Monday, January 21, 2019

My Experience with a Kidney Stone

I know that people often tell the world all sorts of details of their life that we may not need to know. This post may seem that way. But I'm writing it for two reasons. First, my experience with a kidney stone started with many questions that have now been answered. If you're ever faced with this, my little journey through the process might help you. Second, everything in this life is related to God, who gave us life. This experience confirmed some important theological truths that I'm glad to know. It totally helps me make sense of this life.

On a Wednesday evening as I was driving home after choir practice, I experienced a pain in my left side. It continued increasing in a few minutes until I was laying on the floor groaning. This lasted about thirty minutes and began to subside. I thought it might be a kidney stone because I had seen the same thing happen to my father when I was a boy. I remember him rolling on the floor of the bedroom. Our family doctor actually came to the house and gave him a shot of morphine. He then went to the hospital and ended up having surgery. But the pain subsided quickly, so I didn't do anything about it.
Most of my pain was like this, not in my back.

The next day after supper it happened again - a severe pain in my left side, back and front that lasted for thirty minutes. My wife drove me to the ER, but then the pain went away by the time we got there. I had to teach a class that night, so I went ahead and did that. At midnight the pain started again. This was the worst bout that I had. The pain was left side, front and back, and it extended to the bladder and the entire urinary tract (if you get what I mean). We went to the ER, and I was doubled over trying to get registered. I could talk between gasps. They quickly got me to a room and kindly went through all the preliminaries while I was literally shaking and groaning on the gurney. I suffered for about an hour and a half before they were able to really do anything. Since I had pain in my bladder, and it felt like I needed to urinate, they decided to insert a catheter. That's a burning sensation that I don't care for, but it was nothing compared to the kidney stone. There was no urine. Next they gave me a shot of morphine which knocked most of the pain down. They took me for a CT scan and an Xray. They told me I had a 4 mm stone. They gave me a lot of papers, three prescriptions, a urine strainer, and sent me home. They said anything under 4 mm should pass. I should make an appointment with a urologist.

Friday morning I slept about two hours. My wife picked up the three medicines: Oxycodon (pain), Flomax (to "open you up" as the nurse said), and anti-nausea medicine (caused by the Oxycodon). I first took two stool softeners, because I knew from my knee replacement surgery that these pain killers lock up the bowels. I took the Floxmax also. Nothing was happening, and I needed to urinate. This is where my inexperience got me into trouble. I naively thought that maybe the stone had passed, and I was a little worried about what it would feel like when it actually passed out of my body. So I took an Oxycodon in anticipation. Nothing happened.

The next attack started at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. I took one Oxycodon. An hour later it got worse so I took another one. The pain subsided by 4:30 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. I ate a piece of toast (the only food I ate on Friday). All this time I kept trying to drink as much water as I could. At 7:00 p.m. I felt another attack starting so I decided to get aggressive with pain killers and took two Oxycodon and a nausea pill. With the Oxycodon the attacks were tolerable but never pain free. I slept from midnight to 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, and then another attack started. I took two more Oxycodon, and the pain lasted for a couple of hours. I started eating a little (cheese & crackers, pizza). At 3:00 p.m. decided to try taking Naproxen (Aleve) to see if I could get ahead of the pain. This worked on severe backaches in the past, maybe it would work for this? At 6:00 p.m. I had a severe attack, and I just endured it with Naproxen. It wasn't as good as the Oxycodon, but it helped.

At 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I noticed a few dark specks in the strainer. At 4:30 a.m. I had another strong attack. One thing that messed with my mind was that the pain was always in the same location. It was not moving. It was also very much in the "front" of my left side. That made me wonder if it could be something else - maybe an ulcer? So with this attack I took a Pepcid tablet and no pain killer. That had no effect at all. The pain subsided at 6:00 a.m. The rest of the morning went well. At 1:15 p.m. I had another severe attack and took one Oxycodon. I discovered that one Oxycodon was enough to knock down half the pain without the side affects (nausea and dizziness). The pain finally subsided at 3:15 p.m. I ate some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Sometime that evening I felt a little bump in my bladder - not painful, just odd. At 6:00 p.m. I urinated with an unusually strong stream. I felt a little tickle and heard something hit the strainer. It was the stone. It was dark brown, and about 2mm by 4mm. What a relief. Thanks be to God!  Altogether I had nine attacks.

The three biggest practical lessons I learned are: 1. You can't prepare for the attacks. It wouldn't be wise to take Oxycodon all day to get ahead of it because that medicine has side effects. I had a headache when I backed off of it. 2. The attacks usually only lasted two hours. If you take an Oxycodon when they start, you have thirty minutes of strong pain until the medicine kicks in. But the remaining hour and half is not too bad. At least you won't be rolling on the floor. 3. The final passage of the stone was not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

I also took away some important spiritual lessons from this experience. All people struggle with the problem of pain. We know that pain is a good thing when it warns us from further harm. Burned fingers warn us not to touch the stove again, etc. But why is some pain so severe? I've seen people suffer severely from cancer. I know some people live in constant pain caused by arthritis or back problems. Some people die almost painlessly. Others die in misery. As far as the "fairness" of those who suffer more and other less, I can only trust that God is just. All people suffer in different ways. Also, we are never sure of the blessings of pleasure that people have in their lives. It is best to let God be the judge of these things.

The most important lesson that pain teaches us is what the Bible confirms: Pain is the result of sin.

Romans 5.12 "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..."

James 1.15 "Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."

Romans 8.22 "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now."

God taught us in the Book of Job not to question why some suffer more than others or whether pain is always connected to some particularly great sin. It's here in this world because of sin. That's what God wants us to know.

Throughout my nine attacks I was continually praying like this:

"Dear Lord, please give me some relief! Please help all the other people in the world who are suffering like this! Please forgive me of all my sins, and help me to endure this! Please let this pass! I will be so thankful to You when this is over! Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy."

I would repeat these prayers over and over and over. I also hummed a hymn that somehow stuck in my head: "O Lord, What a Morning!" It's a negro spiritual about the Second Coming of Jesus.

O Lord, what a morning.
O Lord, what a morning.
O Lord, what a morning, when the stars begin to fall.

You will hear the trumpet sound,
To wake the nations underground.
Looking to my Lord's right hand. When the stars begin to fall.

When we are tempted to get angry with God about what we think is the unfairness of pain, it is because we are forgetting the absolute horror of sin. Too often we brush sin off as a little matter of insignificance. God does not see it this way at all, nor should we. The horrible pains of this life, whether we experience them directly or by watching others, should cause us to be horrified by even the slightest sin. We should constantly remind ourselves that we need to avoid all sin by God's grace. Above all we should rejoice that God forgives sin and promises us ultimate relief from all the effects of sin through the innocent suffering and death of Jesus. One of the greatest mysteries of this life is to wonder about the suffering of Jesus. I remember reading about Pastor Wurmbrand, who was tortured in communist prisons. He met a priest there who had been tortured. He cried to Wurmbrand saying that he had suffered more than Jesus! I'm sure he might have suffered more than Jesus physically. I'm sure some have suffered more than Jesus. But the suffering of Jesus is very different because He suffered as the Son of God. Since He was without sin, He of all people must have struggled with the "problem of pain." Not only that, but the pain was being inflicted upon Him by the people He was trying to save, and even God the Father, who was allowing Him to be a sacrifice. I shudder to think of the depth of that suffering. It was a bottomless pit with no painkiller. But, like our suffering, it didn't last forever. It was "finished," as Jesus said. He rose from the dead, and He raised us from the suffering and death of sin through faith. One day we will all have our last "attack" because of sin, and then "O What a Morning!" Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

How to Respond to: "I Don't Believe in the Organized Church"

Now and then I run into someone who tells me: “I don’t believe in the organized church.” This question pops up and serves as a kind of wall as if to say, “I’m a Christian, but don’t talk to me about coming to your church.” Usually a person like this has been wounded in some way in the past when they were part of a local church. Somebody might have said something like “Haven’t seen you in a while?” Or, maybe someone else sat in their pew. Or, maybe the pastor forgot their name. Or... you can go on and on with this list. It’s very unlikely that they would have even become a Christian if it had not been for the ministry of a local church. But that church, like all churches, is full of sinners. While the church proclaims the Gospel and serves as the Holy Spirit’s instrument of salvation, the church also has its problems. Churches can be like a rose bush. From a distance we have the beautiful flowers of the Gospel, but when you get close, you sooner or later get pricked a little. 

For a long time, when someone said they didn’t believe in the organized church, I tended to be a little sympathetic. I know that churches can sometimes wound as well as heal. It’s a part of life in God’s kingdom. But after a while I began to realize that this really doesn’t help. I needed to find another way to be both sympathetic to the problem of imperfect churches and to uphold the incredible goodness of the churches that really do bring Jesus into this world. I found that way by responding with another question. After listening a little to their crabbing about the organized church, I then gently (and humorously) ask them to tell me about the “unorganized church.” After all, how well are things going there? How many baptisms have they had? How’s did the Vacation Bible School go there last summer? Do they have a food pantry?  That question is my way to get them to see that there is no such thing as the unorganized church. It takes organization to be the church and to fulfill the mission that God has given us to go to all nations to make disciples. 

In the Book of Acts we see how the church immediately began to get organized in order to do God's will. The apostles appointed deacons to help with the food distribution to the poor. Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete in order to appoint pastors who could lead the church there. He also started a fund drive to collect money for those who were suffering from famine. There were problems. The James led a council in Acts 15 to iron out some differences that arose in the church. Paul had to settle disputes in almost every church he planted. The church is far from perfect. But it is founded on the perfect Son of God. His work was to redeem us from our sins and to bring us to God and to one another. In Ephesians five Paul compared the church to a bride adorned for her Bridegroom (Jesus). When people say they follow Christ but don't want anything to do with the "organized" church, they're really saying, "I want the Bridegroom but not the bride." It doesn't work that way and will never work that way. 

So basically you just have to bite the bullet when it comes to being part of the imperfect, organized church. But better that than to be bitten by the roaring lion that prowls about about looking for someone to devour. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

When Attacked By Evil

O Lord, hear our prayer for those who have been injured and for those who have lost loved ones because of senseless violence. Heal the wounds and comfort those who have lost so much. Deliver us from evil, and save us from despair. Help us to keep believing in You and doing the good that overcomes evil as we wait for Your final deliverance on the Last Day. “Amen, Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22.20).

Psalm 5:8  Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face.

Matthew 6.13  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

Romans 12.21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

2 Thessalonians 2:7  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way

Matthew 24:12-13  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Romans 16:20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

Psalm 121:7-8  The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Psalm 34:21-22  Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Children Are Like Olive Plants!

"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house. Your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord." Psalm 128.3-4

Olive trees are amazing. They can live for a thousand years and provide nutritious food for tens of thousands of people. But they are hard to get growing. The seeds have to be gently crushed, broken open, soaked, and held at certain temperatures for months even before you get a seedling. Then they have to be carefully irrigated, fertilized and maintained. 

Children are a lot like that. Last Thursday, I asked our children in our chapel service how they can be a burden to their parents? Their first response was when they disobey and irritate them. I also pointed out the burden of many diapers, baths, clothes, teaching, protecting and so on! I then asked how children can be a blessing? One boy gave the first and best answer: They can love you. A car is nice, but it will never love you. Children are indeed a blessing when they love their parents!

However, this blessing of children, marriage and family is often disrupted today. Children, marriage and family call for a lot of self-sacrifice. But the world calls for self-indulgence and self-service. God knows that, and that is why He addressed this problem with another Child - His Son. Jesus came to be the perfect child and man, and then He died to take our place and to give us the forgiveness. In Jesus, we are broken free from the world's view: "life is what I want" and are brought into God's kingdom where life is what He wants. 

Read more here

Thursday, September 13, 2018

What About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?

     This question is an important one because it is often used by unbelievers to excuse their unbelief and to draw true believers away from God. The implication of the question is that the God of the Bible is not true because He is unjust. For others the question muddies the clear water of God’s salvation by faith in Christ alone and tempts them to think of other ways of salvation. 
     The Bible says that “There is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12); and, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God” (Romans 10.17). God wants us to seek Him as Paul said the philosophers at Athens (Acts 17.11). Yet, men do not seek God: “There is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3.11). Nevertheless, God seeks men. When Adam and Eve sinned, God came to them in the garden and restored them through His words. God seeks men through the proclaimed truth of Creation, but, as Paul tells us, men are constantly suppressing that truth (Romans 1.22-30). God seeks men through the proclamation of the Gospel, and yet many resist it and persecute it. 
     So, there is the picture of this world: Men are running away from God, and God is seeking to save them. Somehow in this divine chase some of us get caught. The truth overcomes the lies in us. We repent. We are turned back toward God in order to fear, love and trust in Him above all things. God doesn’t explain to us how this happens. He doesn’t explain how some are caught but others keep on running.  But it clearly happens. So, throughout the whole world and throughout all time, men have been running from God, and God has been pursuing them. 
     The only question that matters for each one of us is: Am I running with the truth or from it? Do I have peace with God or not? It is not for us to figure out how we are caught by the truth. But it is for us to believe it, to live it and become one of God’s chasers after the lost souls who running in the wrong direction. 
     What about those who have never heard the Gospel? I will respond with another question: What about all who have heard and continue to hear the truth of God in Creation? Why do they run from that? Why do they not honor the true God and give thanks as Paul says they should (Romans 1.22-30)? I have no idea. But I know that God loves them, and He is running after them, and He will catch some of them. In the end I will let God decide what is just and right for each and every person. As Moses said, “His work is perfect, for all His ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32.4).  
Evening Prayer Service, September 12, 2018Scripture and Sermon at 11:32

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Flood and the Rainbow - Sin and Salvation - Science and the Bible

I recently preached on the Noah's Flood and the Rainbow (Text Audio). Genesis 6-9 shows that God is concerned both with sin and salvation. The flood was judgment, and the rainbow was salvation. Please read if you have time. 

But I also would like to share some of my thoughts about the reality of the flood and the creation.

The first time I was introduced to the theory of evolution was actually in a Bible class at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Charleston, Illinois when I was a freshman at Eastern Illinois University. The teacher was a pastoral student who didn't take Genesis literally. As I listened to him talk, I was very surprised by the way the theory cut corners on the scientific method. It sounded much more like speculation than science (I was a chemistry major). These are a few notes that I added to the end of the sermon about science and the Bible:

The teaching that the world was destroyed by a cataclysmic flood or that the world itself was created not that long ago (10,000 years or less) seems crazy to many people. Science has supposedly disproved all of this as nonsense. However, you should consider these three things:

1. Whether these things happened or not in the way the Bible describes or the way some scientists today imagine, it makes no difference to your day to day life. You can plant and harvest, build homes, help the sick, etc. without any reference at all to these past events. 

2. However, your view of these things will have a strong impact on what you believe about the Bible, and that could have a profound effect on your eternal future. Are these mythological stories. If so, when do the stories of the Bible become real? Was Jesus confused when He taught that they were real? Is Jesus Himself and especially His death and resurrection mythological? 

3. Not all science is the same. Some science is very observable and incredibly helpful for our day to day living. Louis Pasteur’s * discoveries in microbiology have saved countless lives. But the science of the universe’ origins is much less definite. Unfortunately, many people don’t know the difference. Studying the science of origins will do two things for you: First, You’ll realize that this isn’t as sure as some would claim. Second, You’ll also find that there are many natural evidences that actually agree with the Biblical description. Here are three good places to begin studying the science of origins:

Institute for Creation Research
Answers in Genesis
The Discovery Institute

                                    * Pasteur was a Creationist.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Power of Cartoons

God has given us many ways to communicate: Sermons, Stories, Novels, Essays, Plays, Music, Cartoons, etc. I recently ran across a cartoon that communicated a very important teaching of the Bible in just a few words.

Jesus' descent into hell is often misunderstood by Christians. When people hear the word "hell," they immediately think of suffering. When they hear of the descent into hell, they think that Jesus went there to suffer. But He certainly didn't do this to suffer. Peter tells us what happened:

1 Peter 3:18-19 (NKJV) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.

Jesus preached to the spirits in prison in order to proclaim His complete and perfect victory over
Satan and all the powers of evil. The descent into hell is a proclamation of our salvation. Theologians have written about this with many words. But Johnny Hart, in his comic strip B.C., explains it so simply that anyone can understand it: