The Veneer of Civilization (Matthew 16:26)

A well-known restaurant chain, renowned for its signature cheesecakes, made the unprecedented and generous move to celebrate its 40th anniversary by giving away free cheesecakes to anyone who ordered through an online delivery service. The result was a flood of online orders that caused a massive traffic jam because of double-parked delivery drivers. One commentator made the sardonic observation, “The veneer of civilization is thin indeed.”


When a coveted product is offered for free, it will undoubtedly generate an enthusiastic response. Witness the long lines of people camping outside department stores two or three days before Black Friday, eager to claim the door prizes or dramatic reductions in prices for merchandise, limited to the first hundred customers. If civilization is defined as mankind’s highest level of social development and organization, our behavior during incidents such as these should give everyone pause. How far would anyone go to get something for free?


For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Matthew 16:26 (ESV)


Everyone has their limit, as the saying goes, but is this really true? The media and movies portray characters who state with aplomb they would rather sell their souls to make something happen in their favor. If one truly understood the ramifications of such a statement, they would never state it, even in jest. If one acknowledges the existence of a soul, what does it mean for one’s eternal destiny? Is death the end of the soul or is there an eternal destiny waiting for everyone? This question must be answered by everyone in their lifetime. If those desires motivate us to trade our eternal souls for the transient gains of this life, what hope do we have?


Jesus Christ has the answer. Only a man who lived a perfect sinless life, died, and was resurrected by the power of God can claim this. If we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have a true reason for our existence.


The veneer of civilization is thin indeed and can be easily stripped away by our selfish desires. Let your soul find rest in the eternal security of Jesus Christ. He is God.


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


Genetically Perfect (1 Corinthians 15:45)

The media headlines and internet news feeds were recently ablaze with the startling revelation that a Chinese researcher had successfully created genetically modified twin girls. Critics pounced upon the story, decrying the ethical and moral implications of altering genetic material in humans. Others cautiously proceeded to withhold judgment until the data was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and the results properly vetted. A minority expressed optimism that if this did occur, the technology may be a short step from correcting numerous other genetic abnormalities, perhaps even eliminating disease. Could a genetically perfect human ever be created? Even if this or other new technologies lead to eliminating genetic diseases, bringing man closer to genetic perfection, we will always have one glaring deficiency. Our souls are deficient, damaged by sin.


…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:23 (ESV)


Ironically, the genetically perfect human did exist, not once, but twice. God created Adam as the first human. He was genetically perfect and without sin but he chose to turn his back on God’s blessings and believe Satan’s lies. In that fateful moment, sin entered into the human race, rupturing our perfect genetic code and condemning our souls to eternal separation from God. At the same moment that happened, God put into action His greatest act of love and redemption to reconcile man to His Creator. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born as a man, a second Adam. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, in complete obedience to God. He died and was resurrected by God, all part of God’s plan of redemption for mankind.


The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam–that is, Christ–is a life-giving Spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:45 (NLT)


Jesus Christ is a genetically perfect man and a spiritually perfect and sinless soul. Only He is worthy of our faith because He is God. Only He can save our souls from our sins.


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


On The Fence (Luke 5:8)

“Fine!  I’m leaving!”


I stormed out of the townhouse where I lived with my father. We were arguing over an issue and my 13-year old mind was made up. Blame it on my nascent adolescence, but I knew I was right and I would make sure my father would regret disagreeing with me. As I wandered through the neighborhood, I realized that my rash and impulsive behavior did not formulate a plan. I had a few dollars, no credit cards, and this was an era before cell phones.


It was only a 15-minute walk to my mother’s home and I was drawn to it. My parents had divorced a year earlier and I chose to live with my father while my younger sister lived with my mother.  Perhaps it was guilt or a need to be accepted and loved, whatever the reason, I needed a chance to be proven correct. I clambered up the fence next to a window at my mother’s home and listened in on a conversation between my mother and younger sister.


“But where is he?” My sister was crying.


“We are looking for him and we have called the police.”


“Why did he leave?”


“I don’t know sweetheart. We just have to pray that he will safely come home.”


As I listened to my mother and my younger sister crying together, I was humiliated. I was on the fence. I still felt resentment because of the argument with my father but was confronted with my abject selfishness, placing my family in the path of so much anguish. After a few minutes, I had heard enough. I went to the front door and knocked on it. I was immediately embraced by my sobbing mother and I collapsed in tears as my sister joined us. The police soon arrived and took me back to my father’s home. Expecting the first degree, my father also embraced me, tears running from his eyes. The police officer gave me a stern lecture as my father stood there without saying a word. When we were alone, my father put his arms around me and said, “Son, I am so sorry.” I couldn’t stand this any longer and blurted out, “No Dad, I’m sorry.”


“Please don’t ever do that again. If we have an argument, let’s try to work things out.”


“Yes, Dad. I promise.”


But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Luke 5:8 (ESV)


Peter was confident in his abilities as a fisherman. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do, much less properly perform his profession. Peter sarcastically responded to Jesus’ suggestion to take his boat into deeper water and cast his nets, after an unsuccessful night of fishing. As Peter stated, ”Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5). To his surprise, he caught so many fish, their nets were breaking. Everything changed when he was confronted with the Truth of Jesus Christ. Prior to this, he was on the fence about following Jesus, but no longer! He realized his true sinful nature and chose to follow Jesus Christ.


The evening I ran away, I was literally on the fence when I was confronted with my own sinful nature. I needed to be right but realized that my definition of being right meant catering to my own immature and selfish nature. Although I kept my promise to my father and never ran away again, there were many times, I re-climbed that fence, defiant to remain there until I had my way. A few years later, in college, I finally came down from the fence and confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. For the first time in my life, I could be honest with myself, realizing that I could not continue living my life as I did. I desperately needed a Savior and God answered my prayers.


I pray that for all who are seeking the Truth, come down from the fence and meet your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


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


Paper Cup Tasting (2 Corinthians 8:9)

My wife and I honeymooned in Napa Valley, California. Home to some of the most esteemed wines in the world, we were treated by one of my partners to a private wine tasting held at an exclusive winery. From our first sip, we were enamored by this gem. Desirous to share this exquisite libation, my wife and I purchased a case and gave a bottle to our closest friends who were wine lovers. Meanwhile, we cellared several bottles for ourselves, saving them for a very special occasion.


Several years later, I was at the home of one of these friends, celebrating the birthday of his youngest son. Several of my other close friends were also in attendance and one of them anxiously pulled me aside. “Come on! You have to see this!” We both scurried over to a small group huddled over a bottle of wine. It was THAT bottle of wine, the same one I had given to him from our honeymoon. His wife had randomly opened several bottles of wine for the guests and did not realize the significance of the bottle she was serving, placing them with the soda and juice. Thus, instead of a fine wine glass, we were drinking one of the world’s most opulent wines from a small, disposable paper cup, and it never tasted better! Magnificence presented in the humblest of settings. When have I heard this before?


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9 (ESV)


At any moment during His existence on Earth, Jesus Christ could have spoken the universe out of existence as easily as He spoke it into Creation. His glory and radiance are unknowable and unfathomable by our limited minds. Yet, He chose to give up this magnificence to be born in the body of a human, in a stable, to a poor Jewish couple. He learned the trade of his father, a carpenter, then for a mere three years, He taught the Truth of God to a small group of followers. Jealous rivals connived to deliver Him to the Roman authorities. He was mocked and tortured for His beliefs and died a horrible and humiliating death on the Cross. Yet, three days later, God raised from the dead and by belief in His Resurrection, all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will have salvation and everlasting life.


Magnificence presented with humility. Jesus Christ became poor so that we would have all of God’s riches.


Paper cup tasting? Indeed! Oh, taste and see that the Lord is Good!




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


A Long Scrawl (Acts 20:7-10)

I was rifling through my personal records the other day and stumbled upon a notebook from a college class. Intrigued, I opened the now yellowing pages and saw the familiar chicken-scratch penmanship that I attempted to pass off as handwriting. Clearly, I was on my way to becoming a physician! I perused the pages of a long-forgotten lecture and attempted to decipher the topic of the lecture. As I surveyed the pages, my eyes were riveted to an unusual pattern on one page. A serpiginous and long scrawl interrupted the notes and trailed off the edge of the sheet. Curious, I read the preceding notes which stated, “increased likelihood tha..~~~~~~~~~~~~~~”


I had fallen asleep!


It certainly wasn’t the first time I had done this but this was irrefutable evidence. During this period of my life, I was suffering from a severe allergic rhinitis and the only medication I could take to relieve the symptoms would also make me very drowsy. It was only after the semester was over that a new anti-histamine medication was available that no longer had this same side effect. I had forgotten about these few months of suffering until this day. This seemingly insignificant scrawl brought back a flood of memories of that period in my life and reinforced the reality of the events.


On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.”

Acts 20:7-10 (ESV)


This unusual incident was recorded in the book of Acts by the Holy Spirit, as observed by Dr. Luke, traveling with the Apostle Paul on his missionary journeys. Amusing, tragic, all of the above, but thankfully God had mercy on this young man, Eutychus, and used Paul to raise him from the dead. Ironically, the name Eutychus means fortunate, in the original Greek! Indeed he was.


I sometimes wonder why God includes seemingly trivial events, such as Eutychus, in the Bible. Yet, it is these same incidents that bring the Bible to life. The Bible records amazing miracles of God and most importantly, presents the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ for everyone who confesses and repents of their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But the Bible also records very real and seemingly ordinary events of life and this reinforces its credibility as a true eyewitness account of what actually happened thousands of years ago. These anecdotes demonstrate God’s story of redemption and reconciliation is for all people, transcending both the mundane and extraordinary events of life.


God’s Word is perfect and complete!


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



“Laugh A Lot!” (Hosea 3:1)

My wife and I carefully opened the ornate card, given to us by my wife’s godparents. They were unable to attend our wedding but they composed a tender message to encourage us. The end of the message was sage and simple advice, ”Laugh a lot and be kind to each other!” My wife and I smiled at each other, confident we would be able to fulfill these simple blessings. As the years passed, the daily grind of work and raising children, slowly eroded the joyful bliss of the honeymoon and marriage. Between deciding who would attend our son’s basketball game and who would drive our daughter to her tutoring class, the laughter was not as frequent, and kindness was sometimes taken for granted.


Every marriage begins with hopes and lofty dreams of happiness. Yet, marriage is a union of two completely different personalities; conflict is inevitable and must be anticipated. Pre-martial counseling may prepare a couple for some obvious pot-holes and roadblocks, books and seminars may outline strategies for couples, but the undeniable reality is every marriage is unique and there will be unexpected and tortuous pathways to maneuver together. Perhaps this is why God included the sad tale of the prophet Hosea as a reminder to all married couples that we must continually revisit and remember the reasons we first married.


Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”

Hosea 3:1 (NLT)


The Prophet Hosea was commanded by God to reconcile with his wife, Gomer, who had previously committed adultery several times in their marriage. Gomer had left the marriage once again and God commanded Hosea to seek reconciliation with her instead of pronouncing scorn and judgment. God was using this broken relationship to encourage the faith of his Prophet and to dramatically demonstrate the unrelenting and redeeming love that God has for His people and the nation of Israel.


Could I have the faith that Hosea possessed? By my own efforts, it is impossible, but when God calls a man and woman to be joined together in marriage, His Holy Spirit is present, continually working through the relationship, preserving it and encouraging it. No matter the transgressions, no matter the sins, no matter the potholes that a marriage encounters, God is there. We may push God away, even ignore and disobey Him, but, as He demonstrated to Hosea, His love knows no limits. When God brings a husband and wife together, He will always remind them of the reasons that He first brought them together and bless them with laughter and kindness.


Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)


”Laugh a lot and be kind to each other!”


Laughter and kindness will always be present in a marriage when the love of God is the foundation, uniting a husband and wife.


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


Playing To Win (Jude 1:9)

“The key is playing to win, instead of trying not to lose,”

Rachel Chu from the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”.


In December 2018, the movie, “Crazy Rich Asians”, became the top-grossing domestic romantic movie of the last 10 years, raking in over $173 million dollars in the four months after its initial release in the United States. In the opening scene of the movie, the protagonist, Rachel Chu is introduced to us as a Professor of Economics with an expertise in game theory. She demonstrates her strategy by challenging one of her students in a game of poker, in front of the entire class. In spite of her student showing two pairs, she counters and goes all in with her bet, forcing another player to fold. She then explains her strategy to her hapless opponent with this quotation. It is a reverberating theme of the movie.


But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Jude 1:9 (ESV)


Satan is a fallen angel, a created being. There are countless numbers of angels that serve God, yet one of the most powerful, Michael, did not even attempt to argue with Satan when they confronted each other over the burial of the body of Moses. If they battled, they may have fought to a draw, but we will never know because Michael did not try to lose, he intended to win.


Am I bold enough to stand up to Satan? I am a fool to think I can do this by my own strength. The Bible tells me that Satan prowls around like a lion, seeking every opportunity to prey upon me, leading me into temptation, hoping I will succumb to his wiles. In every moment of my life, Satan will insidiously work within situations and relationships, to wrest my attention away from God. When confronting sin and Satan, I can never be content to try not to lose, I must play to win. I have this assurance because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Like, Michael, I must evoke the name and power of the Almighty God, who is infinitely more powerful than Satan. My complete assurance is knowing that God is always on my side because He has already defeated Satan and his schemes.


Playing to win.


When God is on our side, who can be against us?


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


“Not Bad!” (Proverbs 25:11)


Jake had graduated from my high school the previous year. For three years, he was the dominant presence in our high school jazz stage band, providing the rhythmic foundation with his idiosyncratic bass playing. Towering over his peers, both in height and musical ability, I, like everyone else, was drawn to his charismatic presence. His musicality was far beyond the other high school musicians and he was determined to make music his career. He was home for the summer after his first year in college and stopped by the band room with his bass guitar, where I was engaged in an impromptu jam session.


“Hey, Jake. This is Paul. You gotta hear him play. He’s got some chops!”


I was mortified but knew there was no backing out.


“Let’s see what you got!”


Jake proceeded to play a syncopated riff, slapping and popping his bass, setting an infectious groove. I was inspired and began adding some licks of my own, playing off the lines he was creating. Time ceased to exist as we telegraphed our emotions through our instruments. After about half an hour, we took a break. I looked at Jake’s face, searching for reassurance.


“Not bad!”


I was in heaven!


After we parted, my friend told me that Jake thought I had potential and he would speak to the director of the stage band and put in a good word for me. This encounter occurred a few months before my junior year in high school. I had been playing guitar for several years but was very insecure about my abilities. Some of my friends had heard me play and encouraged me to try out for the high school jazz stage band. If it had not been for that random encounter with this bass player, I may not have tried out for the jazz stage band. Because of the encouragement of Jake, I auditioned for the jazz stage band and secured the position of the guitar player. Playing in the band opened many doors for me including playing professionally in a group in Hawaii and later in college. Most importantly, it gave me the confidence to continue playing jazz guitar. Although I ultimately did not choose a career in music, it remains an integral part of my life.


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)


I have never seen or communicated with Jake since that session but hope that someday I will be able to express my gratitude to him for his kind words and encouragement. I am keenly aware how a word fitly spoken may make a huge difference in someone’s life. A classmate in college took the time to encourage me during my sophomore year.  God used this man to lead me to an everlasting relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He challenged me with these words, “If you are truly seeking to know God, then ask Him. I promise you He will reveal Himself to you.” God did and my life has never been the same.


I pray that all of us will take the time to encourage one another with a fitly spoken word. God honors these acts of kindness.


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



Those Awful Moments (Matthew 1:18-20)



If a problem or situation cannot be resolved, I need to understand what the problem is and what I need to do to resolve it…now. While this behavior has usually served me well in my profession, it does not necessarily translate well when dealing with personal relationships. The same skills that can resolve a perplexing medical problem may lead to resentment among friends and family members. I cannot expect my loved ones to drop everything in their lives to address an issue that they may not view with the same degree of uncertainty or importance. My desire to avoid indecision often leads to frustration and bitter feelings that may exacerbate the issues and further delay the resolution.                                                          


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 1:18-20 (ESV)


The Bible does not give us much information about Joseph, the adopted earthly father of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Luke traces his heritage from the line of King David. We know that Joseph was a carpenter and undoubtedly taught Jesus his trade. Joseph and Mary also had other children, half-siblings to our Lord Jesus Christ. We also know that he faced an agonizing moment of indecision, that will never be faced by anyone ever again.


“…As he considered these things…”


These were surely the most painful and awful moments that ever confronted Joseph. He was faced with the undeniable reality that his betrothed, Mary, had been unfaithful to him. He had every right, under Jewish law, to publically shame and divorce his wife but instead, he resolved to maintain her honor. He was in a dire state of indecision. He loved Mary but undoubtedly felt betrayed by her. What other possible explanation could there be?  God intervened and gave Joseph and all Creation an incredulous, almost absurd answer. Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and the child she was carrying would be the Messiah, the One who would redeem mankind of his sins.


God recorded this inspiring example of Joesph’s faith and trust in God that allowed him to encourage all who experience dark moments of indecision. I, like Joseph, must turn to God and trust His guidance. The answers God gives me may seem confusing, even counterintuitive, but instead of projecting my frustration upon others, I must learn to be still and allow God the revered and holy position that only He deserves. He created me and this world. He understands my situation and my indecision better than myself. I must learn to consider these things and focus upon God, my Savior rather than myself, the sinner.


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


“You Are Positive For Gold!” (Psalms 19:9-11)

Australian researchers have published their discovery of a potentially ground-breaking technique for the early detection of cancer cells. One important mechanism that controls the expression of genes is DNA methylation. When a single carbon methyl molecule attaches to sequences of DNA, the expression of the genes is altered. Not surprisingly, in cancer cells, this methylation pattern is abnormal, leading to the abnormal growth of cancer cells. The researchers demonstrated that gold nanoparticles will bind to the abnormally methylated sequences in cancer cells, but not in normal healthy cells. It is ironic that a symbol of wealth and prosperity may become a metaphor for cancer detection, expanding its cherished position with the human psyche. This test still needs to undergo rigorous additional testing but as one exuberant commentator declared, “Someday there will be a cancer test that states, ‘You are positive for gold!’ “


Gold is valued in many cultures and occupies a prominent position in the Bible. King Solomon received 25 tons of gold from his kingdom and surrounding states that paid tribute to him (1 Kings 10:14). When our Lord Jesus Christ returns, the new Jerusalem will be a massive city of pure gold, spanning 1400 miles in all directions (Revelation 21:18). Gold is highly esteemed and God has used it bless peoples and nations, but God also gives us a better way, something to be desired more than gold.


…the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalms 19:9-11 (ESV)


God gives us His Word, the Bible, as precepts to live by, but He does not abandon us to go it alone. God gives everyone who confesses and repents of their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit. This is far more precious than gold! The Holy Spirit is the most sensitive and precise early warning system for any sin that may harm us in this life. He will never leave the life any true believer and will guard our thoughts and actions if we are obedient to His direction.


Gold is valuable and can be a symbol of God’s blessings. But the ultimate blessing that can be bestowed upon anyone is this declaration, “You are positive for God!”




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