Happy New Year? (Psalms 20:4)

“Happy New Year!”


The greetings had quickly switched from “Happy Holidays!” to “Happy New Year!” as soon as Christmas passed. Of course, the politically correct police and woke crowd has averred that the phrase “Merry Christmas!” is offensive and insensitive to non-Christians so the generic “Happy Holidays!” is now used.


But what about “Happy New Year!”? Surely this could not offend? Much to my dismay, I soon learned if one does not follow the Gregorian calendar, most commonly used in Western countries, it may be deemed insensitive to wish someone a happy new year when their new year abides by a different calendar and timeline. Just to cite a few examples, there are Chinese, Jewish, Persian and Islam calendars-all celebrating different a different new year.


I am stymied! Even wishing someone a happy new year can be deemed offensive. It is quite likely that nothing anyone can ever say or do that will be inflammatory to someone. My sentiment and I suspect the vast majority of others who state this are simply wishing happiness for the recipient in the coming new year. Yet, the intention, however noble, is misconstrued and buried under the banner of inclusiveness. What is next? No wishing someone a “Happy Birthday”?


It is increasingly difficult to socially navigate the numerous cultural and ethnic road signs, some of which may give contradictory messages. It is important for everyone to be inclusive and sensitive to all traditions and religions. Over thousands of years, humankind’s pathways have diverged but there is one common link. We are all descended from the same ancestors, Adam and Eve. Whether we chose to acknowledge this Truth does not change this fact. 


May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!

Psalms 20:4 (ESV)


God created us and desires to bless us, exceedingly and abundantly, for every new year and for eternity. God does this in many ways but the plan that He desires for all is to confess and repent of our sins and accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior. This is the message that I want to send to all who are willing to listen. 


For whatever day you celebrate it…Happy New Year!


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


Cover Band (Philippians 3:17)

“Day Tripper!”


The lead singer of our band called out the familiar Beatles tune. I immediately launched into the infectious lead guitar line that permeates the entire song. I was gigging in a cover band, performing songs that the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and other rock and roll acts of the sixties and seventies. To the best of our abilities, we sought to recreate the nuances of the songs, even using some of the same types of musical instruments and electronic effects that were used in that fabled era. It was our intention and hope, of course, that our audience would think they were hearing the original. 


Oscar Wilde stated, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Although this statement may seem to denigrate the imitator, there is an element of truth. Whether it is in a cover band, a writer, or an artist, we do imitate and emulate those whom we admire. In so doing, we learn from the masters and hopefully create our own style. Is there a spiritual parallel? Should we emulate our pastors? Should we learn to preach sermons like the Apostles Paul and Peter?


Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Philippians 3:17 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul wrote this passage to encourage believers in the city of Philippi. Lest we may think that Paul was issuing a vainglorious statement, he clarifies and defines his objective in another letter.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul wanted others to emulate him in the same manner that He surrendered his entire identity to be like His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He wanted to decrease so that Jesus would increase. Like performing in a cover band, should we emulate our spiritual heroes, like Paul and other great saints of the faith? Yes, but only when we acknowledge that in doing so, we are emulating the true original, Jesus Christ. He is totally God, totally Man, and the Creator of the universe.




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


Six Hours? (Luke 2:25-26)

My daughter and her friends were giggling with excitement as I drove them to the concert arena. She had purchased the tickets over six months ago and the anticipation for the event had been exponentially growing with each passing day.


“Hurry Dad! We have to get to the concert arena at noon because we have to get in line. They are only allowing two hundred people in the pit and we need to be in that group.” She excitedly peered out the car window observing the small crowd that was gathering by the security guards. 


“And what time does the concert start?’’


“It starts at 8 PM and they begin letting everyone in at 630 PM.”


“So you will be waiting for over six hours?” I groaned and dismissively shook my head.


“Dad! We need to do this if we want a spot in the pit!”


“I got it, sweetheart!” I smiled and quickly dispelled my dour mood, not wishing to dampen her enthusiasm. “No problem, we’ll make it!” 


After six hours of standing in line, they would stand for another five hours at the concert. How long would I be willing to wait for an event? An hour, a few hours? I have waited in line for over an hour to sample the delicacies of a famous bakery or a food truck. For an event that is worthy, the time of waiting is often insignificant, yet six hours seemed a bit excessive for me.


But would I wait for a lifetime?


Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Luke 2:25-26 (ESV)


And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.

Luke 2:36-37 (ESV)


In his gospel, Dr. Luke mentions these two interesting individuals, waiting in the temple, on the day that the baby Jesus arrived to be dedicated to God by his parents. God had promised both of them that they would someday see the promised Messiah. How many years each waited is uncertain, but for Anna, it may have easily been more than fifty years. 


Did Simeon and Anna entertain doubts about God’s promise as they waited at the temple every day? Months melded into years, yet both remained steadfast and their patience and faith were rewarded by God who directed them to the temple to meet their Savior, Jesus Christ. If I was in their place and God promised me that I would meet my Savior, I am sure I would be excited and eager to come to the temple every day. But would I have the same enthusiastic faith after a few weeks? What about a year or ten years? My faith would undoubtedly waver and falter and I would miss meeting my Savior because of my lack of patience and trust in God. What a tragedy! 


Thanks be to God that we never have to wait for an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ. On Christmas morning over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was born. God’s grace and mercy showed us the way to reconcile the relationship between Himself and mankind that was broken by sin.  All who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will immediately receive salvation and eternal life. 


There is no more waiting!


Jesus is Immanuel. God is with us!


I pray that the true blessings and gifts of Christmas will be received by everyone through faith and belief in Jesus Christ. 


Merry Christmas!


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



Voice Of Reason (Acts 5:38-39)

I shook my head as I read of yet another attack on free speech. Instigated by conservatives, liberals, progressives, and all shades within the political, religious, and socioeconomic spectrum, attacks have occurred under the ostensible banner of free speech. The truth is a distorted version of this with each side averring inclusiveness but rejecting opinions that oppose their own belief system. Our nation and the world have never been more divided, or has it? 


The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.

G.K. Chesterton as quoted in Illustrated London News, 19 April 1924.


This cynical quotation from English theologian, G.K. Chesterton, was made over a hundred years ago. Chesterton was renowned for his turn of phrases and his insight still has relevance for today. What was needed then and now, is a voice of reason. 


Over two thousand years ago, the city of Jerusalem experienced a similar crisis. The Jewish leaders were afraid of losing control of their ruling power to an upstart and radical group called Christians. Yet, even after punishing the Apostles by beating and imprisoning them, and warning them to never speak about Jesus Christ again, it only emboldened them to declare the Truth of Resurrection. What could they do? The Apostles were even rejoicing that they were worthy to suffer for the sake of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 


Gamaliel was a voice of reason in this very chaotic time as the nascent Christian Church was being established in the first century A.D. He recounted two other recent heretics who attempted to stir up the people and lead them away from the Jewish leaders. However, after both of them were killed, their movements perished with them. He then offered this sage advice to his fellow Jews. 


So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice…

Acts 5:38-39 (ESV)


Did Gamaliel see a glimmer of Truth in the message of the Gospel? Did Gamaliel ever become a believer in Jesus Christ? History does not record this. However, one of his disciples did, Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a fervent persecutor of the early Christian believers, imprisoning many as heretics to the Jewish faith. At the height of the persecution, Saul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and was instantly transformed and converted to Christianity, becoming the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary and defender of the Christian faith of the known world in the first century. 


Undoubtedly Paul gained much wisdom from his mentor, Gamaliel. He recognized early divisions in the Church and adroitly reasoned with the Believers to seek Jesus Christ rather than their own interests. He confidently and boldly declared…


There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 (ESV)


In today’s politically charged and polarized environment, we need calm and sober voices of reason to address the issues that divide us. Like the Apostle Paul, we need to seek and embrace what binds us together rather than being distracted by the differences that divide us. Regardless of our cultures, religions, and socioeconomic status, God has created all of us and is desirous for all to be reconciled with Him through faith and belief in His Son, Jesus Christ. 


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


Too Nice (John 11:35)

There is a resurgence in the popularity of the television icon, Mr. Rogers, with the recent release of a biopic starring actor Tom Hanks, entitled, “It’s A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood.” While past episodes are easily found in a variety of media formats, there have been recent postings of special episodes. While many of us are familiar with the trademark sweater and warm welcoming song that Fred Rogers would greet millions of viewers, this episode was different. It was broadcast right after the tragic assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968. 




His sensitivity and willingness to deal with an issue that many were uncomfortable or unwilling to face at that time was unprecedented. He was speaking to both children and their parents and millions were grateful for his courage and compassion. Throughout the more than thirty years the show aired, he never wavered or detoured from his message of love and acceptance for everyone. He ended each show with the same quotation, “You always make each day a special day. You know how: by just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can, like you, be just exactly the way you are. I’ll be back next time. Bye-bye!” In a chaotic and confusing world, generations of children and adults found acceptance in a very personal relationship that transcended the impersonal television screen.


After he passed away, someone anonymously posted, “Mister Rogers didn’t die. God just needed a neighbor.” Although I, like many children of my generation and the ones that followed, watched the original television show, I was never a fan. He was too nice. No one could be this nice and gentle.


Perhaps this is why it was very difficult for me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I could not believe or fathom a God who cared for me in a very personal manner and wanted to have a personal relationship with me. This is Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe. Why would He even care about my needs? When I read the following verse recorded in the Gospel of John, I could not believe it. God could not be this nice and gentle. Why would God weep over the tomb of someone who died?


Jesus wept.

John 11:35 (ESV)


Why indeed? Jesus was weeping not only for his friend, but He was weeping for all of us. He wept for the pain and suffering that accompanies death. He wept because of the horror of death that separates loved ones from one another. But most of all, He wept for the eternal separation that death causes, rupturing any possibility to restore a relationship with God that was broken by sin. But instead of leaving us to drown in our sorrows, He acted. In the greatest act of compassion and courage in all creation, Jesus willingly laid down His life on the Cross. He took the penalty of the sins of all mankind upon His broken Body and reconciled us to God. He died for us even when I and others rejected Him.


Too nice? 


I was too immature to understand or appreciate such deep and profound love, whether it came from Mr. Rogers or Jesus Christ. 


I still am.


Thanks be to God for His grace and mercy to me who loved me so much, that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be my Lord and Savior.  


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



Multiple Choice Test (John 1:29)

If I gave a multiple-choice test to a complete stranger and asked them the following question, what would be the correct answer?


Which of the following statements is true?

  1. Hawaii does not have an airport
  2. Wild kangaroos live in the forest of one of the main islands
  3. Poi is an inedible building material
  4. All native Hawaiians live in grass huts


As incredible as it may seem, the true answer is B. Wild kangaroos still live in the Kalihi valley on the island of Oahu. Although I have never seen them, my medical school classmate photographed one during a trek through the remotest part of the valley. Several kangaroos arrived in the early 1900s as part of a private zoo. Unfortunately, they escaped but two managed to survive and breed. Today, the population is estimated to be at least 75. 


Behold, the kangaroos of Kalihi valley! A true fact!


Now, how about another multiple-choice test.


Which of the following statements is true?

  1. God was born as a human baby to a young virgin woman
  2. God was hungry and tired after a long journey
  3. God bled and died, executed as a common criminal
  4. God’s hands and feet were pierced and the side of his chest has a spear wound


The answer is all. 


If I had to create a story about God, I would create an omnipotent Being that would eliminate all of His enemies. He would have no weaknesses and nothing could ever hurt Him or cause Him discomfort. Instead, God revealed Himself in the most unexpected manner. God loved us so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile me and all of humanity to Him. We are all hopelessly lost in our sins and utterly incapable by our own efforts to restore the perfect relationship with God, shattered by sin. God knows this and took the initiative to do this, saving us only by His grace and mercy. 


…Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John 1:29 (ESV)


A true fact!


The virgin birth, hunger, pain, suffering, and execution. The truth is more amazing than anyone would have ever believed! A true fact!


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



“I Can’t Eat That!” (Hebrews 11:13)

It was 1982 and I was spending the week-long spring break of my sophomore year in college doing missions work in the inner city of a major American urban center. I joined three other college classmates, all Christians. Two of them had been on many previous short term mission trips. The third was like me, on our first missions trip. We were sponsored by a church located in the heart of the inner city.


From the time we arrived, things did not go smoothly. We were living in a men’s shelter and its current occupants definitely did not appreciate a group of privileged college students barging into their living area, forcing them to give up more space in already cramped living quarters. They were not all Christians and several of them were quite hostile to the Gospel. One remarked that we were there just to relieve our own guilt by trying to help the homeless. “Go back to your own homes! Why are you moving into ours?”


Perhaps the defining moment that crystallized the difficulties came when we were invited to dinner by one of the families in the church. Ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes-it was an amazing and extravagant spread. As the dishes were passed around, I was grateful for a seeming pause in the negativity we had received to that point. The respite was broken by the brusque statement of my classmate.


“I can’t eat that!” 


He summarily declared as he pushed the bowl of biscuits away from him and proceeded to grab two pieces of lettuce and slapped a piece of turkey meat between it. We all stared in horror as he ate this odd sandwich, oblivious to his discourteous actions. It was only several years later when I was a medical student, did I understand that my classmate had a sensitivity to gluten, also known as celiac sprue disease. Unfortunately, this was 1982 and food sensitivities to gluten were not as widely known as today. The church family struggled between acting politely and not letting their resentment show toward him and our missionary group.


It was my first missionary journey, my first time living in the inner city, and my first encounter with gluten sensitivity. It was a mere two months after I first accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. What was I expecting? Wouldn’t God open every door on the missions field and allow me to triumphantly walk through them? Wouldn’t I be received with open arms by all whom I met? Wouldn’t I be motivated to become a missionary and change my career path? Unfortunately, this first experience tainted my impressions of missionary work for many years. I was a new Christian and my thoughts were still ringing with the charge of Jesus Christ and His Great Commission. Why did events turn out the way it did?


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)


In the Great Commission quoted above, Jesus does not promise that everyone we meet will accept Him as Lord and Savior. He simply states to “go” and seek to make disciples of all nations. Regardless of the outcome, He is with us to the end of time. The great Saints of the Bible understood this and are praised for their steadfast faith, being committed to living a life that could look ahead to the promises of God that may not be fulfilled in their own lifetimes. 


All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Hebrews 11:13 (NIV)


It took me many years to learn this lesson. I was focused upon tangible results that our missions trip would bear, but this is not what God promises us. Jesus sends all of us as missionaries to bring light into a world of darkness. The light shines on everyone but not all are willing to accept it. I pray that God will continue to work in the hearts and souls of all who hear the Good News of Jesus Christ to repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is the work of the missionary.


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



Thanksgiving? (Ephesians 4:31-32)

“Father, I thank You for the opportunity to come together with friends and family on this Thanksgiving day. I pray these blessings in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”


As I concluded saying grace, I surveyed our dining table covered with food and surrounded by my friends and family. Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite. What could be more special than gathering friends and family and sharing a meal to give thanks for the blessings in our lives? Regardless of one’s religious or cultural upbringing, surely this is one holiday that can unite rather than divide us?


My idealism was quickly shattered. The politically correct pundits and social revisionists were out in full force on social media in the days surroundingThanksgiving. I spent time reading their posted links detailing the origins of Thanksgiving and the facts are, indeed, much darker than most Americans know or are willing to admit. However, after reading these sordid accounts, I paused to reflect upon the meaning of the day for me. When I gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am not celebrating the injustices that may have occurred, nor am I condoning any atrocities that may have been committed, I am celebrating the blessings that God has bestowed upon me and those whom I love. The contemporary message is love, but some cannot let go of the dark origins and this overshadows any positive benefits and blessings of the day.


Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)


If we continue to dwell on the past sins that we and others have committed, we will be forever mired in a continual state of unforgiveness. We will be negative, pessimistic people, incapable of escaping our past and doomed to relive our failures. 


Thanksgiving may have had sinister origins but the message for today is to be thankful to God for His blessings in our lives. I honor the memory of those who unjustly suffered from the origins of Thanksgiving, but I chose to celebrate the blessings of God and rejoice in His message of love and peace for all. I choose forgiveness through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. 


Happy thanksgiving for each and every day we live for God!


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



“It Wasn’t My Fault!” (Psalms 51:3-4 )

The debonair young man sat in front of me, resplendent in a designer suit, his brown hair neatly combed, slicked with mousse. He was unlike most dermatology residency applicants who usually were at the top academic ranking of their medical school class. Although his evaluations in his dermatology rotations were excellent, his overall record was checkered at best. However, our residency admissions committee wanted to give him the benefit of doubt and earnestly desired to hear his story and explanation.


“Tell me about what happened with the first time you took your national board examinations after your second year in medical school.”


“I failed the first part of my national board examinations because of a family crisis, my mother was sick. I had to take a red-eye flight from my home and I took the exam that morning. I was sleep-deprived.”


I nodded. “And what about the second time?”


“I was sick.”


He had an answer for everything, I sighed. I continued with the interview. “Your evaluation in OB-GYN was not very flattering. What happened there?”


He shook his head. “The professor who was my main preceptor took a leave of absence half-way through the rotation. I was doing well but the attending who took over did not know me and we did not get off to a good start. It wasn’t my fault!”


I listened in disbelief at his explanations. For every major failure that was highlighted on his application, he refused to take ownership that he may have been at fault. It was always someone else or circumstances beyond his control. In spite of his glowing recommendations in dermatology, he was immature and arrogant. The admissions committee ultimately rejected him.


For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

Psalms 51:3-4 (NLT)


For years, I was like this applicant. I refused to take ownership of my own sins, my own faults, and failures. I would blame others, blame the circumstances, but never blame myself. Only when I was humbled and brought to my knees, willing to face up to my own sins, my shortcomings, and take responsibility for my actions, could my life change. But a complete change could not come by my own efforts, I needed a supernatural intervention. Only by confessing and repenting of my sins and accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior would I be able to recognize that I was sinning against God and only to Him did I need to ask forgiveness. 


“It wasn’t my fault!” 


It never was until Jesus Christ changed my heart.


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



“Here I Am!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Several years ago, I was following on social media the patriarch of a family whose daughter was a good friend and classmate of my daughter. I knew he was a devout Christian from many of his postings and because he was an excellent amateur photographer, he frequently updated his postings with quality photographs that far exceeded the usual selfies that were regularly posted on these sites.


One day, there was an unusual post, no photographs, just a long narrative. He shared the sad news that he was just let go from his job of the past twenty years. His wife did not work and he had two young children to support. With no immediate job prospects, he ended with a solemn, “God, here I am. Send me!”


And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:8 (ESV)


My friend was quoting the Prophet Isaiah and in this context, God asked who would deliver the message of hope and light to the lost people of Israel. It was a daunting and unenviable task and likely one that may not even be completed within Isaiah or anyone’s lifetime. Yet, emboldened by his strong faith in God, Isaiah volunteered for the task, regardless of the cost.


I don’t think I have ever volunteered for a task when I did not know what the personal cost would be for me. I want to control every situation I encounter. I research the financial cost, the time it would require, and consider the impact it may have on my relationships. Only when I am satisfied that I can accomplish the task, do I agree to do it. Instead of trusting in God to complete what He has promised to do in my life, I trust in my abilities to strategize. God is an afterthought. My friend, like Isaiah, was willing to take a huge step in faith and allow God to shoulder his personal burdens. It was admirable and faith-affirming. His initial inclination was to place God first. 


There is a happy ending to this story. Within a few months, my friend was hired for a new position, with a better salary. His faith never wavered, even during the tense months when there were no likely prospects. 


Here I am! Send me!


Yes, Lord, please help my unbelief when I so often doubt Your sovereign power over my life. 


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