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11-6-2011 (Sunday)

7:00 AM.  I slept solidly all night with no interruptions.  If there were noises outside I did not hear them.  With the fan running giving some white noise I slept really well.  This morning we meet for breakfast and then church, which starts at 8:30 and runs to 10:30.  Then Jane and I will start our clinic at 11 to see the surgical patients she has scheduled.  She mentioned there were about 20 people and our clinic should run most of the afternoon.  Dr. Chang will also see one patient with us to determine if she should proceed with surgery.  He will be in the OR getting all his equipment ready for surgery tomorrow. 

Father, thank You for the great night’s sleep!  It was wonderful.  I feel much more rested and ready to meet the day.  First we will gather with the church that meets at the clinic to praise and worship You.  Not only do we bring our tithes but also our offerings of praise and worship.  You, Lord, are worthy and deserve all the praise I can muster.  Thank You for the opportunity to be here and to serve You here.  Lord, I pray for wisdom for Jane, Dr. Chang and me today as we see patients and determine what needs to be done to help them.  Lord, I know You will be there in our midst and will be guiding us.  I pray for the patients we will see.  Give them an extra measure of Your love and mercy today.  Help them to understand what the surgery will involve, especially the risks.  Lord, protect them, please.  We are here to share Your love with them.  Help us to demonstrate that love even more by setting the example of following You and encouraging them to commit their lives to following You as well.  We wish to bring spiritual and physical healing, Lord.  Please use us to accomplish that.  Thank You, Lord.  I commit these patients to You and Your glory.  Amen.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said.  “Be My disciple.”  I want to be His disciple and finish my life with a testament to that fact.  What more does it take than knowing what I believe and knowing Christ and having faith in Him?  I believe there are more criteria to being a disciple and I see these in Scripture as I study the Gospels and see how the men who became Christ’s disciples responded to His request to follow Him.

I have to ask myself if this were me would I have responded as these men did?  Would I have dropped what I was doing to follow Christ?  Or would I have been offering excuses like some did when Jesus asked them to follow Him.  I look at my career as a physician and the involvement private practice entailed and it would have been very difficult to drop that completely to follow anyone, even Christ.  Yet, that was the very problem Jesus was pointing out to me.  My loyalty to my practice was in the wrong place on my priority list.  I was putting my work above my family and especially above my relationship with Christ.  When Jesus would gently ask me to follow Him, frequently I would give an excuse that basically stated that I was not ready to reorient my priority list at that time.  I liked to think of myself as being a loyal follower of Christ, expressing full faith and confidence in Him, until He would ask me to leave what I was doing and become His disciple.

A third criterion comes to mind – having a willing heart.  The men Jesus personally called certainly had a willing heart.  They were ready to follow Him and all they needed was the invitation.  Their readiness was exemplified in their immediate response.  They dropped their nets or left the tax collection booth and walked away with Christ.  Scripture does not tell us if Jesus gave them any further information about what He was calling them to do.  I have to assume that all Jesus said was, “Follow Me,” and they did without hesitation.  Their hearts were ready and willing.  Is my heart willing?  Am I ready?

We must know ourselves, know about Christ and have a willing and ready heart to respond when He calls us.  Are you ready for His call?  If not, what do you need to do to get yourself ready?  This comes to a fourth criterion of discipleship: sacrifice.  Jesus stated in Mark 8:34-36, “…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  Following Christ involves sacrifice, giving up of what is important to you, what defines you, and becoming His disciple, becoming the person who represents Christ to those around him. 

Jesus illustrates this a little later in Mark 10 when He is approached by a rich young man who asked Him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus talks with him and mentions the elements of the 10 commandments.  The man states confidently that he has kept all of them since he was a boy.  He was proud of his ability to score perfectly in this test.  However, Jesus could read his heart and simply told him to sacrifice all he owned and give everything to the poor and then come and follow Him.  At this point the man’s face fell and he walked away in sorrow as he was unwilling to give up his riches and position in life.  In fact, this showed he didn’t keep all the commandments because his wealth had become an idol and his allegiance was to this god instead of Almighty God.  To become a disciple of Christ one must deny himself.  One must sacrifice all that gets in the way of serving Christ.  If riches get in the way, they have to be shed.  If career gets in the way, it, too, must go.  Jesus wants disciples who are steadfastly loyal to Him and not be distracted by the worries and concerns of other things in their lives. 

I struggled with the sacrifice bit until I came to realize that I could still be a disciple of Christ and keep my lifestyle as long as my heart was right.  If I put Jesus in first place and offered my skills and training, my wealth, my home even, for His kingdom, I could continue working in what I was trained to do and could even continue living in my home.  Being a disciple means having the right heart attitude, that of placing Christ first in one’s life.  Then, you can follow Him in the world in which you life and become His representative, His disciple to those you connect with each day.

I look at the sacrifice it takes to follow Christ on the mission field.  I wonder if this is why missions predominately involve living in another culture and learning to live on practically nothing in the way of income.  It takes sacrifice of anything that would get in your way to following Christ.  Only when one can step across that line and sacrifice all that is important to him or her can that person be ready to follow Christ.  If we try to hold on to what we have, what we identify ourselves with, we disqualify ourselves to be Christ’s followers.  Jesus told the rich young man to give it all away.  He knew this man’s heart and it was not ready to commit to following Him at all.  He had to tear down that wall of possessions in his heard to enable him to be ready for what Christ would ask him to do.  It came down to a major and final test for his readiness to achieve eternal life.  And, sadly, he walked away because he just could not do that.  If I were him, would I have reacted the same way?  I have to seriously ask myself that question repeatedly.  Following Christ means shedding anything else that would interfere in that relationship.  As I walk with Christ daily, I must stay close to Him and follow Him even if the path takes us away from what I would value.  The mission experience makes this challenge of sacrifice more real, more tangible.  Here we have to act on faith and work closely with Christ to accomplish the care we give.  We must follow Him, there is no other choice.

7:00 PM.  It has been a long day.  We had church this morning and then started seeing patients at 11:00.  There were 20 scheduled and three others showed up without appointments asking to be seen.  We saw three patients with cervical cancer that was known and one of the patients who came requesting to be seen had extensive cervical cancer.  She had never had a pap smear.  When Jane talked with her about her disease the patient tried to be stoic but for a short while her chin started to quiver and tears formed in her eyes.  Then she gained composure and continued to ask questions.  We have to refer her to the cancer hospital.  I felt sorry for this lady because she has disease that is likely too far advanced to treat and the treatment will likely bankrupt her and her family.  She was in her early 50s and is facing a complete life change that isn’t good.  It isn’t easy to deal with this when there are lots of treatment options but when the options are few and what is there is too expensive, it becomes very difficult.  We saw several ladies with large fibroids and will be dealing with these this week in the operating room.  Overall, our schedule is full and it should be a busy week. 

Father, please comfort that lady with the cervical cancer.  She learned today that her life is limited and she tried to be strong about it.  But I could sense that her heart was breaking inside.  Please wrap Your loving arms around her and reassure her that You are there with her.  Lord, I ask for a miracle, a healing of this lady.  Thank You, Lord.  Amen.

Jane is frustrated in that the Internet connection that I was to use is not working.  It is a cellular modem that the phone company offers where you can purchase a week or two at a time.  The modem has not been used for 6 months since Jane now has broadband into the clinic.  There is so much steel and concrete in the clinic building that keeps the wireless signal limited to 10 to 15 feet from the modem.  The cellular modem worked well for me because I could use it anywhere.  However, the phone company told Damarys today that the modem could not be reset and the only option was to buy a new one at a steep price.  That was not an option for us.  Thus, I can now get on the Internet by sitting in the hall outside of Jane’s apartment within the 15 feet of her modem.  That means I will not be able to post as regular as I hoped on this blog and send email as often.  Such is life…

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