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Sea Gulls & God’s Provision

I love when the birds return in spring, especially after a long, brutal winter like the one we just had in northern Pennsylvanian. The blessed sound of birds chirping and singing their joyful song reminds me that even the coldest winter will come to an end. Warmth will return to the earth. Spring will always spring again.

But some birds don’t suddenly reappear in late winter because they never left in late fall.

While most birds – robins, blue jays, geese and many others – are “snow” birds, meaning that they head south before winter hits, sea gulls stay put. They are weather warriors, enduring the elements of all four northern seasons – polar vortexes included.

During a northern winter it isn’t unusual to see dozens of sea gulls gathering in snow covered parking lots, causing me to question their habits. Why do sea gulls stay here all winter while other birds go south? How do sea gulls obtain food when the ground is frozen solid and snow is piled high?

While walking along the bay on a late winter’s morning, my questions were answered by a flock of sea gulls perched on a mound of ice. There were at least thirty of these silly birds huddled together in one clump looking, as usual, cold and out of place. But, as I got closer, I realized that the sea gulls were congregating around a break in the ice so they could go fishing.

From my vantage point, the area of broken ice didn’t look like a prime fishing location since the opening was in shallow water. I couldn’t imagine many fish would be swimming that close to land. Not to mention that the icy opening appeared too small to provide fishing space for such a large gathering of birds. Yet, in just a few short minutes, I saw sea gull after sea gull dip into the frigid waters and return to the ice mounds with breakfast in their beaks.

The sea gulls fishing on the ice provided a powerful picture of God’s provision and reminded me of Jesus’ words. “Look at the birds of the air;” He said. “They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

Watching the sea gulls taught me two important lessons about trusting God.

First, the scene taught me to never assume my way is the best way.

Take, for instance, sea gull migration. If it were up to me, sea gulls would fly south for the winter to escape the snow, sleet and ice. But God has a better way. He specifically designed the sea gulls to endure winter’s storms. Because God is in control, I don’t need to understand the “how’ of the sea gulls’ survival. I just need to trust the “Who” of their survival. And the “who” is God. He who creates the birds, sustains the birds.

The same is true of humans, like you and me. Although with my limited understanding I often think life would be better if I could simply “migrate” away from troubles. I’d be so much happier, healthier and content if only I didn’t have to endure the storms of life – or so I think.

But God has a better way. God knows that it is by way of suffering that perseverance, character and hope are cultivated in His children’s heart (Romans 5:3-4). The fruits of Christ’s spirit grow most hardily when the conditions compel us to cling to the cross in the midst of the most harrowing storms. When we stay faithful through the trials and lean into Jesus, His Spirit transforms us into faith-filled warriors in the Lord’s Army.

Secondly, from the sea gulls, I learned to never underestimate the sufficiency of God’s supply. Although the hole on the icy bay was small, God supplied it with plenty of fish to meet the sea gulls’ needs. He made much out of not much.

In my own life I’m prone to believing I need more to be satisfied. More funds. More strength. More resources. But God says that His grace is sufficient for me because His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s strength and might is best displayed in weak and needy vessels. The more dependent we are on God’s provision, the more miraculous it is when our only hope is for Jesus to show up with His resurrection power (and He always does).

As God’s beloved children, you and I can confidently follow Jesus wherever He goes without fear of provision or concern for the conditions because where God guides, He always provides.  

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Jesus, our Warrior King

If you’re a friend of God’s, you’re automatically an enemy of satan.

Be prepared, because he is going to attack you. Members of the Lord’s army who have taken a position at the foot of Christ’s cross are in satan’s cross hairs.

Picture a bulls eye on your back. Your enemy number one.

The Bible says that we do not fight against flesh and blood but against the rulers and authorities of the unseen, dark world. (Ephesians 6:12). There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. As followers of Christ, we are in a fight and the fight is always against satan. He is out to kill, steal and destroy with weaponry of fear, confusion, disappointment, anxiety and doubt. Just to name a few.

The enemy’s aim is to annihilate our faith and confidence in Christ.

To accomplish his goal, satan twists emotions so that God’s children are deceived and tricked into believing they stand on the battle field alone. The enemy knows that if he can make us feel separated from God, he can disconnect us from Christ’s power.

But the good news is satan cannot separate us from God. He doesn’t have that power.

As Paul wrote in Romans 8, nothing on earth can separate us from the love of God because Jesus already conquered the grave and rose to life again. There is nothing that can defeat the reigning Lord our God. There is nothing that can rip us away from His overcoming life.

But, in the heat of the battle, this truth can feel far away. While being taunted by defeat and hopelessness, it becomes tempting to focus exclusively on the attacker and lose sight of the Victor. Feelings of failure descend and cloud the facts of our faith.

In order to fight with the strength and power of God we cannot trust and rely on feelings. Taking hold of Christ’s victory must be done on the basis of faith.

If you and I wait till we “feel” like the battle is already won, we will spend our entire lives feeling defeated. The enemy is a liar and he regularly hijacks our feelings, making liars out of them, too.

This is what happened to Jesus’ followers in the days immediately following His crucifixion. As Luke recounts in his gospel, as the two men were traveling on the road to Emmaus they were overcome with grief because they believed their Savior was dead.

Even though these men were told by Jesus that three days would pass before He left the grave, they didn’t understand the warning. Even after the tomb was found empty, his followers were still doubtful that their Savior would return. They hadn’t seen Jesus yet and they didn’t feel like they ever would.

As the two men traveled along, they were downcast. They felt like their Lord was gone forever. They felt like Jesus was still in the grave.

But we all know how this story ends.

Jesus came and walked with them, although they didn’t recognize that it was Him at first. They told him about their defeated feelings and He restored their hope with the facts of faith.

Using scripture and the words of the prophets, Jesus recounted everything that was predicted would come to pass regarding His life. He reminded them that what God said about the Messiah. That He would suffer before He would rise again. The events that unfolded on Calvary had to occur for the sake of salvation. This trouble was to be expected.
Jesus’s followers were restored to hope and revived with the joy of Christ’s overcoming life by returning to truth.

War-weary travelers, take heart. The truth that Jesus shared with His followers on the road to Emmaus is still true today.

Jesus is victorious.
Jesus is risen.
Jesus is the eternally ascended Lord.
Jesus is triumphant!

When we focus on the facts of our faith, our feelings of failure are dispelled. By fixing our thoughts and hearts on who is fighting for us, the enemy who is fighting against us cannot get the upper hand.

We need never feel defeated because we are never on the battlefield alone. We have the truth, the way and the life fighting for us. And He has already won.

Today, when the enemy comes to attack, return to the truth of God’s Word. Stand on the firm foundation of scripture as you sound the trumpets of triumph for Jesus Christ, your Warrior King.

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When God gives you a promise…

It was one year ago today that I wrote down on a purple index card a personal promise God gave to me. “I will restore your appetite.”

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since I first received the assurance from God that one day food will taste good to my palate. It has been years since I have truly enjoyed food. Thanks to dysfunction in my gut there are more foods that upset my stomach and leave me feeling ill than there are foods I can comfortably eat. As a result, I’ve lost my appetite for almost every food. Even old favorites have lost their appeal.

I must have been praying over this very dilemma exactly a year ago because God stilled my appetite anxieties with a message of assurance that it will return. God made the delivery of this promise so clear that I put it in writing and even underlined the final word, “appetite,” then dated it and signed it, “GOD.”

Upon receiving the assurance of appetite restoration I anticipated God would quickly fulfill it. I imagined that in short order I would be out ordering food at restaurants and enjoying meals with family and friends. I put my faith in God’s vow and wholeheartedly believed that “He who promised is faithful.”

But a year has passed and my appetite is as lousy as ever. In fact, I can eat fewer foods than I could a year ago and even those aren’t very appealing.

Since God made a promise but has yet to change my condition, does this mean He never really gave me the promise in the first place? Was it actually the enemy whispering lies into my ear? Or, worse yet, could it be that God did make the promise but since has gone back on His promise? Or did He never intended to fulfill it at all?

Now is the time when the rubber of faith meets the road of real life.

If my belief in God comes with a specific time frame I don’t have true belief. God is not a genie in a bottle. He does not fulfill His promises at the snap of my finger or work according to my clock. God fulfills His plans according to a whole different standard of time all together – perfectly holy time.

Since God has yet to fulfill His promise to restore my appetite I have a choice to make. I can turn my back on Him in impatience and lament that He let me down.

Or I can boldly reaffirm my faith in God’s perfect timing and declare with confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)God is rarely early and never late. Just because He has yet to fulfill His promise dose not mean He will not bring it to completion.

God is most certainly going to fulfill His promise and restore my appetite! He even has the day, hour and second planned when my taste buds will turn a corner and my gut will cry out for one of its favorite foods. God knows the very first meal I will eat on that splendid day when my appetite is renewed and reborn. It will be a miraculous moment and it is coming! I know it is because God told me it is. And God never gives a word He doesn’t have plans to fulfill. He is flawless in faithfulness and always true to His vows.

Even when God’s promise tarries, keep waiting for it with hopeful expectation. God will deliver it according to His perfect timing and, when it arrives, it will bless your socks off!

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The Purpose(s) for Detox

It’s detox time…again.

For the past nineteen months I’ve been a revolving door for detox. Lyme was just the beginning. After eradicating the borrelia and bartonella bacterium from my system the focus of my fight shifted to defeating co-infections. Among the evil host of destructive invaders were Epstein Barr, parasites, Candida and now, a trifecta of mycotoxins, mercury and mold.

By now detox should be business as usual for me. Heaven knows I’ve dealt with enough of it! Yet every time I embark on a new round of detox I end up baffled by the new set of bizarre symptoms that appear. Bumps on my head. Burning in my eyes. A nose that drips like a faucet. Sneezing. Hot flashes alternating with frigid cold flashes. Fevers. Tingling up and down my arms. Electrical shock pains in my back. Heart palpitations. And this is just a sampling. There are more I could list and some I couldn’t (thankfully, a few have been forgotten in the passage of time).

Detox would be harder to tolerate if it weren’t for the healing purpose it serves – more specifically, the healing purposes. No matter what infection is being cleared or what set of strange symptoms manifest, the detox always accomplishes two fundamental purposes that benefit me body, mind and soul.

The first purpose is physical.

The detox frees my body from the foreign infectious invader de jour. Detox is the healing road that must be travel in order to reach the desired final destination of full health. During the detox healthy cells are strengthened and fortified by immune boosting supplements while, at the same time, disease killing medicines are administered to attack the infectious foe. The result is a conflict of interests. One that wants to stay and destroy. The other that wants to cleanse and purify.

Although the battle can be brutally painful and long, by staying strong and refusing to abandon the fight, health always has the final say. The disease always goes down in the detox and healing wins the day.

Which brings me to the second and infinitely more significant purpose for the detox: the spiritual cleansing.

During detox the physical struggle is only half of the battle. The attack is internal, too. Satan uses the symptoms plaguing my body as a weapon in an attempt to destroy my confidence in God and kill my hope of healing. While enduring physical suffering the enemy capitalizes on my condition by whispering lethal lies into my fragile spirit. “God is never going to heal you. That’s not your story. His healing is for someone else. But it isn’t for you.”

At times I’ve believed the enemy. During physically ravaging rounds of detox I’ve practically given up fighting for my soul. Maybe the enemy is right, I’ve thought. Maybe I’m destined to a life of chronic illness. Maybe that is my inescapable fate.

But God never lets me remain in detox defeat. His grand for the detox, to purify and cleanse my soul, always wins the day. Through the wisdom of His Holy Word God draws me back to the truth of who He is and the perfection of His will and ways. Using true stories from Genesis to Revelation God silences the lies of the enemy and reaffirms His miraculous power to save and sustain. He takes me back to the accounts of lepers who were healed, children who were freed from demons and the barren who gave birth. Then He brings me to my knees before the cross of Calvary and fortifies my faith with the eternal victory of Jesus Christ.   

God is the Great Physician who detoxes the faith of His children, sanctifying them in body, mind and soul. His desires for us is that we be made perfect as His Son is perfect and cleansed from all unrighteousness. When we enter the presence of Jesus’ and unite our lives with His redeeming resurrection power, God goes to work detoxing our hearts from the burdens of worry, fear, and concern. He slays the lies of the enemy and fortifies our fragile souls with perfect peace and rest. By the Almighty power of God the beauty of restoration is revealed out of the ashes of detox’s devastation.

When the body, spirit and mind are under attack God offers us the looking glass of faith that transforms our battles into a glimpse of the Savior’s overcoming life. It is there, in the midst of our greatest struggles, that God most dramatically displays the greatness of His salvation and strength.

By standing on the promises of God all those who call on the Mighty name of Jesus can experience joy in affliction and hope in all circumstances (even detox circumstances) knowing that God is faithful… God is good… And He isn’t finished. 

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New Life Resolutions

“I hate new year’s resolutions,” the man said to his wife with a gravelly, sneering tone that conveyed absolute contempt for the annual tradition. In five forceful words he made his feelings known. Convincing him to change his mind would have been a waste of time – a fact his wife must have known because she didn’t even try. Silence followed the man’s statement and the conversation abruptly ended.

The exchange that unfolded between the man and his wife is a common new year’s scene. People tend to either love or hate new year’s resolutions. The pro-resolution crowd believes it is good to at least make an effort to better one’s self. The anti-resolution crowd says it’s a silly tradition especially since 80% of resolutions fail.

Resolution haters have a point. Every year like clockwork the resolution resolve that was so strong on New Year’s Day wanes by Martin Luther King’s holiday and is ancient history by Valentine’s. After a few slip ups (and who doesn’t slip up?) the resolution feels more burdensome than beneficial. The promises made get trapped in the ruts of life and rarely do they make it out before December 31st.

New Year’s resolutions have earned their bad rap. They have a horrible track record for producing lasting change which is why this year I’m promoting a whole new kind of resolution: A New Life Resolution. A promise to make a spiritual change with eternal significance.

My new life resolution for 2019 and beyond is to pursue Christ…and nothing else.

For my entire life (up until now) I have pursued Christ AND something else. Christ and education…health….a miracle healing modality…a career…a killer business idea…a calling…a livelihood….a passion….a purpose. I believed it was acceptable to seek what this world has to offer while still honoring God.

Turns out I was wrong.

Seeking the world’s offerings made me more like a frenetic squirrel than a faithful follower of Christ. Like a wild, bushy tailed animal that scurries up every tree in search of a tantalizing nutty treat, I frantically searched for purpose and usefulness in this world. I thought if I could just find the right tree bearing the treat I’d be happier, more content and fulfilled.

What I’ve discovered is that I can’t pursue the world in addition to Christ. The result is a life of dissatisfaction, confusion and distraction. Balancing two lives, one lived for God and one lived for the world, doesn’t work. God requires my full, undivided attention be given to knowing Christ and making Him known.

In order to fully obey and glorify God I must put an end to my frantic search for a place in this world. I must surrender my former life of dual quests so I can live exclusively in pursuit of Jesus – His way, His truth and His life.

As I embark on my new life resolution it is important to acknowledge that the key to success does not rest in my own power. If I bank on my own resolve I am doomed to fail as miserably as most new year’s resolutions. The only hope I have of realizing my resolution is to rest in the truth and assurance of Christ’s resurrection. All the strength I need is available at the foot of His cross and to receive it I must stay put, resisting the temptation to be the squirrel that goes scampering off after every distraction. I must continue in the way of obedience, constantly surrendering myself to Jesus and God’s will for my life.

Jesus said in Luke 9:24 that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” With the Savior of the world as my sole pursuit in this world I have no idea what the year ahead will bring but I know who will bring it. And knowing Him is enough for me.

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Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

I couldn’t get the tune of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” out of my head, which I fully admit is strange since I’ve never seen the musical that made the song famous nor have I heard it played recently. But once those famous five became stuck in my mind they began playing on repeat. It is the grieving tone of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” that has struck a chord in my heart. I can sympathize with the sentiment since I, too, have been doing a lot of crying as of late.

The tears I’ve been shedding have nothing do with Argentina and everything to do with the life I’ve missed in the past eight years. I’ve been crying for my lost twenties and the hopes, dreams and plans that died along the way.

The impending fall has jogged my memory and sent me on a reminiscing journey back to ten years ago this month. August 2008 is when I left for college with visions of how my life would unfold. As a normal eighteen year old, I was excited to take on the world as a thriving young adult but the transition to college was the last step in my life that went according to plan. Soon after my health began to fail, marking the end of my “normal” life.

Ever since my life has been an uncontrollable, unpredictable and often painful ride. Sickness snatched from my hands life milestones and gave me a list of failures, disappointments and setbacks instead. Although I am finally on the road to recovery I have so far left to go and so many years I cannot reclaim. My body can recover but I cannot recover my lost eight years.

The fact is that my twenties are nearly over and that reality has made me cry out in sorrow like Argentina cried in Evita.

After overplaying the one line, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in my mind over and over again, I was curious about the rest of the song. What lyrics came next? I didn’t know so I had to look it up. That’s when I discovered the best part of the song wasn’t the five words I had been humming. It’s the lines that came next.

“All my wild days, my mad existence, I’ve kept my promise. Don’t keep your distance.”

Upon reading those words my tears dried up. It was as if God were singing over me, telling me to stop my crying because He has kept all of His promises.

God has kept His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) In fact, in the past eight years, I have experienced the nearness of God more powerfully and intimately than ever before in my life.

God has kept His promise to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) And not just any future or a flawed future of my desire. He has kept His promise to fulfill His good and glorious future in my life!

God has kept His promise to give me strength when I am weary and uphold me when I am weak. (Isaiah 49:29-31) God’s strength has been on great display in my sickness, especially when He sustained me at sixty-five frail pounds.

God has kept His promise to uphold me with His righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

God has kept His promise to cleanse, sanctify and renew me. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God has kept His promise to fill me His Spirit and indwell me with His Son. (John 14:27)

All through my wild sick days and mad existence, God has kept every single promise He’s ever made and all He asks is that I never keep my distance from Him.

The moment I fix my eyes on the King of Glory my crying ceases. Face to face with Jesus I cannot lament what I’ve lost because all I can see is the fullness of eternal life I’ve gained in Christ. My hope and peace can rest secure because I am rooted in the eternal, unchangeable, unshakable Almighty God of Heaven and Earth who always keeps His promises.