Bruce’s “Job Moment”

The following is taken from the talk that Bruce gave at the Prayer and Healing service Trinity Lutheran Church and the Good Shepherd Community held for him shortly after his cancer diagnosis. Bruce’s likened the news of his cancer as his personal “Job Moment.” Bruce began:

“This could be difficult for me tonight. You know I’m a man of few words, quiet, shy, and introverted. As unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, I may struggle somewhat, and I pray you’ll bear with me for the next couple of hours.” Laughter erupted.

“Oh, did I mention I have cancer? Oh yeah, you folks prob¬ably know that by now. On behalf of my precious soul mate and wife, Lynn, the second best undeserved gift I’ve received from God (I’ll tell you about the first in a minute), and on be¬half of my son, Blake, and daughter, Nicole, we want to thank each and every one of you for coming tonight. It is indeed humbling and overwhelming. We especially want you to join us in thanking all the people who made this event happen, out of their love and concern for us, and in service to Almighty God.” Bruce led the gathering in a much-deserved applause.

“I know that most, if not all of you, believe that you are here tonight for me and my family. But as I’ve prayed about this event, I am convinced that many of you are here tonight because God wanted you to be here-for you.”

“On Thursday, April 25th, I was on lunchtime at home. I received the call with my test results. A CT scan showed tumors that were presenting themselves in multiple places. In one phone call, our lives were completely and traumatically changed. Later, a liver biopsy confirmed what we already knew in our hearts-stage IV Adenocarcinoma of lung primary. I’ve never smoked, and I don’t drink. I try to stay in shape and eat a ‘B’ diet.

“I experienced increasing pain, and so I’ve started taking narcotic painkillers that seem to bring about nausea and constipation. The Mayo Clinic has confirmed the diagnosis and treatment plan. A MRI scan showed that one of my cancerous vertebrae was closing around my spinal cord, and we began radiation there and to my head, where tumors had started. On May 10, our 16th wedding anniversary, I began chemotherapy.

“I’ve finished two cycles of chemotherapy, and just yesterday, got results of my second CT scan, which shows that the cancer has not responded thus far and is in fact worse. So, in God’s mysterious plan, this prayer and healing service comes at the perfect time.

“It would be insensitive of me to catalog the ways in which I suffered thus far, because I know there are those here who have suffered far worse, so I won’t do that. What I do want to share is how what I’ve gone through so far has brought a whole new perspective on the most significant moment in all of our lives.

“Who is Jesus Christ? You know-Son of God, Lord of Lords, and Savior of the world. But who is He really? To me, He’s the part of God that is seeable and knowable. So our best description is Son of God. But Jesus was a real man. No halo, no permanently white, unsoiled robe. He sweat, ate, got dirty and smelly, went to the bathroom, and squinted into bright sun.

“In short, God walked among us. Why? Because we had messed up, broken His laws for us (better known as the Ten Commandments), and we were toast because nobody was, or is, able to keep these laws. Because we all have an inherited form of cancer-it’s called a sinful nature. We are inclined to hurt, cheat, steal, lie, disobey, even when we try our best not to.

“Jesus preached about what God really desired for us-to be reunited with Him. Better said, reconciled to Him and forgiven, in a bond that would never break and would lead us to love and serve people with abundant joy. He came to tell of the great news. The great news, though, was a totally irrational event! His three-year ministry consisted of telling of the coming king¬dom of God, of casting out demons, and of healing people; He even brought several people back to life who had been dead. This stuff really happened. The Bible is the most corroborated collection of writings from the ancient world.

“After all these incredible events comes this irrational event. I mean, here’s Jesus-a real man, but also really God- literally unable to sin. He didn’t break even one of the Ten Commandments. Then, what did we do? We killed Him, even though He had done nothing wrong.

“Why? That’s the irrational plan. How? In the most hor¬rible way possible. He suffered grievously in the body and the mind, even though He knew it could be stopped in an instant. Romans 8:17 (nlt) reads, ‘And since we are his children, we will share his treasures-for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.’

“Share in His suffering? That’s my journey. Christ’s sufferings have never been so real or understandable to me then they are right now. He knew what He would face. He told His disciples. And yet, He faced betrayal, He was flogged with a lead-tipped whip, producing horrific open wounds across his back. He was beaten with a stick on his head. If that wasn’t enough, they jammed a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, and spit on Him.

“Then, there was His grief and spiritual agony. Matthew 26:38 reads, ‘He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”’ He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood, which is found in Luke 22:44.

“That’s exactly how I felt finding out I had cancer.

“Then, came the crucifixion. Described by a medical doctor who researched the physical dynamics of this capital punish¬ment and concluded that it is the most painful method of death man ever invented.

“Picture this-spikes going through his wrists and feet.” Bruce pointed to each of his own wrists. Then holding both of his arms stretching out and up, he continued. “The death actu¬ally came by asphyxiation, with the only way to get a breath was to push up against the spikes to make a breath even possible.” After demonstrating in his weakened state, Bruce gradually relaxed his arms, slowly lowering them to his side.

“Finally, the reality hits me. Dying like this was to pay for the sins of Bruce MacKenzie and every other person. It would mean real separation from God for the first time. Mark 15:34 says, ‘Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”’ Jesus Christ went to hell, separated from God, because that’s the price of my sins, your sins, and every one who ever will live or has lived sins.

“But the rest of the story is the key. He rose again from the dead. He conquered death as only God could do and was later seen by hundreds of his followers before He returned to be with God the Father. You see, He suffered and died in Bruce MacKenzie’s place to pay for Bruce MacKenzie’s sin. That is the greatest undeserved gift I’ve received from God. It’s your undeserved gift too. There’s nothing you have to do to get right with God here. Unlike Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, New Age religious approaches, which outline what we must do to reach nirvana, this Christian faith is a done deal. It was done over 2000 years ago. It’s simply a gift that I stop refusing to accept.

“My prayer for those of you who are here tonight is that this message would pierce your heart. That it has hit a cord. You know that something has been missing in your life-you don’t have a deep peace and sense of purpose and meaning in your life-a sense that your past mistakes will keep you from getting to heaven.

“My prayer is that you accept this free gift of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and new life that it brings. Do it tonight. I promise you, you’ll never regret it. Not even if you get advanced cancer.

“On one particularly difficult day some weeks ago, I read in 1 Peter 4:12, 13, which says, ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial that you are now suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ That verse made me look back in the Bible at Job. You remember him? I’ll paraphrase a bit.

“Job was a righteous man before God. He was keeping the law, so Satan goes to God and talks about Job, and he says that Job won’t follow God anymore if he really gets hit hard. So God allows Satan to take a whack, but not to kill him. In one evening, really in about fifteen minutes, Job finds out that all his extensive flocks of oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels have been slaughtered or stolen, and all ten of his children were killed when their house collapsed. That’s like losing all your children, your house, your cars, your bank accounts, and your 401K all in one evening.

“What was Job’s response? ‘Why me God?’ ‘Oh God, what have I done wrong to deserve this?’ or ‘God, I don’t deserve this; look at all I’ve done for you. I hate you for this!’ No. Job’s response is found in Job 1:20, ‘At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.’” Bruce paused for a moment, running his hand across the top of his balding head, smiled, then continued. People erupted in laughter.

“‘Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked will I depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all of this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.’ He worshipped God at this radical, life-changing avalanche of tragedy. What would your response have been?

“My ‘Job Moment’ came when I hung up the phone on April 25. I fell to my knees against the chair and cried out to God in a loud voice. It came from my soul, I didn’t think about what to say, because my mind was swirling. I said: ‘God, this has got to be all about You, it’s got to be You; it’s got to be You in me, because I have nothing inside me to deal with this. I don’t know where to begin. God, please hold me and carry me.’

“He has never stopped answering that prayer, and He never will. And this, my friends in Christ, is why many of you have remarked at how well I’ve taken this and the peace that we have (as a family). How I have this passion to share Christ and share these incredible insights and blessings-yes, blessings. There are abundant blessings that this cancer and all that it means have brought us. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with who God is, what He promises us, and whether we trust Him enough to walk with Him wherever we must go.

“I do.

“Suffering produces a unique opportunity for the Christian. It’s either curse God or thank Him, praise Him, and follow Him. This is another incredibly irrational opportunity for us as Christians.

“And so it comes down to this. Do we really trust Him, or don’t we? Are we patty-caking our Christianity when it suits us, or are we ready to be disciples who will follow Christ wherever He leads us? The blessings are often hidden and incredible.

“Later on, I read 1 Peter 4:1–2, ‘Therefore, since Christ suf¬fered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but for the will of God.’ The word picture I got was of the washtub ringer. If you recall, the shirt is fed through the rollers, and it gets squeezed to within an inch of its life. While it’s being pulled through, the water is pushed out. Just like that sinful desire, as you surrender to what God’s plan is, you are pulled through it and receive a very special blessing and a burning desire to serve Him.

“Now, before you start marveling at me, let me tell you this suffering sucks. For me and for those who love me. It’s still no fun. I still think of how I used to feel and wonder if I will ever feel great again. I doubt. I get scared. But I tell these things to God and He listens. And He understands because His own Son, Jesus, told him the very same things.

“To illustrate this, we’d like to share a poem that my wife, Lynn, wrote during a period of great agony she felt over a woman she was ministering to in her Bible Study Fellowship class who was suffering miserably with cancer. In Lynn’s time of agony, prayer, and tears, this poem rushed through her mind and spilled onto paper. She has never altered a word from the original draft, and she knows that these words were God’s answer to that prayer of agony. My sister, Kyle, has agreed to read it.”

The Tear Catcher

Suffering beyond all understanding
Suffering more than one can bear...

“When did I say that I wouldn’t stay?
When did I say it wouldn’t hurt?

Hear me, for my words are clear.

I say, nothing is too great
that the two of us can’t bear!

not alone
—That was never in the plan.

Don’t you know that when you invited me into your heart,
I would not only stay forever,
But I would become your main artery
—your only life line.

Oh, how you take me for granted.
Don’t you know, I’ve been here all along?
Feel my touch
Feel my warmth
Feel your weight
become light as I hold you.

Let go of your apprehensions
Let go of your fears
Lay your head on my shoulder
I’ll catch your tears.”

Lynn MacKenzie

“Your Job Moment will come. You’ll know it, if it already hasn’t. Some thing will come in your life-a death, health condition, job loss, marriage crisis, betrayal of friendship, something. God will be waiting to be asked to hold, guide, and lead you through it so that a greater plan of His can unfold for you.

“The question will be, ‘Do I trust Him? Really trust Him? Trust Him enough to follow Him and surrender to Him even into this dark, hideous forest of suffering?’ I promise you’ll never regret it, and you’ll be blown away by the blessings that will come. You know folks, this is the only day we know we’ve got for sure. We walk in God’s grace every day. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring. It might be more of the same old, same old, or it might be your Job Moment.

“I beg each of you to treasure each day He gives you. Accept Christ today. Treat those you love as though what you say today will be their last memory of you. Ask to be forgiven now. Kiss your wife hello and goodbye, passionately. Turn off the televi¬sion and play with your kids. Call your dear friend. Share the gospel of Christ with someone close to you who doesn’t know Him. Do it today. Do it now. Resolve right now to walk out of here a changed person, a new follower of Jesus Christ. A person filled with passion to serve others. Give your smoking habit to God and trust, and He’ll remove the desire. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to prevent cancer. Whatever it is, resolve it, give it to God, pray about it, trust Him and let Him change you forever.

“Thanks for listening and may God bless each of you.”

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