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:


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







Why Doctors are Always Running Late

I came across this interesting article this past week. If you are tired of having to wait for your doctor, this is a worthwhile read. If you are too busy to read this, then you can save this for the next time you have an appointment. The basic gist is that doctors are always late because it is pretty much impossible to do everything a doctor needs to do in the fifteen minute time slots that is given to us in our healthcare system today. I wrote about this in my book:

I wanted … to be able to see past the physical and meet the deeper needs of my patients, which was another reason family medicine appealed to me. Looking back, that was a great attitude when I had two hours as a medical student to see a patient. I could talk about all sorts of things.

But now in fifteen minute slots I am expected to address patient concerns, manage chronic conditions, keep updated an ever increasing list of health maintenance tasks, perform a physical exam, educate patients on the care plan and medications, and do all of this with active listening and empathy, partnering with patients to motivate them to take charge of their health—sometimes doing all this through a translator phone.

It was estimated in 2003 that a physician would need seven-plus hours per day to complete all the recommended preventative service for a typical patient panel, and another ten-plus hours per day to provide quality long-term care.11 With ever-improving technology we can do a lot of things quicker and more efficiently, but that just means more things are squeezed into the time that’s freed up. No wonder studies have shown physicians have higher rates of burnout compared to non-medical professionals, with the highest burnout among adult primary care providers.12

Worth the Cost? pg. 50-51

11 Yarnell KS, et al., “Primary Care: Is There Enough Time for Prevention,” American Journal of Public Health, 2003 April; 93 (4): 635-41.
12 Shanafelt TD, et al., “Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance Among US Physicians Relative to the General US Population,” Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012 Aug 20:1-9.

The sad thing is that we will probably have less and less primary care doctors like the one described in the article, one that actually cares more about the person and less about meeting quotas and checking off preventative service tasks. True, some doctors are slow. But many simply just care about each patient they see. Next time you have to wait, maybe that’s a good thing.



Do We Need to Keep the Sabbath??

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments, and there’s a bit of debate whether this still applies to Christians today. In the spirit of Labor Day, I thought this might be a good topic to think about. To our loss, many Christians don’t spend much time in the Old Testament. Probably because some of it is difficult to understand because we are so far removed from the original context.

While it may be difficult, understanding is not beyond us if we are willing to put it some work (pun partially intended). Of course this is not the only verse that begs the question of relevance to us. How do we know if something in the Old Testament still holds true for us? I like to ask the following questions (at least):

1. Is the command repeated in the New Testament?

The books of the Bible come together to paint the whole picture of God’s salvation plan, a plan that is unfolded and made more clear throughout the course of history. Paul talks in various places about the “mystery” of Christ (e.g., Romans 16:25, Eph 3:4) that is now revealed through the cross, and so the New Testament does shed new light on what was written previously.

What does the New Testament say about the Ten Commandments? I won’t go through the references, but nine of the ten can be found repeated in some form. The one missing? The command to keep the Sabbath. In fact, something that greatly offended the Jewish religious leaders of the day was that Jesus did not keep the Sabbath, at least not the way they thought the Sabbath should be kept. On one occasion Jesus said, “Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12b) after healing a man with a deformed hand.

2. Has the command been satisfied by the work of Jesus?

Life would be very different if all the laws of the Old Testament were still applicable to us. For one, my allergies would go insane everyday because of all the animals that would be around for the many different sacrifices. Clearly we are no longer required to offer sacrifices in order to atone for our sins. Why? Because Christ, the sinless God-man, came and died on our behalf as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all.

And as the books of Hebrews make clear, many of the commands of the Old Testament served as a temporary foreshadowing of what was to be achieved permanently in Christ, particularly the many rules about temple worship and animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9-10). Hebrews 4 also speaks about entering a Sabbath-rest that is separate from something physical here on earth, in this passage the Promised Land. While this chapter is a bit confusing, I think it is an exhortation to enter into the permanent rest of God that is made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Colossians 2:16-17 also says, Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

 3. What is the purpose behind the command?

Like I mentioned in my previous post about tattoos, some commands that seem weird at first make sense when we understand the reasoning behind them (i.e., avoiding certain hair-styles/headgear associated with pagan worship). More broadly though, it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of the Law in its entirety was to set apart the nation of Israel from her neighbors so that God could be made known.

The Law was given as part of a special covenant that God made with this particular ethnic group. And so, not everything given to Israel is a direct command to us. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes that we are under a new covenant (for example, 2 Corinthians 3:7-18). While there are laws that are repeated that we should obey (see #1), those in Christ are no longer bound by the Mosaic Law as a whole.

But we should…

My conclusion? We are not required to keep the Sabbath. But having said that, I do think taking a Sabbath is a great idea, and in some ways is actually vital to our spiritual lives. God rested not because He was tired, but He carved out a time that was holy, dedicated to Him who is the Creator God. Well, we do get tired, and we should set aside a time for us to take a step back from our busy weeks in order to rest in God and marvel at His hand in our lives.

Christians honor the Sabbath by going to church, spending time on Sundays worshipping, fellowshipping, and listening the the Word. But if we are honest, especially those who serve, church can be the opposite of rest. And it can be very easy to go through an entire Sunday doing Christian things but not connect with our God.

It is a battle in our hyperactive culture to slow down and reorient our hearts towards God, even at church. And beyond the couple of hours we reserve for God on Sundays, we need to also carve out times that are just set apart for God. The thing I miss the most about the retreat I just went to was the blocks of undistracted and protected time I had just to be with God.

The big cliche of Christianity is that it is a relationship, so we need to find the time to connect relationally with our God. Just as I need to be intentional about scheduling meet ups to catch up with friends or date nights to connect with my wife, we need to put some thought into how to connect with God. Maybe it’s time to plan a hangout time with God, perhaps a couple of hours, or even a whole morning, just to be with God in the Word and in prayer. For those of us fortunate enough to have the day off, maybe we can do that today. Happy Labor Day!

What can you do practically to stay connected to God?