“Gideon Did It!” (Judges 6:12-16)

“I know I can do this. Look at Gideon. He did it! If he could do it, I can do it also, with God’s help.”

“Yes! Yes! You can do it!”

I was listening to a conversation between two young men. One of them was referencing Gideon, one of the judges of Israel. In a time before the kings of Israel, God appointed judges to be spiritual and military leaders for the nation of Israel. Inspired by the success of Gideon, he was sure that God would similarly bless him since he was undertaking a far lesser task than rescuing the nation of Israel. 

The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the LORD is with you!”

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The LORD brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the LORD has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”

Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!” “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

The LORD said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” 

Judges 6:12-16 (NLT)

There is no question that if God desires for you to undertake a task for Him, He will give you all the resources and skills to succeed. This is why Gideon succeeded. However, it would be presumptuous and even dangerous to assume that if Gideon could do it, you could as well. 

When we are seeking Gods’ will in our lives and we feel God is speaking to us, either through the advice of someone else or through something we have read or seen, we should take a moment, pray, and seek God’s direction. He promises that He will answer and reveal His will for your life by transforming your mind.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Gideon did it! 

Yes, he did, but only because God said He would be with him.

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

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Good Night! (2 Corinthians 5:2-5)

“You need to get eight hours of sleep!”

When I was growing up, I heard this preached to me by my parents, teachers, and pediatrician. Recent research has provided intriguing insight. It is both the quantity and quality of the sleep that gives us rest. Most are familiar with the term REM sleep, the acronym for rapid eye movement, the period of sleep when we dream. There are actually three main stages of sleep.

Light Sleep

Deep sleep


Some researchers further subdivide deep sleep into two stages, depending upon the type of brain wave activity. Many researchers have averred that it is the deep sleep stage that provides the greatest feeling of well-restedness. During this stage, the body is at its maximal ability to repair and regenerate and in memory consolidation. REM sleep is also important in memory consolidation and occurs at the end of deep sleep. 

I have often wondered if it was possible to maximize the time I spend in deep sleep at the expense of total sleep. In other words, could one enhance the quality of sleep to substitute for the quantity of sleep? The quick answer is that for one to enter into deep sleep requires at least one hour or more. Thus the objective should be to quickly enter and stay in deep sleep for as long as possible. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, as we age, the time we spend in deep sleep progressively decreases. Even if one eliminates activities and substances that may affect deep sleep, like caffeine, alcohol, taking naps during the day, and high carbohydrate diets, we can do little to ward off the effects of aging. Needless to say, I have been experiencing trouble sleeping for the past several years. Nearly all of the remedies that have been touted, I have used with marginal success. On the occasional mornings when I awaken refreshed and well-rested, I note that I still awoke several times during the evening and did not have any increased total sleep time. The next logical step will be to undertake a formal sleep study and quantitatively document the time I spend in deep sleep. 

When I was younger, I used to joke with my wife over how long it would take before my father would begin talking about his health ailments. During one visit, we were together for 90 seconds before the inevitable discussion began! In fact, his ailments dominated the conversation and visit. Now I find myself in the same position, complaining to my friends and family about various health ailments like sleep deprivation.

We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 

2 Corinthians 5:2-5 (NLT)

I do look forward to the day when I and all believers in Jesus Christ will be given a new heavenly body, free of all physical ailments. Until then, my family and friends must continue to excuse my groaning and roll their eyes, just like I did when my father was the age I am now. 

Good night! I hope so! 

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

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Name Dropping (Acts 19:13-16)

“We need to visit this new sushi restaurant. I once met the owner because my good friend, Sally and her husband, are very close to him. They go there all the time, in fact, they even closed the restaurant down for his birthday!”

“Wow! That’s impressive! Maybe I should go there and say, ‘Hi, I’m a friend of yours, who is a friend of Sally!’ “

“Ha! Somehow I don’t think that will work!”

Name dropping is frequently used in personal interactions and business. I use it quite frequently and when I first visited this sushi restaurant and mentioned my friend Sally’s name, the chef-owner flashed a big smile and our level of service went up several notches. Most of the time, it is helpful but occasionally it may backfire. The Bible records a humorous encounter with a group of charlatans who paid a humiliating price for name dropping. 

A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. 

Acts 19:13-16 (NLT)

At times, it is important to name drop but be careful whose name you use! It may get you into a popular sushi restaurant but if you take God’s Name in vain, you may suffer dire consequences!

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

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On Your Watch (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)

The urologist stormed into our laboratory. “Your lab lost my patient’s biopsies!”

It was a serious issue. After an exhaustive investigation, it was concluded that the courier who picked up the specimen misplaced it. While an extremely rare occurrence, It could have happened to any laboratory but it occurred after the new owner took over our laboratory a few months earlier. The urologist, aware of the recent change in ownership, demanded to speak to the new owner and medical director. While the policies and procedures were written by the previous owners, this unfortunate incident was being blamed on the current leadership. It happened on their watch.

At times, we may get blamed for things that were caused by events not under our control. Politicians are fond of pointing this out when they take office, particularly with financial and economic news. If there is bad news concerning the economy, blame is quickly shifted to their predecessor. Conversely, if there is good news, they are quick to take credit, even if it is far too early for their policies to have made an impact. However, many pundits will point out that whatever happens during a politician’s term is considered on their watch. They are responsible, whether it is accolades or criticism. 

During the early years of the Church, there was an issue that was dividing it. Personality cults centered around some of the leaders were growing and threatened to become divisive. In the following verses, Paul described the problem.

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NLT)

How refreshing it is to read how the Apostle Paul directly addressed the issue and acknowledged the work of others. There was no competition, no assigning blame, and no false claims of success. 

…We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NLT)

The world tells us that if it happens on your watch, you are responsible or we may try to falsely claim credit for another’s work. In God’s Kingdom, everyone is an equal co-worker. We are on His watch!

Praise God!

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

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Perceptual Ability (John 10:11)

Source: DATcrusher.ca

“That is difficult! It’s like origami!”

My daughter nodded as she continued with her studies. I was looking over her shoulder as she was doing a timed practice exam. For the past several weeks, she was preparing to take her DAT (dental admissions test). This examination is mandatory for all students who are seeking to apply to dental school in the United States. While there is significant overlap with the MCAT (medical college admissions test), which I, as a physician, am familiar with, there is a critical difference in the subjects that are covered. The example provided above is part of the section of the DAT known as perceptual ability. As the name suggests, it tests the ability to translate two dimensional images into three dimensions. A dentist needs to be adept at this skill to be able to translate two dimensional radiographic images into three dimensional casts and fillings. 

In this example, one needs to determine how the unfolded two dimensional object in the extreme left sided box will fold into a three dimensional object with the choices given in A through D. This is just one type of test, there are many others. 

As I reflected upon this test, I thought it was an excellent test of the skills a dentist would need to have. What about medical specialties? For example, there are three specialities that are more visually oriented than others, requiring adeptness in pattern recognition: dermatology, pathology, and radiology. How would one devise a test to screen for individuals skilled in pattern recognition? One thought occurred to me several years ago when I interviewed applicants for our dermatology residency program. He was an art history major. To excel in such a major requires the memorization of thousands of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and other works of art. It necessitates the critical parsing of similar works and to provide an erudite discussion justifying one’s decision. In short, it is seemingly an ideal background for these medical specialities requiring keen skills in pattern recognition. 

What about screening for a position in the ministry? Is there a SAT (spiritual admissions test)? I have participated in the selection process for various ministry positions at different churches. As one might expect, the screening process is varied depending upon the position and the composition of the church board and selection committee. Many will rightfully use the familiar Bible passages, quoted below, from 1 Timothy and Titus, that list some of the qualities of a godly pastor as the foundation for their selection.

This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position.” So a church leader must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? A church leader must not be a new believer, because he might become proud, and the devil would cause him to fall. Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap. 

1 Timothy 3:1-7 (NLT)

A church leader is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong. 

Titus 1:7-9 (NLT)

All of these are godly characteristics that should form the basis for screening any applicant for a pastoral position. Yet, in my opinion, there is one quality that should always stand out.  A good pastor is caring and sacrificial on behalf of his church and must always have Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, as his model and example.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 

John 10:11 (NLT)

A wise man once stated, “Your people will forgive any number of bad sermons, but they will never forgive you if you don’t visit them when they’re ill.”

What is the spiritual aptitude test for a pastor? Will he obey the command of Jesus Christ and care and feed the lambs and sheep of the church?

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

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Long Introduction (Psalms 90:2)

The opening scene was idyllic with college students sitting under a tree. The calm was shattered as several other students frantically scurried by. Startled, other students inquired what was happening and they quickly followed the others into a nearby auditorium where a television was broadcasting the horrific images of 9/11. Flash forward a few months and one of the students who was at that college campus was now on a helicopter headed to Afghanistan. Without warning, a rocket struck the helicopter. Tense moments later, he crashed and he was found by a search and rescue team. Emergency spine surgery preserved his ability to walk but it still required months of rehabilitation before he was finally discharged. 

Suddenly, the movie screen flashed the title of the movie. Oh my! The first fifteen minutes of the movie was just the introduction! I thought I somehow missed it. To date, this was the longest intro before the opening title that I had ever watched. It got me thinking, what is the longest intro ever filmed for a movie? A quick internet search revealed other worthy contenders but several articles mentioned one film, The Longest Day. It won two Academy awards in 1962. The film ran for 3 hours, 40 minutes, and 7 seconds. After the film, the title and opening credits were shown. Essentially, the entire film was the intro!

Source: Sceenrant.com

Why do movie makers do this? No doubt, it captures our attention and sets their movie apart from others. Not surprisingly, God does the same thing. The Bible begins with this familiar verse:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 

Genesis 1:1 (NLT)

What this verse does not tell us is how long God existed before He created the heavens and the earth. The following Bible verse gives us a clue. 

Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. 

Psalms 90:2 (NLT)

God has always existed. God created time and therefore He is not bound or limited by His own creation. Scientists estimate the earth to be 4.5 billion years old and the universe to be 13.8 billion years old. God eternally existed before these staggering timelines ever began. Trillions of years? Trillions upon trillions? Not even close!

Longest introduction?

God wins again!

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

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First Cruise (Proverbs 12:15)

My first and only cruise was through the Alaska inner passage to view the magnificent glaciers. It is truly the best way to see this natural wonder and I thought it would be a wonderful introduction to the world of cruising. For years, friends and family regaled me with stories of the incredible food, great stage shows, and numerous other on-board activities that made cruising a delightful way to vacation and travel to multiple destinations. I couldn’t wait!

That enthusiasm was quickly shattered. From the beginning, many things went wrong. Our baggage was delivered to the wrong cabin. The shower leaked. Everyday, another issue was added. Yet, the most disappointing to me was the quality of the food. Yes, a food bar was always open. Yes, it was a buffet and all you could eat, but I felt as though I was dining at a cafeteria at a high school summer camp. Even the vaunted steak and lobster night was a complete disappointment with the lobster and steak overcooked and under seasoned. 

At our breakfast on the first morning, my wife and I were joined at our dining table by another couple. We learned they were seasoned cruisers and had done this cruise to Alaska once before. Over the next five days, we would exchange pleasantries and occasionally share a meal. They were excited to learn that this was our first cruise and gave us helpful tips to enhance our experience . At the end of the cruise, as we were waiting to disembark, we saw the couple again. The husband turned to me and asked, “So what did you think of your first cruise?”

I looked at my wife, pursed my lips, then said, “Truthfully, it really did not live up to my expectations.” 

“Oh? What happened?”

I shook my head. “No, no. I don’t want to go through this again, I just want to go home and only remember the good things about this trip.”

He persisted. “I really would like to hear what you didn’t like about the cruise.”

All right. He asked for it. I recounted all of the negative events, not attempting to sugar coat any of the experiences. During this rant, he politely listened and when I was finished, he smiled and said, “Listen, there is something I didn’t tell you when we first met. I work for this cruise line. I’m part of customer relations.”

My eyes opened wide in horror! “I am so sorry! I would never have….”

“No, no!” He quickly stopped me. “It’s okay! I’m so glad you were honest with me. It’s my job! I need to find out what is really happening on these cruises with our customers, especially first time cruisers like you and your wife.”

I turned to my wife who was equally surprised. “Listen, I agree with a lot of the things you said. Our cruise line used to be one of the best but I know in the last few years, we have not kept up with the rest of the industry and we’ve let a lot of things slip through the cracks. I want to make it up to both of you.” He gave me his business card. “Please email me and I will make sure to get you a substantial discount on your next cruise along with a cabin upgrade. I really want you to have a better experience with our cruise line.”

I was impressed by the candor of this employee of the cruise line. Although I never availed of his offer, I praised his actions. He did not try to make excuses for the mediocre experience. God expects the same of all of us.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. 

Proverbs 12:15 (NLT)

The ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus, wrote, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Truth, indeed! So often, I am too quick to defend myself when I come under criticism. Certainly, there are times when it is unjustified, but many more times, there is truth with the criticism and if I take the time to reflect upon it, I realize there is more truth with the accuser than with my defense. 

It is always painful to own up to one’s faults and not make excuses. God understands this and does not abandon us. He honors us when we are honest with him and others. 

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

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“If You Sit In A Question…” (Proverbs 8:17)

“If you sit in a question, the answer will find you.”

Charlie Gilbert (as played by Owen Wilson in the movie, “Marry Me”)

I recently watched the romantic comedy, “Marry Me” starring Owen Wilson as Charlie Gibert and Jennifer Lopez as Kat Valdez. A feel good love story, there were some nice quotable lines, including the one above, which was a running theme of the movie. Charlie Gilbert is a high school math teacher who encourages his students by informing them that if they keep thinking and pondering a question the answer will eventually find them. The quote is a metaphor for their lives as both Charlie and Kat eventually find love and support from each other.

As much as I enjoyed the movie, it was this quotation that deeply resonated with me. As a physician, I have trained my entire life to ask questions. Am I sure of the diagnosis? Could I do more to help my patient? I have spent many sleepless nights pondering questions for which answers were not forthcoming. At times, I consulted with other experts but even then, the answers did not find me. Thus, as I pondered this quotation, I questioned its veracity. I realized that our knowledge of medicine is still limited and an answer may not find me even within my lifetime. 

Perhaps my frustration is because of the source of the answers? For years, I pondered the question of whether God existed. I asked many people, friends, and religious teachers but the answer did not find me. It was only when I turned directly to God and asked Him to reveal Himself to me did I receive an answer. I began reading the Bible and praying to Him, even if I was unsure if He existed. After nearly six months of earnest searching, God dramatically revealed Himself to me and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. 

I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me. 

Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)

The answer did find me. Praise God that He is the source and answer for all the questions of life. 

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

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“Why Aren’t You Prepared?” (Luke 12:19-21)

There is a popular television show where budding entrepreneurs present their products to seasoned entrepreneurs in the hope that one or more of them will invest in their product. The show is wildly popular and has been on for nearly 14 seasons. In nearly every episode the questions that are asked are generally the same. In fact, on more than one occasion, one of the panel members asks the hapless entrepreneur, “You’ve watched this show. Why aren’t you prepared with an answer?”

If I had a product and was picked to participate in this show, at the least, I would have precise and succinct answers ready for the panel. Sure, there may be an occasional oddball question, but if one prepares these answers, over 90% of the problems that may be encountered should be easily resolved. 

It is no different for our spiritual lives. There are fundamental questions that one needs to answer for oneself and ultimately to God. For some, it is as basic as what happens when you die or do you believe in God? For others, it is asking whether Jesus Christ is God and your Lord and Savior? No one can argue another person into heaven but everyone, regardless of their beliefs, must be absolutely convinced of the answers they would give to these questions. 

And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.

Luke 12:19-21 (NLT)

Many of us know how to prepare for retirement and to take the necessary precautions to live a healthy life. Are we as prepared for what happens to us when we die? For everyone there is no question more important to correctly answer. Fortunately, God has given us the answer to prepare us before we face that day. If we confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, He will give us eternal life and salvation. 

Why aren’t you prepared?

With God, we have no excuses. 

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

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How Would You Feel? (Deuteronomy 31:19-21)

The young bride sneaked a peak from under her white lacy veil at her soon to be husband. He was beaming and gazing right back at her. It was the happiest day of their young lives. The minister stepped forward and addressed the couple and those in attendance. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to witness the joining of this couple in holy matrimony. They are sublimely happy and will have many good years together.” The couple squeezed each other’s hands. The minister continued. “However, one day, you, Jake, will fail her and not be there for her when she is undergoing a difficult trial with her other family members. And you, Sally, will fail him when you did not support him when his relationships with his co-workers were strained. Both of you will feel betrayed and the hurt will be transferred to your future children.”

How would you feel if moments before you take your vows, your minister predicted failure and disaster for your marriage? Of course, everyone would be shocked and hopefully, this would never happen. Yet, thousands of years ago, something similar happened with God. 

So write down the words of this song, and teach it to the people of Israel. Help them learn it, so it may serve as a witness for me against them. For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey. There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat. But they will begin to worship other gods; they will despise me and break my covenant. And when great disasters come down on them, this song will stand as evidence against them, for it will never be forgotten by their descendants. I know the intentions of these people, even now before they have entered the land I swore to give them.

Deuteronomy 31:19-21 (NLT)

The Israelites were about to enter the promised land of Canaan after wandering in the desert for forty years. God promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, overflowing with prosperity. This was the good news. However, God then informed the Israelites they would turn away from Him and follow after other false gods. As a result many disasters would descend upon them and generations would suffer because of their disobedience. 

God is always ready to bless us with the desires of our heart but we must first be willing to trust and obey Him. God is love but He is also holy. He will not tolerate disobedience and continually warns us of the dire consequences of being unfaithful to Him. 

How would you feel? 

I am grateful that God, through His grace and mercy, warns us of the consequences of our sins before we commit them. When we sin, He does not abandon us. He sent us a Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive and redeem us of our sins through faith and trust in His Name. 

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

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