Never Felt Closer (Romans 10:13-15)

“Why don’t you join me?”


It was the winter break of my freshman year in college. During this period in my young life, I was an atheist. I did not know the spiritual state of my father during this same period but he never discussed religion with me as I was growing up. Thus, it was quite jarring to return home from college and hear my father speak of god, meditation sessions, and following the teachings of a peculiar woman who referred to herself as Divine Mother. He was inviting me to join him for his weekly meeting.


With great trepidation, I joined my father on what became a spiritual odyssey for both of us. This woman taught a pantheistic theology, that all religions were paths to the same god. Understandably, I was highly skeptical but I could not deny the changes that had so dramatically emerged in my father. As I became indoctrinated in the teachings, I found my disdain for god and religion melt away and replaced with a new age philosophy. God was the universe; I was in god and god was in me. It was the antithesis of Christianity and I embraced it.


During this period when my life was at odds with Jesus Christ, I never felt closer to my father. He and I were bonding over our shared spiritual experiences, but it was shortlived. A year later, God’s grace and mercy led me to a complete understanding of who He is and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My father continued in this cult for several more years but when this self-proclaimed prophet died, one of her disciples took over and soon declared herself the Divine Mother. A schism resulted and my father quickly grew disillusioned over the hypocrisy and petty emotions that were flagrantly displayed by the new leader and her followers. He left the cult disenchanted but still believed that a god existed, just not God as revealed by Jesus Christ.


For the rest of his life, I witnessed to my father about Jesus Christ, even in his last moments as he lay comatose in a hospital bed after suffering a massive heart attack. Only God knows if he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I pray that someday in Heaven I will be reunited with my earthly father. This last exchange with him still haunts and hurts me.


For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)


My life is a testimony that God is able to use other religious pathways to bring seekers of the Truth to salvation and eternal life. I saw the changes in my father’s life and this motivated me to join him as God brought both of us to a partial understanding of who He is. God continued to nourish the seed of faith that He planted in my soul by using other believers to preach the Truth through the witness of their lives. When I was in college, God sent a classmate to witness to me who led me to call upon the Name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


For a brief period, my father and I were drawn together through a spiritual connection, closer than we had ever shared. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have other family members who are not yet believers, you must continue to pray and witness to them of the changes that a relationship with Jesus Christ has made in your life. We do not argue anyone into heaven, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict everyone’s heart to lead them to confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


Do not ever give up on God because He never gives up on you. Obey His calling to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone who will listen. He can use anything and anyone to bring a seeker to Him.


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


Probation (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Every new hire at my company begins a three month probation period. During this period, while I and the rest of the employees in my company are observing the new employee, it also allows the employee to understand our culture and expected workload and decide whether this is a company that they would be willing to make a long-term commitment.


It is expected that during the probation period, an employee would endeavor to be on their best behavior. While this has overwhelmingly been the case, there have been a few incidents when the employee violated company policies, leading to their dismissal. On one occasion, the employee was quite surprised and upset that he was being terminated, assuming the probation was a formality, not understanding that the interval was a test, an indeterminate stage between unemployment and job security.


Some religions teach there is an indeterminate stage between this life and the afterlife. After dying, depending upon how one lived their life, they will remain in a spiritual limbo while their god or some other divine being is determining whether they will ultimately go to heaven or hell. As compelling as this may seem, this is not what the Bible teaches. Salvation is not an indeterminate state.


…In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV) 


Salvation is immediate, eternal, and completely dependent upon the decision we make when we are alive on this earth. It can only happen if we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Once we die, it is too late. If you have still not decided to follow Jesus Christ, make the decision to do so now. There is no indeterminate state, no probation.


Today is the day of salvation.


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



Can’t Listen To It! (Hebrews 13:8)

Although I chose the path of medicine as my career, I have always maintained my interest in music, both as a player and listener. This interest began as a child and I recall writing an essay in elementary school that expressed my desire to become a record producer. For most of my life, I immersed myself in the genres of traditional jazz and rock and roll of the sixties and seventies. Unfortunately, it was done with the neglect of most contemporary genres of popular music because I regretfully admit that I can’t listen to it! And this is why I knew I would never be able to become a record producer because a critical skill is their ability and willingness to listen to all genres of music, distill the key components, and adapt it to their own style. While different, the final product still maintains the signature sound of the record producer. By closing myself off to new genres and ideas, I became insulated and static in my growth as a musician and a person.


Can this happen with spiritual growth?


There are many issues that currently confront the Christian Church, topics that are never mentioned in the Bible: same-sex marriage, gender reassignment, genetic engineering. What should the position of the Christian be on these and many other controversies? Liberal critics aver that the Bible and the Church must adapt and change to address these questions. Yet, God does not change and He does not need to adapt to any situation or person. How does one reconcile these seemingly disparate positions?


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)


This is the Truth, and all decisions must be based upon the Bible, the Word of God, which is inerrant and infallible. Truth is absolute but the applications are dynamic and relevant for every situation we encounter. Like a gifted record producer, the challenge is to be willing to listen to a wide range of voices, distill the key components, and apply the principles of the Bible.


For thousands of years, the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, has successfully addressed and led the way to reform existing social norms of the day, such as the abolition of slavery. There must be a starting point. The record producer does not lose their identity when assimilating different musical genres. God does not lose His identity when addressing complex social and ethical dilemmas.


The Church will listen and act because God always hears and understands.


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



A Born Loser (Psalms 51:5)

“There are no losers, only winners!”


I politely listened to the coach of the children’s soccer league giving an encouraging speech to the young players of his team. It was typical of the contemporary philosophy of children’s team sports. Competition may lead to exclusion and has the potential for damaging psychological consequences that continue into adulthood. It is far better to emphasize the positive skills that one may learn from competition rather than crowning a winner and designating a loser.


There is a pathologic emphasis on winners and losers that is inculcated at a very young age and it is easy to lose a rational perspective. Yet the reality is life and the workplace are competitive and are very unkind to those who fail. We try our best but we must understand that not everyone will win. However, this does not give us a license to withdraw, falsely believing that everyone’s a winner.


The most important competition in which we all participate in is the battle for the eternal destiny of our souls. What happens when we die? The disturbing and uncomfortable truth is that we are all born losers. In this politically correct world we live, such a statement may bring a tumultuous avalanche of criticism and derision as an insensitive comment. The Bible is very clear on this Truth. We have lost because we are all sinners from birth and by our own efforts we cannot change our condition.


For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.

Psalms 51:5 (NLT)


We are born losers but we are not hopeless. God gives us the reason for hope.


…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:5-7 (ESV)


We are born losers but we do not have to remain in this state. If we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will truly become a winner and receive eternal life and salvation. With Jesus Christ, we are more than conquerors through Him who gave His life for all of us.


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




In Way Over My Head (Jude 9-10)

The mountain peaks were dusted with white powder, gently whipped by the morning breezes. Eight thousand feet below, I was learning to snowboard. Since I grew up riding a skateboard, I thought it would not be very difficult to learn and I was correct. Within a half-hour, I mastered the basics and was ready to graduate from the bunny practice slope to the real runs.


I anxiously entered a lift and ascended the slope. Unfortunately, I misread the ski-lift signs and I found myself at the top of a double black diamond run. There was absolutely no way I could navigate through this run with my embryonic snowboarding skills. As I surveyed the initial daunting drop, my mind raced through possible solutions. Should I feign illness so that I could ride the lift down? Should I simply snowplow down with my snowboard annoying thousands of other skiers and snowboarders? Should I cry? I didn’t know what to do.


I was in way over my head!


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.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

Jude 9-10 (ESV)


In this remarkable passage from the Bible, Jude records that even the archangel Michael did not challenge Satan when they argued over Moses’ body. Satan was once the most powerful angel in God’s Creation but sin entered into his life and he believed he was the equal of God. Michael certainly could have battled Satan but he recognized that he was in over his head and chose to rebuke him in the Name of the Lord. Instead of relying upon his own strength, he turned to God for help.


Unlike the archangel Michael’s praiseworthy actions, I am often unwilling or too stubborn to admit or acknowledge the grim reality of my circumstances and turn to God for help. Instead, I fumble through an awkward or dangerous situation hoping, like an unreasoning animal, that my wits and skills will enable me to arrive at a resolution. The result is usually a disaster, hurting myself or others.


How desperately I need my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to shake the core of my unrepentant heart and turn me to His grace and mercy.


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



Take One (Romans 8:32)

It was Halloween in our neighborhood and I was chaperoning my son and several of his friends as we made the anticipated rounds. Knowing which houses gave the best treats, we first targeted those houses. As we approached one of our favorites, we were surprised to see a table with a large bag of candy positioned next to a sign that read, “Sorry we missed you! Take one.” The kids crowded around the bag and took their candy, some obviously taking advantage of the situation. One of my son’s friends was called out by his mother.


“Jake! What did the sign say?”


Jake grinned, his candy bag overflowing with his latest haul. “Take…some.”


“Put back all the extra ones. Let the other kids have some.”


“Mom!” Jake’s mother smiled at me and shook her head. “That’s why we have to be here!”


I chuckled and wondered if I would have acted the same way? When the local supermarket or bakery offers samples, I frequently sneak off with more than a single tasting. It is completely harmless, right? Perhaps. I would certainly know when to draw a line at these seemingly insignificant offers and offers that were of greater consequences, wouldn’t I? I would learn the truth when I was in college.


Before I became a Christian, I was involved in a religious cult that focused upon meditation as a means to rid oneself of the desires and cares of the world. Meditate, chant, and at some point, enlightenment and salvation would be mine. It was a simple equation. The more I meditate, the closer it would bring me to my goal. I accepted this offer of salvation and took advantage of the situation, meditating during every free moment I could spare.


But even when I was immersed in this religion, God was tugging at my heart. He introduced me to a Christian brother in my freshman year of college who encouraged me to read the Bible. While many ideas were familiar, I struggled with God’s promise of salvation. Why would God grant me salvation and eternal life when all I needed to do was confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior? Didn’t I need to meditate? Didn’t I need to need to chant my mantra? How could it be so simple? It was almost like I was taking advantage of a cosmic situation, getting salvation for minimal effort. I thought I was getting the better end of the deal.


He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:32 (ESV)


God’s offer of salvation and eternal life does seem too good to be true. Why would God send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live and die on behalf of my sins? In spite of what the world proclaims, nothing we do by our own efforts will ever bridge the gap between man and God that sin has ruptured. No amount of meditation, chanting, or good works will get me closer to salvation. God must intervene but why would He do this?




God’s perfect love sought to restore His relationship with us. It is not taking advantage. It is sharing in a relationship that is too good to be true.


Thanks be to God that it is!


Take One…Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


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



Tiny Pinpoint (James 1:14-15)

“Take a puff.”


I nervously held the cigarette and inhaled. The acrid smoke burned my throat and I violently coughed. No more for me. My juvenile delinquent foray into cigarette smoking ended as quickly as it began. My neighbor had come over with a pack of cigarettes and dared me to try one. Wishing to appear as tough as a nine-year old boy could appear, I accepted the challenge.


“So now you’ve got cancer.”


“What?” I abruptly dropped my cigarette.


“Yeah…it’s like a super tiny pinpoint in your lungs. The more you smoke, the bigger it will get.”


I was frightened. Is this how cancer starts? No way! I will never, ever smoke again!


It is amusing to recall this erudite medical evaluation rendered by another nine year old boy. Even if he was correct, there would be absolutely no way to prove that cancer was present. No one would know. However, there was one truth, the action that I initiated that day if continued, could definitely lead to cancer.


Isn’t this like sin?


But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

James 1:14-15 (ESV)


Sin simply doesn’t just appear. It begins as an urge or desire. If it stops there with no action taken, there is no sin. However, this is far easier said than done, as I can easily attest. I never smoked again but I have given in to my desires and allowed myself to sin with appalling frequency. A tiny pinpoint of sin can quickly grow into a cancerous growth that overtakes my entire being, sapping my will and desire to change and repent. The only solution is to cling to the promises of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Only He can give me the strength to resist the beguiling nature of my lusts and desires and replace it with the forgiving love of my Lord and Savior.


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




You Broke Him! (John 6:70-71)

Several years ago, in my former pathology group, my partners and I were meeting to discuss an applicant who was interviewing for our vacant laboratory manager’s position. We each spent about a half-hour interviewing him. As we waited for our final partner, Jake, to join us, we began discussing our mutual experiences. An hour quickly sped by and looking at the time, one of my partners remarked, “Where’s Jake?” As if on queue, Jake appeared at the door, grinning and bubbly.


“Sorry! Just finished interviewing the applicant.”


“That was a long half-hour!” One of my partners sarcastically commented.


“Yeah…” Jake began. “There was something that just wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it so I knew what I needed to do. I extended the interview for another 90 minutes.” Jake winked at all of us.


Several partners laughed and one exuberantly exclaimed, “You broke him! Jake! You did it again!”


My partner, Jake, had a notorious reputation of talking a prospective applicant’s ears off. He loved to regale us with stories of how he would wear an applicant down until they either let their guard down or literally had a near-psychotic break because of sheer boredom, disinterest, or frustration. Regardless, their true nature was quickly revealed and a decision was easily reached. In this case, the applicant grew so frustrated with my partner’s questioning that he literally lost it and began swearing at him.


How long does one have to be with another person before their true nature is revealed? Some people can authoritatively state that all they need is a minute and they will know. With this unfortunate applicant, it was two hours. I don’t know what the answer is but I know from experience that one’s true nature may not be revealed for months or even years, even with prolonged and close contact. I have had several bad experiences with former employees and business associates who turned on me only after many years of close cooperation. If only I had the wisdom and knowledge of God!


Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
John 6:70-71 (ESV)


Liberal Bible scholars and critics have caustically pointed out that Jesus could not have been an omniscient God if He willingly chose a disciple who would betray Him. Yet it is clear from this passage from the Gospel of John and other Bible passages, that Jesus knew beforehand that Judas would betray even when He selected Him. Why would He choose to do this?


And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

Matthew 26:49-50 (ESV)


When Judas betrayed Jesus Christ, his signal to the Jewish chief priests was the man he kissed would be Jesus. Jesus knew what was about to happen and could have stopped it, but, in an astounding act of love and kindness, Jesus offered Judas an opportunity to repent by calling him “friend.”


Judas was a disciple of Jesus for more than three years but from the beginning, Jesus knew his true character. During this entire time, Jesus was not being duped, He was offering Judas an opportunity to repent and seek forgiveness for his sins, even to the moment of his betrayal. Instead, in the end, he chose to betray Jesus.


I may desire to have the omniscient and all-knowing power of God, to know the true nature of everyone I meet, but am I also willing to extend my grace and mercy to someone who I know will or has knowingly betrayed me? This is the unfathomable love of God. For so many years, I was like Judas. I was willing to follow the crowd and pretend to be a good godly person. I associated with other good people and even convinced myself that I was as good or even better than they. God was patient with me and continually extended His grace and mercy to me in a way that no one else could ever do. Unlike Judas, I confessed and repented of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.


God broke me! And I am eternally grateful!


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



Something (Philemon 18)

Frank Sinatra once commented that one of his favorite love songs was the timeless classic, “Something” written by Beatle George Harrison, calling it, “The greatest love song ever written.” His daughter, Nancy Sinatra, confirmed this statement and elaborated that its appeal to her father was that it was a love song that hardly mentioned the word love.


Understatement is a powerful tool to convey a moving message. What is true in music is even more true for our spiritual walk with God. The Book of Philemon is one of the shortest books of the Bible but it depicts the principle of forgiveness in a tender and touching manner without ever mentioning the word. The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, on behalf of Onesimus, his former servant. Onesimus had run away from Philemon and through the providence of God, met Paul who led him to Jesus Christ. Now, Paul was appealing to Philemon to accept him back as a brother in Jesus Christ. Paul even went so far as to vouch for Onesimus’ character, guaranteeing it with his own integrity and reputation.


If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

Philemon 18 (ESV)


In this beautiful letter, Paul illustrates the principle of forgiveness better than any staid definition. His actions are forgiveness personified, mirroring the same principle that Jesus Christ imputed to us when He died on Cross.


…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (ESV)


Jesus Christ died for all of us, forgiving us of our sins, even when we rejected Him. What kind of love is this? It is a love that demonstrates forgiveness without ever mentioning it.


That is truly something.


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



“I’m Late!” (Deuteronomy 6:10-13)

It was five minutes before my organic chemistry lab began and I was ten minutes away by bicycle. I’m late! I rushed out of my college dorm, frantically pedaling to beat the clock. I knew that if I cut across the quad, I would be able to shave off a few minutes. As I approached the grassy area, it was bordered by a raised sidewalk. I had already bypassed the ramp but no worries, I would simply jump from my front wheel over the curb. It was a jump that I had successfully navigated hundreds of times but on this day, my judgment was impaired and instead of lifting my front wheel over the curb, it landed squarely at an acute angle. The force brought the bicycle to an abrupt halt and the momentum catapulted me forward over the handlebars. With no time to cushion my fall, I landed squarely on my face.




Dazed, I lifted myself up from the curb and was instantly aware of searing pain and blood filling my mouth and running from my chin. This was not good. Forget the lab, I needed to get to the college infirmary. Unfortunately, it lacked the resources to adequately treat me and quickly arranged for an ambulance to take me to the closest hospital emergency room. I required stitches on my chin and lower lip and my front teeth displayed numerous micro-fractures. I hobbled back to my lab, over two hours late.


Accidents occur when we take shortcuts in our usual routines. I was overconfident in my abilities to navigate the obstacles. It wasn’t the first time. In my spiritual walk with God, I often take God’s blessings for granted. Instead of thanking Him for His grace and mercy, I become self-centered and overconfident in my abilities to deal with any situation or problem that comes my way. God blesses us for many reasons. He loves us. He wants us to delight in Him. And sometimes, we may never know the true and complete explanations of why God cares for us until we are in His glorious presence in Heaven. However, one Truth is clear. God does not give us His blessings so that we may believe we are self-sufficient and do not need Him.


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. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.

Deuteronomy 6:10-13 (ESV)


God blesses us so that we will be more dependent upon Him. There are no short-cuts. We do not need to become self-confident, only God-confident.


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