Posts tagged ‘physician’

The Time of Your Life

“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:7-8

From my third year of medical school in 1980 until I retired from medicine in 2004, there were only two years that I had control of the call schedule. This occurred when I was the department chair at the US Naval Hospital in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. And those were the two toughest years of my professional life, largely because of my authority over the time my colleagues would be required to work in the hospital. When we were “on call,” we took care of every obstetrical and gynecological patient who would come to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. With 52 weeks in a year and 3 physicians to cover those weeks, one physician always had to take one more week of call than the other two. So there was constant tension. Time is the most precious commodity on earth. 

So when Jesus tells us that God has authority to set dates and times, I find it very reassuring. I want God, who knows the end from the beginning and is full of mercy and grace, to be in charge of how much more time sin will be allowed to exist on this earth. As a follower of Jesus, the Father sets my call schedule.  Just like a physician on call has been given power to provide the necessary treatment for people who come to the hospital, we see from our text today that Christ-followers are given power by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus. To be a witness for Jesus simply means that we are His hands and feet to care for the hungry, the homeless, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned.

Jesus gave this response in answer to the following question asked by the apostles, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and store our kingdom.” In other words, they were asking if they could get off the call schedule. They didn’t want to take care of any more sick people. They wanted to be in charge of their time. They wanted to do their own thing. And the truth is, we do too!

But Jesus says that the Father alone is in charge of our time.  It’s a simple message really. But it calls me into account. I don’t make the call schedule. I do not have control over how much time I have. But I am in control over how I use the time I have. And for that, God has given me all the power of the universe at my disposal. So I ask myself as I ask you, What are you doing with each second of each day? Do you even think about it? Have you been a witness to others of the love of Jesus in your life? When you truly think about it, the only way to have the time of your life is to give your life to Jesus.

Seeing Dimly Can Bring Life Into Focus!

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.    I Corinthians 13:12

I was in high school when my grandfather was dying with Parkinson’s disease. I waited with the rest of the family in the ICU waiting room. We sat there for hours on end waiting for a word from the doctor as to the condition of grandpa. When the doctor came to us, everyone stopped to listen. He seemed to have all the answers. He had grandpa’s life in his hands. He was actively combatting disease. He was “the man!”

Meanwhile, the pastor sat with us through the ordeal. He prayed with us, but from my perspective didn’t have much to offer. It was the doctor who was in charge. It was the doctor we were waiting to hear from, not the pastor. This, of course, was from the perspective of a kid who had wanted to be a doctor since five years of age. I wanted nothing else in life. There couldn’t possibly be anything more exciting, more rewarding, more stimulating than being a doctor. Doctors had a perfect life with no problems and not struggles.

My perspective changed when I became a physician. Don’t get me wrong. I loved practicing medicine. There were things I experienced and witnessed that I would not trade for anything. But the reality of being a doctor was quite different from what I had seen as a kid in high school. The reality was sleepless nights, interrupted dinners, and missed school plays. There were the constant phone calls in the middle of the night and the stress of having someone’s life in my hands. There were the patients that I had no answer for their disease. Being a doctor was much more difficult than the picture I had as a kid.

Just like I could not see the true nature of being a doctor before I had arrived in the halls of a hospital as a physician, I cannot see the true nature of my pain, suffering, loss, and struggles before I have arrived on the streets of gold as a child of God who has put on immortality in the twinkling of an eye. Until we get there, our only choice to know the true nature of all the issues we face today is to talk with the One who has been here and is now there – Jesus! Jesus is our physician we can talk to understand the real purpose of life.

So when you’re discouraged, tell Jesus. Open His Word, read His experiences, learn from His life. When you don’t think you can go on another day because of the struggles you face, listen to Jesus. Take a hike in nature, talk with a Godly friend, listen to Christian music, meditate on His Word, let Him speak to you. Argue with Him if you must. Share your frustrations and doubts. He wants to hear what you have to say.

One day when Jesus comes to gather us home, we will understand our pain, suffering, loss, and struggles from a new perspective. We will see the real purpose of our struggles that today we can only see dimly. But dimly is better than not at all. I am still thankful for the years I was a physician that only happened because I had seen dimly what a physician’s life is all about by talking and observing physicians as a kid. We can only see partially now. Jesus walks by our side and explains all that we can possibly understand. But we will never fully understand until we arrive in our heavenly home. 

And so we walk by faith. Those of us who trust in God do so because of the reality of how His perspective actually does change our lives. And I do understand just enough to keep me going forward in His loving arms. I have talked with Jesus enough to see, though dimly as it may be, that He loves me and is always there for me. When I focus on Jesus, my issues come into the perspective of His love, His plan, His vision for my life. Seeing dimly brings life into focus.


The Gift of Self-Awareness

“…On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die. But I came and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!'”   Ezekiel 16:5-6

When I received my acceptance letter to Loma Linda University School of Medicine, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had “arrived.” All of my dreams would be fulfilled. And I do mean “my” dreams. My dreams of a large house, a boat, nice cars, and the best clothes money could buy. To be sure, I was also excited to be in a challenging profession where I could make a difference in people’s lives. I truly wanted to help others. I also had (and still do have) a deep passion for learning, being challenged, and solving problems. But the emphasis was on ME – my accomplishments, my hard work, my intellect, my determination.

But I had begun my journey in college being called by God into pastoral ministry. I had studied theology for three years following God’s plan for my life. And then I changed my mind and went for my childhood dream of being a physician. After a year of taking pre-med classes, I received that letter. I was in. Me! I had done it. And just like that, my humility in following God’s call turned to pride in what I had accomplished. Of course, I didn’t see it that way. That’s because earthly success can often cloud our self-awareness – who we are, where we are, and how we got there. Today I believe God has used my medical training as part of my journey in becoming a pastor. But I know what it’s like to have so little self-awareness as to think that I am solely responsible for any accomplishment or success that I have.

Every single one of us come into this world naked, completely vulnerable, and needing others to survive. It takes many years before a human can take care of herself, and perhaps decades before a human can take care of himself!  The fact is, we all need others. We need at least one person in the world to care for us from birth if we are even to survive, let alone thrive. 

As we grow older we become less dependent upon the care of others. We begin learning about the world around us as we go to school and choose how we will take care of ourselves. We finally become independent. And most of us end up just like I did, thinking that wherever we are in life, whatever we are doing, we owe no one but ourselves. We somehow go from being completely dependent on others for survival to thinking that we are dependent on no one for anything. 

In Ezekiel 16, God is speaking to Ezekiel about the kingdom of Judah who has turned away from Him. By this time, the people of Judah had forgotten God as they worshiped gods of their own making. They had completely lost any self-awareness. God might as well be describing us today. He created us to need one another and to support one another. We need other people in our lives for emotional support to feel love, for physical support to be touched by love, for mental support to know love, and for spiritual support to love in return. 

The truth is we all need love and we all seek love. In a very real sense, we are all a product of the love we have experienced in our lives. To the extent that we recognize the essential role love plays in our lives, we will have the self-awareness necessary to accept God’s love and live to fulfill his purpose in our lives. 

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