Three Times The Size (Luke 3:23-28)

When you fall in love with someone, you want to know everything about them. What is their favorite food? The music they like? Their hobbies? What makes them laugh? Twenty questions played out on a grand scale. When I met my wife, it was no different. Obviously it was successful and although I spent countless hours, it was really no effort at all. I wanted to know!

When I became a Christian, I fell in love with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I wanted to know everything about Him and the best way was to read the Bible. Like so many new believers, I only focused upon the New Testament and it was no effort at all. Familiar stories I grew up with, like the Nativity and Jesus feeding the five thousand, were now seen in a vibrant new light. Yet, there was the gnawing issue of the Old Testament. Three times the size as the New Testament, it was filled with unusual customs and named cities and empires that even challenge modern scholars. I was frustrated. Where is Jesus mentioned? Why should I spend my time reading it?

The great saints who wrote the New Testament only had the Old Testament to base their writings. Every book of the New Testament liberally quotes the Old Testament. It is the history of the Jews and starts with the creation of the universe. Scientists estimate the age of the universe at over 13 billion years, and before it existed, God always existed! Thirteen billion years is but a moment in time for our Almighty Creator! God chose to reveal it in the Old Testament. If I ignore the Old Testament, I ignore the same foundation that molded these great saints into the pillars of faith they became. And if I ignore the foundation, I ignore the reasons why Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. It is common sense yet, how often do I ignore this simple fact? 

As he began his ministry, Jesus was about thirty years old and was thought to be the

son of Joseph, son of Heli…son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

Luke 3:23-38

This long passage from the Gospel of Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus Christ through His paternal line. If I did not read the Old Testament, most of these names would be meaningless to me. Thankfully, God, through the great saints of the New Testament, reminds me of the importance of knowing and understanding the Old Testament. 

Where is Jesus in the Old Testament? He is in every book and mentioned by every author. The entire Old Testament points to the redeeming work of God, the Father, who sent His Son, Jesus Christ to restore the relationship that sin had broken. As the passage in Luke states, Jesus is the Son of God, and only God can be our Lord and Savior.

Amen!

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

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Rethink Things (2 Peter 3:15-16)

“Learn something new.”

When my daughter was young, we would say our evening prayers together before she went to bed. One of our prayers was this short phrase. With seemingly unlimited information at our fingertips via the internet, this task has both become simplified and complicated. The reason is  ideas that I took for granted when I initially learned them, I now find I need to revisit and rethink. Political viewpoints, gender identity, political correctness. The definitions are literally changing by the moment and even differ depending upon the group and pundits who are espousing them. 

The internet exacerbates this information overload. What has been my response? Either through ignorance or lack of desire to investigate and do a deeper dive, I often accept explanations that fit more with my preconceived notions rather than to keep searching for the truth. I created a filter that does not allow for any internal disagreement. While this may give me peace, it does not always lead to the truth. The Apostle Peter warned about this.

Also, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some things hard to understand in them. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:15-16 (CSB)

In my early years as a Christian, I created a spiritual filter and made assumptions that the Bible was expounding something that were simply not true. Yet, instead of taking the time to pray, research, and consult with Bible teachers, pastors and mentors, I assumed that my interpretations were correct. Shamefully, I even shared some of these false teachings with others. I was the untaught and unstable heretic that Peter warned his readers. 

It was only when God led me through many life experiences did I begin to understand some of the more complicated passages of the Bible. These daily blogs that I write recount how God has taught and continues to teach me about many deep theological and spiritual principles of the Bible through the seemingly mundane events of my life. 

Learn something new. 

God needed to update my understanding of Him by teaching me what it means to live and abide in Him. In this world of rapidly changing definitions, He is the absolute Truth and He needs to be my filter by which I understand life. 

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

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Twenty Eight Years (2 Samuel 9:3-7)

“Sally! Oh my goodness! So good to see you! Do you realize it has been twenty eight years since we worked together?”

I was attending a retirement party for a former professional colleague. We worked together when I was resident and kept in touch during the ensuing years.  In attendance were many colleagues with whom we both worked, most of whom I had not seen since I completed my residency. Sally and I were elated to catch up on each other’s lives. 

“Looking forward to retirement? Planning lots of fishing trips, I bet!”

Sally’s eyes lit up. “Oh yes! But most of my time is spent with the family. With my father passing away a few years ago, I want to make sure I take care of my mother and see my siblings.” She paused then hugged me. “Thank you for recording his song for his memorial service!”

As I drove home, I had mixed emotions. I was gratified to see Sally and other friends, yet there were many others who were no longer with us, including Sally’s father. A few years earlier, another friend and I recorded a song that her father wrote. I did not have the pleasure of meeting him but I learned he was a man of many talents, including a talented piano player and songwriter. When he passed away, Sally asked me if I could record his song so that it could be played at his funeral. 

When my parents passed away several years ago, many friends of my parents, most of whom I did not know, took the time to write me kind letters or send me objects that were meaningful to both of them. They expressed their love to my family by honoring their love for my parents.

So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?”

Ziba said to the king, “There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.” The king asked him, “Where is he?” Ziba answered the king, “You’ll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, fell facedown, and paid homage. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “I am your servant,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “since I intend to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.” 

2 Samuel 9:3-7 (CSB)

In this touching story, King David desired to honor his predecessor’s family. This act of kindness was unprecedented in that day and very uncommon even in this day. David showed his love for King Saul by honoring and caring for his disabled son, Mephibosheth.

Isn’t this how God cares for us? His grace and mercy are extended through His creation for countless generations. I am thankful for my enduring friendship with Sally. I pray that all of my friendships will continue to be blessed by God and I will be able to honor the love they have unselfishly given to me.

Amen!

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

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Spiritual Supplements (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Molybdenum, Cadmium, Cobalt. 

These rare earth elements have been in the recent news since they are desperately needed for the manufacture of semiconductors which are in short supply throughout the world. In medicine, these are also known as trace elements. Present in everyone in minute concentrations, these are necessary components for many critical biochemical processes to occur in humans. Without them, we would become very ill and eventually die. All of these can be obtained with a proper diet but there are situations when these supplements must be given, such as severe malnutrition or patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer. If a little is good, then a lot should be better, right? Not quite. If one takes some of these supplements in large quantities, it can lead to toxicity and even death. A critical balance is required to ensure good health. 

What about my spiritual life? Are there spiritual supplements that I need for healthy growth?

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

2 Peter 1:5-7 (CSB)

As expected, God is proactive to ensure our robust spiritual growth and provides us proper supplements. However, unlike trace elements, these supplements should not be provided sparingly and in minute quantities, but should be lavished upon every believer in Jesus Christ! Goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. A little is good and a lot is much better!

Praise God for His spiritual supplements!

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

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It’s Called Life (Psalms 55:12-14)

The relative who stabs you in the back; the close confidant who discloses the contents of a private conversation about another colleague to that very person; the business relationship that failed because one of the partners was embezzling their own company’s funds. What do we call these situations? Tragic? Despicable?

It’s called life.

I have been involved in each of the three situations. It does not matter how many of these experiences I have endured, it does not get any easier. We have all been hurt by others. How do we deal with life? Some turn to alcohol or drugs, others sublimate their feelings and bury themselves in work or other activities. Still others, like myself, turn to a trusted friend for comfort and advice. But what does one do when it is the same trusted friend who has turned against you?

In each of the above cited situations, I first unloaded my hurt feelings onto my wife who respectfully listened. While she is my soulmate and I value her opinion and advice, I know she has enough problems of her own and I always feel that I am overburdening her with my troubles. Why didn’t I first take my problems to God? He undoubtedly understands my pain and betrayal but how do I take the problems to Him? Do I speak to Him in whispered tones? Do I approach Him with silent prayer? Do I even need to take it to Him since He knows all things? I can take comfort from the great saints of the Bible who faced similar travails. 

Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God.

Psalms 55:12-14 (CSB)

When David wrote this psalm, he was hurting and plaintively cried out to God. As he described the relationship, we learn that he was betrayed by a close friend, with whom he even worshipped together with God.  Did David consult with his wives? Did he speak to his other friends? The Bible does not tell us this but it does record his moving words and actions when he took the issue before God. David did not hide his feelings from God and neither should I. There have literally been times when I have yelled out in frustration and anguish. Is this wrong? God gives us the answer a few verses later.

But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. I complain and groan morning, noon, and night, and he hears my voice. Though many are against me, he will redeem me from my battle unharmed.

Psalms 55:16-18 (CSB)

How should I take the problems of my life to God? I should take it to Him the same way David did. I should be honest and freely allow my emotions to be expressed. I may complain and groan, but I do not cry out in defeat, exasperated by my situation. I shout in triumph, confident that He will accomplish what He promises. He sealed His promise to me by sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ. God will redeem me and protect me if I place my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Praise God!

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

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Psychological Warfare (Judges 7:13-14)

In 1612, one of the greatest duels between two samurai warriors took place in Japan. Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro were acknowledged as the top swordsmen in Japan. They met in a previously arranged duel on Ganryu island. Musashi deliberately showed up three hours late. While he was ferried on a small boat to the isolated island, he carved a wooden sword from a spare oar. Leaping out of the boat and brandishing this oar, Musashi began hurling insults at Kojiro. Kojiro was furious that Musashi was late and drawing his sword, he discarded the scabbard. Musashi then declared, “If you have no more use for your scabbard, you are already dead!” All of the tactics rattled Kojiro. Within a few seconds it was over and Musashi defeated his most famous rival. It was psychological warfare, perfectly executed!

Source: Swords of Northshire

The Bible documents several examples of psychological warfare. On the eve of Israel’s battle with the Midianites, God caused one of the Midianites to dream that they would soon be defeated by Gideon, leading the Israelite army. 

Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!” His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!” 

Judges 7:13-14 (NLT)

When Gideon heard about this dream, he was emboldened and rallied his army.

When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the LORD. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the LORD has given you victory over the Midianite hordes!” 

Judges 7:15 (NLT)

Satan knows he has already been defeated by God but he desperately attempts to use his own psychological warfare to convince me otherwise. Like recognizing what Musashi did to Kojiro, I should recognize the mind games he inflicts upon me. It should be a simple matter for me to ignore his schemes. So why do I pay attention to the psychological warfare of the devil and not trust in God? Am I afraid that this time, Satan will win? Is God too weak? No! My faith is too weak!

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 

Romans 8:31-33 (NLT)

If God is fighting for you, no one can be against you. Faith and belief in Jesus Christ will always conquer Satan and the psychological warfare that he attempts to wage against our souls.

Amen!

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

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African-American (1 John 4:19-21)

“I will introduce you to him, he’s a great guy!”

“Looking forward to it!”

My colleague was raving about his newest associate who joined his pathology group. He was one of the leading experts in the pathology of the kidney, prostate and the urological system. He recently left academia and entered private practice. I had read many of his papers and was duly impressed with his erudite discussions and astute observations. I was excited to meet him in person. I decided to prepare myself and found his webpage. In his biography, he introduced himself as African-American, a world traveler, and a lover of good food and wine. Very cool, I thought, we should have a lot in common. A week later, I met him in person at a conference. He was standing next to my colleague who introduced me. With sandy brown hair and a light complexion, he was not the image I had of an African-American. I later learned he grew up in South Africa before emigrating to the United States to pursue his medical residency training. He was proud of his African heritage and wanted others to acknowledge and recognize this.

I like to think of myself as inclusive and unbiased but here was a glaring example of my own biases influencing and coloring my thoughts, leading me to false assumptions. I began to understand that it was a symptom of a deeper problem. Microaggression is a relatively new word that encapsulates some of the issues. It is defined as “commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups”. Source: www.wikipedia.com 

As I examine my own thoughts and speech patterns, I realize that I am definitely part of the problem. The Bible is replete with examples of how racial, cultural, and religious biases have influenced us. What is the solution?

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

1 John 4:19-21 (CSB)

Love is more than words and actions, it needs to permeate our very soul, restructuring and realigning our thoughts. We cannot be content to make empty hollow statements declaring that we love others but fail to critically re-examine our thought lives. Prejudices and biases creep into our speech and influence our decisions. Even if unintentional, it is still wrong. We must actively pursue God and allow Him to transform and conform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Only by bringing every thought and action to the Cross will we be able to free ourselves of microaggression and the trappings of societal and cultural biases.

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

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Neuropathologists (Psalms 94:19)

Neuropathology is a board certified medical specialty requiring training in both clinical neurology and pathology. It is intellectually challenging and intimidates many neurologists, neurosurgeons, and pathologists. Anyone who has ever looked at a microscopic section of the brain usually had the same feeling I had when I first viewed it. It all looked the same! The pathological changes are subtle and demand a very practiced eye and ability to quickly assimilate the complex neurological signs and symptoms that may accompany the histopathological changes. With each encounter, my anxiety level was stratospheric.

Ironically, three neuropathologists greatly influenced my career choice. The first was the chair of the department of pathology who directed the pathology course during my second year of medical school. The second was a clinical professor who was chair of the department of one of the main teaching hospitals for my medical school. The third was the director of neuropathology in one of my residency programs. Because of their expertise in neuropathology, they were all amazing teachers, able to distill difficult concepts to easily understandable ideas that even a novice like myself could understand. It is no coincidence that they all practiced this relatively obscure and demanding medical specialty and I was inspired by them. What was once intimidating and anxiety provoking now became a passion and one of my favorite topics in diagnostic pathology.

My spiritual journey took a similar pathway. When I first began studying the Bible, I experienced a similar anxiety, intimidated by its immense size and dense verbiage. To complicate matters, I needed to understand Jewish history to place different events and customs within the proper context. As I began to read commentaries and other study aids, it became even more confusing. Words like grace, sanctification, propitiation-it all began to conflate and look the same. Like the first time I studied neuropathology, I was intimidated and anxious.

Thankfully, God allowed me to meet many godly brothers in Jesus Christ. Some of them were medical missionaries and only when I saw the Christian faith dynamically lived out through these faithful physicians, did I begin to understand. Words and concepts that once intimidated me became integrated within my vocabulary and thought life. My anxiety diminished as the complex theological concepts of the Bible became practical principles of Christian living and I allowed God to enlighten and console me. 

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. 

Psalms 94:19 (NASB)

Like the neuropathologists and medical missionaries who demonstrated complex concepts through practical examples, I find comfort in bringing my anxiety to God. Anxiety is self-inflicted. Left to my own efforts, I will flounder and drown in my turmoil. The way to understand the difficult concepts of the Bible is through practical living by faith, always coming to the Cross and humbling myself before my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

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

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Meeting The Parents (Exodus 20:12)

Many years ago, I proposed to the woman who would become my wife. After she accepted, we received congratulations from our friends but one important task was left for both of us. It was time to meet the parents! Her parents lived in the Philippines so she and I flew to Manila. When I arrived, all eyes were on me, scrutinizing and analyzing my body language and speech. Was I worthy of their daughter? Would I be a good provider? Would I honor her? Thankfully, all went well and the scenario successfully repeated a few months later when we flew to Hawaii to meet my parents. We have been married for nearly twenty five years but the first meetings with the parents were definitely the most stressful encounters for both of us. What would have happened if her parents didn’t like me? What if my parents didn’t like her? Would either of us have chosen to get married if there was not unanimous support from both sets of parents?

Meeting the parents. It is a scenario repeated throughout history and in all cultures. The customs may differ but the anxiety is the same. Does God have anything to say about the expectations of our parents for the approval of a marriage?

Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12 (CSB)

If either set of parents disapproved of one of us, I am certain we both would have taken much time to reflect upon their opinions. We wanted to honor our parents and seek their blessings for our marriage since we both acknowledged that they knew each of us very well and were seeking God’s will for our lives, just as we were. God speaks to His children in many different ways and our parents are a very powerful and important channel for His love and guidance. In these troubling times when children are suing their parents to divorce themselves from their care and jurisdiction, my wife and I are thankful that our parents raised us to respect them and fear our Heavenly Father.

Amen!

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

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Like Or Dislike? (James 1:2-4)

I was enjoying a music video on a popular social media site. At the end of the video, a message flashed on the screen suggesting that if I liked this video, to hit the “Like” button and subscribe. Do social media and other internet sites solely depend upon whether the user will click a like or dislike button to determine whether their shows and content are a success? Definitely not! I have been on sites that I have never used or signed up for and, after being on it for a few minutes, within hours, I am receiving ads from companies that are important advertisers or supporters of that website. Clearly there are many sophisticated software algorithms and programs that are running in the background, analyzing very granular aspects of my behavior. What about God? Does He need my active participation to determine whether I like or dislike something?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

God is not an abstract ethereal Being who sits on a heavenly throne and muses, “I wonder if he will like the situation I have placed him in?” God always knows my thoughts and actions, even before I do. Unlike an internet site, God does need me to act so that He will know how to respond. Instead of me asking whether I like or dislike the circumstances I find myself in, I should be asking, “What is God attempting to teach me?”

Like or dislike?

With God, the proper question that He asks me is, “Will you trust and obey?”

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

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