Friday, November 24, 2017

Wednesday Night Fever

One thing that has been repeated several times to us here is "we have done these bone marrow transplants several times and we can pretty much tell you how each step in the process will go." So with that in mind, it was day 7 after transplant and that meant it was "fever day." Of course my fever, officially at 100.4, happened at 1AM. They were ready. They were right in my room to do a blood culture. They pulled blood out of each arm and had it done in about a half hour. So my fever is now under control.
The big issue for me is still the pain from the mouth sores. I have a very hard time swallowing because of it. This will be an up and down experience for the next few days. The nurse told me that my main job right now is to minimize my pain so I can get as much nutrition as possible.  The encouraging thing here is that the conclusion of this process is coming into sight. We could actually be home in a week or so.
Thank you for your prayers and concern. We have great doctors here but, even better, we have the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. No matter what we face, He has faced it already, and defeated it. God Bless. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #2 (Chapters 4-6)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.The next section of Mark introduces Jesus’ Kingdom parables, miracles and teaching. The big point is that the promised king has arrived and people must “repent” by turning away from whatever they were following before and follow Jesus. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 4.1-34 discusses Jesus' kingdom parables. Jesus responds to His enemies by giving them an opportunity to ponder about Him and His kingdom so that they might repent. Those that were willing to do that could become productive members of His kingdom. The parable of the sower/soils show that the key to the right response to Jesus was in the nature of the person and their willingness to be open to His message. The kingdom of God will come, but it will come in a different way than those of the world. For example, world kingdoms expand by taking lives. God's kingdom will expand by Jesus giving His life and we participate by giving ours. Therefore, it seems weak, powerless and unimportant. But, like a seed, God's kingdom has its power to grow within it. It is inevitable that it will fill the earth. We who participate in God's way through this hidden state, will participate in the kingdom when it rules in glory.

The only way parables can be understood at the deepest level is for one to dare to become involved in their world, to be willing to risk seeing God with new eyes, and to allow that vision to transform one’s being. Mark 4.1-20, 165

We too quickly identify the kingdom of God with our own human aspirations and institutions that “reach unto heaven” and “make us a name.” We tend to be overly impressed with mass movements and high-powered organizations, and these parables that stress the ambiguity of the presence of the kingdom of God in the midst of this current evil age should caution against this mistake. Mark 4.21-31, 182

To allow these parables to speak to us in our setting, we should emphasize two themes that emerge from them: the hiddenness of God’s kingdom, and the confidence that even though the kingdom lies hidden, it is working to produce the harvest that God intends. The beginning predetermines the end. We live in the in-between time, between the beginning when the seed is sown and the end time when the final stage becomes manifest and all God’s purposes are accomplished. Mark 4.21-34, 184

Mark 4.35-5.43 records miracles that show the kingdom power that Jesus had. The text is framed by the disciples waking Jesus to save them from a supernatural storm and Jesus waking a young girl from the sleep of death. The calming of the storm is portrayed in Mark as a rescue from supernatural forces of chaos, darkness and death. Just as God at creation, Jesus controls the chaos and darkness with just a word. The theme continues with the exorcism of "legion" in 5.1-20. Jesus invades a Gentile territory of demons and swine and saves a man who was under complete control of the demonic. The calm in the man reflects the previous calm of the sea. The townspeople want Jesus gone because they feared this power, but Jesus leaves the man with his family as a witness to God's power. The double miracle of healing the woman with a bleeding condition and raising the little girl from the dead show Jesus' ability to restore people to fellowship with God and others, despite impurity and even death. Both, the synagogue leader and the woman approach Jesus on the basis of faith not status. That is what is required. And this is just a small taste of the restoration of the final kingdom.

We live in a fallen world beset by powers of chaos that are out to destroy us. Our faith is weak, and we do not know in what or in whom we can trust. Jesus’ power to calm the storm presents the solution to this human plight. Trusting that he has God’s power and cares for the community of faith is particularly reassuring in times when the powers of darkness seem to swallow it. Mark 4.35-41, 198

The solutions to such problems are not more government programs, better housing, or prison reform, though these may alleviate some pain. People who live in such lonely despair need to meet Jesus Christ and allow that encounter to transform their lives. Churches, however, have fled the places where these troubled human beings usually gather to settle in more comfortable locations. Who will bring Christ to them? And when they meet Jesus Christ and there are no jobs, decent housing, or good schools and covert discrimination still prevails, major problems remain. Evangelism must go hand in hand with social concern. Mark 5.1-20, 217

One must look beyond the moment of suffering to the eternal significance of Jesus’ power. That power is related to the kingdom of God, which is present but which is yet to be fully manifest. In the meantime we will suffer from maladies and death. Our faith is in God’s power to conquer death, not simply to restore things as they were. We can face the tragedies of everyday existence with confident faith that God is not through with us. Mark 5.21-43, 226

Mark 6 is bracketed in contrast, in the beginning, by the low evaluation of Jesus' credentials in his hometown of Nazareth and, in the end, with Jesus as an OT type epiphany of YHWH providing miraculous bread in the desert and walking to the disciples on the water. In the middle of the chapter, Jesus' sending out of the disciples to preach the kingdom and cast out demons brackets Herod's execution of John the Baptist. John's death prefigures Jesus' and that of the disciples. The kingdom will succeed but God's people will suffer first in this evil world. The reassurance is that God Himself walks with us through these trials and will bring victory in the now and in the end. 

Jesus does not demand honor and recognition. He has come to sow the word, not reap accolades. The qualms raised about Jesus’ credentials for wisdom, however, block the people in Nazareth from receiving God’s blessings through him. The text shows that doubt and suspicion can affect a whole community. It can cut off God’s power for others. In Nazareth many blind, lame, and deaf continued in their affliction because they continued in their unbelief. Mark 6.1-6, 237–238

The message of repentance is that God reigns. The messengers do not invite Israel to accept God’s reign if it suits them; they confront people with a yes or no decision, so that there can be no middle ground. If they reject the message, they will deprive themselves of the opportunity to receive healing and deliverance. If they continue in their dogged defiance, they will face the judgment of God. Mark 6.6-30, 242

The Old Testament motifs in Mark’s account of Jesus’ walking on the water recall God’s mastery over the waters of chaos as Creator and Savior. Jesus walks on the waves like God and speaks like the one true God, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus wants to show his disciples a glimpse of his divinity in order to help them unravel the clues to his identity. They do not follow a great prophet or superhero but the very Son of God. Mark 6.45-56, 266

Another Brief Update From Stanford Hospital

Today is Day 6 post-transplant. This is kind of a turning point day in the whole process. While there is no guarantee that the chemo driven symptoms will let up, this is when the recovery process begins. I got my first neupogen shot today. This is the med that will help me begin the process of of rebuilding my immune system and get those white blood cell counts up again. Normally, it starts slowly and we see significant progress after about a week of shots. This is how it worked for me before. So I am happy that this corner has been turned. I am also feeling better today. I am not sure if it is because the doctors increased the pain meds or if I am really starting to improve. I still have the sore throat and am reminded of that every time I swallow. I slept sitting up last night and am trying to stay up more which helps with the mucus issues. So, I would have to say today is a much better day than yesterday. I did scratch myself accidentally while showering. It is amazing how much a minor scratch bleeds when your platelet count is so low!

So my main prayer request for today is that the process starts its work and my blood counts come up and my body moves along in the recovery process. The big prayer request is that this whole transplant process is successful and I am declared “cancer free” at the end of it. Thank you for praying.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Brief Hospital Update

20171120_114306 (768x1024)

Today I have been in Stanford Hospital for 10 days. The picture is of the view out my window, I am now plus 4 days beyond my bone marrow/stem cell transplant. This is where the real tough part of the process really kicks in. My immune system and blood numbers are pretty much decimated. I had to get a blood transfusion last night. I am pretty tired all the time. The worst pain is in my mouth and throat making it difficult to eat. They are giving me some good pain meds which makes things tolerable. They are also giving me Lasix to try and get my body to quit retaining so much water. So right now, my life is getting my vitals taken, sleeping, peeing and answering questions about how I am feeling.

23783831_10213191267204006_129161363944294287_oBut things are going well. Everything above was expected and part of the process. The doctor’s are actually greatly encouraged by my progress. They tell me to hang in there another 2-4 days and things will start getting better. I will begin the neupogen shots on transplant day +6 and then my blood counts should begin the process of moving back up toward normal. Joyce is back with me which has been my tremendous encouragement for today. I also had visits with the Sawyers and Cotes which were very encouraging. Everything is going according to plan and the doctors have been quite positive with me, although they are quite honest about the difficulty of the process.

My main prayer request is that this would work and I would come out the process “Cancer-free” six months from now. Also please pray for Joyce and I as we grit it out through the process. Knowing that people are praying is a huge factor in keeping us positive and moving forward. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #1 (Chapters 1-3)

MarkThis is my first post on my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.The beginning section of Mark introduces Jesus’ as the Son of God, Messiah and Savior. It also shows Jesus’ early actions of Jesus and responses of different people. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Mark is a fast moving Gospel which presents Jesus' actions and words. It was most likely written by Mark, an associate of Peter, and is thought by many scholars to present many of Peter's memories of Jesus. It contains the good news that Jesus has defeated the forces of evil and brought in the kingdom, but He has done this through sacrifice, obedience, suffering and death on cross. Thus, He is the Christ, the Messiah, who has saved Israel and the whole world. But, he is more than that. He is God in the flesh, the Son of God, who fulfills the promise of YHWH to come to His people and live with them.

In bridging the context to our contemporary situation, we need to recapture the scandal of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, who exposes our false hopes and selfish expectations. 23

As was the case during Jesus’ ministry, so today many will not believe or will try to mold Christ into their own images by telling him who he is and what he is to do. They want glamourous, gimmicky, short-term solutions to their own problems. Many try to domesticate the scandal, turn the cross into jewelry, and turn the Christ into a teacher of self-actualization. The Gospel of Mark is the antidote to this distortion as it presents the foundation story of the gospel about Jesus Christ, who suffers and dies on a cross. Mark, 26

One learns from this Gospel, however, that Jesus never abandons his followers, though, at times, he may seem to be absent. The disciples in a boat tossed by the waves may panic in fear and think that Jesus does not care that they are perishing, but he is with them. When he speaks, the winds cease, demons flee, and the dead rise. Mark, 30

Mark 1.1-13 is the prologue to the Gospel and lays out its major themes. It records 3 events- John the Baptist's arrival, Jesus' baptism and His temptation in the wilderness- that demonstrate who Jesus is. John comes as the "forerunner" who will announce that Jesus fulfills God's plan to make His creation right and people must repent to be ready. At the baptism, God's voice announces that Jesus is the coming king and servant who will fulfill God's plan. Finally, the temptation shows that Jesus will be tested and must suffer to accomplish the plan. The reader thus knows what the disciples will need to learn as the story unfolds in the rest of the gospel.

The point of these opening scenes is, therefore, to let the reader know from the start who Jesus is and to stress that he comes to fulfill divine promises and his divine commission. Because we who read know who Jesus is, our failure to follow and obey makes us more culpable than the characters in the story. Mark 1.1-13, 43

Jesus, however, does not stand by the Jordan and part it; instead, something far greater is parted—the dome of heaven. It may be a sign of our access to God, but Juel comments: “More accurate than referring to our access to God would be to speak of God’s access to us. God comes whether we choose or not.” The barriers are torn down and torn open, and God is now in our midst and on the loose. Mark 1.9-11, 48

The problem is that the way that Jesus prepares for us to go home is not the one we want to travel. It is arduous and paved with suffering, but it is one that we must journey to get home. If the church prepares the way for anything, it is for his return by following in the path he has laid out and in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel (13:10). Mark 1.12-13, 57.

The rest of chapter 1 introduces the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus and the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The forerunner, John the Baptist, has been removed with his job done, and the kingdom has begun. Jesus announces the kingdom with word and action. He calls disciples to Himself, heals fevers and leprosy, and casts out demons with an authoritative word. The fever, a sign of curse in the OT, is healed, restoring Peter's mother-in-law to service. Leprosy, which separated people from God and others, is healed by His compassionate touch. Demons are powerless before His authoritative word and their destructive presence is removed from their victims. Mark shows that the promised Kingdom of God has arrived in Jesus, though in an unexpected form, and all are called to give up everything and follow Jesus.

One should not assume that Jesus uses fishing as a benign reference to mission. When the fisherman hooks a fish, it has fatal consequences for the fish; life cannot go on as before. This image fits the transforming power of God’s rule that brings judgment and death to the old, yet promises a new creation (see Rom. 6:1–11). The disciples are called to be agents who will bring a compelling message to others that will change their lives beyond recognition. Jesus’ call has the same effect on them. Mark 1.16-20, 69

The advent of the kingdom of God is the beginning of the end for the thralldom of Satan, and one need not fear the molesting unclean spirits if God is acting on one’s behalf. We should be careful to stress this point. The New Testament contains a dramatic drop in the fear of demons when compared with other literature from this era. It results from the faith that God has won a decisive victory over Satan in the cross and that the more powerful one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit protects his followers. Mark 1.21-28, 81

To evaluate religious leaders today, we must judge them by the standard of Jesus. Do they share his aversion to publicity and acclaim? Do they want to receive credit for all that happens? Are they primarily interested in a power grab, in building empires for themselves, and in serving their own needs? Do they truly speak in the name of the Lord from sincere motives? Are they accessible to those in need, not just the wealthy and influential but those from the margins of society? Mark 1.29-45, 87

In the next section, Jesus shows the crowd who He is by forgiving a man's sin, and then proves it by healing his paralysis. The Son of Man can remove sin and the curse it brings. The Kingdom of God has arrived. This is followed by 4 disputes with the religious leaders about Jesus' authority and the nature of God's kingdom. Jesus ate with sinners because God's kingdom was one that reached out to everyone to heal them from their sin and its effects. Jesus defended his followers lack of fasting because His kingdom brought joy to people. There would be time for mourning, but God's kingdom would usher in a new better way of approaching God, and, ultimately, mourning would give way to joy. Finally, the Sabbath controversies, showed that Jesus was the One who had authority to interpret, or even change, the Sabbath and that it was always intended that human benefit and worship from the heart always took precedence over ritual and rules. 

If Jesus is the model for our ministry to others, we see one who announces the forgiveness of sin and the chance of reconciliation with God, which brings in its wake healing. The church needs to proclaim in its words and deeds this offer of forgiveness, which can cleanse all sin. Mark 2.1-12, 99

The call of Levi and Jesus’ feasting with sinners discloses the contrast between a religious attitude that keeps sinners and the unhallowed at arm’s length and one, the good news of God, that welcomes all comers. The query about fasting reveals the difference between religious exercises that weigh down the soul like a ball and chain and a religious experience that allows it to soar with joy. The controversies over the Sabbath reveal the clash between a religious outlook that withers mercy with pitiless rules and one that places human need above the statute book. Mark 2.13-3.6, 110

The direction of Jesus’ ministry is downward and outward and implies that the church must bring Jesus to people, not simply people to Jesus. Garland, Mark 2.13-3.6, 120

The rest of Mark 3 places Jesus in relationship with the different groups of people who responded to his ministry. The crowds followed Jesus because of what he could do for them. Most did not have an interest in serving the kingdom He was bringing in. So, he took aside those who were really interested and named them as disciples and apostles. He named 12 as the leaders of this group. Their main task was "to be with Him" and to learn from Him and reproduce His ministry. The opponents were the religious teachers of the nation who actively opposed Him and His own family who thought He was crazy and opposed him for His own good. Jesus warns both that it is very dangerous to oppose what the Holy Spirit is doing. Jesus then affirms that His followers are His real family.

Jesus affirms that life under God is not defined by relationships in a biological family, which was primarily geared for the preservation of the family line, its wealth, and its honor. One’s ultimate devotion is owed to God, who is head of a new divine family, and becoming a member of this family is open to all persons regardless of race, class, or gender. The only requirement is that they share Jesus’ commitment to God. Mark 3.7-35, 131

In spite of the failures of the Twelve, God’s purposes in calling them will not be thwarted, and God’s power can still work through them to multiply Jesus’ ministry. Disciples come with all their ignorance, weakness, and frailty and must learn to follow the pattern of their Lord for God to work through them to extend his ministry. Jesus alone is our model. Being with him means learning from his positive example. Mark 3.7-35, 138

Yesterday Was An “Interesting” Day

20171115_115918 (768x1024)A lot of things happened yesterday. As I write this I am on my Wednesday “rest day” between my last chemotherapy on Tuesday and the stem cell transplant tomorrow. The chemo would be the last in a series of three given over a period of six days in a greater concentration than I have received before. That should have been enough for one day right? It was not to be. Joyce came back to the hospital in the AM and I could tell something was wrong. She was on the phone and couldn’t explain it to me. When she got off the phone, she informed me that she felt sick and wasn’t sure what to do. When I asked her about the phone call she said…. well our house got broken into and don’t really know details except that Missy surprised them when she came home and they ran away. She’s fine but we didn’t know yet what they had taken. Not the way you want to start the day.

So we needed to get things into perspective and get a plan. The nurses told 20171115_115920 (768x1024)Joyce that she needed to go off the unit because of all the patients, including me, who would be at risk. I told her she should go home, be with Missy and Leila and get some rest. The nurses thought that would be the best thing. So she headed back to Shingle Springs, a 4 hour drive yesterday. She got some rest and will go to the doctor this morning. She thinks it is just a cold. The police came to the house. Several Gold Country Baptist leaders also came over to help for which I am thankful.. It looks like not much was taken. They took Leila’s Kindle and some of Joyce and Missy’s jewelry – nothing really expensive. We are just thankful that everyone  is OK.

My last chemo turned out better than expected – at least so far. The doctor said I should be feeling better over the next week, until my blood counts drop again. Then I will feel weak and tired until they come back up. Everyone is encouraged by how my body is coming through this. Thank you for praying. We know God is with us through all of this. Today my devotions ended with the account of Jesus walking on the water. It is so encouraging to know that Jesus is there when we are rowing hard in the boat in the storm in the dark.

By the way, I got moved to room E144B, right next door and I have a new roommate. I’ll get moved again when my blood counts drop.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm, by Michael Heiser #16

HeiserWith this post we complete the read through of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. He closes the book with a discussion of the eternal state in which heaven and earth come together as anew Eden and believers rule with Christ. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I would also recommend Supernatural by Michael S. Heiser which covers most of the same content as this book on an easier level. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

In Chapter 41, The Mount of Assembly, Heiser makes a very convincing argument that the final battle of the age will be fought in Jerusalem, not on the plains of Megiddo. He thinks the Greek word Harmegeddon in Revelation 16 should be transliterated into Hebrew as Har Ma'edon rather than Har Magedon. This would mean, "Mount of Assembly" (Psalm 48, 68) rather than Mount Megiddo. This is certainly possible lexically. This fits better with the descriptions of the final battle in Zechariah 12.9-11 and other OT prophecies which place this battle in Jerusalem. Revelation describes Christ coming with his army of supernatural beings to remove the nachash and his evil army from His creation and restore it as a new Eden.

Armageddon is about how the unbelieving nations, empowered by the antichrist, empowered by the prince of darkness— Lord (baʿal) of the dead, prince Baal (zbl baʿal), Beelzebul— will make one last, desperate effort to defeat Jesus at the place where Yahweh holds council, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. 373

The heavenly armies who return with Christ will be more than just nonhuman members of the divine council. The host will include believers who have been exalted into its membership, returned to displace the gods of the nations. Christian— do you know who you are? The day will come when the elohim will die like men—and you will judge angels (1 Cor 6:3). 375

Chapter 42, Describing the Indescribable, completes the section of the Kingdom Not Yet. It describes the eternal kingdom after creation has been restored. Believers will have resurrection bodies like Christ's post-resurrection body. We will live on an Edenic earth as God's council, judging and ruling with Him. All the curses of Genesis 3 will be removed. There will be no more chaos (sea), death, sickness, sin, shortage or war. Human and angelic wills will be aligned with God's will forever. 

The body Christ had after the resurrection was his earthly body, healed and transformed into a material form unbound by the limitations of human terrestrial existence. It was a “glorious body” (Phil 3:21), both of earth and not of earth. This resurrection transformation is the final, unimaginably literal expression of being conformed to the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). 379

The tree of life is specifically now for “the healing of the nations,” a clear reference to the reclaiming of the nations turned over to lesser gods at Babel (Deut 32: 8– 9). The effect is also described: “No longer will there be anything accursed.” The curses upon earth and humanity brought on by the fall are reversed. The other two tree-of-life references naturally link the eternal life of the believer to being present in Eden— the place where God, the source of all life, dwells. 382, Rev 22:1–3, 14, 19

Heiser closes with an Epilogue that repeats his goals for the book and lists 6 principles for biblical research. He emphasizes that we need to read the Bible as an ancient book with the meanings intended by the ancient authors. We need to let the Bible make sense in its own context, not ours. The ancient people lived with a supernatural world worldview that is an integral part of the message of the Bible. Our rationalization of it does violence to the text. If we believe in resurrection because it is in the Bible, how much more should we believe in supernatural beings and realms that affect us daily. We should try to build connections between texts (biblical theology), rather than just break it apart, and take a lesson from how the NT writers used the OT in our exegesis. We need to take the Bible as it is rather than just filter it through our traditions and doctrinal statements. We read the Bible "with the tradition" rather than "under the tradition." I may argue with some of Heiser's exegesis, but I appreciate that he has brought the "unseen realm" back into the theological conversation and that he is willing to "let the Bible be the Bible."

The realization that I needed to read the Bible like a premodern person who embraced the supernatural, unseen world has illumined its content more than anything else in my academic life. 383

Whether we like it or not, the biblical writers weren’t obsessed with literalism the way we seem to be...Biblical writers regularly employ conceptual metaphor in their writing and thinking. That’s because they were human. Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“ literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. 383