Walking to beat cancer

This week I have achieved my goal of walking 60 kilometres—specifically, 61.8 km in the last seven days. That might not seem like much to some of you, but it is the furthest I’ve walked in over 10 years. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Fiona and others have been calling me for years to pay more attention to my health and fitness, so I am hoping this is the beginning of something, rather than a flash in the pan.

The reason for this week has been to join a bunch of my ‘cancer buddies’ raising support for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute in Melbourne. This place is so important to overcoming cancer, not only in Australia, but it the world. And how amazing to have a public hospital devoted to world class outcomes for people with serious and often terminal diseases. I was inspired by one of my friends Lisa, to join this fund raiser on the day it started. And I’m so glad I did.

I set a target of raising $10000. To be honest, I thought $2000 at first. But then I realised, let’s be a bit more aspirational. After all, that is only 100 friends giving $100. Well, we are over 40% of the total and the campaign continues for a few more days. Please consider whether you can give a little or a lot to support this valuable centre that is helping my friends and I to live longer and better with a terminal disease.

Please click on the link below to support.

https://my.unitetofightcancer.org.au/dave-mcdonald

Netflix or the Bible

mollie-sivaram-yubCnXAA3H8-unsplashThis morning I read some stats from a US research company on how Americans are managing the pandemic. The results aren’t at all surprising, but they are a cause for alarm. I haven’t seen equivalent research for the Aussie context, but I doubt our figures would show any improvement.

To help them cope with the pandemic, most Americans said they are staying home to watch Netflix and chill: 89% reported that they are watching TV or movies daily or weekly. This includes 90% of all Christians, 87% of Jews and 88% of the religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew.

Many Americans (84%) also are spending time outdoors or talking by phone or video with family and friends (70%), the survey said.

But fewer are turning to their faith for support.

More than half (55%) reported praying at least weekly, followed by reading Scripture (29%), meditating (26%) and practicing yoga (8%).

https://julieroys.com/to-cope-with-pandemic-americans-choose-tv-over-bible/

This confirms indications that there has been a rise in prayer during this period. Though, I wonder if longitudinal studies will demonstrate a spike in ‘crisis’ prayers tapering off with things becoming more ‘chronic’.

A worldwide crisis calls Christians to worldwide prayer. Now is the time above all to be drawing near to God for comfort and strength. Now is the time to listen to God, to be reminded of his intense glory, his sovereign power, his promise to judge the wicked, is loving mercy, his grace to the humble, the incarnation of his Son, and his promise of restoration to come.

As I speak with my Christian friends, I fear we have the balance wrong. Some of us are watching news almost ever waking minute of everyday. Our minds are saturated with numbers, testing, positive cases, epicentres, hotspots, clusters, close contacts, numbers in ICU, deaths. The numbers are staggering, catastrophic, overwhelming, even numbing. And then, as if for relief, we add US-China tensions, Beirut blasts, political posturing, and football.

I tend to watch an hour of news most days, local and international. I flick around the internet, checking reports, reading an online paper, following news feeds. We often watch a show in the evenings. Maybe a miniseries, or a movie, or a catch up of some old series we enjoyed. Some are glued to screens most of the time. The most honest advertising I’ve seen recently was the introduction of Foxtel’s new streaming service and calling it ‘Binge’. (If only the gaming, alcohol, and tobacco industries were so honest about their intentions.) The aim is addiction. You can escape into another world and leave the real worries of this world behind—until you have to work again tomorrow after 2 hours sleep.

OK, so what am I recommending? Listening to God daily. Taking the time to read from the Bible. Hearing God’s perspective on what matters matter most. Discovering an antidote to anxiety and fear. Being reminded of God’s deep secure love and his promise to never leave nor forsake us. Grappling with the questions of suffering and pain, death and disaster. Having our hearts warmed by the rich mercies of God in Christ Jesus. Being comforted by the Comforter, who dwells in all who trust in Jesus. Being moved beyond ourselves to show love and compassion to others.

Can you find time each day to turn off the TV, put away your device, open a Bible—yes, a real one, with a cover, paper pages, where you can highlight, jot notes, flick between passages, and come back to things you’ve read before?

Why not change the TV diet. A little less Netflix. Listen again to the sermon from Sunday. Start a reading program. Mix it up. Dwell deeply in the Psalms. Explore the existential questions in Ecclesiastes. Take an attitude check with James. Rediscover worship in Romans 12. Recharge for ministry from Philippians. Investigate Jesus from the Gospels.

During the pandemic I’ve been aiming to record a Bible talk each day, with the aim of encouraging people from our church, and others, to keep a regular balanced diet of God’s word. There are talks for enquirers, equipment for people in ministry, encouragement to godly living, and calls to persevere under trial. Why not replace a little TV, with a regular Bible Bite.

It started as a pandemic project, but I’m hoping to keep it going. It’s been encouraging to hear from husbands and wives who watch an episode each day over coffee to explore God’s word together, from people who are sick and appreciate a brief exposition, from a Christian radio station who are broadcasting them, from Bible study leaders who have used them to supplement their programs, and from people isolated here and abroad, who have been encouraged by God’s word.

Please have a think about your spiritual diet. Check out the talks at http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks and subscribe for regular updates. I’d love to hear how you use them and if they’re a help in any way.

You can find the following Bible Bites (5-10 minutes):
Psalms (3 talks ongoing)
Ecclesiastes (38 talks)
Philippians (22 talks)
Titus (19 talks ongoing)
James (23 talks)

And the following sermons (roughly 20 minutes):
Romans 12 (10 talks)
2 Corinthians (2 talks ongoing)

Christian, keep on persevering

fabien-wl-7ieLK3L-j54-unsplashI listened last night as representatives of the World Health Organisation described our world as a tinder box. It will only take a spark here or there to keep fuelling the flames of our global pandemic. I watch with dismay as the state of Victoria records the highest total daily coronavirus cases on record. Sydney is declared a hotspot and people around me are starting to wear masks. I’m distressed as I hear that my nephew is infected with Covid-19 and quarantines from family and friends.

How long, O Lord? When will we meet again? When will you bring relief from our pain?

Being a Christian isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. We face many trials and difficulties of many kinds. There are stresses and struggles to hinder our path. There are threats and dangers to persevering in Christ.

James offers us half-time encouragement. He cheers us us on from the sidelines, and his letter offers refreshment and sustenance for the race.

James also warns us of the threats within us. There are huge dangers of going through the motions. We can easily pay lip surface to our Christian faith, failing to watch our mouths, ignoring the needs of the poor and needy, and being double-minded in our attitudes.

Please join me in listening to James. You can find short talk ‘Bible Bites’ on You Tube at http://youtube/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

  • You could listen to a talk a day
  • Grab a coffee, open your Bible and laptop
  • Join with your spouse and discuss a couple of points together
  • Use in your growth groups face-to-face or via zoom
  • Share with your mission partners
  • Stimulate a conversation with friends via facebook

James 1:1-4  Growing faith muscles

James 1:5-8  Don’t be double-minded

James 1:9-12  Seeing things God’s way

James 1:13-18  It’s not God’s fault

James 1:19-21  How do you listen?

James 1:22-25  Put what you learn into practice

James 1:26-27  Genuine Christianity

 

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 4)

U tube“G’day, Dave here, and we’re looking at…”

That’s been my (almost) daily refrain during lockdown. I’ve worked slowly through Ecclesiastes. This is the end of Philippians. And now I’m beginning the book of James.

Philippians has been a huge encouragement to me to realign myself with the gospel. To see afresh the humility of Jesus and to give myself for the sake of others.

This final chapter of Philippians calls us again to work out our differences and be united. We are encouraged not to be anxious, but to seek God’s help. We are reminded that we need spiritual food to survive. And we learn the secret of contentment.

I hope you are encouraged by these Bible Bites from Philippians.

Recipe for reconciliation  (Philippians 4:2-7)

A spiritually healthy diet  (Philippians 4:8-9)

The secret of contentment  (Philippians 4:10-13)

Financial partnerships  (Philippians 4:14-23)

You can receive notifications when new talks are uploaded, by subscribing to my You Tube channel.  http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 3)

U tubeIn Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul exposes the vulgarity of self-righteous religion. He explains how Christianity is not about what we do for God, but what he has already done for us. He reveals how following Jesus is a relationship, not a set of rules and rituals. He shows how we can know God deeply.

You can receive notifications when new talks are uploaded, by subscribing to my You Tube channel.  http://youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks

Spiritual health and safety  (Philippians 3:1-3)

It’s not what we do for God  (Philippians 3:4-7)

Relationship not religion  (Philippians 3:8-9)

Really knowing Christ  (Philippians 3:10-11)

Pressing on  (Philippians 3:12-16)

Stand firm  (Philippians 3:17 – 4:1)

 

 

The cancerous truth

national-cancer-institute-0YBIMOqQzt0-unsplashCovid-19 isn’t the only big C going around. Do you remember cancer? Yep. It’s still with us. We haven’t found a cure and there is no vaccine.

I was shocked this morning to hear that Tim Keller has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Who is Tim? I’d say he’s one of the most thoughtful, winsome, well read, visionary, author, preacher, and church leaders of our day. If I get fifty people listening to a sermon, then he’ll get upwards of fifty thousand. If we’ve seen a new church started in a neighbouring suburb, then he’s overseen the planting of large churches in major cities all around the globe.

But “Who cares?” says cancer. It doesn’t discriminate. It will take down the rich and famous, the powerful and erudite, the Chinese and the Americans. Cancer is no respecter of persons. It hides in the background, waits until you least expect it, then… pounce! It finds a location, sets up a base, assembles its troops, and plans its attack. Sometimes it fires a few warning shots—a lesion on the skin, a lump in the breast, a cough that doesn’t pass, some blood in the faeces. But more often than not it works secretly, stealthily, silently, scheming its next moves.

Or so it seems. The truth is that cancer is not ‘out there’ to be avoided by social distancing, lockdowns and hand hygiene. It’s inside us, and from us, and part of us, fighting the rest of us. Cancer is like the internal riots we’ve seen recently in the US. Only it’s happening inside us all the time. Damaged cells. Genetic change. Mutations in the chromosomes.  Glitches in the DNZ code not picked up by the spellchecker. Cancer is me going rogue and attacking me.

Cancer brings grief, heartache, pain, suffering, and loss. Many, many will pray for Tim Keller. Many prayed for me. I thank you. Please keep praying. Pray also for wives, husbands, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, and communities.

On Sunday my heart sank to hear that my good friend Andrew has lymphoma. I will be praying for him, and his family. And I will keep praying for many other friends in the grip of this disease. To live with cancer is to walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

The coronavirus has reminded our world that we are mortal. But I fear that it has only half-reminded us. It’s warned us of the possibility that we will die. We’ve heard that we are all at risk. We must take every precaution. We have to protect the vulnerable. If we don’t, then people will die, and in catastrophic numbers.

All that is true. Well, almost. The deeper reality is that we all walk through the valley of the shadow of death. That is our life. The shadow is ever present. We just choose to ignore it. When coronavirus threatens, it gets harder to ignore. When cancer hits, it becomes almost inescapable.

My networks are filled with people finding it very hard to escape this awful truth. Our cancers won’t let us. Lisa, Paul, Lillian, Corey, Alison, Alastair, Anita, Marilyn, Gary, Paul, Graham, Kim, Rita, Zack, Liam, Stephanie, Vangie, Sam, Wendy, Linnea, John, Natalie, Norman, Colin, Jim, Drew, Janet, Steve, Jack, Peter, Max, Jill, Lachlan… and I could go on. We need these words from the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
for ever.

Jesus said in John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Turn to the good shepherd while you can.

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 2)

U tubePaul’s letter from prison lockdown to the Christians in Philippi is a warm, heartfelt encouragement to following Jesus. In chapter 2 Jesus’ extreme humility is presented as the model for Christian relationships. Impossible? Certainly, unless God is at work within us to will and to act. We are called to lives of humble gladness rather than selfish grumbling and arguing. Paul’s colleague, Timothy, and his Philippians friend, Epaphroditus, give us a picture of what humble service looks like in practice.

You can link to any of the Philippians chapter 2 short talks via the links below.

I have recorded more than 50 talks during the coronavirus lockdown and you can find talks on Ecclesiastes, Romans 12, and Philippians on my You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/c/davemcdonaldbibletalks. Please subscribe.

Sharing in abundance  (Philippians 2:1-4)

Ultimate humility  (Philippians 2:5-8)

Ultimate glory  (Philippians 2:9-11)

Work out your salvation  (Philippians 2:12-13)

Grumbling and gladness  (Philippians 2:14-18)

Models of humility  (Philippians 2:19-30)

 

 

 

A letter from lockdown (Philippians 1)

You are invited to join me working through another book of the Bible. I will be exploring Paul’s letter to the Philippians in bite size chunks each day. Please subscribe to my You Tube channel and click the little ‘bell’ to receive notifications of new posts. Being a novice to You Tube, I had accidentally prevented people from getting notifications, so if you aren’t receiving them, please go back to the channel and hopefully the bell will appear for you to click! Rather than post a link to the talks on my blog each day, I will only post updates from time to time.

Below is a link to the trailer for these talks to introduce people to what I am doing.

My hope is that you are encouraged to get to know Jesus better as you read Paul’s letter to the Philippians and watch these short talks. Click on any of the links below to the talks on You Tube:

A letter from lockdown  (Philippians 1:1-2)

Partners in grace  (Philippians 1:3-8)

Big little prayers  (Philippians 1:9-11)

Lockdown gospel opportunities  (Philippians 1:12-18)

What’s your life about?  (Philippians 1:18-26)

Where do you belong?  (Philippians 1:27-30)

 

Pastor, don’t panic!

jasmin-sessler-egqR_zUd4NI-unsplashWe’ve been told that things will never be the same again, and they won’t. The world has shifted. Massive movements of global social tectonic force.

Destruction, disease, death, disaster. People overwhelmed, unprepared, ill-equipped, devastated, helplessness, anxious. Panic, blame, fear, and conspiracy theories. The best of governance and the ugly, narcissistic, worst from leaders. Massive loss. Lives, futures, prosperity.

So much has shut down. Businesses, bars, clubs, sports, homes, schools, churches, parks, beaches, borders, transport and travel.

Everyone is buying phones, tablets, computers, and faster internet. Life has gone online. We compete for screen time. We cry out for more bandwidth. Zoom has become the new Uber.

Learn the tech. Use the tech. Master the tech.

We’re tired. And we don’t know when or where it will all end.

Our values are being challenged. People are three dimensional, not two. We crave touch and intimacy. We weren’t meant to live in isolation. We long to be together. And yet we fear what this will mean.

And now things are changing. Lockdowns are being lifted. We are peering out the window. We’re wandering down the street. People are starting to gather.

What will happen with church?

Pastors are anxious.

We’re being told this is the single most important moment in living history. The platform has burned down. Everyone knows it. We can’t go back. We get to rewrite the script. Lose the bad. Tweak the awkward. Hang on to the good. Create the new.

Unprecedented numbers of people visiting church online. Questions being asked about the meaning of life. New opportunities. Fresh vision. Now is the time.

You’ve got one shot. One opportunity. One episode in time. One opening. One responsibility.

Pastor, don’t blow it!

So much is riding on your shoulders. Your shoulders. This is your moment. God is counting on you. Get it right. God needs you. We need you. They need you. Your family needs you. Your neighbours need you. The community needs you. Everyone needs you.

Be strong. Be resilient. Be wise. Be clear. Be balanced. Be purposeful. Set a vision. Shape your future. Lead your people. Make every word, every decision, every move, every moment count. Don’t mess it up.

Read this blog. Listen to this podcast. Subscribe to this channel. Enrol in this workshop. Come to this conference. Buys these tools. Get this coach. Read this book. Join this movement.

Grab this opportunity. It will only come once. This is a Halley’s Comet moment of momentous magnitude. Don’t waste it. Don’t let it pass. Don’t blow it.

Lead. Manage. Counsel. Preach. Zoom. Visit. Train. Envision. Equip. Empower. Empathise. Change. Maintain. Motivate.

Go harder. Go smarter. Go faster. Go deeper. Go wider.

Are you ready? On your marks. Get set. Go.

Think.

Outside the box.

Design a new box.

Break free from the traditional constraints of boxes.

Create a new box.

Look inside the box.

Look outside the box.

Open the box.

Get into the box.

Close the lid on the box.

Curl up in the box.

Close your eyes.

Gently rock from side to side.

And weep.

Pastor, you are not God. You are not the Messiah. Everything does not depend on you. This is not your one chance in 100 years to make your mark for the gospel.

You may be a shepherd, but you never cease to be a sheep. You shine a light and send a message—not as a lighthouse, but as a flickering candle.

This is not the time to be relying on your strengths, your achievements, your experience, your talents, your gifts. It is not about you. Really. It’s not. This is not your moment.

This is God’s moment.

Do you feel ill-equipped? Do you feel everyone is watching you? Do you feel the pressure of your peers? Do you feel the burden of your congregation? Do you feel the urgency of the times? Do you long to make a difference, not blow it, not crumble, not give up?

Then don’t panic! Truly, DON’T PANIC!

Come to God. See his grace. Hear his kindness. Trust him in your weakness. Listen to his voice…

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
(2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14)

Amen.

The conclusion of the matter (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14)

I’ve made it. I’ve finished my search for meaning. Ecclesiastes. 12 chapters, 38 talks, a lockdown project completed. Now here is the conclusion of the matter. And is the time to act.

Thank you for joining with me. My Bible Bites project will continue next in the New Testament. Paul’s letter from lockdown to the church in Philippi. I won’t post a link to each talk on my blog, but rather I refer you to my You Tube channel and invite you to subscribe. I will link to these Bible Bibles from Facebook.

 

Before we grow too old (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)

None of us are getting any younger. Things get harder. We have less energy. There are more and more trips to the doctor. Life will become more and more a spectator sport. Youth, vitality, health and vigour are all short-lived. So how should we live? Remember your creator in the days of your youth.

Enjoy your youth (Ecclesiastes 11:7-10)

Sometimes I feel like I’m the same age as I was 40 years ago. Other times I feel every day of my age plus a few years more! Ours is a world that worships youth. Good looks, sports, relationships, living it up—that’s what life is all about. Or is it? Where will be find hope when what we live for fades away? Enjoy your youth. You won’t have it for ever. And when it is gone, then can be something better still.

 

Arrogance and anxiety (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6)

Who can tell the future? Could anyone have predicted the year we have just experienced? For all that we can predict, and all that we now understand, we still have so much uncertainty. Some people seem unfazed by what lies ahead, and charge into life with bravado and arrogance. Others are crippled by anxiety and fear. There is a better way.

Mixing politics and religion (Ecclesiastes 10:16-20)

Common sense isn’t that common—even among leaders and rulers. Aussies make sport of their leaders and we love cutting down tall poppies. And yet leaders need our support, encouragement and respect. Not without critique, but with a commitment to their welfare and our society’s welfare. They have a tough job and we dependent upon them doing it well. God calls us to pray for our leaders.

Gracious words (Ecclesiastes 10:12-15)

Crazy talk can damage and destroy people. Bold assertions about the future display arrogance and often go before a fall. By contrast, gracious words build, encourage, and give life to others. Words have huge potential to bless—if we use them wisely, carefully, graciously. Words have the power to be a means of grace, to carry the message of eternal life.

Foolishness leaves a bad smell (Ecclesiastes 10:1-11)

As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,
    so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    but the heart of the fool to the left.
Even as fools walk along the road,
    they lack sense
    and show everyone how stupid they are.

(Ecclesiastes 10:1-3)

Some fools are very clever, shrewd, and intelligent people. There is much more to foolishness than low IQ. It’s seen in the impact of our decisions, the quality of our choices, the fruit of our lips, and the way we treat others others. Fools can be recognised by their their self-obsession and blatant disregard for God.

David, Goliath, and Steve Bradbury (Ecclesiastes 9:11-12)

Unexpected things happen. The future is impossible to predict with certainty. We can’t control it and we waste effort worrying about it. God knows what lies ahead and he invites us to trust him every step of the way.

Life is for living (Ecclesiastes 8:16-9:10)

Have you found Ecclesiastes to be rather depressing? Have you identified with the experience and observations of the author? Have you had any ‘aha’ experiences as you’ve heard the analysis of life? While death is the destiny that awaits us all, there’s a life to be lived before then. Ecclesiastes is not nihilistic. It’s life affirming.

Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!  (9:4)

Final justice (Ecclesiastes 8:10-15)

‘Final justice’. It sounds like the title of a Schwarzenegger movie. Evil dudes getting away with heinous crimes, and plots to destroy society, and for gratuitously killing Arnie’s wife and daughter. A big mistake! Schwarzenegger shows his big guns and blows them all away. We cheer the destruction of the bad guys because deep down we believe that injustice should be punished and people brought to account. Ecclesiastes touches a few nerves as it explores the heartaches of unpunished evil and the question of final justice.