Highlighter (Proverbs 30:5-6)

“I can’t remember that genetic syndrome. It’s that one with numerous skeletal abnormalities… Conrad or something like that. Do you remember?”


“I got it.”


My medical school classmate confidently opened his textbook. A rainbow of colors danced before me as he flipped through the pages until he found the passage for which he was seeking. Pointing to a word highlighted in pink he proudly proclaimed, “Here it is! Conradi-Hunermann syndrome!”


My classmate, Jake, always highlighted his textbooks with a myriad of colors. In an era before the internet, before one could avail of a quick internet search to retrieve an obscure fact, highlighting key passages and words in our textbooks was a simple solution and is still useful as many can attest. I even electronically highlight every virtual book I read, including the Bible. When I mentioned this to my pastor, he smiled and said, “I used to do that too but not any longer.”


“Why not?”


“I found I would highlight nearly every single passage. This may sound trite but I realized that every word and passage was important. So I stopped doing it.”


I nodded and smiled. My pastor’s prodigious knowledge of the Bible was admirable and well-known. I suspected that he did not have to use a highlighter since he probably memorized most of the Bible! Unfortunately, that is not me and I need every memory aid that I can utilize.


Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Proverbs 30:5-6 (ESV)


There are many passages that I read in the Bible that I gloss over. Do I need to know that 53,400 men from the tribe of Naphtali were able to serve as soldiers? (Numbers 1:42-43) What about knowing Nereus was a believer in ancient Rome and a colleague of the Apostle Paul? (Romans 16:15) I can answer these questions with the same reasoning I use when I was attempting to remember an obscure genetic syndrome. I may not need to have access to this information every day but there are times when it is helpful to quickly retrieve it. Highlighting allows me to quickly find the passages.


And I do confess a little guilty pleasure in attempting to learn every seemingly obscure fact of the Bible. Someday, when I am in Heaven in the presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I will meet every one of the great saints who are mentioned in the Bible. The men of Naphtali, Nereus, and thousands of others will be there. Like the satisfaction I receive when I recall an obscure disease, how much greater will the pleasure be to meet someone whom I have read and studied in the Bible, forever memorialized by God Himself?


Most of my Bible is highlighted. It is a continual reminder that I still need to persist and grow in my faith to learn and memorize every word that God has given us through the Bible.


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



There, By The Grace Of God…(1 Corinthians 15:10)

He graduated from an Ivy League medical school and trained at a prestigious university pathology residency program in the midwest. Handsome, self-effacing, intelligent-he was the total package and our pathology group was fortunate to hire him. For a month, all seemed to be well then the cracks began to appear.


The first clues were decidedly odd and inappropriate comments to various administrative staff. While not approaching the level of harassment, it provoked a definite feeling of unease. However, he did not speak in this manner to the other physicians so we were unaware of what was transpiring. The second clue was his work performance, which while initially superb, began to falter. He was increasingly delinquent with his cases and would order an excessive number of additional tests but never arrive at a timely and definitive diagnosis. The final straw was a late-night encounter. Unknownst to the evening laboratory staff, he returned to his office and was wandering the hallways around midnight. The graveyard shift was unfamiliar with him since most of the physicians were not in their offices at these hours. When confronted by one of the staff, he panicked and ran out of the building. The disturbing incident led to a formal investigation and after many tense conversations, it was decided that he and our company should part ways. We later learned that he was under psychiatric care and several years later, his medical license was suspended. When we learned of this, one of my partners commented, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”


It was a tragic end to a very promising career. All of my partners were keenly aware of the debilitating toll of mental illness but this was a very personal example and deeply affected all of us. There is, indeed, a thin line between genius and insanity; how well we were now acquainted with this.


How ironic that it takes the misfortune of another to persuade some of us to evoke God’s Name.  When something good happens to another person, could we also declare and rejoice with their blessings and declare, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” ?


But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain….

1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV)


For many years, I rejected God and was hostile to any mention of His Name. What did this attitude achieve for me? I was selfish and embittered toward others that I perceived had accomplished more than I did but with less effort. I could not rejoice and be happy for God’s blessings in their lives. If God existed, why didn’t He bless my life as well? I learned the reason when I was a sophomore in college. God was blessing me, I simply refused to see or accept it. God was blessing me to bring me into a true relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ, by confessing and repenting of my sins and accepting Him as my Lord and Savior.


God’s grace shows no favoritism. Even for an unrepentant sinner as myself, His grace can break through my wall of sin.


There, by the grace of God, go I.


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.


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



“You Don’t Need A Vacation!” (Psalms 55:22)

“Why don’t you ask your Dad?”


“Uhhh, yeah. I’ll do that.”


It was the summer before my senior year in high school. Some of my closest friends thought it would be a great idea to spend a weekend at a hotel together, one last chance to be together before we began our last year in high school. While I wanted to join in, I was reticent to ask for permission from my father. My father did not take vacations. He worked six days a week since I was born. His work ethic was inspiring and intimidating. That evening, I waited for an opportune moment.


“Dad, can I go with Jake and my other friends to the North Shore for the weekend?”


My dad looked up from the newspaper he was reading and icily asked, “Why are you going there?”


Here we go, I thought. I haltingly started my explanation. “We wanted to have a vacation before we began our senior year.”


Without missing a beat, my father sternly shot back, “You don’t need a vacation! You’re not working!”


Dejected, I nodded and slumped away. I was acting like a spoiled privileged child as my puerile selfish needs egged me on to silently protest and wonder why I couldn’t enjoy my summer like my classmates? I was hoping he would relent and let me go but not this time. I didn’t broach the topic again. Although I thought him unreasonable at the time, deep down, I knew he was correct. Years later, I can understand why my father felt the way he did. My grandparents were always working and he worked during high school to help with the family finances. He never had a vacation when he was my age and it was presumptuous for me to ask. Yet, for many years, I could not let go of that resentment.


Many years later, I found myself projecting the same resentments and unreasonable expectations unto others, particularly my dermatology residents. I would recount the hours I spent studying during my residency, filling every free moment, expecting that they would also make the same sacrifices, completely insensitive to their relationships and other responsibilities.


“I did it so you should do it!”


There are many permutations of this aphorism and it has been a difficult lesson to unlearn because I am still so self-centered. Whatever hardships or inconveniences I may have endured in life does not give me a license to impose the same harsh expectations upon others. I continued to carry these burdens, oblivious to the damage it was causing me. I would have remained in this forlorn condition had I not I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ accepted Him as my Lord and Savior.


Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalms 55:22 (ESV)

Jesus Christ freed me from the grip that past resentments and unpleasant experiences held on my soul. I no longer had to carry these burdens and inflict the pain I experience upon others. I had a Savior who understood and knew everything about me, including my past, present, and future.


It was true, I didn’t need a vacation. I needed to grow up and I still have a very long road ahead. Thanks be to God that He carries all of my burdens and cares, ones that should no longer be a part of my life.


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



Everyone Does It! (Psalms 150:3-6)

Sticks, stones, bones, leaves, animal skins, nuts…all have one thing in common. Each has been used as an instrument to make music. The list of instruments used to make music is only limited by the imagination of the musicians. There are horns, stringed instruments, and reed instruments. Yet, there is one common and basic parameter for all cultures, percussion. Not every culture possesses a horn or stringed instrument but every culture has some form of percussion instrument. What is simpler and meaningful than creating a beat and instigating a rhythm? Percussion is the most primal of musical instruments. Everyone does it!


Recently, I have been playing congas, bongos, and timbales, to enrich my musical approach, improvisations, and compositions beyond my guitar playing. Thinking purely from a rhythmic standpoint has invigorated my growth as a musician. As I play, I feel a connection that transcends my music. I am connecting with the entire human civilization, with every culture that has ever created a rhythm with the instrument of their choosing.


Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Psalms 150:3-6 (ESV)


God gave music to His creation as a means of expressing their love and worship to Him. Percussion, horns, strings, voice. All of these connect me with the entire world because God has given everyone the ability to praise Him.


Everyone can do it and everyone should do it!




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



“Now I Don’t Have To Work As Hard!” (2 Corinthians 7:10 )

I have previously written about my company’s three month probation period for all new employees when initially hired (see blog in Word Press). If they successfully pass this probation period, they are given a raise, an official nameplate for their desk, and a welcoming ceremony. The vast majority of the employees who have passed this probation have remained with the company for many years and have thrived in their positions. However, some employees interpreted their new status as a tenured position, relatively immune from being fired.


One former employee was exemplary in his performance during the probation period. However, immediately after he was promoted, he blurted to his supervisor, “Now I don’t have to work as hard!” On cue, his behavior began to change. He complained about his workload, his error rate increased, and his treatment of his co-workers degenerated. Finally, he flagrantly violated two company policies, leading to his immediate dismissal. He learned that passing probation was not a license for bad behavior. He was not a sincere employee, but simply going through the motions to get through the probation period. Once he did, his true nature emerged.


For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)


When we sin, we may express grief, but there may be no change in behavior, only regret and frustration. This is worldly grief. Godly grief, one that honestly seeks forgiveness from God, by acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, leads to true repentance and salvation. We cannot obtain salvation by going through the motions and uttering pious statements.


What about a deathbed conversion? There would be no time to show evidence of changed behavior. How would one know if the repentance is genuine? For these deathbed conversions and confessions, only God knows whether anyone’s conversion is true, but all salvation in Jesus Christ is eternal. The great Protestant reformer John Calvin wrote, “Faith alone saves but the faith that saves is not alone.” Salvation is always accompanied by a genuine change of heart and direction of one’s life. It may occur in the last seconds of one’s life or it may be manifest over many years. However, if this does not happen, the confession that is uttered is hollow and empty, void of any faith and commitment. Our true nature and intentions will be evident and revealed.


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



“Can You Keep A Secret?” (Acts 4:20)

“Can you keep a secret?”


I hate when someone asks me this question. I don’t want the burden of the knowledge, especially if the secret involves someone I know. I usually decline or give a vague cagey answer like, “It depends,” never fostering trust between the two of us. How many secrets does the average person keep?


In a recent medical study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers determined that the average person keeps thirteen secrets and of these, five of them have never been divulged to another. While one could question the rigidity of the methodology of this study, all of us hold or have held secrets. The question is why are we willing to keep secrets and why do we break the promise?


The Apostles Peter and John were part of the original twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. They were eyewitnesses to His life and teachings and saw Him tortured and executed on the Cross. Three days later, they met the risen Jesus Christ. The Resurrection transformed them just as the power of the Resurrection transformed every believer in Jesus Christ. They could not stop talking about what happened. After they healed a lame beggar through the power of Jesus Christ, a massive crowd followed them, and new believers were quickly being added through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Jewish authorities had to stop it and quickly conferred with one another.


…What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:16-18 (ESV)


In other words, they were asking them to keep a secret. What was the response of the Apostles?


…for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.

Acts 4:20 (NASB)


Keep Jesus Christ a secret? Millions of believers in Jesus Christ cannot stop speaking about Him and they have suffered for it, some paying the ultimate sacrifice with their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. From the first believers to today, Satan and his demons have conspired to silence the followers of Jesus Christ, yet the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to spread throughout the world because all believers cannot keep Him secret.


Jesus lived and died for our sins and He was resurrected by God and now lives in Heaven! All who have confessed and repented of their sins and have placed their trust in Him as Lord and Savior will receive forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.


Can I keep this a secret?


Go, shout it from the rooftops! I want to make this the world’s worst kept secret!


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



Curbside Consult (James 4:1-3)

A curbside consult is a common occurrence in medicine with colleagues informally seeking advice from each other about their patients. The physician seeking advice will sometimes apologetically begin with a phrase like, “Sorry to do this, but may I curbside you about a case?” In this spirit of collegiality, it is a privilege that physicians should not abuse or take advantage.


In my specialty of dermatopathology, consultations take place with a review of shared microscope slides. A variant of this common practice is to perform retrospective reviews on microscope slides as part of a laboratory’s quality assurance program. Required by both federal and state law, there is no absolute number of cases that need to be reviewed, but most dermatologists who have their own laboratories limit it to five to ten cases per year. One dermatologist with whom I had been working with for several years, would routinely send me about ten cases per year, similar to other clients. However, over time, the curbside consultations increased in frequency and quantity. Under the banner of the quality assurance program, he would send as many as thirty cases per month. These were informal curbside consultations but I later learned that he was incorporating my diagnosis within his formal reports, without my consent nor was I being reimbursed.


It was illegal and definitely unscrupulous. It was obviously taking advantage of an accepted informal privilege for selfish benefits. I discussed his actions with some of my colleagues, who all agreed that it was detestable. I wrote a letter informing this colleague that I would no longer provide these curbside consults. I was incensed but as I reflected upon these unscrupulous interactions, I wondered if I abused my relationship with my heavenly Father?


What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:1-3 (ESV)


How often have I taken advantage of the blessings that God has showered upon my life? Instead of praying to Him, expressing my gratitude and sharing my requests, I demand that He listens to me, assuming that I know my needs better than He does. Instead of honoring Him as the omnipotent and omnipresent Creator of the Universe, I have diminished Him to the role of a cosmic bellhop.


This sounds familiar.


I need to look in the mirror to see what is a true definition of unscrupulous.


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



CRISPR (Luke 23:24)

“You really don’t know what you are doing!”


A voice in the audience cried out. It was a public event that featured several entrepreneurs touting their home-brewed therapies, utilizing new technology to create genetically modified treatments for a variety of medical conditions. Many of the entrepreneurs had no background in molecular biology and some admitted that everything they learned was gleaned from videos on social media. What was this new technology?




This is an acronym for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. This mouthful describes a family of DNA sequences that are found in bacteria and are similar to sequences found in other viruses known as bacteriophages. CRISPR is associated with Cas9 which stands for CRISPR-associated protein 9. This enzyme binds to CRISPR sequences and cleaves it, destroying the invading foreign DNA. Thus, the CRISPR and Cas9 system are critical to the antiviral immune defense of bacteria.


Researchers modified the Cas9 protein and attached specific RNA sequences, complementary to the desired DNA target sequences, creating a precise method of removing specific DNA sequences and introducing new sequences. These changes could be made in organisms besides bacteria and have been applied to genetically engineer human cells.


The results are astounding. CRISPR gene editing has revolutionized the approach to genetic engineering with a precision that just a decade earlier, would have been unimaginable. It is a remarkable technological advancement with seemingly limitless potential. It has led to significant breakthroughs and treatments of several genetic diseases. However, like any new technology, there is the potential for abuse and nefarious schemes. The truly frightening scenarios are the numerous individuals, known and unknown, who are currently utilizing the technology without a complete understanding of the potential for catastrophic errors or unintended results. They labor under the banner of equal access to medical care for the disenfranchised yet take dangerous short cuts by bypassing the usual rigorous testing for any new therapeutic treatment in humans. They cloak themselves within the noble cause of discovering cures for previously hopeless diseases yet they are preying upon the desperation of patients, willing to risk their own lives for a slim chance to receive a dubious treatment.


And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”…

Luke 23:34 (ESV)


As Jesus Christ hung on the Cross, His tortured, bleeding, and naked Body on lurid display, observers hurled insults at Him. These ignorant people had no understanding of what they were doing or saying. They were sure that if only Jesus would come down from the Cross, they would believe in Him. If He didn’t die, He could rid Jerusalem of its Roman conquerors and demonstrate to the Jewish leaders that He really was the Messiah, silencing their taunts! Yes, He could have done this but this was not His purpose. Jesus was to remain on the Cross and die so that He could receive the punishment for our sins, a punishment that we justly deserved. He was there to reconcile and restore the sacred relationship between God and man, broken by our sins. Their taunts and desires were misguided and shortsighted.


They did not know what they were doing.


We are at a critical inflection point in our understanding and manipulation of the human genome. As a Christian and a physician, I completely support the careful research needed to bring these remarkable treatments to reality. I deplore the naivete and shortsightedness of those who would utilize this technology without understanding the complete impact their actions may portend because they do not know what they are doing.


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



R.I.P. (Luke 24:17-21)

I carefully maneuvered my car into the automated car wash, aligning my wheels with the rollers.


“Put the car in neutral and take your feet off the brakes.”


The attendant went through his perfunctory paces and handed my receipt back to me. He had a Lakers jacket on and as he waved me through, I remarked, “Go Kobe!”


He stopped and smiled. “Go Kobe!” He echoed.


“First game back for the Lakers tonight.”


He nodded and sighed. “I know, I wanted to go there but I have to work.”


We looked at each other, undoubtedly thinking the same thoughts. I fist-pumped him. “Kobe was the best!”


Returning my fist pump, he grinned, “Kobe forever! You have a great day, sir.”


The news stunned the world. Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a tragic helicopter crash. The outpouring of tributes and emotions was unprecedented. Numerous professional sports teams paid special tributes to Kobe. A frequent posting on social media was, “R.I.P.”  From a car wash, to the workplace, to family discussions, one could not go anywhere without mentioning or hearing his name and his career. During this immediate period after his death, it began conversations throughout the world, one that transcended his role as a basketball player. For a brief period, It united people and many put aside their differences and petty concerns and focused upon the meaning of these deaths. Over two thousand years ago, another death shocked the world and everyone was also talking about it.


And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”

Luke 24:17-21 (ESV)


As recorded in the Gospel written by Dr. Luke, these two men, walking on the road to Emmaus, were devastated by the Crucifixion. Blinded by their despair and sadness, they were initially unaware that they were conversing with the resurrected Jesus Christ. In a short time after this, Jesus revealed Himself to them, dispelling their fears and gloom, and giving them hope in this life.


When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Luke 24:30-32 (ESV)


The tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others remind us that life is unpredictable. Death is always tragic but it can be a way to bring people together. God did this through the death of Jesus Christ who showed all of us that while death is tragic, it is not hopeless. The resurrection of Jesus Christ proved that He conquered death. For all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, death is a transition into eternity and salvation with God in Heaven. If we do this, when we die, we will truly rest in peace, secure in the bosom of Jesus Christ.


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