Harmonically Excursive (Psalms 119:73)

Being a physician, one may assume that the most enjoyable class I took in college was a science class, but it was not, it was a music theory class. However, it was not the expected music theory class for music majors who were required to have proficiency with the piano, nor was it a music theory class for students who had absolutely no musical background. This class required all students to be able to read music and be proficient in any musical instrument but did not fulfill the rigorous requirements expected of a music major. Since I played guitar and violin and read music, it was the perfect music theory class for me.

I loved the class! Each homework assignment analyzed a great work of classical music: piano sonatas by Beethoven, string quartet pieces from Mozart, and so on. I learned the nuances of the melodic and harmonic underpinnings that established these composers as geniuses. The semester sped by and we were given our final examination assignment. We were to submit an original musical composition and were given no restrictions. I dove into the task with gusto.

Building upon my background in classical and jazz music, I composed a complex piece that could be performed on guitar. While following a traditional framework of most songs, I utilized harmonies and rhythmic devices that stretched my usual boundaries of music. I was quite proud of my work and was elated when my professor praised my work and wrote in bold red letters on the composition, “Excellent job! Harmonically excursive!” I successfully built upon the lessons I learned in the class to create a new direction in my music. 

You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands. 

Psalms 119:73 (NLT)

All successful entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians must learn the rules first before breaking them. Instead, for much of my youth, I placed the cart before the horse, paying lip service to traditions, thinking my creativity would be superior to hundreds of years of tradition in any endeavor I encountered. Religion was no different. I eschewed traditional religions and believed I could create a superior faith, unfettered by the trappings of institutions. In my sophomore year in college, God gave me the sense I was lacking and showed me how I needed to learn the commands that He issued from the beginning of creation. I learned that I was not a random and fortuitous collection of molecules that evolved from simple sugars and amino acids to become the complex being that I am. God created me in His image and my purpose was to follow His commands so that I would thrive and prosper under His rule, not mine. 

I still seek to be excursive in everything I do, yet, I now do so completely grounded in God’s teachings. He sets the rules so that I do not break them!

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

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Ph’o (Psalms 119:119)

The tantalizing aroma filled the room as our friend warmed her speciality dish in preparation to serve us. Ph’o is familiar to many people who enjoy Vietnamese food. My family has had it many times but this time, it was very special. 

As our friend reminded us, “A good Ph’o has an absolutely clear broth with no oil or fat droplets.” To accomplish this, every few minutes, she would painstakingly skim the fat droplets from the surface until after many hours, the broth was completely transparent. The result was this culinary masterpiece of Vietnamese cuisine, a far cry from the unoriginal Ph’o that I had previously eaten at restaurants. 

With many soups and broths, it is essential to skim the fat to perfect the dish. Many people do a cursory skim and do not have the patience to do what our friend so carefully did. It was a tribute to her mother who lovingly taught her how to prepare this dish and a display of affection she had for us, desirous for us to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

You skim off the wicked of the earth like scum; no wonder I love to obey your laws! 

Psalms 119:119 (NLT)

In these difficult days, it may seem like God is helpless or does not care. Why doesn’t God end the COVID pandemic? Why doesn’t he help the millions suffering under totalitarian regimes? Simply because we do not physically see God, does not mean He is not working in this world. God, the Holy Spirit, is actively working in the spiritual realm, unseen by our eyes. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent and is skimming off the undesirable qualities of our world that hinder us from seeing Him work. It is not just in the world, it is within our lives. Like the unwanted fat in Ph’o, the scum of our lives encompasses everything from sinful lusts and desires that we harbor to the resentment we feel from the undeserved snide remark directed to us from a total stranger. We cannot understand how God does it, but we should be thankful that He is doing it. Like the painstaking care that my friend took to remove the scum in her Ph’o, we should be grateful for God’s grace and mercy in our lives, as He skims off the sins of the world and our lives, transforming and conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Amen!

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

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“It’s Hard To Not Be A Dad.” (Matthew 7:9-11)

The dining table was being cleared and the desserts were laid out. We were having dinner with our close family friends whom we had known for over twenty years. We met before either of us had our children and theirs were a bit younger than ours. My friend also invited his sister who was visiting for the week. The conversation turned toward college applications since my friend’s sons were in their senior and junior years in high school. My friend’s sister turned to me and said, “You need to talk to the boys. They are interested in medical school!”

“Oh really, I did not know that. Great! I am sure your mom is a great resource.” as I turned to their mother, who is a pediatrician.

“Yes” she nodded. “But they need to hear some advice from a professor like you.”

“Ok,” It was a high compliment and I was embarrassed by the praise. “But I don’t know how much more I can add beyond what you have probably already heard from your mom.” I then delivered a speech that I give to all students who are seeking advice about pursuing a career in medicine. The boys and parents politely listened but from the look on their faces, I could see that I may have been coming on too strong. The next day I texted the parents. “I hope I wasn’t too serious with your boys. The questions I asked them are the same ones I ask all my students that I mentor who are thinking about medical school. Maybe it was too much information at this stage of their education. I am happy to sit down with either or both of them and let them control the conversation and have them ask me anything they like. I have a tendency to get too intense and don’t want to offend.”

The father texted back. “I thought what you told them was spot on. We have been telling them somewhat the same but as you know, anything coming from the parents is suspect and massively discounted if not ignored completely. I think they took it in and the wheels are turning.”

I thanked the father but I was still uneasy. I was speaking to his children as I speak to my own children. I love my children but sometimes I get into a lecture mode and it can be harsh. Children know this, and as my friend correctly shared from his own experiences, anything coming from the parents is suspect and massively discounted. I once spoke to a Sunday school class during the main church service. Later, one of my friends said, “Good message, but you have to ease up and smile more. They’re just kids!” I reluctantly agreed. I am just too intense. It’s hard to not be a dad.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. 

Matthew 7:9-11 (NLT)

I will never stop being a dad or acting like a dad. Although my intentions are good, my actions and delivery may go awry. Praise God that my Heavenly Father is perfect with both His intentions and actions. He knows how to perfectly instruct, discipline, exhort, and train His children to be conformed in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. I can never stop being a dad and praise God, that He is my eternal Heavenly Father!

Amen!

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

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“We’re Not Running A Residency Program!” (1 Timothy 4:12-13)

Many years ago, I was in charge of recruitment for my former pathology group. During my tenure, I was privileged to interview many qualified pathologists who later became successful partners. I also interviewed others who generated divisive opinions. One young pathologist had just completed his residency training. He was clearly intelligent and his sparkling personality charmed many on the selection committee. Yet, it was evident that he would need a great deal of coaching if he were to successfully become a member of our group. Various suggestions were made but everyone realized it would require a huge commitment of time, greater than what we had previously done for other new hires. After a tense discussion, one of my partners, who was the president of the group, dismissively shook his head and declared, “We’re not running a residency program. I pass.”

First jobs are always difficult. Very rarely is an applicant ready to hit the ground running and function as an equal team member. There needs to be a champion, someone who will support and defend the new hire. There also needs to be a period of orientation; the unknown variable is for how long?

Most of us remember our first real jobs. I certainly do. Everyday, I felt I had to prove myself over and over again. Thankfully, I had a champion in one of the partners, who supported and coached me. It is reassuring to know that Timothy, the young minister and protege of the Apostle Paul, undoubtedly felt this same anxiety when he began his ministry, leading to these words of encouragement from his esteemed mentor. 

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12-13 (NIV)

In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his protege to stand firm and focus on being an ambassador for God and not be concerned about what others may think of him or unfairly judge him because of his youth and inexperience. Paul offered this practical advice. 

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 

1 Timothy 4:13-15 (NIV)

Church historians record that Timothy successfully pastored the first church at Ephesus. It is sobering to learn that even this great leader of the early Christian church needed time to convince his peers that he was up to the task. The Bible does not tell us how much time passed before Timothy was accepted and since this was the early church, there were no role models to determine how long an orientation period was needed. Timothy had a champion with the Apostle Paul and the two letters that he wrote to Timothy were circulated throughout the nascent Church, encouraging the church members to support him. 

Every organization, secular and ecclesiastical, needs to create a program to orient new hires and train them to become leaders. The criteria will differ for each but thanks be to God that He gives us a model to base our decisions. A new hire needs a champion to coach them and encourage others to support them. 

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

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No Valet Ticket (Luke 12:6-7)

“We don’t give out valet tickets!”

“Excuse me?”

The man in the neatly tailored suit smiled smugly and once again declared, “We don’t give out valet tickets. We remember everyone’s cars!”

Many years ago, I attended a posh event for the hospital in which I was working. Held in a prestigious club that counted many famous celebrities as members, I was excited to attend. As I drove into the parking lot, I was greeted by a team of valets who welcomed me, took my car, and then surprised me by not giving me a valet ticket. In spite of the valet’s confidence, I was quite skeptical that he and his team would be able to successfully accomplish this task. I left my car with an uneasy feeling, hopeful I would be proven wrong. 

At the end of the evening, I found the same valet and asked him to retrieve my car. Smiling, he confidently nodded and within a few minutes, drove up in a car that was not mine. Chagrined, he tried again with the same result. I am quite certain the valets were adept at remembering the cars of their club members. This evening was different. There were over three hundred guests and many of us drove the same type of car. After two failures, the hapless valet finally asked me, “Do you know your license plate number?” They eventually found my car, nearly 30 minutes later. 

I am always astounded by people who can successfully demonstrate their ability to remember things about people they just met. I recall one person randomly handing out a deck of cards to the members of the audience, remembering to match the card with the person. With the cards hidden, he then proceeded to look at each person and remember their card. This event I attended could have used someone with his skills! God has blessed some of us with excellent memories but there are limits to what one can achieve.

What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. 

Luke 12:6-7 (NLT)

In this passage, Jesus reassures His disciples that God cares very deeply for everyone. Thanks be to God that He knows all of His children, who come and are adopted by Him by confessing and repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Of the billions of people who lived or will live on this earth, God knows all of them. Not only does He know our faces, He even numbers the very hairs on our head! That is a feat of memory that dwarfs anything we can fathom! Unlike the valet who still needed my help to remember, there are no limits to God’s memory!

Amen!

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

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Hardening My Heart (Exodus 7:3-5)

“So why don’t you help some of these people instead of simply protesting?”

I was shouting at my computer screen as I viewed a group of protestors marching and shouting in front of their local city hall. They were advocating for greater government action to deal with a pressing social issue that was gripping their city and many others across America. Something did have to be done, but why couldn’t they stop their protesting and just do it? Instead of being sympathetic to their cause, I was resenting their actions. I was cynical. This is not what they should be doing if they truly cared. 

If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.

James 2:15-17 (CSB)

Even before I became a Christian, these words written by the Apostle James, deeply resonated within me. I despised hypocrites who talked about helping people but never lifted a finger. As the old adage states, actions speak louder than words. As I viewed the protestors, I felt these old prejudices re-emerge. My heart was being hardened by what I saw. 

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh will not listen to you, but I will put my hand into Egypt and bring the military divisions of my people the Israelites out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 

Exodus 7:3-5 (CSB)

For many years, I did not understand the meaning of this passage from the Book of Exodus. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Was God cruel and vindictive, arbitrarily hardening hearts if He did not get His way? It was this recent incident that dispelled my confusion. While I agreed in principle with what the protestors were advocating, I disagreed with their methods. The more I heard, the harder my heart became, closing my mind to other options to address societal problems, like protesting. My actions revealed how I truly felt about the issue, stubbornly clinging to my preconceived notions. This is a hardened heart. It is not God hardening my heart, it is my own doing.

Thanks be to God that He continues to soften my heart, allowing me to consider and embrace methods and ideas that I previously dismissed. There is no single solution to solve the multitude of social issues that divide us. We must come together and begin the discussion.

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

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National Pride (Philippians 3:20)

“Did you see him? He won the gold medal?”

“I did! It was great!”

“Man! I was so proud of him! Made our country proud!”

It was refreshing to see my friend gush about his fellow countrymen. He moved to America over twenty years ago, raised a family, and began a successful business. However, he never forgot his roots and was equally proud of his home country as well as his adopted country of America. It was not about proving that one country was better than another or excluding other countries. It was about the love he had for his homeland and the pride in the accomplishments of her citizens.

In this age of cancel culture, people are shamed for expressing pride in their country. No country is perfect but that should not dissuade anyone from praising the good attributes of their own country. Certainly some have wrongly taken it to the extreme of jingoism but for the majority, it is simply to express pride and support. It is these latter motives that I applaud.

Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 (CSB)

All Christians have a citizenship in Heaven, in the Kingdom of God. We also live in this world. Like my friend, we should be proud of the country of our birth and rejoice in our new home, adopted by God through faith and belief in His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Amen!

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

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Out Of The Frying Pan…(Amos 5:18-20)

He was a successful physician entrepreneur, who created a thriving radiology business. We had met when we were both residents and our families were quite close. Unexpectedly, he called me one day and inquired if I knew of a good attorney. I was quite surprised since he always raved about the attorney that he had on retainer with his radiologist partner. I soon learned that his partner had betrayed him, partnering with their current lawyer and secretly working to divert the existing client accounts to a new entity, cutting him out of his own business. For a brief period, he was able to stabilize his business, however, the changes he made triggered a Medicare audit. It was one predicament after another. Each time he thought he had resolved his situation, another more serious crisis emerged. As the old adage states, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Eventually, he ended up leaving the state and working for another group as an independent contractor, a far cry from his once successful business venture. 

What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the LORD were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light. In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion—only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house—and he’s bitten by a snake. Yes, the day of the LORD will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope.

Amos 5:18-20 (NLT)

This passage from the prophet Amos depicts a similar lurching from one crisis to another. It could be applied to my friend’s situation but as serious as his predicament was, Amos was prophesying about a much more dire circumstance-the Day of the Lord.

As the prophet Amos grimly warned his countrymen, it will be a day of horror, like running from a lion into a bear, then escaping from that encounter only to be bitten by a snake. But there is hope. The Day of the Lord is a day of judgment for all who have not confessed and repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, for all believers in Jesus Christ, this is the day they will be taken to Heaven. 

Will your life be spent running from one crisis to another or will you accept the hope and joy that God offers to all who place their faith in trust in Jesus Christ? We all endure enough sorrow in our lives. Isn’t it time to turn to the source of all hope and receive salvation and eternal life?

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

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48 to 9 (Psalms 139:17-18)

The final score was 48 to 9. It was one for the record books. There has never been an NFL football game ending with that score!

Source: Reddit.com

While the score is unusual given the numerous permutations of football scoring, the more peculiar fact, in my opinion, is that someone was tracking this statistic. As the article cited above revealed, a company known as Scorigami has examined every single final score in NFL history and this score was the 1071st unique score! The data has always been there for public consumption, it simply took someone with an intense love of NFL lore to analyze and compile it. 

At a former church that I attended, all of the children participated in a Bible Trivia Bowl. I was chagrined when I witnessed grade school children perfectly reciting dozens of Bible verses and answering obscure questions about the Bible. I would not have made it out of the initial rounds! I read and studied the same Bible but I clearly did not embrace it with the same enthusiasm as these children.

When we love something, we are willing to go to extremes to express our affection. I confess that I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but how frequently do I think about Him? I spend time in prayer in the morning and with my daily devotional but what about the rest of the day? Too often, God becomes an afterthought and I do not dwell on His greatness nor ponder His love, grace, and mercy that He lavishes upon me. Yet, as imperfectly as I express my devotion to God, He is perfect and always thinking about me.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand —when I awake, I am still with you. 

Psalms 139:17-18 (NIV)

God’s thoughts about me cannot be numbered! Everyone and everything in creation is always on His mind. He controls the universe and is the power that holds atoms together and causes the planets to revolve around the sun, yet He still intimately knows about my struggles and prepares me to face each day, reassuring me that He will never leave nor forsake me.

What an awesome God we serve!

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

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Signs Of The Times (1 Chronicles 12:32 )

Over a year ago, I received my first COVID vaccination. As I thanked the health care workers who were involved with the administration of vaccination, I turned to one of them and said,”See you here next year.” Many of them reluctantly nodded. At the time, our knowledge of the COVID virus and efficacy of the various vaccines were still quite limited. Although clinical trials had been successfully conducted, no one could confidently predict how long the enhanced immune response would last. Would this be like our annual flu vaccine or like the hepatitis B vaccine, requiring a booster several years later? Flash forward to 2022. We now have several new variants of COVID against which the existing vaccines have varying efficacy. Nearly all medical experts are recommending boosters. I was correct but I am certainly not a prophet. I was simply basing my prediction upon previous epidemiological experiences with other viruses. I was reading the signs of the times using my medical background. What about spiritual matters? Am I a discerning and a keen observer of these signs of the times as I am with my own profession?

From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

1 Chronicles 12:32 (NLT)

In this passage from the Bible, Issachar, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, was singled out for having men who understood the signs of the times, using this knowledge to help guide their fellow Israelites. They were shrewd observers of the current events and were honored by God for their faithfulness. Our Lord Jesus Christ warned His followers to be watchful for similar signs of the times.

Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Matthew 24:4-8 (NLT)

One only needs to look at the events of the world over these past two years to realize that the signs of the times may indeed correspond to what Jesus prophesied: a world wide pandemic, unprecedented weather patterns and natural disasters, geopolitical flashpoints from Taiwan to Ukraine. What do they mean?

The signs of the times foreshadow when Jesus Christ will return to judge the world. While we do not know the exact time when He will return, we should always live in earnest expectation. For believers in Jesus Christ, it will be a glorious return and we will be taken to Heaven. For those who have not confessed and repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it will be the sign that their time of judgment is at hand. God is patient with all of us, not wishing for any to perish but for all to have salvation and eternal life through faith and belief in the Name of Jesus Christ. He has given us all the signs if we are willing to observe and believe in them. 

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

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