Friday, August 3, 2018

A Pharmacist or a Missionary? (And 51 Other Questions)

Am I a pharmacist or a missionary? What does it mean to be both? Did God really want me to move to Peru? Why here? Why me? What has God given me to share with people here?

What does healthcare have to do with the Gospel? Does God want us to be healthy? Is it a sin to be unhealthy? Can God use illness for good? Are sick people being punished? Disciplined? Did God create harmful germs? Does He send diseases? Is that blasphemous to say? Can sin cause us to be sick? Can good health cause us to sin?

What role do evil spiritual forces play in illness? What does it mean to be possessed by a demon? Are “demonic possessions” really just mental illnesses? Were things very different in Bible times?
What changed in the world after the Fall? Was the Fall necessary? What can we learn from suffering? What hope do we have for relief?

What are we composed of, spirit and body? Soul? Mind and flesh? What does it mean to be made in the image of God? What happens after we die but before the Resurrection? What will my resurrected body be like? Why treat people if we’re just delaying death? Is there a Christian way to die? What is the Christian way to mourn?

What did Jesus’s healing ministry have to do with the kingdom of God? As his follower, does Jesus expect me to heal people? To exorcise demons? Do miraculous healings even still happen nowadays? What’s with faith healers? Are shamans in league with the Devil?

What have Christians historically done well on “medical missions”? What have they done poorly?  How do you bring God up during a medical consultation? Is it ever inappropriate to pray with a patient? How do you get from treating diabetes to treating the spirit? Am I qualified to do that? What message am I sending by the way I care for people? Am I receiving the credit or is God?

If we pray before meals, why don’t we pray before we take medicine? How can I as a pharmacist help people to medicate their relationship with God? What has God given me to share with people? Are my eyes open to see what they have to share with me? Am I a pharmacist or a missionary?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Favorite Podcasts - Part 2

This is a postscript to my previous blog on podcasts. If you haven’t read that one, go back a few months and read it. Since then I’ve found a few more podcasts that I like and wanted to share them.

The Naked Bible Podcast
Dr. Michael Heiser specializes in ancient cultures and Semitic languages. He speaks on this podcast about various interesting topics, but he is probably most well-known for his recent book, The Unseen Realm and his “divine council theology.” It’s interesting to see how one of the foremost world experts in the Hebrew language handles biblical passages and doctrinal perspectives. I recently heard him explain something I’ve seen to be very true. He said that theology is becoming a wild west of sorts with various pseudo experts on the internet handling and mishandling deeper biblical content in hopes of feeding a growing multitude of Christians hungry for something meatier than your typical Sunday morning sermon. Meanwhile serious biblical scholars are sitting on a gold mine of substantial content but lack the ability or will to relate it to the everyday Christian. I think his aim with this podcast is to connect the world of the scholar with the average Christian in the pew.

Kingdom Roots with Scot McKnight
Scot McKnight is a well-known Christian blogger, author, and New Testament professor. The topics on this podcast aim to help us think about “how the kingdom took root then [in the first century] and how it is taking root now.” I like the approach he has to taking biblical example and background context and applying it to ministry and everyday discipleship. The format is an interview, with a young guy hosting who asks Dr. McKnight questions on their topic of the week. Shows are shorter, ranging from 25-35 minutes. This podcast is fairly new, so at the time I am writing this there are only 18 published episodes. Agree or disagree with Dr. McKnight, you are going to learn something by listening to this one. I think this is geared towards folks in full-time ministry, but I would recommend it to any serious Christian.

The Bible Project
I’ve been plugging the Bible Project for a while now. It’s a series of short videos on YouTube that summarize books of Bible in a very visually appealing way. This podcast is borne out of the interesting and in-depth discussions the creators of the Bible Project have before and after making the videos. Tim, the narrator of the videos, is a biblical scholar and Jonathan, the lead illustrator, does a good job hosting the podcast and interviewing Tim about the subject at hand. My favorite ones they’ve done so far are the ones on the image of God and the follow-up to that called “The Glory of God.” Definitely check this one out if you’ve seen and enjoy their YouTube videos.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Deeper Dependence

I was listening to one of my favorite authors and teachers, John Eldredge, on his podcast the other day. He said something that has really stuck in my mind over the last few weeks. It’s just been on repeat in my head and the more I think about it, the more it changes me and how I see my walk with God. Take a listen to this short clip.

I've found my dependence on God growing lately. May we all recognize more and more that dependence on God isn’t weakness, it’s part of the design.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Dr. Farrar and Living Forever

I went to a medical missions conference a few times while I was in college. There was an old hunched-over missionary surgeon named Henry Farrar that would usually speak at a few sessions. We all loved to hear him tell stories about his work at a small rural hospital in Africa. He had a funny demeanor and was always smiling and chuckling to himself as he went about. I heard someone ask him one time why he was always smiling and in his thick Tennessee accent he said, "Well, I'm gonna live forever, so it's hard not to be happy about that." Dr. Farrar has since passed on and I never got to know him personally, but this short, off-hand response changed my life. He really believed that what Jesus did meant he would live forever and that gave him real joy.

1 Timothy 6:11-13 (NIV)But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Made to Fly: A Theology of Good Works

Birds were made to fly. When you see a bird soaring overhead, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s beautiful because it’s doing exactly what God made it to do. It is fulfilling its purpose in life. Do you ever wonder what our purpose here is? What were we created to do? Ephesians 2:10 plainly answers that question, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Humans are doing what we were made to do when we are doing good works.

Of course, good works aren’t what save you from your sins. That’s a common mistake and the topic of much debate in Christendom. The two verses immediately preceding Ephesians 2:10 are the ones that say we’re saved by grace through faith, not by works so that no one can boast. We were made to do good works, but good works have no power to save us from our sins. Jesus’s blood is the only thing that can erase the sin and make us free. But that begs the question, “Free to do what?” Answer: good works – the stuff "God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Many think that working is part of the curse, but carefully consider what we know about Adam. Adam was doing good work before the fall. Good work was what he was created to do from the beginning. When he sinned he was not only estranged from God but the fear, guilt, and shame that ensued stifled Adam’s ability to do good works and things became much harder. He needed atonement at that point. He tried, by the work of his hands to do something to cover himself. He sewed a garment of fig leaves but it wasn't sufficient. Only God can provide an adequate covering: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21 NIV). Compare this verse to Romans 13:14 where we “put on” Christ.

How do you define good works? Shalom is a great Hebrew word. It is often translated “peace”, but it means more than just the lack of violence. It also means harmony, health, completeness, contentment, and overall well-being. I would define “good works” as anything that brings shalom back to this fallen and chaotic world. Adam’s tending of the garden was a good work. Jesus said even something as small as giving a cup of cold water in His name is a good work. Caring for orphans and widows is good work. Good works reflect God’s creativity and lovingkindness and give the lost glimpses of what their Creator is like.

For me, it is helpful to think, “what will heaven be like?” Well, there won’t be any sickness in heaven, so we need to do whatever we can to bring about health. There won’t be corruption, contaminated water, discrimination, or poverty – let's work towards eliminating those things. Everyone in heaven will know God and be living under his authority – “Go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I commanded you.” We all have a capacity to do this in whatever sphere of influence God has given us.

Jesus told us to pray that the kingdom come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Because of his sacrifice, the shackles of guilt, fear, and shame that hold us back from accomplishing the mission are broken. Jesus declared that the kingdom of heaven (the place where God’s will is done on earth like it is in heaven) is “at hand.” In other words, it’s about to explode onto the scene when Jesus sends out his Holy-Spirit-inspired disciples. If we could truly wrap our minds around the fact that our sins are taken care of and that we are literally going to live forever in the presence of God, we would be unstoppable difference-makers and this world would be more like heaven every day.

You may by this point be starting to think that I would advocate some kind of social gospel. So-called “social gospels” are those versions of the good news that focus on society’s systemic evils and work to correct them through good works. The problem with social gospels is that they tend to under-emphasize the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. I am not arguing for a social gospel, although I do believe the Gospel is deeply social in nature. What I believe in is a Gospel so focused on Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection that we are so filled with love for our neighbor that we can’t help but tell them about Him while we care for his or her physical and social needs. Our Gospel needs to affect every part of our lives and compel us to make a difference in the world. In the process we won’t be able to keep quiet about the One who changed our lives and the very course of human history. If anyone asks something like, “Why are you volunteering at the clinic when you aren’t getting paid to do it?” we can say, “I do this because the King and the Kingdom have come near. Haven’t you heard the good news?”

Like the birds, we were made for a purpose. The Good News is that we’ve been liberated to fulfill that purpose as we live in the presence of God starting now and extending on into eternity. That’s a beautiful thing. Let’s get the word out to more folks who don’t know yet.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Rogue Molecules

These are just some notes I took watching a presentation by Duke University professors Ray Barfield and Jeremy Begbie entitled, "Unexpected Intersections: Arts, Medicine, and Theology." I've included the video below if you are interested in watching it. I especially liked how Barfield presented the problem modern western medicine faces in his "rogue molecules" explanation.

Training to be a medical practitioner in a nutshell:
1. Anatomy: how the molecules are statically laid out.
2. Physiology: how the molecules move in the right direction.
3. Pathology: how rogue molecules sometimes slow down or move in the wrong direction.
4. Practicals: how to make the rogue molecules act right via surgical and medical techniques.

What medical practitioners acquire in their didactic training:
1. Definition of life: molecules moving in the right direction.
2. A vocation: human body mechanic.

What's the problem?
1. This biological reductionism is insufficient when applied to suffering and illness in human beings.
2. Practitioners speaking the language of biology and patients speaking the language of human experience aren't hearing each other clearly.
3. Practitioner burnout is high due to improper equipping for the problem.
4. Patients don't receive the help they need at the most important times in their lives.

The Bottom Line:
1. Human life and illness are so much more than molecules and biology (we have emotions, relationships, faith, etc.)
2. Treatment of illness must be enriched beyond how it is often practiced today.
3. Theology and the arts (and the social sciences) have a lot to bring to the table.

Challenge: Use story, art, music, theology, and whatever other means necessary to enrich the experience of suffering, illness, and dying with the patients you serve.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Favorite Podcasts

pod·cast  [pod-kast, ‐kahst]
1. A digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

A podcast is basically a radio show broadcast to the public via the internet. There are thousands of podcast shows on various topics ranging from talk shows, news, religion, science, tech, etc. If you have a smartphone, you probably have the ability to download podcasts via a “podcatcher” (AKA an app that subscribes to and manages your podcasts). iPhones come standard with an app for this. Other podcatchers include Stitcher Radio and Overcast. The neat thing is, when you subscribe to a podcast, they will automatically download to your phone when new episodes become available.

Most of my favorite podcasts are religious talk shows. I love to listen to them while I’m in a car or bus while traveling. My faith and knowledge of the Bible has increased due to the convenient technology of podcasts. In an age when we often see technology being used for such evil purposes, podcasts can be such a blessing.

My good friend and teammate, Jeremy Daggett, recently blogged about his three favorite religious podcasts and inspired me to do the same.  Here are my recommendations in no particular order:

Newsworthy with Norsworthy
This one was also on Jeremy’s list. It’s an interview show hosted by a young Texas preacher named Luke Norsworthy. He interviews writers, theologians, preachers, bloggers, and professors about various theological topics. I think one of his goals is to get Christians thinking about the issues and open the conversation up to different points of view among believers. Many interviews are from authors promoting their new books. I think Luke asks a lot of the same questions I would ask coming from a Church of Christ background and does it in an entertaining, sometimes sarcastic way which I enjoy. He seems like just one of the guys I would hang out with. He’s always done his homework and has read the book the author is promoting. Regulars on the show include Jonathan Storment, Scot McKnight, Richard Beck, and Rob Bell. My absolute favorite interviews have been N.T. Wright and Richard Rohr.

John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart
This podcast is hosted by one of my favorite authors, John Eldredge (from Wild at Heart fame). He’s usually accompanied by his friend Craig McConnell. Eldredge is a counselor with a background in theater. I think this mix gives him such an interesting and unique perspective on the human heart and what captivates and speaks to us on a deeper level. Most of what he says and believes is based on life in the trenches counseling real people with real problems, never just theoretical jargon. Eldredge and McConnell are long-time friends and you can tell they draw out the best in each another. McConnell brings to the table his own wealth of experience from his ongoing battle with cancer. One disclaimer is that some of the episodes of this podcast are hosted by other staff members of Eldredge’s “Ransomed Heart” organization. I listen to these too, but the ones with Mr. Eldredge are the best. I would highly recommend the ten-part series of episodes they did this summer called “The Sacred Romance” and a four-part series they did on the topic of suffering.

The Theonauts
Here you have two guys whose hobby is talking about the Bible and Christian life. They will pick a topic in theology, both study it separately and come together on the podcast and work through what they learned and believe. They show us that serious theology can be fun when you do it with grace in community. Apart from the theological topic of the show, they also do a segment on Christian current events and compete against each other a few minutes every show with Bible trivia questions. I recommend scrolling through their episodes and picking one on a theological topic that you’ve always had questions about. The strengths of this podcast are 1.) their way of bringing complex biblical topics down to a level we can all understand and weigh the options and 2.) their manner of “doing theology” with grace and humility that is a model for the rest of us to go out and have meaningful conversations about topics that really matter with our friends.

The Village Church – Sermons
I do enjoy a good sermon via podcast every once in a while. Matt Chandler is one of the preachers for The Village Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He’s not always the one preaching on this podcast, and when it’s not him, I usually skip that episode. Chandler is a no-nonsense type with a flair for the comedic. He’s always passionate and keeps your attention.

Timothy Keller Sermons Podcast by Gospel in Life
Tim Keller is one of the best preachers/teachers I’ve ever heard. He is consistently good, especially in the area of apologetics of the Christian faith. This podcast publishes the sermons he preaches at his home church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. All of his sermons are good, but my favorite in recent memory is titled “Friendship.” 

These are some of my favorites. I'm always looking for good new ones. Share yours in the comments section below.