Tag Archive: steroids

Day 90 -Just around the corner

Day 100 is just around the corner. I’m not sure exactly what that will mean. I certainly won’t be going home back to Sale in my current state. That’s many days away. I do know it means another bone marrow biopsy and a day of tests. Not much else has changed since my last post. The steroids continue to be reduced. One piece of good news is that I put on some weight: almost 1kg. Praise God! Thank you for those who have been praying. Please continue to pray that I continue to gain weight and strength and good sleep is always high up on my prayer list.


Day 76 – Wired all the time

I’m enjoying being in the unit. Mum is doing a great job of looking after me and it’s great to be out of hospital. I’m still on quite a high dose of steroids which means I have a lot of trouble sleeping and constantly feel wired. The doctor said I’m trying to do too much exercise, and to consider this time more like a holiday, so I’m trying to relax more and somehow chill while at the same time feeling constantly wired. It’s a weird mix. Every second day we go across to Peter Mac hospital to see the doctor. It feels like a stressful day but in reality it’s not that hard. It does require a lot of waiting, though. Please pray that together with the doctors we’ll work out how to get better sleep.

Off to RMH

Today’s the big day where I find out if I have to do another cycle of chemo before the transplant. It’s the difference between getting a two week or six week break in treatment. I’m keen for the six week break, but it’s up to the doctor, not me. I couldn’t sleep after 3:30am this morning, thanks to the continuing affects of taking steroids, but everything else is ticking along swimmingly.

41nw8fgnzjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I find myself reading a book I’m struggling to continue to justify reading, as it’s not what I thought it would be at all. The book is He Came Down From Heaven by Douglas McCready, which I bought years ago because it was on the 4th year Moore College reading list. I thought it would be about the incarnation of Jesus, but I probably should have read the front cover first. Usually my pride would rule out giving up on a book, ever, but in this instance, after 268 pages I feel compelled to put it away, safe in the knowledge that the 50 pages remaining in the book will still be on my bookshelf should I ever need them. Needless to say I won’t write a review for this book, but feel free to ask me about it if by some act of God it’s spine is staring at you from your own bookshelf.

Reflections on Mark 13:14-37 read the passage

Where 13:1-13 was for us and the twelve, v14-37 is Jesus teaching the twelve about events soon to unfold,which we get to overhear. This may sound outrageous (unless you read my previous blog entries on Matt 26), but let me explain.

We can work out when Jesus is talking about from v30:

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

A generation extends to about 40 years at most, which puts the outer boundary for these events to within 40 years of AD 33. That means the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 is within the limits, but any interpretation of these events as describing the great tribulation before Jesus returns is ruled out.

So we then go back to the next major issue to work out, what is the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ in v14? This is a quote from Daniel 11:31, where the temple sanctuary will be desecrated and regular sacrifices in the temple suspended. Two possible events in our timeframe window could fit this description. One is the destruction of the temple in AD 70, the other is Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus described himself as the temple (John 2:21). The destruction of Jesus body on the cross could also be considered a desecration of the temple. So which would it be? v19 provides us with a vital clue:

because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.

The distress caused by the abomination will be unequaled in all human history: past, present and future. Can we really say that about the destruction of the temple in AD 70? Worse than the flood of Noah? Than Sodom and Gomorrah? Than the Babylonian siege and destruction of Jerusalem? I suggest not. But the death of the creator of the universe by his own creatures? I think that’s a much better candidate. Jesus’ death then is the answer to the disciples question back in 13:4 “what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” Though there’s a 40 year gap, Jesus’ death is the sign that the destruction of the temple is coming.

If it is Jesus’ death, then what do we make of v14-23? I think Jesus is talking about the time between his arrest and his resurrection. Though the language far exceeds what happened, the over-the-top language helps us feel the emotion of the time. It is a time that God cuts deliberately short, though, for the sake of the elect (v20), the cowering disciples in the room in Bethany.

v24-25 talk about the events at Jesus’ death – the supernatural darkness and earthquake. Though the details don’t line up perfectly, again the over-the-top language alerts us to the cosmic significance of the event.

v26-27 the coming of the Son of Man, quoting Daniel 7:13-14, is Jesus going to his Father in heaven – the ascension, which caps off Jesus’ death and resurrection. He goes to sit at his Father’s right hand where he receives all glory, dominion and power. Peter talks about this fact in Acts 2, where the sending of the Holy Spirit is the proof that it has occurred. The sending of the angels (the same word can just mean human messengers) is the proclaiming of the gospel to all nations (13:10).

v32-37 Jesus returns to careful instruction for the twelve about how to handle the next few days. There are two powerful links between chapters 13 and 14. First, the instruction to ‘keep watch’ is a word in the original that appears three times in this chapter (13:34,35,37) and three times in chapter 14 (14:34,37,38), in the Garden of Gethsemane. It appears nowhere else in Mark’s Gospel. That’s a pretty strong connection, but it’s not the only one. The second connection is 13:35

whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.

This is the exact timing that sets out the scenes in chapter 14

  • evening: v17-31 Passover meal
  • midnight: v32-52 Garden of Gethsemane
  • rooster crows: v53-72 Trial at high priest’s house (particularly v72)
  • dawn: 15:1 and following

So I contend that v14-37 are talking about the events recorded in the rest of Mark’s Gospel, not the destruction of Jerusalem and not a future tribulation. Does that mean that they’re not much value to us? Not at all. These verses give us a strong sense of the seriousness of Jesus’ death. It is a cosmic event unparalleled in the history of creation, never to be eclipsed, even when Jesus returns. We easily write off the disciples as cowards, and Mark invites us to do just that in the way he tells the story, but there is a real sense in which they were left alone and in great peril. Thank God that he kept that time short.

Romping Along on Roids

chili-oil-recipe-7After sabotaging myself with chilly (it turns out that was the cause of my bowel cramps) and having my bowels go into massive revolt for two days, things came good. I had my last bag of chemo for this round on Saturday night and have been living off enough steroids everyday to make Arnie blush. The result is that I feel great and energetic everyday, but have trouble sleeping at night. My counts continue to go down and I expect that there’s at least another week left in hospital. Tomorrow I head across to RMH to talk to the transplant doctor, and will probably find out if I’ll be doing a another round of chemo before the transplant in July. I’m keen for this to be the last so that I get a good break before the transplant, but ultimately the decision lies with him.

Reflections on Mark 13:1-13 read the passage

We find ourselves back at the Olivet Discourse, which I looked at previously in Matthew’s Gospel and perhaps didn’t come out all that clear on how to understand it. I think it’s more straightforward in Mark’s Gospel.

The question put to Jesus by Peter, James, John and Andrew has two parts: 1) when will these things happen? 2) what will be the sign they’re about to happen? (v4) The ‘these things’ is the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus begins by ignoring their question. Instead he says ‘watch’ (v5) and ‘watch yourselves’ (v9). He talks instead about the nature of the time between now and ‘the end’. Notice Jesus isn’t saying that the temple will be destroyed at ‘the end’ (perhaps an assumption of the disciples in asking their question). The end for Christians is when Jesus returns (hinted at in v6).

This is the nature of the days that we live in now. We see much of what is talked about in the book of Acts, but we see them all through church history and we see them in the world today. The level of persecution varies greatly, and is far severer in other countries than Australia, but we also see the winds of change in this country, as tolerance to Christian beliefs is waning.We need to watch ourselves, just like Jesus’ disciples. Expect that there will be official persecution. Expect that there will be persecution by your own family members. Expect that there will be major world events that will destabilise life as we know it. Watch yourself and don’t be afraid. God is with us, even giving us the words we need when the time comes. And in the midst of this turmoil and uncertainty? Preach the gospel. Be a witness to others (v9), because this is the time for the gospel to go out to the whole world (v10). This is not the time to cocoon ourselves in fear, but to stand firm until the end (v13).

There’s a lot of talk about the Safe Schools program and how that will transform Victorian schools into places that bully Christian kids. I think this is probably a likely outcome. But should we abandon public education as a result? Many raise the flag of homeschooling as the answer, and it may well be that we end up with no choice but to pull our kids out. But what about teaching our kids to stand up to persecution and endure it? While we may have not faced this challenge in our time, it’s no service to our kids to teach them that Jesus’ words cannot be trusted and we must cocoon ourselves safe from the bullies who persecute us on account of Jesus’ name.

In French Quebec in the sixties the Catholic Church operated the state school system. They marginalised protestants by refusing to let them into their French-speaking school system, forcing them into English-speaking private schooling. This created a cultural barrier to the gospel that hindered evangelism for many years. If we abandon the public system in Victoria we risk two things: 1)the loss of a Christian voice in the local school community, which is a key source of community in the fractured Australian society in which we live. 2)a further cultural barrier between our grown-up kids and their peers in the community – imagine a whole generation of public school educated children who’ve never had a Christian friend… We have freedom in Christ to educate our kids as we choose, but our choices will have profound impacts on our ability to connect with and evangelise our community, and ought not to be taken lightly.


What I’ve been training for

I thought that the 20 – 30 km I used to run each week over the last few years was about maintaining good fitness for a long life of ministry. And God willing that is still true. But it turns out that I’ve also been in training, in God’s providence, to put my body in the best possible condition to fight this cancer. DSC_018Praise God that though they’ve been pumping these toxic chemicals into my veins, so far I’ve felt almost no side effects. It’s very early days, yet, though. I’ve been told to expect hair loss (hopefully a good dose from my back) in about a week. There’s a big cocktail of drugs that they pump into me, though, in order to hold back a lot of the side effects. I feel like the Lance Armstrong of leukemia, with steroids and blood products pumped into me everyday. Hopefully I don’t get in trouble with ASADA.

I also feel like 3 years at Bible college and 20 years of good biblical teaching have prepared me for this. In my doubts and fears God’s word comes flooding back to me, reminding me that he is good, in control, that my life was and is always in his hands, and that we are a mist, here today, gone tomorrow, but as a Christian that reality need not lead to fear, since I have the great hope of life after death. I struggle most with people’s pity. It seems to short circuit my emotions and inclines me to pity myself, until I can talk theological sense to myself and see the truth of my situation. There really is little cause for pity in my case. I’m in no pain, in a comfortable hospital bed, surrounded by privilege, expertise and hope. Really a little sleep deprivation and being confined to the ward are my only real ‘suffering’ so far. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. Your life is just as unsure as mine.

What has come out clearly to me through this so far is Jesus’ words, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.’ (6:33) Not only are my clothes and food taken care of, but the expressions of love and support remind me that the family of God which I have been graciously brought into by the Holy Spirit extends far further than my natural family connections (as loving and appreciated as they are). God is indeed good.

Reflections on Matt 7:13-29

These are perhaps some of the most concerning parts of the sermon on the mount for Christians since Jesus talks here about the possibility of self-deceit and the failure to be in the kingdom.

Highway to Hell is a great piece of Australian rock history and is a great turn of phrase. Although the song’s largely about party and drinking culture (and who can doubt that Bon Scott lived the song) the phrase itself perhaps best unpacks Jesus’ point. There are two paths and two gates (v13-14). The one that leads to destruction is wide, easy to find, and many go down that path. The path and gate that are narrow that lead to life are not so much hard to travel. It’s not like Buddhist teaching that not all will have the discipline and focus to follow the path. It’s how hard the path is to find: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (7:14) It’s the exclusive nature of Christianity that Jesus is highlighting here. Some people say to me, ‘God should show me more evidence if he wants me to become a Christian.’ What’s God’s reply? Come and find it. As Jesus has already said, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (7:7-8) The evidence is there, but God calls on us to find him, not to demand that he meets our expectations of him.

Jesus then talks about false prophets in v13-20. This is interesting in light of his warning on judging others in v1-5. Obviously Christians will exercise some judgement since they are to recognize false prophets by their fruit. (v20) Joel Olsteen seems to cop a lot in my Facebook feed at the moment, and from the little I’ve read about him, perhaps he deserves it, but false teachers and prophets can appear a lot closer to home. Late last year a significant man and mentor in my past ministry training was exposed as a long-term deceiver who was living a double life, committing adultery over many years. I hope and pray for his repentance. There is no public/private divide in Christianity. Christian teachers and leaders must live out what they claim to believe. The ones that do can be trusted to point the way to the narrow gate.

Strangely, finding the narrow gate means being known by Jesus (v23). False prophets may do spectacular things, prophecies, casting out demons, performing miracles, but the key question is, ‘Are they known by Jesus’? The spectacular is no guide to trustworthiness with the message. What is the fruit? The fruit will come from a connection with Jesus.

So Jesus ends by pointing his disciples to putting into practice his teaching. Not just merely hearing, but doing (v24). This has been Jesus’ point throughout the sermon. In light of blinding ministry success (4:24-25), Jesus calls on his disciples to concentrate on character and integrity, not ministry success, techniques and the spectacular. Unlike the false prophets. True wisdom is to hear Jesus and do what he says. To seek Jesus out (the narrow gate / path), to be known by him (v23) and to live out his teaching is the wisest response to Jesus. It is truly a foundation that will see you through both the storms of this life and stand you in good stead for the next.