From Nothing (Romans 9:20-21)

I recently had an opportunity to review a draft of a novel written by a former high school classmate. From Nothing is a fast paced excursion through back room business dealings, rock music, and existential musings about God. These seemingly disparate themes are masterfully woven together into a cohesive and convincing tale. It is about the road not taken. It is about facing mortality at the cross-roads of middle age. It is scheduled to be published in Spring 2018 and will undergo at least one more edit.


My friend was grateful for my review indicating he would gladly share it with his publisher to incorporate some of my ideas into his final draft. He is crafting a story about life and he has the ability to change the plot to achieve his purpose. While he did not divulge his objectives for writing this novel, I thought I could discern some of his motives. He cautiously agreed with some of my observations but it was clear that there were deeper themes that he wished to convey and I may have been overlooking them.


I reflected upon his statement. Here was his chance to play god, to create a story the way he envisioned. He could change it as many times as needed until he was content. The work is fictional but my mind began to wander. Would God do the same in my life?


But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Romans 9:20-21 (NKJV)


We are the clay. We are born sinners and if left alone to our free will, we will chose dishonor and eternal separation from God. Like the novel’s author, God can change the script of my life and I am thankful He did! He intervened by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. By being resurrected from the dead, God has shown that all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will receive salvation and eternal life. A life that is headed for eternal separation and torment is now a life in fellowship with God and at peace, the way He originally intended. I do not understand all the purposes God has for my life but I am grateful that by His grace and mercy, He saved me.


From nothing, God has changed the script of my life and for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.


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

Thirteen Reasons Why (Proverbs 13:12)

My family watched the provocative and powerful mini-series, Thirteen Reasons Why. It is a fictional retelling of the events that led to the suicide of a high school student. The title is a reference to a collection of thirteen cassette tapes, recorded before her death, singling out people who had a role in her demise. The show touches upon relevant teenage issues such as bullying, inappropriate use of social media, alcohol and drug abuse, rape and sex. No punches are pulled and many scenes are raw and intensely disturbing.


As I watched the show, I recalled a similar painful time in my high school, when I was about the same age as the girl in the series. I was the class vice president and in charge of our class shirt project. I was young and naive in business dealings and through a series of misunderstandings, I did not follow through on several key issues, notably the shirt style. When the shirts arrived, instead of the long sleeve shirts I thought we were purchasing, the shirts were three-quarter sleeves, resembling baseball or softball jerseys. Upon seeing the shirts, the reaction of our student body class was mostly negative. Many refused to pay for the shirt, potentially crippling our class treasury with a staggering bill.  People were angry with me. I was angry with me. The class president informed me that, because of our debt, we would have to cancel our prom for that year, and possibly the next year.


I was devastated. Not only did my error ruin the class shirts, I had destroyed the possibility of at least one prom, shattering the dreams of high school for my entire class. There was nowhere or no one to turn, no exit or solution. I had failed before but never with something as spectacularly awful as this. As the days passed, I  descended into a very dark place. I couldn’t face this situation any longer. I decided I would end my life. It would be easy. I would sneak out that evening and jump off a nearby twenty story apartment building. A clamminess enveloped me as I rehearsed the sequence in my mind. My sanity was snapping. I was crossing over.


That evening, as I prepared to end my life, I received a phone call. “Paul, listen. I have good news. I spoke to the president of our sister school. Her entire class loves the shirts and they want to buy more than they originally ordered.”


That was good news but I knew we still had a long way to recover our losses. “And I spoke to Jake and Stuart, on the football and baseball teams. They said they would buy the shirts and would encourage the rest of their teams to keep their original orders and buy the shirts.”


I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “How many people are going to order?”


“I checked with our secretary. So far, we got a hundred thirty confirmed!” I quickly did the math. With our new orders from our sister school and these confirmed orders, we would nearly break even. I was shaking as I thanked him and hung up the phone.


A wave of fear engulfed me. I had nearly ended my life. If my friend had called an hour later, it would have been too late. A coincidence? At that time in my life, I thought so. But a few years later in college, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. As I looked back over my brief life, I realized that God was working behind the scenes, protecting me, saving me. He did this even when I deliberately turned my back on Him in high school, being an avowed atheist, dismissing Christianity as a fanciful myth.  During my most devastating failure, God intervened in my life and gave me hope, even when I did not know Him.


Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)


My experience may not be as shocking or traumatic as the main character in 13 Reasons Why. But whether it is bullying or a financial loss, one’s pain and heartache are sometimes misunderstood by others. Despair is intensely personal. If there is no one to help, no one to listen, there may be no hope. When there is no hope, there is no life. Only God can understand and intervene. He understands the deepest pain and grief we could ever face because He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.


I applaud the producer, Selena Gomez, for her courage to call attention to the serious crisis of teen suicide. May God place everyone who is suffering and contemplating suicide, in the pathway of His grace and mercy, that they may find a friend, family member, pastor, or counselor to trust and confide. May God draw everyone closer to Him.


God loves you and has a plan for your life. He is your Heavenly Father who loves you with a love that surpasses all understanding.


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


Faith Based Films (1 Peter 4:3-4)

Hollywood is pushing to get rid of the term, “faith-based films.” The reasons are varied, ranging from the lack of specificity in labeling a film as such to financial, potentially turning off some moviegoers. I found one point of view from movie producer, Thurmon Mason, interesting.


“The problem with faith-based [films] is not the name; it’s the content of these films…The secular world cannot relate to on-screen faith-based characters who have been so sterilized that they never curse, make bad decisions, or engage in bad behavior like the majority of folks — Christian or not — in the real world.”





This quotation stereotypes the Christian believer with the familiar facade of a haloed saint, who walks above the chaos and sin of the world, always doing the right actions and speaking the correct words. I wish I could be this “sterilized” idealized person!


For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.

1 Peter 4:3-4 (NKJV)


Christian believers are not sterilized. Do Christians make bad decisions or engage in bad behavior? Yes. Do I? Yes. What is the difference? Christians are not sterilized but they are sanctified, taken aside by God and transformed into a new life. When I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, He began a new life within me and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell within me. At that very moment, He sanctified me and began the transformation. It will not be complete until I die and am in the presence of Jesus in Heaven. Until then, my old sinful nature is at constant battle with the new nature of Jesus. Sanctification is both immediate and continual. When I am obedient to God, I can live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Faith-based films may not be a moniker for this genre of movies. But living a faith-based life with Jesus Christ will never be outdated or irrelevant. A faith-based life understands the reality of our existence. Christians do live a life that is different than the world because the perfect example of Jesus Christ is always before us and within us. We understand the depravity of our sinful nature because Jesus paid the terrible penalty for our sins by dying on the Cross. We understand the futility of living the life we used to live because of the even greater pleasure and joy of living a life in fellowship with Jesus Christ.


Sanctified not sterilized.


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



Asking The Wrong Question (Job 38:4)

I recently reviewed a novel written by a former high school classmate of mine. His career has seen amazing successes and since retiring, he has become a successful writer. His latest novel centers around Victor, a middle aged man, searching for his faith and God as he attempts to piece together his life after being fired. The following is an excerpt from the novel.


“God was right, if only there were a God….If that made God happy, then Victor was obliged to serve.” His statement crystallizes his character. Faith is confusing and vital. It is the inevitable contradictions; the absurdities of life; he knows and does not know.


Faith is not a blind leap. It is as blind as attempting to explain why one person falls in love with another. It is real, based upon a series of encounters, of true life experiences. One could explain the encounters and revelations to another, but it would hold little meaning. God cannot simply be explained by empirical reasoning nor can He be solved by an equation, even by the most brilliant philosophers, theologians, or scholars. If He could, He would not be God. Wisdom is understanding that God must be beyond the confines and constructs of the human mind. But this does not mean He is unknowable. We cannot earn or reason our way to God.  One places their trust in Him, as one places their trust in someone they love, on a grander and far more important scale. And when we experience love for ourselves, it is only meaningful to oneself. One could describe it to others, but like attempting to explain faith and God, it would fall on deaf ears until they experience it for themselves.


Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

Job 38:4 (NKJV)


Victor’s quandary was the same debate Job had with his friends. His friends attempted to explain the reasons for Job’s sufferings. Job never arrived at an explanation for his pain and suffering but learned directly from God that, instead of seeking the right answers, he was asking the wrong question.


Like Victor, for much of my life, I have been asking the wrong question. It should not be why, but how? How should I take this experience and understand God’s will for my life? How can I learn from this experience and help others? How can I be transformed into the man God wants me to be?


The answer to my questions is Jesus Christ. By confessing and repenting of my sins to Jesus and accepting Him as Lord and Savior, the burden is lifted. Our perspective changes and we are freed from the struggle of demanding an answer and uplifted to the joy of gratitude for what God has delivered unto us. In our confusion and struggle in attempting to provide a rational explanation for God’s sovereignty, we begin to understand that we are eternally embraced and securely held by an omnipotent God.


I asked the wrong question to God. Thanks be to God that He gave me the correct answer!


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

Combining Checking Accounts ( 2 Timothy 2:15)

“It’s only off by $1.02!”


“It’s still off. You have to account for it!”




The look of exasperation that flashed across my wife’s face said it all.


During our engagement, my wife and I were planning our wedding and creating a budget. As we progressed, it became clear that we should either combine or create a new checking account to facilitate purchases and payments. It was a logical step but there was certain uneasiness that I felt. All of my accounting would be laid bare for her to review. In the era before the internet, every month, I had to painstakingly review the printed bank statements with my checkbook. While most months balanced, there were occasions when I was off by a small amount, no more than a few dollars at most. With my usual cavalier attitude, I would dismiss it and assume I made a small error in my accounting but no worries, I had more than enough to cover a shortfall of a few dollars. My new fiancee did not share my careless approach to personal finance.


“We have to go through this again!” She pulled out the bank statements and, with a yellow highlighter, proceeded to review the numbers.


“Sweetheart,” I pleaded. “It’s 2 AM!”


I was exhausted but knew she was correct. We had to reconcile and properly balance my checkbook. At that point, inspiration struck. “I would like to make a decision as the future head of this family.” My pompous declaration belied my trepidation. “We clearly have different viewpoints of personal finances. I have been sloppy…lazy. You are absolutely correct that this checkbook needs to be properly balanced. You are clearly very good at this. May I make the suggestion that you handle the everyday household finances and checkbook balancing? I will handle the longer term financial investments.”


We agreed to this arrangement, one that has been maintained through nearly twenty years of marriage. I am thankful for my wife’s oversight and compulsive attention to detail for our household finances. I have learned from her and have slowly begun to change my behavior.


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)


I have a cavalier attitude toward some aspects of my personal finances, justifying my actions by reasoning these are insignificant losses. This attitude is symptomatic of my laziness and lack of discipline. Sadly, this attitude creeps into my spiritual life. In the past, I did not take the time to ponder and meditate upon difficult passages of the Bible. I would simply gloss over names and places or have a superficial understanding of cultures and traditions of the day. This resulted in an incomplete and sometimes, erroneous understanding of the Bible. Through my Pastors, gifted teachers, and godly brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, I have changed my behavior and become more careful in studying God’s Word. Like my laziness in handling my personal finances, God is transforming me into His child, allowing me to see the importance of rightly handling His Word of Truth.


Thanks be to God’s mercy and kindness in my life!


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


“You’re Not Wrong!” (Matthew 16:13-16)

When I teach my dermatology residents, I utilize commonplace analogies as a springboard to introduce diagnostic concepts. The other day, I was describing the nuances of a basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer. I shared a familiar scenario with them.


“If you were to describe our colleague, Jake, to someone you don’t know, you could say he is a man with black hair. Now, is that correct?”


My residents all nodded in agreement.


“But is that sufficient information to pick him out in a room full of men with black hair?”


As expected, all the residents shook their heads in disagreement.


“That’s my point!” I exclaimed. “You’re not wrong! But it is not sufficient information to distinguish his appearance from another who closely resembles him. Now look at this microscope slide of this basal cell skin cancer. If you were to describe it to a colleague, you could state that it is composed of malignant cells that are invading the dermis. Is that correct?”


The nodding residents began to see my point.


“But not sufficient information to discern what kind of cancer, right?”


Bingo. The lights went on.


“You’re not wrong.” I smiled. “Just not enough details.”


When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16 (NKJV)


For nearly two thousand years, people have debated who Jesus Christ is. The answers His disciples gave are similar to some of the answers that are still given today. Jesus is great teacher; He is a great prophet; He is a good man. Yes, those answers are not wrong. But Jesus is much more. He is God incarnate!


Like the diagnostic lesson I shared with my dermatology residents, we need to have a complete understanding of who Jesus Christ is. He is Lord and Savior. All who confess and repent of their sins to Him and place their trust in Him will be saved. No man, teacher, or prophet can do this. Only God. Only Jesus Christ.




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

Scorched Earth (Revelation 20:10)

War is a horror to all its participants. The numerous strategies that have been utilized are ever more devious and deadly. One particularly dastardly tactic is known as the scorched earth policy. This strategy targets and destroys anything useful to the enemy by the advancing or withdrawing force. This includes buildings, water supplies, livestock, food, and even people. History is replete with brutal examples of this strategy. In more recent times, Saddam Hussein utilized this tactic by setting fires to the oil wells in Kuwait as his army withdrew from their country in 1991. Over six hundred oil wells were set ablaze, requiring nearly a year to extinguish the last one.


The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)


Satan utilizes a scorched earth policy as he seeks to destroy the lives of believers and nonbelievers alike. He prowls like a lion, eager to target and destroy any hope we may have in God. The Bible is very clear, he has already lost the war and he knows this. But he is still willing to fight smaller battles, hoping to claim as many victims as possible. He seeks to persuade mankind with his lies and deceptions. His strategy is to appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Like the scorched earth policy, he takes what is useful and good in our lives and distorts or destroys them. A loving family becomes embittered over a financial inheritance from a deceased father. A harmonious work environment becomes contentious as tempers flares over a perceived unequal pay. The strategies are endless; the scorched earth policy shows no favoritism.


We can be discouraged and fall victim to his ploys or we can stand firm, confident in the knowledge that he has been defeated by Jesus Christ. When Jesus triumphantly declared on the Cross, “It is finished!” Satan’s fate was sealed.


Don’t fall victim to Satan’s scorched earth policy. He has been defeated and we will always be victorious if we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.




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

The Toy Chest (Psalms 37:4)

A bouncing rubber ball. Fake plastic fangs. Rub-on decals.


Oh, the joys of the toy chest!


My father was a dentist and whenever I visited his office, I made a beeline for the toy chest. The chest was hidden under a sink and for all his child patients, he would reward them with a trip to the toy chest. Of course, being my father’s favorite (and only) son, I had the priviledge to visit the toy chest every time I came to his office, which was quite often! My favorite toy was a rubber ball, the size of a large marble, which could bounce over twenty feet in the air when thrown with enough force onto a cement pavement.


My wife is a pediatric dentist and yes, she too, has a toy chest. Perhaps this is what attracted me to her! When I visit her office with my son, he emulates his father, and makes a beeline straight to the toy chest. His favorite? Fake glasses and a moustache!


And we know of other toy chests-our pediatrician and orthodontist, just to name two. But unlike my father and my wife, we do not have that special privilege of venturing straight to their toy chest and taking any toy we desire, any time we visit.


Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalms 37:4 (NKJV)


Our relationship with God is like the toy chest in my father’s and wife’s office. Our special privilege as child of God is to be lavishly blessed and have all our needs supplied by Him! We don’t need an appointment. We simply need to come to Him by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior. What a special privilege! The blessings of God for the desires of our hearts, always and eternally available to all believers!


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

“Come Quickly, Sweet Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

I was blessed to have a spiritual godfather in my life. He was a dear brother in the Lord who was my wife’s professor and mentor in dental school. She became very close to his family who adopted her and treated her as their own daughter. When I married my wife, he and his wife became godparents to me.


Living on opposite coasts, we mainly communicated through cell phones. For nearly twenty years, he called me. We shared the joys of his children marrying and the births of his grandchildren and he visited us when our son and daughter were born. His humor and laughter were infectious and I could always see his smile when he spoke to me. His compassion and gentleness equaled his jovial spirit, always with a kind and encouraging word for myself and others.


A few years ago, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. As she bravely faced her disease, my godfather would call and offer his support and prayers. During one particularly difficult period, I was sharing how my mother was slowly losing her battle with the cancer. His voice was firm and soothing as he whispered, “Come quickly, sweet Jesus!”


He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Revelation 22:20 (NKJV)


Both my mother and godfather are in Heaven with our sweet Lord, Jesus Christ. For both of them, God did come quickly, taking them mercifully and peacefully into His presence. God will keep His promise to quickly bring us into His presence the moment we die. And He will keep His promise to return to this earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to reign with all the saints who have ever lived.


I am confident and assured of His promise because I have confessed and repented of my sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. There is no other name in Heaven or on earth by which we may be saved. I know that someday when I die, like my mother and godfather, Jesus will quickly take me into His presence.


What a glorious reunion that will be!


Come quickly, sweet Jesus!


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

He Was A Prophet! (1 Corinthians 14:3)

I have been blessed to have met many great Saints of the church. One man was a brother in the Lord with the church I attended when I lived in Denver, Colorado. He was in his mid-sixties  and served as an usher. Thus, he was one of the first people I met when I visited the church. During every service, there was a time of sharing and praise, which I loved. Not infrequently, after listening to everyone speak, this brother would stand up and give a word of encouragement. He often quoted the Bible then added a quotation from Shakespeare or other classic literary author. I was always amazed at his prodigious memory. But even more impressive was his choice of words, always the right word of encouragement for each person’s circumstances. It was my introduction to the truth that so many others in the church already knew.


He was a prophet!


But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NJKV)


The Holy Spirit has given spiritual gifts to every believer in Jesus Christ. Teaching, hospitality, service-the Bible illustrates so many of these gifts within the church family. I have been blessed by many saints who have used their gifts to help and encourage me in my walk with God. I will always remember this dear brother in Christ from Denver. His gift of prophecy encouraged me at an important time in my spiritual development. Thirty years later, the encouragement still burns brightly. No surprise. God’s spiritual gifts are eternal.


Thanks be to God through His Holy Spirit, equipping all believers with spiritual gifts to serve His Church.




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