Good news scans

IMG_1783Yesterday I had a routine CT scan to check on any progression of my cancer. Thank God, there was no change. I remain NED! While this has been the pattern for some time, these results were especially encouraging because I haven’t had chemo since last November. I am taking a longer break from chemo to give my body and mind some reprieve. The constant barrage of toxins over the past 4 years has taken its toll.

Today I revisited my treatment strategy with my oncologist. Once again I was encouraged to not assume that I am healed and to return to the IV chemicals every three weeks. The advice was expected, and I can understand it from the doctor’s viewpoint. Why mess with success? The question is at what cost? Mind you, the alternative approach is also at what cost? If I give up on the chemo, and the cancer remains in my body, am I surrendering the advantage to the enemy.

And where does trust in God come in? I believe that God is powerful and loving. I trust that he can and does heal people. But has he removed my cancer completely? Does it display greater faith to go off treatment or to go back on treatment? Some people assume that God is the explanation for what cannot be explained. If we can explain it, then that can’t be God. But I don’t think this way. I believe that God has ordered this world in such a way that we can use our minds, talents, training, research, and skill to accomplish God’s good purposes. I will thank God for miracles and I will thank God for medicine.

I believe that I can and should trust God—whatever happens to me. God has demonstrated that he can be trusted in Jesus Christ. Jesus died and rose to bring me forgiveness and life, hope and eternity. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know God, and I know that he knows.

For now, I plan to remember that life is short, so I’d better not waste it. I’m NED (no evidence of disease) but I’m still terminal—we all are—so God help me to make the most of this life that you’ve given me.

Posted in Journey with Cancer | 13 Comments

Changing the face of lung cancer

06B-DavidTomorrow is World Cancer Day. The Lung Foundation are launching a campaign called Changing the face of lung cancer. The aim is to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage people to understand the importance of recognising symptoms to aid in early detection. Along with a number of others, I’ve been asked to share my story. You can view it here. Let me encourage you to read each of the stories on this site. When it comes to reporting on cancer, so often we simply hear the statistics. Well, every statistic is a precious life that matters to God, to family, and to many others. You will meet many wonderful people as you read through their stories.

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The Power of I Am

iamI am grieved. I am angry. I am appalled. I am not going to buy this book. I am calling people to stay clear of this false gospel. There—I’ve said it. This is fundamentally false teaching. Some might say this is blasphemy. I’d say it’s ignorant and dangerous at best. It’s popular. It sells. And it’s toxic. This is not what our world needs. This is not what our God is offering. This is graceless, hopeless, truth less, and fruitless. If this is indicative of what this man teaches, then keep your distance.

Why the rant? Because I just visited my local Christian bookshop and found this volume prominently displayed in the new release section. I stayed a while and skim read the book. I arrived home, gathered my mail, and found this same book on the recommended Christmas reading list of a Christian bookshop catalogue. So, woe to me if I do not speak. If a blind man prepared to step off the edge of a cliff, I would take hold of him tightly. If my grandson picked a toadstool believing it to be a mushroom, I would snatch it from his mouth. So I say, beware this book. It might look real, it might look healthy, it might even reference the Bible again and again, but it will leave you unwell.

Pardon my naivety, but I opened this book expecting to read of the wonder and power of Yahweh—the one true God, the great I AM or maybe to be reminded of the wondrous I AM sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Instead I read the narcissistic promises of a ‘name it and claim it’ speech-faith preacher. Rather than hearing the call to humble myself before the God of all the earth, I am told to banish all negative thoughts and place ‘me’ at the centre. I am told to be positive or be quiet. No!

Osteen calls his readers to Speak These “I Am”s over Your Life

IMG_1527  IMG_1528

Please, whatever happened to I am undeserving, I am weak, I am a slave, I am rejoicing in suffering, I am being poured out like a drink offering? Where is the call to lose our lives for Christ’s sake? Why has the glory of God been replaced with the glory of self?

Joel Osteen, follow the example of Volkswagen, and recall your fraudulent books.

Posted in Books, Christian living | 7 Comments

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible

ESVLast week I received a free copy of the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible. I was surprised as I couldn’t remember ordering it. The accompanying letter asked if I would be willing to review it. Normally I would read a book from cover to cover before writing a review. I can honestly say I’ve only read a small portion of this volume over the past week. But I have read other versions of the same book. Some years I’ve read it through more than once. I’ve read this ESV translation and I’ve also read other translations, such as the NIV and the HCSB.

So, on the basis of my previous readings, let me say this is a must read. It’s living and active. I believe it’s the word of God himself through multiple human authors over multiple centuries in multiple real life contexts. It’s an awesome collection of works, of different genres, revealing a coherent narrative. It’s helpful and practical. It’s graceful and glorious. It’s simple and sometimes complicated. It shines a spotlight on the Almighty God and climaxes in the revelation of his Son. It holds a mirror to my heart. It gives me hope beyond my circumstances. It speaks into every context of my life. It liberates me from religious law keeping. It guides my decision making. It offers me deep wisdom. It inspires me from grace to grace.

I must confess this book sometimes spends too much time on my shelf. It gets reduced to a means for ministry rather than being a gateway to intimacy with God. I turn reading into a chore rather than a delight. I rush my way through this volume rather than pausing to meditate on the beauty it reveals. And so I miss out.

I’m grateful to be asked to review this Bible because it gives me cause to open this book of books and look again on the glory God.

But, I have a feeling that the publisher may desire something a little different from a review! Perhaps a comment on this particular publication. And not just the text of the Bible, but the other bits they’ve added. So here goes.

This Bible’s appearance is plain and yet formal and sophisticated, even professional. It’s black with page numbers and headings printed in gold text. This looks impressive, but I find the headings hard to read in certain light.

This is a devotional bible, especially for men. I like the idea because men need to read the Bible—and yet often don’t—and Bible reading should lead to devotion to God. Various authors have contributed brief articles to assist us to reflect on the meaning and application of Bible as we read. I know a few of the authors and I’m encouraged that they have a deep respect for the Bible. They are keen to let it speak for itself. There are 365 of these scattered throughout, so this might give you an idea about how to pace yourself in your reading. The articles I’ve read have all highlighted important truths in the text, and not simply used the Bible passage to launch into another issue. Some have been more applicational and devotion-inspiring than others.

In addition to the daily devotional comments, there are some slightly longer articles of particular relevance to men. These include such topics as  work, singleness, identity, fathering, pornography, life in the local church, doubt, and more. While none of these matters are uniquely relevant to fellas, they cover topics that I often hear men asking about.

Each book of the Bible is preceded by a brief introduction to orient us as we start our reading. While many of the comments can be discovered through the process of reading, it doesn’t hurt to see a map or some key landmarks before we embark on our journey.

Sometimes I worry about extra stuff that gets printed in Bibles. The mere fact that additional text has been bound together with the Word of God can confuse the novice reader. Which bits have authority and which sections should I be evaluating for their accuracy and relevance? There is a good argument for printing a companion volume to the Bible—perhaps one you could slip inside the cover or packaging of the Bible. At least this way, it will be clearer what is human and what is divine. They could have matching covers and cross-references to help you turn to comments on the text you are reading. But I haven’t been asked to design my own devotional Bible!

A related danger of printing articles on topics as ‘part of’ the Bible is that they can too easily be regarded as the last word on the matter. What do you do if you find yourself disagreeing with part of this volume of the Bible, even if it’s not really part of the Bible? The discerning reader can make these assessments, but the novice needs to be guided to make the appropriate distinctions.

If you are a bloke who desires to read the Bible to get to know God more closely then this publication might help you to get on with it. You don’t need a ‘devotional’ Bible to do this, but having the wisdom of some Christian brothers guiding you along the way might help you—especially in some of the more difficult sections. To be honest, I don’t mind if you read this particular ‘model’ of the Bible or not. I’d just love you to discover the delight of reading God’s life-giving, life-shaping Word—whatever the packaging.

 

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Distressingly desensitised

lung_cancer_awarenessI headed to the chemo ward last week, much the same as any other week. But there was a difference—it wasn’t my week for treatment. I was visiting a friend who was having chemo for the first time and I figured he’d like some support.

As I drove to the hospital I became distressed. Not because I was heading to my least favourite place in the universe. Not because my friend had cancer. Not because he was only 17 years of age.

I was upset that the whole experience seemed normal. It seemed okay to be visiting a boy with cancer. I wasn’t shocked or horrified that this should be happening to someone so young and fit, who had their whole life ahead of them. There were no cries or tears or anger. I realised that cancer had become normalised for me. And I hated that fact.

There is nothing normal or acceptable about cancer. It’s a blight. It’s a parasite. It feeds on life. It steals life. It destroys life.

Dear God, please fix my blurred vision to see things for what they truly are. May I not grow desensitised to disease and suffering and death. May I not grow blasé to the horrors of cancer. Enable me to weep with those who weep. Fill my heart with compassion and kindness. Strengthen my hope in your saving grace and lead me to share this with others.

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Gratias – Mr Nicholls

IMG_1387Over the last weekend I returned to the city of Launceston where I’d lived from 1972 to 1974. I felt a sense of nostalgia flying over the Bass Strait. We drove past the church in Margaret Street where I’d been to Sunday School and boy scouts. Faces and a few names came to mind. Happy times. Times of mischief. Losing my voice for a couple of weeks as I dived to catch a ball and coat-hangered myself on the edge of a wooden bench.

I remembered a man at the church—I think it was Mr Nicholls—asking me if I was left or right handed. He planned to buy me a fishing rod and reel and he wanted to know what type of reel to get. I was right handed, so he bought me a left handed reel! I’ve used the same fickle approach with my kids as he thought it made more sense to have your strongest hand on the rod.

Mr Nicholls was simply a kind-hearted bloke in our church. Neither of my parents fished, so he stepped into the gap. He introduced me to what would become a lifetime hobby. To be fair, my dad sewed my first rod and tackle bag, and my mum would reimburse me for bait if I provided fish for a meal. I thank Mr Nicholls because he demonstrated that adults can have a major influence on the life of kids—even when they’re not our own. He taught me something about being generous and taking an active in interest in others.

IMG_2031I still love throwing a line in the water. It doesn’t happen that often, but there’s something peaceful about watching the sun rise over the ocean as I wait for the first bites of the morning. There’s not too many other things that get me up before dawn. It’s thrilling to hook into a boiling school of tailor, to watch a massive barramundi do all it can to throw the hook, or to come home with a heavy bag of fresh fish. I enjoy the solace of being alone with my thoughts.

IMG_1155Fishing has also been fun for my family. Fiona and I used to share a kiss if we caught more than one whiting on the same worm! The kids would spend hours with me digging for pippis, catching little (and sometimes bigger) fish. Sometimes we’ve depended on catching fish for food and managed to catch enough to keep us going. One time we caught so many fish my reel seized up and our bags broke from the weight of our catch.

We’ve had some unbelievable moments, like the time Matthew got a fish hook through his finger, while it was still attached to a live barramundi, with our whole family in 4 meter tinny in crocodile infested waters in Kakadu. This was after someone yelled at him to stop hanging his feet over the side. And this was just before a 5 metre croc leapt vertically out of the water to take a large bird. He got to publish his story in a national fishing magazine at the age of 9!

There’ve also been some sobering moments. Like the friend who took his two boys fishing and only brought one home, after a large wave tossed his son into the ocean. Fishing has brought me great joy, but it’s also been the context of major tragedy for others. We bathe in the wonder of this beautiful creation and yet we’re so small and exposed. Each time I return home without having caught a fish I’m reminded that I’m not in control of this world—I depend on the one who made it and sustains it. God is the one who gives me my daily bread and my occasional fish.

And I thank God for introducing me to Mr Nicholls.

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