Why God is Not Against Vaccines

I’ve been seeing a lot of news about vaccines lately in the social media headlines so I figured I would throw in my however much these thoughts are worth. A frustrating situation is when patients refuse medical treatment because they believe in God. But wait, I believe in God too, and I don’t remember the Bible ever saying we shouldn’t use medicine. The reasoning, I think, goes something like this: God is the all-powerful healer who holds our lives in His hands, and so if it’s His will that I get sick, then I’ll just get sick because if it’s His will to heal me, He can, and He will if I have enough faith in Him (and if I take medications, this would mean I don’t have enough faith).

While I do agree that God is the all-powerful healer who hold our lives in His hands who allows sickness in this world as a result of sin, and that if He wanted to, He could miraculously heal anyone of any disease, I do believe that medicine and faith are not mutually exclusive. God can do miracles, but usually God works through natural processes and the creative abilities and intellect that He has given to human beings, His image bearers. Those who would trust exclusively on God for medical needs probably would have no problem going down to the local store to buy food, or the mall to buy clothes. Even though God is fully capable of supernaturally providing food and clothing (manna for the Israelites and coverings for Adam and Even), He has chosen to meet those needs through people who He has given the knowledge and ability to harvest food and make clothing.

In the same way, God has given people the capacity to understand the workings of the human body, and the ability to do research to come up with ways in which to combat sickness. Yes, Jesus came and healed a lot of people of disease. But there were tons more who were not healed, because healing wasn’t the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came not to simply relieve physical suffering, but to usher in the kingdom of God. Jesus’ miraculous healings not only authenticated His claims to be the Messiah sent by God, but also pointed to the future reality of God’s kingdom that is without sickness, sin, or death. And so medicine is a means in which to bring creation back closer to how it was intended before sin entered the world.

In the Bible you don’t read anywhere a prohibition to use medicine. Paul even tells his fellow laborer in Christ Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23), and not just pray for healing. The Gospel writer Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, was a doctor, and we don’t see Paul telling Luke to quit his job. Are there misuses of medicine? Of course, as there are misuses of everything else that is good because we live in a world of sin. We certainly can trust in what our hands can provide rather than God, but that can happen not just with healing, but with anything else (e.g., provision of food and future security). It’s a daily discipline to come before God in dependence even as we are active in using our gifts that God has given us for our provision.

All this is to say, the development of vaccines is an example of the grace of God given to us to combat the corruption of the natural order due to sin. Vaccines and antibiotics are probably two of the greatest medical discoveries in terms of lives saved and illness prevented. Are there side effects to vaccines? Sure. Is autism one of them? I can’t imagine the fear a parent would have hearing about the reports of children manifesting autism after routine vaccinations. I want to acknowledge those fears, but the vast bulk of scientific evidence would say no. 

Christ came to deal with sin in this world. And that means not just taking away the penalty of our sins against God by dying on the cross, but also ushering in a kingdom (that will come in full when He returns) that is how things were intended to be: no more tears, no more sickness, and no more death. In the meantime, let us use everything that God has given us to stay healthy so that we are best equipped to carry out the kingdom work.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He willdwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

 

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Sushi and Service: Combating the Monday Work Blues

A bunch of us had some fun over this weekend playing sushi chef. The result?

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For those who haven’t seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it’s a great documentary about Jiro, a sushi chef who has dedicated his life to his craft. Even if you aren’t interested in sushi, it’s a worthwhile watch and has a lot of lessons on dedication, handwork, and the pursuit of excellence. At one point Jiro says, “Once you decide on your occupation… you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success.”

I think many of us are envious of someone who is able to view his or her job in that way. Oftentimes, even if we are in fields that we enjoy, work can become tedious and mundane. I just read a great book, Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller, about how sin has affected not just our view of work, but our experience of work as well. As God’s image bearers, we are created for purpose, to do work that matters, but sin has brought frustration both in the results of work, and also our motivations to work. Instead of working to fulfill our role to image God throughout creation, we are tempted to find our significance in our accomplishments, making work another idol that replaces God in our lives.

I’ll probably write another post about the book when I have processed it more, but for now, I was just encouraged to remember that yes we should strive for excellence in our work, but not simply as an end goal. We strive for excellence because of the God that we do our work for. As one retreat speaker used to say, we should pursue excellence for His Excellency. This goes out to all who are feeling the Monday work blues.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

I Love Choco Pies!

Yes I love those little chocoloate covered, marshmellowy delights. Apparently they are a huge hit in North Korea, and according to this article, they are selling for up to ten bucks each on the black markets of North Korea. It is crazy to me that I can just pick up as many boxes of these as my car can hold on my way back from work while there are people who are searching these out on the black markets.

Also, in Taiwan, I came across this crazy scene of people lining up for a newly open store:

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here were people lining up as far as the eyes can see, and it actually wraps around the building more at the end. It’s about a two hour wait, can you guess for what? Krispy Kreme! Yeah, right? Who eats Krispy Kreme nowadays? Not that I have anything against them, but that was so 1990s.

These are reminders for me of the ridiculus excess we enjoy here in America, to a point where things highly coveted by others are simply afterthoughts for us. And unfortunately this carries over to our faith as well. How do we view our Bibles? Most homes probably have at least one, and most of us have more than one. I can think of eight that I own right now, and not to mention those we can pull up on our phones and computers.

We have access to so much, but sadly appreciate it so little. It’s a sobering thought that there are believers who are willing to be arrested or even killed for owning a Bible while I have several simply collecting dust. This is not meant to illicit guilt, although we can get there pretty quick if we extend this line of thinking to so many other things that we freely enjoy.

We do have a God who gives good gifts, so I am not saying we need to give all our things away. But I hope at the very least I can engender some appreciation of the things that really are of worth, and perhaps get us to pick up that Bible that’s been just lying around. Not because we feel guilty, but because we see it as the invaluable treasure that it is: the very words of God.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medical Hypocrisy

Wow, it’s been quite awhile since I last posted. After taking a little break over the holidays, it’s been hard to overcome the vacation inertia to start writing again. That’s a spiritual lesson in and of itself.

I read Medscape’s Family Physician Lifestyle Report 2014 this morning and I found it quite interesting. I’m not sure where they got the numbers, but in this study, 48% of family physicians reported being overweight, with a BMI >25. This is second only to surgeons, who came in at 49%. If you are curious, dermatologists were the least heavy at 23%.

Whatever the specialty, it does seem like not many doctors (or any healthcare provider for that matter) lead the healthy lifestyle that they preach to patients day in and day out. It’s always funny (and sad at the same time) to see cardiologists taking smoking breaks between doing caths and stress tests. Most people know I have quite the sweet tooth.

Dr. Nick always talked about how he was practicing medical hypocrisy, promoting health when he himself weighed more than 400 lbs. If you haven’t taken the time to watch this short clip of his testimony, it’s an encouragement. By the way, happy belated birthday Dr. Nick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqnOnMUT6cU

Our patients are better served when our lives are congruent with the healthy living that we are promoting. In the same way, as Christians, our testimonies are more powerful when our lives line up with what the Bible teaches. Unfortuantely, many are turned away because of the hypocrisy that they see in the church and in professing Christians.

How are we doing? Do our outward actions match our inward convictions and the truth of Scripture? For the legalists among us (myself included), do our outward “good” actions come out of a transformed heart? Or are we doing things simply out of duty because it is what “good” Christians do.

Obviously all of us are not where we should be, and we need the grace of God not just to save us, but to sustain us as we seek to obey Him. But my prayer is that we would not just do loving things, but become loving people as we grow more in Christlikeness so that we are transformed both inside and out.

 

 

 

Finding God’s Will for Your Life!

I spoke at a retreat this past weekend for the young adult group of a nearby church. It was neat seeing a different manifestion of God through the unique interactions within that group so I definitely appreciate the opportunity to be part of that weekend. I spoke on living in God’s will for our lives, and it was a good time exploring together our callings.

Figuring out God’s will for our lives isn’t so easy, is it? Even just a couple years ago I wouldn’t have imagined I would be in seminary, preaching, and dabbling in book writing. As Christians we want to live for God. It’d be nice if He made it nice and clear what we should be doing. But perhaps it’s not so clear so that we can become adults spiritually and choose for ourselves to follow after Him, just as parents shouldn’t be planning out the entirety of their children’s lives.

I’m reading Gordon Smith’s Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-given Potential, and it’s been pretty helpful. He offers three ways to think about our calling (loc 26):

1. God’s general call to follow Christ: God desires no one to perish, but everyone to come to repetance through relationship with His Son Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). This is a calling that we have to respond to first and foremost before trying to make sense of anything else about our lives. Our Christian doing comes out of our being, out of our identity as children of God. If we miss this, then we’ll be trying to find our identity elsewhere, which will turn any good endeavor into an idol that we worship instead of God.

2. God’s specific will for you: Generally speaking, God’s will for us can probably be summed up as “Love God, love your neighbor, grow in Christ-likeness, and advance the Gospel message.” But how that plays out looks different for each person since we are all created and gifted uniquely to carry out God’s kingdom purposes. When we are living this out, then we are living out fully what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Figuring this out is tough, and it involves a good grasp of Scripture, a personal relationship with God, and the input of the faith community. But sometimes, actually carrying it out once you know it is even tougher.

3. God’s immediate will for you: As we wait to finally “grow up” and do God’s will, it’s easy to neglect what we’ve been called to right now. Whatever stage of life we are in there are associated responsibilities that we are to be faithful to. If we are students, then we are called to deligence in our studies. If we have a job, even if it’s an in-between job, we are called to excellence in our work. If we have a family, then we are called to be involved in our kids’ lives and tend to our marriages.

While God doesn’t make clear to us the specific career we should choose, He makes quite clear how we ought to live on a daily basis. Many commands in the Bible have to do with everyday living, how we are to treat one another, and because of what Jesus has done on the cross, everything we do takes on eternal significance. Why? Because everything we do will either bear witness to the Gospel, or malign it, either make it attractive to non-believers, or push people further away from God.

As we are figuring out our future path, let us not neglect what God has entrusted to us now, and that includes a daily growing in Christ-likeness. Some people like Abraham and Paul were clearly called for a certain task. If that’s you, you better obey. But many were simply serving faithfully and God quietly redirected their steps. Like David who was just tending sheep when a prophet came along (1 Samuel 16). Or Timothy just serving at church, catching the eye of Paul (Acts 16). Sometimes through obedience in the small things God will bring clarity to the big things, so let’s pay extra attention now to what we know we should be doing.

How have you gone about figuring out God’s will for your life?

 

Get Your Flu Shots!

It’s that time again….Halloween stores, pumpkin patches, no more hot summer days (except in Southern California)… and flu shots! It’s a mad flurry of activity in the clinic with nurses trying to get every patient flu shots on top of all the other orders they have. If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, go and get one!

Here are some common misconceptions about the flu:

1. It’s no big deal.

Part of the reason people don’t get so worked up about it is because the flu vaccine works, and more people don’t get it. But sadly, tens of thousands of people still die each year from flu-related complications. Most of these deaths are in adults over 65 years. The very wee are at risk as well.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/us_flu-related_deaths.htm#study

2. I’m a strappin’ young lad, the flu won’t affect me.

Maybe. But the world does not revolve around you my friend. Chances are you live with young kids or older folks, or you have friends with asthma, diabetes, or other chronic diseases that can be made worse if they get sick.  While the flu might just inconvience you for a time, you can easily pass it to someone who won’t be so fortunate.

3. The flu shot gives me the flu.

Most flu vaccines do not contain live flu virus so the flu shot does not give people the flu. You might feel sore, maybe a little off, but that’s just the body’s immune system mounting a response to the flu shot. And trust me, that’s nothing compared to what you will feel like if you actually got the flu, so it’s a small price to pay.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm

4. I’ll just get the flu shot when everyone starts getting sick.

It’ll be too late. It takes about 2 weeks for the body to make the antibodies to protect you from the flu.

5. Flu shot is unnatural, God doesn’t want me to use that stuff.

I think this will be a post on its own, but I will just briefly say that people who believe solely in healing prayer and will not accept medical intervention are misguided in their beliefs. While I commend their faith, a God who heals and a God who gifts people with the intellect and ability to bring about healing are not exclusive. We don’t wait in faith for food to appear, we work to produce it or make money to buy it with the gifts that God has given us (although there are times we can pray for God’s provision, again not exclusive).

Sin is a corruption not of just the spiritual, but the physical as well, and I believe God has given us the gift of medicine to combat the consequences of sin and give us a glimpse of the kingdom to come where there will be no more sickness and death. Yes there have been abuses in medical advancement, but that’s the case for every other good thing God has given us.

So with that, I hope you will all make an appointment with your doctor or go to your nearest pharmacy and get your flu shot (unless there’s a reason you can’t)! Here’s to a flu-free flu season.

 

Modified Re-post: First Call

To all the new interns soon to undergo your first offical call, here’s my first call experience! (Modified from a previous post).

Probably the most dreaded thing about residency is taking call, whatever the rotation. Call is when you have to spend the night at the hospital while the rest of the team goes home since someone needs to be around to admit new patients and respond to patient needs and emergencies overnight. Sometimes you just cover patients on your own team. Most of the time, though, you are covering other team’s patients that you have never met before.

I still remember pretty vividly my very first night on call as an intern on my surgery rotation, covering all the patients from the three different surgical services. I was already peeing in my pants, but some time into the night, I discovered that my pager (yes we still use those) was turning off by itself if I didn’t press the on button periodically.

Everything was fine as long as I kept it on by pressing the button. But then I dozed off when things were slow and woke up several hours later in a sheer panic because I realized that my pager had turned off.  I can’t even describe the fear that came over me thinking I may have missed some crazy emergency. I actually went to every single floor where there were patients to ask if anyone had paged me.

I probably over-reacted since there was a trauma team in place over night that would respond to any emergencies (they know better to trust real emergencies to new interns). My job as the intern really was to babysit, but what did I know. Thankfully everything turned out fine and I survived my first call (and every subsequent call).

So, if you ever find yourself in a moment of sheer panic because you don’t know what to do, take a deep breath. You are never completely alone, help is usually nearby (hopefully). You’ll get through that call. And remember that we have a God who is always available to us. He never forgets his pager, and his pager never runs out of batteries. In Christ, we have a direct line to our creator God, and He invites us to come to Him. And not just in emergencies, but in the everydays of life. Thank God that He knows what He’s doing too.

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12