Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Two months ago on a plane to New York, I met a man named Henry. We talked pleasantries for a few minutes, but got into intense conversation rather quickly. He asked me about my research, so I showed him the pictures I had taken and described my research. It turned out that he was a scientifically-minded actor who was very impressed that I was (in his mind) actually a scientist.

God guided the conversation to spiritual things through me, and that's when things got good. I found out that he had a religious background (Episcopal), but has fallen away from the faith and had embraced atheism for the sake of reason. Most of the conversation was spent discussing his security in Atheism; I presented the rationality and defensibility of the Christian Faith.

Before parting ways, we exchanged contact information. I sent him an email when I returned, and he asked me for my mailing address. I provided this, and before I knew it, I had received a letter, handwritten and on nice stationary. He said he appreciated the conversation and it opened his eyes to the possibility of there being a God. But, in the end, he talked about how he couldn't imagine God hiding from us behind the universe.

I sent him a letter explaining that God wasn't hiding; He was everywhere. His beauty could be seen in the sunrise, the shadow of His love could be experienced in human relationships and so on. Through all this I had been praying rather hard for him, harder than I had for any other stranger I had shared my faith with.

The letter I got back blew me away. He said that he longed for my faith, that my letter was refreshing in the cynical darkness of New York. He asked honest questions about my motivation; why I did what I did in religion and life. It seemed that the Holy Spirit spoke to him in such a powerful way that he would completely change his tone. I wrote a letter back that encouraged him to stop longing for faith and just to believe.

By this time I had gotten an interview at Cornell in New York city (the medical school is in the city; the main campus is in upstate New York). I realized I would be able to see him when I went for my interview. I called him and arranged for it. I realized that with such a broken spirit, salvation was close. I prayed and even fasted for him before I left. I had all of my friends and my church praying for him.

I had arranged to meet him on Monday afternoon at 4PM. My plane got in late. His plane got in later. I had no time on Tuesday to meet because of my interview and early flight. For most of the day, I was rather upset with God for seeming to set up such a perfect opportunity to share with him and then to cancel it. I was very disgruntled as I rode the subway and then the bus to catch my flight.

Then, right before I reached the terminal, I got the burning in my belly to change my flight. I had tried to make it a later flight, but there were none on that day. I had nowhere to stay and didn't even know if he was going to be able to meet. If he was free, I didn't know where he'd be. But I did it. I changed my flight to 9AM of the following morning.

I took the bus and then the train back into the city. I decided I'd walk around Times Square until 6pm when he got off of work. With my rolling suitcase, I went through the crowded streets, in awe and disgust at the bustle and materialism of that place. I decided to stop and go to McDonalds to sit for a while. I left a message with Henry and then nursed a Mr. Pibb for half an hour. At 6:05PM, he called me. When I told him where I was, he was surprised; I just happened to be a few blocks from where he was. He walked over and met me in the McDonalds.

He recommended a diner, so we walked and talked on our way there. Upon arrival at Astro Diner, we got to the meat. Then, over the next three hours, we would discuss many things. After discussing it, he admitted that he would probably be happier as a Christian. He also said that Christianity was more rational than Atheism. Eternally, it would probably work out better for Christians than for him. He even had experienced a miracle on Good Friday when he was a believer. We discussed freewill, and he admitted that he had only the illusion of control over his life. But this was all he wanted. This was everything to him: to have the feeling that he was in control of his own life. He was willing to give up everything else for that. He compared himself to the character Cypher in "The Matrix," who knew the Matrix was a lie, but knowingly preferred the lie to the truth.

I have never had a more candid conversation with a non-believer. Never have I heard somebody who was so completely honest about their motivations and intentions. Unfortunately, his intentions were purely selfish.

We agreed to continue corresponding, and he left for home. I later made my way back to the airport and spent as much of the night as I could unconscious, hunched over a food court table.

I hope that God moves in his heart; nothing more can be done with his mind. He has no other hope for salvation.

Med School update

A lot has happened since last I posted. It's now 12:30AM and I should be sleeping but this entry is long overdue.

To update you all on my professional life: I interviewed for Cornell and Duke last week and it seems that medical schools are simply getting better and better. Cornell has an amazing international program where they basically pay for you to go anywhere in the world you want to. Duke actually cares about character; they have a rigorous process of interviewing for people with morals, who are humble, and who are real people. That's part of the reason why they're so good at primary care. If I got in everywhere, I don't know what I'd choose. I think I'm leaning towards Duke... but I'm always leaning for the school of my most recent interview.

I've got a bunch more in the next two weeks (UCLA, Oregon, Stanford); it'll be crazy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The "E" word

I have been a Christian a very long time. I have always been told that I was supposed to share my faith, but nobody told me how easy it was to start, how adventurous an endeavor it is, nor how fulfilling it can be!

I have been awakened. I have opened my eyes to a new world!

What it isn't (preface for nonchristians)
I know that some who read this may not be Christians and probably have an entirely perverted view of evangelism. You've seen 'Evangelicals' yelling about how homo-sexuals are going to hell. This is not evangelism. My experience has been that it rarely involves the four laws, though sometimes gets there. They need to be translated over the course of at least an hour for most college students. Let's take a simple "gospel" presentation as an example:
"You were made good by God, but are now a sinner in need of redemption which you can obtain by faith in Jesus Christ."

Most of you, my peers, don't believe in God (or mean something entirely different than a Christian), you don't believe in objective morality (so the word 'sin' has no meaning), you have a violent gut-reaction to needing someone else's help for anything. You probably define 'faith' as "believing something contrary to the evidence" so think that it's a silly to have it in anything. And you almost certainly believe that Jesus was a great teacher who never performed a miracle (because miracles are impossible); in your minds, he is in no way capable of anything beyond a good sermon. Each of those objections must be addressed by anyone attempting to 'evangelize'

Evangelism is in the simplest terms, sharing good news. Literally it is derived from the word from 'angel' meaning 'messenger.' I believe I am living a more effective, fulfilling and happy life because of my relationship with Jesus. It is the same kind of thing as when I tell you, "I did really well in Molecular Biology when I studied with a group; I'd recommend it." I care about you and want you to do as well as I did in the course. I don't want to 'convert' you to Study Groupism and so feel superior because I won you as a convert. I just want you to do well. The more I cared about you and the worse you were doing in the course, the more I'd try to convince you to study in a group so that you do well. It is about my concern for you, not anything selfish. The same is true of Christianity. Christ has brought me fulfillment, love and hope. I just want to share it.

I hope this explanation makes sense, but I know it probably doesn't. Evangelism is, in all likelihood, still considered by you a great evil. I assume it has to do with relativism, but I have never been able to fully understand why this doesn't make sense. I would be very happy if you could articulate your objections to me.

The rest of my account will be addressed to Christians; nonchristians read on at your own risk.

Realization #1 - It's fun and easy
There are a million ways to "share my faith." It just takes intentionality. Almost any conversation can be comfortably shifted to a spiritually fruitful one with a question or two.

For example, I was talking about FISH. "It was miraculous that FISH did what it did. And I mean that literally. Are you a big believer in miracles?" My friend responded, "For sure!" and then described a family member's miraculous recover from cancer. Then I simply asked, "So then are you a believer in God?" And it just flowed from there.

I have also realized that there are benefits of relativism. Namely, most college people believe it is a sin (or the closest atheistic equivalent) to offend you. There was a time when a person I was talking to described how unreasonable it was to condemn others. I said that I was one of those who condemned others. You wouldn't believe how fast he backpedaled.

Realization #2 - It's adventurous
It is one of the most exciting things we could ever do. It is true spiritual battle!

The times I am most alert, most humble, most passionate about prayer and most hungry for the Word are those times when I am ministering. Because it is a desperate battle for the souls of men and women. The realities of these things we have been taught are never more real: the value of the Word, the power and desperate need for prayer, and the impossibility of our fight through flesh.

It is the greatest privilege of this world. The prophets of old did not have this privilege. Jesus himself didn't. He reserved it from before time began for us, His Church!
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
- John 14:12

It is true in general for Christianity and it is especially true for evangelism: Christ is the only way to jump the track and live a life that is truly free. If we do not follow the spirit, our life is determined. We know where we're headed and, like Autopia, we'll make sure that we follow the road. Our greatest rebellion is hitting the bumper and continuing on the track. The Holy Spirit gives us the chance to break free and go where He leads. We have the terrifying opportunity to trust God that our destination is good. It is no longer like a track or a trail, but cross-country, like the wind.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
- John 3:8

It doesn't stay easy. And I'd be disappointed if it did. God will eventually ask hard things and glorify Himself and us through them. But in asking hard things God is giving us a chance to really capture the adventure we desire so deeply. We pay billions of dollars to watch adventure in movies and to experience it in theme parks. Like a drug, we pay to satiate the hunger. But now we can have true adventure! We don't know how it ends, except that the good guy wins. We each can be a hero greater than Superman and an adventurer seeking a treasure greater than the Holy Grail. But being a hero and an adventurer takes courage. So man up and take the first step.

Realization #3 - It's fulfilling
There is nothing better than sharing your faith. There really isn't. As a Christian, it's the thing
we're supposed to do. It's our job. Our goal is to pursue Christ, but I really believe that direct evangelism is the physical manifestation of that. Certainly you may not have the gift now to be an evangelist, but ask for it! We're supposed to seek the greater gifts!

The great commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor. The greatest thing we can ever give someone is eternal life. I have never cared for those people around me than when I am praying for their salvation. I have been so fulfilled this last month that I've seen God work in this way.

Here is a list of people I'm praying for. If you are a Christian, please join me. If you think you see your name on this list, believe in Jesus. Once you tell me, I'll take your name off.

Matt, Anna, Melissa, Errol, Geia, Henry, Bonnie, Nathaniel, Sona, Sunny, Shirley, Sarah, Andrew, Afton