Breast Engorgement and the Love of God

It’s a little weird writing about breasts in a Christian-themed blog, but I am a doctor so I can get away with it. Plus you can’t see me giggle and blush.

Throughout pregnancy, a woman’s breast can increase 1-2 cup sizes as the tissue changes in anticipation for milk production and breastfeeding. It’s quite remarkable really what the body is capable of to care for the new life on the way. Sometimes though, if breastfeeding does not go well, they can become painfully engorged.

While my breast tissue has remained the same (thank goodness), I feel like my heart has undergone an engorgement of sorts. I’m not talking about a cardiomyopathy of pregnancy (which could happen to moms), but it seems like in emotional capacity, and even ability, my heart has grown. It’s a change both in quantity and quality.

Quantitatively, there has been just a huge surge of emotions, especially after the delivery, but even in the months leading to the big day. A couple weeks ago I was reading a children’s book to Priscilla’s belly, and right in the middle I started to cry. And not a burning-behind-my-eyes manly cry, but tears actually broke free, sliding ever so tenderly down my cheeks. Where in the world did that come from? I can’t even remember the last time I had real tears. Just looking at Ansley doing nothing but sleep, I am sometimes overwhelmed by how much I love this little thing.

And this love is different. Qualitatively, it’s a different form– a purer form — of love than I have experienced. The love I have for my parents and for Priscilla comes close, but even that love has been influenced by their actions towards me. Of course I love my wife, but I didn’t love Priscilla the first time I laid my eyes on her. If I did, it would have been quite creepy since she was just a junior higher. For sure I love my parents, but much of that I think has to do with the care and love they have shown me. That’s conditional love.

But Ansley has existed for less than a week and has done nothing but eat, sleep, poop, and cry all night. Yet I know I love her and will love her no matter what (check back with me in her teenage years and I hope this is still true). It’s the closest thing I have come to experiencing pure, unconditional love.

They say that the love of a parent for his or her child is the closest thing we can get to understanding the unconditional love that God has for us. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the major pictures of God in the Bible is that of God the Father, and we as His children. Unfortunately, because of our fallenness, there are many broken families. As a consequence, there are many broken pictures of God.

Christian parents, we have the task of redeeming the picture of God’s unconditional love for us through our love for our children. A professor said in class once, “Our role as parents is to give our kids the most appropriate picture of God so that when ‘God comes around,’ they will recognize Him.”

By the way we love our kids, our kids will be introduced to their heavenly Father, and those around will catch a glimpse too. When they read about the amazing love of God, that love will seem familiar, inviting, because they have already felt it from you. John 3:16 would not just be a cliche, but an experience based in reality. Parenthood really is a high calling, your prayers are much appreciated.

To all my recently married Christian friends, do take some time to enjoy marriage and build up your relationship before the babies come. But don’t wait too long though. The world needs more examples of God’s unconditional love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Help

The sisters of our church threw a brother’s appreciation night this past weekend. The theme was “Heros” and the encouragement was for us to be strong and courageous in the Lord  (Joshua 1:6). A big thanks for all the work and love that was put into that night, it was amazing! It made me think a bit about strength, and what it means to be strong in the Lord. It’s a very different picture than what this world paints as being strong.

It’s a bit ironic that those of us who spend our lives helping others find it so hard to seek out help ourselves. We make the worst patients, most of us refusing to go to the doctors until we absolutely have to. We probably won’t admit it, but I suspect most of us see neediness as a weakness. It is weak to have to ask for help, because that is acknowledging that we can’t do life by ourselves.

Society tells us that we need to be strong in ourselves, that weakness is bad. If we aren’t careful, we might think the Bible teaches that too. We might point to the example of Paul. 2 Corinthians 11 gives us just a taste of what Paul endured and triumphed over: shipwrecks, beatings, prison, even stoning! Yet his words in 2 Corinthians 12:10 is shocking to our western sensibilitiies: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God gave Paul an affliction to remind him that it’s only in his weakness that he experiences God’s strength.

It shouldn’t surprise us that those who have learned to depend on themselves find it difficult to feel close to God. It’s the old problem of our pride, wanting to be our own God rather than to surrender to our creator. It isn’t until we come to the end of ourselves, understand our inability to save ourselves, that we can truly experience the power of God in our lives. The medical journey is hard, and we might think we are being humble by not complaining and plowing through. That’s actually our pride, and Satan is pleased by that.

It is a huge tragedy that depression and substance abuse in the health profession is more common than we would like to admit, and much of this is related to our inability to put to death our pride and call out for help. It is not weak to need others. It certainly is not weak to need God. We were created to live in relationship with both. When we try to fight against that, we can get into deep trouble. Is there a burden in your life that you need help carrying? Let’s lay aside our pride so that we can really embrace and experience life as it was intended.

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Boo to Sickness Part 2!

Ugh..achy joints, I hardly want to move. Actually it’s not from being sick anymore, I’m feeling much better. It’s from picking up tennis for the first time in almost a year. I had stopped after throwing out my back when I got a bit over-zealous in trying to relive my glory days. I really thought I herniated a disc, but it was just a bad strain. I have then high schooler Jefferey Chen to thank for that.

Earlier this week a friend who’s in town asked to play, and after playing just two days with him, I can barely lift up my right arm. I did beat him though, so I guess there’s something left. Nevermind that he just graduated the 8th grade, victories are victories.

I guess when we don’t consistently use the muscles, movements that were once second nature can become so hard and painful. Part of me wishes I can just coast off of past accomplishments and training when I was younger and expect to perform at the same level without putting in the due effort. But unfortunately, my body just continues to break down as the years tick by.

I think spiritually we can fall into this trap as well, thinking we can ride the energy and growth of our years soon after conversion. For many, college is that time when one’s faith and passion really takes off being around so many other believers seemingly “on fire” for the Lord. Unfortunately there is a falling out after graduation when people are out of that environment.

We can’t rely on the past to maintain a vital, fresh relationship with God today. Let’s go back to the basics, exercising our faith muscles daily through the spiritual disciplines. And let’s make sure to be balanced, giving attention to all the different aspects of our spiritual life, whether taking in the Word, prayer, evaneglism, fellowship, and worship to name a few. Otherwise we might end up like this guy.

Which spiritual discipline would you like to see more of in your life?

Boo to Sickness!

Body aches, feeling tired, headache, ugh…I think I caught something over the past week. It’s no fun being sick. It’s crazy how destroyed we get by a simple cold. This is going to be a short post since I’m having a hard time concentrating. Whenever I get sick, I’m always think of this passage:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

It’s a nice reminder that we are not just purely physical creatures, that we do depend on God for our very breath. And we can do our best to stay in shape and eat healthy, but ultimately true health comes from walking in relationship with God according to His commands.

 

Fake it until you make it

The title of this post pretty much summarizes how I felt throughout my residency, especially during intern year. After the novelty of being called a doctor and having a pager on my belt wore off (which wasn’t very long), I quickly realized, in many instances, I had very little idea what I was doing.

Yes, I studied my butt off through four years of medical school, but unfortunately book knowledge didn’t transfer automatically over to real life application. I still remember doing my first lumbar puncture on a baby and having the mom and grandmother both in the room asking me if I had ever done this before. Thankfully I had a great senior resident, and everything turned out just dandy.

It’s a bit of a strange paradox, being officially a doctor as a resident in title, but lacking the skills and knowledge that patients expect you to have. And it is through residency training that you acquire (hopefully) the skills necessary to be a competent physician. In many ways, it is pretending to know what you are doing until you actually figure it out.

It’s interesting how this parallels our spiritual lives. Apart from God we have all fallen short of God’s standards, and as a result, await judgment and God’s wrath. But because of Christ’s death on the cross, through faith in Jesus, all our sins are put onto Him, and all His perfect obedience is given to us. And so, instead of standing before God as sinners, in Christ we are justified, positionally perfect before God.

But yet, in our character, attitudes, and behaviors, we are far from perfect. We still struggle with sin, and we will continue to until the next life. And while Christ’s death made us right with God, the Holy Spirit then comes and makes us perfect within as we are perfect positionally before God, the process of sanctification.

So from this knowledge of who we are, holy and redeemed in God’s eyes, we are then commanded to obey even when naturally we might not. Not that we are to pretend and put up a false image of being all put together(although there might be a temptation to do that). But none of us are as loving, as patient, as considerate, as whatever as we know we should be. And in our obedience, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us so that eventually the reality of positional holiness will be true of our inner self as well.

We are saved only by God’s grace. Let us not forget that we also grow only by God’s grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit. And while there is nothing we can do on our own to produce this kind of change, let us position our hearts in a way that allows the Holy Spirit to do His work.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

 

Careful where your money goes!

I read this article “Above the law: America’s worst charities”  about charities that uses most of the money raised for profit and further fund raising, and very little for actual relief. This article made me pretty mad and sick to the stomach. As Christians, we are called to give generously,  but we ought to be giving responsibly too. Sad to say that there are many “Gehazi’s” (2 Kings 5) that claim to do good things in the name of God, love, social justice, or just goodness in general, but are motivated by their own greed instead.

Looking at the list of these charities, I have to wonder how many of those started with the intention of making money and cheating others. I suspect there were some with good hearts, wanting to do good things, but somewhere down the road the promises of wealth side-tracked their good intentions.

As sinful people, we definitely have it in us to be self-seeking. If you have a heart to serve God, let’s guard ourselves against the material temptations of this world. Let’s be in a habit of coming before God and others to evaluate our motivations so that we do the right things for the right reasons. And let’s remember that our God will hold us accountable for how we have used His gifts in the service of others.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. ” Luke 12:15

What’s your favorite charity?

To all the Graduates!

It’s graduation season! Tonight is my alma mater’s (high school) graduation. Every time this day rolls around, I always think thoughts like: Wow, has 13 years really gone by? I wonder what people are up to? Why wasn’t I invited to my 10 year reunion? Shouldn’t it be easy to find me online nowadays?? Am I still not cool enough??!

Ahem…my thoughts digress; certainly no unresolved issues here. Well, to all the graduates, here’s a little pep talk I gave to our high schoolers at our church’s grad night last week. I thought I would share it again since it applies not just to high schoolers and I also saw some of you sleeping.

Grad night is always a bittersweet time. It is of course a time of celebration as you look forward to your next chapter of life and we are excited to see how God is going to use you. But it is also sad for both your parents and the church to see you leave. Maybe some of the parents are happy about this, I don’t know.

But we are sad to see you go, and our prayer is that as you go, you will find success in your academic pursuits. But much more than that, our more fervent prayer is that you will continue to grow in your walk with Christ and hold strong to your faith despite the attacks of the evil one. And so as you prepare yourselves for college, I want to leave you with this encouragement from the Word. Turn to John 15.

Here is the secret of having a vibrant, healthy, and growing spiritual life, and it’s really not that big of a secret: remain in Christ. Jesus says in verse 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

You want to have success in your spiritual life? Remain in Christ. Notice it is a choice you have to intentionally make. It’s not an automatic thing. Now what does it mean to remain in Christ? We can talk about a lot of different things, and from this chapter we can talk about making sure we are taking in Scripture, or making sure we are spending time in prayer. I hope from your time at SBECC you have learned the importance of reading the Word and praying.

Here Jesus says He is the vine and you are a branch on that vine. Tonight, I want to remind you that there’s not just one branch on the vine. All believers are branches connected to the vine, and we are connected to one another through Christ. Jesus here paints a picture of the family of God, and this image illustrates the importance of remaining in this community of believers.

And in fact, our knowledge of the Bible is to be lived out in our relationships with one another. Jesus goes on in verse 9-12: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…12my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”

In the last decade of youth ministry we as the church leaders have had the joy of hearing from people who have gone off to college who are now graduated and doing well in their spiritual walk, being used by God in great ways like. But we have also experienced the sadness of hearing about people who have gone through our youth group who aren’t walking with God anymore.

Thinking over these experiences, we have noticed that those who are doing well spiritually over time are those who make fellowship with other believers a priority. Our spiritual life is not just a private matter. When we were saved, we are saved into this new family of God where we can grow, be encouraged, held accountable, and protected from the attacks of the evil one.

Most of you who are graduating have grown up in the church. You have come to church week in and week out and heard countless sermons. There will be a temptation to “take a break” from church when you enter college. No one will be there forcing to go to church anymore and there will be many more fun activities you can do Friday nights or on Sundays.

Wherever you end up for college, whether just a couple of hours away, or thousands of miles away, our prayer is that you will make finding a new church home a priority. This Christian life isn’t meant to be lived alone. Those who have a vibrant individual spiritual life have a vibrant spiritual community life. There will be plenty of new things to figure out when you get to college. Please figure out your spiritual home first.

Remain in Christ by remaining in the body of Christ. Surround yourselves with godly brothers and sisters who will continue to encourage you and keep you on the right path. Please know that wherever you end up, you will always have a home here at SBECC so please visit often. We will miss all of you very much.

To all the graduates, congratulations. Soon you’ll be wondering how 13 years have passed by and why you didn’t get invited to your high school reunion.

 

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?

 

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?