Titles or Testimonies?

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:1-12

We went over this passage in one of my classes at Talbot this past week. What a challenge to examine my heart and see if I am serving God for the right reasons. I think most people have good intentions, but even church service can be done for self-glory. This world loves the places of honor, recognitions, and titles that reflect their tremendous accomplishments. We seek the  MDs, JDs, PhDs, and even in ministry, the MAs, MDivs, and ThMs.

Of course we want to use these things for the Lord, but many times these things get to our heads and we forget the purpose of all our gifts and talents: to serve one another in the love of Christ. This reminded me of a talk I heard a long time ago by Tony Campolo. His challenge? When you die, would we rather have titles decorating your tombstone? Or would you rather have people sharing testimonies of how God has used you to impact His kingdom? I found a clip of my favorite part. It starts at 4 minutes, worth the watch!

What testimonies would you like people to say of you at the end of your life?

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!

 

My Most Embarrassing Moment… and it was caught on video

Don’t try this at home. If you do, wear a jockstrap.

It never ceases to amaze me how this happened. It could have been worse. A LOT worse. Suffice to say that I never did that jump ever again, and it took awhile for me to try anything new on the slopes.

It’s incredible how paralyzing our fears can be, and for me, especially my fears of embarrassment and failure. These fears have caused me to live mostly in my comfort zone and avoid the things that I might potentially fail at. Unfortunately, in my Christian life that translates to simply living life on my own strength without much of a dependence on God.

Many times the things God calls us to are not within our comfort zones. A recent guest speaker, Todd Grant, challenged us with this: “God’s holy calling are hard callings, if its not hard it’s probably not Him.” Some of my recent career decisions have been difficult (and scary). Stepping out in faith with this book project and blog has been hard. Jesus did promise that those who follow him will be ridiculed and rejected by the world, just as the world rejected Him. But I have this promise from Romans 9:33: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

I may very well “fail” in the eyes of the world. But if anyone ever asks, “Have you ever tried a snowboarding jump but slipped at the last minute, falling in such a way over a fire hydrant to avoid massive internal damage but getting stuck in the process while crowds watched and laughed at me?” I can say, yes I have. And I have the video to prove it.

What has God called you that you have not yet embraced because of your fears? How does our relationship with Christ help us with those fears?

The culprit that caught this on video: Jeff Wu

 

Super Important Message to Read!

Since I’ve been working on the book project, I’m learning a lot about marketing and building a following in order to actually get my message out. Currently I am reading Platform, a book by Michael Hyatt about this very topic. With the revolution of social networking, it definitely takes some intentional strategizing to get people to care about what I have to say amidst all the noise, distractions, and desperate sounding blog post headlines.

I’ve never felt older and behind the times trying to jump onto the social network bandwagon. I now have a twitter account and learned what a hashtag is and what RT stands for; I’m making progress. And along with revamping this weblog and trying to get it going, this has all taken quite a bit of time. All because of this book I am writing and the message that I want to get out.

It dawned on me (largely with the help of my wife) that as a Christ follower, I have had a message to get out for quite some time now. But, I probably spent more time this past month thinking about how to promote my book than I have over the last years thinking about how to share the Gospel in a way that will reach the most people.

Priscilla, thank you for reminding me the reason that I am doing all of this. Not for my own glory, not to spread my message, but ultimately to point people to God and the saving message of the Gospel. Christians, let’s redirect the energy that we are putting into planning and scheming for a better college, job, deal, more twitter followers, or whatever else and invest it into strategically advancing God’s kingdom. Knowing that we will one day be held accountable by God, how can we use all that we have been given to maximize God’s kingdom purposes? If interested, I’ll be preaching on this tomorrow at SBECC!

21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:21-23

*I transferred my wordpress.com site to my own hosted website so it canceled all those who have subscribed. If you would like to continue receiving my posts, please subscribe again!  I apologize for the inconvenience :(*

HIV Cure??

Read this on the news recently about a baby cured of HIV through early and aggressive antiretroviral meds. This would be the second documented case of a patient cured from HIV. No, the first was not Magic Johnson. It was this guy.

This reminded me of an illustration I used in a sermon some time ago. It’s pretty incredible the medical breakthroughs that have come out of HIV research over the years, and particularly in the realm of pharmaceuticals. Where it used to be a death sentence not even that long ago, HIV is now like a chronic disease that can be controlled with medications.

Yet despite all the medical advances and even though this story is exciting, there is no definitive cure. HIV is still a huge problem, especially overseas. HIV is such a fascinating virus the way it hijacks the body’s own cells to replicate itself, destroying the host cells in the process. Usually when something like that happens, our immune system catches on and starts to destroy the infected cells. But with HIV, the cells it takes over are the very ones that participate in the immune response. As the virus spreads, our body’s natural defenses fall apart, and eventually what kills the patient are other infections and diseases that take advantage of the weakened immune system.

HIV kills indirectly by getting rid of the very cells that are able to distinguish between what is good and what is bad. How devious. Satan also uses a similar strategy, doesn’t he? As Christians, we believe that the Bible teaches us the standards of truth, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. Satan knows that to weaken the church, you must destroy the truth on which the church stands.The New Testament writers spent a good amount of energy combating false teaching from spreading within the church. If you blur the lines between right and wrong, then people will eventually destroy themselves by indulging freely their desires.

Those warnings written 2000-plus years ago are still so relevant for us today. Looking at our post-modern world, I would say Satan has done an awfully good job. For many, there is no more objective truth and what’s wrong might be completely right to another. This moral relativism denies that the Bible has authority to proclaim what is right and what is wrong, and as a result people can live however they please. And in our apparent pursuit for freedom, we end up enslaved to our passions instead.

Let’s guard the truth with the same fervor as the Biblical writers. We need to know the Word so that we will not be deceived by the schemes of the evil one. What are some good ways you have found to be in the Word more consistently?

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Pain

I think the worse pain I ever felt was when I somehow opened my car door right into my eye one night after church. I was rolling around on the driveway for a good couple of minutes. When the pain finally subsided some, I was seeing double. Like a good future doctor,  I decided to sleep it off to see if it would be better in the morning. My vision actually got worse so  I got it checked out. Fortunately, I came away with just a corneal abrasion and a gnarly terminator-looking eye for some months. The ophthalmologist said she never heard a story like that before.

Pain is such a funny thing. It’s so unpleasant, but it’s so important to our well-being. Growing up in church we are taught how lepers end up losing their limbs because they couldn’t feel a burn or a prick. The equivalent now would be the diabetics who have to have their toes, and sometimes entire limbs, amputated because the superficial infection eventually got into the bones. And all because they couldn’t feel the initial injury.

God created our bodies to feel pain to alert us that something is wrong. Yet, many have devoted so much time and resources trying to blunt that response. There’s such a hoopla now about adequately treating pain and it’s reflected by the kind of medicine we practice. In 2010, vicodin was the most prescribed medication, and I suspect it’s still up there now.

I’m not sure we’re doing all that much good dishing out all these narcotics. A good chunk of the time, we don’t even know why there’s pain, at least based on the things that we can measure and check.  I think often times, physical symptoms like pain are the manifestations of emotional and spiritual turmoil that’s within.

Life isn’t about avoiding pain and suffering. Comfort is not God’s ultimate priority for our lives. Suffering wasn’t part of the plan, but is the result of our disobedience. But God, in His grace, redeems it in the lives of His children, using it to correct us and draw us back to Him. And God came into this world of suffering and bore the ultimate pain on our behalf, the punishment for our sins. So when pain and suffering come, I hope it can remind you of the consequences of our sins against God, but more importantly, of the sweetness of heaven, where there will be no more suffering. God be praised.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelations 21:3-5

Training

I know I don’t look it now, and this might take some stretching of the imagination, but I did P90x with my roommate back in medical school. I admit I cheated a little (a lot) with my diet, but I stuck to the workouts for the whole three months. Of course I wanted to be healthier, but a bigger motivation was that I wanted to be able to keep up with the college students on the basketball court. Now that I’m married, I don’t care nearly as much about my basketball prowess (which is fast declining). If I can just keep my BMI in the normal range, that would be good enough for me. It does hurt more than just a little inside when I get my butt kicked by high schoolers.

It’s amazing how much energy and effort we put into our physically bodies that will continue to decay, but give so little thought to training our spirits, which will last for all eternity. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 “Rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The  NASB actually says “for bodily discipline is only of little profit.” Obviously, as a physician, I think we should take care of our physical bodies. But in the big picture, what happens to my earthly body is of little consequence comapared to the state of my soul.

How is your spiritual health? Are you taking care of your soul, watching what you “eat” and taking the time to “exercise?” We may have the best six-pack and the most amazing calves, but that’s going to mean very little if we are spiritual couch potatoes. Maybe it’s time for a check-up.

The Lone Medical Ranger

Medical School was a lonely time. Sure there were people around and I had friends, but this whole process was such a training in a dependence on myself. We live in a highly individualistic culture to begin with, but medicine cultivates further the lone ranger attitude. Things are hard? Tighten up your scrubs and pull yourselves up by your crocs, we have patients to save! We should be like Paul, who endured such hardships: stoning, hunger, floggings, and shipwrecks just to name a few. There’s kingdom work to be done, so let’s get to it! We have God on our side, that’s all we need, right?

I’ve only realized just recently much of what Paul was able to endure and accomplish was because of the support of others. Sure, God was his strength, but part of that strength was supplied through fellow believers. In every letter you see his partnership with so many different people, for example Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, and Titus. One look at Romans 16 and it’s obvious that Paul didn’t operate by himself. And in his letters there were frequent requests for prayer (e.g., Romans 16:30-32, Ephesians 6:19-20, Colossians 4:3-4).

Paul understood that the Christian life, and especially the ministry life, is not meant to be lived solo.  In your medical training, it will be a huge temptation to blow off church because you have to study or you are too tired post-call.  Don’t be deceived, we need the support of fellow believers, not just to do God’s work, but to make sure that we hold on to the faith until the end. Enlist the prayers of your church community. Seek out the Christians in your class and residency program. Don’t neglect the important relationships in your life. Who is at least one person that you can come alongside and walk with in this journey?

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:23-25

Broken Cisterns

I have met some of the most compassionate and “good” people I know in medical school and residency, and most of them were not believers. Their dedication to serving those in need often shamed any such desire in my heart. It has been such an inspiration and honor meeting these physicians and physicians-in-training. But what do generally good people say when confronted with their need for a savior? “Why? I’m a good person.”

We have to be careful, even as believers, because as people who have hearts to do good, we can mistake doing good for being good. It is easy to profess a trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but really believe that there’s not all that much that needs forgiving. Sure I’m not perfect, but I’m not that bad, right? I’m certainly better than those “real” sinners like murderers and child molesters, and no worse than those sitting around me at church. We can be so busy comparing ourselves to ourselves that we forget the ultimate standard: God’s perfect holiness.

God is so holy even one sin is enough to condemn us to hell. But none of us have committed just one sin, have we? Isaiah 64:6 reminds us that even our best behavior is like filthy rags to God. At our core we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standards, and no amount of good deeds or nice intentions can deal with our sin that separates us from God.

We need to remember our need for the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. Otherwise, our faith is no faith at all, because we are simply trusting in our goodness to get us into heaven. Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites continually turned away from God and trusted in man-made idols. Jeremiah 2:13 God brings his accusations against the nation: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God’s people rejected the source of life and turned to worthless idols instead. While most of us are not bowing down to little statues, many have made an idol of ourselves, trusting in our own abilities to save. Even Christians, in a way, hold the living water of the Spirit in broken cisterns when we try to live life apart from God, on our own strength. The cross alone rescues us from our sins. The cross alone opens the way to the Spirit. Let’s trade in our broken cisterns for the cross, depending on Christ not just for salvation, but to live day-to-day until God calls us home, or Christ returns.

Unfailing Spring

Doing God’s work is hard, especially if it involves loving people. As Christian medical providers, we are called to serve with the love of Christ, patient after patient, day in and day out. We won’t last long if we are not receiving from the source of love. Unfortunately, people in medicine are great at taking care of everyone but themselves.

We have a great promise from God, that believers who truly live out their faith through caring for those in need will be renewed by God to continue loving. Isaiah 58:11 says that those who practice true religious acts by pouring out their lives in service for others “will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” God will continue to fill up the believer in order to continue God’s work.

This of course is realized in its entirety with the giving of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus says in John 7:37-39: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” We have the source of love living within us, empowering us to continue God’s work of love.

But the busyness of life has done much to quench the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Many well-intentioned Christians desiring to serve God with their gifts end up living lives of duty, spiritually dry and wondering where the living water is at. We need to tend to the Spirit’s presence in our lives if we hope to love as Christ did and do God’s kingdom work.

How is your relationship with the Lord? Is your serving out of your own strength or in dependence on the Holy Spirit? What can you do to make room for God and make the living waters a reality in your life?