Category: Theology

Day 35 – Counts Improving

yyyThere’s two things keeping me in hospital at the moment. The first is diarrhea and the second is low counts. But my counts have begun to improve. The immune related counts have already been going well, but it’s the blood counts that are turning around, meaning less blood transfusions and making the case to go home stronger. They’ve decided to do more investigation with the diarrhea, so I’m lined up for a colonoscopy on Monday morning,  which hopefully will give them the clarity they’re looking for in regards to the source of the diarrhea. The risk is graft versus host disease, where my new immune system attacks my body, in this case particularly my gut. They want to know for sure if that’s what’s happening. In the meantime I continue in the hospital routine, whiling the time away, trying to use my time as effectively as possible. Some days are better than others. Please pray that they’ll get some clear answers and that I’ll be able to leave hospital soon.

Reflections on Luke 14:15-24 Read the passage

This parable is about the surprise nature of who will be in the kingdom. Given that Jesus’ is at a Pharisee’s house it’s ultimately about the shift from entering the kingdom because you’re Jewish, to entering the kingdom because of your connection with Jesus. The expected guests of the man didn’t value their invitation and come up with comical reasons for why they can’t come (v18-20). Angered by their rejection the man calls in everyone who will come, including the most surprising members of society (v21-23). The Jews, and particularly the Pharisees expected to be in the kingdom because of their heritage and good works, but they rejected Jesus, the king of the kingdom. So now the kingdom is open to all. Have you entered the kingdom through faith in Jesus? Are you trying to welcome in anyone who will come, like the servants of the host?


Day 31 – Still Not Out

dv2181054I know that I expected many days ago to be discharged, but there was a couple of hitches which mean I’m still in hospital, and wasn’t in a condition to be blogging. Even now I feel weak compared to how I did  many days ago. The two biggest hurdles have been diarrhea and a blood complication that has been destroying my red blood cells. The diarrhea has settled down a lot now, although initially it was quite severe. The blood complication has been related to different drugs that are necessary for the transplant, and working through the side effects of those drugs until they’re out of my system. The hope is that I’ll be able to be discharged once the blood counts settle down. Engraftment of the stem cells has gone well with neutraphils above 8 and white blood cells above 13, both of which are good numbers. Now we’re just waiting for the cells that produce red blood cells and platelets to multiply more so that I’m less dependent on blood products from hospital. It looks likely about another week or the best part before I’m out. Please pray that it’s the shorter end of that timeframe.

Reflections on Luke 18:1-8 Read the passage

The point of this passage is often misunderstood, I suspect. God is not like the unjust judge who must be continually harassed in order to get justice. He is the opposite of the unjust judge. So we pray to God with confidence knowing that he will respond quickly to our prayers. That’s why Jesus says that God will give his chosen ones justice and quickly (v8). The hallmark of our prayer life isn’t that we repeat the same prayers over and over again. The hallmark of our prayer life is that we bring everything to God in prayer, anticipating that he answers prayers. Sometimes we may not like the answer, but God is not slow to answer prayer. He isn’t like the unjust judge.

Day 23 – Discharging Tomorrow

hospital_3_tnbWell it feels like it’s come around quick, but I’m discharging tomorrow across the road into some units, where the rest of my 100 days post transplant I’ll receive treatment as an outpatient. It’s been good for  the last couple of days to get out with Simone into the unit that’s been wonderfully provided by Bone Marrow Donor Institute Rotary House so that we can be close to the hospital. The unit is spacious and exactly what we needed and I’ll stay with my parents there. Simone will come visit and sometimes bring the kids.

A lot of the symptoms have now gone, though I still feel low in energy some days, particularly today. I’m told it will take many weeks to get my old energy levels back, but thank God that so far things have gone relatively smoothly. I’ll still go into hospital three times a week for clinics where I’ll be checked out by doctors and have blood tests etc., but the rest of the time I’ll be free to try to return more to normalcy.

Reflections on Luke 13:10-17 read the passage

Jesus deliberately, publicly heals on the Sabbath, confronting again the hypocrisy of the Sabbath interpretations that the Jews had made to protect them from breaking the Sabbath. Unusually, Jesus makes no claims here about his superiority to the Sabbath rules, which he often does elsewhere. He shows, however, that care for people is more important than legalism. That’s why Jesus has only 2 laws: love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself. Love God. Love others. Far more challenging than all the rules of the OT. In fact, Jesus says this sums up the OT. It also shows we can never meet Jesus’ rules and must relate to him continuously through forgiveness and grace. Afterall, who ever loved everyone perfectly, even for an hour, let alone a day. Praise God that we can live in his grace, loving him and loving others.

rising-sun-pictures-20It’s been quite a few days since I last blogged, and probably haven’t been capable before now. What’s happened in the mean time? I spent many more days like day 9 I think it was, just struggling to get through the day. On day 12 I got the first indication of white blood cells (0.1), but it wasn’t until day 13 that the first neutraphil arrived. None of that made a great difference to how I was feeling at the time. But gradually things have improved in the last few days: days 14-now have seen a steady improvement in my sleeping and in combating the amount of fluid I’m retaining. I’ve a a red rash spread over my whole body (probably engraftment disease), but over days the redness has gone down with the use of some steroids. My white cells are now 1.1 and my neutraphils are 0.6. Above 0.5 is needed to leave the hospital and they’re talking about sending me across into units as crazy soon as the start of next week. That feels very early compared to previous cycles, but we’ll see how it feels when we get there. The end of the week could still be a long way away. Praise God that, so far, this has been a very cruisy run compared to what others have gone through.

Reflections on Luke 12:22-34 read the passage

Jesus here teaches against one of the greatest obsessions of modern culture: food and clothes. Especially food in Australia, which has raised expectations since reality TV shows like MasterChef have created a climate of expectation about food. Jesus is talking to a different culture, one that is obsessed with getting enough food to ear, quite a lot poorer to ours, but his advice is good to both. Don’t obsess over food, just trust God and get on with the work of the kingdom. God has certainly been good to us as we’ve rejiggled how to make ends meet and we are not in need during this cancer thanks to providential provisions and people’s generosity. Ironically I’m having trouble with food right now, having irrational aversions to eating too much lest I vomit and creating mental pathways to vomiting that seem to be independent of actual eating. I’m Praying God will take that away and that I can have a casual approach to food once again.

sleep-deprived1It’s been at least four nights now since I got something even vaguely like reasonable sleep, so I’m feeling very tired and can hardly see out of my eyes. I asked Simone to come and stay for a while for moral and practical support and her mother was very gracious in letting that happen. We’ve also been very blessed by the Bone Marrow Donor Institute granting us an apartment for free in BMDI house, which makes it easy for Simone and shortly for my parents as well to stay locally. It’s also where I will go in a few weeks time when my stem cells engraft and I have an immune system again, although a shaky one at that stage.

I won’t lie, it’s hard. Perhaps this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m certainly not sailing through it and it’s taking all your prayers and all God’s strength to stay on track. Sleep deprivation is probably the worst of it and a sense that I’m caught in a goundhog day that’s slowly getting worse. I’m told there’s another week or two before that trend changes. Please pray that God will give me what I need to keep going, and I’ll use the energy and opportunities that I do have to serve others.

Reflections on Luke 9:10-17 read the passage

Wedged in Luke 9 between a report of Herod and a discussion of who the crowds say Jesus is, this passage speaks to the kind king Jesus is. Even though the crowd are uninvited they are taught, healed and fed. Jesus cares for his subjects and he can really provide. Ultimately we’ll see Jesus’ greatest provision for his subjects on the cross, where he fulfills the teaching of the kingdom and provides his very life that we might live.

Where do you see yourself in relation to Jesus? Are you one of the crowd, or just hearing reports from a distance. Do you come to Jesus with your lunch packed – self-sufficient before him, needing nothing and therefore offering little. Or are you hungry and he feeds your soul. We have a king who meets our every need, how could we not give him our everything?

Day 6 – Fevers

feverHaving been given wonderful relief from relentless diarrhea thanks to a drug called Gastrostop, I’ve now started on the fever roundabout. It’s been about 3 straight nights of fever now, only usually spiking in the evening, hitting around the 38 degree mark. Fevers are the first indicator of an infection and so are important warning signs for probably my greatest danger at the moment. The doctors put me straight onto a suite of antibiotics and pull heaps of samples, blood and others, in order to try to work out what the cause of the fever is. In my case it’s a gut bug (ecoli) which has got into my bloodstream, probably thanks to the radiation treatment. They continue to tune the mix of antibiotics until they find the best combination for fighting the infection, since my body isn’t able to fight it, me having no immune system and all. What it means for me generally is less sleep at night and a sensitivity to temperature, but we continue on in the path the Lord has laid out for us. I’m continually reminded by staff that the worst is yet to come, but as I open the Bible each morning I’m reminded that I have a good and loving God, which the joy of knowing far exceeds the pain of life’s journey. Please pray that the fevers will settle down and that the current and future side effects will be mild.

Reflections on Luke 8:40-56 read the passage

The main message of this sandwich passage is ‘don’t be afraid, believe and you will be saved.’ This comes out in both the bread passages – Jairus and his daughter – and the meat passage – the bleeding woman – which is sandwiched in the middle. The old woman comes to Jesus filled with fear (v47) but is told ‘your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’ (v48). In the face of fear, faith brings salvation and peace. Only two verses later Jairus is told ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.’ (v50). The word healed in both instances is the same word as ‘saved’. So there’s a double entendre at play here. Exactly to Jesus’ promise, he goes and raises the girl, saving/healing her as promised.

I can’t help noticing that Jesus has a little fun along the way. In a crowd pressing in so hard it makes English soccer fans look mild-mannered, Jesus asks, ‘Who touched me? (v45). Walking into a house of mourning Jesus yells out, ‘Stop wailing. She is not dead but asleep.’ (v52). Of course she was dead, but for Jesus waking someone from death is as hard as waking them from sleep. I can imagine the cheeky glint in Jesus’ eye as he says these things. He certainly knows how to get a rise out of people.

This message (do not fear, but believe and be saved) is great news to us, who live with the shadow of death cast over our life since birth. Australian society does all it can to pretend that’s not the case, but you can’t mask it in a cancer ward. Death haunts the halls here and is a real component of many people’s prognosis. But what’s true for a cancer ward is just a microcosm of all of life. We all die, we can hide it away but we can’t keep it away. Have you come to terms with your approaching death? Jesus offers peace in the face of death through eternal life. Will you trust Jesus with your death?

Jesus also shows us how important it is for what we believe when it comes to anxiety. Our fast-paced modern world is filled with anxiety, yet anxiety achieves nothing and does great physical damage to our body. How do we escape anxiety? By believing the truth. Are you anxious that you’ll keep your job? Believe in the God who provides all  we need. Are you anxious your kids will struggle through life? Believe in the God who governs not just our lives but the lives of our families as well. What you really believe really matters, and it will show up in anxiety levels. Theology is deeply practical.

Day 3 – Groundhog Day

bathroom door signWell, back to groundhog day it seems, with the last three days looking very similar. Not that I’m complaining, as they have been relatively plain sailing, praise God. Everyone seems to have agreed now that my reaction on day zero was from the preservative used to keep the stem cells alive. Now the waiting game is well underway and will be for a few more weeks yet. The next event to happen will be that my immune counts start to increase. Right now they’re on zero. That will indicate that the stem cells have engrafted and have begun to act as my immune system. Until then I’m told to expect worsening side effects which they’ll help me tolerate using the marvels of modern medicine. So far the worst I’ve been dealing with is diarrhea, which has been a constant companion for days now, but nothing that can’t be handled through the God who strengthens me, and a whole lot of incontinence products!

I’ve discovered one work around for the fuzzy head I find whenever I start to read a book – sit on the seated-bike and slowly turn the pedals to keep me awake. God willing it’ll help me keep my brain active when it seems to be limited by fuzz.

Reflections on Luke 8:1-15 read the passage

The first thing we notice is just how crucial the women were to Jesus’ teaching mission. They traveled around with the men and financed the costs out of their own pocket. Some truly amazing women! (v3).

This is a famous parable but I think I’ve said before, poorly understood. The whole point of the parable is to make Jesus’ teaching more confusing (v9-10). By itself the parable was bizarre and worthless. What was needed was Jesus’ meaning, supplied only to those who were willing to come and ask (v11). Jesus makes the Father clear, but he does so on his own terms. Likewise Jesus does not appear today in a NASA laboratory or in giant form at the front of an atheist rally to confirm his existence. Those who want the truth must turn to Jesus and seek it from him, on his terms. They must have ‘ears to hear’ (v8). The meaning of the parable is not about determining what soil you are to see if you’ll make it into the kingdom of heaven. It’s a challenge to be the good soil – to so take onboard Jesus that you have the depth to stand when trials come, and so that you are not deceived into life’s worries, riches and pleasures. Both good things and bad things can make us unfruitful. What we need are good ears to hear Jesus and be fruitful.

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.