Mazegohan (Philippians 1:6)

My paternal grandmother was an amazing cook. Amongst her many memorable dishes, the favorite which she presented at every family gathering, was mazegohan. This dish, a savory combination of chicken, vegetables, and rice, took several hours to prepare and cook. My father inherited her prodigious cooking skills and carried on the tradition of making mazegohan, after she passed away. But he went one step further, continually tweaking the recipe, ever perfecting the flavor. Indeed, the dish became even more delicious in his capable hands.  Before my father passed away, he shared with me the most current incarnation of this fabled recipe, hopeful that I would continue his work.

 

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

 

Like my father who faithfully tweaked the mazegohan recipe, God continues to tweak the recipe for my life. He prunes me of unnecessary vices and habits to sweeten my life and allow me to grow. He adds trials to strengthen my resolve and faith in Him. He provides additional skills to allow me to accomplish His work in this life. Sometimes I think the tweaking God has done is not correct but the outcome is always the same. His recipe is perfect, transforming me to become an ever sweeter aroma to this world. He is bringing me to completion for the moment I stand before my Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

My father was hopeful that I will continue to prepare, tweak, and improve the recipe for mazegohan. My culinary skills may not be as adept as my grandmother and father but I will give it my best effort. But I can be confident that God will continue to tweak my life and bring it to perfection, because God is faithful and always keeps His promises.

 

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

“We Want To Worship God” (Proverbs 19:21)

Nearly twenty years ago, my wife and I purchased our first home together. It was and still is a lovely home. The realtor was anxious to make the sale and wanted us to commit to the down payment by 10 AM the next morning because there were two other buyers who had a similar level of interest. However, that next morning was a Sunday morning and we did not want to miss church. My wife and I knew what we had to do. We both sat down and prayed about the matter.

 

“Father God, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to purchase this house. We know there are pressures for us to meet with the real estate agent, but we want to worship you. We know what is the right thing to do. Please bless our decision.”

 

We called the agent and told her that we we are Christians and church is where we needed to be. We want to worship God, we informed her, and we would not be able to meet by 10AM the next morning. We also told her that we understood if this meant we could lose the home but we will honor God first.

 

“Oh my,” replied the agent. “You know, I should be attending church as well. Listen, don’t worry, the other buyers just notified me that they were not able to come tomorrow morning. So if you are able to come here by noon, I will make sure the paperwork is ready for both of you.”

 

It has been 17 years since we purchased the house and God has blessed it and made it a home. We began the process correctly, the way all decisions should be made, by dedicating it to God and honoring Him first.

 

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

 

It is easy to get caught up in the world’s pace and make decisions based upon the time schedules and demands of others. Every decision we make should be dedicated to God and made on God’s schedule, not our own. In the end, His purpose will stand and He promises to bless us if we are faithful to Him and trust in His leading.

 

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

Fear of Death (John 11:25-26)

My wife and I had an opportunity to enjoy a rare date night and we watched the movie, Star Trek Beyond, the latest release in the Star Trek series. In the movie, Commander Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) is seriously wounded. Dr. McCoy (played by Karl Urban) is attending to him and as they reflect upon the gravity of the situation, the following exchange occurs.

 

Spock: Fear of death is illogical.

Dr. McCoy: Fear of death is what keeps us alive.

 

I pondered those quotations. I realized that both statements hold some truth. The fear of death is illogical if one does not know what will happen at death. Do we simply cease to exist? Does heaven or hell await? Are we reincarnated as another person or animal? How one answers this question will determine whether one fears death.

 

But the fear of death is logical if we are convinced that we simply cease to exist or a horrible fate awaits us once we die, then we would undoubtedly do everything within our power to avoid death. Fear of death would keep us alive, but we would live a hopeless existence, laboring to prevent the inevitable.

 

What possible hope is there in this life if we do not know have the assurance that there is something beyond this existence on earth?

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (ESV)

 

God has answered this question for everyone. If we confess and repent of our sins to Jesus Christ and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, then we will have eternal life with Him once we die. He has assured us that this life is a preparation for the next life in eternity. Everything we do in this life has eternal significance.

 

Fear of death. For anyone who has placed their trust and salvation in Jesus Christ, there is no longer any fear for He has conquered death and we can be assured that we will live forever with Him in Heaven.

 

Amen!

 

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

Your Will Be Done (Luke 22:42)

Reading the medical literature can sometimes be a bewildering exercise in discerning the truth. Take the topic of caffeine. One article may tout the benefits of caffeine while another warns against the health hazards. There is an article that warns that caffeine may have detrimental effects on some organs but beneficial effects in others. Still another article states that it is the way the coffee is prepared that determines whether the caffeine has an effect upon one’s health. And this debate has been raging for decades!

 

If I were to make a decision about caffeine, I would be lost in this din of scholarly work. There is simply too much noise and competing opinions.

 

In my prayer life, I often feel a similar level of frustration and confusion. I may pray for one outcome knowing that another prayer that I or another is praying may be in direct opposition to mine. There may be shades of gray when I pray with no clear direction for what I should be praying, only that I need to pray about it.  And there are many times I pray when my emotions and sinful nature intercedes and misdirects my prayers to selfish gains and motives.

 

Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.

Luke 22:42 (ESV)

 

When our Lord Jesus Christ uttered these words, He was facing one of the most critical moments of His life. He could have turned His back to God the Father and not gone to the Cross. He could have remained in this world, teaching and healing. He knew what lay ahead-torture and separation from God. He was in anguish as He prayed to His Father God to take this time of suffering away from Him, but in triumph He concluded with this prayer, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”

 

This is what I must do when I pray. The clutter of life, the noise of competing interests, my sinful nature-all of these compete for my attention when I pray. I must focus only upon God and allow the Holy Spirit to intercede in my life so that I may declare, “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”

 

Amen!

 

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

“Come Into My Bathroom!” (Hebrews 4:13)

When visitors come to my office, I usually give them a quick tour of the reception area, break room, and offices. The last room I insist they tour is the bathroom. Not surprisingly, they are amused by this request and ask for clarification.

 

“Yes. Come into my bathroom!” I proudly exclaim.

 

In the bathroom, plastered upon all the walls, are numerous medical journal articles that my dermatology residents have recently published. Next to these are clinical photographs of unusual dermatologic diseases which I use as a teaching props for visiting residents and medical students. And on nearly every free space on the wall, are my favorite Bible verses. It is not possible to spend time in that bathroom and not be exposed to an eyeful of dermatology and God’s Word!

 

Many a visitor and employee have spent a much longer time in the bathroom than expected. In fact, word has gotten around to colleagues who have asked to see the bathroom! Even for those who are not believers, they have remarked that it was refreshing to read the Bible verses. I inform them that these verses are placed there not to make myself appear “holier than thou” but to continually remind myself how weak my faith is and how I need to be cling to God’s Word every moment of the day.

 

And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:13 (ESV)

 

We do not usually speak so freely about private rooms in everyday conversation because it may be perceived as an inappropriate topic. We prefer to keep it hidden. Like the bathroom, there are many areas of my life that I would prefer not to discuss. I am ashamed of many things I have done in my life. Occasionally, these episodes from the past return and I want to avoid it. But I am only trying to hide it from man and myself.

 

My life is completely exposed to God. All of my sins and thoughts are known to Him. I cannot hide it or pretend it did not happen. I can only come before God and know that because I have confessed and repented of my sins to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, He has forgiven me.

 

In a private bathroom and in the secret recesses of my soul, God’s Word stands as a testimony of His faithfulness to me.

 

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

“Virus Hand Grenades” (Isaiah 1:18)

If you enter a public restroom, instead of a paper towel dispenser, one may find an air-powered hand drier. These devices come in a variety of shapes made by different manufacturers. Some are simple warm air dryers while others are termed “jet-air dryers” which blow a highly concentrated stream of air. All tout the idea that drying one’s hands by air is more hygienic than using paper or cloth towels.

 

Scientists, specifically microbiologists, have now determined that some of these air-powered hand driers may have the potential to spread disease. Placing a harmless virus MS2 on their gloved hands, scientists proceeded to dry their hands using paper towels, a warm air dryer, and jet-air dryer. Cultures were taken from around the devices at different heights and distances and also from the air around the devices. The results were surprising. The jet-air dryers could disperse the virus up to nine feet away while the paper towels dispersed viruses to a mere ten inches. One researcher concluded that the jet-air hand dryers were becoming a potential “virus hand grenade”!

 

The bottom line, in spite of ever improving technology and inventions, we can never truly get rid of these harmful micro-organisms, and in fact, may be making our condition worse.

 

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

 

Like these micro-organisms, there is an analogy with our sins. Try as we may, we can never truly eradicate our sins by our own efforts. Oh, we try. We read self-help books that “explain” to us that our sins are not wrong, simply genetically programmed behaviors. We may go to therapists or check ourselves into rehab centers, there is one for every possible vice imaginable. By availing of all these man-made solutions, thinking we are eradicating the problem, we are not dealing with the core problem of sin. We delude ourselves with a false sense of hope and security that we are successfully dealing with our sins. In reality, we may be creating our own “sin hand grenade”.

 

There is only one solution. We must come before God and confess and repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Only He can remove our sins so that we can be as white as snow. No rehab centers, self-help books, or therapists can do it. Only He can eradicate our sin hand grenade!

 

Amen!

 

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

No Excuses (Psalms 51:4)

And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’

Acts 13:22 (ESV)

 

A man after God’s own heart.

 

I have struggled with this description of King David for many years. King David, the warrior who slayed Goliath, the commander who lead Israel’s forces to its greatest territorial conquests, the man who showed kindness and mercy to King Saul and his family. It is the same King David who committed adultery with Bathsheba, arranged the murder of her husband, and pridefully sought a census of his people, leading to three days of pestilence and the death of 70,000 Israelites.

 

How do the wicked actions of David demonstrate God’s heart? The answer is found in David’s own words. Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, David wrote these following verses after he repented of his sin of adultery and murder involving Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah.

 

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Psalms 51:4 (ESV)

 

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalms 51:12 (ESV)

 

It is not about living a sinless life. It is not about thinking pure thoughts. It is not about always doing the right thing. No one can. To live a perfect life is impossible. God knows this. David knew this as well. David’s heart was like God’s because He continually sought God’s guidance through prayer and reading the Scriptures. He confessed his sin and repented to God. He made no excuses. It wasn’t because of Bathsheba’s behavior or the pride of his generals. It was because of his sin alone.

 

A heart like God means there are no excuses. We are responsible for our actions and sins. We must come before God, confess our sins, and repent. And we can only do this if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And once we do, God can restore us with the joy of His salvation.

 

Amen!

 

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

“Everyone is Smart!” (1 Corinthians 12:2)

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

 

This quotation is widely attributed to Albert Einstein, but regardless of who said it, the sentiment it expresses is worth consideration. God has created us with different preferences to learn and with varying abilities to accomplish certain tasks.

 

I have seen this in my own life. As a physician, I had to decide by my third year of medical school, what specialty I would pursue. I am a very visual learner. Thus, specialities like surgery, requiring precise manual dexterity, or psychiatry, requiring prolonged introspective reflection, did not appeal to my abilities. But pathology and dermatology did! And it is fitting that I now practice the medical specialty of dermatopathology-a combination of the two most visually exacting specialties in medicine.

 

Had I pursued a career in surgery, it is unlikely I would have completed a surgery residency program, much less get accepted. It would not be because of poor grades or preparation, just lack of ability. It is not my gift. Believers in the Church are no different.

 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:2 (ESV)

 

In the Church, the Holy Spirit has bestowed, upon all believers, different gifts and abilities. It is sometimes easy and dangerous to slip into casual judgment of other’s abilities. Like the admonition of the quotation, we need to be more circumspect in our observations. We need to take a much broader view of everyone’s abilities, not judging or comparing each other’s talents and abilities but understanding that God is growing and nourishing His Church through these gifts. Everyone is precious in God’s eyes and everyone is being used to grow and establish God’s Kingdom.

 

Only God can rightfully judge us because He created us for His purpose. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, give thanks to Him for your gifts and abilities. Ask Him to show you how to best use your gifts to serve Him and others.

 

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

“Don’t You Fear God?” (Jonah 1:9)

“Don’t you fear God?”

 

I was taken aback by this forward statement. I was in 7th grade and the school day had just ended.  A casual acquaintance was sitting next to me and we were discussing what we might do in life. It began with a seemingly innocent inquiry.

 

“Are you going to be a dentist like your dad?”

 

I wasn’t sure. I respected what my father did but did not have a desire to pursue this occupation.

 

“No, I don’t think so.”

 

“Will you get married?” He persisted. Why was he asking these questions, I wondered.

 

“Probably. I don’t know.” I had never had a girlfriend up till that time in my life. Frankly, I didn’t give girls much thought.

 

“What do you mean ‘probably’?”

 

I didn’t know what I meant so I carelessly blurted out, “I mean, yeah sure. Or maybe I would just live with a girl and then if it works out, we can get married.”

 

That did it.

 

“You would live with a girl first before you get married?”

 

“I don’t know!” I stammered. “It seems like a good idea.” I really didn’t know what I was talking about.

 

“That’s not what the Bible says!”

 

I looked at him with incredulity then realized he was dead serious. “The Bible?”

 

“Yes. The Bible is God’s Word.”

 

“Ok….” I didn’t want to tell him that I didn’t believe in God.

 

“Don’t you fear God?”

 

I was being sucked into a conversation that I had no reference point or experience to answer.

 

“You mean, like if I disobey Him, He will send thunder and lightning down on me?”

 

“He could!”

 

“I don’t hear of that happening to anyone.”

 

“But He has done it and He can do anything. You have to fear God and obey Him!”

 

I needed to exit this awkward conversation.

“Sure thing. I gotta go.” I quickly got up and left.

 

I never gave that conversation much thought for the rest of middle and high school. My heart was hardened and in spite of attending an Episcopalian private school with weekly chapel services, I turned my back on God. But that one phrase, “Don’t you fear God?” did resonate in my soul.

 

A few years later in college, through God’s grace and mercy, He changed my heart and I realized that He did exist and had a definite plan for my life. And as I learned about Him by reading the Bible, I did understand, believed, and…feared God.

 

And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

Jonah 1:9 (ESV)

 

Like Jonah, my heart was far from obeying God’s Will. While I was not swallowed by a great fish, it took a series of humiliating life changing experiences for me to realize my utter depravity and need for God. And when I did, I understood I must love and fear God and not ignore His Word or deny His existence.  God is love and God is holy. Therefore only He is worthy to judge and act upon us if we reject Him.

 

Don’t you fear God? It was that question that this well-meaning friend posed to me so many years ago. And thanks be to Him that I can now answer and say, “Yes, I fear God and love Him.”

 

Amen!

 

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

It Is Placed There for a Reason! (Proverbs 18:21-22)

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 18:22 (ESV)

 

This familiar verse reminds me of God’s favor in my life by blessing me with my wife. This morning, the Holy Spirit riveted my attention to this verse right before it.

 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

 

It is placed there for a reason! So much of my relationship with my wife hinges upon how we verbally communicate. At times, I do not do this very well in spite of my best intentions, and it grieves me. It grieves God as well. He knew when He created me that my tongue will both bless and curse my wife. This is why these two verses are placed together.

 

Rightly did James remind us of this truth.

 

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:5-8 (ESV)

 

No human being can tame the tongue! So much marital strife is caused by a harsh or misplaced word or phase. I want to chose life, to encourage and support my wife in her walk with God and in our marriage. This is how I obtain favor from God. Only God can tame my tongue and I need to continually seek His control over all of my communication with my wife.

 

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