Overthinking (1 Timothy 1:4)

My colleague, Jake, was slumped in his chair behind his desk. Usually bounding with the energy of a child on a sugar rush, his dejected facade was an unfamiliar sight. I cautiously approached his office and was joined by another of my colleagues. 


“Hey, Jake! What’s going on?” I asked with forced lightness.


“Hey…” His voice was thirty decibels lower than it usually projected. My other colleague bravely ventured a question. “You okay?”


Jake shook his head. “I didn’t pass my specialty boards.”


We were shocked. He was one of the most brilliant physicians we knew. Even at this early stage in his career, his knowledge and expertise in his specialty were so renowned, that medical directors of other hospitals often requested that he lecture at their conferences. How could this happen?


“I was overthinking.” he began. “Whenever I read a question, I would second-guess myself. I knew the obvious answer but then, when I looked at the other distractors, I would remember a recent article that discussed that possible exception. I wasn’t sure how current the examiners were so I struggled with my answers. Obviously, I made the wrong choices.”


We understood and attempted to reassure him. The next few weeks were challenging but by the next year, Jake retook the examination and easily passed. He re-oriented his thinking and approach to the examination to solely focus upon the most salient and commonly recognized facts in his specialty.


Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.

1 Timothy 1:4 (NLT)


When I was searching for God, I would often find myself distracted over trivial issues that emerged in my study of Christianity and the Bible. Was Cain’s wife his sister? Who were the Nephilim? Did dinosaurs exist when Adam and Even were created? As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter above, he instructed his protege, Timothy, to not waste his time over many questions that do not help one live a life of faith in God. His admonition speaks to my heart as well. I was overthinking Christianity, distracted by minutiae and obscure possibilities, when I needed to focus upon only one issue. I am a sinner and I needed to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Once I understood this, other minor details and meaningless speculations fell into place. 


We must all ponder the questions that Christianity raises about our existence, but in the end, the only question that truly matters is what God asks of all of us, “What will you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?”


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


“Are You Upset With Me?” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

“Hey John, have a good weekend!” My father waved at the man who was locking his office, two doors down the hall from my father’s office. 


“You too, George!” came the affable reply. 


I was home from college during my summer break and was working in my father’s dental office. As we were leaving, I was shocked to hear him speak in such a friendly tone to John, the dentist, down the hall. I waited until we got into the car and in the privacy of the moment, asked my father, “Dad! I thought you couldn’t stand that dentist?”


My father thoughtfully nodded and smiled. “I know.” My father paused for a few seconds, carefully choosing his words. “I was wrong.”


I was confused. “What do you mean?”


My father continued. “For years I thought he was angry with me. I didn’t know why. He was very successful so I thought maybe he was jealous or upset that I started a dental practice a few years after he began, right next door to him. A few months ago, I had enough and walked next door and confronted him. When he came to his front office, I asked him, ‘Are you upset with me?’ “


“What did he say?”


“He was shocked. He looked at me for a few seconds then said, ‘No! I thought you were upset with me!’ He then invited me into his office and we spoke for a few minutes. We learned that both of us had allowed a misunderstanding by a mutual third party to poison our relationship.” My father was now smiling. “We get together every Thursday morning for breakfast.”


I was pleased that my father had reconciled with his neighbor. A short time later, I experienced a similar scenario. In college, I had a classmate with whom I shared several classes. For unknown reasons, I thought he didn’t like me. It came to a head one afternoon when he and I both found ourselves alone in the small department library, for which we shared a class. We shared an uncomfortable and perfunctory “hello” and then proceeded to busy ourselves with our respective research projects. It was icy and definitely uncomfortable and I quickly attempted to complete my research so that I could make a hasty exit. Before I could, he unexpectedly confronted me. “Are you upset with me?”


I was flabbergasted. “What?”


“Are you upset with me?” He repeated.


I didn’t know if this was a trick or he was setting me up but I managed to blurt out, “No. I thought you were upset with me?”


“I’m not. I just don’t understand why you always treat me like you don’t like me.”


I nodded in agreement. “I feel the same way.”


We looked at each other and realized how puerile our actions had been. After an hour of discussion, we understood the misunderstanding that led to our estrangement and we shook hands, smiled, and remained good friends for the rest of our college years. Like father, like son, I suppose, but I suspect this scenario is more commonly played out than most people would care to admit. 


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (ESV)


If I were to spend the rest of my life studying 1 Corinthians 13, living out the meaning of truly loving others, it would be a very fulfilling life. There are so many beautiful descriptions of love in action. There are also important admonitions and one that is at the heart of these two experiences is love is not irritable or resentful. In other words, love does not jump to conclusions about the intentions and heart of another. I am frequently guilty of this sin and these two incidents are painful reminders of how easy it is to slip into this mindset.


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


Shortcut (1 Samuel 9:15-16)

“This is our freshman fellowship group!”


Three colorful photographs arrived in my email with this description. I quickly spied my daughter’s smiling face amongst the dozens of other college students. She was sharing an update from her college Christian fellowship group’s early Thanksgiving dinner. She was clearly enjoying herself and making new friends but just a few weeks earlier, she was still searching for a place on or near campus where she could meet and worship with other Christians. One evening, she excitedly called me with news about this group. 


“How did you meet this group?” I asked her at the time.


“It was by chance. Instead of the usual path to my classes, I took a shortcut. As I was walking, I met another student who was handing out flyers to their Christian fellowship group and they invited me to join. Dad! They meet at 2 PM on Sunday afternoons!”


Great! Perfect time for a weekly church service for sleep-deprived college students! I was excited to hear her share about her recent encounter. “Have you made any friends?”


“I met this woman who is one of the leaders. She’s married and lives a block away from campus. She has been texting and encouraging me and we’ve had some meetings at her home. She’s really nice.”


For over a year beginning in her senior year in high school, I had been praying that when my daughter begins college, God would lead her to a Bible-believing Christian fellowship and meet another Christian sister who would be a friend and mentor to her on the college campus. In a dramatic fashion, God was answering both prayers. All it took was a shortcut to lead to a chance meeting. 


Thousands of years earlier, a young man named Saul was searching for his father’s lost donkeys. He wandered for several days, with no direction, hopeful that he would somehow find the missing animals. Unknownst to him, God had prepared a greater purpose for his seemingly aimless journey.


Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.”

1 Samuel 9:15-16 (ESV)


God directed Saul to meet the Prophet Samuel whom God had chosen to anoint Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul wandered aimlessly searching for his father’s lost donkeys. My daughter took a different route to her classes. Both met God and were blessed. Chance meeting? Coincidence?


With God, there are no chance meetings or coincidences. There are only divine appointments orchestrated by His Providence! God loves to bless His children by drawing them closer to Him through unexpected circumstances. 




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


“Hold This!” (Proverbs 5:3-5)

“Come here Son, I want you to hold something.”


I was studying in my father’s dental office after catching the bus from school. I was intrigued since my father always shared something interesting from his office, like models of jaws and teeth that he would show to his patients. My interest was piqued as I approached him in the operatory. 


“Here! Hold this!”


He poured a liquid into my palm. It wasn’t more than an ounce but it felt far heavier. The silver glob had an iridescent sheen as the sunlight shone upon it through the window. Quivering and jiggling, I was befuddled over what I was holding. “What is it, Dad?”


“It’s mercury! It is an element that is a liquid at room temperature.”




“Now let it roll around in your palm and reach your fingers.” As I was about to do this, my father placed a small container under my hand. The liquid metal quickly found its path through my joined fingers and escaped into the container below. “Whoa!” I exclaimed. “I can’t even hold it!”


My father smiled. “That’s why it is also called Quicksilver.”


“Can I take it home?” I naively asked. I definitely wanted to explore this strange metal and show it to my friends. 


“Unfortunately no. It is poisonous and you have to wash your hands very thoroughly.”

Of course, everyone knows that mercury is highly toxic. In the 1960s and, to a much lesser extent, today, mercury was used by dentists to make an amalgam with silver to use with fillings. In this combination, it is relatively safe, but alone, mercury can be toxic to the central nervous system, especially after prolonged exposure. As I dutifully washed my hands, I reflected upon my experience. How could something so cool be so dangerous?


For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil.

But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.

Proverbs 5:3-5 (NLT)


Whether it is an adulterous affair, financial sleight of hand to evade taxes, or slandering another to advance one’s own position and status, sin deceives, beguiles, and distorts reality. It is enticing, exciting, even exhilarating as it seduces our minds and sensibilities into believing this short term pleasure can lead to long term fulfillment. But like the mercury which I attempted to hold in my hand, it is elusive, slippery, and ultimately poisons and destroys us. The only result is death and the grave.


How could something so cool be so dangerous?


We need to cling to the promises that Jesus Christ gave to all who confess and repent of their sins and place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Only then will we able to recognize the true and sinister danger of sin, masquerading as something cool and desirable. 


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


“If You’re Not Dead, You’re Winning.” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

My cancer patient was sitting across from me, as we shared a cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria. It was now one year since the experimental chemotherapy she had received had resulted in complete remission of her cancer. It was not without side effects and she still had a hand tremor. She observed me looking at her shaking hands and bluntly commented, “If you’re not dead, you’re winning.”

I nodded in agreement. Her course had been very challenging and twice in the past year, she was hospitalized and near death as the side effects of the treatment wrecked its toll upon her body. It was not the first time I heard a patient tell me this. In fact, for many cancer patients, this is a rallying cry and a shared bond, supporting one another and helping each afflicted patient to weather the brutal and painful treatments designed to eradicate cancer or at least mitigate its growth. It is a new lease on life. It is perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. But if we continue to live, what do we do with these additional days of life? For these fortunate cancer patients, the goal is not dying. Yet, we will all die, whether from cancer or another cause. If we are truly winning, is there a better, imperishable goal?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

1 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

There is no way to truly win in this life, unless it is a new and different life, one that does not end with death, but how can this happen? There is hope and God provides the answer. All who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will be born again into a new life, an imperishable one through the Holy Spirit sanctifying and regenerating our souls. 

Cancer patients need to cling and rejoice in each day their cancer does not rob them of their lives. But only, when we die to our own selves and accept a new life, reborn as children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, will we be able to truly win. This is salvation and eternal life with God.

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

The Great Flood (Psalms 46:1)

It was 4 PM and I was returning home with my mother from school. I was seven years old and looking forward to meeting up with my friends to ride our skateboards. As we turned into our driveway, a peculiar sight greeted us. Water was seeping through space under our front door and emerging from our garage. Confused and startled, my mother opened the front door and a flood of water cascaded upon both of us. The entire house was flooded; the culprit was a broken toilet tank and the water was still gushing.


Standing in our home, we were ankle-deep in water. My books and board games were drenched, useless. Carpet, furniture, bedding-all soaked. I turned to my mother but she was inconsolable, softly sobbing. When my father came home a few hours later, he had already spoken to my mother on the phone. He silently held her, without saying a word. I didn’t understand everything that was happening, but I knew one thing, I was scared. My parents, the people to whom I would usually turn to for reassurance, could not give it to me. There was no one else to whom I could turn. It was my family’s version of the great flood and at that time, I saw no hope. 


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Psalms 46:1-3 (ESV)


Even during the Great Flood, God provided hope and did not abandon Noah and his family. There were no other humans alive on the planet, just the eight of them. I can imagine the fear and horror as they witnessed the flood drown all of their friends and every land animal. Perhaps there were even people banging on the doors of the ark, desperate for shelter, as the waters covered the land. Did this Psalm echo the horror of this time, as waters covered even the highest mountain tops? In the midst of this fear and horror, there was hope. God was there, a refuge, strength, and help in times of greatest need.


Who was I to turn to when my rocks of comfort and strength were crumbling? Many years would pass before I had my answer. On my bed in my dormitory room in my sophomore year in college, in fear and frustration, I called out to God. He answered me when no one else could and forgave my sins, giving me peace and comfort. At that moment, I knew, for the first time in my life, that no matter the flood of personal trials or devastating natural disasters, God is our only hope.


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




Politics Supplants Justice (Luke 22:63-65)

A sad commentary in our country is that politics usually wins over justice. How many times have we seen our citizen’s civil rights suspended or even ignored to appease and fulfill a political agenda? The dishonest deals with native Americans to seize their lands, the despicable treatment of African-Americans and racial segregation, and the complete suspension of the rights of Japanese-American citizens during World War II-all of these are sordid examples of politics supplanting justice.


President John Adams succinctly stated, “We are a nation of laws, not of men.”  When a nation subverts its own laws for political expediency, democracy and liberty are the casualties and justice is mocked. Do I feel indignant? Absolutely! It happened within the United States. It happened nearly two thousand years ago in Jerusalem.


As Jesus Christ was paraded in front of the Jewish leaders, his rights that were legally granted to Him as a fellow Jew were suspended to expedite the political maneuvering of the Jewish leaders to allow them to deliver him over to the Roman authorities. It was a kangaroo court that led to His conviction, torture, and execution on the Cross. He willingly endured these humiliating and denigrating scenes to fulfill God’s purpose for all of us, to reconcile our lost souls to God.


Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.

Luke 22:63-65 (ESV)


Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:27-31 (ESV)


It was against Jewish law to try Jesus in the evening and early morning hours before sunrise, preventing anyone from testifying on His behalf. A capital offense trial could not begin on the day before a major Sabbath or any Sabbath. The entire trial took nine hours which violated the law which stated that any sentence of death could not be carried out on the same day it was issued since the court was required to allow any additional witnesses to testify on behalf of the accused.  Even the judges had bribed Judas to betray Him. It did not matter that Jesus spoke the Truth and He was the Messiah they had been expecting. The Jewish leaders hated and feared Jesus because He threatened their power and authority. 


Someday, Jesus Christ will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and will rule over this earth during the Millenium. It will be the first time in the history of the world that a ruler will have absolute power and be completely just. This is the way that God intends His Kingdom to be established on this earth. No more political maneuvering or supplanting, only the justice of God.


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



Keeping Up With The Joneses (Genesis 17:19-20)

Keeping up with the Joneses. 


In generations gone by, this aphorism was meant to judge one’s success by comparing social status and material possessions with your neighbor generically referred to as the Joneses. To be successful meant to equal or surpass the Joneses. If they had a new car, you had to get one, bigger and more luxurious. Anything less was a failure.  The 21st-century tongue in cheek adaptation may be “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”. 


Socioeconomic disparities are very easy to recognize in our broken world. There are politicians who prey on these disparities, weaponizing it and fomenting strife, alleging that any success or wealth is ill-gotten and therefore, must be redistributed to everyone, regardless of whether they are capable of working or are willing to work to earn it. Some even point out the disparities that exist between Israel and its Arab neighbors is yet another manifestation of the same problem. It is simplistic to attribute all disparities to exploitation. The reasons are complex and require a willingness to look beyond the current state of affairs and seek a broader understanding. 


In the Bible, Ishmael was Abraham’s first son, but he was not chosen by God to be in the line of His chosen people, the Hebrews. This blessing would come through Isaac, his stepbrother. God by His sovereign will choose Isaac over Ishmael. Yet, Ishmael was still blessed by God and he became the patriarch of the modern Arabs. 


God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.”

Genesis 17:19-20 (ESV)


God chose the Hebrews to be the keepers of His Covenant. Some critics have pointed out that this demonstrates that God is a capricious Being, arbitrarily deciding who will prosper, but this would be shortsighted. God did not forsake all other nations at the expense of Israel. He intended that all nations would be blessed through them. Although the middle east has not yet realized the full blessings of God, someday Israel and its Arab neighbors will be united, recognizing their common inheritance through Abraham. It is a beautiful plan that requires a willingness to go beyond the current disparities and troubles of the region and seek ties that bind, rather than differences that unravel.


…and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Genesis 22:18 (ESV)


God continues His blessings through all who confess and repent of their sins and accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior. If through God’s grace and mercy, we have been saved through faith and belief in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have a solemn responsibility to care for our neighbors in all socioeconomic levels.


We do not need to keep up with the Joneses. Our success is only measured by how we respond to God’s grace and mercy in our lives. There are socioeconomic disparities in this fallen world. Will we, who have been saved by the undeserved grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, use God’s blessings in our lives to bring salt and light to a fallen world, or will we look away and passively allow others to foment strife and prey upon these differences?


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


“It’s Natural, Man!” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Many years ago in Hawaii, I attended a neighborhood church. One Sunday morning, I was surprised to find two visitors, casually lounging on the lawn in front of the church entrance. Most of the regular church members politely nodded and exchanged perfunctory pleasantries as they passed by. As I approached, I wondered if they wanted to worship with us. 


“Good morning!” I said. 


“Good morning, Brother!” Both of the men extended their hands in greeting. 


“Would the two of you like to join us in church this morning?”


“Yes, that would be cool!” They lit a joint and were sharing it with each other. The familiar sickeningly sweet scent permeated the air. “Here, have some.”


I politely declined. “No thanks, but I appreciate the offer.” This was 1983, long before marijuana was legal. Sensing my hesitation, they both chimed in, “It’s natural, man! God provided it for us!”


I nodded. Yes, so is strychnine, that doesn’t mean it is safe or legal for us to use it, I thought to myself. “Well, you are welcome to join us for worship, but there is no smoking inside the church.”


“No problem, man!” As they finished the joint, the two of them joined me as we entered the church sanctuary. The congregation uneasily eyed the three of us as we sat down in an empty pew. Thankfully, the rest of the service was uneventful and the two thanked me and left. I never saw them again.


It is regrettable how some people will twist God’s Word to make it align with their own values. God gives His children great freedom to exercise their faith. However, all faith must be grounded in the Word of God. There is nothing in the Bible that states that if it is natural then God has given it to us to freely use it with abandon. Furthermore, God also commands all believers to obey the laws and authorities of the land as long as it does not contradict His Word.


For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)


We must be responsible stewards of God’s Word and not use it to cater to our carnal passions. God’s Word is perfect and internally consistent. It is never contradictory and will not direct us to sin or disobey His commands.


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


“If It Is Good Enough for Jake…” (Hebrews 11:36-38)

Several years ago, my family treated me to a wonderful surprise birthday gift. Knowing my love of smoking meats, they purchased a day-long lesson with a great pitmaster, Jake, who lives in a nearby city. It was a wonderful experience and I gleaned invaluable cooking tips from this master of the smoker. My family knew I would enjoy this experience because for months, I had been following his social media blogs and recommendations. In fact, nearly all of the equipment that I purchased is because he uses it in competition and for every day cooking. I have never been disappointed by emulating his choices. As I have stated to many friends, “If it is good enough for Jake, it is good enough for me!” 


Let’s turn this statement around.


What if I knew of someone who suffered a great deal because of the choices he made to live his life? Would I be so willing to say the same and emulate his choices? If I knew someone who had been imprisoned and tortured for what they believed in, no matter how noble the cause, would I enthusiastically endorse their choices and state that it was good enough for them, it would be good enough for me?


Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Hebrews 11:36-38 (ESV)


The author of the Book of Hebrews gives a sobering account of the great saints of God who led lives of great suffering. Why would anyone willingly choose a life of persecution, hardship, torture, and even death? God gives us the answer in the next two verses.


And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:39-40 (ESV)


These saints suffered because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith allowed them to see beyond their present circumstances and embrace the promise of a better life, through continual fellowship with God through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ. If it is good enough for the saints of God who gave their lives for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for me.


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