Can Christians Get Tattoos?

I did my first session of training to do laser tattoo removals yesterday at Homeboy Industries. If you don’t know about Homeboy Industries, check out their website. It is a gang intervention program that helps previous gang members and those who have been incarcerated get back on their feet with social work resources, legal help, job training, and more. Many people who come through have tattoos that hinder their chances of being hired (or marks them as an enemy in certain places), so one service Homeboy provides is free laser removal of tattoos.

Christians often ask whether or not they are allowed to have tattoos. Many people turn to Leviticus 19:28 “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves” as a prohibition against Christians getting tattoos. You would think that verse would make a pretty slam-dunk case against tattoos. But I suspect not many who insist on verse 28 would hold strictly to verse 27 right before: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”

This gets into the hairy issue of what in the Old Testament still applies to New Testament believers. One good guideline is to see if the same command is repeated or modified by New Testament writers (love your neighbor, honor parents), or fulfilled in Christ (animal sacrifices for sins). Another approach to interpreting some of the “weird” Old Testament laws is to see if there’s an underlying principle the law is upholding.

We get a hint in the first part of verse 28 about not cutting our bodies for the dead. Perhaps that and the practice of tattoos were associated with pagan rituals or idol worship by Israel’s neighbors so the underlying principle would be to avoid any practices that would resemble or associate oneself with the worship of false idols.

So, in our day in which tattoos generally do not have that kind of association, it may be fine for Christians to get tattoos. Certainly there would be types of tattoos that Christians should not have, and perhaps in places where tattoos are strongly associated with a certain lifestyle, it might be wise for a Christian not to get a tattoo at all for the sake of Gospel witness.

And along those lines, 1 Corinthians 8 about food sacrificed to idols speaks of morally neutral situations that I think can be helpful in this discussion. Paul asserts that Christians have a great deal of freedom in their everyday life (contrary to what some non-Christians think), but what should govern our actions isn’t what we are free to do, but our love for God and fellow brothers and sisters.

The question then becomes, what will be most glorifying to God and loving to others. If a tattoo allows one to share about God, then I personally think that’s great. But if it might cause people to think differently of you and as a result, hinder your witness, then it is best to avoid tattoos. And of course if a fellow believer  is stumbled by tattoos because of a previous association, maybe to gangs or certain cults, then we are not being loving if we insist on our Christian freedoms.

So can Christians get tattoos? All of that to say, it depends. By the way, even if we are free to get tattoos, I would think hard before doing so. One of the guys told me at Homeboy it hurts three times more getting it off than putting it on. Would I ever get one? No, I’m not cool enough. If I were to though, perhaps I would get something of a hybrid between my favorite sea creature and my favorite person:












That’s a jellyfish in case you couldn’t tell. Maybe on the shoulder with the tentacles streaming down my arm. What do you think?

Do you think Christians can get tattoos, and if you did get one, what would it be of?

“Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8:13



Marijuana to Treat Diabetes??

I wasn’t going to post today but I ran across this article talking about a recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine that found marijuana users had lower insulin resistance, higher good cholesterol, and a smaller waist circumference. Funny that a group of us was just talking about the issue of legalizing marijuana yesterday. I am by no means an expert in this area, but I’ll just throw in my two cents.

The article opens with “Toking up may help marijuana users to stay slim and lower their risk of developing diabetes, according to the latest study, which suggests that cannabis compounds may help in controlling blood sugar.” I find this statement a bit misleading since the study itself makes no such claims and is unable to because of its study design (cross-sectional, which is just an observation of a particular sample at one point in time).

Based on their statistical analysis of the data, the authors of the study concluded that “current marijuana use is associated with lower levels of fasting insulin, lower HOMA-IR, and smaller waist circumference.” This simply means they observed that participants who used marijuana had lower levels of insulin resistance and a smaller waist without making any claims of causality.

The CNN article does point out at the end that it is much too early to make any claims of possible benefits of marijuana in the realm of diabetes, but I wonder how many people actually make it through the whole article (especially with all the statistics and science talk in the middle). The article also doesn’t mention any of the adverse effects of marijuana use, but I suppose that is outside the scope of what the author is trying to accomplish.

At the end of the day, though, even if it was shown that smoking marijuana lowers diabetes risk, I’m not sure it would change the way I practice. Just as I don’t counsel people who don’t drink to start drinking because of the heart benefits, or those with obesity to pick up smoking because it can help with weight loss, I wouldn’t endorse marijuana use to improve diabetes risk, especially when diet and exercise for sure can lower the risk of developing diabetes (and high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, and many other diseases for that matter).

Anyway, a hotly debated topic. Just some initial thoughts, feel free to share yours.

Seminary Year 1 Reflections!

I can’t believe an academic year has gone by already. 1 down and… at the rate I’m going, 5 more to go? It’s been nice, though, only taking two classes a semester. I feel like I’m actually learning for the sake of learning and not just to check off a requirement. What a concept.

It has been such a huge blessing to be able to study the things of God formally. Some classes have been  more helpful than others, but all in all, it has been a great experience. It is quite neat to have professors pray for you during class.

Some might wonder why you would need to study God in the first place and spend all that money. After all, each believer has the Holy Spirit living within. Plus, most of the disciples were just simple fishermen who changed the world without a seminary degree. Sometimes it seems like theologians just make things more complicated with debates that seem to have no resolution.

While it is true that God used uneducated fishermen, He also used Paul who was well-trained in theology to incredible effect. And having the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we can turn off our brains. My time at Talbot has been a challenge to engage God with the same amount of energy, effort, and intellect that I have used to engage in so many other things of life.

A big realization I had was that it’s not theologians who make God complicated. No, we have a big God that we are trying to put into words that our human intellect can understand. If God can be so easily summarized and packaged, then that God I don’t think would be worthy of much worship and adoration.

At the end of the day, though, theology is important because if you get that wrong, then you aren’t worshipping the right God. Satan from the very beginning has been trying to get people to doubt God’s Words, and unfortunately he has been doing a great job. Much of the New Testament letters encourages believers to stand firm in the faith and warns against false teachers. We would do well to equip ourselves with sound doctrine.

How can you incorporate more study of God’s Word into your life?

“Watch your life and doctrine closely…” 1 Timothy 4:16


United in Christ!

I came across this passage as we were preparing for an event to appreciate the sisters in our church.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

Paul spent the first three chapters describing the amazing work of Christ that not only rescued all sinners from God’s righteous wrath, but subsequently has brought all believers into one new family as God’s people. As a result, believers now belong to the Lord, and Paul finishes the letter off by describing what a Christian life ought to look like, a life “worthy of the calling you have received.”

It is very interesting that the first thing Paul mentions that characterizes this worthy life is a life of unity with others who have been called into this new family of God. It sounds like the unity of the church should be one of the top priorities for believers. Why? Because as believers we have the same Spirit of God living within us and the same God who reigns over us. And it turns out the church is to be one of the main vehicles in which to testify about God and His salvation work in the Gospel (Eph 3:10).

No wonder there is so much attack on the institution of the church. Satan must be pleased with all the conflicts, church splits, accusations, and distrust of church authority. In our consumer world, church has become less about how it advances God’s purposes and more about how it can meet our needs. If the teaching isn’t challenging enough, or worship not passionate enough, or fellowship not deep enough, then there’s a big temptation to church hop (or stop going to church at all) instead of sticking it out and contributing our gifts to make those things better.

The challenge is to be a united church body to reflect our Triune God. This is no small thing displaying God’s glory to the world. It’s a high calling and thus we must, as Paul exhorts, “make every effort.” It’s a daunting task for sure, with the church made up of people (who are still prone to sin) of different ages, genders, personalities, and quirks. And don’t forget Satan and his minions not wanting this to succeed either. But if the work of Christ can reconcile us to God, for sure it can help us get along with one another. (Actually, more than just getting along.)

We sang a song about this during our sister’s appreciation event, particularly about how the brothers and sisters are united in Christ. It’s floating around Facebook somewhere. If you find it, I hope you won’t think less of me as a medical professional…

What’s your view of the church and what would “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” look like?


Medical Training Advice: International Rotations

For those of you who are in medical sch0ol, an international rotation is a great idea if you can work it in your schedule (and if you can afford it). It’s an opportunity to see how healthcare is delivered elsewhere and just good in general to travel and see more of the world. The best time to do that is the summer between your first and second year (your last real summer) or during your 4th year. Even if you are just a first year, now is a good time to start thinking about this because it does take some planning.

Start exploring different options in your administrative office. Some schools already have partnerships in place with different hospitals/clinics, which make things like getting credit and scheduling much easier. The staff can usually get you in contact with other students who have gone before. Each school has their own policy and paperwork that is required.

Of course there are also many resources online. The international elective section here provides some good info if you are interested in family medicine. If you are planning to practice in California, I would highly recommend a medical Spanish immersion program that is part of the rotation. During my fourth year, some of us went through CACHAMSI, which is a program based out of Riobamba, Ecuador, which was an amazing experience.

It was a one month rotation and was structured for medical experiences in the morning (there were different sites like primary care in the rural setting and the ER in the local hospital) and Spanish didactics in the afternoon. We were each set up with a host family so it was a total immersion experience. The weekends were free for travel and exploration.

4th year of medical school is a great year, especially after your sub-internships and residency interviews. Plan ahead to make the most of it!

P.S. Don’t forget about vaccines and prophylaxis depending on where you go! International health insurance is not a bad idea either.

Here’ some pics! Fellow Travel buddies: Farshid, Charles, Regina

Picture 085 Picture 035a Picture 042 Picture 216 Regina SD Card #1 073 Picture 063




Mother’s Day Thoughts

Just a couple of memories that popped up over Mother’s Day weekend:

I remember before she went to bed she would leave out peeled fruits by the computer for me to eat after I got back late from Friday night fellowship because I would never eat fruit if I had to peel it on my own.

In high school she was the “cool” mom because while chaperoning our orchestra trip one time she let us watch “Pulp Fiction” on the bus.

When I was in college at UCLA she would offer to drive me back to school even though I could have gone with friends who went to UCLA. I asked her one time why she would waste her time, especially since I could have gotten a ride with people who were going there anyway. She said because she liked to spend the extra time with me.

To my mom who raised two boys in a foreign country while dad was working in Taiwan, thank you. It has not been easy, I love you.


Lessons From Year 2!

Priscilla and I just celebrated our two year wedding anniversary this past Tuesday. I guess we aren’t newly weds anymore? Here are  just some thoughts as I reflected on our past two years together. These come from both year 1 and 2 since they went by so fast. Plus, these are things I’m learning again and again.

1. Don’t be afraid of the crazy. When we’re dating, we have such an idealized view of the other person that it’s quite a shock when we see a different side of someone when you get closer. This is actually a good sign, evidence that your relationship is growing in intimacy. We typically hide our craziness away from people and put on our happy face. It’s not until we enter into a safe relationship will we allow some of that to come out. And it needs to eventually come out for God to transform those areas.

2. I need to be intentional about spending time with her. Just because I see her everyday doesn’t mean we automatically have meaningful interactions. We can go through the whole day without sharing anything significant. I’m learning that my default after getting back from work is vege mode. But that is not being loving to my wife, who is looking for a deeper connection. Also, you still need to go on dates after you get married!

3. Sometimes she just wants me to listen. Guys tend to want to fix things. She doesn’t always want solutions, but just for me to listen and validate how she is feeling.

4. Marriage is not so much about our happiness, but about our holiness. One of the goals of being a Christian is to become like Christ. Living with someone with this kind of intimacy uncovers many different areas that I still need to grow in. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books on marriage (Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas) is: “If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question–stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise” (pg. 21).

5. Be quick to apologize. Sometimes we want to hold on to our anger, especially when we think we have been wronged. But a hardened heart doesn’t make the situation better. Usually both sides are at fault, and things can be resolved faster if both are willing to be humble before the Lord and before each other.

6. Don’t be an island. It’s tempting after marriage to just disappear off into our own world and neglect our other relationships. God’s design for marriage isn’t just for it to be enjoyed by ourselves, but for it to be a picture of the love of Christ for the church. Plus, we need to support of the church to stay strong until the end. Thank you to all who have been a part of our marriage and have prayed for  and supported us along the way.

Hope you find these helpful. Priscilla thank you for putting up with me!

What are some things that you have learned from your relationships?