"I Am My Father's Brand!" (Galatians 3:26)

I recently attended a memorial service for a friend’s father who went home to the Lord. At the service, her brother gave an eloquent and powerful eulogy for their father. He recounted the life lessons he learned from his father through every decade of his life. The son understood that his life reflected the best qualities of his father. Wherever he went and whomever he met, he would always represent his father. He gladly accepted the awesome responsibility because he devoutly loved his father and desired to honor him. Trembling with emotion, the son declared, “I am my father’s brand.”

 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26 (NKJV)

 

The eulogy reminded me of our responsibility as believers in Jesus Christ. God grants us the special privilege of adopting us as His sons and daughters, when we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. What kind of God would grant us this status? Only One who loves us so much that He would send His only Son to live and die on the Cross, receiving the full punishment for of all my sins, past, present, and future. God loves me as much as He loves His Son, Jesus Christ. He is my heavenly Father.

 

I am my Father’s brand. I represent God’s character through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable love and mercy to me!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

A Tulip Garden (Genesis 2:15)

My friend was reminiscing about a special memory when he was a medical student in Pittsburgh. The preceding winter had been particularly cold and long and this was the first warm Spring day. Everyone was celebrating the warm weather. My friend stole away some time between his classes to sit on a bench in the middle of a beautiful garden. Sitting there with the sun illuminating the beautiful colors of the garden, replete with tulips displaying vibrant colors, he fondly reminisced that it was one of the best memories of his life. He described it in such breathy detail that I felt myself being transported to that same park bench.

 

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Genesis 2:15 (NKJV)

 

God created the garden of Eden; it was the setting for the first home and first family. It was paradise on earth, the way God intended life to be. Sin destroyed this perfect garden but we all have a longing to return to this garden. The joy that my friend experienced in that tulip garden on that beautiful spring day is a reminder of what God has placed within each of our hearts. The garden of Eden waits for us and beckons to us.

 

In our lifetimes, we will never be able to return to the garden of Eden. But we can see it someday if we confess and repent of our sins to God and accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior. The moment we do, we will become a new creation, an adopted son of God, the Father. When we die and pass into His presence, we will be in paradise. The longing of our hearts will be fulfilled. We will return to the garden of Eden!

 

I am looking forward to that glorious day!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Hypocrite (2 Kings 17:33)

Hypocrites.

 

We meet or read about them everyday. When the perpetrator is a celebrity or leader, it makes a greater impact upon us, as if, somehow, we think they should know better. Everyone is familiar with the examples. There is a well known talk show host, touting how his advice can save a marriage, in spite of the fact that he has been married three times. There is the politician who vehemently campaigns for tougher immigration laws but employs undocumented workers in his home. It is a litany of bad morals and behavior.

 

Not surprisingly, the Bible provides numerous examples. The following verse stood out as a particularly egregious example.

 

They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.

2 Kings 17:33 (NKJV)

 

The tragic downward spiral of the northern kingdom of Israel is the historical background for this Bible verse. As I read this passage, I experienced the same disappointment as when I read of a leader caught in hypocrisy. It sears my soul, because it is a reflection of my hypocritical attitude. No, I do not carry wooden idols but I do carry my idols of pride and greed. I do not offer sacrifices at a pagan temple but I do spend money on frivolous worldly activities.

 

I am a sinner and as God has graciously and mercifully extended His forgiveness to me, so should I extend forgiveness to others. I, and others, do not need lectures pointing out our hypocritical behavior. I need a Savior-we all need a Savior. I needed to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My heart had to first change. Only then did l acknowledge my fallen state and seek to change and end my hypocritical behavior.

 

Hypocrites.

 

I am still one of them.

 

Thanks be to God for His grace and mercy to transform my life through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

"We're On the Same Side!" (Proverbs 31:10-12)

“Babe! We’re on the same side!”

 

My wife and I were engaged in a heated discussion over the planning for an upcoming family event. I had painstakingly planned everything on the menu  even designating where the guests would sit. Thus, I became offended when she questioned one of my decisions. We were at an impasse as I pleaded for her to see my point of view. I was raising my voice and my blood pressure. She knew I was agitated and I attempted to stay calm but I was certainly not helping the situation. Her interjection brought me back to reality.

 

“We’re on the same side! Just because I question one of your decisions doesn’t mean I am arguing with you.”

 

My wife then proceeded to calmly explain her point. Within a few moments, I saw the wisdom of her viewpoint. It did not dramatically differ from mine, only upon the points of emphasis. In fact, we were on the same side and her tweaking smoothed the entire plan. I was chagrined as I realized I should more willingly trust her.

 

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.

She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.

Proverbs 31:10-12 (NKJV)

 

Sadly, this scenario has rerun with many different permutations during our marriage. I wish that these words from the Bible, extolling the godly and virtuous wife and woman, were etched upon my heart. It is my sinful pride and stubbornness that keeps dragging me down, blinding me to see my wife’s ideas as complementing, rather than attacking, mine.

 

My wife and I are on the same side. God created marriage to honor Him, not to exalt oneself and viewpoint. How I desperately need the grace and mercy of God in my life! How blessed I am to have a godly wife at my side to complete me and make me a better man, husband, and father.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

J.P.O. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Nearly all schools in the United States have traffic crossing guards. These dedicated individuals  are stationed at busy intersections, ensuring that children and adults are able to safely cross during the busiest times, before and after school is in session.

 

Hawaii has an interesting variation for this familiar position, the J.P.O.-Junior Police Officer. This organization still exists as a division of the Honolulu Police Department. When I was in 5th grade, I proudly served. We were given yellow helmets emblazoned with the letters J.P.O. and wore an orange vest and were required to wear shoes. The latter item of dress was distinctly unusual in Hawaii, at a time when the normal foot attire was bare feet or slippers/flip-flops. We had a uniform! We were official!

 

It was quite a head trip. Holding a large stop sign connected to a metal pole, I would step out into a major three lane highway during a break in the traffic and force all the cars to stop. Me, a little ten year old kid, stopping peak traffic flow, before and after school. Such power, such authority, and such danger.

 

In retrospect, what I was doing was extremely dangerous. Knowing what I now know about the inattentive driving habits of people, an errant driver could have easily plowed into me. Thankfully, no serious issues or injuries ever arose. At that young age, I was completely ignorant of the dangers, all I knew and cared about is that I had the authority of an adult police officer. For this small plot of space and time, I represented the Honolulu police department.

 

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NKJV)

 

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I also gained a new identity. It was not just me, but me with the Holy Spirit indwelling within me. I am being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. I represent Him in this world and am empowered to act by His Name.

 

Like the J.P.O., there is power, authority, and danger when I am a Christian. Others may respect me, fear me, or even hate me. I did not understand the hate until many years later. This is the reality of the life I now live as a child of God. My focus should always remain upon Jesus Christ as I represent Him in this life. I represent the Truth of His Gospel for there is no other Name, in Heaven or on earth by whom we may be saved.

 

Amen!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Nice To Be Blessed! (Job 2:10)

When something painful or sorrowful occurs, I seek God’s comfort and guidance, asking Him for strength to endure the trial and peace in my life.  I know God uses the pain to chasten and mold me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. I know His plans are not my plans. But I don’t like pain, even when I see the benefits and blessings of God in hindsight. I am still very weak in my faith, not accepting good and adversity from God as His will, but instead, seeking to impose my will. Thus, when something good happens, I do bask in the glow of God’s blessings and savor the experience. I want to accept adversity as a blessing but when something good happens, it is nice to be blessed!

 

Today was one such day. It began with the very good news from Washington D.C. My closest brother in the Lord is a hematologist-oncologist who discovered a drug treatment for sickle cell anemia. Today, the FDA voted to approve the new drug application. Twenty years of work were finally rewarded! It was a great testimony to the faith and perseverance of my brother and of God’s protection and guidance for his life and his company. My cases arrived earlier than expected so I was able finish nearly an hour earlier than usual. I was elated because it meant I would be able to attend my son’s special dance performance. He performs with a wonderful organization, dedicated to allow children and young adults with special needs to learn to sing and dance. This was their annual concert and I was thrilled to cheer my son and his friends.

 

What a day of blessings!

 

...Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?

Job 2:10 (NKJV)

 

It is nice to be blessed! Lord God, increase my faith so that I can see your blessings in everything and everywhere you lead me.

 

Amen!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

That's Me! (Hebrews 12:1-2)

As I read the Bible and learn of the great saints of the Bible, it is easy to remember their life stories, because they are mine. Always ready to voice support but unable to commit; ambitious to be number one in God’s kingdom but not ready to count the cost; blessed with many gifts of service but easily distracted by petty jealousies and pride. Meet Peter, John, and Jonah. And by the way, look in the mirror. That’s me!

 

And there are others, many others. My faults are the same as the sins and faults of many of the great saints. The Holy Spirit has recorded these stories to instruct all believers in Jesus Christ. We are to be inspired by their lives and faith and learn from their sins and errors.

 

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

 

I am still learning to obey God. It is painful to be reminded of my own sins as I read the Bible but thanks be to God that He has given me the answer to life’s problems. I do not need to wallow in my fears and sorrows. These great saints of the Bible are witnesses to me of God’s grace and mercy in their lives. I can persevere in this life because, like these witnesses and saints, I have placed my faith and trust in God, through my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life of obedience to God, showing everyone that there is a better way to live. I do not need to aimlessly run through life. I now chose to run the race knowing that I will victoriously complete it because Jesus has already done it for me.

 

Praise God for His grace and mercy!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Thirty Five Years of Pounds (2 Chronicles 15:7)

It took about 5 years, but today, I have finally shed thirty pounds, nearly a pound a year since 1982. I am now at the same weight I was in my sophomore year in college, and in truth, even reaching back to my senior year in high school. Through a combination of exercise and simply eating a little less every day, the task was accomplished.

 

I feel great and am thankful to be able to accomplish this. Like so many long term goals, I grew impatient, desiring to quickly complete the task. But a rapid weight loss can wreck havoc upon one’s metabolism and overall health. We have all heard or witnessed the effects of crash or fad diets. Malnutrition and weakness are the least worrisome outcomes. Hospitalization and death may even result due to electrolyte imbalances. I wisely chose to be patient and methodical with my diet.

 

But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.

2 Chronicles 15:7 (NKJV)

 

Unfortunately, I do not show a similar degree of patience with my spiritual walk. I desperately want to live the transformed and sanctified life that Jesus promises me when I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. And yet, my old sinful nature is constantly battling my new identity, given to me by the Holy Spirit, who now dwells within me.  I know what needs to be done, but so often, I fall back upon old habits. It frustrates me and these feelings are exacerbated to those who are close to me, particularly my own family. Rightly did the Apostle Paul plead,

 

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7:24-25 (NKJV)

 

My sinful nature limits the power of God within my life. But I cling to the promises of God, that through salvation and power in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, He will allow me to someday accomplish my task. Like my dieting goals, it will not be immediately achieved, but I know the Holy Spirit will continue to sanctify my life until someday, I will be in the presence of Jesus, forever rid of my body of death!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

"We Lost The Account!" (Job 1:20-21)

Several years ago, my dermatopathology laboratory unexpectedly lost a key dermatology client. The reasons were unclear but the effect was not. It would lead to a sharp drop in our revenues. I was initially shocked and upset. My mind raced through the possible reasons for this dermatologist’s decision. I was ready to lash out at myself and my staff. But God, through His Holy Spirit, spoke to me in that moment. Instead of pointing the finger at myself or others, instead of bemoaning what the loss would mean for our company, I fell on my knees and prayed, “God, thank you for the opportunity You gave me to work with this doctor and his patients. I pray that You will take care of his practice and bless him.”

 

I then called a meeting of my staff and informed them, “We lost the account!” One person began to cry, knowing that this may lead to cutbacks in our company. I reassured everyone that God was in control and that our business will continue to serve our doctors and patients. “We have been blessed to be called to this purpose and we will continue to serve God with our laboratory. Regardless of the outcome, God blesses us.”

 

Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:20-21 (NKJV)

 

In the first chapter of the book of Job, Job loses everything in one day-his livestock, his wealth, and his children. To make matters worse, he was afflicted with painful boils all over his body. Even his wife challenged him to curse God and die. But in a statement of remarkable faith, Job responded.

 

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 2:10 (NKJV)

 

Although my loss was not as severe as the losses that Job experienced, it was difficult for us. At that moment, I could have chosen to curse God and my circumstances or praise Him and His promises. God reminded me, through the example of Job, that a faithful life is not only about trusting and thanking God for prosperity, it is thanking God for adversity. It was an important and vital lesson in expanding and growing my faith in Him.

 

Praising and worshipping God in the midst of pain and suffering is one of the most difficult situations that God places us in. Our faith is a process, continually being perfected. As believers in Jesus Christ, we will only reach perfection when we die and are resurrected with a new body in His presence in Heaven. Until then, God continues to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Praise God for the adversities He sends my way so that I may have my faith perfected in HIm.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

"You Think I'm Ready?" (James 1:2-3)

“You think I’m ready?’’

 

“Oh yes!” My karate sensei smiled. “Take the belt test.”

 

It had only been a few months since I last successfully tested. The prior belt test was nearly 10 months in the making so I was a bit surprised by my sensei’s statement.

 

“Ok, if you think I’m ready. You know best.”

 

There was a written rule in our karate class. No student may request to take a belt test for advancement. That decision was only made by the sensei, the head teacher. No matter the time interval since the last test or one’s perceived expertise or impatience with the process, the sensei had the only and final decision.


My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

James 1:2-3 (NKJV)

 

I do not welcome trials. But my perspective, like so many things in my life, has been distorted by sin. The Bible instructs us that we should have a joyful heart and peace when we fall into trials. This is how God works in our lives. This is how God matures us. Instead of pleading, “Why now, God?” my attitude and cry should be, “You think I’m ready, God?”

 

If God places me in trials, I should be thankful that He thinks I am ready to grow, to move me out of my complacency. The pain that I feel is much more than this, it is the insight that God give me to experience the brokenness and separation that His Son, Jesus Christ, endured on the Cross for me. And if He is placing me in the trials, He will not let me fail. This is the promise that He gives me through His Word.

 

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

 

You think I’m ready, God?

 

Thank you for your grace and mercy, for believing in me when I lack the confidence to face the day.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

"I Am My Father's Brand!" (Galatians 3:26)

I recently attended a memorial service for a friend’s father who went home to the Lord. At the service, her brother gave an eloquent and powerful eulogy for their father. He recounted the life lessons he learned from his father through every decade of his life. The son understood that his life reflected the best qualities of his father. Wherever he went and whomever he met, he would always represent his father. He gladly accepted the awesome responsibility because he devoutly loved his father and desired to honor him. Trembling with emotion, the son declared, “I am my father’s brand.”

 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26 (NKJV)

 

The eulogy reminded me of our responsibility as believers in Jesus Christ. God gives us the special privilege of adopting us as His sons and daughters, when we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. What kind of God would grant us this status? Only One who loves us so much that He would send His only Son to live and die on the Cross, receiving the full punishment for of all my sins, past, present, and future. God loves me as much as He loves His Son, Jesus Christ. He is my heavenly Father.

 

I am my Father’s brand. I represent God’s character through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable love and mercy to me!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Suffering Without Meaning (Luke 9:22)

Suffering.

 

Everyone has experienced it but the interpretations differ for the victims. Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Nazi Holocaust. After his experience in Nazi concentration camps, Frankl wrote, “Man is not destroyed by suffering; he is destroyed by suffering without meaning.”

 

Suffering without meaning. No one wants to suffer, but nearly everyone has suffered for a noble cause, something that imparts meaning and a worthy purpose. A parent would gladly suffer and sacrifice their comfort if it would ensure a better life for their children. A husband would unhesitatingly donate his kidney if it would save his wife’s life.

 

...The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Luke 9:22 (NKJV)

 

No one suffered more than Jesus Christ when He hung on the Cross. It was a suffering with meaning. Critics spit vitriolic aspersions against Him, averring that He was an unwitting pawn of the Jewish leaders or manipulated by the Roman leadership. Jesus spoke these words above, recorded in the Gospel of Luke. These are not the words of man who suffered without meaning. These are the words of a man who was absolutely certain about His mission and the direction of His life.  These are the words of a prophet who accurately and perfectly predicted all the details of His death and resurrection. These are the words of God who humbled Himself and put aside the glory that He had in Heaven and became a man.

 

Jesus suffered and died for us for the greatest meaning, our eternal destiny and salvation. Yes, man does not have be destroyed by suffering. Jesus Christ proved it and paid the ultimate price so that we would be reconciled to God through Him. And this suffering is a not a cause of despair, but rather, rejoicing!

 

For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

Philippians 1:29 (NKJV)

 

We have been granted the privilege of suffering for His sake. Thanks be to the grace and mercy of God through His Son, Jesus Christ! He paid the price of our sins by suffering with meaning on the Cross.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

No Corrupt Words (Ephesians 4:29)

A sister in Jesus Christ emailed me a few years ago to invite me to an event that she thought I may be interested in attending. I declined because of prior commitments but inquired about her recent activities since I had not seen her for awhile. After updating me, I asked if I could pray specifically for any area in her life. She quoted the following verse from Ephesians.

 

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

 

This verse has spoken to me so many times since she brought it to my attention. It is on my office wall next to my door, in ready view whenever I exit. It is also in clear view as I sit at my teaching microscope. Why? I am very prone to gossip. It may not be as blatant and vulgar as, “Guess what I heard?” It may not be as veiled as, “Well, I really shouldn’t say this, because I don’t want to say something that may be misinterpreted.” Oh no. My gossip is far more insidious. I may say things like, “Well, you can ask Stuart, but he is known to only look out for his own interests.” or, “Jake is a great guy, but not someone who can be trusted to complete the job.” I can convince myself that I am not gossiping but casting shades of aspersions upon another is just as damaging as throwing acid. God holds me accountable for every word I speak.

 

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 12:36-37 (NKJV)

 

My dear sister in the Lord gave me an important reminder that I must have no corrupt words in my speech. I must seek to edify others, not tear them down. I can do this through the power of the Holy Spirit, always guarding my speech. I can do this because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and have taken my sins to Him and asked him for repentance and forgiveness. I can do this because every word I speak will be replayed before Him in Heaven, and I will be held accountable.

 

Dear Jesus, help me to control my speech to honor You and not denigrate others.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

What's Your Credit Score? (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

An interesting study published in 2015 proposed that the higher your credit score, the less likely you’ll split from your partner. As an example, if there is a 105-point uptick in a person’s credit score, there is a 32% drop in the likelihood of divorce. One reviewer of the study suggested that a frank sharing of credit scores should occur early in the relationship, to minimize the chances of a divorce. Others chimed in with, “What’s your credit score?” may not be the best opening pick up line!

 

If only it were that easy!

 

Good credit is certainly important for the health of any marital relationship. Indeed, other studies have identified that money and finances are the leading cause of stress in relationships. But it is the tip of a very large iceberg. For some marriages, it may be deeper issues of compulsive shopping or gambling, that depletes the bank account. In my marriage, finances become an issue when assumptions are made and one partner is not informed or communication is taken for granted.

 

Problems with a credit score underlie the real issue, we are sinners and live in an imperfect world. From the moment we are born, we are not living the life that God created us to have. Instead, we are afraid to trust, unwilling to disclose our dark secrets, and lack the desire to be transparent in our relationships. What hope is there?

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

 

Will we resign ourselves to have a credit score predict our likelihood for marital success? God shows us a better way, by confessing and repenting of our sins, and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When husband and wife are united as believers in Jesus, our spiritual score is all that matters. How will we know? When we understand the true meaning of love and seek to love our spouse as ourselves, we will begin to understand the magnificence of marriage. For any marriage to succeed, Jesus must be at the apex and center of the relationship. As both partners grow closer to Jesus, they will grow closer to each other.

 

Credit scores are important. But are both you and your spouse seeking to improve your spiritual score? Jesus Christ shows us the best way.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Toyama No Kin-san (Revelation 20:12)

Japanese television has produced many engaging dramatic series. Growing up in Hawaii, I would watch these dramas with english subtitles. One of my favorites was a series known as Toyama No Kin-san. The series is based upon the true story of a judge magistrate of Japan, during the 1800’s. When he was not working in his official capacity, Kin-san would mingle with the commoners, unknownst to them that he was a high ranking official. He sported a tattoo of cherry blossoms (sakura) on his right arm and shoulder, in similar fashion to the gangsters and gamblers of the day. Thus, Kin-san entered the inner circles of criminals and was privy to many of their crimes. At the critical moment when the crime was being committed, Kin-san would alert the local police who would arrest them. Hauled before his court, the criminals were smug and confident that there were no witnesses to their crime. They would brazenly lie about their actions and question Kin-san, the judge, over what evidence he had to make such accusations about them? The dramatic climax of every episode occurred when Kin-san stood up and took a step toward the criminals. He then pushed open the sleeve of his kimono, revealing the sakura tattoo. The criminals would always recoil in horror, realizing their judge was Kin-san, a person they thought was another low-life, like themselves. They were guilty and condemned!

 

The appeal of Kin-san is broad and certainly resonated with me. A powerful and benevolent  judge departs from his lofty position to mingle and help the everyday people of his world. Sound familiar?

 

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Revelation 20:12 (NKJV)

 

This life is the only time we have to make a decision that will determine our eternal destiny. Once we die, we will someday stand before Jesus Christ, who will judge everyone who has ever lived. Jesus knows our hearts and motives. Like the criminals facing Kin-san, we cannot hide the truth from Him. There is no more time for excuses, no last minute plea for mercy. If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your name will not be written in the Book of Life, and you will be condemned to a life in hell, in endless torment, eternally separated from God.

 

It does not have to be this way. If you have not made the decision to confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, do it now. Jesus did come to earth and spend time with all of us. He understands our deepest needs and greatest fears. He is God!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Why Wouldn't I Do This? (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Recently, I was contacted by my cable company that supplies a phone line and internet service to my company. I assumed it was a usual cold call from their sales department, encouraging me to purchase additional services. Thus, when I answered the call, I was a bit terse and annoyed, anticipating a hard sell.

 

“Hi!” the cheery voice began. “Thanks for using our services these past years. You are on the last year of your three year contract and currently paying $200/month for your cable internet and phone service. We have a special offer. We can drop your bill to $140/month, increase the internet speed for your cable modem, and give you basic cable. Oh, one more thing, the contract will now be month to month. Does this sound like something you would be interested in?”

 

“Right.” I sneered. “What’s the catch?”

 

“Nothing! We want to keep you as a customer and this is our way of thanking you.”

 

I was still doubtful. “Why don’t you send me an email with this contract in writing. Let me review it first and then I will get back to you.”

 

“No problem!” Within a minute, the proposal arrived. It really did seem to be the real deal. I quickly did some checks with other associates and searched the internet blogosphere for feedback about this deal. No red flags. I called her back the next day.

 

“Hello? Why wouldn’t I do this?”

 

“Exactly!”

 

It was one of the few times in my life when a deal that sounded too good to be true, really was true. All the services and pricing were exactly as promised. When would I ever be given as good a deal as this?

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 (NKJV)

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

 

Many years ago, God stood at the door of my heart and knocked. He offered me salvation and the promise of eternal life with Him in Heaven when I die. What did I have to do? Perform more acts of kindness, give more money to charities, study harder and be a good son? No. Salvation is the gift of God given freely to me by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. He paid the price for my sins and the sins of the entire world by dying on the Cross. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead proving that He is the only path to salvation and through Him, death will be conquered!

 

Why wouldn’t I do this?

 

There is no good reason in this life or the next.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life. 

"I'm A Third Generation Melanoma Patient!" (Romans 5:12)

I received a phone call from a patient the other day. Over three years ago, I diagnosed a melanoma arising on her right  elbow. After the diagnosis, she received additional treatment at a major university medical center and has been cancer free. She was calling me to request my assistance to help her find a new dermatologist since her medical insurance had changed. As we spoke and she updated me, I was elated to learn how well she was doing.  

 

“Yes! I’m a third generation melanoma patient! My grandfather and father both had melanomas!’

 

“Oh my! Then it is very important for you to find an excellent dermatologist.”

 

“Yes, I go to my dermatologist every six months to get a complete body examination.”

 

“Wonderful! So glad you are doing well!”

 

It was gratifying to hear a melanoma success story. But our conversation gave me pause, so many diseases, including cancers, are familial. Genetic aberrations or mutations in one or more genes may place individuals at increased risk for these diseases. Embedded within our DNA, these damaged genes are passed onto future generations. It all began with the first humans, Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God’s commands and allowed sin to enter the human race and the world. The effects of sin are far more than pride, jealousy, and lust. Sin reworked our very genetic foundation, introducing mutations in our DNA, and damaging our genes. Disease is the direct result of sin.

 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Romans 5:12 (NKJV)

 

The human race bears the ravages of sin with disease and death. But there is hope. By confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can break the terrible cycle of death and despair. When we die, we will receive a new, resurrected body in Heaven. It is the body that God intended for all of us to have. We have this promise because Jesus Christ conquered death and was resurrected by God after His crucifixion.

 

For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:21 (NKJV)

 

This Man is Jesus Christ. Through believing in Him, there will be more disease, no death, no tears.

 

Praise God!

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

From Nothing (Romans 9:20-21)

I recently had an opportunity to review a draft of a novel written by a former high school classmate. From Nothing is a fast paced excursion through back room business dealings, rock music, and existential musings about God. These seemingly disparate themes are masterfully woven together into a cohesive and convincing tale. It is about the road not taken. It is about facing mortality at the cross-roads of middle age. It is scheduled to be published in Spring 2018 and will undergo at least one more edit.

 

My friend was grateful for my review indicating he would gladly share it with his publisher to incorporate some of my ideas into his final draft. He is crafting a story about life and he has the ability to change the plot to achieve his purpose. While he did not divulge his objectives for writing this novel, I thought I could discern some of his motives. He cautiously agreed with some of my observations but it was clear that there were deeper themes that he wished to convey and I may have been overlooking them.

 

I reflected upon his statement. Here was his chance to play god, to create a story the way he envisioned. He could change it as many times as needed until he was content. The work is fictional but my mind began to wander. Would God do the same in my life?

 

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Romans 9:20-21 (NKJV)

 

We are the clay. We are born sinners and if left alone to our free will, we will chose dishonor and eternal separation from God. Like the novel’s author, God can change the script of my life and I am thankful He did! He intervened by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. By being resurrected from the dead, God has shown that all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will receive salvation and eternal life. A life that is headed for eternal separation and torment is now a life in fellowship with God and at peace, the way He originally intended. I do not understand all the purposes God has for my life but I am grateful that by His grace and mercy, He saved me.

 

From nothing, God has changed the script of my life and for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

Thirteen Reasons Why (Proverbs 13:12)

My family watched the provocative and powerful mini-series, Thirteen Reasons Why. It is a fictional retelling of the events that led to the suicide of a high school student. The title is a reference to a collection of thirteen cassette tapes, recorded before her death, singling out people who had a role in her demise. The show touches upon relevant teenage issues such as bullying, inappropriate use of social media, alcohol and drug abuse, rape and sex. No punches are pulled and many scenes are raw and intensely disturbing.

 

As I watched the show, I recalled a similar painful time in my high school, when I was about the same age as the girl in the series. I was the class vice president and in charge of our class shirt project. I was young and naive in business dealings and through a series of misunderstandings, I did not follow through on several key issues, notably the shirt style. When the shirts arrived, instead of the long sleeve shirts I thought we were purchasing, the shirts were three-quarter sleeves, resembling baseball or softball jerseys. Upon seeing the shirts, the reaction of our student body class was mostly negative. Many refused to pay for the shirt, potentially crippling our class treasury with a staggering bill.  People were angry with me. I was angry with me. The class president informed me that, because of our debt, we would have to cancel our prom for that year, and possibly the next year.

 

I was devastated. Not only did my error ruin the class shirts, I had destroyed the possibility of at least one prom, shattering the dreams of high school for my entire class. There was nowhere or no one to turn, no exit or solution. I had failed before but never with something as spectacularly awful as this. As the days passed, I  descended into a very dark place. I couldn’t face this situation any longer. I decided I would end my life. It would be easy. I would sneak out that evening and jump off a nearby twenty story apartment building. A clamminess enveloped me as I rehearsed the sequence in my mind. My sanity was snapping. I was crossing over.

 

That evening, as I prepared to end my life, I received a phone call. “Paul, listen. I have good news. I spoke to the president of our sister school. Her entire class loves the shirts and they want to buy more than they originally ordered.”

 

That was good news but I knew we still had a long way to recover our losses. “And I spoke to Jake and Stuart, on the football and baseball teams. They said they would buy the shirts and would encourage the rest of their teams to keep their original orders and buy the shirts.”

 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “How many people are going to order?”

 

“I checked with our secretary. So far, we got a hundred thirty confirmed!” I quickly did the math. With our new orders from our sister school and these confirmed orders, we would nearly break even. I was shaking as I thanked him and hung up the phone.

 

A wave of fear engulfed me. I had nearly ended my life. If my friend had called an hour later, it would have been too late. A coincidence? At that time in my life, I thought so. But a few years later in college, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. As I looked back over my brief life, I realized that God was working behind the scenes, protecting me, saving me. He did this even when I deliberately turned my back on Him in high school, being an avowed atheist, dismissing Christianity as a fanciful myth.  During my most devastating failure, God intervened in my life and gave me hope, even when I did not know Him.

 

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

 

My experience may not be as shocking or traumatic as the main character in Thirteen Reasons Why. But whether it is bullying or a financial loss, one’s pain and heartache are sometimes misunderstood by others. Despair is intensely personal. If there is no one to help, no one to listen, there may be no hope. When there is no hope, there is no life. Only God can understand and intervene. He understands the deepest pain and grief we could ever face because He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.

 

I applaud the producer, Selena Gomez, for her courage to call attention to the serious crisis of teen suicide. May God place everyone who is suffering and contemplating suicide, in the pathway of His grace and mercy, that they may find a friend, family member, pastor, or counselor to trust and confide. May God draw everyone closer to Him.

 

God loves you and has a plan for your life. He is your Heavenly Father who loves you with a love that surpasses all understanding.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

 

Faith Based Films (1 Peter 4:3-4)

Hollywood is pushing to get rid of the term, “faith-based films.” The reasons are varied, ranging from the lack of specificity in labeling a film as such to financial, potentially turning off some moviegoers. I found one point of view from movie producer, Thurmon Mason, interesting.

 

“The problem with faith-based [films] is not the name; it’s the content of these films...The secular world cannot relate to on-screen faith-based characters who have been so sterilized that they never curse, make bad decisions, or engage in bad behavior like the majority of folks -- Christian or not -- in the real world.”

Source www.foxnews.com

 

(http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/05/09/faith-based-film-label-needs-to-go-experts-say.html)

 

This quotation stereotypes the Christian believer with the familiar facade of a haloed saint, who walks above the chaos and sin of the world, always doing the right actions and speaking the correct words. I wish I could be this “sterilized” idealized person!

 

For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.

1 Peter 4:3-4 (NKJV)

 

Christian believers are not sterilized. Do Christians make bad decisions or engage in bad behavior? Yes. Do I? Yes. What is the difference? Christians are not sterilized but they are sanctified, taken aside by God and transformed into a new life. When I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, He began a new life within me and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell within me. At that very moment, He sanctified me and began the transformation. It will not be complete until I die and am in the presence of Jesus in Heaven. Until then, my old sinful nature is at constant battle with the new nature of Jesus. Sanctification is both immediate and continual. When I am obedient to God, I can live a life that is pleasing to Him.

 

Faith-based films may not be a moniker for this genre of movies. But living a faith-based life with Jesus Christ will never be outdated or irrelevant. A faith-based life understands the reality of our existence. Christians do live a life that is different than the world because the perfect example of Jesus Christ is always before us and within us. We understand the depravity of our sinful nature because Jesus paid the terrible penalty for our sins by dying on the Cross. We understand the futility of living the life we used to live because of the even greater pleasure and joy of living a life in fellowship with Jesus Christ.

 

Sanctified not sterilized.

 

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.