My doctor friend from Cameroon weaves a tale. Mark, 28
listen to the podcast of this briefing
I did not send this yesterday as I went to bed heavy-hearted thinking of some I know who are hurting terribly; then there are the two young women I gave Bibles yesterday--I thought of what they need to learn about life with Christ, even how to read their new Bibles. No matter our circumstances, the Word of God has the answers. It tells us of a loving God who is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34.18), and of a Savior who gives us a path and direct access to our Heavenly Father. If you are hurting, need prayer, feeling confused, I would love to pray with/for you and also point you to the words of God that will heal your heart, meet you exactly where you are. Just reach out . . . with love, Christine
He was small of stature, a general surgeon from Cameroon, spoke five languages, and trained at the Vatican for a time… in short, he was brilliant. He also sported a beard, always wore a hat and a couple long jackets; besides that, he smelled like the street, which makes sense, because he lived on the street in Long Beach, California1. Oh, I remember Bernard so fondly; he oft waited for me when I drove up on Thursday mornings, greeting me warmly with ‘Hello, Ma-mah’, emphasis on the second syllable.
We had a lively, albeit unlikely, friendship, and I enjoyed his insights immensely. He often brought me gifts he had found on the street that he thought I would like. One time he found a wooden cross and dragged it to the Friends Church at Ninth and Atlantic, where my homeless friends met for sanctuary, food, and prayer with me)! “Mama,” he said, gesturing with his right index finger in the air, “it was most unusual dragging the heavy cross down the street. I was well aware that people were looking at me and felt embarrassed, but then I felt ashamed because my Lord dragged his cross for me—do you know what I’m saying, Mama?” Ah, though it was several years ago now, to think of him and his wrestling under the weight of the cross—his talking about it, makes me smile. Hmmm, the notion of carrying a heavy cross.
In a sense, Bernard’s experience with a literal cross is symbolic of what we are all meant to do in our lifetime – come to terms with the beauty and the agony, the incredible sacrifice and grace of Jesus—all found in the cross.
As we close out the eight chapter of the book of Mark, Jesus has told the disciples he would suffer, die, and rise again on the third day, He then tells them they too would need to sacrifice for him, but in a different way. Sometimes Jesus’ teaching is difficult – this is one of those times. “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."2
Clearly, relationship with the Son of God is more than just a verbal profession—it is meant to be a way of life. Not just what we call ourselves, but what we live. So when Jesus says, 'if anyone will come after Me, he must deny himself daily, pick up his cross, and follow Me', we must do what he has taught us—that which we find in the pages of the gospels.
What in the world is meant by denying oneself? It is the life of the sincere follower of Jesus Christ--Saying No to me, and Yes to God, choosing his way, rather than what I feel like doing; it is surrendering to him and letting him lead the way. It is exercising our faith in him, putting our hand in the hand of the One who knows and sees all, believing that He knows best, in spite of circumstances, in spite of hurt, knowing he is trustworthy.
To deny yourself and pick up your cross is owning your faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, no matter what others think...
despite what they might do to you—
denying ourselves but never Him… no matter what.
Christians in Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Afghanistan pick up their crosses by remaining faithful, holding fast to the Lord in the face of persecution, imprisonment and even death. Christians in the West pick up our crosses by being faithful, even when it gets costly. And it does seem to be getting more so, does it not?
Think on this:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."3
And what is that difference? When we choose him, we choose the best road, abundant life in Christ, and that forever.
New song...so good! To Not Worship You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah7qLbD9QR8
On the journey with you,
following in the footsteps of Jesus in the gospel of Mark, 28
1 – Long Beach is about an hour south of Los Angeles
2 – Mark 8.34-38
3 - "The Road Not Taken" Robert Frost, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173536