blesses us by developing our gift(s) even further.  Is it scary to put ourselves “out there”?  Sometimes.  Do we open ourselves up to criticism or rejection?  Absolutely.  But how much more was Christ vulnerable to a society who hated Him?  How much more was He mocked, laughed at and rejected? 

My prayer for you and for me is this: “Heavenly Father, reveal to me today the gift(s) You have chosen specifically for me.  Lord, encourage me through Your Spirit to use the gift(s) for Your glory.  I cast aside fear in using the gift(s) from You because I know that fear is not from You, Father.  I offer my life to You, Lord.  Use me daily through the gift(s) You have lovingly blessed me with.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

A Friend to All?

I am ashamed to say that I have not always been a friend. I have been, at times, critical and have judged others who I thought were not worth my time or energy.  I don’t think it’s possible to have close friendships with everyone we meet, but I do believe Jesus’ example in Scripture clearly points us toward being“friendly” to others.  His Word speaks to us of loving others as He loves us.

I have asked myself why it is I have not always been a friend toward all people;indiscriminately.  Why it is that I have not loved others as Christ loves me.  For me, the answers are that I am selfish and critical at times.  I think that I sometimes care more about how it may look to those whom I wish to impress when I am friendly toward those society considers less “popular”. 

As I read what I have written above, all I can think is how immature and adolescent itall sounds.  And, yet, many of us“mature” and “grownup” people truly behave in such manner. 

We may think, “man, that guy smells like alcohol and has filthy clothes.  No way am I going to talk to him; I don’t want to be seen near that”.  Perhaps we think, “that woman has three children all from different men; I don’t need her hanging around me”. 

Yes, their struggles may be visible on the outside. Yes, their lives may have areas of sinful battles which they do not always win.  But, what about those of us who have hidden struggles or secret sins? Do we consider ourselves “more lovable” because no one sees what is in our closets? 

I was reading in the Gospels today and I think that Jesus’ example of friendship and love toward those with (visible) sin and struggle in their lives is how we each should live.  We should be the Samaritan who helps others.  We should include“sinners” at our table and welcome them into our homes and our churches. 

The bottom line is my closet isn’t entirely clean. I would dare say that yours is not either.  Maybe the world does not see what we hideaway, but there is One Who does see everything we say and do.  Our Heavenly Father knows each one of us full well.  He not only knows what we say and what we do, He knows our thoughts and the longings of our hearts.  And, He STILL is our Friend; He still chooses to love us. 

I pray that I take Jesus’ words and His examples to heart. I ask God to reveal to me the struggles and sins in my own life so that I may grow in compassion for others instead of choosing to remain critical of them.  I pray that God teach me to be the kind of friend that Jesus was when He walked this earth.  I pray for a world in which love, acceptance and compassion flourish.  I thank Jesus for being a Friend to me when I have been less than deserving.  I pray we all learn from Jesus’ examples of friendship and love. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.

Luke 15:2                     Luke 7:34                     Luke 10:37

Kami R. Lobner

To Be Chosen

“Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you [and approved of you as my chosen instrument], And before you were born I consecrated you [to Myself as My own]” Jeremiah 1:4-5a AMP

Jeremiah was chosen by God before time began to be a prophet, an instrument of God, who would profess God’s message to the people of Judah.  The Hebrew word used in Jer 1:5 for “knew” is yada’ which means “to appoint”, “to perceive and see”, and to “distinguish”, among others. Jeremiah’s commission to be a prophet came during a time of great turmoil when he was just a young man. Jeremiah’s first response to God’s appointment on his life was like our own responses to being called by God; “surely not I”, “there must be someone else”, “I am not comfortable or equipped”.

I have personally missed God’s calling or prompting to reach out to someone more times than I care to confess.  But, the amazing thing about God is that He still wants to use me.  Do I always feel “equipped”?  Absolutely not, but I know that God IS equipped.  I know that God will guide me if I take the time to ask Him what it is He wants of me.  I trust that God will provide me with His strength, His words and His means with which to accomplish His plans. 

I do not consider myself a prophet.  I would not put myself on the same playing field as Jeremiah, Isaiah or the like, but I humbly and gratefully thank my Father in Heaven that He knows me, and He has distinguished me to live a life for His purpose.  I give praise to God that He created me.  He knit me together. It is because He has yada’ me that I am His; He perceived and saw me before I was in my mother’s womb (see Ps 139).  For purposes I am just beginning to embrace, God has a plan for me. I do not know all the answers to “how”, “when” or “where” God’s plan will be accomplished in my life, but I am gratefully and excitedly opening my heart up to God’s leading. 

I believe that God has a purpose and plan for each one of us.  I know that His plan for me may not be the same as His plan for you.  I also know that He equips me, and He equips you; we need only be obedient and say, “yes, Lord, use me”. 

“Heavenly Father, thank You for knowing me and for choosing me before I existed in my mother’s womb.  Thank You, Lord, that You are with me and You love me and will always lead me to completing Your plan and purpose.  Lord Jesus, when doubt or fear cloud my focus and try to get me off course remind me that You are with me.  In those moments bring Your Word to my mind and redirect my thoughts toward You.  I love You and trust You to lead and guide me for Your good purpose.  May all I say and do today bring only glory to Your Name, Father God.  It is in Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Change the Filter

A very dear friend of mine recently prayed that God would free me from the filter of past hurts. She prayed that Jesus would heal me from wounds made by individuals I had once trusted and that I would no longer view myself through the eyes of anyone but my Heavenly Father.

My friend is very wise and knows me well; she knows the rejection of my past and the pain which went with it.  She prayed, I believe, as the Holy Spirit led her to pray. She prayed these things so when someone says or does something which reminds me of a past pain I will be encouraged. She prayed these things, so I would not be prompted to sift other’s words and actions through my skewed and faulty filter of past sufferings.

But, “how”do I get to this place of not analyzing everything said or done to me when it triggers a feeling of past pain or rejection? I take my friend’s prayer into consideration and I begin to ask God to free me from the former filter by changing how I screen other’s words and actions.  I begin to ask God to change my filter to His.  (John 15:12)

As I continue in the Word my heart and mind begin to change as the Holy Spirit works in and through me.  My filter begins to change.  I can trust God to heal old wounds and to help me better understand current situations and people.  I can begin to see how my Heavenly Father sees not only me, but the other person as well. (Phil 2:1-4)

My filter changes from a past, egocentric view to a more unselfish and Spirit-led perspective.  When I allow Jesus Christ to lead my thoughts, feelings and emotions I am better able to sift other’swords and actions through His loving filter instead of my own narrow-minded view.  When I do this, I can look at others more compassionately.

What a change we would see in our world today if we all asked God to change our filter to His.  Maybe your filter is not the filter of past rejection and hurt; maybe it is a filter of deceit and being letdown.  Maybe it is the filter of abuse or alcoholism.  The point is, we each have a history. We each have filters we screen life through, but when our filters are skewed by things contrary to God’s Love and His Word, we need to pray for His filter and not our own.  We need to pray for His eyes to see other’s as He sees them.  (1 Thes 3:12)

“Heavenly Father, I thank You for friends who pray with and for me.  I thank You for the wisdom You provide to me through Your Word and through others You place in my life.  Lord, may I remain in Your Word and seek a change of filter from mine to Yours.  As I have been encouraged by my friend, may You provide me opportunity to pay that encouragement forward to someone else.  I praise You and I thank You for Who You are and how You see me; I thank You for Your truth and Your love.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner

Puffs of Dust

Today I came across the same Scripture verse in two of my morning devotionals, John 7:38.  I do not believe in coincidence, so I took some time to study the surrounding verses, as well as, commentaries on these verses.  I prayed for the words to write so I could explain how this verse spoke to me; perhaps in a way in which you can also relate.

John 7:38 is Jesus speaking as He says, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.  The preceding verse states, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink”. I fully embrace and believe the Word spoken by Christ in these two verses.  What an amazing gift.  What an eternal promise; one upon which we can confidently rely.  Jesus is the well of life-giving water we are invited to come to.  We are encouraged to drink and drink so that the same rivers of living water flow from us.  This river, the Holy Spirit, is within each of us and Jesus exhorts us to let It pour out upon the world around us.

When I ignore my time in God’s Word, I find myself dry inside. Instead of flowing water I feel more like puffs of dust are spewing out of me.  This does not mean the Holy Spirit is no longer living inside of me.  I know without a doubt that I am sealed with the Holy Spirit and that I am guaranteed a heavenly inheritance (Eph 1:13-14).  What it does mean is that I am ineffective to the world around me because I am not filled with a fresh supply of God’s Word and His living water. 

I would not be as effective each day without my coffee.  Every morning I must refill that cup.  It is the same for me with needing to refill each day with a fresh supply of Living Water from God’s Word.  With my coffee in me I have more energy and focus to give and with the Word freshly in my heart and mind I have more to offer others than my own, limited opinion.

“Heavenly Father, I pray that I choose to spend time in Your Word daily so that I have a fresh supply of Your life-giving water within me.  I pray that You provide me opportunities each day to let Your rivers flow through me.  Lord Jesus, when I am simply blowing puffs of dust out of my mouth remind me that it is only through time spent in Your Word that I can be filled with flowing rivers.  I ask for Your courage and Your strength to let those rivers freely flow in every situation I encounter.  I Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”

Kami R. Lobner