“I Didn’t Know What To Think About You!” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

When I attended college in Southern California, I experienced an unusual phenomenon. As a third-generation Japanese-American who grew up in Hawaii, my friends were from all ethnic groups, typical of the racial melting pot that is Hawaii. Although racism existed, the closely-knit island community acted as a social damper, and racial stereotypes were playfully joked about, but rarely ever an entry to sow hate and terror. I did not anticipate the social exclusion I would soon experience from other Japanese and Asian students.

 

In college, I encountered a wide spectrum of other students of Japanese ancestry with varying expectations. First-generation Japanese expected me to be fluent in Japanese, which I was not. Japanese-Americans who were raised in Southern California expected me to play basketball and speak and act with their same mannerisms. Other Asians identified me as Japanese and generally did not want to associate with anyone outside of their ethnic group. I was an anomaly. Everything about me was different. As one Japanese-American friend later confided in me, “I didn’t know what to think about you.”

 

Initially, my friends were other students from Hawaii. I was happy but unfulfilled since I wanted to grow socially and break out of my introverted Hawaiian shell. Eventually, I discovered my own group of friends, my closest being a first-generation Korean-American whom God used to lead me to Jesus Christ. 

 

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

1 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

 

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, God expanded my circle of friends and relationships. He broke down stereotypes and opened doors that I would never have entered. Today, I am a physician who believes in Jesus Christ. In a profession dominated by secular scientists and researchers, ironically some of my colleagues still don’t know what to think about me and I am often faced with the same dilemma that I experienced in college. I may not speak or act like other physicians but I earnestly desire to have them understand the reasons why.

 

I want them to know is that I am a Christian, and I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This revelation has sometimes generated bemused looks and occasionally, even hostile responses. My answer is to always succinctly and honestly state why I believe in Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of all whom I encounter. 

 

That’s what you can think about me!

 

Amen!

 

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

 

“Two Hours?” (Psalms 111:4)

“Two hours?”

 

My office staff grimly nodded their heads in agreement. I didn’t want to believe it but all of the online reviews stated the same thing. I loudly sighed and said, “All right! Guess that’s the price we have to pay if we go to a Dodger game!”

 

It was our family’s first time to attend a Los Angeles Dodger’s game. Initially, I was quite excited until I began researching the logistics of getting to the stadium and the bane of every Dodger fan, finding parking and then, a few hours later, attempting to exit the congested lot in a reasonable time. Many bloggers wrote that they would leave the game in the seventh inning, attempting to avoid the logjam. I wondered if everyone was leaving early, would that strategy be self-defeating since there would be an earlier traffic jam? Regardless, my hands were tied in this decision because we were bringing guests and they wanted to stay until the end of the game. Reluctantly I agreed and I am so grateful we did!

 

For my first live professional baseball game, it was a beauty. There was a failed run-down, a squeeze play, and the starting pitcher for the Dodgers threw a 3-hitter. The Dodgers won 4-0! Wow! Even one of our companions, who is an avid baseball fan, had never seen a live squeeze play! Basking in the glow of victory, another glow, that of the tail-lights of cars lining up in the parking lot, reminded me that we would have a long evening ahead of us.

 

We all bundled into the car and proceeded to exit the parking lot. Two hours? Try two minutes! I was timing it as we crossed through the exit in record time. Whether it was serendipitous convergence of events that led to a lull in traffic, the fact that many people left by the seventh inning, or excellent parking placement near an exit, all of the stars were in alignment as I breezed out of the lot. A perfect ending to a perfect game!

 

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful.

Psalms 111:4 (ESV)

 

I wanted to keep the glow of a perfect day burning brightly and I felt compelled to share the event with everyone whom I encountered the next day, much to their annoyance, but I didn’t care! I was elated! This is the same feeling I experienced when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. After months of questioning and searching, the cosmic scales tipped before my soul and it was finally clear to me why Jesus Christ is the only path to salvation and eternal life. Like the Dodger game, I had to tell everyone about it, whether they wanted to hear about it or not. 

 

God created us to be in relationships, to share the events of our lives. When we experience a joyous event, we have to share it with others! The most important relationship we can ever have is with His Son, Jesus Christ. All of the wonder and beauty of this world points to Jesus Christ, the Creator. When we experience the glory of God through His creation, how can we not share it with others?

 

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

 

There Must Be Something More! (Job 7:20-21)

For nearly a year and a half of my life, I was involved in a religious cult, following a woman who referred to herself as Divine Mother. She claimed to teach a direct path to God. There were no written materials just short expositions followed by meditation sessions during which she instructed us to focus on letting go of this world and tame the “rascal mind” to find god within each of us. At first, I found such an approach refreshing and I thought I was finally achieving the inner peace for which I was searching. After a few months, I realized the inner peace I was searching for was something much deeper and profound than letting go of random thoughts and detaching from this world. My inner peace was craving for a relationship with God. Meditating and detaching from the world was not the answer. I was searching for a relationship that could never be broken by pain or ended by death. I was searching for the true God, not a god of my creation, hidden below layers of my personality and ego.

 

If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?  Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”

Job 7:20-21 (ESV)

 

Job was frustrated because he wanted something more from God. He wanted a Savior. Thousands of years later, his cry and the yearning of the entire Creation was answered by God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live and be crucified on the Cross, and resurrected to glory three days later. 

 

“Truly I know that it is so:  But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him,  one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength  —who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?

Job 9:2-4 (ESV)

 

I was frustrated because I knew that there was more to God than this woman. I hungered for a relationship, a true relationship with the living God, not with a self-proclaimed prophet, or reaching an imaginary god within myself. Tossing and turning in my bed in the early hours in the morning, a week before Easter in 1982, I had enough. I yelled out into the darkness, “Ok God! You win!”

 

At the moment that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit immediately indwelled within me and began to reveal to me that indeed, there was something more. God had revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. It was not a relationship built upon the denial of reality. It was a relationship built upon the acceptance of the living God, Jesus Christ.

 

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

 

I Could Not Do That! (Psalms 31:5)

Garlands of fragrant flowers adorned the stately church as the guests were greeted and slowly ushered in. At the front, next to the altar, the handsome visage of the man we were honoring was prominently displayed. It was our godfather who had passed away the previous week. Our family had flown across the country to be reunited with his family and honor this man and brother in Jesus Christ. 

 

As we entered, we were greeted by his wife and children. His daughter is very close to my wife who first met her when she was still in high school. We saw each other several times over the ensuing years and she maintained a close relationship with my wife. An accomplished singer, she has gifted us with her voice, singing at both our wedding ceremony and the reception. As I sat down, I wondered if she would be able to sing at her father’s service, no doubt overcome with grief. After a brief introduction by the pastor, she approached the altar, turned and bravely faced all of us. Her tribute was the acapella version of “The Lord’s Prayer”. Her mellifluous voice filled the hall, elevating our spirits, and riveting our attention. I marveled at her composure as she flawlessly performed it. Our teary eyes were in stark contrast to her clear and strong ones that lovingly embraced all of us and looked upward to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who was now comforting her father. I was inspired by the strength of her faith.

 

Before my father passed away, he requested that I play a list of his favorite songs on solo guitar.  However, I knew I would be overcome with emotion if I had to perform at the actual ceremony, so I pre-recorded the songs so that I would not have to perform it live. I did not have the strength of faith and poise of my godfather’s daughter. I could not do that!

 

Recently, a good friend of mine texted me an unusual question. He was preparing a song list and wondered if there was a song that best described him or our relationship. Admittedly, that question caught me off guard. Dozens of songs flitted through my mind but I kept returning to one. It is a song written and performed by Christian singer, Lauren Daigle. The words are deeply personal and each time I sing it, I choke up.

Lauren Daigle Performing Trust In You

 

I sang this song, “Trust In You,” many times when I used to lead worship at church, but only exceptionally was I able to complete the song without tearing up or haltingly stumble over the lyrics. I shared this song with my friend because its powerful lyrics reminded me of my frequent inability to trust God. For our relationship, I confessed to him that I would like nothing more than for him than to walk with God and trust Him at all times, desirous for him to avoid the many potholes that I have encountered. I shed tears when I sing this song because I realize how my frequent lapses of faith have caused me to take my eyes off of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

 

But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.

Psalms 13:5 (21st Century King James Version)

 

I cannot do it because I am attempting to do it alone. I take my eyes off of my Lord and Savior during stressful times. I need Jesus Christ, every moment of my life. 

 

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

 

Won’t Get Too Big (Proverbs 26:11)

The other day, I was conducting an internet search and stumbled across this short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Babylon Revisited.” Pleasant memories of my 8th-grade English class were re-kindled. As I re-read it, one memorable and favorite passage of mine reappeared and is reproduced below.

 

“–but all that’s over. As I told you, I haven’t had more than a drink a day for over a year, and I take that drink deliberately, so that the idea of alcohol won’t get too big in my imagination. You see the idea?”

“No,” said Marion succinctly.

“It’s a sort of stunt I set myself. It keeps the matter in proportion.”
“I get you,” said Lincoln. “You don’t want to admit it’s got any attraction for you.”
“Something like that. Sometimes I forget and don’t take it. But I try to take it. Anyhow, I couldn’t afford to drink in my position….”
Excerpted from “Babylon Revisited”, F. Scott Fitzgerald 

 

Charles Wales, the protagonist, is attempting to explain a peculiar ritual that he adopted as a recovering alcoholic. He would deliberately take one drink every day as a means to keep his habit in check. I vividly recall our English teacher explaining the circumstances of this short story. She admitted that it may be difficult for some of us to understand his actions. I agree. It took me many years to viscerally understand what the character was attempting to do. Even now, I think his choice is of dubious and questionable merit. Perhaps this behavior has been used successfully by some to address a damaging addiction, however, I do not think such a course of action would work for me.

 

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

Proverbs 26:11 (ESV)

 

There are many sins with which I continue to struggle. Nearly every time I fall victim to these sins, it is because I have placed myself in a situation that weakens my resolve and preys upon my vulnerability. I fail more often than I succeed. Unlike Charles Wales, if I deliberately placed myself in a situation that re-exposed me to my sin, it would exacerbate an already forlorn situation. I am a dog that returns to my own vomit, willing to repeat my folly. Perhaps this is why this story has resonated with me these many years. I never believed it was possible. 

 

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God deals with our sins in a very personal manner. There is no uniform approach. Some sins are gone forever, others linger and a few others may worsen. While it may be simplistic to blame God for my failures, the truth is my stubborn unwillingness to completely surrender my will to God and accept His direction for my life. Until I do, I will remain the hapless dog, repeating past sins. 

 

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

 

This Is God’s Country! (Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

In the summer of 1993, I loaded up my car and drove from Los Angeles to St. Louis where I was to begin my dermatopathology fellowship the following week. I meticulously planned the trip cognizant of the many scenic wonders I would pass along the way. In fact, for most of my journey, I would be traveling on historic route 66. 

 

Massive shadows concealed small animals, seeking shade from the desert sun. The glorious steppes gave way to plateaus, bathed in a kaleidoscope of colors powered by the setting sun. “This is God’s country!” I said to myself. The first day of driving was amazing eye candy as I stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona for the first evening. The second day took me across the rest of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, covering hundreds of miles of additional desert. As minutes melted into hours, the phrase, “This is God’s country!” had worn out its welcome mat with me. 

 

And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 (ESV)

It only took two days for me to lose interest in the beauty of God’s Creation and take it for granted. My spiritual life often parallels my fickleness. The countless blessings I have received from God have lulled me into a dangerous and foolish complacency. The passage from Deuteronomy is Moses speaking to the Hebrew people after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. In spite of God’s miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews, Moses warned them to always remember the blessings God bestowed upon them…lest you forget the Lord. In spite of this warning, the Hebrews soon took the blessings of God for granted and turned away from Him to follow after pagan gods and worship idols. 

 

When I am undergoing trials, I cry out, “Why God? Please help me!” When He does and I am blessed, I quickly forget the goodness of His grace and mercy in my life. I need to spend more time appreciating the magnificence and beauty of God’s Creation, lest I forget my Lord. 

 

This is God’s country, His entire Creation!

 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for always surrounding me with reminders of Your magnificence!

 

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

 

Zero Sum Game (Malachi 3:10)

In some regions in the United States, the laboratory business is divided between two major national reference laboratories. Motivated salespeople traverse their respective territories to visit physician offices, clinics, and hospitals, hoping to persuade the professionals to switch their loyalties from the other laboratory and join with theirs. Each laboratory does its best to malign the other, casting aspersions upon the credibility and reliability of their results. Ultimately, though, the decision usually rests upon pricing and the laboratory that can offer the lowest prices usually obtains the contract.  The stark reality is it is a zero-sum game, winning market share is only at the expense of the competitor. 

 

In business, competition with rivals sometimes appears to be a zero-sum game. Gaining market share is only at the expense of another rival but the entire pot remains the same. Life seems to be like this as well. Some feel we can only truly excel and prosper at the expense of another, making ourselves look good by pushing down another. What about our spiritual lives? Does following God mean we would have to give up too much of our independence? If God wins, do we lose? Like the rest of life, is a relationship with God a zero-sum game?

 

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Malachi 3:10 (ESV)

 

In God’s Kingdom, the opposite is true. The more we allow God to take over our life and finances, the greater His blessings will be upon us, literally opening the windows of Heaven. As we are become more generous and giving of our time and resources we grow, not at the expense of another but because the pot also grows. 

 

A relationship with God is not a zero-sum game, it is a limitless receiving of God’s love, grace and mercy!

 

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

 

Clap Clap Day (John 6:54)

The numerous parked cars framed the driveway of our neighbor’s home. As we drove past it, my father remarked to me, “Oh-oh! It’s clap clap day!”

 

I was only eight years old but was bemused by my father’s observation and thought he meant they were celebrating an event. “Is it someone’s birthday?” I naively asked.

 

“No,” my father explained. “Uncle Jake gets together with his family and friends and they pray.”

 

Uncle Jake was my father’s closest friend and my sister and I referred to him as “Uncle” as a term of endearment, very common amongst families in Hawaii. 

 

“Why do you call it ‘clap clap’ day?”

 

“When they get together to pray, they clap their hands a lot.”

 

I was confused. “Why don’t they pray in church?”

 

“They don’t go to church. They have a different religion and meet in Uncle Jake’s home.”

 

“How do you know this?”

 

“One day, I had to drop off something at his house and they were meeting. I heard them chanting and then they would clap once, chant, then clap again.”

 

Now I understood the meaning. Many years passed before I learned what religion Uncle Jake’s family believed. He and his wife were two of the kindest and most generous persons I knew and I hoped that someday I could learn some of the things they believed in because I wanted to be just like them. 

 

Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:54 (NKJV)

 

At a very early age, I learned about my uncle’s religion through a second-hand observation. While it initially sounded strange, I was willing to look beyond their traditions and recognize the change it produced in their lives. It is not difficult to conceive how one may hear things about Christians that upon first hearing, may seem peculiar. The Words of the Bible are often quoted out of context or misquoted. This verse taken from the Gospel of John is a record of Jesus Christ speaking to His disciples and the Jewish leaders of His day. Jesus was speaking metaphorically about how faith in God meant to solely rely upon God’s teaching as if it were our only true food and drink. Just before He died on the Cross, Jesus broke bread and shared a cup of wine with His disciples stating that it symbolically represented His Body, that would soon be broken for them, and His blood, that would be shed on their behalf. Jesus commanded His disciples that whenever they meet, they should partake of the wine and bread in remembrance of what Jesus did and to proclaim Jesus’ sacrifice until He returns to earth. Christians remember Jesus’ death and resurrection by the Holy Communion. A casual observer may hear of the Communion and charge that Christians literally eat the flesh and drink the blood of their god, practicing pagan rituals akin to a primitive tribe. 

 

Jesus Christ stated, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). There is truth in many religions and philosophies of the world and these beliefs should be respected and understood. But if one is searching for the Absolute Truth, it requires an earnest and deliberate investigation into what Jesus Christ proclaimed and the life He lived. All religions cannot be paths to the same God. Either Jesus Christ is God, who He claimed to be, or He is a liar or lunatic.

 

I pray that if you are searching for God and the Truth, you will seriously consider the claims of Jesus Christ. 

 

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

 

CBD (Matthew 16:13-16)

Mention CBD today and the most common reply is, “Oh! Do you like it?”

 

CBD is an acronym for cannabidiol, one of the non-psychoactive ingredients in cannabis, derived from the hemp plant. It is the current panacea for everything that can possibly afflict you, including depression, chronic pain, acne, and a weakened immune system. One wonders why this country and others have waited so long to legalize it.

 

Numerous internet websites have emerged selling the product in an expansive variety of permutations such as food additives, pills, and beverages. As people search for websites that can provide these products, many stumbled upon the website (www.cbd.com). Ironically, this is not a website that sells CBD products but a Christian bookstore. When the CBD craze ignited, their company and website were inundated with calls from customers believing that they had either placed an order for cannabis products or were desirous to do so. In response to the incessant requests, the company changed its name from CBD to Christian Books.com.

 

It is a classic case of mistaken identity. 

 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16 (ESV)

 

Why do people search for God? Some search for inner peace, others for the meaning for life, and still others search to find some cosmic forgiveness for a heinous act they have committed. If one is truly searching for God, it will only be a matter of time before one considers the claims of Jesus Christ and Christianity.

 

Jesus Christ is a great teacher and prophet. Even some of the people living in Jesus’ day thought this of Him. Yes, He was this but much more. Jesus Christ is God. He proved it by living a sinless life, completely obedient to God, His Father. He died on the Cross and was resurrected three days later, as He prophesied. He proved that He is God and that all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Him as their Lord and Savior will gain salvation and eternal life. 

 

Mistaken identity. 

 

In our search for God, we may mistake Jesus Christ for someone else, but Jesus Christ never left that option open to anyone who truly investigates the claims that He made for Himself. 

 

Jesus Christ is God.

 

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

 

No Compartmentalization (Genesis 2:15)

In college, I was introduced to dozens of professors who were the leading authorities in their respective fields of study. Novel ideas were ever-present and it was invigorating to listen to these lectures and then discuss the topics with my classmates. Every day was a cavalcade of the intelligentsia and if I desired, I could have experienced even more but was limited by my own course of studies. To this day, I still long to return to college and audit classes that I did not have time to attend.

 

As I trained to become a physician, the choices and ideas exponentially grew and I lamented, “How can I keep up with all this information?” As I was attempting to do so, it was at the expense of reading the Bible. I needed to reorient my priorities and bring my life into spiritual balance. At first, I committed to spending as much time reading the Bible as I did my professional journals. While this did increase my study time with the Bible, it seemed to be an artificial separation of my spiritual life and work responsibilities as my daily work was becoming increasingly disconnected from my worship life, including weekend worship.

 

Everyone possesses and requires specialized knowledge to perform their everyday tasks. A CPA needs to keep current with the latest tax codes. A mother needs to carefully monitor her children’s health looking for early signs of sickness or distress. These activities are work and need to be performed carefully and diligently or others may be harmed. Through our work, we serve others and directly serve God. There should be no distinction between our spiritual and vocational training and it should not be compartmentalized within one’s life. For myself and most people, work comprises the majority of our waking hours and seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in work is spiritual excellence. I needed to learn to integrate God’s Word with my work. I cannot have one at the expense of the other, both are inextricably linked. 

 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Genesis 2:15 (ESV)

 

God placed Adam and Eve to work in the Garden of Eden. There was no distinction in their work and worship of God. All of the prophets of the Bible served God through their work. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ stated this, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29 (ESV)

 

God’s commandment is clear. We are created to worship God and this worship must permeate every moment of our lives. Work is not a secular affair, it is worship and honors God when we place Him first. I cannot compartmentalize my work over my spiritual relationship with Him.

 

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV)

 

Amen!

 

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