Mi Fa Fa (1 John 4:19)

“I think the notation is wrong. Here, take a look at this.”

I was playing a song on my guitar and the written notation appeared to be wrong. My wife was next to me singing the song. She played piano and read music so I was confident she would agree with me.


“What? It’s E.. F…F!”

“I didn’t learn my music notes that way.”

I soon learned that my wife’s experience was common. It is termed Solfege or Tonic Sol-fa and many people learn music by these phonetic notes as well as later learning the names of the actual notes, or the ABC notation. For the budding musician, recreated in the famous scene from the “Sound of Music”, the Solfege method is an excellent introduction to learning the aural qualities of the music notes. However, with increasing music complexity, the ABC notation needs to be used. Both methods complement one another with the former naturally progressing to the latter. The tones are the same, only our understanding of it deepens with experience.

One of the first songs children learn in Sunday school is, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” This is a true statement regardless of one’s age or spiritual stage. As children grow and progress in their faith and knowledge, they can build upon this knowledge. Jesus always loves us but we learn the nuances of love in different relationships and situations. Not everything is cast as black and white and more often, our challenge is discerning and finding love amidst shades of gray. How do I love the person who has hurt and defrauded me? How do I care for the person who was responsible for the death of my loved one? 

We love Him because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19 (NKJV)

The answer is we return to our basics. We love because Jesus first loved us. When we are secure in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can build upon this knowledge and ask Him to help us navigate the increasingly murky relationships that we will encounter. Like learning musical notes, the love is the same, only our understanding of it deepens with experience.

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

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Even Manasseh? (2 Chronicles 33:12-13)

“So you’re telling me that if Hitler turned to God and repented at the last minute of his life, he would be saved?”

I knew where this was leading. “I am not in the place of God to make that decision. If Hitler did that and he truly repented, then only God could save him. But only God knows if Hitler truly repented of his sins.”

My friend shook his head. “I can’t believe in a God that would forgive a beast like Hitler.”

I reflected upon his statement. Although I knew God’s grace and mercy can extend to everyone, there are people for whom I wonder if they are beyond saving. Hitler. Lenin. There are many names that could be added to this list. In the Bible, many of the kings of Judah and Israel could be added and of these kings, few are as evil as Manasseh, king of Judah. He sacrificed his own children to pagan gods, practiced witchcraft, and set up an idol in the Temple of Solomon. The Bible summed up his evil activities with the following verse. 

Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD.

2 Kings 21:16 (NKJV)

If we only had the record of 2 Kings, it would be easy to conclude that Manasseh died an evil man. I thought this for many years until I read this verse in 2 Chronicles. 

Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.

2 Chronicles 33:12-13 (NKJV)

I was quite surprised that a king as evil as Manasseh would find forgiveness from God after he truly repented of his sins and turned back to Him. And that is the problem. My ability to forgive another person is so limited and fragile, especially to those who have hurt me. I do not have the compassion nor wisdom that am omnipotent and omniscient God has. Instead I selfishly focus upon my hurt feelings, thinking that I am not as bad as the person who hurt me.

Will Manasseh be in heaven someday? Only God knows. But when I do get to heaven, I am certain there will be many who will look at me and say, “I can’t believe you are here!” Instead of focusing upon whether someone can be saved, I should be grateful to God leading me to confess and repent of my sins and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

My focus should be to recommit my life to spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to a lost world. 


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

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Free Time (Ephesians 5:15-17)

During my fourth year of medical school, an opportunity arose to do my family practice elective in Micronesia. I eagerly applied for the spot and was soon informed that I would be on the island of Ponape (Pohnpei). My office was in an outpatient clinic, working Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. I was overseen by an American trained board certified family physician and although I did not yet have my M.D. degree, I was granted all the rights and privileges of an attending physician, writing prescriptions and admitting patients to the hospital. Ponape was one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my medical career, critical in my maturation as I transitioned to become a licensed physician. It was also an important time for my Christian walk since it was the first break in my life since becoming a Christian in college six years earlier. I took no call freeing up my weekends and evenings and I intended to make efficient use of this free time.

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in my sophomore year in college. Although I was discipled by a dear brother in the Lord whom God used to lead me to Christ, after graduating college, many questions had arisen in my mind about my nascent faith. Entering medical school immediately after college, I never had the time to devote to pondering these concerns, researching the Bible, and praying to God for direction. Here was my opportunity!

For two hours every morning, I read the Bible, prayed, and wrote in my journal. I pondered the many ethical dilemmas I encountered in medical school and in my life up to that point. I searched the Bible for answers and I wrote, filling an entire notebook of the revelations that God showed me. Many issues, previously murky, were now cleared. 

It has been nearly forty years since that experience and I have never again had an opportunity to spend all of my free time thinking and communing with God with minimal distractions. It was this experience that now encourages me to treasure my free time. Prior to becoming a Christian, I would sleep in on the weekends, sometimes beginning my day as late as noon. After I became a Christian I did not want to squander an opportunity to be with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I still awaken early and savor the quiet solitude of my home when I can read the Bible and pray before my family arises. 

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,   making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 (NASB)

All believers in Jesus Christ need to seek time alone to be with God. My experience in Ponape taught me how I must jealously guard my free time, making the most efficient use of it. Through many years of painful experiences, I know the wisest use of my free time is spent alone with God. God jealously guards His time with me. Shouldn’t I do the same?

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

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My Heart Was Not In It (Proverbs 22:6)

“Is there anything else to do? I developed and mounted the x-rays, completed the filings, and called the patients to remind them of their appointments tomorrow.”

The office manager looked at me and nodded. “Good job. Your father should be very proud of you!”

I smiled and thanked her. During my summer and Christmas vacations in high school and college, I worked in my father’s dental office. Ostensibly, it was to teach me real world responsibilities but I knew he also wanted me to see what he did so that I hopefully become interested in dentistry and become a dentist like him and eventually take over his practice. 

Despite learning many aspects of dentistry, I could not get myself interested in looking at festering cavities and scraping plaque from yellowed incisors. When I finally had the courage to tell my father I was not interested in following in his footsteps, he was understandably disappointed but sensed that my heart was not in it. 

I did not become a dentist but my father taught me much more valuable lessons. He modeled for me how a compassionate health care provider should care for their patients. He honed my organizational skills to learn to multitask in a busy office. Years later, as a physician, I was grateful that I had an opportunity to thank him for what I learned in his office. 

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV)

My own children will not follow in my footsteps to become a physician and I am perfectly content with this. If their heart is not in this, I do not want to force a decision upon them. It is far more important that they learn what it means to be a humble person who places God first in everything they do. From my father, I learned how to become a better physician and person. From my Heavenly Father, I learned I should always love and trust the Lord and seek His will in my life.


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Parachutes Don’t Save Lives (1 John 4:7-11)

Several years ago, the prestigious medical journal, The British Medical Journal, published a landmark article that ignited the popular press. The article contended that wearing a parachute when jumping from an aircraft was no safer than wearing a regular backpack. Carefully done as a randomized controlled trial and replete with statistical analysis, the article rocked the medical and aviation world. 

Don’t believe it?

Here is the article.

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: randomized controlled trial | The BMJ

What’s the catch?

The participants were jumping out of a biplane that was on the ground and NOT moving!

The point of the article was if one does not carefully discern the methodology of the study and simply scans  the headline or abstract, the critical points would be missed. One must understand the conditions and reality of the situation and for this study, it was true. However, if the plane was airborne, it would be an entirely different outcome. One must look beyond the headlines and investigate the details.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)

Many people believe that everyone will go to Heaven when they die. All one needs to do is love one another and live a good life. If the sum of one’s good deeds exceeds the sum of one’s bad deeds, one will be saved. This sounds good but it is not true. Even this verse from the Bible appears to support this contention. The reality is in the details. Loving one another and doing good deeds is important but it is not the most important detail of salvation. 

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:9-11 (NKJV)

If one went beyond the first two verses and investigated the details, a different outcome would be evident. The next three verses reveal the complete Truth. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and receive the punishment we deserved for sinning and rebelling against God, our Creator. God took the initiative to restore our broken relationship with Him. Salvation and eternal life are only found by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Love is important but we are only able to love because He first loved us. 

Parachutes don’t save lives, except when one is dealing with reality. 

Only faith and belief in Jesus Christ will save you, and that is the reality.

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

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National Cherry Popsicle Day (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Did you miss it? It was National Cherry Popsicle Day!

In my office hangs a National Day calendar that lists numerous national days of celebration for every day of the year. Some are relatively well-known, such as Employee Recognition Day, celebrated on the first Monday in March. But did you miss National Cherry Popsicle Day on August 26th? No worries, there are other opportunities. Feeling friendly? There is a National Do a Grouch a Favor Day celebrated on February 16th. How about something earth shaking? There is National Richter Scale day celebrated on April 26th. And if all of this is too much, one can celebrate in agreement on March 9th with National Get Over It Day! Bottom line, it gives everyone a chance to celebrate something every day. Christian believers have the best reason, even exceeding the joy of eating a cherry popsicle! 

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

Christian believers should model this daily celebration of joy by celebrating God’s grace and mercy in our lives. God never fails to keep His promise of caring for all who place their faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. 

We should celebrate something everyday. All Christian believers have the best reason to celebrate everyday, and we don’t need a National Day Calendar to remind us. We have God’s unchanging and perfect Word, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

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

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Only Three Years (Luke 3:23)

In the state of California, there is a project known as the high speed rail. The ambitious plan was to create a rail service linking the cities of San Francisco to Los Angeles with additional plans to connect Bakersfield, Anaheim, San Diego, and portions of the Inland Empire. A proposition was approved by voters in 2008 and led to the initial groundbreaking in 2015. From an initial estimate of $33.6 billion dollars, the costs have exponentially ballooned with some estimates ranging as high as $100 billion. Meanwhile, construction delays, legal bickering, and an inefficient bureaucracy have ground the project to a near standstill. California is not alone. Hawaii also has a similar boondoggle, running billions of dollars over budget with no completion date in sight. 

A high speed rail project seems to be a very straightforward project, especially since it was approved by the citizens of the state. The technology and human resources to complete the task are readily available. Yet over twelve years later, the project is still far from completed. California had seven years to plan before they embarked upon the actual construction. Would twelve years of planning have solved the problem? What about twenty years? Clearly the original planners had vastly underestimated the task that was set before them. 

What if the project was to proclaim salvation to a lost world?  How many years should one allocate to such a project?

Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age…

Luke 3:23 (NKJV)

The public ministry of Jesus Christ was three years. If I was given the same task that Jesus Christ was given by God, His Father, I think I would need far longer than three years, more like three thousand lifetimes. What is the difference? From the time of the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, God put his plan of redemption into motion, but the planning began even before time existed. At the time of His choosing, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be born into this world. He ordained three years for Jesus to proclaim His message. Was it enough time? The message He proclaimed has never changed. God kept His promise and proclaimed that all who confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will receive salvation and eternal life. 

When man plans a task, the fiasco of a high speed rail project may result. When God plans a task, He guarantees success. How do we know this? He did it by sealing it with the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Praise God!

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

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Triple Checking (Psalms 9:8)

When I was the medical director of my former laboratory, our management wrestled with the common problem of data entry errors. We instituted the familiar strategy of double checking the entries. While this resulted in an initial decrease in the error rate, it eventually leveled off at still unacceptably high levels. Several years later at another laboratory, I instituted a system of triple checking. After all, if two sets of eyes are good, wouldn’t a third set be better? I was confident that I could improve upon my former laboratory’s oversight. I was chagrined to find the same results that happened before. Why was this happening?

Industrial psychologists have examined the process and, not surprisingly, have concluded that adding a third or even greater number of checkers will not statistically diminish the error rates. There are many reasons but a relevant one for this discussion is the inherent biases of the checkers. They assume that since the case has already been checked at least once or if the individual who initially entered the data was reliable, they may gloss over the review instead of rendering a compulsive search for errors as if they were the only ones doing the check. However, at the heart of the issue is the person doing the initial review. If they were diligent to check their work carefully, no other checkers would be needed.

What are the applications for my spiritual life? There are several dear brothers in the Lord who help to keep me in check, holding me accountable to God and correcting my errors. However, like my laboratory, there are always inherent biases. Because they know me so well, they may assume that when I undertake an errant action, I may not truly mean it or even overlook it. And of course, in the back of their minds, is this stern admonition of Jesus Christ. 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

If we judge or correct another, we need to hold ourselves to the same standard and many are reluctant or even unable to do that. A perfect checker must be infallible and incorruptible, not subject to relational biases. The Bible is very clear that no man can ever perfectly fulfill this role, but who could ever fulfill this unreachable criteria? 

He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.

Psalms 9:8 (NKJV)

I am thankful for the wise counsel of my brothers who hold me accountable to God but I know that there are many things I have not shared with them or have disguised my actions under the pretext of a noble action. Like the checkers in my laboratories, the problem begins with me. Only God sees my true heart and intentions. Only God sees my egregious sins and errors when others see what they believe is my normal and seemingly harmless behavior. It is difficult for me to accept the Truth when God corrects me but His Holy Spirit indwells within me and convicts me of my sins leading me to confess and repent to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. 

Triple checking by God-the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


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

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Reconnecting (Revelation 2:4-5)

“Is that something new?” I pointed to my colleague’s neck, adorned with a necklace with a silver pendant.

“Actually it’s not new but I just began wearing it again a few months ago.” She pulled it out to give me a closer look. “When I was a little girl, my parents gave one to all of the children. It is a Buddhist charm. On one side is a Chinese character for blessing. It was even blessed by a Buddhist priest.”

“Wow, thank you for sharing all that information!”

“Of course! I used to wear it growing up but when I got to college, I began questioning many of the things that I grew up with and I thought, ‘I don’t believe in this so why should I wear it?’ But as I grow older, I find myself wishing to reconnect with my culture.”

“And now you have a young son.”

“Absolutely! I want him to connect with his culture as well.”

I reflected upon my colleague’s experience. Many people’s worldviews are challenged for the first time in college. Ideals and cultural traditions ingrained in a family, now become suspect. Why am I doing this? I asked this question during college. I met many people from different countries. I encountered political viewpoints that differed from my family. I learned about religions that I had never previously encountered. I embraced these changes and was a very different person after graduating from college, but was I fulfilled?

Sometimes it takes life’s transitions to motivate us to reconnect with our cultural roots. A new job, marriage, children, growing older-all of these transitions differentially impact us, throwing us off balance. At some point, we find ourselves desirous to reconnect with our core values, to regain the stability of our youth, finding it with memories of how we were raised.

My spiritual life is no different. When I first became a Christian, I hungered to learn about God. I devoured my Bible and on the inside cover I would record the dates when I completed reading the Old Testament and New Testament. Nearly every free moment was spent with the Bible. I felt my knowledge and faith were embryonic and I had to catch up with other Christian believers who were raised in the church or had been Christians longer than I had. Sadly, the Bible reading abruptly stopped when the activities of life intervened: my first job, marriage, and children. My time in fellowship with other believers and our local church also diminished. My passion to read the Bible and spend time with God was replaced with other loves. I was happy because my personal and professional life were flourishing, but I was not fulfilled. Why was I doing this?

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…

Revelation 2:4-5 (NLT)

I rationalized that my activities as a husband, father, and physician were now my chief spiritual responsibilities. These are important signs of a healthy spiritual relationship but I was ignoring the most important relationship, my love for Jesus Christ. I found my original Bible with the dates written on the inside cover and reconnected with God. I rediscovered the joy and love I once had as I once again immersed myself in spending time with God and reading the Bible.

God created us for relationships and many of these may dominate our lives.  If we allow these other relationships to substitute for our relationship with God, we are headed down a precarious path. As Christians, we should always reconnect with our core values and first love, our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

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

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You Will Know IT When You See IT (Matthew 27:54)

The singer’s last note reverberated throughout the concert hall as applause drowned out his finish. Everyone was on their feet, hooting and whistling. “He has IT!” one of the judges declared. The rest of the panel nodded their heads in enthusiastic agreement, joining in the revelry.

Yes, but what is IT?

IT has been variously defined as a heightened panache, grace under pressure, star quality, flamboyant charm and confidence, and an overpowering presence. The Spanish have a phrase for this-tener duende. It has been likened to the swagger of a skilled matador as he deftly confronts a bull. Others have applied it to skilled musicians. Yet assigning it may result in inevitable pushback from others who may deem the recipient is unworthy or does not fulfill their criteria of IT. Tener duende is helpful but perhaps it does not completely capture what IT is. Like many abstract concepts, it is difficult to define and more easily experienced than explained. You will know it when you see it. Perhaps we need to redefine IT with a novel example.

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:54 (NKJV)

This passage is taken from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus Christ had just been crucified on the Cross. The Roman centurion who uttered these words was one of many witnesses to the event and he was not coerced into making this bold declaration. In fact, to declare Jesus as God would be a heretical statement during this time when the Roman emperor was revered as a god. Undoubtedly he had witnessed hundreds of cruxificions and other executions and heard their last words and cries of anguish. What was different about this one?

A somber darkness descended over the land during the six hours Jesus hung on the Cross. In the midst of His anguish, Jesus forgave the sins of the thief who was hanging on the cross next to Him even as the thief’s other companion continued to hurl insults at Jesus. He reached out in compassion to His earthly mother, Mary, and His beloved disciple John, and made arrangements for John to care for her after He was gone. At the exact moment of His death, an earthquake shook the land and tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom and split open stone tombs. This execution was very different from all others. Could it be because of who was executed?

Jesus Christ was executed on the Cross but three days later, God raised Him from the dead, exactly as He prophesied to His disciples. He took the sins of the world upon His broken body and paid the price by sacrificing Himself so that we would no longer be separated from God by our sins. Only by confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will we be reconciled to God and receive salvation and eternal life. 

The Roman centurion may not have understood all of the theological ramifications when he witnessed the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ but he recognized that God was present. This was IT!

You will know IT when you see IT. 


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

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