The Bottom Half Of The Class (Luke 9:46-48)

The heated discussion ignited the lecture hall. The topic was medical malpractice and the policing of physicians by their own medical societies. Several attorneys were in attendance and one of them addressed the audience.


“I am here to tell you that 50% of all physicians graduate in the bottom half of their medical school class!”


That generated a few snickers. It is an amusing if somewhat muddled fact that not only physicians, but all students, regardless of their setting and institution, do indeed graduate in the bottom half of their class. For physicians, the reality is all must successfully pass a rigorous series of national examinations to be qualified and licensed to practice medicine. Thus, at graduation, it does not matter what a physician’s class ranking is, all licensed physicians are initially qualified to practice medicine. But in this hypercompetitive world in which we live, if a physician announced they graduated in the bottom half of their class, a casual listener may draw the conclusion that they were not dealing with a capable or competent healthcare professional. Even if it were true, I doubt any physician would disclose this information. On the other hand, if a physician did graduate at the top of their class, such a fact is often trumpeted on their marketing and advertising material to their patients and colleagues. Physicians, like many professionals and lay people, seek to distinguish themselves from their peers.


An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Luke 9:46-48 (ESV)


Even Jesus’ disciples were not immune from jockeying for positions of leadership. It is insightful that Jesus’ answer did not focus upon their accomplishments nor did He chastise His disciples for raising the question. Instead He focused upon their motives, why were they seeking to be great? By using the example of a child, Jesus demonstrated that it is not accomplishments but a desire to serve and be submissive to God’s will that determines one’s true greatness.


Jesus turns our worldly expectations upside down by focusing upon our motives. Bottom or top half of the class-when Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, all that matters is that we are in His class!




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

Fake News (Matthew 24:4-6)

Abraham Lincoln once said,”You can’t believe everything you read on the internet!”


This statement is undoubtedly true, I read it on the internet!


Regardless of one’s political leanings, fake news has infiltrated our everyday lives and damaged many reputations. It is easier to cast aspersions at people and hope others will not take the time to verify the authenticity of the claims. Some statements, like the ludicrous quote of Abraham Lincoln, can be immediately dismissed, but other quotations and news are not as easily vetted and sometimes, just accepted as real news.


Although the phrase is of recent origin, there are several examples in the Bible that could certainly quality for fake news, stories deliberately concocted to mislead the masses. After Jesus was resurrected, the Jewish leaders instructed the soldiers who were guarding Jesus’ grave to spread the fake news that Jesus’ disciples came and stole His Body during the night (Matthew 28:13). The Apostle Paul confronted rivals who disguised themselves as apostles of Jesus Christ so they could spread their own false messages (2 Corinthians 11:13). Jude warned against false teachers who had infiltrated the Church with false doctrine (Jude 4). But perhaps the most chilling recognition of this phenomenon comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.


And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”

Matthew 24:4-6 (ESV)


Rumors of wars.


We are living in a time when information is rapidly disseminated throughout the world and the usual vetting process has been trivialized or even abrogated. Everyday we hear of imminent war and other doomsday predictions. Conflicts are misrepresented or covered up to conceal the truth. False prophets claiming to be the messiah have led thousands down tragic paths of destruction and sometimes, death. It is not yet the end, but the end times are quickly coming upon us.


Fake news. For thousands of years, the Bible has warned all believers to be wary of everything we hear and read. Test all news by the Truth of God’s Word. This is the only real news!


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


Uluwatu (2 Corinthians 11:24-25)



Mention this word to any surfer and their eyes will undoubtedly light up. Located in Bali, it is one of the top surf destinations in the world…and I have been to Uluwatu! No, not the surfing spot, but a drainage canal in Honolulu, Hawaii.


Until I was 10 years old, I was an avid skateboarder. My friends and I spent many hours in a drainage canal across the street from my home, but often wistfully spoke of another drainage canal, located about an hour away in a suburb of Honolulu. Local skaters affectionately dubbed it Uluwatu, after the fabled surfing spot. We all knew we had to skate it and one summer day, it finally happened! It was over an hour bus ride and then another 45 minute trek through several neighborhoods but we were determined to find it. With 10 of my friends, we made the journey and about 2 hours later, skateboards in hand, beheld the drainage canal. It was huge, easily 10  times larger than my home canal. I was more frightened than excited but knew I had to skate or else lose face in front of my friends. My heart pounding, I descended the steep cement walls of the drainage canal, accelerating at a pace far greater than I had ever previously skated. In a few seconds, I was at the bottom. Success! I should have stopped there but seeking to show off to my friends, I proceeded down the canal to an area where the walls were steeper. Confidently I ascended the walls and arcing at the top, entered a steep descent. Milliseconds before I reached the bottom of the wall, I saw it-it was a gaping crack between the wall and the floor of the canal, and I was headed straight for it. I had no time to jump off or swerve to miss it and my front wheels jammed and stuck in the crack hurling me forward. I landed on the back of my head and that is the last thing I remembered. I opened my eyes to see a crowd standing around me, some voices were murmuring, “What should we do?”


My head was throbbing and I was still on my back. I looked up and said, “Why you are all standing around me?”


“Brah!” one of the bystanders said. “You was knocked out!”


“What? Really?”


“Yeah brah…” another chimed in. “You was out for like a minute!”


Whoa! I wasn’t bleeding but I had a huge and growing swelling on the back of my head. I slowly got up but was definitely unsteady on my feet. I sat down, still dizzy and in a great deal of pain. I had a concussion and should have gone to the doctor but I was 10 years old, naive and more concerned about looking tough than being safe. “I’m okay.”  I confidently declared, but I wasn’t.


This physical trauma forever changed my outlook and killed my desire to ride a skateboard. A few days later, I attempted to ride my skateboard but I had lost my nerve, I was unable to skate with my former confidence. I joined many others who, after experiencing a significant trauma, may lose their confidence to continue with the same activity or action, fearful that it may lead to a similar painful outcome. Many others, but not the Apostle Paul!


Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea…

2 Corinthians 11:24-25 (ESV)


The Apostle Paul was the greatest missionary to ever spread the Gospel throughout the known world. His enthusiasm and passion were never dampened or hindered by the numerous physical sufferings he experienced. In fact, he rejoiced in these sufferings, knowing that when he was weak, then he was stronger for Jesus Christ because he became more dependent upon Him.


My ordeal weakened my resolve to continue. Paul’s many ordeals only strengthened his resolve to continue preaching the Good News. Praise God that he did!


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

“Jake Is A Survivor!” (John 17:3)

“Jake doesn’t put up with any of this!”


My new roommate, Jake, was dictating his likes and dislikes to me. We had met a few days earlier, introduced by a mutual acquaintance. He wanted to make quite sure I knew where he stood on potential areas of conflict.


“Jake doesn’t like people who make a lot of noise before 6 AM.”


Got it. The litany continued.


“I have had to live through a lot. Jake is a survivor!”


What did that mean? I pushed him for an explanation but the only reply was, “Jake is a survivor!”


Within a month, Jake moved out. Paul was apparently hindering his survival.


Why do I find conversations like this so annoying? Is it because of the additional effort it takes to reorient my impression that the person is actually referring to himself rather than another? Is it because this person’s self-esteem is so low that the only way to garner recognition is to reference themselves in the third person? Is it because the use of the term survivor is a blanket expression to elicit respect from any listener? Whatever the reason, referring to oneself in the third person definitely arrests my attention, but for the wrong reasons.


And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3 (ESV)


It is ironic that as annoying as this example was of my ex-roommate referring to himself in the third person, Jesus Christ also did this on several occasions. It certainly caught my attention but in contrast to my ex-roomate, it does not annoy me. In every instance when Jesus referred to Himself in the third person, He was directing the audience’s attention away from Himself and toward God, the Father. He was fulfilling God’s mission for His life by being obedient to death on the Cross and His resurrection.


Referring to oneself in the third person definitely arrests my attention and when God does it, it is for the right reason. Thanks be to God that many years ago, He did so and I responded by confessing and repenting of my sins and accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior!


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

Laughing With God (Psalms 2:1-4)

My wife and I attended an enjoyable comedy act the other evening. Humor takes commonplace situations and twists it to provide another quirky viewpoint. We can laugh with the comedian or he may be making a joke at our expense and laugh at us.


Surprisingly, the Bible is replete with humorous examples. While we may not read a comedic monologue, there are examples of humorous names like Nabal, meaning fool. There are comical situations like Zacchaeus the tax collector, a man of short stature, scrambling up a tree so that he could gain a better view of Jesus. Even Jesus used the hyperbole of the likelihood of a camel passing through the eye of a needle to illustrate the difficulty of rich people, enamored of their possessions, getting into heaven.


Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

Psalms 2:1-4 (ESV)


The Bible gives us glimpses of Heaven. In this remarkable scene, the veil is partially lifted and we learn that God is laughing. But He is laughing at man’s sinful and pitiful attempts to rule their own lives, apart from God. And why not? How could anyone believe they can run this world or their life better than God, their Creator? It is the same story throughout the ages beginning with Satan. But God has the last laugh. He has ensured that all who confess and repent of their sins and place their trust in His Son, Jesus Christ, will gain salvation and eternal life. And someday, we will be in Heaven rejoicing and laughing with God.


God laughing at me or with me. Which would I rather have?


The choice is obvious, don’t you agree?


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


“Should We Call The Pathologist?” (Romans 7:24-25)

In my third year of medical school, I had a clinical rotation in gynecology. One of the gynecologic surgeons was notorious for asking a series of oddball questions to new medical students. Fortunately, several of my fellow students had already alerted me to some of the more common questions, so I was prepared.


The case I met the gynecologist was a routine surgical procedure. After the polite introductions at the operating table, he addressed me. “You’re the medical student?” Have you operated with me before?”


“No sir!”


“Ah yes…very good! Welcome aboard!”


That seemed innocent enough, perhaps he had changed his usual medical student protocol? But a few minutes later, the inquisition began.


“Oh my!” he exclaimed. “Feel this!” He was grabbing the urinary bladder and compressing a mass. I stood across from him and reached into the operating field, also feeling the mass in the bladder.


“What is this?” he said in mock seriousness. “Is it a tumor? Should we call the pathologist and take some tissue for a frozen section (intraoperative consultation)?”


This was one of his favorite trick questions and I already knew the answer. But instead of politeness and deference, my sarcasm and arrogance got the better of me and I mocked, “Not unless you want to get a diagnosis of rubber!”


He immediately looked up from the operating field. “What do you mean?”


I confidently replied, “This is the balloon from the urinary catheter, holding it in place within the patient’s bladder.”


The gynecologist went back to operating and nodded his head. “Clever student,” he sneered.


Yes, clever student. I only appeared clever because I had inside knowledge. Like this incident in medical school, I have quickly succumbed to other opportunities when I can make myself look good, regardless of how I arrived at that point.


Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 7:24-25 (ESV)


After I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, God needed to conduct major surgery in my life to correct my sin of pride. But like an insidious cancer, it frequently returns, and I continue to struggle with this. Exasperated as I am, I know God, through His Holy Spirit, continues to transform me into the image of His Son. Situations that, in the past, could have easily ensnared me are becoming less frequent. He has heightened my sensitivity and awareness to these prideful potholes and He comforts me when I do fall. Only by God’s grace and mercy am I able to declare…


There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 (ESV)


All praise to the Living God!


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

A Silver Tongue (Mark 2:16-17)

My father was a very successful dentist in Honolulu, Hawaii. He had a great technique; I know, since he took care of my teeth for the first thirty years of my life. I never had the fear of dentists that so many others experienced and dreaded. But what truly set him apart was his ability to talk to his patients and put them at ease. His patients were from all walks of life-politicians, university professors, professional athletes, entertainers, truck drivers, fisherman.  No matter their background, my father was able to strike up a conversation and find immediate common ground.


He had a silver tongue!


During my high school and college years, I lacked self-confidence and found it difficult to meet new people, much less mingle with strangers. I marveled at my father’s ability and wanted to emulate him. But desiring a skill and actually possessing it sometimes never meet. Many years later, I am better, but nowhere near the ease that my father projected.


And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)


One of the many reasons I love Jesus Christ was His ability to mingle and speak to people from all levels of society. Politicians, religious leaders, tax collectors, widows, prostitutes-no matter their background, Jesus was able to strike up a conversation and find immediate common ground. No wonder I love Jesus…I see my own father in Him!


Thanks be to God that I have been blessed to have been raised by a loving father and to have been adopted by my Heavenly Father, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.


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


“I’m Going To Marry A Boaz!” (Ruth 3:10-11)

Many years ago, we spent a weekend at the home of our godparents in Pittsburgh. Their daughter is a beautiful and godly woman who loves Jesus Christ. Although she had dated several fine young gentlemen, she was quite sure of the man that she would marry.


“I’m going to marry a Boaz!”


Excellent choice!


And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.”

Ruth 3:10-11 (ESV)


Boaz was a wealthy landowner in ancient Israel. Boaz was always respectful of Ruth. Although she was an alien from Moab, Boaz elected  to treat her kindly, allowing her to glean and gather food in his fields. He knew of her reputation as a virtuous woman who was loyal to her mother in law, Naomi, forsaking her own family and religion to cling to Naomi’s people and worship the One True God. At any time, Boaz could have easily taken advantage of Ruth because of his position. Even during this touching scene as Ruth lay at his feet in the middle of the night, he never wavered and protected her virtue.


Boaz was a man of strength, character, and action. His very name means fleetness. Within 24 hours after this evening encounter, he and Ruth were married. God blessed their marriage and they became the great grandparents of King David, a direct ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ.


I pray that my daughter will be blessed with a godly man for a husband. I pray that God prepares a man who respects her virtue and never uses his position to take advantage of her. I pray that he will fall in love with her character and always defend her.


I pray that she will marry a Boaz!




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

Reward Or Punishment? (Amos 4:6-8)

Psychologists have debated what is a better motivator of human behavior-reward or punishment? Although some studies suggest that reward is a better motivator, the debate continues. In my life, I respond to both but certainly prefer being rewarded. I thought that most people would also agree but the Bible clearly puts this in its proper perspective.


“I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.

Amos 4:6-8 (ESV)


Whether God blessed the Israelites with riches or allowed calamity to afflict them, they were still stubborn and did not repent from their sins and return to God. It seems that neither reward nor punishment was sufficient to change their behavior.


It is easy for me to sit in judgment and shake my head at the deplorable behavior of the Israelites, but am I any different? How many times has God blessed my life and I failed to acknowledge His blessings? How many times has God allowed pain or suffering in my life to change me for the better but during the ordeal, I clenched my fists in rage and anger against Him? My selective recall of events persuades me to think I only respond to rewards but the reality is far different.


What hope do I have? Do I flounder in a needless cycle of reward and punishment, lurching from one event to another, or am I willing to surrender my will to God and allow Him to lead  me? When I do, I understand that God works all things together in my life for His good because He has called me into a loving relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and Savior and this means that He has given me eternal life. When I submit my life to God, regardless of the circumstances of life, there are only everlasting rewards!


Yes, I do respond better to rewards, when God is the bestower!




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

“You Listen To The Oldies!” (1 Timothy 4:12)

I was thirty one years old when I began my first job in private practice. In the hospital laboratory, a young man was assigned to be one of my assistants. Possessing an affable and gregarious nature, he and I instantly bonded. One morning when I walked into the lab, the radio was blaring. “Cool!” I said, nodding to the beat.


He looked up and smiled and asked, “Dr. S. What kind of music do you listen to?”


“Oh, lots of music. I love jazz but I guess you mean pop and rock music?”


He nodded.


“I like groups like the Eagles, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Chicago, and the Beatles.”


Without missing a beat, he proclaimed, “Oh, you listen to the oldies! You’re old, Dr. S!”


I was amused by his observation. Only ten years separated us, but it may as well have been fifty. I didn’t look much older than him, but in his mind, I was old! It was the first time in my career that I was addressed as old!


For most of my early career, I was blessed with a youthful appearance. However, as a physician, this sometimes led to authority and credibility issues. From interacting with patients, other physicians, or my employees, my youthful appearance occasionally led to concerns whether I was experienced or mature enough to handle my responsibilities, and understandably, their care. At times I was quite frustrated but my former partner, who was also youthful in appearance but my senior by twelve years, jocularly advised me, “You’re just not old enough to appreciate the comment!”


Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)


Timothy was a young pastor and protege of the Apostle Paul. Apparently, he, too, faced a similar issue, needing to command respect from his congregation and peers because of his age and presumably youthful appearance. Wisely, the Apostle Paul advised him to keep his eyes focused upon his mission and dedicate his efforts to honoring God, setting a godly example to others by his behavior.


Now, twenty five years later, I am showing my age and I am grateful-not so much about growing old, but thankful, that by God’s mercy and grace, He has given me the opportunity to repent and return to fellowship with Him, after turning my back on Him for so many years. He has allowed me to live long enough to be blessed with a wife and family.


The Apostle Paul’s advice reminds me that it is not my physical age but my spiritual maturity that truly matters. There is no substitute and God has shown me that I need to remain focused on the eternal and not the ephemeral.


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