“What Kind of Black Belt Are You?” (1 Peter 5:8)

When I was taking karate lessons, I enjoyed listening to my sensei (teacher) revel in stories of his former students. He recalled a time when he was in a restaurant and saw one of his students, a black belt, standing at the bar. He crept up behind her and surprised her by grabbing her. She immediately screamed and cowered. He laughed and mockingly exclaimed, “What kind of black belt are you?”

He smiled at me and shook his head. “I expect that kind of behavior from a white belt beginner student. She was a black belt and should always be on the alert for an attack. She should have been aware of her surroundings and always maintain a defensive posture.”

I nodded and hoped that, someday, I would achieve the level of alertness that was expected of a good student of the martial arts. There is a definite parallel in our Christian walk.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

My spiritual vigilance and awareness often flounders at the level of a white belt beginner in the martial arts. The lust of my eyes and flesh and my pride are not of the Father but of the world. I fail to recognize the insidious traps of pride, selfishness, and materialism that Satan uses to entice me and cause me to take my attention away from God. Like the former student of my sensei, I have allowed my spiritual alertness to atrophy or  be distracted and I must continue to immerse myself in God’s Word and prayer to keep the vigilance that God expects of me as His child.


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

“Now I Know Where I Got That Lick!” (Isaiah 50:4)

Over these past few weeks, my daughter has been listening to many of the songs that I listened to  when I was her age. To my surprise and joy, she is enjoying many of these “oldies.” But I am particularly fond of the fact that one of her favorite groups is the Beatles. During a recent road trip, our family listened to the familiar songs, and a flood of memories returned to me. When I was her age, I listened to and read everything I could about the Beatles. I knew such obscure facts as the type of guitar that George Harrison played on a particular recording date, the number of takes that produced their first record, even the financial details for many of their famous recordings.

As our family listened in the car, I found myself smiling as I listened with a seasoned and more mature ear to the intricate guitar passages that George Harrison was playing and the arrangements of the songs. And then it struck me. So much of the way I now play guitar has been influenced by the Beatles. I exclaimed to my listening family, “Now I know where I got that lick!” Even my wife agreed, “Yes, that sounds like what you do on the guitar in several songs you play in church!” The influence was undeniable.

Like my music, in my Christian life, I have found many of my habits influenced by godly brothers and sisters whom I emulated in my younger years. I still make sure no book or object is ever placed on top of my Bible. When an ambulance passes by, I stop what I am doing and say a prayer for the health care workers and the patient they are attending. When I listen to a sermon from a new preacher, I see if he first prays before his sermon, humbling himself and asking God to speak through Him.  I learned all of these actions by the godly influence of others and their actions have become an integral part of my life.

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning He awakens; He awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

Isaiah 50:4 (ESV)

God has blessed me with so many godly mentors. Like my guitar playing, the spiritual lessons I learned many years ago have permeated and become part of my persona. None of these individuals knew that someday I would be emulating them. But their influence continues and I intend to teach and instruct others so that they, too, may enter into a loving and saving relationship with Jesus Christ.


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

“Daddy, I’m Better! (Romans 5:7-8)

The first time my daughter was seriously ill, she was about 3 years old. She had a bad case of gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting. She was dehydrated but every time I attempted to give her something to drink, she would immediately throw it up. The medicine I gave her was not yet working. I would wet her lips and allowed her to suck on some crushed ice but this did little to satisfy her thirst. Her sad eyes expressed her despair as she looked at me and asked, “Water?”

I shook my head and said, “No sweetheart. If I give you some you will throw up again. We have to wait for the medicine to work.”

Somehow, my daughter understood I loved her and if I gave her what she wanted, it would worsen her condition.

At that moment, I would have done anything to help my daughter. I would gladly have taken her place so that she could be spared her suffering. An hour later, my daughter asked for water again. I nodded in agreement and gave her a sip, dreading the bad outcome. After half an hour, nothing happened. Hopeful, I gave her another sip. Again, no bad outcome. I smiled at my daughter and she instinctively knew what happened. She weakly clapped her hands and whispered, “Yay! Daddy, I’m better!”

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8 (ESV)

Every parent understands the desire to take the place of their suffering child. But would I do the same for a complete stranger? What about for someone who has hurt me or even hates me for no apparent reason? I don’t know if I could. But this is what Jesus Christ did for me and for everyone who confesses and repents of their sins and places their trust in faith in Jesus Christ.  He died for me even when I first rejected Him. I am better because I am saved. Through the experience of my daughter’s illness, I began to understand the supreme sacrifice that Jesus did for me and everyone.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are better and someday will be perfected in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

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

“I’m Pulling the Paper!” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

When participating in a group activity, the ideal scenario has each member enthusiastically and creatively participating; the sum is definitely greater than the parts. Occasionally, there is an unequal distribution of work and some members cannot or will not participate. The leader of the group or company must step in to ensure the project is completed and the workload is equitably distributed.

Many years ago, I supervised two of my residents writing a research paper. The senior resident was very smart but lazy. He manipulated and coerced younger residents and medical students into doing all the work for him, but taking the credit for himself. I saw what was happening and intervened. I phoned the younger resident who was being unfairly taken advantage and informed him, “I’m pulling the paper!”

He was shocked and dismayed. “Why? It’s a great paper!”

“It IS a great paper,” I exclaimed. “And that’s why I want you to get credit for the work you are doing. I see what is going on and have spoken to other junior residents who have been used by this guy. He does not deserve to be the lead author. He finishes his residency in a few months and once he is gone, we will revise and complete the paper and you will be the lead author. His name will not appear on the final publication.”

My resident was grateful but I was the one who was thankful. I was in a position to recognize the work he did and rightfully reward him for his efforts that were not being acknowledged.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV)

The incident reminded me how God oversees all of my life and activities. At times, I feel like the younger resident, used by others or placed in situations when I feel that I have been unjustly taken advantage and my true contributions are not recognized. But my insecurity betrays my spiritual immaturity and lack of trusting faith in God who sees and knows everything that I do. I should cease striving to impress man and be focused upon pleasing God. And when I do, God will pull the paper of falsehood and make sure that my efforts are justly rewarded.


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

Plankton (Ephesians 6:12)

I love aquariums. Our family recently vacationed in Monterey, California and we spent a day at the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Of the many fascinating exhibits, one that particularly appealed to me was a microscope that magnified developing jellyfish, projecting the image on a monitor. The jellyfish eggs and embryo were interesting, but what really captured my attention were the numerous plankton swirling around the jellyfish. As tiny as the jellyfish were, the plankton were even smaller. And all of this was occurring in a few drops of seawater! I was impressed with the complexity of life that was invisible to my naked eye.

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)

This vast living aquatic world, existing within a few drops of seawater and imperceptible to my naked eye, is a reminder of the spiritual world within which I dwell. God’s creation consists of the visible and invisible, the material and spiritual. Conflict is present in both realms of existence. The weapons of warfare are different in each but the source of our armament is the same-God. He equips us with all the resources we need to withstand Satan. We have the Bible. We have prayer. And we have the Holy Spirit, who indwells within every believer of Jesus Christ.

Like the microscopic world of the plankton, the world we live in is far more complex than we can ever imagine or see. I must never underestimate its immenseness. I need God’s oversight and direction in my life to successfully live and navigate in the visible and invisible worlds of His creation.

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

“How Often Do You Wash Your White Coat?” (Hebrews 4:16)

One of the traditional symbols of a physician is the white coat. For many patients, it is more than a symbol. It represents the institution of medicine. The doctor wearing the coat represents the finest and most noble qualities of the profession. It also represents a ready source of infection.

A recent study suggested that the doctors’ white coats, as well as stethoscopes and hands, are a reservoir of dangerous germs. Many hospital and public health infection experts have recommended the frequent washing of hands and stethoscopes between patients. Now there is a similar call for doctors to launder their white coats more frequently. It makes sense. Informal surveys of doctors inquiring, “How often do you wash your white coat?” have yielded surprising results, with more than half wearing their white coats five times or more before being laundered.

A symbol of confidence and assurance has become a source of uncertainty and fear.

As I reflected upon this, I realize that many symbols in my life have undergone a similar transformation. Pillars of confidence such as government, education system, and the banking system have been increasingly eroded by years of corruption, inefficiency, and fraud. I respect and uphold the law, but I have grown increasingly skeptical and wary of institutions that seek to hide behind old and even outdated images of trust and confidence.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

As a physician, I am guilty of tarnishing the pristine symbol of my white coat. I, too, only infrequently wash my coat. It is a reminder to myself and my colleagues that no one should rest upon their laurels and past achievements. There should be no double standards in life. God is the supreme and perfect example in whom we may place our complete confidence and trust, unlike other symbols, institutions, or persons.

God will always remain the source of confidence and assuredness, never uncertainty or fear.

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

“You Are One of the Few People Who Would Understand!” (Matthew 6:25-26)

This morning, I received a phone call from one of the vendors for my laboratory.

“Doctor, I’m calling you because you are one of the few people who would understand what has happened and be able to share my happiness.”

“Sure Jake,” I replied with interest. “What’s up?”

“I was just informed by my lawyers that the decision by Medicare to suspend my license has been reversed. We are free of the legal problems that we have spent nearly two years resolving. This is the best news in the 40 years in the history of our laboratory!”

“That is wonderful news, Jake!”

Jake went on to explain the nuances of the decision and the travails he and his company had faced. He was correct, only people who are involved in the laboratory industry would understand the granular points of the decision. But anyone would understand the joy and elation that Jake had for his business. He was freed from the possibility of losing everything he and his father had labored for their entire lives.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:25-26 (NKJV)

There are many decisions in life when only the involved parties can truly understand the minute details. God often works this way in our lives as well. We pray and commit to a plan of action and ask God to provide direction and guidance. We may experience subtle changes in behavior within ourselves and others with whom we interact. We see events unfolding that may appear to direct our actions. We may wonder whether what is occurring is God’s providence and direction. We may not understand all the steps He takes to accomplish His purposes in our lives, but in the end, we do see the awesome results! In this passage, Jesus reminds us that God loves us and cares for us, even if we cannot understand how He does this. He simply loves us and wants His very best for our lives.

God always understands and cares for us in a way that no one else is able.

Praise God!

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

“You Don’t Understand!” (Proverbs 26:12)

Our laboratory recently underwent a state inspection. This is a mandatory review of our entire laboratory that occurs once every two years. Every laboratory in the United States must be certified by this accrediting agency in order to practice medicine.

My laboratory has always passed the inspection, usually with kudos from the inspectors. Our quality assurance program, designed to identify potential errors before an incorrect report is delivered to the referring physician or patient, has been lauded by previous inspectors, who have even recommended it to other laboratories and dermatology offices as an example to emulate.

I fully expected this current inspector to be equally impressed with my program. Thus, I was greatly annoyed when this current inspector began to take my program to task. She felt it was too detailed and there was not enough evidence of corrective actions. I grew increasingly frustrated as I listened to her. “You don’t understand!” I stammered.  Although I attempted to explain my program, I could only hear myself speaking. I was upset that she was not honoring my program as previous inspectors had done.

The irony is the inspector had some helpful suggestions. However, my pride blinded me and muffled my ears, refusing to hear what she had to say. The next day, I prayed and repented of my sinful pride and arrogance. I implemented some of her suggestions into my program, acknowledging it was now even better with her recommendations. It was a painful but needed lesson in humility, one that I am sure I will be subjected to, many more times in my life.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

Alone, I will wallow in my pride and arrogance and refuse to accept advice and constructive criticism. I am a fool. And this is why the only hope I have is accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. By confessing and repenting of my sins, Jesus begins the immediate transformation of my life. My pride and arrogance are replaced with humility and gratitude for what He has done for me. I am by no means perfect, but with God’s grace and mercy, He will continue to perfect me in this life.

You don’t understand?

No. I don’t understand. This is why I need Jesus Christ.

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

Talk Radio (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

Talk radio is more popular than ever and I was a willing contributor to this media genre. Several years ago, I would spend at least 1 hour a day listening, during my commute to and from work. As I listened, I began to notice a subtle but measurable change in my attitudes and conversations. I become more opinionated, taking a hard line stance on many issues that were being discussed amongst family and friends, largely influenced by the various commentators. I grew increasingly agitated when these topics were brought up in everyday conversation.

Talk radio thrives by generating controversy and I was a willing participant. I am susceptible to emotional outbursts and talk radio nurtures and stokes this weakness. I draw vitality and enthusiasm from others who exhibit a similar, if not greater, amplitude of energy. It took me a while but the Holy Spirit convicted me of my increasingly argumentative and belligerent behavior. He changed my heart and brought healing to my soul. One day, I simply stopped listening to talk radio and never missed it.

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9 (ESV)

There are times that one must take a stand and state one’s opinion. In my case, I was frequently doing it simply to hear myself speak. I thought it cool to sound authoritative when in reality, I was fomenting strife and arguments. I still lapse into these bad habits, but with the power and grace of God, I am able to take a step back and understand that anger and pressured speech does not equate to assuredness and certainty.

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

It Still Hurts (Proverbs 14:10)

When one is excluded from a previously close and comfortable relationship, it hurts. Many years ago, I witnessed this with my own daughter. She was only 7 years old and was best friends with another girl of the same age. That year, a new girl entered the school and soon became friends with my daughter and her friend. However, a closer friendship emerged between the new girl and my daughter’s best friend. At one point, my daughter was excluded from activities that she was accustomed to sharing with her best friend. She did not understand this change and asked us why her best friend was now spending more time with this new girl since the two of them had been friends for a far longer period of time. Although I understood the pain, it was difficult to explain the situation to her satisfaction. Thankfully, within a short period of time, all three girls became closer than ever and no rivalry emerged.

I wish all conflicts and hurts within relationships could have such a happy ending. Sadly, this seems to be the exception and this same pain from rejection or exclusion, occurring in childhood relationships, replays with adults. Relationships that I take for granted are sometimes far more fragile and shallower than I would like to believe. It is the invitation to a birthday celebration for a friend’s child that was expected but never received; it is the isolation of our family because of our son’s special needs. Although my life experiences and maturity may better prepare me as an adult for these unexpected turn of the events, it still hurts.

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.

Proverbs 14:10 (ESV)

During these times, I have only one direction to turn-upward and outward to God. I may understand the reasons for the pain, but it only rarely dulls the heartache. I need my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to bring healing to my soul. Only Jesus truly understands the bitterness in my heart. Only Jesus can bring healing and return unto me the joy of living.

Thank you Jesus!

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