"She Can't Speak To Her Father!" (Romans 8:1)

When I was about twelve years old, my father asked me to join him on a late night drive. This was distinctly unusual since it was 9 PM and my father was usually in bed by this time. I nervously agreed, fearing that he was going to reprimand me for something I had done. We drove a few miles to an unfamiliar neighborhood, pulling into the driveway of a darkened home. My father instructed me to wait in the car. He entered the home and did not return until about 20 minutes later. I sat alone in the dark, clueless over what was transpiring. My father then returned with a somber look on his face and we proceeded to return home.


During the return trip, he shared the burden that was obviously on his heart. “Do you remember Molly?”

 

I nodded slowly. “Yes, she used to work for you about 5 years ago. She was in high school.”

 

“Yes, that’s the one. She’s in trouble.”

 

Trouble?

 

“She has a boyfriend and she got pregnant. She can’t speak to her father about this.”

 

“Why not?” I naively asked.

 

“She’s afraid of him. She always knew that she could confide in me and that’s why she called me.”

 

She was obviously ashamed of her actions and did not think she could confide her hurt with her own family. I know if I had been in a similar situation, I may have felt the same way. Even though I was very close to my parents and loved them dearly, I never wanted my father or mother to be disappointed in me. But I did not have another adult that I could confide with the same confidence that this young woman had with my father.

 

Sadly, this young woman ended up getting an abortion. I later found out that my father attempted to convince her to continue with the pregnancy and put the baby up for adoption. He even offered to help her financially. But the pain and embarrassment were too much for her to handle at this stage in her life. She moved away and although my father made several attempts to contact her, he never heard from her again.

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 (ESV)

 

This young woman’s guilt overwhelmed her. Even though my father attempted to help her, she could not forgive herself nor could she confide in others.  Years later, I viscerally understood this pain and guilt. I harbored sins and dark secrets that damaged my relationships with others. I felt I had passed the point of no return and God would never forgive me for my sins. But God, in his mercy and grace, brought me back into a loving relationship with Him. He showed me there is no condemnation when I confess and repent of my sins to Jesus Christ. No sins, nothing will ever separate us from God. How can this be? By the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, all believers are forgiven of their sins and are adopted sons and daughters of God.

 

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:6-7 (ESV)

 

We have a heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as His own children. We have a Father to whom we have the privilege to confess anything to Him in prayer. We never have to be afraid to come to God with our problems, our fears, our embarrassments-anything we feel, any situation we encounter, God understands and can comfort us. And He will forgive us if we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

 

With Jesus as my Savior, I learned of a new relationship with God. He is my Father that I will never be afraid to share my burdens and fears. I can always speak to God, my Heavenly Father.

 

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

Tuna Sandwich and Ramen (Galatians 6:7)

When I was in 5th grade, I purchased my lunch from the school cafeteria. Of the many delectable offerings, the two that usually caught my attention was a tuna sandwich and a bowl of ramen noodles. Usually I would purchase one or the other but on this one day, I was particularly hungry, so I decided to purchase both, knowing that it would quickly deplete the funds I was given for lunch that week. When I presented my food to the cashier, I was surprised that she didn’t charge me the full price, but only for the price of the tuna sandwich. I was young and mischievous and didn’t point out her apparent error. Here was a chance to get a deal!

 

The next day, I presented the same two items. Same thing happened! This was too good to be true! I was getting two items for the price of one! This happened a third time but by then I was feeling guilty. In fact, I wondered if she was making the same mistake with others who purchased this same combination. A casual observation of other patrons could not answer this question. My guilt got the better of me and I did not purchase these two items for a few days. But by the next week, I wanted to see if I could still get away with my scheme. I presented the same two items but this time only gave money for the tuna sandwich. Without hesitating, she looked at me and said, “You only gave me enough for the sandwich, you need to pay for the ramen!”

 

“Oh!” I was flustered. “Here you go!” I was about to leave but she wryly looked at me and said, “You know, I think I have been undercharging you for your lunches. Did you know that?”

 

“I..I didn’t realize that.” I was never a good liar and it showed.

 

“Well, we’ll let it go, but now you know.”

 

Indeed, I did.

 

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Galatians 6:7 (ESV)

 

I may have thought I was getting away with a steal, but God will never be mocked. Even though I was not yet a believer, He spoke to me through my conscience. Years later, when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I understood the true meaning of living a life that was accountable to God. It is easy to be on good behavior when I am being observed or under the scrutiny of others. But do I hold myself to the same high level, the same morality, if I think no one else is watching or is aware of my sins?

 

I can only do so because I have confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. His Holy Spirit indwells within me and convicts me through my conscience.

 

God is not mocked and I pray that I am now sowing seeds of love and grace rather than fraud and hurt.

 

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

Weekly Chapel Services (2 Peter 3:9)

Attending church doesn’t make one a Christian, anymore than celebrating Christmas or Easter. I should know. From 6th grade until my high school graduation, I attended a private school in Hawaii. It was founded by the Episcopalian church and there was a mandatory weekly chapel service for the entire school every Tuesday morning. For nearly twenty minutes, I obediently sang a hymn accompanied by an organ, listened to a short sermon, and uttered a perfunctory prayer. Then it was off to classes.  Only rarely did I ever focus upon the meaning or message of the service. My thoughts were usually on an upcoming test or some girl that I wanted to meet.

 

In fact, attending these chapel services did more to turn me off to Christianity and turn me toward atheism. I was disillusioned by the mechanical and ceremonial trappings of the service. I could not identify with the liturgical mutterings of the priests. The hymns were trite and staid. The sermons were pedantic and boring. Christianity was the antithesis of what I thought life should be.

 

But a few years later in my sophomore year in college, God reintroduced Himself to me. He would show me that Christianity is not a religion, a series of rote memorizations and do’s and don’ts. It is not an accumulation of good works and good behavior, earning enough brownie points in my ledger of life to offset my bad works. No. Christianity is a relationship with the living God, Jesus Christ.

 

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

 

God was patient with me and always placed me in the pathway of His grace. He gave me many chances, seven years of middle school and high school chapel services to learn about Him. His  patience allowed me to meet a man in college who modeled a life that was abundantly fulfilled in his relationship with Jesus Christ. I saw that Christianity was more than hymns, reciting school prayers, and something that I needed to earn. It was a relationship with God and I knew that I needed this relationship. I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

 

Thanks be to the mercy and grace of our Living God, Jesus Christ! He was patient with me and broke through weekly chapel services, man-made rituals, and my arrogance to bring me into a relationship as a child of the living God!

 

Praise God!

 

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

"You Will Be Very Successful!" (1 John 5:4-5)

Many years ago, when I was medical resident, a friend took me to a palm reader fortune teller. I thought it would be amusing at the least and insightful at best. In order to prevent the palm reader from discerning anything about my occupation or background, I dressed in an old tee shirt and jeans and removed my watch. As far as I knew, my friend had not told the fortune teller anything about me.

 

When I sat down opposite her, she smiled and asked me, “What work do you do?”

 

I sardonically cracked, “Oh no, you’re the fortune teller. You tell me what I do!”

 

She frowned, obviously annoyed at my arrogance. “Hmmm….” she thoughtfully began. “You are an engineer?”

 

“Nope!” A good logical guess since I lived in an area that employed many engineers, many of whom were Asian.

 

Undaunted, she tried again. “You are a lawyer?”

 

“Nope!” This was comical. How much longer did this charade have to last?

 

She looked me over very carefully, desperately seeking a clue to my occupation. Then, in a triumphant voice, she declared, “You are a doctor!”

 

Wow! It only took her three guesses! She must be in the elite class of fortune tellers!

 

Now that we established my occupation, she carefully examined my palms. Thoughtful seconds later, she pronounced her fortune. “You will be very successful. You will marry a doctor, an engineer, or someone in the military. You will be very rich. All of your dreams will come true!”


And with that, I paid her fee and departed. I dismissed her as a fraud but curiously, a part of me still wanted to believe that it was possible to tell one’s fortune and predict the future.

 

The obvious danger is being beholden to a disclosed fortune. Of course that could never happen to a rational person like myself! I kept reminding myself that astrologer, fortune tellers, palm readers-these were all charlatans eager to say anything in exchange for my money. Besides, my daily horoscope reassured me that I would not fall victim to any schemers or frauds!

 

But I was determined to see if it could be done. I even took it upon myself to do a retrospective pseudo-scientific study and purchased a horoscope of the previous year and studied it to see it it accurately predicted the events of my life. The answer? No, but with a caveat. The predictions were so broadly written that the interpretations could be loosely applied to nearly every situation I had encountered. So much wasted effort, all to see if I could predict my future. But that could never be done, could it?

 

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

 

God has already revealed the future, not only for me, but for all His Creation. By sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross for my sins and be resurrected. He has secured the fate of the world. Everyone who confess and repents of their sins and believes in Him as Lord and Savior will receive salvation and eternal life. Satan may attempt to deceive us with his lies, diverting our attention away from God and focusing upon the evil and suffering in the world, subtly planting doubt in our minds that God could not possibly be in control of a world filled with so much pain and suffering. But this is not the world that God planned for His creation. We sinned and disobeyed God and we have inherited this world that is ruled by Satan. But Satan knows his days are numbered until the day Jesus Christ returns to this earth and establishes His Kingdom. Satan knows the future and we do also!

 

I will be successful only because I turned from the false gods of this world and placed my future and hope with the One and only True God, Jesus Christ!

 

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

"I Know How Difficult It Is!" (Isaiah 53:3-6)

Everyone enjoys listening to a master performance in music. The talent of the musician is on display and our spirits may soar as we bask and revel in their artistry. As beautiful as these moments are, I find it an even richer experience when the artist is playing a musical instrument with which I am familiar. I play guitar, take voice lessons, and have played violin in the past. Thus, when I have the pleasure of hearing an artist performing within these genres, I marvel even more at the performance; I know how difficult it is!

 

Knowing how difficult a task is helps me to empathize with others in a similar situation. But empathy can only take me so far. I can never understand the pain and  joy of childbirth. I will not be able to relive the wonder and joy that an infant has when they first embrace their parents. And I will never be able to understand how difficult it was for my Lord Jesus Christ to remain steadfast to His mission to God, His Father. How could I? The worst pain I have experienced is infinitely less than the agony and suffering that Jesus endured on the Cross for me.

 

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3-6 (ESV)

 

How could one man bear the sins of every person who has ever lived-past, present, and future? How could one man receive the just punishment from God for these sins? How could one man endure the pain and suffering of separation from God, His eternal Father? Only one Man, Jesus Christ. He could do this because He is fully Man and fully God. He took all of our sins and nailed them to the Cross. He died and rose again so that I may have eternal life if I confess and repent of my sins and trust Him as my Lord and Savior. And this salvation is for everyone who does the same.

 

I know how difficult it is? I have no idea and never will!

 

Praise God for His ultimate sacrifice for me!

 

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

Getting An "A" in Religion Class (2 Timothy 3:7)

I attended an Episcopalian private high school. A mandatory class was religion. Everyday, we had a quiz on the homework reading assignment from the previous evening. The priest-teacher was very lenient and everyone received an A in the class. I attended a very competitive private high school and, for me, it was not enough to get an A, I had to be the best in the class. The only way to triumph was to do the extra-credit assignments. One of the assignments was to memorize all of the books of the Bible-either old testament, new testament, or the entire Bible. I eagerly accepted the assignment for the new testament and received my extra credit. But a friend of mine surpassed me and did all three. At the end of the year, he received the award for the highest grade in religion.

 

I did receive an A for my religion class but I wanted more. I not only wanted to have the highest grade, I wanted to be known as a religious person, even though at that time, I was very close to being an atheist and did not know God.

 

...always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:7 (ESV)

 

I held this attitude for most of my high school years. All I cared about was the appearance of being a good person-the knowledge, not the understanding of the content. But a few years later, God convicted me of my sinful attitude and behavior and brought me to my knees in confession and repentance of my sins. I knew I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus Christ.

 

I am thankful that by God’s grace and mercy, He saved me and continues to transform me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. I no longer want to learn just for appearances. I no longer want to be known as a religious person. I know I am a sinner and need Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I want to be known that I am only saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.


Amen!

 

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

"You Should Have Seen It Before We Had It Fumigated!" (Isaiah 29:15)

Several years ago, I was enjoying a meal with my wife’s family in a well-known restaurant. In the middle of the meal, my nephew let out a scream. We all turned in his direction to see him pointing under the table. He had lifted up the tablecloth to reveal a dead rat! Several waiters quietly came and swept up the rat, but not before I took a picture of the entire event with my cell phone. I chided one of the waiters, “Wow, that’s pretty bad.”

 

The waiter looked at me, nonplussed. “You should have seen it before we had it fumigated!”

 

Yikes! Is that supposed to make me feel better?

 

At that point, the manager arrived and after hearing our complaints, declared, “There is no rat! We don’t have rats in this restaurant!”

 

What?

 

It was comical for the restaurant to attempt to deny the incident ever occurred when the evidence was plainly in view AND I had captured the event on my cell phone. I quickly showed the photo to the manager who immediately apologized. After another half hour of a heated discussion with my brother-in-law, he agreed to comp the entire meal.

 

Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord,

And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?”

Isaiah 29:15 (NKJV)

 

As I reflected upon this pathetic incident, I could see myself, like the restaurant manager, denying my own sinful behavior even though it is in view for everyone to witness. I’m not arrogant. I’m not prideful. And if I am confronted with the evidence, I am quick to make an excuse.

 

Who am I fooling? Who sees me? God. He sees everything; my secret shameful sins; the sins I commit when I think no one is watching. Do I really believe that if I deny these sins, that God will look the other way? For many years, I did believe that. But God, in His mercy and grace, changed my heart and brought me to the point when I confessed and repented of my sins, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

 

Thank you God, for seeing everything in my life and changing me to become like Jesus Christ.

 

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

The Truth About My Family Name (Ephesians 1:4-5)

My last name is difficult to pronounce and usually elicits snickers from non-Japanese. Nonetheless, I am very proud of my family name. We are five generations of Japanese-Americans. Family members have served with the United States army during World War II and during peacetime. My father was a successful dentist in Oahu, Hawaii. My name is relatively unique for Japanese surnames. As I have often shared with others whom I first meet that if they met another person with the same last name, I am probably related to them.

 

When I was about 8 years old, my father shared the truth about my family name. His mother was married to a Japanese man, his biological father. But soon after he and his two older sisters were born, his mother and father divorced. My grandmother met my grandfather and namesake just before World War II. He was a widower with two young boys. He enlisted and served with the American army intelligence in Burma. Before he enlisted, he married my grandmother and adopted my father and his two sisters, giving them our family name.

 

I was quite surprised when my father shared this revelation, but it did not diminish my pride for my family name. In fact, I was honored that I would be adopted into this family, a decision made many years before I was even born.

 

...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

Ephesians 1:4-5 (NKJV)

 

I did not have a choice with my grandfather adopting my father and his two sisters. But I did have a choice when I became an adopted son of God through Jesus Christ. By His grace and mercy, God led me to a dear brother in Jesus Christ who spent many hours answering my questions about Christianity. When I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I became an adopted son of God.

 

I am proud of my adopted family name. But I am even prouder to be an adopted son of God!

 

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

"What Kind of Christian Are You?" (Psalms 51:17)

“What kind of Christian are you? You still lose your temper. You still are prideful! You still say mean things!”

 

These are the accusations that have been hurled at me, sometimes by friends and family members. I have no response, they are all true.  Sadly, my bad behaviors will continue until the day I die. So how do I even know I am a Christian if my behavior does not consistently demonstrate the character of Jesus Christ?

 

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalms 51:17 (ESV)

 

For many years, I followed this same mindset. I was unsure of my salvation, always doubting if my salvation was eternal and secure because I still sinned. I have slowly and painfully learned that being a Christian is not about living a sinless life, no one can, only my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could. If I love Jesus, if I truly desire to follow Him, I will continue to come before Him each time I sin with a contrite and humble heart and spirit, confessing my sins and repenting of them to Jesus Christ. I could give up and dismiss this as futile. I could attempt to convince myself that repentance is a waste of my time and energy. But I did not.

 

My desire to repent is the surest evidence that God, through His Holy Spirit, is working in my life and changing and conforming me into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

...for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV)

 

What kind of Christian am I?  I am no better than anyone else in the world. I am sinner, saved only by the grace of God.

 

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

"If You Can't Get Along With Them, You Promote Them!" (Matthew 20:26-28)

The other day, I learned of an interesting management technique. I was lamenting to a colleague that it was so difficult to hire good employees. Their resumes may be stunning and their interviews, courteous and encouraging. However, after they are hired, I soon discover they are not team players; they do not play well in the sandbox.

 

My colleague shook his head and smiled.

 

“Yup. Same problem I had at another company that I worked. They had an interesting solution. If you can't get along with them, you promote them!"

 

“Wha?”

 

He chuckled. “Not all of them, of course. But it seemed that whenever someone with an inkling of talent revealed themselves as a poor team player, instead of trying to make a square peg in a round hole fit, management promoted them and created a new position for them!”

 

Tongue in cheek comment or sound business advice? Sadly, I, too, have witnessed this in action within several very large organizations which I have been involved. I do not have any firm statistical data for the efficacy or merit of this strategy but common sense informs me that if someone is not a team player at one level of the organization, it is unlikely, they will succeed at another, higher level of management.

 

It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,  and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Matthew 20:26-28 (ESV)

 

The disciples of Jesus were jockeying for positions of leadership with Jesus. Jesus saw right through their actions recognizing they were not team players, only seeking to advance their own interests. But instead of promoting them or dismissing their intentions, Jesus challenged His disciples with a startling proposal. If you want to be a leader, then learn to serve one another!

 

This is what Jesus Christ did. He gave His life as a willing sacrifice to receive the punishment for our sins by being crucified and dying on the Cross. He gave His life to serve mankind. And God honored His sacrifice by raising Him from the dead.

 

In business and in life, if you cannot get along with others, learn to serve them. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God will honor and bless you for your sacrifice!

 

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

"Because You Love Me!" (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

My son loves to listen one particular radio station. In fact, he has programmed all of the radio channels to that one station in my wife’s car. But in my car, I have not allowed him to do this. Thus, he knows that when he with me, he will have to ask permission to listen to his favorite station.


As soon as he enters the car, he will look at me and say, “Dad, can you put the radio on 104.3?”

 

When I oblige, I turn to him and ask him, “Do you know why I did this?”

 

His response is always the same, “Because you love me!”

 

Indeed I do!

 

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NKJV)

 

I am happy to do this small act for my son, not because he needs to earn my approval, but because I love him. Nothing he could do will ever change my feelings toward him, and he absolutely knows this! My son has a childlike faith to trust and obey me and God. I should have a similar faith with God and emulate my son. God is ready to shower me with His blessings, not because I am a good person, have an education or a job, or am kind to strangers. These are important but not what God is ultimately seeking from me. I cannot earn His love. He freely gives it to me through His Son, Jesus Christ. And this love is available to anyone who confesses and repents of their sins and accepts His Son, Jesus Christ, as their Lord and Savior. The unlimited blessings of God are available to everyone because of Jesus’ death on the Cross and resurrection. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for me.

 

Because you love me!

 

God did this because He so loves all of us!

 

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

A Busy Morning (Matthew 28:6-7)

This morning was unusually busy. I usually awaken at 420 AM every work day and by 445 AM, am in my car. At the first major intersection, massive road repairs were underway and traffic on a four lane highway was reduced to one lane and a stop sign instead of traffic lights. I quickly texted my staff and family, alerting them to avoid this intersection for that morning. When I arrived at 5 AM to my office, a rush case was awaiting me. The patient was scheduled for surgery at 630 AM and the dermatologist wanted a confirmatory diagnostic reading. I reviewed the slide, confirmed the skin cancer, and texted the dermatologist at 515 AM. As soon as I released the text, an email from one of our partner labs appeared frantically alerting us that the courier could not deliver our cases that morning. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth to ponder how to resolve this issue, but in the middle of this, I received a phone call from another courier from a different lab, who was waiting outside my door. He had been ringing my doorbell, which was unexpectedly not working, and was waiting outside my door to deliver my cases. When I returned to my desk, another email appeared, from yet another laboratory, documenting how upset a dermatologist’s office was about a specimen being mishandled by their laboratory and they wanted an immediate explanation.

 

All of this before 6 AM!

 

It was a busy morning.

 

But go back nearly 2000 years ago, to the early morning hours in Jerusalem and an even busier morning began. A young woman was heartbroken over the execution of her teacher. But when she arrived at His grave, she was surprised to see the heavy stone that sealed the tomb, rolled away. Peering in, she discovered that it was empty, except for two angels. One of them spoke to her.

 

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.

Matthew 28:6-7 (ESV)

 

Busy morning? In one morning, Jesus proved to the world that He is God. He secured our eternal salvation for everyone who confesses and repents of their sins and place their trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.

 

Busy morning, indeed. I can’t even begin to understand what a busy morning truly means!

 

Amen!

 

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

Moonlighting (2 Timothy 2:3)

When I was a senior pathology resident, I moonlighted at a community hospital. Many of my fellow residents viewed it as a rite of passage, a transition to the real world, unsheltered by the safety of a training program. It was also an excellent way to network with the community pathologists, better positioning ourselves to get a job after we completed our training.

 

I remember the first day I stepped into the pathology laboratory and began the work. It was only the simple task of grossing in the surgical specimens of the day but I was understandably nervous. This duty entailed describing the tissue samples that had been delivered from the operating room. There were uteruses, colons, breasts, and small biopsy specimens. Each specimen needed to be precisely sectioned and placed into tissue cassettes to be processed overnight and made into microscope slides. Although the difficult part of this entire process was reviewing the microscope slide and rendering the diagnosis, my role was not trivial. If I did not accurately describe the specimen and take appropriate sections, the senior surgical pathologist would be reviewing microscopic sections that were not representative of the patient’s disease. A cancer diagnosis could be missed or a malignant tumor could be misdiagnosed as benign. On several occasions, these selection errors were pointed out to me. I was chagrined but thankful for the instruction.

 

Moonlighting was an important stepping stone in my career. It matured me as I gained a complete understanding of what it meant to become a surgical pathologist and ultimately, a true physician. It was increasing levels of responsibility and independence. It allowed me to recognize bad habits before serious errors could occur.

 

In my Christian walk, God has also taken me through important stepping stones. He led me to several Bible studies and seminars before I led my own small groups. He led me to play guitar in several worship bands before calling me to lead my own worship team. And He allowed me to fail so that He could teach me important lessons in my faith.

 

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 2:3 (NKJV)

 

During the first few years after I became a Christian, friends, family members, even college professors would question the reasons for my faith. While I knew what changes had taken place in my heart and my life, I could not articulate it to the satisfaction of my audience. God used these experiences to help me dig into His Word and find the answers.

 

Like the mistakes I made when I was moonlighting, God used these times of training to allow me to fail so that when I encounter these situations in the future, He would bring me through victoriously.

 

All praise to the Living God, Jesus Christ!


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

"It's Two Raccoons!"(Proverbs 16:18)

Our home has been invaded by raccoons!

 

The other evening, my daughter rushed into my room and exclaimed, “Dad! We have raccoons!” We quietly crept into her darkened room. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I peered out the window and two moving figures came into focus on the roof. Yup! Two raccoons!

 

For years, I thought the sounds I was hearing outside my windows were pigeons cooing. But as anyone with experience with raccoons can affirm, the raccoons make a sound something like a cross between a cat purring and pigeons cooing. In reality, the threat was far more sinister than I could have imagined. The raccoons had been gnawing on our satellite television wires, damaged several roof tiles, and left their calling card droppings on several key locations outside my daughter’s windows. In retrospect, it was also clear that these animals were responsible for shredding a cushion on one of our patio chairs and removing a barbeque cover. I ignored all of the warning signs because I made a careless assumption and was too self-confident in my own knowledge.

 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 (ESV)

 

In my walk with God, I sometimes grow lax in my spiritual discipline and may assume that a particular situation poses little danger. Like the raccoons, situations I encounter may be masquerading as something far more insidious. A casual discussion with my staff can quickly lead to a gossip session about a fellow physician. A small tax loophole may become an invitation to take a more than generous deduction.  It is my pride and arrogance, believing that I am strong enough to resist these situations and not succumb to these temptations, that leads to my downfall.

 

Thanks be to God that He continually reminds me of my need to be continually dependent upon Him. With every decision, in every situation, I must first seek His will and direction before relying upon my judgment. Only then will I be able to live a life that is victorious and pleasing to God.


Amen!

 

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

 

Aware Of My Spiritual Surroundings (1 Peter 5:8)

One skill I learned from my martial arts training was the importance of always being aware of my surroundings. Every corner, every step, every person, an attack could emerge. I had to remain vigilant, but also be ready to respond in an appropriate manner. The danger was not in the seen, but the unseen.

 

Good advice for life and for my spiritual walk with God. I can avoid the obvious temptations of visiting a strip joint or shooting up heroin, anyone can see these dangers. It is the unseen that is more insidious and far more deadly. An innocent browse for information in the internet may lead to a pornography site. A simple loophole in the tax code may lead to fraudulent reporting of deductions. Unsuspected and unseen dangers may emerge from seemingly innocent activities and doorways.

 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

 

The Bible reminds all believers to continually be aware of their spiritual surroundings. Satan devotes his existence to derail my life, causing me to look away from my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He wants nothing more but to convince me that God does not love me and my salvation is not eternal and secure. He wants to compromise myself and listen to what the world can offer, not what Jesus Christ continually offers me.

 

I accepted the offer of Jesus Christ by confessing and repenting of my sins, and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  He has given me His Holy Spirit to indwell within me so that I am more aware of my spiritual surroundings. It is a dangerous world in which we live. Thanks be to God that He is always protecting me.

 

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

"Your Name Doesn't Make Sense!" (Revelation 20:12)

My Japanese surname is unusual and for non-Japanese, difficult to pronounce. It is so unusual that even native Japanese sometimes look at me with a befuddled look when they hear it. This polite acknowledgement changed one day, when I was with a group of other Japanese and we were writing our last names in Kanji, the Japanese written characters. One of the women in the group looked at the characters in my name, turned her head to the side and frowned.  Pointing at the characters, she declared, “Your name doesn’t make sense!”

 

I was startled by her accusation. “What do you mean?”

 

“We don’t read the Japanese characters like that!”

 

Her pronouncement stirred a memory that my parents shared with me about my name. When my great grandfather immigrated to Hawaii from Japan, the immigration officer incorrectly interpreted and mispronounced the written characters and assigned to him our incorrect present name. To my chagrin, this woman was absolutely correct and I acknowledged her observation.

 

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)

 

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15 (ESV)

 

I am thankful that God places a great deal of importance upon our names. Jesus called Lazarus by his name when he raised him from the dead. He called Mary by name when she came to His empty tomb on that Resurrection Sunday. He also gave new names to His disciples. He renamed Simon as Peter. He renamed the brothers John and James, the sons of thunder.

 

My name doesn’t make sense! Yes, this is true. But thanks be to God that my true identity is not dependent upon earthly names but by the name that He gives me. He calls me and gives me my true identity as an adopted son of God. And this is the name that is forever recorded in His Book of Life.

 

Amen!

 

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

A Dream Journal (1 John 4:1)

Many years ago, I kept a dream journal. It was a notebook on my nightstand next to my bed. Whenever I awoke in the morning, I immediately wrote down as much as I could recall of my dream. This was a necessary task because within a few minutes of awakening, I often forgot most if not all of the dream.

 

I kept this journal for nearly a month and I observed some interesting patterns. Certain themes kept recurring, sometimes in consecutive dreams and other times, separated by a few nights. Certain characters and locations also kept recurring. It was eerie. I began to see these themes and characters in my waking hours. I began to wonder if these dreams were actually premonitions. Was I tapping into some hidden and untapped psychic energy? As I sought to make sense of these dreams, I wondered if I was influencing the dreams? What if the very action of observing and contemplating my dreams was warping this dream journal into something that was contrived? But an even more sinister thought crept in, what if these dreams were really an attack from Satan, urging me to rely more upon these dreams as some divine revelation? Was this a simple psychology experiment or was I edging into the occult, wishing to see the future? Was there any way to know?

 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1 (NKJV)

 

God communicated with many of the great saints of the Bible through dreams. I believe God can still speak to us through dreams. However we now have the Bible as God’s complete revelation to us through the Holy Spirit. The Bible makes it very clear. I must hold every revelation, whether through prophets or a dream, up to the Word of God and test it.

 

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

1 John 4:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Any dream I have that does not honor Jesus Christ is not from God. In my dream journal, it was clear that the dreams did not honor God nor did it encourage godly behavior within myself.

 

Perhaps someday God will give me a revelation through a dream. If He does, I will know it by holding the dream to the light and revelation of God’s Word.

 

Amen!

 

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

"Where Is the Small Cutting Board?" (John 8:10-11)

“Where is the small cutting board?”

 

I was preparing dinner for my family and needed it to cut a small tomato. I spent several minutes searching for this cutting board, scouring the dishwasher, dishrack, and usual cupboard, all to no avail. Frustrated, I grabbed the largest cutting board and said to myself, “This family needs to learn to put things back in its proper place!” I intended to vent to my wife and daughter when they came home.

 

Within the hour, they returned home and I confronted them. My wife looked at me with a puzzled look and then said, “Our son put away the dishes!”

 

My son put away the dishes? He had never done this before. My wife turned to my son and kindly asked him to show us where he put the cutting board. He led us to a drawer that contained several plastic containers. There it was, neatly stacked on top of the containers. “Thanks Buddy! You were a big help to Mommy today!” My wife smiled and looked at me. “We will need to learn where to put all the dishes in its proper place, okay?” My son beamed and I was embarrassed.

 

As usual, I assumed the worst intentions when, in reality, the incident occurred because of the best of intentions. My son was seeking to please my wife and myself but my impatience and short sightedness almost led to conflict.

 

When things do not go the way I planned, I assume the worst and look to assign blame. My efforts are misguided because I do not apply grace to every situation, unlike my Lord, Jesus Christ.  I wonder how God can be so patient with me? I want to be like Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

 

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

John 8:7 (NKJV)

 

This passage from the Bible describes the humiliating story of a woman caught in the act of adultery and hauled before Jesus by the Pharisees. They quoted the Mosaic law demanding that she be stoned for her sin. They questioned Jesus, testing Him to see what He would do. Jesus did not chasten or berate her. He did not make demean her or her sins. Instead, He spoke to her with kindness and firmness, valuing her worth as one of God’s creation. He gave her instructions and pointed her to the higher calling that God has for all of our lives.

 

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

John 8:10-11 (NKJV)

 

Sin no more. Simple. Direct. Spoken with the greatest love and extending mercy and grace to everyone He met. This is why I need to extend grace to everyone and in every situation, because I want to be more like Jesus.

 

He is my Savior and Lord.

He is Jesus Christ.

 

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

"Stop Trying To Sing!" (1 Corinthians 26:13-14)

I enjoy my voice lessons but have struggled to rid myself of old habits. During nearly every lesson, my teacher will stop my singing, smile and say, “Stop trying to sing!”

 

As he has repeatedly pointed out to me, “Singing is like speaking but longer, stronger, higher, sometimes lower ...always better.” I am attempting to sing by singing, rather than speaking. In other words, I attempt to sing the way I think it should sound, rather than how it should sound. The end result is my singing sounds like a weak imitation of someone trying to sing.

 

There is a direct analogy to my spiritual walk with God. For many years, I attempted to live the Christian life by acting spiritual. I spoke and behaved the way I thought other Christians wanted me to behave. I was a Christian trying to act like a Christian, instead of being the man that God created me to be. The end result was a disingenuous Christian walk and a lie to God and myself.

 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV)

 

My life as a Christian needs to be rooted in Jesus Christ, standing firm in faith. Yes, it is important to have good role models and a behavior that is evidence of a godly character. But to a be a Christian man means much more. I needed to stop being a man that I thought others wanted me to be. I needed completely surrender my life to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He alone is the Supreme role model because He perfects and completes my faith.

 

...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

 

I had to stop singing before I learned how to sing. I had to stop acting like a Christian before I could learn what it meant to be a true Christian.

 

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

"Is This Black Magic?" (Ephesians 6:12)

My wife and I enjoy watching magicians. One particularly talented magician was performing on the streets of Las Vegas. He deftly moved from simple card tricks to incredible illusions such as levitating and walking through an apparent glass window. As my wife and I scrutinized his performance, we were dumbfounded over how he could do all of this. We were wise to the usual tricks of deception and misdirection and yet, we were mystified. I turned to my wife and jocularly asked, “Is this black magic?”

 

We both laughed but there was still a lingering doubt. The next morning, I found one of my colleagues, who was also an excellent amateur magician. He was familiar with this Las Vegas magician and after I described some of his tricks, I nervously laughed and said, “We were wondering if this is black magic?”

 

My colleague smiled and said, “If you have enough money, there is almost nothing you can’t make appear like magic!” He went on to explain how elaborate sets are constructed to give the illusion of magic. Combined with very skillful misdirection, many magicians have become high-tech technicians. The street magicians and performers do not channel Satan’s powers but they are extremely clever.

 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

 

It was only mentioned in jest, but black magic, the occult world, and the power of Satan and his demons are very real. In the 21st century, the world dismisses the notion of Satan and demons as mythology, akin to believing that gods and goddesses live on Mt. Olympus. But the Bible is very clear and blunt about the reality of this dark world. Jesus Christ has already defeated them by His death and resurrection on the Cross. Satan his demons are powerless against the Word of God.

 

Confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior will grant us eternal salvation. Through God’s Holy Spirit, a believer will alway prevail over the occult power of Satan. There is nothing to fear when God is on our side.

 

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