Archive for July, 2016

Day 1

stem cellsWell, yesterday turned out to be quite eventful. I suffered a reaction of some sort to the products that they put into me, which drove my blood pressure up quite high and had me feeling uncomfortable and struggling to breathe properly. Thankfully the doctors and nurses were onto the job and worked tirelessly to sort out my problems, so that by about 3pm I was somewhat normal again.

I took some sleeping pills last night and woke up feeling relatively normal. Today is a quiet day and I suspect there’ll be a few more of those to follow. Nausea and diarrhea are going to be my two big battles in the weeks ahead, along with managing my limited energy levels. But as has been such a blessing through all the treatment so far, I kick on with my day achieving what I can and tailoring what I can do to the capacity I have for the day. God is good and has given me these days for me to find the good I can do in them. Please pray that I look for the good God has prepared for me, and not at my navel.

Reflections on Luke 7:11-35 read the passage

An extended passage today, so my comments will be brief.

As Jesus comes to Nain we see one of the worst social tragedies. A widow has lost her only son. She is now destitute and without hope, all on top of the immeasurable grief that her life must have been filled with. Jesus does the exact opposite of Jewish etiquette. Instead of steering clear of the dead body and remaining ritually pure, he, motivated by compassion, gets involved and restores life to the child. For those with familiarity with OT stories, this sounds very much like miracles conducted by Elijah and Elisha, both of whom saved the lives of women’s sons. No wonder Jesus is hailed as ‘a great prophet’ (v16). But then, more importantly, we see the hint beyond his identity as a prophet: ‘God has come to help his people’

This relates directly to the next story, where John the Baptist sends two messengers to check if Jesus is the one to come. John’s job was to prepare the way for the Lord himself to come, something that the people have just hinted at, but John’s perceptions of what that would look like don’t marry up with the reports he’s been getting from Herod’s jail. Jesus points out to his messengers that his activities are meeting expectations, particularly from Isaiah (v22) and then later points out to the crowd, likely to have taken a dimmer view of John on account of his doubts, the supreme place that John holds among prophets (v28). John is the one prophet in the long line and history of prophets who could simply point with his finger and say, ‘There he is’. Others painted pictures and descriptions with words as they were given, yet only one was alive there to point across the Jordan and say, ‘There he is.’ Yet, for any believer in Jesus, for the least in the kingdom, we can point people to Jesus even more effectively. John was beheaded by Herod before he could witness Jesus death and resurrection. We know his death and resurrection as a fact on which all believers stand in faith, and can offer that faith to those who don’t know. On that basis we are more effective at pointing out Jesus than John the Baptist. How do you go at pointing out Jesus?


Transplant Day

head-transplant-gummy-bearsIt’s finally here. This is the day all the treatment has been leading up to since my diagnosis, and it’s the day I’ll recover from from here, eventually going home cured, God-willing. The last few days have been tiring, the radiation wiping me out on return and leaving me feeling nauseous. Today itself is relatively uncomplicated, I’m told: just some injections and then it’s all over with. It’s amazing the technology!

I don’t really know what to expect from here. A lot of the medical staff have pointed out that my worst days are ahead and really tried to make that clear. I want to take them a day at a time, however, and not psych myself into feeling worse than I actually do. I’ve been in bed too much for the last few days and it has made sleeping at night uncomfortable, so step one will be to stay up and out of bed as much as I can today in order to get the best night’s sleep tonight I can. Please pray that can happen, and that God is merciful in restraining the side effects in the coming days.

Reflections on Luke 7:1-10 read the passage

This is the passage that this blog is named after, so I couldn’t let it go without comment.

The request brought to Jesus is a delicate one. The centurion is an enemy of Israel by birth and by badge. Why should Jesus help him? Jesus has just preached that his disciples are to love their enemies (6:27), so we anticipate that Jesus will be no hypocrite. The centurion is aware of his delicate situation, however. He doesn’t come himself, but sends the elders of the Jews as a delegation to make the case to Jesus (7:3). They point out that the centurion has been a friend to their nation rather than an enemy, and convince Jesus to go with them (7:4-5).

Here’s where the surprising thing happens. The centurion sends friends (not servants) to Jesus to request that he not trouble himself to come into his house (7:6). The reason is that he recognises that Jesus has such high authority that he is not deserving of a visit (7:7). It’s easy to confuse the centurion’s response into thinking that he conceives of himself as a person of high authority (7:8). But a centurion was not particularly high ranking. He was equivalent to about a sergeant in today’s army. What he is saying is that he know how authority works. He knows how to do what he’s told just as he assigns tasks to those below him, and he knows that Jesus has the authority, at a distance, to heal the sickness of his servant without Jesus being expected to enter his house. That is, he recognises a higher authority for Jesus than anyone else so far in Israel (7:9). He believes something greater about Jesus – he is not just a healer but a man of divine authority.

As someone in the military I knew how to keep my mouth shut and do what I was told. I knew when I could speak up and when I had to know my place. Those who follow Jesus follow him as their Lord and he is a wonderful Lord to follow. Unlike my bosses, only humans, who were a mixture of self-interest, task-focus and concern for their subordinates, Jesus is the perfect boss. He is the one who went to death for his followers, while they were his enemies. There is no doubt to his commitment to those who believe in him, and everything he commands is in their best interests. Why wouldn’t we follow him? Only unbelief could explain such a thing. For those who follow Jesus, disobedience is unbelief, because we are people under authority.

Radiation Day One

pumpzillaSimone came yesterday as I completed my last day of chemo. Unfortunately we couldn’t go out as I was all hooked up to the pumping machine. The chemo side effects have been pretty mild so far, with some mild nausea that has been handled with meds.

Today I started the Total Body Irradiation, which didn’t feel like much at the time, but has left me a little tired. The machine was in the middle of the room but they had me right over near the wall. This was because the ray needed to disperse to cover my whole body. Still no sign of superpowers, but I did feel pretty tired when I came back and slept for about 90 mins. I’m all up and going again now, but have another round of TBI booked in again for this arvo. In fact that’ll be my regime for the next two days as well.

Reflections on Luke 6:17-26 read the passage

This looks very much like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, except it’s on a plain and some of the wording is different. Sometimes people get bent out of shape because of this, assuming that Luke has twisted Matthew’s words or vice versa. Much more likely is that Jesus was an itinerant preacher and went from place to place teaching very similar sermons. One thing we notice in common, however, is that Jesus has great ministry success (v17-19), but then directs his teaching to his disciples (v20).

In the sermon on the plain, Luke sets out two sets of opposite statements. Verses 20-22 set out blessings and v24-26 set out woes. The key difference between those who are blessed and those who receive woes is their investment and ‘success’ in this life. Those who fit most into this life, who have settled in this life, whose lifestyle signals that they are of this world, woe to them. But for those who hunger and thirst for the next life, who don’t fit into this life, who this world has rejected because of the Son of Man, they are blessed. This is significant in the context of Jesus’ ministry success that we saw in v17-19. Jesus doesn’t care about worldly success, or what the crowds think of him. He is invested in the life to come.

Many Christians in other countries today feel the rejection of this world. I’m thinking of those living in majority Muslim countries, in China and North Korea and countless other countries across the globe. We are starting to feel a little of this discomfort in the West. The temptation will be to censor and change ourselves so that ‘everyone speaks well of you’ (v26). But that is how they spoke of the false prophets in Israel’s history. ‘Woe’, says Jesus, to anyone who does that. This may meaning losing friends, jobs, possessions, money, houses, even freedom. But as Jesus says, ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.’ (v23) Are you willing to suffer for Jesus. He says it’s well and truly worth it.

Kids and Chemo

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Simone, Kath and the kids came to visit yesterday. We celebrated Jacob’s birthday with a cake and a trip to the local park. I must say I was very impressed with the park. At last a park that has a bit of risk in it for the older kids. They absolutely loved it. There were heaps of ‘big kid’ elements to it, like giant slides and a low ropes course. Of course I say big kids because even little kids were enjoying it too. So many parks these days are risk averse and therefore boring, so it was good to see something a little different. The day was sunny enough for us to enjoy the terrace views from ‘The Loft’ cafe in Peter Mac as well as a quick trip to the park before the rain came. It was great to see the kids, but as always, the kids find hospitals boring so it’s generally not too long before they start wrecking the place.

Today I’ve started my heavy chemo: cyclophosphamide. My pumping pole looks like a jellyfish forest and I have enough tubes coming out of me to make the Melbourne sewerage system jealous. So far there’s been no side effects, praise God, but it’s early days. I’ve been given a heap of different drugs to counter potential side effects and they’re pumping me full of fluid and keeping a record of exactly how much fluid leaves my body as well. All very exciting stuff. Update: I had mild nausea which was fixed with meds and my head is a bit fuzzy. Otherwise fine.

Reflections on Luke 5:27-32 read the passage

Jesus offends the sensibilities of the Pharisees because he hangs out with the riffraff of his culture. Tax collectors were collaborators with the invading Roman army and so despised as traitors by their own people. It didn’t help that they were generally skimming extra money off the top of the taxes they were required to collect, so it’s not surprising Levi had the means to hold a lavish feast (v29). The Pharisees generally held to our modern day adage that ‘bad company corrupts good character’ and so restricted their dining partners to people that they considered righteous. So for Jesus to be hanging out with tax collectors and ‘sinners’ was quite a blight on his character. Jesus’ response is one of the classic verses in Luke:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (5:31-32)

It’s not that Jesus agrees with the Pharisees that they are righteous. Jesus is pointing out, rather, that all who come to him must realise that they are in need, that they are sinners. The Pharisees’ self-righteousness prevents them from coming to Jesus.

What about today? Are there people like the Pharisees today? Personally, I think Australia is awash with self-righteous people. In fact our society breeds it. Why? I think it’s the idea that all people are basically good. If we’re all good, then anyone caught doing bad instantly is different from the rest of us. That’s self-righteousness. How often do I hear people say, ‘I’m a good person.’ In fact I think people don’t have the ability to cope with the concept that they might be bad people. That would lead to misery and despair that their worldview couldn’t handle. So rather than admit that our bad behaviour indicates we’re bad people, we cast ourselves instead as victims. Our bad behaviour is always someone else’s fault. It’s genetic (my parents fault), it’s the way I was raised (my parents fault), everyone else is doing it (it’s society’s fault), it’s a stupid rule anyway (the government’s fault)… Perhaps this is why Australia is such hard soil for the gospel… because we are a self-righteous nation. The greatest challenge for everyday Australians is to recognise their own sin. What about you? Are you a sinner in need of the doctor of souls to call you to repentance? Or are you a good person whom God (if he does exist) should be happy with anyway? Ironically it’s the sinners who are in a far healthier state than the ‘good people’. The good people are Pharisees and will try to stand on their own good deeds. The sinners have Jesus, who freely forgives and saves. I know who I’d rather be.

A Slow Start

racing_turtleIt’s been a leisurely start to this transplant process so far. I’ve had my first dose of chemo: fludarabine. So far no side effects and it’s generally known to be a mild drug. My counts are still up so I got out twice yesterday to go into town, which was nice. I’ve already run into some Christian staff, which was encouraging and already had a visit from a good friend.

I’m still trying to work out the meal menus here. I’m missing the big omelettes of St. V’s. Breakfast feels a little underdone. I ordered ‘assorted muffins’ this morning, expecting English muffins, but instead got a chocolate muffin. Not quite what I expected. Overall, though, the food seems tastier. Having said that, last night I went out for some delicious Indonesian, and if my counts are high enough I’ll probably try to get out again tonight.

Reflections on Luke 4:31-44 Read the passage

We see here a reflection of Jesus’ ministry: healing, casting out demons and teaching. But which one is key? Is Jesus primarily a healer, exorcist or teacher? Jesus himself tells us in 4:43 “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Jesus is primarily a teacher. He leaves behind the crowds of sick and demon-possessed to go into other towns to preach the gospel. This is why God sent him. Ultimately Jesus would fulfill the good news he was preaching by dying on the cross and rising again.

This has ramifications for today. There are teachers in every generation who talk about the ‘full gospel’ or some addition to the gospel that the churches have neglected. Vast ministries are built around healing or exorcisms, while those who lead these ministries claim that the churches have neglected these powerful and important gifts that God has given to spectacularly grow his church. Now there’s no doubt that God can still heal miraculously today, and that demons are real and can be driven out of people. But the focus of Jesus’ ministry was preaching the gospel. That is why he was sent. And just like he was sent he sends his followers to do the same. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus sends his disciple to make more disciples by teaching, not by healings or exorcisms. When we add to Jesus’ gospel healings or exorcisms to make it the ‘full gospel’ we show that we don’t really believe in the power of God which is at work in the gospel (Rom 1:16-17), and that’s a shame.

In The Room

roomI’m now in the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) with my own room (pictured above). I came in yesterday and had a Hickman line inserted into my right shoulder, which replaces my old PICC. The room’s pretty hi-tech with a TV/Internet/Telephone on a big arm. The ward’s only about a month old. I have uninterrupted views of an uncompleted patio area out my window. So far the food’s been better than St V’s, but that might be because I spent 15 weeks eating from the same menu, and have only been here for one night.

Last night I didn’t sleep particularly well because the Hickman line was causing me pain. I also forgot my eye covers, which was an oversight I’ll correct today. I’m trying to get back into my hospital routine and am currently enjoying ‘The Holy Trinity’ by Robert Letham.

Reflections on Luke 4:14-30 read the passage

I just thought I’d share something that struck me as I read this passage this morning. In Mark’s recording of this story the threat by the townspeople to throw Jesus off the edge of a cliff isn’t recorded. Instead it says: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” (Mk 6:5). The natural question that comes from this verse is how it can be that the all-powerful Jesus would be unable to do miracles? Some have suggested that Jesus is unable to perform the miracles because of the lack of the people’s faith, claiming that God is limited by our faith or lack of it. Usually I would have said that Jesus’ miracles went with the onward march of the kingdom. Given that the town largely rejected Jesus, the kingdom was largely bypassing Nazareth.

But given Luke’s passage it now seems to me that Jesus was unable to do many miracles because the mob almost killed him and then effectively drove him out of town. It wasn’t a lack of power that restricted Jesus, but a lack of time. Something to ponder, anyway…

It’s worth pointing out that it was familiarity with Jesus that led his own people to despise him. Extraordinary when you think of it – God himself grew up in their town, but they rejected him because he was the carpenter’s son. Yet we can easily do the same. Many people are schooled in private schools where they hear plenty about Jesus and go through the motions of civic religion every week and learn that Jesus is boring and irrelevant. Sadly this inoculates them against his life-giving message. It would be such a shame to assume that you already know what Jesus has to offer and ignore the one who came to bring you life.

Mountains then Melbourne

halls gap panoramaWe had a great fortnight in the beautiful Grampians. It’s the first time we’ve been there and thoroughly enjoyed it. We managed to get a few good walks in and I managed to achieve equal worst fitness level with one of my kids, which is a significant improvement. We also enjoyed the company of my sister and brother-in-law and their kids for the second week, which made for a special time. It was cold and rained for some of the days, but overall it was well worth the trip.

split fallsFor the last week I’ve been in Melbourne with Simone going through a week of tests at RMH. Although I arrived with a cold I’ve been given a clean bill of health. I’ll need to be careful for the next two weeks though before the transplant. Any sickness will delay it, as the transplant will strip my immune system and leave me vulnerable to any virus or bacteria I’m carrying. Apparently I sailed through the tests and everything’s looking good. My counts aren’t hugely high at the moment, even with a month out of hospital, but at the moment everything is still on track. Please pray that this stays the case.

Reflections on Luke 3:23-38 read the passage

It seems strange that Luke would break into a genealogy of Jesus here. Genealogies were very important to the Jews because they established their ancestral heritage. Here Luke traces Jesus’ heritage all the way back to “Adam, the son of God” (v38). Why would Luke do that? One reason may be that he wants to connect Jesus with Adam. The very next thing Jesus does is go into the desert and be tempted by the devil. Where Adam failed the devil’s temptation while living in paradise, Jesus stands up to the devil’s tests while starving in the desert. Jesus is truly the son of God, obedient to his Father and bearing his image. Better still, he’s the obedient son on our behalf. His obedience qualifies him to sacrifice himself in our place. Unlike Jesus, we have all succumbed to the devil’s temptations and we all share in Adam’s sin. But Jesus is uniquely able to pay for our sin because he was without sin. His perfect obedience is substituted for our disobedience on the cross so that we can be right with God.

Also, Jesus is the picture of perfect humanity. He shows us what it’s like to be truly human, without the dehumanising effects of sin. To be a real man or real woman is not defined by our culture but is to be like Jesus: without sin. To err is not human, but to be perfect in sinlessness is to be human, and Jesus truly shows us what that’s like.