Sunday, December 17, 2017

Day 1 of “Freedom” on Day 30 After “Rebirth”

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Today is Day 30 from my “rebirth” day when my harvested stem cells were implanted on November 16th. It is a day of “freedom” because I no longer have to wear the mask in public (except in doctors’ offices), I can have visitors again, and my diet is pretty much unrestricted. I have been exercising, mostly walking, but today I can begin resistance exercises to rebuild muscle and restart my edema therapy exercises. On November 16th the hospital cafeteria made me a birthday cake to celebrate my being “born again.” With the new stem cells I have a brand new immune system. In fact, if things go well, next November I will need to get all my vaccines redone. I have to take some special anti-viral medicines this year until that happens. My system is now “cancer-free” and we expect it to stay that way (80% successful according to my doctors) as I get tested for that over the next few months. I would appreciate your prayers as I move through the rehabilitation process throughout 2018.

Being “born again” again is a new start for me, and for Joyce. We really do not know what our future holds except that we know that God is guiding us and we will be serving Him wherever we are. As of January, our exact status with Liebenzell Mission is on hold until we get word from our first post-transplant PET scan in March. After that we will have a little better idea of what we will be able to do. Another issue is still my edema. I will begin more focused treatment for that in March. It is likely that 2018 will be the year that we move back into a more active ministry, but this may be limited depending on how I move through rehab. I have applied for disability status on the advice of my doctors and we should hear if that is approved within the next few months. The bottom line is that God is taking us in a new direction and we are not sure what that is. We plan to stay connected with Liebenzell Mission USA and with PIU but we are waiting for God to lead us into what that role will be. Our future is in His hands, as it always is – we just realize it more in times of transition like this, and we appreciate your prayers that God will lead. As I read in my devotions this AM, God sometimes leads us into the wilderness (but He provides manna while we are there) to get us to the Promised Land. It is a little scary, but an exciting time. Thank you for your prayers and support for us through this whole process.

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #3

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. In chapter 3 Brueggemann begins the explanation of his own Old Testament theology. This is where the meaty part of the book begins and I already enjoying his insights into the text. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Brueggemann sees the Old Testament as primarily a witness to what God has done and said in the life of Israel. Thus, it is more important to understand clearly what is being said than to try and explain the reality behind it (although that is a legitimate area for study). So the Old Testament is a witness to the reality of Israel's experience with God. God both acts and speaks in a righteous way that sets things right for Israel. Israel responds with public acts and words of thanksgiving. The writer wants the reader (listener) to make a decision about God based on his witness. God is portrayed as active, righteous, merciful, forgiving and covenant-keeping. There is no other god like YHWH. YHWH is the center of Israel's reality.

The beginning point for articulating an Old Testament theology is in the liturgical, public acknowledgment of a new reality wrought by Yahweh in the life of the speaker and in the community of the speaker. 128

The much greater and more pervasive problem in ancient Israel is not a refusal to speak of Yahweh—that is, not a practical readiness to dismiss Yahweh as a factor in life, but the temptation to engage in wrong speech about Yahweh, which amounts to idolatry. 136

Israel’s characteristic grammar in speaking of Yahweh, governed by active verbs, regularly insisted that Yahweh is a major player in Israel’s life and in the life of the world. Yahweh’s characteristic presentation in Israel’s rhetoric is that Yahweh acts powerfully, decisively, and transformatively. Yahweh is morally serious and demanding, so that Yahweh is endlessly attentive to distinctions of good and evil, justice and injustice. 137

Israel does not begin with some generic notion of God, to which Yahweh conforms. It begins its utterance, rather, in witness to what it has seen and heard and received from Yahweh. It is Yahweh and only Yahweh who provides the peculiar norms by which “godness” is now understood in Israel. It is clear to Israel, moreover, that beyond Yahweh, there are no serious candidates for the role of God. 144

Saturday, December 16, 2017

3rd Follow-Up Visit at Stanford

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20171214_153955 (960x1280)Joyce and I just returned home from another visit to Stanford yesterday. I got a blood test and had a follow-up visit with my Bone Marrow Transplant doctor. Everything went well. My blood counts are up where they are supposed to be and, so far, I am recovering from the process a little faster than expected. The doctor said that he is “very pleased” with how I am doing. I will have another follow-up visit January 17th and then a PET scan in early March. Please keep me in prayer that I stay cancer-free, which is what we expect. I feel better than I have felt in a long time though I still get tired pretty easily and the edema is still a real annoyance. The really good news is that I can resume a normal diet (just in time for Christmas) and I don’t need to wear the mask any more, except at doctor’s offices. Thank you for praying for us. We appreciate it very much.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #5 (Chapters 14-16)

MarkThis post concludes my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland. In chapters 14-16, Mark completes his discussion of the Passion week of Jesus with a discussion of the arrest, trials, crucifixion and a very brief account of the resurrection. 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 14 begins with a woman's act of devotion, the anointing of Jesus, sandwiched between two dastardly acts of betrayal of Jesus by the Jewish leadership and by Judas Iscariot. Probably both thought they were serving God, but the betrayers had mistaken their own personal agendas for God’s. The woman, possibly, had listened to Jesus and was one of the few people who understood what we has doing and thus prepared his body for burial. At the very least it was an act of supreme devotion to Jesus which was what God was really looking for. The next section records the preparation and eating of Jesus' Last Supper. Mark is clear that Jesus is fully aware of what is about to happen and the coming significance of the events, though the disciples seem to have no idea. He warns them that there is a betrayer in their midst and that they all will deny Him, but they refuse to believe Him. God's kingdom will not come about by human bravery, but by lives changed through Jesus' death and resurrection. This is what is symbolized in the recurring remembrance of the Lord's Supper. It is the ceremony of a new relationship with the risen Christ, a pledge of our allegiance to the New Covenant begun made possible by Jesus' broken body and blood, and commitment to one another as God's kingdom family. Each of us need to regularly examine ourselves to make sure we are not acting as Judas, who takes the elements while planning to betray Jesus, or as the disciples who think they can serve Jesus in their own power and with their own agendas.

The woman had no idea of the worldwide significance of her action, nor did the high priests, Judas, or Pontius Pilate. Albert Einstein said, “It is a tragic mistake for those in power to think that they are in control.” It is also a mistake for us to think that our sacrificial devotion is wasteful or insignificant. Who knows how God will use it? Mark 14.1-11, 521

Jesus’ sacrificial death is also a covenant-making event. It marks a new act of redemption and begins a new relationship between God and the people—one that supersedes the old. It creates a new community gathered around his table. Mark 14.12-31, 529

The Lord’s Supper works for good. It reminds us who we are, what our story is, what our values are, and who claims us as his own. In the Lord’s Supper, the gospel confronts all five of our physical senses. We see, hear, taste, smell, and touch what it meant for Christ to die for us. It also binds the past, present, and future together. We look back to Jesus’ Last Supper and experience the beginning of the new covenant with God. We experience Jesus’ death for us and the power of our sins being forgiven in the present. We look forward to the future celebration in God’s kingdom, when all will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Mark 14.12-31, 534

The rest of Mark 14 records Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, the arrest of Jesus, His abandonment by His disciples and the trial before the Sanhedrin. Mark portrays Jesus in agony, knowing and waiting for what he is about to experience. He goes to the Father in prayer asking if there is any other way but trusts the Father's plan and becomes the example of how we are to handle suffering. The disciples, on the other hand, fail to realize the crisis they are in and immediately abandon Jesus when the mob comes to arrest Him. The Sanhedrin, not all the Jewish people, are seen in Mark as the guilty party for arresting Jesus and turning Him over to the Romans. The issue is that Jesus combines several OT prophecies and raises the idea of a human Son of David to a human/divine Son of Man. He is then convicted of blasphemy. Peter's denial heightens the abandonment of Jesus. The only encouraging thing here is that Mark's readers would have known that Peter was forgiven and restored. This whole scene goes exactly as Jesus predicted.

Prayers asking God to have a change of mind are not considered insubordinate but actually exude trust that God listens to prayer and grants requests that can be reconciled “with overall Providence.” Mark 14.32-52, 540

In Mark, we see the Son of Man associated with power that is blended with suffering and weakness. Jesus openly declares that he is the Messiah only when there is no possibility that crowds will rise up to crown him king. His admission seals the case against him and ensures that he will die. If Jesus is the Son of Man who will sit on the right hand of Power and come in the clouds of heaven, one must completely rethink what one believes about the Messiah and about power. Jesus as the Messiah is far less than many people hoped, because he never raises a finger against anyone and passively submits to death. As the Messiah, he is far more than anyone hoped, because he divinely exercises the power of God. Mark 14.53-65, 569

Peter was the most prominent of Jesus’ disciples, yet he was still a sinner in need of God’s mercy. He thought he would die for Jesus, but he needed Jesus to die for him...If Peter could be restored after denying his Lord and even cursing him, then there was hope for others who might be guilty of the same or worse. Peter’s tears of remorse mark the beginning of that restoration. Mark 14.53-72, 574

Chapter 15 of Mark describes the trial before Pilate and crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate's indifference to justice and desire to preserve order and his position, at all costs assure this miscarriage of justice. Garland sees the people's choice of Barabbas over Jesus as an example of the human way to choose violence to gain personal power over God's ways. Mark emphasizes the mockery of all classes of people at the crucifixion. Ironically, what was intended as mockery is shown to be true. Jesus was a real king and God did deliver Him from death through the resurrection. Mark also emphasizes Jesus’ cry from Psalm 22 and he pictures the crucifixion with reference to the entire psalm, emphasizing that Jesus was the "righteous sufferer" who felt and seemed abandoned by God but was never abandoned and would be vindicated. That vindication began with the tearing of the temple veil from top to bottom and the confession of the centurion. The old order was done. God's presence and power were about to break out of the temple and go out to all the world.

God’s way responds to evil redemptively and short-circuits it. On the cross, Jesus took the sting of death and absorbed all the poison. Our failure to choose this way stems from our failure to trust God. We may trust God to take care of the afterlife, but we do not trust God enough to let go of too much control of the here and now. If we have to suffer, we would rather put our trust in the Barabbases of this world, who fight back and murder enemies. We have yet to see that this way only leads to more death and tragedy. David E. Garland, Mark 15.1-20, 583

Jesus is a king who died an outlaw’s death. Jesus is the Messiah, who was rejected by the people he came to deliver. Jesus is the mighty Son of God, who did not use his power for himself but died a seemingly powerless death. All traditional symbols have been reversed. Weakness is a sign of power. Death is the means to life. Godforsakenness leads to reconciliation with God. Mark 15.21-47, 598

Jesus prayed the prayer of the righteous sufferer, who trusts fully in God’s protection. Psalm 22 naturally came to mind because he was mocked (Ps. 22:7–9), his strength was dried up (22:15–16), his hands and feet were pierced (22:16), and his garments were divided (22:18). Jesus therefore did not simply let out an anguished wail of pain but deliberately quoted this lament, which moves from an expression of pain to confidence in God’s deliverance. Why would Jesus cry out to an absent God unless he believed that God was indeed there to hear and able to deliver him? Mark 15.34-37, 601

Mark ends his record of the Passion the same way he started it; with a report of the devotion of the women who followed Jesus. The women come to the tomb wondering how they would roll away the stone and then, when they see it rolled away, they wonder how that happened. A "young man" explains that Jesus "is not here. He is risen." He instructs the women to tell the disciples and let them know that Jesus will see them in Galilee. The narrative ends with the report that the women remain silent and do not report as instructed. I would tend to agree with Garland that "Mark fully intended to end his Gospel with the startling disclosure that the women spoke to no one because they were afraid. If we want to understand Mark, we must grapple with this awkward conclusion no matter how unsatisfying it might be." (618) I think that Mark does this purposely to place the reader into the story. We know that eventually the women told the story, the 11 disciples believed and the gospel has gone out powerfully into most of the world. Now the question becomes what will we do with this command. Will we go meet Jesus and faithfully live as His people and tell the story of the gospel to all the world?

This command is the first time that Jesus’ followers are told to tell something about him. The crucifixion and the resurrection, therefore, mark a turning point. There is no need for silence or secrets now (see 9:9). As Marcus points out, “Whereas before those events Jesus commanded secrecy and open proclamation was disobedience, now Jesus commands open proclamation and secrecy is disobedience.” Mark 16.1-8, 614

“He is not here. See the place where they laid him.” There is no reunion with the familiar earthly form of Jesus, with tears of joy and hugs all around. Jesus cannot be held by death, let alone by a stone. He is free from death, transformed from this earthly existence and unleashed on the world. One cannot meet him at the place where they laid him. His grave is not to become a shrine like David’s tomb (Acts 2:29), the dressed-up tombs of the prophets (Matt. 23:29–31), or the tombs of modern-day leaders. The God who raises the dead has no use for earthly memorials. The tombstone is not to become a wailing wall. God is not the God of the dead, entombed in shrines, but of the living. Mark 16.1-8, 623

The gospel is about the power of God, which overcomes human dysfunction and disaster. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was proclaimed and is being proclaimed throughout the world, just as Jesus said it would. This means that God’s will and Jesus’ promise have been fulfilled despite human disobedience. Mark 16.1-8, 626

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Getting a Christmas Tree(s)

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It has been a long time since Joyce and I were in a place where we could go out and cut down our own Christmas Tree. So yesterday Joyce, Missy and Leila felt the urge to go out into the forest (they got a forest service permit), made the trek and cut down a tree for our house. I could not go because I am still restricted to the house. Also, we cannot have a real tree in the house. So we have an artificial tree inside the house and they set up the real tree on the deck behind the house. Wow, this year we have two trees! Here are a few pictures of the day’s adventure.

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They found the perfect tree! If you look very closely at the picture on the right you can see Joyce behind Missy and the tree.

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On the right, the tree arrives at our house and is set up on the deck. On the left, the indoor, artificial tree is decorated. For some reason I think we are going all-out on Christmas this year!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #2

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapter 2 surveys how Old Testament is and should be done in the post-modern world. I appreciated his criticisms of the shortcomings of critical methodology and the unwillingness of more conservative approaches who place dogmatic theology above the text. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 2 discusses how OT theology is and should be done in a post-modern world. He begins with how he thinks it should be done. First, the OT must be understood in its narrative framework: it is a story that reflects Israel's reception of the revelation of its God in its experience. Thus, it is what Israel says about its experience and how the writers interpret it that counts. Second, one must recognize the different voices within the text. For example the voices of order, wisdom and consolidation compete with the prophetic voices of liberation and change, without the issues, like theodicy, being resolved in the text. It is also important to see that the OT text as we have it is a product of the exile. That does not necessarily mean that the original texts are not older or are not historically accurate, but their final form is influenced by the exile. This also shows the importance of intertextuality. The OT was prone to reuse or refer to older texts to apply to new situations, so it is important that we be able to interpret it in terms of those connections. One must also read the New Testament being cognizant of its references to the OT. The OT is a Jewish book which means it must be read that way with its rich metaphor and seemingly contradictory dialog that must be thought through and yields several avenues of understanding.

We now recognize that there is no interest-free interpretation, no interpretation that is not in the service of some interest and in some sense advocacy...Such an interpretive enterprise is a profound departure from the older, long-established hegemonic work of interpretations in which one could enjoy “assured results.” In my judgment, however, faithful interpretation—that is, interpretation congruent with the text being interpreted, requires a willingness to stay engaged in such an adjudicating process and not to retreat to a separated interpretive community. 63

In Israel’s theological rhetoric, it is evident that Israel employed a rich strategy in order to find speech to match the continuing Character whom it rendered at the center of its life...we can see a complexity, oddity, and dangerousness about Yahweh, qualities that could hardly be taken into account by the conventions of positivistic history or by the modes of classical theology. Yahweh, it appears, is always prepared for some new, outrageous self-disclosure, depending on the courage and freedom of Israel’s boldest speakers. 71

The Old Testament in its theological articulation is characteristically dialectical and dialogical, and not transcendentalist...By this I mean that the God of Israel is characteristically “in the fray” and at risk in the ongoing life of Israel. Conversely the God of Israel is rarely permitted, in the rhetoric of Israel, to be safe and unvexed “above the fray.” Even where God is said to be elsewhere, this “elsewhere” is most often in response to Israel’s life, either negatively or positively. 83

Chapter 2 ends with a discussion of several approaches to doing Old Testament theology in the modern world. Brueggemann lays out several different approaches, both traditional/centrist and marginal/radical, to doing OT theology and discusses the work of several different academics doing work in the field. He insists that the church must listen to both the more traditional academics and the ones that are doing work on the margins, especially the non-Western interpreters. Both voices, maintenance of tradition and liberation and change, of the Old Testament must be heard. His conclusion emphasizes that we must be careful reading the OT under the authority of critical scholarship or church dogma. Both are important tools but have their limitations. Critical scholarship removes the supernatural which is the heart of the Bible's message while church dogmas tend to "tame" the Bible and remove the parts which cannot be fit into a particular systematic scheme. Again, we need to let the text be the text and read it, as much as we can, as it was intended. The church's task is always to take the text and apply its message to new situations as they arise.

Exposition is always conducted in the presence of two audiences. In the first instant, exposition is directed at the self-understanding, self-discernment, and authorization of the community that begins in assent to this text...the Old Testament is always addressing, belatedly, a second listening community: the larger public that is willing to host many alternative construals of reality. The long history of this text, especially in the West, attests to the endless points of impingement, whereby this text has provided the categories, the discernment, the energy, and the impetus for a different shape of life in the world. 87–88

While we do not know how to do it very well, one of the primary demands of Old Testament theology in our present context is to work precisely at the interface between these readings (centrist and marginal) in conflict. The conflict between these readings not only concerns interesting methodological questions and incidental interpretive issues, but cuts to the core theological claims of the text. 102

The work of biblical theology, vis-à-vis systematic theology, is one of tension that is honest but not quarrelsome. In practice, I suggest that it is the liturgy that is to enact the settled coherence of church faith, and the sermon that provides the “alien” witness of the text, which rubs against the liturgic coherence. There can, in my judgment, be no final resolution of the tension between the systemizing task of theology and the disruptive work of biblical interpretation. It is the ongoing interaction between the two that is the work of interpretation. 107

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #4 (Chapters 11-13)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland. In chapters 11-13 Mark begins his discussion of the Passion week of Jesus. Jesus now begins to reveal who He is to the public, but it is quite different than the disciples or the nation expect from their Messiah. 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 11 begins with the first 3 days of the passion week of Jesus. On the first day Jesus introduces Himself as the Coming One and allows the people to acknowledge Him as the coming King. As King, He then comes to His temple and inspects it and then goes home quietly. On the next day, Jesus dramatically shows the result of this inspection in the cursing of the fig tree and the symbolic judgment on the temple. The fig tree shows that the temple will "dry up and wither" just as the fig tree was withered from its roots to the top. Jesus symbolically condemns the sacrificial system, the corruption of its leadership, and the perversion of its purpose away from God's design for it. The withering of the fig tree, and the quote from Jeremiah 7) showed that this judgment was a done deal. Jesus does not allow the religious leaders' arguments against his authority on the 3rd day to deter His mission of setting up the new order that God had promised.

Jesus enters the temple to inspect it, and the next day’s events reveal that he comes not to restore it but to pronounce God’s judgment on it. Mark 11.1-11, 429

These sayings, however, are integrally related to context. They reveal the essence of the new order that replaces the old. The new order is based on faith in God (11:22) that overcomes insurmountable odds (11:23), is sustained by grace (11:24), and is characterized by forgiveness (11:25). Mark 11.12-33, 441.

The temple system fostered xenophobia and ethnocentrism. The strain between Jew and Gentile, male and female, would never be settled (Gal. 3:28) as long as the temple stood with its series of holy barriers, each saying to a different group, “No entry!” Jesus calls for an end to the exclusivism that allows prayer and sacrifice for only a select group. Mark 11.12-33, 447

Mark 12 records a dialogue between Jesus and the religious leaders regarding who really spoke with God's authority. Jesus' begins with an allegory that identifies the Jewish leadership with those in the past who killed the prophets and are now about to make the mistake of killing God's Son and rejecting His kingdom. The leaders respond with trick questions and debate. Jesus handles each question in a way that demonstrates his own Divine authority and the corruption of the leadership. They had missed the point that devotion to God and taking care of His people is the most important thing. Thus, they did not see what God was doing in their time and they rejected His Messiah, missed His kingdom and would soon be subject to judgment. We all must keep close account on our devotion to God so we do not miss what He is doing around us now.

This allegory does more than condemn evil leaders who lived some two thousand years ago; it applies to us. The story of God’s relationship with a disobedient and rebellious people has not changed much. The judgment that fell on them can fall on us if we, as leaders, fail in our stewardship. We must therefore analyze in what areas we have failed to yield fruit to God, how we may have rejected and mistreated God’s servants (3 John 9–10), and how we continue to reject God’s Son (Heb. 6:6). Mark 12.1-2, 458

God is Caesar’s Lord. One may owe Caesar what bears his image and name—money. One owes God what bears God’s image and name. Since we are created in the image of God (see Gen. 1:26; Prov. 7:3; Isa. 44:5; Jer. 38:33; cf. Ezek. 18:4) and bear his name as children of God, we owe him our whole selves. Exactly what we owe God becomes clear in Jesus’ answer to a certain teacher of the law: We owe God love from all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (12:30, 33). Mark 12.13-17, 463

Jesus’ response to the Sadducees’ challenge helps us see what to emphasize and what to ignore. He rejects the Sadducees’ mistaken earthly images of resurrection life and seizes on an individual’s relationship to God. We should avoid attempts to describe what heavenly life is like. Instead, we should highlight the necessity of a close tie to the heavenly Father, who keeps his promises. Mark 12.18-27, 472–473

She throws away her living for the sake of the temple. The temple overlords will throw away Jesus’ life to preserve their power base. The new community centered around Jesus places a priority on people rather than cultic rituals and grand edifices that are subject to destruction. What is important is the demonstration of humble faith, sacrificial devotion to God, and care for the poor and needy (1 Tim. 5:16; James 1:27). Mark 12.28-44, 483

Mark 13 records Jesus' response to the disciples' question about the timing of the destruction of the temple and the end of the age. According to Garland, though the disciples expected that these two events were simultaneous, Jesus separates them (5-23 temple, 24-27 end of the age) and does not give a timetable. Instead He urges them to "watch," be ready for persecution and suffering, and accomplish their mission to preach the gospel to all nations. The first part of the speech deals with the destruction of the temple fulfilled in 70AD. Jesus tells them to watch out for false prophets and that the destruction of the temple is coming soon (this generation) and is unavoidable. Garland sees no signs given for the end of the age. It will happen whenever the Father determines. Our job is to make sure we are being faithful to the mission, not to speculate about dates and times. I think Garland is basically right here, although I would see some typological (not one to one) connections between the AD70 event and the 2nd coming. The bottom line is that the best way to be ready for Jesus to come is to be steadfast under persecution and suffering and to fulfill the part we are to play in God's Kingdom mission.

What has been implicit in Jesus’ actions in the temple now becomes explicit. He openly prophecies its complete destruction. The temple belongs to an old order, whose builders will reject the stone that will become central to God’s new temple. This temple has become obsolete, and God will allow it to be utterly destroyed. Mark 13.1-24, 491

Jesus’ predictions about the temple’s destruction will come true. Those things that humans may believe are the center of the universe may disappear from the face of the earth. Only Jesus’ words abide. They are “the firm ground upon which the church can dare to live and to meet courageously all the terrors which are coming before the end.” Mark 13.25-37, 502

When the Son of Man comes, he will not quiz people to see whose predictions on the date were accurate. He will want to know what we were doing. Were we proclaiming the gospel to all the nations? Were we enduring suffering faithfully? Were we fulfilling the assigned tasks? Those who have been asleep on the job or buried in the task of trying to map out the times rather than carrying out the mission will be more than just embarrassed; they will be judged. Mark 13.28-37, 509

Saturday, December 09, 2017

2nd Follow Up Visit at Stanford

20171207_150111 (960x1280)Joyce and I arrived back home about an hour ago after our second follow up visit to the Stanford Cancer Center. This was Day 21 post-transplant. I had blood drawn and one of the bone marrow transplant unit doctors met with us. The first thing the doctor said to me was “wow Dave, you look great!” Of course the last time she had seen me was right after the transplant. The doctor was greatly encouraged that my recovery seems to be ahead of schedule. My blood numbers were very good, the rash is healing up and my energy is increasing. The edema seems to be improving very slowly. The doctor referred me to a lymphedema specialist and I will be making that appointment soon. All in all it is looking very good that I can return to a normal diet, minimal wearing of the mask (only in medical facilities) and begin exercising again on Day 30 – December 15th. We hope to get confirmation 20171207_150159 (960x1280)of that when I see my main doctor next Thursday. I still have at least 6 months of recovery, but I am thankful for where we are right now. God is merciful.

On another note, our rodent invader has not been seen in 3 days. I hope he indulged in the “buffet of death” that the exterminator put out for him and went on to his eternal reward. I have also completed Medi-Cal and SSDI-Medicare applications and am now waiting to hear how that will come out. Please pray with me that God will work through this to give us some leading on what will be the next step for us. Finally, thanks to Jim and Kay Sawyer who let us stay with them last night so that did not have to drive all the way home through stand-still traffic after our clinic appointment. We had a very pleasant evening with them.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #1

BrueggemannI decided to go a little more academic with my next reading in the Old Testament. Over the next few weeks I will be reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann.  This is basically a textbook for his graduate level Old Testament theology classes. I will try to summarize his main points and make them understandable (I struggled with understanding some of this stuff) for the readers here. I don’t always agree with Brueggemann, but his big point that we have to quit reading the OT through our preconceived systematic theologies and let it speak within its own context and within that of  the New Testament is a much needed message for the church today. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Brueggemann approaches the Old Testament as a developing, diverse testimony that, in its complete form, advocates "a Yahweh-version of reality that is strongly in conflict with other versions of reality and other renderings of truth that have been shaped without reference to Yahweh and that determinedly propose a reality and truth that is Yahweh-free." (xvii) That is, the OT is a progressive revelation of God to Israel that is recorded from the perspective of Israel's experience of it in their history. We interpret it under the fulfillment of it in the New Testament and with the traditions (creeds, doctrinal statements etc.) of the church in history as we apply it to the questions of our time.

The presuppositions that govern exegesis, either hidden or acknowledged, arise from the community in which and for which the interpretation is done. Thus in practice the authority of Scripture is intimately linked to the claims of the interpretive community, a reality not easily accepted in Protestantism. This awareness is not far removed from the Tridentine formula of “Scripture and tradition,” if tradition is understood as the lens of interpretation. Such a lens is present in the traditions of the Reformation, for such a lens is undiminished by the slogan of sola scriptura. 4

It is nonetheless the case that Scripture cannot be understood apart from the ongoing role of communal tradition. 4

In chapter 1 Brueggemann reviews the history of Old Testament theology from the Reformation to modern times. His main insight, in the 1st part of the chapter which covers the Reformation and The Critical Enterprise, is that, though the reformers freed the Bible from being read only under the magisterium of Roman Catholic tradition, their ideas quickly hardened into theological systems and dogmas under which the Bible was read. The same became true of the various critical methods. We cannot fully escape our presuppositions and traditions as we formulate our theologies.

The great evangelical insights of the Reformers hardened into a cognitive scheme that kept the form of evangelical faith but was increasingly remote from the substance and emancipatory power of its urging. 7

As we gain perspective on the ways in which cultural climate and context shape scholarship and interpretation, it is important for us to recognize that we, no less than our predecessors, are children of our time and place and must deal with the issues as we find them shaped. 12

The next part of chapter 1 discusses the "rescue of biblical theology" from 19th century historical criticism in the 20th century. Brueggemann credits Barth as being the pioneer of the assumption "that the Bible, on its own terms and without appeal to “natural reason,” is the beginning point of faith" (17). Barth saw that beginning with reason was just as much a faith step as beginning with dogma. The next influential theologian/historians in this development were Alt and Noth. Their great contribution was to show that Israel's religion was not just an evolutionary development from surrounding religious environment but that it was unique and originated from God. Albright followed this with his work on the historicity of the OT. This period ends with the two great works of OT biblical theology by Eichrodt and Von Rad (read by all OT majors when I was in seminary). Eichrodt saw the theme of the OT as "covenant relatedness" and emphasized the "constant" nature of the revelation of the OT. Von Rad emphasized the mighty acts of God in history that forced Israel to reevaluate their traditions and adapt them to a new generation. Both of these themes are present in the text and must be dealt with as we try to do OT theology today. 

Barth’s mood and style were not to derive the normative from the landscape, as was the wont of his liberal antecedents. Rather, on the basis of the Word (which he understood variously as Jesus Christ, the scriptural text, and/or the preaching moment), Barth dared to assert the normative claim of the gospel defiantly against the landscape. What is normative is odd and peculiar, distinctive and scandalous, and can never be accommodated to the landscape of cultural ideology. 20

The older critical consensus found Israel’s faith embedded in and arising from its cultural religious environment and continuing to partake of that environment. Now, however, it was proposed that Israel’s faith was de novo, in its very emergence incompatible with and in opposition to its cultural religious environment. 26

(The OT) is material that insists on being taken seriously, and it refuses to be reduced or domesticated into a settled coherence. This refusal may not be simply a literary one but a theological one, pertaining to its central Subject. The restless character of the text that refuses excessive closure, which von Rad understood so well, is reflective of the One who is its main Character, who also refuses tameness or systematization. Thus it is the very God uttered in these texts who lies behind the problems of perspective and method. 42

The rest of chapter 1 discusses developments in Old Testament biblical theology from 1970 to the present. Brueggemann criticizes the tendency in the west to continue to reduce the study of scripture to history only and assume European ideas of historical development and enlightenment dogma. We are now seeing serious biblical theology being done by non-Western scholars who approach the text in new and different ways who need to be listened to. He also discusses the limits/problems and helpful aspects of sociological and rhetorical approaches to scripture. I especially find rhetorical approaches helpful because they do encourage a refocus on the text itself. While we must understand its forms, backgrounds etc. to understand the text, it is the text itself, that we have, that has Divine authority.

It is likely that we have not yet understood with sufficient clarity the epistemological break before which we now stand, which places in acute jeopardy the long-standing privilege of Euro-American interpreters of Scripture. 49

Normativeness is that on which one will stake one’s life. It is precisely in such contexts of risk, I propose, that what we receive as theological data were voiced, heard, valued, and transmitted in the life of this ancient community. Or, stated negatively, normative statements that are not aimed at something dangerous and disputed are not likely to be useful, or interesting, or, in the end, true. 53

It is perhaps a major contribution of theological reflection on the Bible to more “respectable” theological enterprises to witness to the density of the material that precludes excessive certitude. As we are learning that Enlightenment reading of history is now highly doubtful, Enlightened theology in parallel fashion is prone to more certitude than is credible or than is given in the material. 59–60

Happy to Be Back Home

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After being released from the hospital last Tuesday we hung around Stanford until Saturday in case follow-up was needed. I had my blood tests on Thursday and everything seems to be on, actually a little ahead of, schedule. So we drove back up to Shingle Springs on Saturday and arrived early in the afternoon. It was good to see Missy and Leila after being gone for almost a month. I was able to relax on Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed sleeping in my own bed again. So far I seem to be getting a little better each day, with some minor setbacks that I was told to expect.. I am trying to get up and walk around the house at least a half hour per day to begin to rebuild my strength. I am pretty much confined to the house until December 15th and am still on the low microbial diet until then. My skin, taste buds etc. are growing back and healing. I can get food down now no problem except it often tastes funny. It is best that we not get too many visitors until the 15th, unless they are very sure they do not have a cold, flu or anything I could catch. My immune system is coming back but it is still weak. I am also looking forward to being able to use some resistance bands to re-build some strength after the 15th. So far so good.

A couple things you could pray for us…

  1. This one is odd but we have a rat in our house who has decided that our house is a nice warm place to spend the winter. We have called the exterminator, set out traps and even chased it with brooms (Joyce saw me do this and banned me to the bedroom) but have not caught it yet. With my immune condition this is especially a problem. Please pray that we can get rid of it and keep the pests out of our house.
  2. Pray for continued recovery of my body. I have been told this can take from 6 months to 2 years.
  3. Joyce and I are in the process for applying for several types of medical insurance. Please pray that we can find something affordable and that meets our needs. We are even looking at disability based on what Stanford is advising.
  4. My edema continues to be a real problem. I am praying that it is not chronic. I have medicine I am taking that helps but nothing seems to be making real progress. The doctor says this may be the most difficult side effect to get rid of.
  5. We have seen God and God’s people minister to us in so many ways. We are very thankful for that.

Thank you for caring about us and praying for us.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Another Positive Update From Stanford

20171130_165306 (768x1024)Okay! It has been a better day than we expected. First, I am feeling a little little better than yesterday. I was exhausted yesterday, but today was able to walk to the cancer center from our apartment at Stanford. Full disclosure, Joyce did push me back in the wheelchair. The rash and mouth sores are getting much better. So overall I am improving so far without complications. Joyce and I are thanking God for that.

20171130_170424 (768x1024)The really good news came at the cancer center with my blood test. We were hoping the numbers would be up and they were  better than expected. We wanted a white blood count of 5 or more and we were over 10. We wanted a platelet count over 50 and got 87. Not only does this mean my body is healing but it meant the chest catheter could come out. The pictures here record the process. For the first time since February I have no port, wires or tubes coming out of my body. It stings a little now but I am very happy.20171130_170429 (768x1024) I am thanking the LORD for his grace and mercy on me.

Again thank you for your prayers as we go through this ordeal. It's not the end yet but it's possible we are through the worst part. Let's keep praying that this will be so. We plan to be back in Shingle Springs on Saturday. I'll still be restricted until December 14th and we have a couple more appointments at Stanford before then. After that we are hoping to see many of you and talk about what has God has done for us and share some time together. God Bless.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Mark #3 (Chapters 7-10)

MarkThis post continues my reading through the Gospel of Mark accompanied by Mark, The NIV Application Commentary, by David E. Garland.In the next section of Mark Jesus begins to teach the disciples about who He really is and what that means for God’s Kingdom plan and what that will require from them. 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.

In chapter 7 Jesus begins to break boundaries that others would put on Him. In chapter 6 he multiplied bread for a Jewish audience. In chapter 8 He will do the same for a Gentile audience. In the first section (1-23) Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees because His disciples do not keep their washing traditions. Jesus does not answer their accusation, but questions their basis for holiness. Holiness does not come from external actions or traditions, which tend to separate us from one another and become a "who's in, who's out" criteria, but from inner attitudes of submission and love for God and for others that come out in our actions to one another. In the rest of the chapter Jesus extends healing to a Gentile woman (from Tyre the rival city to the Jews) and a deaf Gentile man. In both of these it is emphasized that a humble, faithful approach to Jesus is what brings blessing. Just like the deaf man, even the disciples were deaf to what He was saying and needed to humble themselves and receive what Jesus offered as a "little dog."

One need not protect holiness with a fence of rules. On the contrary, God’s holiness bursts all bounds. It does not suffer contamination but transforms everything it touches. As Augustine said, “Light, even though it passes through pollution, is not polluted.” Mark 7.1-23, 281

God will heal Gentiles, no matter how unclean or how far away from God they may seem. Others might dismiss someone as the wrong race, nationality, or social class, or as from the wrong religious background, but none of these things prevents one from receiving God’s merciful healing. Those who exercise humble faith will receive bread. Mark 7.24-30, 290

Mark’s narrative shows that Jesus seeks to cure his disciples’ blindness and deafness by taking them away from the madding crowd and teaching them. Modern Christians may need to have times when they retreat and allow the miracle of Jesus’ power to penetrate plugged-up ears so that we may hear God’s word afresh and speak it to others more clearly. Mark 7.31-37, 302

Chapter 8 continues Jesus' journey through Gentile territory and his teaching to them about His identity and what that will mean for them. First, he repeats the miracle of the multiplied bread, but this time for a Gentile audience. He is trying to expand the disciple's vision beyond their expectations of what Messiah will be. Sadly, neither the Pharisees nor the disciples get it. The Pharisees demand an apocalyptic "sign from heaven" that Jesus is coming in power to destroy their enemies, but Jesus rejects this with an oath because He has just shown that God's kingdom will bring blessing to the Gentiles. The disciples are like the blind man who Jesus must heal gradually and in stages. Peter gets Jesus' title right, but totally misunderstands what it means and what being part of God's kingdom is all about. Jesus, for the first time in Mark, reveals that the kingdom must go through the cross and resurrection and that His disciples must deny themselves and take up His cross of suffering to follow Him. He promises glory. but the cross and self-denial must come first. To teach anything else is to be a "satan."

Jesus says that false prophets and false christs will give signs and wonders to deceive (13:6, 22). But Jesus will offer this generation no noisy sign from heaven, only the wind whistling through an empty tomb after his crucifixion. Mark 8.1-12, 309

The kingdom of God requires individuals to exercise faith and discernment. The sign the Pharisees request removes any need to risk faith or to discern what God is doing in the present when the evidence is ambiguous...Jesus refuses to do anything to get scoffers to believe. They must discern the truth from the way he gives his life on this cross and from the reports of his resurrection. Mark 8,13-26, 315

One therefore may no longer think of power and glory in the ways that humans usually think. Many imprisoned under the powers will see nothing of what God is doing in the world and will be judged. Others will see in the darkness at noon, the splitting of the temple veil, the empty tomb, and the reunion with the risen Lord the kingdom of God coming in power. Mark 8.27-9.1, 330

Chapter 9 begins with Jesus' glorious transfiguration and ends with the disciples confusion about it and their resulting ineptness. The transfiguration, following Jesus' announcement of His death and resurrection, shows that God's glory is compatible with suffering. The curtain is pulled back and Jesus' Divine glory is seen in the vision, but it is also seen in Jesus' humility, obedience, suffering and sacrifice. This is the part the disciples refuse to accept and Jesus must respond with more teaching. The disciples fail to complete the exorcism of the boy because they think they can do it in their own power and lack "prayer," that sense of daily dependence on God and His grace. Kingdom living is not about status or personal ambition, but it is about service, trust in God, reaching out to the needy, and relinquishing personal pride and agendas. Jesus ends the chapter by exhorting the disciples that living in peace with one another, even with those who are not part of "our group," is one of the key indicators of real kingdom living. 

What the disciples see on the Mount of Transfiguration is the promise of glory in Jesus’ shimmering garments. What they need to hear when they come off the mountain and reenter the everyday realm is the requirement of suffering—the way of the cross and death. The biblical heroes vanish from sight. The splendor fades. The voice of God falls silent except as God speaks through the Son. Visions come and go, but his word remains. Mark 9.1-13, 349

Only when the disciples are caught up short do they learn that they do not possess anything. Those who belong to the faithless generation do not cast out evil; God does. The power belongs entirely to him and must be received anew each time from him through a life of prayer. The prayerful attitude of “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” is therefore necessary for the healer as well as the sufferer. Mark 9.14-29, 359

In the battle against evil, we must recognize that whatever particular group we belong to is not the only group of Christians in the world. We can then learn from others who worship the same Christ as Lord and Savior but who may use different language and emphasize different parts of the Scripture from what we do. Perhaps when we lay aside our labels, we will recognize that together we are all Christ’s servants and will then find ways to cooperate rather than to compete in serving him. Mark 9.30-50, 376

Mark 10 closes this section and summarizes what God's Messiah and Kingdom look like and what that requires from those who would follow Jesus. The reader should contrast the right response from the  unexpected person, blind Bartemaeus (who receives his sight and then gives up everything to follow Jesus) with those who would have been expected to do the right things. The religious leaders try to manipulate God and the torah and trap God's Messiah. The disciples try to restrict access to Jesus and manipulate Him for personal ambition and power. The "good" man tries to reduce Jesus' demands to something he can handle on his own without following Jesus. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation requires a ransom (the life and death of Jesus). We need to meditate on what it means to follow someone who characterizes Himself as a ransom and servant.

Others have brought the paralyzed and the blind to Jesus; now parents bring children for Jesus to touch (10:13). The disciples act like truculent bouncers...These aspiring leaders want to be the gatekeepers, who determine not only who can use Jesus’ name (9:38), but also who can have admission to his presence. He must indignantly intercede on behalf of the children and inform his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Mark 10.1-16, 381

We do better if we confess that we are too weak to follow Jesus on his terms than if we try to find loopholes that allow us to continue in our complacency. We also do better to confront congregations with the truth that living a praiseworthy life and always coloring inside the lines do not earn one eternal life, as if salvation were some kind of payoff. Mark 10.17-31, 402

The point is clear to the reader, if not the disciples: To share his kingdom one has to share his Passion (see Rom. 8:17). No one who enthrones the old values of power without ethics and sacrifice can reign with Jesus. Mark 10.32-45, 412

This miracle takes on symbolic significance as it caps the discipleship theme in this section. Jesus has told others he has healed to go and that their faith has saved them. Bartimaeus, however, does not choose to go off his own way. With his eyes now open, he decides to follow Jesus as every disciple is called to do. Like the first disciples Jesus called, he abandons his former way of life and leaves everything. Mark 10.46-52, 421

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Stanford Hospital Update: Discharged!

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20171127_212656We got very good news yesterday from my blood counts. My White Count and Platelet Count were high enough to meet the criteria for discharge from the hospital. So today about 2,30PM I got to ride in the wheel chair through the hospital, out the lobby and into the parking lot so Joyce could pick me up. The hospital wants us to stay in the area for a few days, just in case, so they got us an apartment near the hospital for a few days. We are settled in the apartment and just finished dinner. We have an appointment in the Infusion Transplant Area for blood tests Thursday afternoon. if my platelet count is above 50 I might be able to get chest line taken out. More likely it will happen late next week when we come back for another blood test. The picture above is of us celebrating discharge with the unit nurses and staff. On the right the good news is announced on my room information board. Again, we are thankful for your prayers. We know they have been a big factor in this process. Sometime ask us about some of the things that have happened to us and we will talk about it.

20171125_175745I have to say that the transplant process was quite an ordeal. I have handled the past chemo treatments pretty well, but this one was way beyond that. The 3 chemo sessions in 5 days were far more concentrated and intense than all the previous ones put together. This is why I had to stay 3 weeks in the hospital while getting them. I heard quite a list of possible side effects and I know the strategy of this treatment is to almost kill the body in order to kill all the cancer. I knew this coming and was expecting to experience some of them. The 2 main side effects I had were a bad rash (left) and mouth sores. Of course, all my hair is gone too. The mouth sores were the worst because I could not swallow and they forced me to push the pain med button more than anything else. The rash was more annoying. Both of these are common side effects. it is amazing how fast they are going away after my blood counts have come up. The rash is beginning to fade and I was able to eat a bowl of hot potato soup with bacon tonight!

20171128_092311Finally, Our discharge was complicated a bit when Joyce tripped over a construction barrier in the hospital parking lot. She was moving some of our stuff to the van last night so we 20171126_100421wouldn’t have so much to do today. They got her right into the ER and treated her. She is fine now with no broken bones. She has some soft tissue damage in her left knee and black left eye. She also broke her glasses but did bring her spare pair with her. So, last night she was a fellow patient with me in the hospital. The nurses told me that this is quite a common occurrence with caregivers.

So this process was quite an adventure for us. Now we are praying for the “cancer free” pronouncement in a few months. We should be back in Shingle Springs on Friday or Saturday. I’ll be quite restricted in diet and where I can go until December 15th. After that we’d love to talk about what God has done in our lives so far. Many blessings, like Clark and Deb who let Joyce stay with them while I was in the hospital even though they had never met us before! Thank you for praying.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Saturday Update From Stanford Hospital

Today is Day 9 after transplant. It seems pretty evident that I am in the slow part of the "getting better every day" that I was told to expect. But the key word here is not "slow" but "in." The expectation is a couple days of slow improvement and then the improvement will speed up very quickly. The doctors think my counts will come up to the point where they can discharge me by Thursday. That was good news.
I was able to eat solid food for the first time since transplant today. I had cream of wheat for breakfast and French toast for lunch. I did have a hard time getting the French toast down but it still was a good break through for me. Now the big thing is to try to get my bodily functions back closer to normal. Still we were very happy with the day.
It was also nice to have Jim and Kay Sawyer visit again today. Thank you for praying for us. I'll keep you updated.

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

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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