1Corinthians 15 caught me by surprise today…

Posted January 25, 2014 by brucebuchanan
Categories: living, Uncategorized

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About a month ago my 86 year old father felt winded and fatigued in spite of generally having had good health except for a weak heart and feebleness in his legs.  On January 4 he went to the ER because he was then feeling some pain in his abdomen.  A CT scan revealed that there were issues in his lungs and liver, but the doctors thought his most immediate need was for his gall bladder to be removed. When that procedure was done, it was discovered that his liver was much worse than the CT scan had revealed.  It was completely overtaken by cancer. The Lord took him home two days later, on Thursday, January 9, and the funeral was last week.

So, 1 Corinthians 15 caught me by surprise today as I read it as part of my daily reading.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.  Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,  then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1Corinthians 15:12-26 NAS)
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These verses were an encouragement as I reflected on the loss of my Dad from this life and the fact that I miss him, and on the fact that since he belongs to Christ, he too, will rise again.

Events in the last three weeks have kept me from having time to post here or on Facebook.  I haven’t had the heart or interest in posting light or trivial things, but today I am reminded and encouraged afresh that death is not the end.  At age 40 my Dad put his trust in the Lord and wrote the following in an open letter in 2001.  Hours before he died, on Thursday afternoon, Jan 9, he asked us to pass out copies of the letter to every one who came to his funeral.  We did.

If You Die Today, Where Will You Be Tomorrow?
 
            The tragic death of so many in the September 11 th World Trade Center disaster is a reminder that we each face the certainty of death, and along with it, an eternity in either Heaven or Hell. We do not know when death will take us, but it will take us. I’d like to tell you about my views on death, Heaven and Hell.
 
            In my late “teens” I did not believe in either Heaven or Hell. I believed that when I died I’d be buried and then decay into dirt and dust and that all remembrance of me would fade away. This anticipated eternal future didn’t bother me since I was an optimist and didn’t expect to die till I was older anyway. God was just a word in my vocabulary.
 
            In my “twenties,” I studied a little bit about the “atom,” its structure, the way it works and the fact that we cannot see it even though everything was made out of atoms. I also studied a little bit about the universe … its size, its beauty, its design and its orderliness, along with its total predictability and the fact that it too was made out of atoms, which we cannot see. I developed a strong belief that there had to be a God of creation to make all these things that I could see. I knew that these things didn’t just happen all by themselves.  My God however, was not a personal one. He was just the creator of all things.
 
            In my “thirties,” when I pondered the depth/shallowness of my belief, I concluded that the Bible was a good book but that it was nothing else. I did not believe in its content, its miracles, nor the story about Jesus Christ being the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, nor that He died for my sins and rose from the grave on the third day. However, I did believe that the Bible was a good common denominator for all “races” to show us how we are to live good, clean, moral lives. Without the Bible, our world would be utter chaos. Even at this stage of my life, I still didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell.
 
            In May 1967, at age 40 (again pondering my beliefs), I realized that if my God could create and control all those incomprehensible things that I can see, accept and believe, He could easily create the virgin birth of His Son, Jesus Christ (a fact that I could never believe previously), just as easy as flicking His little finger. Slowly, within two to three weeks, I began to believe that Jesus Christ did die on the cross of Calvary and shed His blood as a sacrifice for my sin, that He rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, interceding for me. I then received Him as my Lord and Savior and have followed Him ever since.
 
            One day each one of us will stand before God. If He asks the question: “Why should I let you enter Heaven?” What would you tell Him? It’s important that we know the answer. I’m still a dirty, rotten sinner who never has been, nor ever will be worthy of anything better than Hell. However, I am a sinner saved by Grace. I have never done anything nor ever will do anything that would merit Heaven. However, that’s where I’m going when the Lord is done with me.
 
            You can decide whether you will go to Heaven or Hell when you die. The information regarding how to make that decision is clearly explained in the enclosed pamphlet titled, “Have You Considered This?” Please read it, pray about its applicability to your life and act accordingly, keeping in mind that: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
 
            God bless you as you ponder and pray about your eternal destiny.
 
                                                         Bill Buchanan, Dec. 3, 2001
                                                         RememberGodAlmighty.com

The Folly of Forgetting in Times of Tranquility

Posted November 29, 2013 by brucebuchanan
Categories: cancer, chemotherapy, illness, trust, Uncategorized

Two years ago I was diagnosed with colon cancer. One year ago, at Thanksgiving, I gave thanks that my colon cancer surgery had been successful, my six months of chomotherapy had ended, and there were no signs of cancer in my post treatment blood tests, CT scan and colonoscopy. Last week I had my latest check up, and there continue to be no evidences of cancer, for which I thank God. The Lord has taught me much during my pre-surgery, surgery, and treatment times.

Everything has gone very well for me. The surgery went well; there were no complications in the days and weeks afterwards. The chemo treatments went well, and I did not experience the more unpleasant side effects. However, regretfully, over some of the intervening months, I found myself casually, and a bit materialistically, thinking, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.” Such thinking was foolish, naive and presumptuous! [It doesn’t necessarily follow that “you have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well” — as many can testify! ]

Recently I was convicted by a passage in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter eight.* In a context that emphasized evidencing fidelity to God by obedience to his commandments, Moses cautioned the Jewish nation to “remember,” and not forget God’s commandments, and what God had done for them. Three times, Moses told them that God had intentionally “humbled” them and “let them be hungry,” while at the same time meeting their actual needs of food and clothing, so that they would learn that those seemingly needful “things” of life were not needed as much as they needed God (vv. 2-5, 16).

Then they were reminded that the blessings of tomorrow would come from God (vv. 5-10). But they were also told not to forget God when they had “eaten and were satisfied” (v. 12-14ff.), and not to presume that their fruitfulness was solely the result of their efforts (vv. 17-18).

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth . . . .”

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 [ESV]

These verses convicted me of my foolishness, naiveté, and presumption. I do not live in the physical world solely by my strength, or abilities, . . . nor by what medical science can accomplish in its strength. It is all of God. The outcome of my surgery and chemotherapy treatments were all of God, and my good checkups are all of God. Just as it was God who gave me strength while going through the trial (cf. Deut. 8:2-6), it is “God that gives power” during later times of blessing. Whether to be fruitful in one’s life, or to be healed, it is all of God (cf. Deut. 8:11-18).

In a sense, it was easy for me to trust in God as I was going through the diagnosis, surgery, and treatment periods. God was humbling me and putting me in a position in which I had no alternative but to trust in Him. But as the days, weeks and months of good checkups went by, my initially theocentric (God-centered) perspective was subtly influenced by a materialistic one, one that contemplated, “You have the surgery, you do the recommended treatments, and everything turns out well.”

I realize, in consequence, that times of blessing can be more dangerous than times of trial because, like the warning for the Children of Israel, in times of blessing we can “forget God,” think that the present tranquility comes from the power of our own hands, and forget that all blessings come from God and that “He gives the power.” For a while I was, in a sense, tripped by the “folly of forgetting in my time of tranquility.”

Thank you to all who have prayed for me and my health situation over the last two years. God has graciously chosen to bless me with healing. I pray that in all my ways I may “acknowledge Him,” whether in times of trial, or times of tranquility. Moses’ warning was insightful. It is so easy to call on God when in trial, but to attribute success to material efforts, when really, all successes come from the hand of God.

“In all your ways acknowledge Him . . . .”

Proverbs 3:6a [ESV]

*Deuteronomy 8:1-20 [ESV]

1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.
6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills,
8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey,
9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20 Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

Body Today

Posted January 24, 2013 by brucebuchanan
Categories: chemotherapy, illness, living, sovereignty, trust

Living with the side effects of chemotherapy varies from day to day.   Since I completed my chemotherapy in September my body has recovered from some of the side effects.  I can now drink cold beverages again; very thankfully, my sense of taste has come back(!); and one aspect of my sense of balance seems to have returned.  But certain neuropathy side effects continue and are bothersome.

On the other hand, I am very thankful that the tests I have had in the last couple of months indicate that there are no present evidences of cancer.  Since cancer is seen as the natural enemy, this alone gives reason for rejoicing.

But, discontent with apparent healing of the cancer, I have gone through periods of longingly setting my focus on some future day when, I presume, all the side effects of chemo will be behind me too, and my body will be back to “normal.”  That is, I will be able to touch, feel, write, type, walk, and run without impediments.

I have now found myself convicted that such longing undermines an appreciation for the healing which the Lord has provided, and evidences a discontent with “this day, which the Lord has made.”  Furthermore, it shows a presumption of the nature of that “future day” when — I presumptuously hope — all side effects will be behind me.  But James writes . . .

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

So what if God doesn’t want to remove all of my side effects?  What if He wants me to stay “the same” as I am right now for the rest of my life?  Will I perpetually be “discontent?”  Will I be constantly “living” in a tomorrow that may never come — and failing to live in the “today” that God has graciously given me?  Am I expecting heaven on earth?  Am I living as if this world is all there is, with my hope fixed on a resolution in this life which may never come?   If so, I will not be living a life submitted to the Lord’s will.  To paraphrase Psalm 118:24, the Lord has been leading me to meditate:

“This is the body that the Lord has given me TODAY,

I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

God may choose to allow my present condition to continue the rest of my life — for His glory, and His purposes.   Or God may allow my cancer to come back.  Or He may choose to heal those bothersome side effects.  Regardless of His choice, I must trust that His way is perfect, and glorify Him through the body He has given me today.

“As for God, His way is perfect.”

Psalm 18:30a

When We Get Our Friends and Enemies Confused

Posted August 28, 2012 by brucebuchanan
Categories: cancer, chemotherapy, providence

As I am approaching the end of my chemo regimen [one infusion remaining! (September 5-7)], my wife mentioned that we should pray that this last treatment is successful at wiping out any remaining cancer cells that may have survived the first eleven treatments (in other words, any tough, chemo-resistant cells).  It made me realize that while I have been dealing with the side effects of chemo, I have unconsciously transitioned into thinking of the chemo as my “enemy” because of the unpleasant side effects.  After Patty’s comment, I was reminded that chemo is not an “enemy,” it is a “friend,” a tool being used against the real enemy: cancer.

This made me begin to think about the “tools” God uses in my life.  I generally greet unwelcome intrusions into my copacetic routines as “enemies” to “my peace.”  They mess me up.  They make me uncomfortable. They are irritating.  They are not “fun.”  And yet these “intrusions,” these events and circumstances, like chemo, may actually be the very means that God is using to accomplish a “greater good” in my life.

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s comments in 2Corinthians 12:7-10 where he asked God to take away a “thorn” in his flesh.  He was told that God would not take away the thorn because it gave opportunity for God to show His grace in Paul’s weakness.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited . . . , a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

And I am reminded of James 1:2-4 where the Apostle James told his disciples that they were to rejoice at their trials because those trials would be a means by which they would grow in maturity.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete [mature], lacking in nothing.”
James 1:2-4

Now, as I think of my chemo, I have to think of it as a tool, a means to an end.  It has its unpleasant side effects, but ultimately it is supposed to be for my good, to knock out the cancer cells, which are far worse and potentially deadly.

I am therefore reminded that God works in my life, providentially using events and happenings that I may not care for at the time, for my good.  As I think about my last chemo regimen I know that I must accept it as a tool, a “friend,” and not an enemy.  And I must, by faith, give praise to God for the various “tools” that He uses to accomplish His work in my life, even if they are, for the moment, unpleasant.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 5:1-4

“Dear Lord, please help me to remember your providential use of ‘tools’ the next time I mistake them as my enemies.  Convict me of my  presumption that things should always go ‘smoothly,’ or ‘pleasantly’ for my present comfort.  Let me, instead, humbly recognize Your use of ‘tools,’ to accomplish Your greater good in me, recognizing that this ‘earthly tent,’ will one day pass away when, ironically, this mortal body will be swallowed up by life.  Please keep my eyes focused on that which really matters, which shall never pass away.”

Remembering God in the Stream of Life

Posted July 31, 2012 by brucebuchanan
Categories: Uncategorized

Arthur Bennett once wrote:

“I have seen the purity and beauty of thy perfect law,
the happiness of those in whose heart it reigns,
the calm dignity of the walk to which it calls, yet I daily violate and [condemn] its precepts.”

The Valley of Vision, 1975, p 70.

I would imagine that Mr. Bennett wrote with a desire to walk in fellowship with God, and yet he recognized there were times he didn’t.  I live in that world.

In the morning, while I have my quiet time of reading the Bible and praying, I have a desire to walk with God, honor Him, and do his will during the whole day.  If I picture my activities of the day as being a stream, I see myself sitting on the edge of the stream as I read my Bible and pray.  When I am done, I step into the stream of life and begin walking, following the course of the stream.  Walking in a stream one has to pay close attention to the stream bed.  Sometimes there is sand, sometimes muck, sometimes pebbles, sometimes rock ledge, sometimes shifting rocks covered with slippery algae.  One has to concentrate on the stream bed, the current, and the flow of the water.

As I sit by the stream bank, I am full of resolve for how I will walk in fellowship with God, but as I step into the stream of life, immediately I find that I am preoccupied with not slipping off that stone, not losing my sandals in this muck, not sliding off that slippery rock ledge.  Or, in my real world, I am preoccupied with answering this email, making this telephone call, running this errand, etc.  I find myself totally having forgotten my earlier resolve to glorify God in my life as I step from one slippery rock to another.

This brings me to pray, “Dear God, as I step into the stream of life today, help me to remember You, your Lordship in my life, your worthiness of worship and praise, and your desires for my life — as I interact with my family, fulfill my responsibilities, run my errands, and have opportunities to point others to You.”

Like the poet, my heart’s desire is to please God, and let his perfect law reign in my heart that I might walk in dignity before him while navigating the Stream of Life.

Carpe Horam — Seize the Hour

Posted July 21, 2012 by brucebuchanan
Categories: cancer, chemotherapy, illness, living, providence, time

It has been several months since I have completed a new post for this blog.  It has been during these months that I have been receiving my chemotherapy.  There is a direct correlation between my “silence” and my treatments.  While I am thankful that I have now completed eight of the twelve bi-weekly infusions, I have been challenged by the various “demands” which the infusions bring on my body.

My infusions are on Mondays at the Regional Oncology Center and take most of the day.  At the end of my infusion on their pump, I am hooked up to a portable pump, which continues to give me more of one chemo agent for forty-six hours.  Two days later that infusion ends and I am disconnected.  On that day, day three of my chemo cycle, I find that I usually am very fatigued, and need to take a couple of naps during the day.  The same is true on day four and day five (and sometimes day six) of my cycle.  Consequently, on five out of the fourteen days of my chemo cycle, I really can’t “count” on getting very much done.

This means that in each two-week cycle, I have nine out of fourteen days to get done whatever I need to do for work, home maintenance, etc.  But, on those remaining nine days, I can also have fatigue or some other chemo side effects that “sideline” me.  This is the primary reason why it has been a while since I have written another blog post.  I am much pressured to get done what is absolutely necessary each week during my good hours (preparing for speaking and preaching) and find that my writing is getting “squeezed out” in the process.

Although many people have heard the expression, “Seize the Day” (from the Latin: Carpe Diem), I find that the expression, “Seize the Hour,” is more fitting to describe what God is teaching me now.  I have come to realize that I can treat my “good” days very presumptuously.  That is, I’ve found myself thinking, “I can’t count on getting anything done on my first five days, but I can count on getting things accomplished on my nine good days.”  Upon reflecting on this thought, I have been convicted by James 4:13-16.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”

James 4:13-16 [ESV]

I have learned that I don’t know what tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or the day after that, will bring.  In fact, even on my “good” days, I find that I can have a productive morning, but then be overwhelmed with fatigue in the afternoon and accomplish nothing.  Let alone tomorrow, I don’t even know what the rest of today will bring(!), and I must not be presumptuous that I will “do this or that.”  Instead, I find that only if the Lord wills, will I “do this or that.”  Which means that I can only count on “this hour.”  This is the hour which the Lord has given me.  I can use it wisely, or I can fritter it away.  But if I do “fritter it away,” I am acting presumptuously that the Lord will give me a later hour for that which I could or should do presently.  This has led me to try to remember to Carpe Horam, “Seize the Hour” — to do, in the present hour, as wisely as possible, what God would have me to do.

I understand that Horace, from whom the phrase, Carpe Diem, “Seize the Day,” is quoted, didn’t have the same perspective that I have.  In fact, he used it in a context to emphasize that since the future is uncertain, one should put a minimum of trust in the future, seize the day, and enjoy its pleasures.  Instead, I am being challenged to make the most of the present hour, for I cannot, without presumption, count on a later hour.

The Illness Idol

Posted April 16, 2012 by brucebuchanan
Categories: cancer, illness, Uncategorized

There are many books, articles, websites, resources and suggestions made available to cancer patients.  Some are helpful; some are not, but all take time!  More than once, I have become frustrated with how the “cancer issue” has rudely thrust itself in front of me.

Illness is an idol that can engulf all my waking time and attention.  It can breed self-absorption and suck up all of my limited strength, attention and energies.  It entices and lures me with different voices.  It challenges me to study it and figure how I can increase my odds at “beating” it — while bankrupting my attention to the One Who is worthy of all praise, and distracting me from His work.    It suffocates and would choke-out my interest and desire to serve God with my limited strength.  This has led me to the following prayer.

“God, deliver me from this preoccupation.  I want to be a wise steward with the life and breath that You so graciously give, but I don’t want pursuit of life and breath to dominate my life.  My life is Thine.  You are in control and will preserve my going out and coming in, according to your will.  My efforts to micromanage my life in an attempt to preserve it are of no avail — unless You so choose to deliver me.  Keep me constantly in your care.  Preserve, or take my life, as You so choose.  May I not be unwise or a poor steward, but please deliver me from preoccupation with trying to preserve my own life.  May I seek You alone, and your will.  Please, please, put in perspective the amount of attention I should give this albatross, and don’t let it take from me waking hours that should instead be focused on You and your will.”