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Day 139- Improving

My apologies for how long it’s been since my last post. Things have been steadily improving since then. I went home for the weekend and slotted back into my old roles and responsibilities reasonably well. Though I was physically limited it didn’t seem too hard to be helpful around the house, especially with looking after the kids. Every now and again I accidentally found one of those physical limitations, though. We were playing cricket in the back yard and I was trying to take it relatively easy. One of the kids threw the ball to me but it went wide and I instinctively stepped to the side to catch it, but my leg muscles were not strong enough to support my weight and I went down like a sack of spuds. No injuries, but very embarrassing and a reminder that rehab is a long and slow process.

I got caught outside the unit block in Melbourne the other day with a roller door coming down and threatening to lock me out, so instinctively I tried to run. I forgot however that I can’t run and so fell over immediately. Needless to say I didn’t make it back in time and had to buzz my way back into the building. Thankfully there weren’t too many witnesses. On the other hand I feel myself getting stronger in some of the small things. It’s easier to stand up now from a sitting position. I can walk faster and further than I could before. My blood counts have stabilised above the levels where I need transfusions. These are all good signs and represent progress. The doctors tell me I’ll go home in late January or early February, but I’ve given up putting much stock in doctor forecasts, as none of them have turned out to be accurate so far. Instead I’ll keep visiting home and wait patiently for the day when the doctor sends me home permanently, whatever day that may be.

It’s amazing how far God has taken me on this cancer journey, and he’s been with me all the way. I wonder if you had to walk a similar path who would you rely on? If you don’t know Jesus let me encourage you to take another look. You might start with a website like this one: http://christianity.net.au/. Or you might start just by picking up a Bible and beginning with one of the biographies of Jesus, like the Gospel of Mark. It’s a short read (about an hour) and will give you all the important details of Jesus life as well as the central message of his teaching.

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Going Home Tomorrow

635926444221469047-1832658135_going-homeAll of a sudden I’m going home tomorrow. After 15 weeks on and off at St Vincent’s here, my counts have bounced back dramatically and I’m heading home, God-willing never to return to this hospital. Of course, that’s just step one. Next step is over at RMH for the transplant, which will be a much bigger step in many ways. The chemo involved in the transplant is a lot more aggressive and I’m told will have much stronger side effects. Other drugs will also bang me around a lot and I’ll be on them for many months. But that’s the next step. Right now, one day at a time, I’m heading home tomorrow. I’ll have a six-week break before starting step two over at RMH. The doctor yesterday said that I’ve been very blessed through these chemo rounds. No really serious complications have occurred and she’s very happy. Thank you to all those who’ve been praying for me during this time. God in his goodness has answered your prayers with a very good run for me so far. Praise God, he is good.

Reflections on Mark 14:12-31 read the passage

This passage has a depth to it that defies a short reflection, so let me offer a short reflection, in no way claiming to plumb the depths on offer here.

My first reflection is the death theme running through here. The Passover lambs are being slaughtered (v12), Jesus will be betrayed (to death), Jesus’ body and blood (less explicitly tied to death in Mark), and the dead shepherd (v27). This night is a solemn night.

The second thing I notice is the hope in this passage. Jesus anticipates the new kingdom (v25). Jesus will rise and go ahead of them into Galilee (v28). Death is not the end.

The third thing I notice is that Jesus is the only hope in this whole mix. Judas will betray Jesus, but he’s not alone. All the disciples will fall away from Jesus, even the most zealous of them, Peter. But Jesus will rise. All hope is found in him alone, not in his followers. So too for us. Hope is not found in our inner strength, ability to endure, faithfulness in the face of adversity, or even our faith. Hope is found in Jesus alone. His conquering of death means that we have new life, the new kingdom. It is Jesus who grants us faith, endurance, patience, forbearance, strength, etc. They are all things that we cultivate, but ultimately their source is Jesus. As we look at this final dark night before Jesus’ death, we look at the one who brings us hope through his sacrificial death for us. As dark nights come our way we don’t look inwardly for strength, but to Jesus, who is our strength, refuge and hope.

A Good Week at Home

beachIt’s been a good week at home. On Tuesday we took the kids to Wilson’s Prom and climbed Mt. Oberon. The last time we’d been there (12 years ago) I powered up the hill in about 40 minutes. This time I took over an hour. The family all powered ahead. Old people were overtaking me. I felt like yelling out, ‘Don’t judge me, people!’ Still I made it to the top without a heart attack, which was nice.

mountainThe rest of the week has gone well. It’s been great to spend some time with Simone and the kids while they’re on school holidays. I head back to the hospital on Tuesday. Two of the kids have come down with chicken pox, however, so please pray that I don’t catch it off them.

Reflections on Matthew 28:11-20 Read the passage

In v11-15 the guards are paid off by the chief priests. It’s extraordinary to see the depth of unbelief in the chief priests. Confronted with the clear evidence of Jesus’ resurrection they would rather attempt to cover it up than worship the one who has proven he is God.

Matthew is fearless in his reporting. He will willingly record the rumour spread by the chief priests, even though it was the most popular alternative explanation for the empty tomb. He’s happy to say that there were doubts among the eleven. Clearly he was so convinced by the resurrection that he didn’t consider these events to weaken the truth.

v18-20 is known as the great commission. It’s quite famous, but is it for all Christians, or just the original 11 apostles, or just for the ‘pros’ like pastors and missionaries? The clue to answering this question lies in v18. v19-20 hang off the fact that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. Is that true today? Absolutely. Is that true for every Christian? Sure is. What’s the logical requirement that comes from that truth? That disciples must be made from all nations. This is what the time is all about between Jesus’ resurrection and his return (24:14). All Christians are to be involved in speaking about the one who has all authority in heaven and earth. All people on the planet are to be called into obedience to Jesus. Notice also that Jesus wants the gospel to go deep and wide. Wide (v19) – baptizing is talking about the conversion of the disciple, the beginning of their journey with Jesus. We are to seek conversions from all nations. But Christians aren’t to remain shallow and immature. They are to dig deep into the gospel (v20), being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded. They are to mature. It’s not a choice between evangelism or maturity, it’s both and. If this task sounds too hard, we’re reminded that it’s not our power that will bring this about, but Jesus is with us to the very end of the age, which means he’s with you right now. Evangelism is scary and maturity is hard work, but it’s made possible by the power of Jesus.

Having a Good Time at Home

938I’ve been a few days at home and doing much better time this time. I feel better than I did in hospital, with fewer headaches and nausea. They set me up well with the meds I need and have given me a fortnight at home. Church was great. It felt bigger than I remember it and there feels like a different vibe, which is really encouraging. We’ve had some great visits from friends and family and I enjoyed the weekend with the kids.

Before going home I had the first appointment at the Royal Melbourne. Travis, the haematologist explained the procedure in some detail and got the search going for a matched unrelated donor (MUD). It will take about 2 weeks to find a donor. It looks likely the transplant won’t happen until May. I’ll have intense chemo for a week before the transplant and then spend at least 100 days close to hospital. Travis said to expect at least 6 months before I can return to work. Good thing Rob’s doing such a great job!

One thing Travis talked about was the survival rate for this procedure: 85%. This is certainly the first procedure I’ve ever done with such a low survival rate. But we don’t believe in percentages or odds, but in the God who is in control. If God intends me to die then it doesn’t matter if the death rate is 0.5%, it will happen. If God wants me to live then even if the survival rate was 50%, I will certainly live. God has his good plan and we entrust ourselves to him, knowing that he is good.

Reflections on Matthew 23:25-39 Read the passage

The first thing that stands out to me here is the blistering attack by Jesus on the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the most similar to Jesus of all the Jewish sects and cults of the time. They were well known as righteous men who were moral leaders in their community, yet Jesus saves his most savage words for them. His biggest criticism is their hypocrisy. In fact Jesus is the first to use the word ‘hypocrite’ outside of Greek theatre. Hypocrite is the Greek word for actor. Jesus took that word and accused the Pharisees of acting righteously, but being depraved on the inside.

We’re often given this picture of gentle Jesus meek and mild, especially in pictures and movies. But Jesus was capable of more than one emotion and could quite rightly fire up against false teachers. He even warns them that unless they radically change they’ll go to hell (v33). This is a very unpopular way to speak today, but this is exactly what Jesus did. Calling out false teaching, opposing serious error and standing for truth are important aspects of what it means to be a Christian. Of course excesses happen in both directions. Some church leaders are too gutless to say anything negative about anyone, mistakenly thinking that churches only grow when they are filled entirely with positivity. Other leaders make the mistake of only being negative, defining who they are and what they are about solely by criticizing others.  You would want to be very careful using the kind of language that Jesus uses here, but if there was occasion in Jesus day for such words, it’s entirely likely that a situation may arise where such strong language will need to be used again. God give us wisdom.

A Close Shave

Luke the nurse-barber guaranteed me that he could shave baldmy head closer than Gayle had done. This is the result. My hair is really patchy now and super-sensitive to being rubbed against the grain. This means I wake up most mornings earlier than I’d like because I have trouble getting comfortable on my pillow. Looks like I’m going home tomorrow, which is great news. Today I’ll have a lumbar puncture which will detect cancer cells in my spinal fluid, and they’ll also put some chemo into the same place to kill any cancer that might be there. I’m told I’ll have to stay in bed for about 3 hours afterwards, just to be safe. The night nurse (Bruce) also reiterated the importance of monitoring my temperature closely while I’m at home and of staying away from people that are sick. My immune system is not critically low any more, but it’s still suppressed and it’s best I reenter hospital as strong and healthy as possible for the next bout of chemo.

Reflections on 1 Kings 22:41-53

This is the final passage in 1 Kings. But 1 and 2 Kings are really the one work spread over two scrolls, so the story continues seamlessly in 2 Kings. All the southern kings are compared to David in 1 Kings. He set the standard. Jehoshaphat is a middle of the road king – he worshiped the LORD in the temple, but still allowed the high places to operate (which is a negative). Religious belief at the time was that mountains are closer to the gods, and so the most suitable place to build altars. Jehoshaphat does slightly better than his father in that he drives out the male cult prostitutes (1 King 22:46). Prostitution was common in Canaanite religion, the belief being that copulating before the gods would encourage them to send fertility upon the land. God wasn’t pleased with any mixing of Canaanite religion with his worship. The book of Leviticus shows us the detail that God went into for how he was to be worshiped. That’s because OT worship dealt with sin. Worship of God was a gracious gift God gave to his people so that they could deal with their sin. God prescribed exactly how he was to be approached. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that sin is a life and death issue before a holy God. Dealing with sin through temple worship then is very serious. The second reason is that OT temple worship is a precursor to what Jesus achieved on the cross. Jesus is the perfect worshiper of the NT. He offers himself as a sacrifice once for all that pays for our sin. He continues to serve as our high priest, making a way open for us right into the presence of God. Our worship then is not the temple worship of the OT, but the worship done in thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. Churches are not temples but meetings of those in Christ who worship God with their whole lives. So let’s not mix in the spiritual ideas of the false religions around us into our worship of God.  Such false spiritual ideas include thinking that spiritual means mystical, the kind of meditation that empties the mind of all thoughts (biblical meditation means thinking deeply about scriptural truth), the veneration of sacred spaces and the repetition of empty ritual as a means of pleasing God. Perhaps you’ve got a few more to add to the list…