Ralph and Sam (John 6:64)

Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog.


Many of us are familiar with these beloved cartoon characters that were created many years ago by master cartoonist and animator, Chuck Jones. Here is a classic episode.




On Saturday mornings, this was one of the many cartoons that I watched. Although I found it amusing, I was also bewildered. Why would two adults who were polite friends outside of the workplace, suddenly become hotly competitive and hostile toward each other, jockeying for a superior position at the expense of the other in the workplace? Surely there are no adults who behave like this?


Life does brutally strip away our naivete. When I was in college, I encountered the pre-med syndrome. Some of my fellow pre-med students would do anything to get ahead. To obtain that prized recommendation from a famous professor, they subtly cast aspersions upon their fellow students, all with the implicit purpose of making themselves look good by pushing down the reputation of others. It continued in medical school and residency and those who were inculcated with the doctrine of the pre-med syndrome could not let it go. There were games played during patient rounds, allegations that a particular diagnostic test was not ordered because another resident dropped the ball. It still continues in the workplace. A critical invitation to an important meeting inadvertently leaves off a key individual from the email list. Credit for a successful project overlooks the key players.


While these nefarious schemes are occurring, the perpetrators smile at one another with the verbal reassurance that they must work together in support since all are in the trenches together. I never believed that Ralph and Sam could turn off their animosity toward one another simply because the workday ends. The polite smiles and domestic bliss concealed their clandestine actions of inserting a knife into each other’s backs. With imperceptible precision, their weapons of slander and sabotage were positioned until the key moment when the vital organs could be struck and their victims slaughtered.


…For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.

John 6:64 (ESV)


Ralph and Sam.


Some painful life lessons keep repeating. How many hours of wasted time and effort are spent seeking to tear others down instead of developing ways to model and encourage godly behavior? Thanks be to God that He shows us a better way by giving us a Savior. Jesus Christ endured the same type of schemings of men, even by Judas, one of His own disciples. He allowed Himself to be led to the Cross to die and then be resurrected by God. He showed us a more excellent way to live our life by confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Following Jesus Christ allows us to move beyond the false pretenses and the futile mind games that can paralyze us. We were created to live a life so much richer and fulfilling than Ralph and Sam.




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


“You Must Pray About This” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

His jersey barely hid his bulging muscles. He was 250 pounds and started as a defensive lineman for the local high school football team. He dwarfed his youth pastor who was earnestly listening to him. I unexpectedly intruded upon this intimate conversation when I entered the room. As I quickly turned to leave, I overhead a portion of their conversation.


“I don’t know what to do!”


“You know what to do. You must pray about this!”


From the corner of my eye, I saw the hulking teen collapse in tears and into the arms of his youth pastor. The issue was clearly painful for both and I pondered the advice the pastor gave to the teen. Was prayer enough or was this just something that Christians say to one another to sound pious and caring, a pretext for practical advice?


if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)


Jesus would spend entire evenings in prayer before making critical decisions. He awoke early each morning to spend time with God. In the last moments of His life, as He hung on the Cross, He prayed for those who persecuted Him. After the Resurrection and before He ascended to Heaven, He prayed for all His followers. At this very moment, Jesus is in Heaven praying and interceding for all believers who know Him. Jesus openly prayed so all would know that He was completely dependent and obedient to following God’s will in His life. The entire Bible is replete with examples of the great saints of the Bible turning to prayer during times of distress. God answers all prayers and gives all believers the answers to the problems they face. It may not be the answer we are expecting but it is the answer we need. It may not be immediate but it will be answered. He will open the door and smooth a pathway for us to resolve our problems with His guidance.


Jesus Christ prayed continuously to God, His Father. He lived a sinless life and showed everyone that by following His example, and confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Him as our Lord and Savior, we will be adopted as fellow heirs to God’s blessings.


We must always pray to God. It is not a pretext for sound advice or a pious aphorism. It is necessary and sufficient for a life of fellowship with God.


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


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“There Will Be A Line Around The Block!” (Psalms 90:10)

Throngs of people pushed their way past one another, jockeying for a position to secure one last glance of the beloved singer. My father and I were viewing his funeral on television. It was quite a spectacle. I was 9 years old and this was the grandest funeral I had ever witnessed. As we surveyed the winding lines of people entering and leaving the church, my father remarked to me, “You know, son, when I die there will be a line around the block for my funeral!”


I was startled by my father’s comment. He was a very humble man, never boasting of his accomplishments. I worked in his office for several summers and admired his unique ability to connect with his patients, easily conversing with every social class, income level, and occupation. His gentle disarming touch eliminated the usual fear of dentists for all who were fortunate to receive his care. If my father had passed away at that moment, his prediction would have undoubtedly come true. I smiled and nodded in agreement, uncomfortable to discuss such a serious topic at my young age.


The years passed and my father retired in his early 60’s. He lived for twenty more years, passing away at the age of 82 years. At his funeral, the majority of people in attendance were immediate family and perhaps ten close friends and former patients, no more than 50 people. I lamented over what my father told me so many years ago. There was no line around the block composed of patients and friends queuing to pay their last respects to my father. The sad reality was most of his friends, patients, and even family had passed away.


The years of our life are seventy,  or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Psalms 90:10 (ESV)


My father lived a rich and full life but in the end, nearly all those whom he loved and cared for were gone. In his last years, he would often remark that another one of his friends or former patients had passed away, after reading their obituary in the newspaper. Although he never again brought up his comment about a line around the block, the pangs of sorrow were readily visible on his face as he reminisced.


Many, like my father, may feel abandoned as we reach the end of our life. God does not abandon us. Our lifespans are limited on this earth for a sobering reason, to gain wisdom.


So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 (ESV)


The greatest wisdom we can ever attain is to confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If all of our loved ones also come to this same salvation, we will someday be reunited in Heaven, joining a line of souls all praising and worshipping God for eternity.




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



“Put It In Reverse!” (Genesis 3:15)

I’m second in line, great! I’ll be finished in a few minutes, I thought. The truck in front of me slowly lurched forward, propelled by the heavy rollers moving along the wet rails. The automatic sprays were triggered as the truck entered the car wash, and then, it stopped, triggering a buzzing alarm. The attendant ran into the car wash then came out with a large mallet. This couldn’t be good.


“We are closing the car wash. You are going to have to exit!”


“How?” I had never exited a car wash once I entered it.


“Put it in reverse!”


Easier said than done. I put the car in reverse but my car stalled as it ran up against the rollers. I could feel the wheels slipping and grinding.


“Ok. Stop. Put the car in drive and move forward.” I quickly obeyed.


“All right, put the car in reverse and push on the gas to gain some acceleration,” I repeated the action but found the car bump up on the rollers again. I worried about damaging the rims of the tires. “Try it again!” Once again, I ran the car in reverse, gunning the accelerator and providing enough momentum to overcome the first set of rollers. Now, I had to successfully repeat it before I was free. What a metaphor for life! It is easier to enter a bad situation than leaving it! The proverbial genie cannot be put back into its lamp. Pandora’s box is opened. Perhaps all of these myths are distant echoes of something far more devastating that once entered this world?


Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3:13 (ESV)


The Bible clearly states how sin entered our lives and the world. As Adam and Eve quickly learned, once sin entered their lives, it could not be easily undone. No clever tricks or good deeds will ever extricate us from this dire state. No, to reverse it would require more than our efforts. It would require a supernatural intervention. It would require God to take the initiative.


I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15 (ESV)


Thousands of years later, God’s prophecy was fulfilled. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be born to a virgin woman, seeded by the Holy Spirit. He lived a completely sinless life and was horribly tortured and executed on the Cross. Satan did bruise His Heel. Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead, forever conquering death and proving that Satan and sin could never contain Him. Jesus bruised Satan’s head, for all eternity.


Put it in reverse!


All who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will reverse the destructive cycle of sin and death. Praise God!


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


“Oh No!” (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

I have celebrated Thanksgiving in at least seven different cities, scattered across three countries. I have treasured all of them but some definitely stand out more than others. When I lived in St. Louis, one of my residents kindly invited me to her home for Thanksgiving. She did warn me that she was inviting several of her friends, who, like herself, were passionate dog lovers. No problem, I told her. It would be a treat to meet her dogs.

No problem at all. After I arrived, there were more dogs than people crammed into her home. At first, I was quite amused, but I was about to receive the full impact of such a volatile mixture. The doorbell rang and two Rhodesian Ridgebacks bounded into the house. These magnificent animals were accustomed to having their way and a 5’ 2” young man was hardly an imposing barrier. One of the Ridgebacks leaped onto me, its full 100 pounds landing on my chest and hurtling me backward. Thankfully, there was a sofa that cushioned my fall but the inertia flipped me and the sofa over, and I was thrown into the wall.  My resident was mortified as she witnessed the entire event. She rushed over to see if I was hurt. Aside from my bruised ego, I was surprisingly unscathed. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and laughed about the incident.

“Oh No!” A shriek from the kitchen shattered our revelry. We all rushed into the kitchen to find the two Ridgebacks devouring the last pieces of meat on the 25-pound turkey. We dined on salad, stuffing and sweet potatoes, all agreeing this was definitely one of the most memorable Thanksgivings we ever had, without a turkey!

In this politically correct climate, one cannot wish someone a “Merry Christmas!” without being corrected with a “Happy Holidays!” Yet few would disavow the phrase, “Happy Thanksgiving!” Every Thanksgiving is memorable because of the reason for the gathering. It is not the turkey, stuffing, and fixings, it is not the college football bowl games, it is a time to be thankful for what we have in life. As a Christian, Thanksgiving is a reminder to me to reaffirm my gratitude to God’s grace and mercy in my life.

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
1 Timothy 4:4-5 (ESV)

The dogs added an unexpected twist to our Thanksgiving and I have never forgotten the dinner! Most importantly, I will always remember the kindness of my dermatology resident to invite a homesick young man, thousands of miles away from home, to share in a celebration of thankfulness of life. God created everything. Whatever He gives me in this life, I should receive it with thanksgiving, for this is His will for me.

Shouldn’t we be celebrating Thanksgiving every day?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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



Altar Call (1 John 1:9)

The blue carpet covering the stairs was decorated with patches of gray duct tape, camouflaging the well-worn tears that exposed the underlying carpet pad. How many thousands of feet have traversed these steps, I wondered? Arranged in a semicircle, the three tiers led to a platform with a simple wooden podium and a microphone. Behind it, a simple but imposing wooden Cross hung on the wall. This was the altar of this church. It was not the elaborately carved wooden table, adorned with colorful tapestries, reminiscent of other great historical churches in the world. It was not even a table, but it did not have to be.


The pastor concluded his sermon. It was a powerful testimony based up a painful episode in his life when he battled petty accusations hurled against him by members within his own church. Although the issue had resolved, he still harbored resentment and could not let it go. As he prepared this sermon, the Holy Spirit convicted him of his own hypocrisy and he fell on his knees weeping and confessing his unrepentant and unforgiving heart toward others.


“Once again, I had to come to the altar of God and ask for forgiveness.” he sobbed, as he surveyed the congregation.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (ESV)


For the seeker, an altar call is a physical outward affirmation of the internal confession and repentance of one’s sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For the believer, an altar call can be a time to repent of unconfessed sins and renew and restore the relationship that God has given unto us. Do we really need to make a public confession?


And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV)


Jesus Christ has taken all of our sins: past, present, and future, and nailed them to His Cross. His naked and bleeding body was laid bare for everyone to see. He endured this very public humiliation to redeem all of us of our sins and accept the punishment that we justly deserved from God. Jesus was not ashamed to be lifted up for the world to see. We should remember what Jesus did for us and never be ashamed to publically declare our faith in Him.




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


Anchor Of My Soul (Hebrews 6:19)

“Oh, hell doesn’t exist! That’s something that religions make up to scare you into believing them! A loving God would never send someone to hell!”


Heaven is always a more popular topic of discussion than hell, and why not? The conventional wisdom of the world avers that everyone who leads a good life and does enough good deeds will get to heaven. Hell is only reserved for truly bad people, and if we are having this discussion, that couldn’t possibly be me!


It always surprising to learn that Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about Heaven. Jesus Christ is God and He did not sugarcoat His descriptions of hell. He truly desired that everyone should be saved from the horrors of hell, an eternal separation from God’s love and mercy. While this is one frightening definition, can we truly understand what hell means?


But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:6-8 (ESV)


Lay people, philosophers, and theologians have, for centuries, debated the meaning of hell. I certainly don’t have the answer but as I ponder the topic, I am sure hell exists and it is far worse than anything I, or anyone, could ever imagine. One recurring notion I have of hell is when God removes any restraint and protection that He provides us through His Holy Spirit and allows us to follow our most carnal desires. While some may applaud this, viewing it as the ultimate expression of human free will,  it would result in all of us violently and helplessly torn in innumerable directions, goaded on by our lusts. We would toss like a leaf in the wind, hurtled in an infinite number of directions by our sinful natures, helpless to find meaning and purpose. By granting us the complete freedom of our wills, we would become enslaved by our own desires, an unrelenting series of waves of doubt.


We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…

Hebrews 6:19 (ESV)


Jesus Christ is the anchor of our soul. By confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He provides the tether, the lifeline, the sure footing that our souls need to find meaning and purpose.


Jesus warned us of hell and He provides the answer. Let Him be the anchor of your soul. Hold fast to the God of all Creation. He created you and everyone who has ever lived. He knows what we truly need to live the life we were created to enjoy.


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


“He Never Sleeps!” (John 9:2-3)

I staggered to my car after twelve uninterrupted hours at the hospital.  I was a third-year medical student in the middle of my pediatrics rotation. All I wanted to do was eat dinner and sleep but I could not. I had a major presentation to give in two days on common viral diseases of childhood and the mid-terms were looming. I was exhausted but knew that if I did not get some rest I would be unable to prepare the talk nor would I be able to study. It was 7 PM when I returned home. I slumped into my desk chair and surveyed the work that I needed to complete. After a few minutes, my droopy eyelids overwhelmed my decision making. Why don’t I sleep now, awaken at 2 AM, then eat dinner? That would give me at least 6 hours of sleep, more than what I was usually getting. I embarked upon this plan and awoke refreshed but realized it was too tempting to remain at home and conveniently crawl back into bed. I dressed and drove back to the hospital and spied an empty table in the conference room. The nurse’s station had fresh coffee and the restrooms were nearby. I had nearly three hours to study and then I would be ready to round on my patients, not sacrificing additional drive time. I was elated that I had stumbled upon this solution.


Keeping this schedule, I was able to rest and find time to study. I did well on my pediatrics rotation and was pleasantly surprised to read some of my evaluations. “He never sleeps!“ wrote one professor. “I would see him on the hospital wards at 3 AM, even on nights when he wasn’t on call!” I realized that he and my supervising residents were under the false impression that I never left the hospital, always working and caring for my patients!


Appearances can be deceiving. I never intended to mislead anyone with my unconventional schedule; I was merely attempting to pass pediatrics. Without properly understanding a situation, we may arrive at an erroneous conclusion about someone’s circumstances. Fortunately, in my case, there was a pleasant and successful outcome. Yet, too often, a hasty or misinformed judgment based upon circumstantial or shallow evidence of one’s situation or behavior has led to misunderstanding and even suffering or persecution of the accused.


As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

John 9:2-3 (ESV)


In the time of Jesus and even today, people may assume that if a person is afflicted with poor health or difficult life circumstances, it is the result of past sins that either the person or their parents had committed. Jesus turned these assumptions on their head and forced His disciples to consider another reason, to glorify God. He then healed the man, fulfilling His own prophecy.


Like the observations my colleagues made of my early morning studying in the hospital, there was another explanation. The calling of Jesus Christ should compel all of us to be willing to dig deep and seek the Truth about our life and the reason for our existence. We are not spiritually imprisoned by the sins and actions of our ancestors nor are we eternally bound to live a life of retribution. We are all lost sinners and God has given us a real choice. We can choose to confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we do, God will grant us salvation and eternal life with Him. If we chose to reject Him, He will not force Himself upon us.


With God, there are no assumptions or misunderstandings. He has presented the complete Truth for all to make an informed and intelligent decision about following His Son, Jesus Christ.


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


AT40 (Psalms 133:1)

“Hurry up Dad! I have to get home to listen to the radio!”


It was nearing 9 AM on a Sunday morning, time for my favorite weekly radio program. For more than a generation, the distinctive and inviting voice of Casey Kasem entertained millions with his radio broadcast of “American Top 40”, popularly known as “AT40”. For three hours, Casey would play the top 40 popular songs in America, as researched by Billboard magazine. Although I could occasionally guess what the number one song would be, it was always exciting to participate in the countdown. During the presentation, Casey would insert historical commentaries and interesting vignettes of the artists and the songs they sang. In a time before the internet and digital broadcasts, if I missed the broadcast, the event was missed. I could talk to friends or read about the show in the newspaper, but these were poor substitutes for the actual event. I had to be there!


Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Psalms 133:1 (ESV)


My enthusiasm for Sunday mornings now focuses upon the time I gather my family together and worship God in His church. Today, the internet and other media sources provide several options to participate in a church worship service, including live internet feeds and videos captured on various social media and church websites. Yet, there is nothing that can replace the experience of worshipping God in the communion and fellowship of His Church family. Like the radio broadcast of my childhood, I have to be there.  Indeed, how good and pleasant it is to dwell in unity!


AT40, the radio broadcast that entertained me for much of teenage years, is gone. Thanks be to God, the Church will exist for eternity. I will be there!


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


“This Is What We Were Missing!” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

The immaculately arranged wooden boxes showcased generous slices of raw tuna and salmon, nestled atop a glistening bed of finely cut white radish and green shiso leaves. Our eyes opened wide in delight as we gazed upon this delectable dish. I was dining with two dear brothers in the Lord who had previously dined at this restaurant for lunch. However, to their dismay, they discovered this sashimi presentation was only available for dinner. This was our first dinner together at this restaurant and we came to dine on this prized dish. Grinning, my friend who organized the dinner turned to both of us and said, “This is what we were missing!”


This dinner was the start of our men’s fellowship. For the past year, the three of us met on a regular basis to share our spiritual concerns and pray for one another. We have been friends for many years, our three families sharing many meals together and even vacationing together. We were all believers for many years and shared many common spiritual goals. Yet it was not until one of them suggested to have a meeting of only the men, to support one another and hold each other accountable to God, that this men’s fellowship began.


This fellowship, unlike previous meetings, extended far longer than our usual meal. For 7 hours, we shared our deepest fears and aspirations with each other. We received grace and mercy from one another after confessing and repenting of our sins to God. We knew something special was happening as the Holy Spirit guided our conversations. We were meeting Jesus Christ where He meets us, in the depths of our pain and suffering.


A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)


I have attended numerous Bible studies and joined fellowship and support groups, having the privilege to meet many amazing and committed brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, this fellowship with my two brothers was a much deeper connection that I had ever previously experienced. For over three years I had regularly prayed that God would lead me to like-minded brothers in Jesus Christ, developing a deeper relationship. When my prayer was not immediately answered by God, I questioned God’s timing. Why wouldn’t He grant my prayer? Shouldn’t He be pleased that I was seeking this? Yes. In His perfect timing, God’s sovereign grace was moving the broken pieces of my life and my brothers in harmony. We first became friends through our spouses and family. Through a series of difficult life experiences, God weaved our lives together to meet at this critical juncture in our lives.


This is what I was missing!


Thank you, God, for answering my prayers with your timing, not mine.


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