Samurai (John 15:13)

I love studying about the Japanese samurai. Being of Japanese ancestry, one might assume that I would naturally be interested in samurai. However, there are many aspects of Japanese culture that hold no interest for me. What is it about the samurai that I find so appealing?


My martial arts background drew me to the swordplay and weaponry expertise. My fascination with history drew me to the complex tales of warfare strategy and intrigue. My love of art led me to explore their skills with poetry, calligraphy, and the tea ceremony. But it was the discipline and singled minded devotion to their lords that continues to appeal and impress me.


Samurai literally means to serve the nobility. For centuries, they were the warrior class that protected the nobility. Their fierce loyalty is legendary as depicted in numerous historical accounts, novels, and movies. Above all, a samurai swore absolute loyalty to their lord, willing to die for him. I always marveled at the bravery of these men with unquestioning loyalty to the death.


Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13 (KJV)


Is my loyalty to my Lord Jesus as unwavering as the samurai to their lords? I would like to think so but more often than not, I fail. I do not always obey the commands of Jesus. I lack the discipline to continually pray without ceasing. Would I even die for another person-a lord, a friend….what about for a total stranger or for someone who hates me?


I would not make a good samurai. Am I a good Christian? I will never be good enough. This is why God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die on the Cross and be resurrected. When I became a Christian, Jesus Christ became my Lord and Savior. He died for me so that I would be saved from my sins. He showed the greatest love and devotion to me, not His Lord, but to someone He calls His friend.


Lord Jesus, help me to become more like You.


Praise be to God for His love and mercy to me.


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


The Worst That God Gives is Better Than What The World Has To Offer (Psalms 84:10)

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Psalms 84:10 (ESV)-Sons of Korah


If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Daniel 3:17-18 (ESV)-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego


But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth 1:16-17 (ESV)-Ruth


Though he slay me, I will hope in him…

Job 13:15 (ESV)-Job


Do I believe the worst that God gives is better than what the world has to offer?


These great Saints of the Bible believed it. They chose to believe God’s promises of a better life in eternity rather than compromise their faith and principles and follow the lies of the world. The entire Bible points is centered upon our Lord, Jesus Christ. He made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.


Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV)


Jesus humbled Himself, far beyond anything we can think or comprehend, and became a man. He set aside His glory for our sake and lived and died so that He could take the penalty for our sins. God raised Him from the dead and through faith in Him, we have salvation.


This is the worst that God has ever given. And it is better than anything that has ever been offered by the world.


Won’t you accept promise of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


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

Establishing Credibility (John 13:13-17)

Recently, I had a phone interview with a physician recruiter seeking to verify the credentials of one of my former dermatology residents seeking a position within the group for which she was hiring. The interview was cordial and polite, in spite of the fact that I was effusive in my praise of him. Somehow, she did not share my enthusiasm and I suspected the reason. Near the conclusion of the interview, she mentioned, “Thank you for your time. Being in Northern California, I don’t have many connections with physicians in Southern California so none of these names are familiar to me. I have to call three additional names on this list.”


Wishing to allay her concerns, I asked her the names. Not surprisingly, I knew the names of the other references. They were either former colleagues or professors of my former resident. I quickly assured her that these references knew the applicant very well. But I could still sense some hesitation on her part, because of her unfamiliarity with the names. Hoping to bridge a connection, I asked her, “I am familiar with the hospital where you are working. Many of my former pathology and dermatology residents work in your area. Perhaps you could name the pathologists in your hospital?”


“Sure. Let’s see, there is Dr. Mason, Dr. Lucas, and Dr. John Smith, he’s our dermatopathologist.”


I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. “John Smith? I know John very well! We are both from Hawaii. He trained at San Francisco and even covered my practice here in Southern California!”


“Oh my!” she exclaimed. “John is great! He loves to teach and he is an excellent diagnostician! We love him!”


“Very good! Tell John and his wife, Carol, that I said, hello! We met over 20 years ago but we still keep in touch.” We were connecting, but I wanted to address her deeper concerns. “I know you don’t know me but I encourage you to speak to John about me. He knows my personality, my teaching style, and can verify my credentials as a Professor. I want to reassure you that I have overseen every aspect of the dermatology training of your applicant. There are no red flags. You will be very happy if you hire him.”


The ice was broken and she expressed her relief. “Thank you, Dr. Shitabata, for taking the time to find a connection with me. We have only hired dermatologists from our immediate area so we usually know all of the references that they provide. Because you know John Smith so well, it really sets my mind at ease. Thank you!”


This physician recruiter was attempting to verify the credentials of my former resident who was applying to her dermatology practice. Instead, it became as much an interview for myself, establishing my credentials with her. It was only when we made a strong personal connection that her concerns were resolved.


My relationship with Jesus Christ is similar. When I have spoken to strangers about Jesus, I am sometimes received with polite indifference. But when I make a personal connection, the situation may sometimes dramatically change. This has happened when I have shared my background from Hawaii or a physician. Making a personal connection often establishes credibility with a stranger.


You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.s dramatically change.

John 13:13-17 (ESV)


No one made a personal connection with those He met, better than Jesus Christ. In one of the most poignant examples, He washed the feet of His disciples a few hours before He would be tortured and crucified. The Lord of the Universe, their Master who lived and led them for three years, stooped down and took on the role of a humble servant to wash the feet of His disciples. By the doing the most menial of tasks, Jesus established His credibility with His disciples and all believers who place their trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.


Establishing credibility. Jesus does this by making a personal connection with all who confess and repent of their sins and place their trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.


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

“I Can’t Wait To Tell You!” (Luke 2:17)

I met my wife on a blind date, May 4th, 1996. We met on a Saturday morning for brunch at 11 AM. The conversation was lively and I was filled with butterflies during the entire meeting. Finally at 3:30 PM, a waiter interrupted us and told us we would have to leave because they needed to set up for dinner. We had been talking for 4 ½ hours but it could have been for 10 minutes.  I was in a completely different world, where time was meaningless and the surroundings a blur.


After parting with her, I was elated! I called my best friend eager to share what had just happened.


“I can’t wait to tell you about it!” I exclaimed.


Good news! Who doesn’t want to share it? I certainly did, with everyone and anyone who would listen!  And after I did, they all said the same thing to me, “We can’t wait to meet her!”


And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

Luke 2:17 (ESV)


The first evangelists to tell the Good News of Jesus Christ were the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. What an experience that must have been! Angels appearing and the Glory of God illuminating their path to Bethlehem to meet their Savior! And after they met Jesus Christ, they told others. The excitement was contagious and others wanted to meet Jesus!


When we are excited over someone we love, we want everyone to share the experience. My relationship with Jesus Christ is no different. I am in love with Him and I am absolutely assured that He is in love with me. What greater confidence can I have when the God of the universe loves me? Everyone I meet should know about my love!


I can’t wait to tell you about Jesus!


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

Our Other Children (Psalms 139:13-16)

My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful children. But we actually have two other children. Prior to the birth of our first daughter, my wife had two miscarriages. Both children did not make it beyond 16 weeks. We do remind our two children that someday, in Heaven, we will all meet our other family members. What a wonderful reunion that will be! We will see how God has raised them! We will find out if we have sons, daughters, or both! And we will learn the names that God has given them!


For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 139:13-16 (ESV)


All life begins with God. For reasons only He knows, our first two children were taken to be in Heaven. But we have His promise that we will see them again and learn how God named them and raised them! God takes care of all life and reminds us that every soul, from the moment of conception, is life.




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

Master Certification and Beyond (James 1:12)

In the world of auto mechanics, there are various levels of certification. One national organization which certifies mechanics, and is considered one of the standards, is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). A mechanic that has achieved ASE certification in all eight designated categories can be designated a Master Automotive Technician, a level that all mechanics strive to achieve. But there is an even higher level that very few attain, Advanced Engine Performance Specialist.


My nephew is a Master Automotive Technician, achieving it at the young age of 20 years. But he realizes that he has an opportunity to become the youngest ever, Advanced Engine Performance Specialist! He is excited and eagerly working toward that goal. He is smart, talented, and enthusiastic, and most importantly, disciplined.  I believe he will achieve this!


My nephew’s admirable goal reminds me of my spiritual goals. As a believer in Jesus Christ, my salvation is secure. But once saved, our faith should motivate us to seek an even deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. As John Calvin stated, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.”


Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

James 1:12 (ESV)


My nephew will always have his certification of Master Automotive Technician, it will never be taken away. But now he seeks a higher prize. Our salvation in Jesus Christ is eternally secure; nothing will ever separate us from Jesus Christ and His saving grace. But we can also strive to achieve a crown of life. If we stand firm in our faith to Jesus Christ when we face fiery trials, God promises us a crown of life. It is the believer’s master certification and beyond!


Lord Jesus, help me to never become complacent in my faith.


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

“Remember This Moment” (Psalms 94:19)

It was a beautiful sunset on the beach in the Big Island of Hawaii. My wife and I shared a hammock as we watched the spectacular vision. A cool breeze gently rocked us. The sweetness of the ocean spray mixed with scent of jasmine.


“Remember this moment.”


I nodded and smiled. The previous weeks had been brutal. Work was bearing down and unusual circumstances were converging upon me, affecting my sleep and family harmony. This vacation was much needed but even during this time of rest, my soul was unsettled.


“This has been a difficult time for you. I want you to remember this moment. God is taking care of you and this family.”


When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Psalms 94:19 (ESV)


My wife’s kind words reminded me of God’s promises, promises that are sometimes easily forgotten or overlooked when I wallow in self-pity. During difficult times in my life, I can choose to blame others or circumstances for my plight, or look upward and outward to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The problem is my heart. I want to serve Jesus but my motives are darkened and soiled by my old nature, a nature that existed before I received salvation. And during times of trouble, I fall back and speak to my heart instead of speaking to God. I look to my heart and past failings instead of coming before God and remembering all His answered prayers and victories He has given me in my life.


Remember this moment.


During difficult times, remember the moments when God held you close in His loving arms.


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

How Does This Man Know? (John 7:15)

I have the privilege to work with many talented individuals, both as an employer and colleague. When I am working in the trenches and grinding through the day’s tasks, all that matters to me is the whether the person working with me or for me is devoted to the same goal. Their educational background does not matter. I only need to know whether they are team players, committed to working together with me to complete the task at hand.

I can state, unreservedly, that some of the most talented and industrious people I have worked with, never went to college, and if they are professionals, never attended the most prestigious colleges, medical, or graduate schools. I am not dismissing or denigrating a solid educational background or ignoring outstanding educational achievements from prestigious schools, but in a specialized and precise field such as medicine, one could easily wonder how this could be? What is their common link? The answer lies in their character and attitude. Regardless of their educational background, none of them ever rest upon their laurels or past accolades. They admirably perform their jobs and assimilate into the workplace as team players, rather than grandstand, exerting their will upon others. They are willing to assume responsibilities, even if it is not in their job description. They are willing to complete tasks that an outside observer may view as demeaning or beneath their level of training. Their character is what matters.


And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”’

John 7:15 (NKJV)


The educated Jews, the rabbis, the teachers, questioned the credentials of Jesus. How could someone who did not train in their seminaries could be so knowledgeable? How indeed!


Jesus answered His critics in the next verse.


Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.

John 7:16 (NKJV)


Jesus may not have attended a formal seminary like His critics. What attracted others to Him? Why did He speak with authority? He knew God’s Word and teaching. He rebuked Satan, during His temptation in the wilderness, by quoting God’s Word. He silenced His critics by quoting God’s Word. All of His teachings were soundly based upon God’s Word, revealed by the Prophets and Patriarchs. He was directly taught by God, the Father! He didn’t tout His upbringing or His accolades. Wherever He journeyed, with whomever He met, it was always to obey His Father’s will. Jesus character is what drew so many to Him.


May we all seek to have the character of God by confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.


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

A Near Miss (James 4:14)

Nearly every day I drive, I have a near miss with another car. I cling to the importance of defensive driving, assuming that the other driver does not see me. The incidents may be a car barreling around a blind corner in a parking lot, a lane change into the same lane to which I am changing, or a distracted driver attempting to open her dashboard while driving. This latter incident happened two days ago. The driver was literally leaning all the way over onto the passenger’s side seat, fiddling with something in the dash board and not realizing that as she leaned over, she was turning her steering wheel to right. Her car crossed over into my lane, narrowly missing me. The entire episode unfolded in a matter of seconds and I would have been hit had I not honked my horn alerting her to what was happening.


Some people have dangerous jobs like law enforcement or military, when every moment of their lives could be their last. If I worked in such an occupation or was about to embark on a dangerous task, I would definitely be mindful of the imminent possibility of death. There is a 1 in 600 odds of getting killed in a car accident, far higher than the risk of an airline crash or getting struck by lightning. But because driving is an everyday routine activity, I have been lulled into a sense of complacency. These recent near misses have reminded me how, in a brief instant of time, my life could be ended while engaged in a very routine activity.


…whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

James 4:14 (ESV)


Am I prepared for death at any moment? Every morning, my prayers acknowledge that today could be my last day on this earth. I may die or Jesus will return to earth and rapture all believers into heaven. In either scenario,  I will be in the presence of Jesus Christ. Knowing this, I want to make every day, every moment, count for God.


The near misses have reminded me that my time on this earth is brief when compared to eternity. But every blessing, every crown I will receive in Heaven is dependent upon how I live my life on earth.


Lord Jesus, help me to keep my life on target for You. Don’t let me be a near miss.


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

Lost To Follow Up (Philippians 2:12)

An interesting paper was just published in a medical journal, examining the phenomenon of a familiar medical problem, “Lost to follow up.” The study was conducted at a major public teaching hospital and followed a cohort of urology patients who had been treated for prostate cancer. In this group of patients, over 50% were lost to follow up. Prior to this study, there was no good documentation of the actual number of patients who decided, for a wide variety of reasons, they did not need additional follow up care once they had surgery for their cancer. Unfortunately, even after prostate cancer is treated, regular follow-up visits are important. There is always the risk of a recurrence of the prostate cancer or worse, the development of cancers or diseases in other organs. For many of these patients, they assumed that once they were cured of their initial cancer, no further follow up was needed.


This study was a sobering reminder to me about my spiritual walk with God. I have often taken for granted the blessings of my salvation. Many years ago, I received my salvation, the “treatment” for my sins. I was enthusiastic for a while, then gradually drifted away.  I became lost to follow up, content to rest in my salvation, falsely thinking that nothing more needed to be done. Instead of acting out of gratitude for Jesus’ death on the Cross and Resurrection, I adopted a sense of entitlement and complacency.


…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…

Philippians 2:12 (ESV)


When we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are saved for eternity. We can never lose our salvation but we can lose the intimacy of our relationship with God. Working out our salvation means to continue to seek opportunities to deepen our relationship with God, through the Holy Spirit. We are being sanctified, set aside to become more Christ-like. Salvation is eternal. Sanctification begins the moment we are saved and continues until we are in the presence of Jesus Christ in Heaven. I am in awe, trembling over the miraculous work that God does in my life and the life of every believer.


I can easily become lost to follow up, content with a superficial relationship with God, if I think I am “cured”. God offers His unlimited riches, power, grace, and mercy. Why would I neglect the endless benefits of salvation and never continue seeking Him?


If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, don’t become lost to follow up! Seek to spend as much time and follow up visits with the God of the Universe!


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