Q & A about Hope Beyond Cure

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Dave is interviewed by his friend Phil Campbell at Mitchelton Presbyterian Church’s annual Food For Thought Dinner on 15 May 2014. Dave shares his journey with cancer and his struggle to rediscover solid hope in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Click on the image above to watch this 64 minute video.

Posted in Journey with Cancer | 1 Comment

Hiep and the hope of heaven

sunriseThis afternoon my friend, Hiep, went to be with his Lord. We sadly farewell him and will miss him. Some of you will know Hiep as the friendly face who greeted you at the door of FOCUS at UC or Crossroads at ANU on a Sunday night. He loved the opportunity to welcome people and shake their hands. Only last Thursday, as Fiona and I sat talking with Hiep, he asked that I pray for God to heal him so he could return to welcoming people into the gatherings at Uni.

Hiep and I shared a very personal journey over the past year or so. We both had lung cancer. We were both non-smokers. We both feared the impact of our disease. Fiona pushed for genetic testing for me and she was able to do the same for Hiep. This led to treatment options that gave him more time with his family and friends.

As we’d meet, on a semi-regular basis, we sought to encourage each other with the hope of eternity. He would spur me on to trust in God, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Hiep was not one to seek distractions or to live in denial. Often he would ask me to turn the television off, and just read a verse or two from the Bible, and pray for him.

Last week I planned to read a few verses from 1 Peter 1:3-9. I’d left my Bible at home, and for some reason my phone Bible got stuck on a paraphrase called The Message, so I read him these words. How apt they were…

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.

I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

Hiep shared with me some time back his confident hope beyond cure. He asked if he could contribute his testimony to a future edition of the book! He said, “This is true—this is my hope.” Hiep now has what he has been looking forward to—the realisation of his hope. I can almost picture him extending his hand of greeting, smiling, and offering a heartfelt welcome to people as they enter into the presence of God. 

Posted in Journey with Cancer | 8 Comments

Worth celebrating

IMG_2218Today marks exactly two and a half years since I was admitted to hospital with lung cancer. It’s normal in cancer circles to speak about 5 year survival rates. With stage 4 lung cancer the 5 year survival is very low indeed. Well, here I am, doing well, 40 something chemo cycles later, generally pretty healthy, back into regular ministry, enjoying my grandson, time with my family… plenty to thank God for!

Saturday marked another anniversary—my first birthday as NED! On May 31 2013, the CT scan report declared me to be NED (no evidence of disease). Recent scans confirmed that I am still NED a year later. Thank you God!

I mentioned to Steve Larkham last week that this was an important anniversary weekend for me. He called back and invited me to address the players at the captains run, before presenting each player with his jersey for the game against the Rebels. This was an honour indeed, and I shared with them how my circumstances had led me to number my days, take nothing for granted, make the most of my opportunities, and prioritise what I value most.

IMG_2230It was a great night on Saturday. I enjoyed watching the Brumbies with my family. Liam got to take in the atmosphere from the sidelines before the game, as well as meeting the Brumbies mascot, Brumby Jack. Our team had their most convincing win of the year, collecting a bonus point against the Rebels. After the game, I got to catch up with Julian Huxley (former Brumby/Rebel and brain cancer survivor) and we shared a few words and a few hugs. The coaches, Laurie, Stephen, and a few others suggested I give the speech before other games if we’re going to win like that each time. I think I’ll keep my record intact with one-from-one!

Posted in Journey with Cancer | 7 Comments

Tim Challies reviews Hope Beyond Cure

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 1.37.17 pmI woke this morning afternoon to a number of messages informing me that Tim Challies—a prominent North American blogger—had picked up my book and written a review. I share it with you here…

It began with two devastating words: “tumor” and “incurable.” If they are not words you have ever heard, they are probably words heard by someone near you, someone you love or loved. They were words David McDonald heard as well.

McDonald had pastored for just about twenty years and by 2011 had decided to begin a new work. He and his family would leave Canberra, Australia, and move thousands of kilometers north to Darwin, a remote but needy city. They were going there to found a new church. They secured support, made the journey a couple of times, found a place to live, made all the necessary preparations, packed the truck, and sent it off. They were all ready to begin the next twenty years of ministry.

And then, just days before the big move, there was shortness of breath, numbness in the limbs. Something was wrong. Really wrong. There was a visit to the specialist and the terrible diagnosis: lung cancer. Incurable. Stage 4. Best-case scenario: he might live to see next Christmas.

In all the difficulty and in all the devastation, he needed to find hope. With the fatal diagnosis and with the best of modern medicine unable to offer the promise of health, he knew he had to look for hope beyond cure.

Hope Beyond Cure describes his search for hope. Yes, he was a pastor. Yes, he had walked with others through devastating and even terminal illness. But now it was him and now he was the one whose faith had been rocked and whose dreams had been shattered. He wasn’t ever tempted to throw away his Christian faith. Not at all. But he did realize the importance of deep and deeply satisfying answers.

Faith and reason have shaped this book. Together they have given me hope. I don’t know everything there is to know about cancer or God. I’ve studied them both, but my understanding is partial and limited. My ignorance outweighs my knowledge, even though I’m learning more day by day. But this knowledge of cancer and of God isn’t simply in my head—it’s deeply personal. I don’t just know about them—they are part of my life and my experience. I know cancer and I know God. And it’s because I know God that I believe there is real hope for those who have cancer, for those who are struggling, for those who have lost hope—for everyone.

The hope he describes is the best and truest hope because it is founded upon the best and truest reality—that God is real and that he has sent his Son into this world to redeem sinners. McDonald goes to the gospel, but he does it in such a faith-stirring and helpful way. These aren’t easy answers. These aren’t trite solutions to deep problems. These are truths drawn carefully and consistently from the Bible, and all the while combined with the strength of human experience.

Each of us knows someone who will suffer from cancer. Many who read these words will some day be diagnosed. Hope Beyond Cure is a book to read if you, like McDonald, are a Christian and suffering and need to be reminded of what is true. It is an appropriate book to hand to an unbeliever as well; it is written in a gentle and humble style that is not the least bit offensive.

As Christians, we have nothing better to offer than what the Bible tells us and no better hope than the hope it describes—a hope beyond cure. Here is a book that offers deep answers to deep questions, all the while tempered by deep wells of experience. It is powerful, it is helpful, and it comes highly recommended.

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I’m overjoyed at the reach and impact Hope Beyond Cure is having, and how God is using this book to give people—all sorts of people—real and lasting hope. I received this message from a friend last week. The names have been changed…

Hi Dave,

Spoke to a friend of mine who works at the Catholic Aged Care facility. She noticed your book on Sister Mary’s desk and asked her about it (Sister Mary is the chaplain). Sister Mary raved about it, apparently it has been passed around to all the old nuns and priests, many of whom are terminally ill. She explained to Robyn, my friend, that many are afraid of death because they are afraid that they have not done enough good works to get to heaven. They have been so excited about the book that they can have assurance of eternal life. A number of the nuns have given up the struggle to live and died peacefully after reading the book, thankful that finally they can be sure of being with their heavenly father! All I can say in response to this is WOW. Robyn is going to ask Sister Mary to write to you.

Your sister in Christ

Posted in Investigating Christianity, Journey with Cancer | 5 Comments

Will you be my Facebook friend?

facebookSome books are long. Others are short. Don’t judge the value of a book by its size. Will you be my Facebook friend? Social Media and the Gospel is only 48 pages short. The font size is large and the lines are well spaced, but the message is profoundly important. Tim Chester asks us to carefully consider both the benefits and the pitfalls of social media. This isn’t a tirade against the internet, but rather a plea to use it wisely. Social media has the capacity to radically distort reality, and we need to be wise to the dangers. Chester doesn’t leave us with a call to be more self-disciplined, which will lead only to pride or despair. Rather, he reminds us how the gospel reorients our lives and puts them back in real perspective—God’s perspective.

Here are a few words to consider…

The genius of Facebook is that all your friends come to you and all your friends come to them. So we simultaneously all inhabit our own little worlds, each with me at the centre. (p20)

Is your Facebook self more attractive or successful than your real-world self? (p26)

Am I using Facebook to enhance real-world relationships, or to replace them? (p39)

Remember the medium is the message, and Facebook was designed by a teenage nerd. (p42)

The Facebook comments wither and the tweets fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (p46)

If you or your kids are into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, spend hours in front of the TV, surf the net, scour blog sites, or the like—then do yourself a favour, turn off the computer, the TV, the X-Box, or whatever else, make yourself a coffee and read this book. It might take two cups of coffee, but I think you’ll find it worthwhile!

Posted in Books, Christian living, Relationships | 2 Comments

Crazy Busy

crazybusyI read this book some months back and was intending to review it immediately. But then something happened—I got crazy busy! I took on a new ministry role and pretty soon I had a full diary, began skipping exercise, let my good eating habits go, kept myself awake at night thinking about things, and couldn’t even find time to finish a summary/review of what is a fairly short and simple book.

Crazy Busy: a (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem is a book for Christian leaders that was always destined to be a best-seller. I’ve yet to meet a pastor who doesn’t cry ‘busy’. To be honest, it’s rare to meet anyone these days who doesn’t lay claim to being crazy busy. Busyness is epidemic in our fast-paced, technologically-advanced, opportunity-laden, affluent, western societies. All the ridiculous promises for the future—that we will have so much time on our hands that we won’t know what to do with it—were just that: ridiculous promises. In fact, in some circles busyness is worn as a badge of honour. Unless someone is busy they shouldn’t be taken seriously.

De Young warns of the dangers of busyness…

But if the strain is mental—as is the case for most jobs and for most of us—the negative impact on the body can be huge. So don’t ignore the physical danger of busyness. Just remember the most serious threats are spiritual. When we are crazy busy, we put our souls at risk. The challenge is not merely to make a few bad habits go away. The challenge is not to let our spiritual lives slip away. The dangers are serious, and they are growing. And few of us are as safe as we may think. (p26)

Busyness can blind us to problems that are deep and destructive. Our lives can become joyless as we struggle to keep up with all the demands. It can rob our hearts of the opportunities to reflect, learn, and grow. Discontent can eat away at us as we envy the time, opportunities, and ‘freedoms’ of others. Busyness can cover up deeper problems within our souls. Having our diaries and planners crammed full does not equate to faithfulness or fruitfulness. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. (p32)

Crazy Busy offers seven diagnoses to consider in understanding the depth of our problems with busyness. The first of these is pride. He strings a list of ‘P’ words together to make his point. These include people-pleasing, proving ourselves, seeking pity, poor planning, a need for power, the problem of perfectionism, seeking prestige, and more. De Young has found one simple question helps him to assess whether pride lies behind his busyness…

Am I trying to do good, or make myself look good? (p39)

The second diagnosis has to do with obligation. Are we trying to do what God doesn’t expect us to do? We need to be reminded often that we are not the Christ; that the gospel is great news of joy—not a demand of all that must be done; that care is not the same as do; that we have different gifts and different callings; that the church is a body with many parts; that prayer is something positive and practical we can do; and that even Jesus didn’t do it all. Above all, we need to remember that it’s not up to us to keep the universe going—God has that covered.

De Young’s third diagnosis focuses on mission creep. He reminds us of the importance of setting and sticking to priorities. Jesus recognised that there were so many good things he could do, but he would not let the good get in the way of his number one priorities. Jesus was not ultimately driven by the needs or the approval of others. He was focused on his divine mission. Not that we are on a mission from God in the same vein as Jesus, but the point is that if Jesus had to set and stick to priorities, then so must we. We simply cannot do everything and nor should we try.

Fourthly, we are warned to stop freaking out about our kids. He reminds us that it’s harder to ruin our kids than we think and it’s impossible to guarantee their future successes. In trying to do more and more for our kids we may be increasing the build up of stress in our lives and theirs. De Young refers to a Galinsky survey of more than thousand children in grades three to twelve. He asked the kids what was one thing they would change about the way their parents’ work was affecting them.

The kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and less stressed.  (p70)

The fifth diagnosis looks at the impact of the screen and technology. De Young confesses that he used to roll his eyes about technophiles, until he became one!

Now I have a blog, a Facebook Page, a Twitter handle, a Bluetooth headset, an iPhone, an iPad, wifi at work and at home, cable TV, a Wii, a Blu-ray player, multiple email accounts, and unlimited texting. (p78)

We’re warned to take seriously the threat of addiction to all our devices. Multiple lines of instant communication can be a continual distraction to achieving anything productive. Our busyness makes us more prone to descending into trivia and mindlessly tuning out in front of the TV or the internet. It’s hard to be alone when we are ‘on call’ all the time—and being alone is important. We need to ask the hard questions about whether our new technologies are making our lives simpler, or more complicated. What steps should we take to ensure that such things remain our servants and don’t become our masters?

Diagnosis number six reminds us of the necessity of rest. God’s design was that we work and we rest. The danger these days is that we blur these two. Life becomes overwhelming because our days and weeks and years lack rhythm. We take work home with us. Our phones and lap tops are part work/part pleasure. We give lip service to the idea of day off, but we’re never totally on or off. (I confess this is my struggle.) De Young reminds us that we need to work hard just to rest. Breaks need to be planned. Unscheduled time needs to be scheduled. The rhythms of work and rest need planning. (p98)

The final diagnosis is a surprise one. We are busy because we are supposed to be busy. We’re too quick to assume that life was intended to be easy, comfortable, relaxed, calm. The reality is that we are sinful beings living in a complex world. We should expect to struggle with tiredness, illness, confusion, complex relationships, burdens and busyness. Sometimes our problem lies not with the circumstances but with our attitudes to them. We’re caught out, confused, and we don’t know how to respond.

The antidote to busyness of soul is not sloth and indifference. The antidote is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude, and trust in the providence of God. (p102)

De Young’s answer is to point us to Jesus. We are encouraged to spend time ‘at his feet’ listening to his words. We’re called to devote ourselves to the Word of God and prayer. The problem is, when I hear this, it can sound like another busyness burden to add to all the others. And so I need to be reminded that it is God’s word that refocuses and refreshes me. It is through prayer that I can unload my burdens and anxieties upon God. Beginning the day with God helps me to keep perspective. To Do lists, difficult conversations, meetings, preparation and planning, sermons, studies, and everything else, need to be seen from the perspective that only God’s word can provide—eternity. And so I will learn again to humbly ask for God’s wisdom, grace, and strength, to do what he would have me do, for his glory.

Posted in Books, Leadership, Stress and burnout | 5 Comments