To Circumcise or Not?

You probably don’t think about this question very much unless you are a parent or a health provider, but this is a topic of long-standing debate. Throughout the last century, the pendulum has swung back and forth, with at one time in the mid 1900s, something like 90% of male infants were circumcised. The latter part of the 20th century saw a decline in the procedure as concerns about safety and benefit resurfaced.

Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policy statement on male circumcision, which was last revised in 1999. Their stance over the last decade has been there is not sufficient evidence regarding possible benefits so the decision is up to the parents’ cultural and religious preferences. The newest update after a review of evidence reflect a more positive stance, citing potential health benefits (i.e., decreased risk of urinary infections, HIV transmission) that outweighs the risk of the procedure. But the evidence, though positive, is not enough to recommend universal circumcision of male infants. The AAP still leaves the decision up to the parents. If interested, you can read the policy statement here.

This past Sunday at church we talked about how God chose the nation of Israel to be His vehicle to bless the nations. He commanded the Israelites to be circumcised as a physical sign of their covenant relationship (Gen 17:10-12) and later through Moses gave Israel the laws that they are to live by. The possession of God’s law and the sign of circumcision reminded the Jewish people that they were a special people belonging to God, chosen for the special purpose of displaying the glory of the true living God to the world. The rest of the Old Testament tells us that instead of doing that, they kept God’s blessings to themselves, and even started to worship other gods.

Eventually, God judged the people of Israel through exile, taking away all the blessings of land, power, and His presence. The New Testament tells us that God’s desire for all the nations to be blessed by Abraham is ultimately fulfilled through the coming of Jesus Christ. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, those who believe now become a new people of God, set apart through faith, made holy by the forgiveness of sins. With Christ, there is now a new covenant manifested not by outward circumcision, but a circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:28-29). Paul warns the Jewish people in Romans 2:17-29 that having God’s laws or circumcision will not save them on the day of judgment. Everyone will need the righteousness that comes through the faith in Christ, resulting in the forgiveness of sins.

Living in the 21st century not many of us will be tempted to trust having the Mosaic Law or being circumcised to save us when God judges the world. But we still fall into the same trap; our misplaced objects of trust are just different. Now we have the entire Word of God, yet our reading the Bible can puff up our intellect rather than deepen our realization of sin and dependance on Christ. God makes us His new people through the church, but one can come to church simply for the community or the opportunity to serve apart from a saving relationship with Christ.

It’s pretty scary how we can do a lot of Christian things, yet miss the whole point that we need Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. My prayer is that we will not not be deceived into thinking our good works, Bible knowledge, and church attendance will make us right with God, but only the work of the Holy Spirit in our inner heart, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What Christian things have you trusted in to make you right with God instead of Christ Himself?

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Romans 2:28-29

 

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Finish Your Rice or Else Your Spouse Will Have Pimples!!@#

I think all our Asian brothers and sisters have been threatened by our parents in this way to finish all our food at meal times. Turns out this is bad advice according to this recent CNN article!

An interesting article looking at the cause of poor eating habits and possible contributions to obesity in the future. You don’t have to read the whole thing, the gist is that poor eating habits develop when food is restricted by parents, as well as when parents pressure their kids to finish their plate even after their kids say they are full. Here’s the reasoning:

Parental pressure to eat can be detrimental to children because it takes away from a child’s ability to respond naturally to their own hunger,” said Loth. “Instead, (it) encourages them to respond to cues in their environment which can lead to unhealthy weight gain over time.

Sounds reasonable enough. It probably does has an effect on molding attitudes towards food, and us future Asian parents will have to find a new way to teach not to be wasteful. What I did wholeheartedly agree with was how the article concluded:

And most importantly, “parents should also work hard to model healthy eating and a healthy relationship with food to their child” by eating a well-balanced diet

The obesity epidemic is actually pretty frightening. More and more kids are developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver disease from cholesterol issues. It’s going to be a sad day indeed when we start seeing kids on dialysis or the transplant list because of obesity-related complications. Our battle has to be in the homes, and until everyone is on board, then any medication, exercise regimen, or diet plan we prescribe will have very little lasting effect.

It’s interesting how much of who we are today has been influenced by the lives we saw modeled, especially in our parents, from as benign as using our dish washers as dry racks to very destructive and hurtful patterns of living. While the Bible is clear that each person will be held accountable to his or her sins, sin’s effects are far-reaching, often times propagating through an endless, terrible cycle across generational lines.

Being in church ministry I have heard often people share how they vowed they would never do what their parents did, yet when similar situations presented themselves, they did the same thing.  The good news of the Gospel is that in Christ there is new life, and in Christ there is power to cast off the old and embrace life as God intended.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

How have you seen yourself repeat things your parents did?

 

 

Book Title Help!

Hi all!

Here’s a book update. I’m in the middle of doing some revisions as it is being formatted. I’m revisiting the title and wanted to ask for some input! I’m thinking of changing the current working title of …

Worth the Cost? Reflections on Wealth, Health, and Christian Discipleship

to…

Worth the Cost? Becoming A Christian Doctor Without Losing Your Soul

My goal is to have the readers consider the costs of medical education. And not just the cost of tuition, time commitment, and amount of work, but the cost to one’s soul if pursued for the wrong reasons. I hope to challenge readers to consider the cost of discipleship with Christ, to be willing to pay that cost first (and why it is worth paying that cost) before entertaining big ideas of serving God with medicine (or any field for that matter).

After one makes that choice to put Christ first, the next question is how can we live now in order to be effective in God’s kingdom instead of getting stuck chasing after the American Dream trying to fulfill our own desires. That’s the book in a nutshell!

Let me know your thoughts. If you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks and I appreciate all the prayers so far. Please continue to pray! Click if you like to learn more about the project.

Medical Training Advice: Find a Mentor

Everyone needs a hero. If you read the free preview of my book, you know that one of the biggest influences on my medical career has been Dr. Nick Yphantides. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s an excerpt:

After I accepted Christ… I went happily on my way to college at UCLA, majored in physiological science like a good little pre-med, and researched and volunteered my way into medical school. In medical school, I just looked for Christian things that I should do. So, I started volunteering at the free clinics, as well as going down to Mexico on weekend mission trips. I was a medical student who happened to be a Christian.

Then I met Dr. Nick Yphantides, a mentor who would change the trajectory of my medical career. Growing up, my heroes were Jackie Chan and my dad, and I quickly added Dr. Nick to that list. He was one of those superstar students who made medical school look like child’s play. He graduated high school and college early, and rumor has it he got top marks in every class and rotation in medical school.

This was a guy who could have done anything he wanted. But he was also a devoted Christian who loved the Lord, and was convicted by God to serve the indigent poor of San Diego. Because of that, he chose to go into primary care and spent the first decade of his career on the front lines serving exclusively patients without insurance.

In Dr. Nick I found a Christian who happened to be a doctor. He understood that God’s heart beats for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. For Dr. Nick, medicine was simply a means in which to carry out that heart. As I spent time with him and saw that passion lived out, God began to put a similar conviction on my heart as well.

Worth the Cost, Introduction: My Story

If you are pursuing any career, not just medicine, an important thing you need to do is to find someone who has gone before that can mentor you. And especially if you want to do it for the Lord, you need to find someone who is living that out. Things can get really hard, and we need the experience of those who have gone before to follow after and a glimpse of faith lived out.

If you want to be inspired, here’s a cool video that shows a snapshot of Dr. Nick’s life.

Who in your life can you ask to mentor you in what you would like to do? Who in your life can you be a mentor for?

Does God Grade on a Curve?

If you don’t know, I am currently in my second semester at Talbot seminary. It’s been really interesting being back in school again. I finished medical school about four years ago so it has been awhile since I’ve had to do classroom-type work.

It has been an adjustment getting back into school mode again. And seminary definitely is a different kind of training. There’s a lot more reading, writing papers and my least favorite, class participation (Actually my least least favorite is role playing. Thankfully we haven’t had much of that yet). But I really, really dislike class participation. I rather memorize tons of obscure facts.

And the grading is different too. Throughout medical school we actually didn’t have grades. Some traditional med schools still give out letter grades, but most have adopted a pass/fail system where if you get above a certain percentage, then you pass. If you don’t, you fail and you have to retake the test, or sometimes retake the class.

Some schools have a grading-on-a-curve type system and award the top 10-15% an honors grade. But basically, once you get into medical school, almost everyone eventually finishes. There’s a joke, “What do you call a medical student who graduates at the bottom of their class? A doctor.” That’s comforting, right?

It’s interesting that in Talbot, they not only have letter grades, but the grading scale is much higher than I’ve seen anywhere else. In one of my classes, an A is a 94, and that’s an A minus. I’m glad that I’m doing this more for my own growth and for the benefit of the church, or else the Asian part of me would be giving me stomach ulcers.

We are going through Romans at my church, and the passage I just preached on yesterday (Romans 2:1-16) reminded me that God has an even more demanding grading system. It is pass or fail, except it’s more like you pass only if you get everything right. There will be a day of judgment where God judges our works,and I think many hold on to the hope that if I do more good than bad, then I’ll make it to heaven.

But Paul reminds us that God’s standard is not “good enough,” or “better than most.” God doesn’t grade on a curve. On the day of judgment, everyone will fall short of God’s perfect standard, no matter how much good we have done. Before a perfect and holy God, even one sin is enough to condemn us to eternal punishment in hell.

But the good news of the Gospel, and why Paul is eager to preach this message to all, is that while there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, God has revealed a righteousness, a way to be made right with God in Christ that is through faith. In God’s love, mercy, and grace, He sent His son Jesus to live a perfect life in our place, satisfying the requirements of God’s law, and died on the cross in our place, taking on the punishment for our sins.

Through faith in Christ, we have perfect obedience and forgiveness of sins, restoring our relationship with God. Judgment will be by our works, and all will be condemned. But salvation is by faith, praise be to God!

How good is good enough to get into heaven if we can be saved by our works?

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22-24

If you missed the sermon this past Sunday, feel free to download the podcast here! If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the sermon, please leave a comment or send me an email.

East Coast Visit Recap

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I went with my wife and some friends to the East Coast this past week for vacation. We stayed mostly in NYC and spent the weekend in Boston. This was the first time for me in both these cities. I am not a big fan of the NY lifestyle and for sure not a fan of the weather. But, the food was amazing and I had a great time. Here’s some of my favorite food places.

IMG_0938Articoke Pizza. It was like eating a artichoke dip, but it was a pizza. That’s my wife by the way. She’s beautiful, huh? Priscilla is really pretty too.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1007Chicken and Rice on 53rd and 6th. Tasted extra good as a late night snack. I heard the white sauce is mostly mayo. I hope that is not true because I used tons.

 

 

 

IMG_7448Katz’s deli pastrami sandwich. The meat just melted in my mouth. A little pricey but worth it.

 

 

 

IMG_1126Belle Isle Seafood in Boston. Great baked lobster cake!

 

 

 

 

We pretty much ate the whole time, but we did do the usual touristy stuff: visited memorials, museums, and caught a musical. We saw Once, which was spectacular. I really liked the movie and I thought the musical was even better. Some more pictures!

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Once, the musical; Natural History museum; The Met; One of the new towers; Ground zero memorial

 

 

Being your stereotypical Asian left-brained pre-med, I never took time to appreciate the arts. I have missed out on so much. During the trip we saw the amazing creativity that people are capable of. I was reminded by a friend that our God is a creative God, and we are called to go and not just steward the earth, but also to create as well.

And the whole point of all this creating is to point back to the creator. No one looks at a masterpiece of art and only praise the art. They give praise to the artist who created it. And we, as God’s creation gifted with seemingly unlimited potential of intellect and abilities, reflect God’s wisdom, power, and beauty in who we are and what we do.

So whether we are making a mouth-watering meal, painting a portrait, composing music, designing a building, or simply writing an email, doing your homework, or making a blog post, we can bring glory to our creator God by doing it excellently.

How can you reflect God in your everyday life?

“For we are God’s worksmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

IMG_7512Traveling companions! Left to right: Christina, me, Priscilla, Phil, Jamie (Thanks Jamie for the pictures!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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End of an exhausting but fun week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Christine and Jack for hosting us in NY!

 

Yom HaShoah

IMG_1105Yom HaShoah is a day of remembrance of the 6 million plus Jews and the many millions more others who were killed during the Holocaust. This year it started last night and ends today. We were just in Boston over the weekend and happened upon the New England Holocaust Memorial while doing the Freedom Trail.

The memorial consists of 6 glass towers that has 6 million numbers etched into the glass representing the tattoos that were placed on the prisoners’ arms. The 6 towers also represents the six main death camps, and at each tower were quotes from survivors about their experiences.

It was gut-wrenching walking through the memorial and reading about the atrocities that were committed. It was such a powerful experience; the creators of the memorial did an amazing job.

Going through the memorial I was reminded of the degree of evil that we as humans are capable of. It was quite fitting that the sermon for church the very next day was on Romans 1:18-32, how our rejection of God and truth has resulted in ever-worsening depravity.

While we are not all as corrupt as we possibly could be, all of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standards. And our sins have permeated and affected all of creation. Praise be to God that He has provided the solution to sin and decay in the death of His son, Jesus Christ.

How have you seen the effects of our sin against God manifest?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Romans 1:18-19

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Thanks Christina for taking us to the memorial.