“To Know Him and Make Him Known”
A HEART FOR GOD
Dr. Robert W. Christensen
Acts 17:26 – 27 "From one to meet every nation, that they should inhabit the whole earth: and he determined the times sent for them and that it is in places where they should live. God did this so that men with the Kim and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."
"In Man's Search for Knowledge of God's Untold Secrets, The Heavens Are Not Too High"
I decided to add the short narrative of the time back about 1957 to 1960 during our first US space exploration, that I have received a beautiful glass covered, metal US displayed from a patient of mine who have helped to design it for President Eisenhower. The Pres. had given a plate to a few heads of state. It was beautiful and showed the first of our satellites being sent into space. They showed the stars in a dark, star filled sky with a single guideline: from the ground into space with a small orifice like satellite being launched at the superior type of the red line. On the back was printed, in the copper metal, the following words:
"The Heavens Are Not Too High"
I was intrigued but message, but I felt it was incomplete after thinking about it for some weeks, the Lord gave me the words sing at the top, which I added to the statement of the unit states, making it, I fully much faith, I used staffers as an opener the beginning of my surgical film's for some years, thereafter. I thought you might enjoy seeing it.
A Heart for God
Copyright © 2007 by Covenant Marriages Ministry Foundation
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, in any form, without the expressed written mission of Covenant Marriages Ministry, 1320 W. 60th Ave., Arvada, CO 80004
This book is being written to talk about a person's changing reflection, relationship and attitude about God. As I have matured into old age, they have seen in my own life, and that of many others shall be true and describable change in a person's of God that is why I chose this title for this book.
I want to dedicate this book to several people who prayed for that change to continue to occur in my life, and for whom I am truly grateful. Some occurred decades ago, and others as recently as this year. I suspect a few of us from her know that he the Lord, but for me, I wish to mention a few.
Going back 60 years, there is a young woman who was a patient of mine, in who money as a patient in St. Luke's hospital for some necessary for surgery. Her name was Dorothy. She was a very devoted Christian lady who later became ordained in ministry. She was impressed by the Lord to pray for my salvation and did so for the next 45 years in which she lived. She was blessed to see me come to the Lord, and also to see Lynne and the living our lives in ministry, too.
Another was a young Catholic Sister who had become the patient to 19th the one that I placed the first TMJ Partial joint implant him, surgically. That was the earliest one place to the patient in the entire world, after my 1960 mention of the surgical technique and implant. It took courage on her part to stand with me for use of these implants, which since that time have become the mainstay of surgical treatment for the generative disease of the temporomandibular joint. She and her Dominican Order of Sisters never stop praying for me and my family and our accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
My wife, Lynne, has been a powerful prayer warrior and coworker in the ministry God has taken us into. I am forever grateful for her prayers, support and wisdom and for being my wife for nearly 40 years.
My daughter, Joan, was and is a dedicated Christian going back some decades, who prayed my salvation, for which I will be eternal and grateful. She has forward in her own ministry within the Catholic faith and has been a dear, loyal and most loved daughter from Lynne and me. I will be forever grateful to the Lord for such a loyal Christian friend and daughter. Not to mention I forget the love of her husband, Howard, and all her many children and grandchildren.
I certainly wish to dedicate it to my parents Eva and Lee Christensen for their guidance and love through all of those early and formative years, along with my father Charles and sister Shirley. Shirley died at 51 but was a beloved sister through all of her years. Charles is a year and half older than I, and is a loyal brother and one I am most grateful for. He and his children have been a blessing to Lynne and me.
All of my other children for the love and care, especially to Matthew and Robert Jr. and their wives and children who have shown their love and have offered their prayers through the years for Lynne and me. My son, Bishop Peter has certainly been there in prayer for Lynne and me.
Our dear friends, Linda and Jim Chubb who have been there to support me over about 60 years since the time Linda worked with me in my early surgical practice. They have been the most loyal friends.
There are many others in the professional realm that have prayed with and for Lynne and me as we have gone through some interesting storms in this life. It was like to mention Dr. James Curry, Dr. Ric Alexander, and Dr. Crayton Walker, in particular.
In the more recent, I would like to mention Helga Phillips and also Lynne and Larry Pilot would've been great supporters of some trying times. Larry and Lynn are both attorneys and have been most helpful with counsel. They have never stopped praying for us, nor I for them.
There certainly are many other friends of either Lynne’s for mine who probably should be mentioned, but in the interest of brevity, except my apology for not being specifically mentioned, but for whom we are most grateful.
Table of Contents
In a Man Search for Knowledge
Table of Contents
A Heart for God, the Beginning
His Plan for Our Lives
My Bringing Up and Education
What Next, Lord
Only by Your Guiding Hand, Lord
A Little Further down the Road
The Interesting Life of St. Paul
Back to My Story
The Life of St. Peter
Let's Look at Some of the Lives
Deborah, a Life Lived with God
We Must Be Born Again
Trusting in the Untrustworthy
Take the Gospel to All People
The Compassionate Physician
Mary M. At the Tomb of Christ
A Tent Making Couple with a Heart for God
Some Walls Need to Be Built
Can We Learn from Our Mistakes?
A Jailer is Saved
A Special Gentile, is Named Jethro
As I Live and Breathe
Mordechai, Taking a Stand against the Enemy
The Story of Josiah's Obedience to God
The Lord Rises up Jephthah, As His Warrior
A Bit More about My Path
A Final Thought
The Mayo Clinic Letter
A Song of Love: One Sunny Day
Psalm 27, a Psalm of David
A Heart for God, the Beginning
"You that love the Lord, he evil: he preserves the souls of his saints them: he delivers them out of the hand of the wicked."
If ever there is every time in the history of people, especially here in the United States, to move away or flee evil, today is that time. We see around us such corruption, generally, but also in the lives and decisions of our leaders. Back in the pre-election when our president with seeking office, I can remember his life, Michelle Obama making the statement that for the first time she was able to not be embarrassed to be a citizen of this great country.
As the past two years have unfolded under this president and his regime, for the first time in my 86 years of living in this fine country, both Lynne and I can say, we are definitely concerned as citizens of these United States. I feel sure many of you may feel the same, but others will think that is a very unusual thought. I suspect the Founding Fathers would sound an alarm.
If we were to look at any person in whom we may admire, we almost always will find that person surrounded by others of like mind. Decent, honorable, operate people who none of us would be afraid to bring home with us, or to introduce them to our spouse, our parents, our children or other friends or relatives. People almost always surround themselves with others of like mind. Today, as we look at our present President, it is almost impossible for the average citizen to a mansion bringing into their home, many of this president's closest confidant, and yet these people are inhabiting the Peoples House or our counsel for the president of the United States of America.
I don't want this to be a book about politics, but one in which we all can review and understand some of the teachings of our Lord, taken from his word in the Holy Bible. There is so much misinformation being pushed into the faces of God's people that it becomes even more important to study and meditate on the word of God.
In David's life before God, he, like us, had made many mistakes, but his heart was desirous of pleasing God. David has realized that he won't be building God's temple but that his son, Solomon, has been chosen for that task. In 1 Corinthians 29:1 he says, "Solomon my son, whom God has chosen, is yet very young and tender, and the work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God."
In verse 19 he states, "Give unto Solomon, my son, a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to prove all these things, and to build the palace, for which I have made provision." As we look at this chapter in Chronicles, we see the heart of David for the work that God had given him to do. Yes, you are correct, that God didn't give him the job of actually building the Temple, but let's look at David's heart for the work to be done and his contribution.
In verse 2 David makes the following statement, "Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God." In his earlier statement he says the Temple is not for man, but for God. We, his people are the Temple of God and we are to build that Temple, our lives, in such a way that we will give all of the glory to God. In building the structural church where we all may worship, that too, should be constructed in a way that it affords God the most glory, and not man. Everything we do should point to exalting God. God goes on to say that he is basically giving much of what he personally owns to be sure that the best of materials will be used for the Temple structure.
David shows by his personal love for God that this is the way we should approach our lives. Look what he says in verse 3. Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have given of my own proper good, of gold and silver, over and above all that I had prepared for the whole the house. By David showing his love for God's house and the tabernacle, not the government. In doing so, David not only encouraged others to do likewise, but he was recognizing that all we have comes from God. As we develop that same attitude we can change much of the culture of greed in which we presently live.
David went on to say in verse 4, that he had given 3000 talents of gold, and the gold of Ophir, and 7000 talent, of refined silver to overlay the walls of houses.
He goes on to ask, who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord. That is exactly the message of the short book. Are willing to consecrate our lives and talents unto the Lord and his work? We all feel as though it is only by our efforts which we have increased not only our knowledge, our talents and anointing, our stature in the community in which we live, and even our comfort zone. I believe that we are to recognize each of these things have come from God, and our position and attitude is that we should use these bariatric youths to further God's kingdom in any way in which he has allowed us to function.
His Plan for Our Lives
As I have reviewed all my own life, I can see where the hand of God was always present to take me along a path that he was orchestrating. I started my life as a son of a schoolteacher mom and a dentist dad in New York. I had nothing to do with whom I was born, or even why I was born. That fell in God's prerogative. His choice, not mine. If that was well understood by everyone, then wouldn't it be just as smart to think that most of the good and eventual things that do occur in our lives are also at his desire?
Let me tell you a bit more about my life. I often consider how fortunate we are to live in such a spectacular time. My grandmother was born in the Midwest and about the late 1860s or early 1870s and my mother was born in 1899. What a tremendous amount of innovation and change occurred in their lifetimes, but then as I considered I was born only six years after world war one ended, I realized much of the same has occurred in my lifetime.
From my birth in the Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx in 1925, I first lived on Riverside Drive in upper man, with my mother, father and brother, who was 18 months older than I. When my dad, Dr. Charles J. Brophy, unexpectedly died in 1927, mother took her three children, two sons and a daughter, and traveled by train to Lawton, Oklahoma to be with her mother and stepdad.
The next year we for traveled to San Diego where we would live with my granddad, Fred A. Sutherland. This was all happening in the 1928 – 29 time. And just before the 1929 market crash, which brought on the Great Depression. Talk about an interesting and difficult moment for my mother. She just lost her husband in August of 1927, then moved to Oklahoma for the summer of 1927, to live with my grandfather, and from there she took her three young children again by train to San Diego to start a life with her father who she had not lived with since she was one year of age. I can hardly imagine the courage and faith and must take in this 28-year-old widow to do what she did.
Things get even more interesting in San Diego as we are living at granddad's home when in 1931, he dies of a ruptured appendix, and the Great Depression has just occurred. It seemed as though the situation could get worse. While it did in that although Fred was an entrepreneur and appeared to be doing very well, his untimely death had allowed everything to be gobbled up by creditors and attorneys. So, basically, mother was nearly penniless and with three young children, no husband and no employment.
I can only imagine her heart ache during that very stressful time. My heart just breaks thinking about what she had to endure, and yet I was at the time too young to even understand. If I could only tell her, now, how grateful I am for her courage as she sought out ways to move her life forward in ways that would allow her children to all succeed in their future lives, but also success in her own life. She married again with another couple years, and we were raised then by she and her new husband, our new stepfather. All talk more about those years and another chapter. Now let's get started.
My Bringing up and Education
Again, I'm thinking back to the theme of this book and position David took with his talent and efforts and seeing that God would be honored in the building of His house, one needs to be always reminded that our lives should be lived to give honor and praise to God. Our lives should always be cognizant and to point others to the gifts which only God could bring forth in our lives. I wish I could have always known that truth and in obedience to it, but so much depends on our being taught and mentored in ways of God and in the Bible.
But back in the years in which my brother Chuck and sister Shirley and I were being raised, it was during the Great Depression and it seemed that it was a time when all of our efforts were being devoted to either school or attempting to just seek out a living. Back in about 1931 mother had remarried to our stepdad, Lee Christensen, so we were being young and adapt taking his last name as our last name. As I look back on that name change, I would have preferred staying with our actual name, Brophy, but that just didn't happen. It was easier for mother and dad to have us all with the same last name, and maybe, that was God's desire to, as I certainly later entered the Christian ministry. In any case, it all should give glory to God.
Those early years were live does part time cowboy, in Julian, and as part-time city slicker living in San Diego proper. I suspect the years of helping build houses and barns treating the animals all had a relevance to the life I was to live later as a surgeon, innovator of medical devices and an entrepreneur. Each of those positions required special talents which only God could have orchestrated and help develop within me.
God will certainly be one to put various desires and passions within our hearts, so that we will take certain steps to see those things fulfilled.
I'll never forget that back when I was in about the third grade I just knew I was going to go into dentistry when I grew up. The only reason I could give was that my biologic father was a dentist in New York City, and though he died when I was only 30 months old, and I really never knew him nor remembered him, the passion certainly had to have been placed in my heart by God, for me to move in that direction throughout my young school life. Maybe it was something like David wanting to build the house of God in Jerusalem. In this case the passion was there, but God gave that final job to David's son Solomon to accomplish. Indirectly, King David, was the one who helped his son decide to move ahead with that accomplishment.
As I look back, now some 75 to 80 years later, I am absolutely amazed at how God orchestrated each step along the way to see that I family arrived at the point where these positions and accomplishments were fulfilled in my life. Isn't it amazing how He can keep a passion burning in a person's life, or change that desire to something else which will help fulfill His needs your honor. Not only does He have to keep those thoughts and desires in your heart, but then He has to help make all of the necessary steps to occur.
I am always amazed how I was able to stay, not only focused on the goal, but doing well enough in my schooling to be allowed to advance toward those goals. I never figured I was a good enough student to get the grades I would need to advance not only through grades K-12, to be allowed to go to college, but then to be selected to go one through dental school and to graduate in dentistry.
Thinking back to Chuck and Shirley and me in the gears of the depression, there was no way in the natural that any of us could have gone to college, to have graduated from college and to have been able to move forward from that point. Chuck, being the oldest, was the most serious of the three of us. He was an excellent student, also. I was the middle child and certainly wasn't a student of his caliber, and surely was the youngest and was more like me as far as being a slightly above average student. Chuck went on to be a civil engineer and surely a registered nurse. Both were excellent in their fields.
There certainly was no financing for the three of us to go to college. Our stepdad was an enormously talented and hard-working gentleman. His original business was as a general contractor but I suspect when the depression got going in full bloom he was doing more additions and repairs and finally got into termite extermination. He became very good at that and was sought after and eventually took a voluntary position as head of the Structural Control Board of California, appointed by the governor. He did well enough to be able to purchase parcels of land in Julian where we became cattle ranchers, but seldom had any extra money.
The second world war just started just as Chuck was finishing high school and I was entering my junior year and surely was another year and a half after me. There was no way any of us might have been able to afford a good college degree, except starting off at San Diego State, which cost about $50 per semester, plus the cost of books. So that's where Chuck started and then I started in college, in February 1943.
But, as I look back, I realize God had a plan to get me into dental college and for Chuck to graduate as a civil engineer. It's amazing, when I think about all the things which have to line up to be able to keep a person like me or Chuck were surely on course with our education. It just doesn't happen, for no reason. I joined the U.S. Navy as I was graduating from high school, and within one semester of my entrance to San Diego State, the Navy called me into active duty and then proceeded to pay for my college all the way through undergraduate school at the University of Southern California and then on to the dental college at New York University in Manhattan. I would be living off campus and the Navy had no residence facility for us at that time, but the Navy gave me a small stipend for residence.
But God had a perfect plan. My dad's brother, Dr. Frederick H. Brophy was a practicing dentist in an office in Central Park South in Manhattan and lived with his family in Pelham, Westchester County, New York. He and his wife took me in and kept me living with them until I finished my third year there at NYU, and then I was able to get married and live with my wife at a college veterans housing unit on North Brothers Island in East River for $25 per month. God was more than able to care for me through all of those years to see that I could complete my education in the very filled He wanted me in, and for which he had given me such a passion. Amazing! Both surely and Chuck went on to graduate in their respective professional schools and had very successful careers. More about them later.
What Next, Lord?
I have graduated in the top 11% of my class at NYU and had won two of the nine awards given to the graduating class of 1948. I was then offered a teaching position at the college of dentistry to head up a new section of prosthetic restoration of missing or deformed oral and facial structures to be started at the college in conjunction with Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. I also had been groomed for an association with my uncle Frederick Harold Brophy in his private dental practice overlooking Central Park, in New York City. Both of these positions were to be sought after, and yet my wife and I made a different decision. The Lord had my life covered from day one and yet this was something I would have to learn over the following many decades of my life.
It is so interesting how things do unfold and for some of the directions we may choose, and even more importantly, why? Remember, I had basically grown up in the San Diego area of California and during the pre-World War II years of the great depression. I had enjoyed my time in NYC, where I was born, and had courted and married my wife while living there. Any decision as to where we might eventually reside and work would also be made in conjunction with her desires.
It would certainly seem that the decision as to the direction my professional life would take would be mine alone to make, and yet, without my being aware, I believe now, the Lord had much influence on the decisions that my wife and I made. That would have seemed rather foreign to me at that time in my life, but there was something rather uncanny as to how things seemed to line up over the next many years of our lives.
In the natural, it seemed preposterous that I would not have accepted the position as a developing later in the prosthetic facial reconstruction field for which Dean Walter Henry Wright had personally groomed me. I had been selected for this position out of all 600 classmates to work alongside of him, on a daily basis, for my last two years at the college, and was being groomed for just such a position upon my graduation. I had been asked to set up and represent the college at the Second Annual Cleft Pallet Association Convention in New York City. Dr. Wright had been the founder of that particular professional society, and was known worldwide for his contributions in that important field. How could I possibly turned down his offer for a new and important position in the faculty upon my graduation?
It would be just as ludicrous that I would turn down a position as an associate in my uncle's practice of dentistry. After all, this was the very practice my father had started some 35 years earlier, and wasn't I desirous of following in his footsteps? Uncle "Harold" as we knew him was eminently respected in the professional round in New York City. He had been a past president of the First District Dental Society located in Manhattan. He was also honored to be the first person holding a DDS degree to be appointed to the Council of New York University, the prestigious body that oversees the affairs of the world's largest university. Everything about my invitation to be a part of his practice was very inviting. I enjoyed his company immensely as well as the fact that I had been housed in his home for three of my four years attending New York University.
What was I to do? My wife and I discussed at length the choices which we had to make and at the end, we made the decision which even today seems preposterous. Why, would we make such a decision? Was there something influencing our decision? Was there something influencing our decision in which we were unaware? Even today, some 63 years later, I can't really figure out how so many decisions we made, were made, but as I see how they were interplayed, I am amazed and certainly grateful. I have no question about the fact we are given the liberty to make these decisions, but I am flabbergasted how much of those early decisions allowed many of the subsequent situations to have occurred. Maybe we can attribute it all to chance and circumstance, but I just can't as easily related to God's immutable hand on our lives.
So that I don't keep you in suspense as to what decision my wife and I made, at the most important junction of my professional life, let me tell you. I suspect we disappointed a number of people by our decisions, but it was never our wish. First, we decided to travel to San Diego and see about taking the California state dental board. I had completed most of the New York state dental board successfully earlier, and that certainly would have been a strong drawing point for staying in New York City and fulfilling either or both of the positions being offered.
To travel to California and chance getting through a very tough state board would seem most foolish. At that time almost 80% of the out-of-state trained dentists were failing the California state dental board on their first attempt. How could I possibly think I could pass it the first time? To add to the reasons for possibly staying in New York City was the added fact that my wife, Ann’s parents and sisters lived in Scarsdale, New York. Added to that, Ann and I were expecting our first baby in the fall, and it was July at this point. It seems this decision was very risky, to say the least. Even if I were to get through the state board exam, the notification of how we get on the board would take 90 days thereafter. Then, I would need to see where I might practice, if that truly was where we wanted to live. One more complicating factor was the fact that I had past three quarters of the New York state dental board earlier, but the final portion would be occurring at exactly the same time that I was supposed to take the California Board. I couldn't do both, because of time constraints and I decided to study for, and attempt to pass, the very difficult California Board.
As I look back on these decisions, they seem way too monumental, for me to even want to decide, today. Was God really guiding me? I knew really nothing about being a born-again Christian. I had, however, converted to Ann’s Catholicism at the time of our wedding in the beginning of my senior year. We were both happy about that decision, but I would learn nearly 40 years later, I was not a born again Christian. Certainly, the Lord knew my heart and that I wanted to serve him, but somehow I had never asked to confess Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior with my mouth. That would come any, many years later.
Only by Your Guiding Hand, Lord
I was being specifically trained to be involved and to teach and specialize in a new specialty of dentistry. It had to do with prosthetic we restoring oral and facial structures that were either congenitally missing or after restructuring during tumor surgery or some other disease process. It would certainly be an exciting specialty to function in and one in which I was almost guaranteed a position of being a leader. It certainly was very exciting, and yet somehow I was moving away from that important challenge and field. Why?
Nothing about my decision was really making sense, but somehow my wife and I seemed to have a certain amount of peace about what we were doing. We spent the next 45 days studying for the California State Board. My folks had driven from San Diego to Manhattan to be there for my graduation, and then to transport us out to California by car.
I can only barely imagine the disappointment of my uncle Harold and Dean Wright because of the decision we were freely making. It must've been quite heartbreaking for Harold as he was getting near his retirement age and I was certainly the likely person to be introduced as his replacement. After all, my own father had been very one starting the practice so many years earlier, as well as the fact that he had helped his younger brother, Harold, get through dental school at the very school I would graduate from so many years later.
For Dean Wright I know you had to also be a disappointment, but some hand was guiding me on a most unusual course.
A little farther Down the Road
I am so glad to announce that I did make it through the California state dental board that summer of 1948, on my first try. There were so many things working against a person wanting to travel from another state and take a dental board. You have the cost of doing so, and most graduating medical and dental students are not only fatigued from studying, taking exams and are almost always fully depleted from any money, if they were ever really had any, that there's no way they could handle much more.
I was one of those. We were expecting a child, had no home, no money and very little desire to get into more serious testing, but here we go. One of the main challenges for any dental student is the fact that there is a practical or clinical portion of the exam in which a graduate which need to find a suitable patient with a certain type of necessary feelings, bring that person to the exam and somehow accomplish the necessary treatment in a certain amount of time. It was nearly an impossible group of requirements, and then to be successful would be a real challenge. Not to mention all of the written tests required on a myriad of scientific subjects.
How or where do you even look for such a patient in town where you know no one? It is about like saying to a recent medical school graduate, therefore his board clinical exam, he needs to find some pregnant woman to deliver, or some 25-year-old man who needs an appendectomy, I'll adjust the same moment of the exam. Lot of luck. Nothing about the clinical side of these dental exams is really fair or practical. You can fail purely because of the logistics of getting such a patient, requiring such a treatment and who is willing to let you, the anxious and somewhat nervous, recent graduate attempt such a treatment, at this exact moment, on such an exam.
In regards to these kind of dental boards. If I were one to help set up a reasonable and fair exam, I would expect all of the University dental students here in America, which are so regulated, to carry out the grading of all graduates, in these clinical subjects. The attempt to do it in the way it is being done is almost a "gotcha" situation and is quite unfair. Perhaps that is why I never been a member of any actual dental state board.
Somehow God knows, and I truly believe his guiding hand has some influence on a person's life and choices. Before I go ahead with my life story, let's bring up a few other life stories where it would seem only God's hand could have directed the outcome. It is perhaps a strange concept where we have been given free will, but I suspect that hand to be a guiding influence on the paths that He would have us take, just like His protection and provision is available.
The Interesting Life of St. Paul
What a life of contrasts. Saul, better and later known as Paul, is first mentioned in acts 7:58. He is first mentioned at this moment that the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is being stoned to death. Let me read you Acts 7:58 – 60.
And cast Stephen out of the city and stoned him, and the witness laid down their close at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul. It goes on to say, And they stoned Stephen, (who was) calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not the sin to their charge. And when he said this, he fell asleep.
Can you possibly imagine that at the very moment Stephen is being put to death, that Paul is there to be observing and was being moved by it all? If it was God's calling on his life, and I felt sure that it was, what better moment for him to see the passion of a young man who had just been appointed to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and who is willingly laying his life down as a martyr for the others?
Saul (Paul) was a very religious person who had been trained under the most noted teachers of Israel at the time. He was a Pharisee and new, and was well schooled in, biblical teachers. He had sought to destroy any early Christian and stop mission to go to Damascus and the hopes of bringing many of the early converts to Christianity back to Jerusalem prisons. It was his belief that these early Christians, or Jewish, were taking away from the Jewish faith and teachings.
As he traveled to Damascus he was met by no other than the post resurrected Jesus Christ. You see, when God wants to get someone's attention, he has no problem finding very inventive ways to do so.
Many times we Christians feel that some person may only come to the Lord in some more routine way. Like, maybe, the person is first brought to a Christian church by a member of that church and then after some number of visits, that person is asked if he or she would like to become a church member? Or maybe even more boldly the person is asked if he or she would like to receive Jesus as his Lord? As you hear and read these accounts, they can't help but make the born-again Christian feel so appreciative of God's direction in his own life and to give that person a heart for God.
Look what happened to solve. As he is traveling North on the road to Damascus, Jesus meets him and changes his life forever. Look at how this occurred as told in Acts 9:1 – 5.
"And Saul breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And he desired of him letters to Damascus to them synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, that he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came near unto Damascus: suddenly there shined a light around him as a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and he heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul why persecutes thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutes”.
There was no question, after the incident, that Paul knew very well that Jesus was the one heart on his trail and that God had a call on his life. It only takes one incidents of this type to make the one called change his direction and to gain a heart for God.
What did Paul do next? Remember, as I said earlier, when Saul was there watching others persecute Stephen, and when he himself was persecuting Christian men and women and throwing them in jail, he felt he was on the right path. Yet, God in his perfect love showed Paul how wrong he was, and then he became that spectacular person whom we now know as St. Paul, the evangelist and writer of many books of the Bible.
It was Paul and his conversation, which helped bring the disciples to where they would evangelize others, and not just the Jews of Israel. Jesus had told them they were to wait for the Holy Ghost to come upon them and then they should be witness unto him both in Jerusalem, and all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth. But the disciples had been slow to start on that more wide spread mission, until the zealot, Paul, had been converted. Now things will change.
You see, God does move in the hearts of men, even before they are converted were born again. If God needs to have the Shekinah Glory of God surround you, he can do just that. If he needs to wake you from your sleep and speak to you, he is more than able.
But then happened in Paul’s life? He allowed God to teach them all that he needed to know about the life and teachings of Jesus and then he moved out with such force that no one might contain him. It didn't matter whether he was shipwrecked and basically brought the island inhabitants to Jesus, or whether he was thrown in a Roman jail. He just let everyone know that Jesus truly was the Son of God, and had come to be that deliverer of all who would accept him as their Lord and Savior. There was now no stopping this man. There was no other thing as important to him as letting others know of the love of God for them. He became such a mighty force for God and in Christianity there was probably no greater force, other than Jesus himself, in converting many people and especially the Gentiles. He became so much in love with Jesus, that the statement found in Philippines 1:21, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Is likely the hallmark of his life.
I suspect in many lives there are turning points orchestrated by God himself, maybe never as specific and spectacular as seen in Saul's life, but more than enough to direct us the civic directions to accomplish all that God would have for each of us to do.
As I look at my own life during the transition from owning and overseeing a medical device company to where I have no ownership or position in the company which I pioneered, it was a very difficult transition. But like Paul, I turned my talent and energy toward speaking God's word through the writing of Christian books. That endeavor is really just unfolding, by it is given me purpose and passion for telling others about the love of Jesus for each of us. Truly, with God, all things are possible.
Back to My Story
Well, by sometime in September of 1948, I was notified by wire that I had successfully passed the California State Dental Board and now I could legally practice dentistry in California. That's just wonderful, by have no idea where to go, nor did I have any money to start a practice and equip and on this, and we had a baby boy arriving in about six weeks.
I suspect God was not moved. I suspect he might just have been amused as he gently moved me this way and that way down a path that could have been known and planned by him.
It came to my mind to attempt to make an appointment with mother's general dentist in San Diego, as a starting point. He might know some need somewhere. He pointed me toward a little town in the high Sierra's where his brother was a physician and where they were looking for a brand new dentist, since the town of 1500 people had never had a dentist, but felt they needed one. The Collin Pine Lumber Company had already built a new ranch-style building to house the physician's office and the new dental office.
What is departure from what I had been groomed for in Manhattan. With my wife and I settle for a new venture entirely? To live in a small town away from all family and isolated? It doesn't seem like that is what we would do, but we did.
Whatever makes a person make such a choice? It's hard to know, if it isn't somehow that the Lord is directing one's steps. In any case, it is easier for me to reflect now, on how He was leading me down a certain path that I feel sure He wanted me to take.
We started our general dental practice in Chester, Almanor County, California and got pretty busy from the beginning. Andrew, our first son was born at the small town company hospital in Westwood. Everything is an experience in some small towns. Even though I had spent much of my youth in the small town of Julian, there are always new challenges as a couple starts their married life and work in some new city or town. The local town weekly had an article about the new dentist, who had a new Ford car and now a new baby. Everything is news in a small town, and you just hope the writer or editor likes you.
I guess the thing that amazed me most about this whole move was the fact that we had been offered some really good opportunities, if we settled in Manhattan, and get here we were in a small town, where no one knows us, and we are attempting to get a dental practice started, and attempting to make a living, and then hopefully enjoy life.
We found many challenges as we adapted to life in Chester, California. It was a pretty part of the country being next-door to Lake Almanor and within view of Mount Lassen, one of the last active volcanoes, and raising some 14,000 feet above the sea level. The winters got really cold in those mounds. The temperatures would get as low was 30° below zero and sometimes staying in the 0 to 15 below range for a week or two at a time during the winter months. In the summer the temperature could rise into the 90+ degree range, but usually got cooler in the evenings. Altitude was approximately 4300 feet ASL.
The hoe we rented was a log cabin with two bedrooms, single level with kerosene floor furnace in the center of the structure, quite new, and owned by Dr. Bob Greenman, the physician. It had been financed by the Collins Pine Lumber Company of Chester, in order to have a medical and dental facility for their employees.
There was only one physician and one dentist, and if either on of us was out of town, the other had to fill in best as possible. Bill’s wife was his receptionist, nurse and staff. My wife, Ann, was one that filled that spot in my office, as best possible.
I have always said a newly graduated physician or dentist would do well to start off in such an environment as it gives one a great deal of experience which may not be readily available in the larger cities with all of their restrictions. It certainly made my life and practice more interesting as I was having to do much more surgery than I was possibly trained for, but which was learnable by being mentored by Dr. Bob Greenman and by gathering a good medical, dental and surgical library and then studying, best you could. As a newly married couple, with a new baby, it gave us the opportunity of learning to together, and to lean on each other, without the benefit of our respective parents, for mentioning. There is much to be said for staying closer to family, but I suspect God knew we would have to grow in many ways, and that we did.
I think probably the most interesting facet of this move was its ability to draw me into wanting to be involved more in the surgical aspects of practice than as a generalist. In these small towns the physician acts as the specialist wherever needed with the exception of taking on the role of specialist in very serious or distinctly complicated procedures. The same was true in my dental field, plus the fact I was having to give a number of treatments in the medical field, because I was available, that wouldn’t occur in a larger city with other specialists available.
Because the mountain ski area was used as such a recreational region, I was seeing a number of skiing accidents that needed immediate treatments and it was giving me good hands on experience. Again, I believe the Lord not only knew I would likely be drawn into the surgical area of my profession, but this would give me good practical experience which would further my career in a short period of time. I was finding I enjoyed the challenges, and I probably wasn’t doing that poor a job handling those crises.
The Life Of St. Peter
What do we know about a fisherman named Simon, also called Peter?
If we look at Matthew 4:18 we see that Jesus is just starting his public ministry and he is walking by Sea of Galilee when he spots two brothers casting a net into the sea. The verse tells us they were fishermen. Now, don’t you suppose Jesus had some foreknowledge about these two brothers?
The first words out of Jesus’ mouth was, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. What a statement and what an acceptance. Can you imagine, if by chance they were working with their father, how e must have felt? It says they straight way left and followed Jesus. Would we?
That’s about as strange as when I turned down the opportunities in New York City to go to a little town to start my practice of dentistry and raise a family. Was there some guiding force, that I wasn’t even unaware of, that was drawing me to that part of the country? Why was it necessary or even smart for me to go visit Dr. Bob Greenman, mother’s dentist in San Diego? I didn’t know him form Adam. Yet, he was the one that was used to get me to go start my practice in Chester.
The Apostle Peter left his former occupation to follow a man he may have known little about. He followed him the rest of his life, and he got mentored by the Master himself. Did Peter always follow Jesus perfectly? No, not at all. But that did not disqualify him. Nor did my not always being the perfect surgeon disqualify me from being called to later to become a leader in my later surgical specialty. It’s what’s in the heart that counts.
Peter changed from being a simple fisherman to being a leader in Christianity, one step at a time. Nothing happens overnight, most of our fulfilling God’s plan requires a lifetime.
Jesus would only be with the men he chose as his disciples, for a little over three years. He had to make the right selection, because if he didn't, much precious time would be lost, but even more importantly, the work which would need to be accomplished would be delayed or never get done. He chose his disciples well, with the exception of Judas. Surely, the selection of Judas didn't mean Judas couldn't have finished the race a winner, he just chose not to.
Anyway, I felt that is like all of us. We are placed here on this planet to accomplish God's will, but whether we do or not is usually up to us. Peter was selected along with his brother, Andrew, also a fisherman, and they both became the leaders of the Christian movement that God had wished. Does that mean that each one never made a mistake? No it doesn't. What so many of us learn, as we travel the path that the Lord and life has lead out for us, is that there will certainly be hardships, persecutions, roadblocks and great mountains to climb. There will, likely, be even failures, but instead of thinking that is the end of the road, we are to get up and keep moving forward, no matter what the cost. That is the mark of a champion.
I think we can safely say that God is striving to not only get us to accept him, but that he wants us to be his followers, just like Peter. Peter stumbled, but he got up and continued because he felt the love that Jesus was portraying and a passion to take that message of love to a fallen and needy world. As I traveled this path, which I feel sure God has ordained before, I have seen not only my need for the message of love which Jesus portrayed, but I see it in those lives around me. Some may have no knowledge that is that love which they are desperately seeking, and God is wanting them to share. It's like being a good physician and saying such need for good medicine, surgery or counseling, but some needy person may have no knowledge of the availability of that very information, counseling or treatment.
Like in the life of Peter, we must learn it is better to be a follower of Jesus who fails, then a person who fails to follow. When we see all of the wisdom described and lived in the words found in the holy Bible, it is awful to choose not to follow that wisdom and more importantly, to not accept the gift of life which accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, brings.
One of the most grievous mistakes seen in Peter's life had to do with the moment of Jesus’ trial, just before the crucifixion. It was as Jesus had predicted, Peter would deny him thrice, and he did. We can easily say we wonder how he ever could have done such a thing, but how many times have we gone against what God would have us do, or think to ourselves, it is really God's command to me? Yes, Peter made mistakes. He at times spoke without fully grasping way he should have been speaking, but don't we do that frequently? I know I do. Peter learned as we do, that his unfaithfulness was overshadowed by God's faithfulness.
In the long run, Peter became a pillar of strength and courage and a great follower of Jesus, even when eventually that loyalty would require his life. Did he make some mistakes? Yes, he did, but none of us wishing to follow Jesus will ever be able to do better than Peter. We all will let him down somewhere, but Jesus is always there to receive again the repentant heart.
As I read this book I can more realistically see that God has chosen all of us, just as he chose Simon Peter. He named him the "rock" because he knew he would stay faithful, despite all the persecution and trials. Are we willing to also stay focused on our calling, even when things aren't going just the way we want? It certainly has been a challenge in my own life, but long ago, I made the decision to follow Jesus, best as I could.
Let's Look at Some Other Lives
The Life of Rev. Billy Graham
Here is a man, called by God for some special purpose, and yet his beginning certain is quite humbly. He was born as William Franklin Graham Junior on November 7, 1918 really in the midst of America being engaged in World War I. His parents were, William Franklin Graham and Morrow Coffrey and he was born on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Nothing about his beginning would make you suspect that he would turn out to be one of the world's leading evangelists. He would live through one of the nation’s major depressions, in the 1930s, and would somehow find his way into the ministry of Jesus Christ. He found college too legalistic and dropped out early in more than one. But God always had someone around to mentor him and to point them in the direction that God would eventually have him travel. At age 16, in 1934, he accepted Jesus and he was inspired by pastor Charley Young of Eastport Bible Church, to be more than he thought he could be. He would later attend Bob Jones College located in Cleveland, Tennessee, which later became Bob Jones University.
He was almost expelled, but Bob Jones Senior told him not to throw his life away, because, Bob Jones felt he had a great calling for his life, if you would strain up and start studying to show himself worthy and able. He later transferred to the Florida Bible Institute.
It was obvious to many that from the earliest time in college, that Billy Graham had a voice and a calling to be a preacher, and more specifically and evangelist. He received his calling in 1937 while playing golf. He later transferred to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois to study anthropology where he later graduated in 1943. He made the decision, at that time, to not only accept the Bible, but that the Bible, truly was the infallible word of God.
It was in looking at the path of some of these giants in our culture that we can also see that, just as He was leading them down at times a torturous path, He is leaving you and me too. God has a special purpose for all of us. Usually, it may not seem as spectacular and praiseworthy as that of Billy Graham, but to God, the path He has us on, is equally important. It may be in being a housewife and mother, or in being a teacher or contractor. God is more than anxious and willing to make our lives, in whatever occupation or profession, be a life that will show His love to a hurting world. That is a calling on every life.
God brought Billy Graham to a point where he could mold him and make him the giant in his field that he became. Nothing happens quickly, as it takes decades to see a life fully blown and to be fully used by God, for His purpose. In Billy Graham's life, God would need to bring into the picture a lovely and dedicated, young woman named Ruth Bell to be his companion, wife and mother of his children.
She was a classmate at Wheaton College and her folks were missionaries to China. Her father was a surgeon who had devoted some portion of his life to the Lord's work in missions. Billy fell in love with Ruth at first sight and she later recalled that he wanted to please God more than any man she had ever met. What a great way to start a marriage. They got married in 1943 graduation and they lived as husband and wife until her death in 2007. Ruth died at the age of 87 years and Billy is now 92 years old. Together, they had five children and all have entered and continued to function in Christian ministry. What a pastor Billy and Ruth followed as God led them, baby step by baby step, down a glorious path.
What a life they fulfilled, doing it God's way. He later met and ministered to some 12 US presidents going back to Harry S Truman and all the way up to Barack Obama. What a legacy he leaves. If we were to attempt to follow each step that he and Ruth followed and walked, we would see that God had them move down various paths from college president to pastor, to radio announcer to evangelist par excellence. Rev. Billy Graham has probably brought Jesus to more people around the world than any other person in the history of the world up to this time. Although Billy Graham had little formal theological training, he started his mission Crusade program in 1948 that has lasted up until this present time.
In lifting up his name in this manner I wanted to make the point that if we could just realized by dedicating our lives to following God, and the plan He has for us we too will see how effectively He can lead us to an abundant and productive Christian life, always serving others.
Deborah, A Life Lived for God
"Phrase ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves."
Deborah was the only female judge of Israel, and because of her wisdom and organizing skills, she goes down in history a very famous woman and leader of Israel. When a person realizes how God is calling him/her, that person develops a confidence that can then move others into action. She encouraged Barak to be the person God had called him to be and go fight against the enemy, no matter what the battle looked like.
God called Deborah for such a spot and she did not let the fact that she wasn't a man stop her from tackling the job which God had given her.
Sometimes, we may look at someone doing God's work and then criticize and even mock the fact that person was ever chosen by God. It is our own earthly wisdom that sometimes interferes with the very plan that God has. Remember when Saul, known later as Paul, was chosen by God to evangelize the Gentiles? The Jews thought, who is this infidel? But God's plan always brings victory, or success, if we choose to devote our lives to doing things God's way.
Deborah wasn't there to say she accomplished it all, she gave God all the glory. Deborah had to tell Barak that God would be with him in battle. After all, Israel is God's chosen nation of people. It is not different today. Israel is being surrounded by nations hell-bent on destroying her, and yet we know that God will rise up a force to totally destroy her enemies. That's where Barak was, regarding the enemies of Israel, and it took a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, to lead him to what the Lord was asking him to do.
If you, as a devoted Christian, are willing to sell out your past and future to do what God is asking you to do, you will see His hand in your victories over a stubborn enemy. God has chosen you, and me, to accomplish what PCs needs to be done. He has not moved by your inadequacies. He is by your willing us to serve him. Deborah walked with a confidence that only a person sold out to God can't possibly walk in. For most of us, we choose not to totally sell out to God. I know, like you, that I haven't always been sold out to God, but when He finally got my attention, things changed in my life.
Deborah was smart enough to know, that she would require the help of others to bring forth what God was telling her, so she encouraged the leaders of Israel to rise up and be the force that God was calling them to be. She was the only female judge in Israel and was not afraid to speak God's commands to never. She was filled with godly wisdom and competent enough to use that wisdom to motivate others, and yet always giving God the glory.
She was truly to be available and was not discouraged by the difficulty of the task. Those are two qualities which God is looking for in our lives. Will we accept His task, no matter what the circumstances may look like? God had asked her to be available to others, to see the need and then to use His wisdom and direction to help others also succeed in whatever God called them to do. She was a writer of songs, much like David, and an encourager of God's people. Are we willing to do the same?
We Must Be Born Again
One of the most interesting exchanges of information was seen in the words spoken between Jesus and he will or of the Jews, a Pharisee named Nicodemus. The story is told in John chapter 3. Just prior to this chapter, and chapter 2 we see the apostle John telling us about the belief and unbelief which Jesus was encountering in Jerusalem. He had just driven the money changers and merchants out of the Temple. This was the period of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread which lasted a week and retold the story of the exit off of the children of Israel from Egypt and culminated in the Passover meal. The males were required to do a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for that yearly Feast.
So, having said that, Jesus has chosen a time in which the Temple is being occupied and visited by Jews from around that present world. Jesus has shown his anger at the defilement of the Temple which is occurring. It probably looked like a present day Bazar on the sidewalks of Beverly Hills during a Jewish holiday. Not exactly what he felt the Temple represented or should look like. He told the merchants to take heed and make not His father's house a house of merchandise.
It was shortly after that episode found in John 2 that a curious thing happened. The Pharisee which I mentioned earlier sought out Jesus at night. He, like many people today, might want to know more about Jesus and what he stood for, but they might choose to not be seen asking anything about God. But the heart of Nicodemus, must certainly have been fertile ground for God's word of salvation, otherwise he would not have sought him.
Nicodemus said to Jesus, Rabbi, we know that thou are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him. The very fact that Nicodemus had even sought out Jesus, shows the hand of God on his life. It certainly makes me think of the call of God on my life, before I knew him intimately, that He would cause me to travel some 600 miles to meet and ask TWA captain, who would then lead me to the Lord and give me a vision for standing for not only my marriage, but for the marriages of hundreds and thousands of others. Jesus did not mince any words with Nicodemus, he just told it like it was. He said, verily, verily, I say to thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The next question out of Nicodemus’s mouth was, as we might expect, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb? And be reborn?
To the unsaved world there is no comprehension of the Spirit realm of being born again.
Jesus replied, Unless a man be born of the Spirit and of water, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. He went on to say to Nicodemus, Marvel not, that I say, you must be born again.
Jesus then relates the experience of being born again to the wind. Where it comes from and where it goes is not important or known. It is the fact that one is born again in the spirit realm, as that is the only entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
In Romans it tells us that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.
But for the time in which Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus, he had not been crucified nor raised from the dead. What a concept and a lot of faith it must have taken for Nicodemus and others to understand what Jesus was telling them. But, again, I believe it shows the calling of God on all of our lives to not only live for God, but to be willing to fulfill whatever purpose God puts in our hearts.
A few verses later, Jesus went on to tell him, That whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten, That whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this short exchange to a religious leader of the time of Jesus. Whereas so many Jews were not willing to even consider Jesus could be the predicted Messiah, for Nicodemus, it was inconceivable that this man could do the miracles he was doing unless he was being led by God Almighty.
Nicodemus, like many others did not want it known he was seeking after Jesus. What might happen to his job or reputation? The interesting thing is that you could thermos was not only seeking after Jesus, but he truly wanted to learn, and that probably was why he came after him in the dark of night.
You can be sure that Nicodemus’s life began to change, as did mine when I got born again. He was later seen as a member of the Jewish Council discussing whether Jesus should be eliminated and stated that did not seem like justice. Again, later, he with Joseph of Arimathaea, asked for the body of Jesus to bury, after he was taken down from the cross.
Our acceptance and growth in the Lord is not always in a timing which we would expect, but God is always tremendously faithful and persistent, especially if some other family member, or friend, or acquaintance is fervently praying. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Much of our calling is to be in prayer for those who need to be born again, just like Nicodemus. Certainly, Nicodemus was mentioned around the world wherever the New Testament is read. He grew from a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews to one who would be privileged to see that our Lord would be given a proper burial among the rich, as Isaiah had predicted centuries before. You may be thinking there is no way you can do anything in God's kingdom and you are reticent to even imagine being used to bring others to God, perhaps not even yourself. Just take the baby steps necessary to accept Jesus on his terms and then ask God to use you for his kingdom purposes and have the faith to think God is more than able. I did just that and I do have faith.
Like the changes which we seen in Nicodemus his life, those around each of us should begin to see the change that the fact of our being born again should be making in our lives. I'll never forget when I was ministering to 800 to 1000 people every night in an auditorium in Kiev, Ukraine, in the 1990s, I was seeing such a dramatic difference between the young Christian singers and dancers performing each night, compared to the people in the streets or elsewhere who are not saved and who had lived under aesthetic, communism for a long time. I was dramatic and a beauty to behold.
Trusting the Untrustworthy
This story will be short but it shows that even the powerful person of God can be fooled and can deviate from the life which God had called him. The story is found in judges 16 and is about Samson falling in love with the woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
Earlier God had given him great strength to destroy the Philistines but he began to boast about it being totally his effort. From the beginning of Samson's life God was with him and God had called him to avenge the enemies of Israel and God had given him supernatural strength. His parents had set Samson the site for the work of the Lord. Because of that consecration he was not to cut his hair, drink alcohol or touch a dead body.
His life was full of success but also terrible failure. If we choose to serve God with all of the obedience possible, and surround ourselves with God fearing friends, we are most likely to succeed, but if we choose the ungodly as our friends, calamity will fall upon us.
In Samson's case he was given supernatural strength to accomplish things which no other man could accomplish, all for the glory of God and the call to free the Israelites from the wickedness of the Philistines. His job would not necessarily see immediate results, but in time good things would happen for Israel.
In our lives there will be times when the result we are hoping for may not come immediately, and even others might finish the very work which God had you start. Just continue to do what the Lord asks you to do, whether early recognition of curse or even never seems to occur. It is interesting that in Hebrews the word never mentions his failures, just the fact that he, with other, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, and obtained promises. It doesn't report his failings. Our lives will not likely be all victories and even all obedience to all that God would have us do, but the trend should be to accomplishing all God would have us do.
In Samson's case he became infatuated with a woman named Delilah, who at the insistence of the Philistines sought to find the secret behind Samson's great strength, and unfortunately, Sampson succumbed to her charm and revealed the secret of his strength, which was his uncut hair.
She betrayed him by letting the enemy know his secret and one evening when he was with Delilah, she allowed them to approach him during his sleep and to cut off his hair, thus making him vulnerable to their power. He really did accomplish what the Angel had told his mother and father that he would be doing, and that was to begin to defeat the enemies of Israel. The Angel never said he would totally defeat the enemies of Israel.
In the end, he obeyed God and saw the Philistines house demolished with many of them within. Delilah had subverted God's man but in the end, even when his eyes had been gouged out by the Philistines, he sought God strength to demolish their massive house. Delilah was motivated by greed and she helped circumvent God's perfect will for her lover, Sampson.
As we can see that those we associate with can have a good or bad effect on our lives, our obedience to God and on the fruit of our calling.
Take the Gospel to All People
This story in Acts eight tells of the call on Philips life and how he took the gospel to Samaria and preached with miracles and signs confirming. He is an evangelist, chosen by the original apostles because of his wisdom and good report and being filled with the Holy Spirit, who took the gospel outside of Israel and delivered it to the Gentiles. He had originally been chosen as a deacon to wait tables with Stephen and the others.
He turned the heart of Simon, a sorcerer in Samaria who was bewitching many, and Abraham to salvation in the Lord. Sometimes, we like Philip have to go through persecution as those early deacons and apostles were having to do, to get us to move out of our comfort zone and do what the Lord is commanding us to do. Simon followed Philip because of the message being given and the signs and miracles which were occurring.
Because of Philip being obedient to what that Holy Spirit was asking him to do, Samaria was being touched by Jesus, to the extent that Peter and John were sent to Samaria to see what was happening. Peter and John realized the Samaritans were getting saved but they did not possess the infilling of the Holy Spirit, so they then laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Unfortunately, when Simon saw what was happening with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, he wanted to purchase that gift from the apostles. Peter admonished Simon and made him repent for his heart and bitterness.
This story is told of Philip converting the Ethiopian, who occupied some high official position, while he was on a roadway from Jerusalem toward Gaza. The Ethiopian was an eunuch of great authority under Queen Candace, and who had the charge of all her treasure. Philip spotted him sitting in his chariot reading Isaiah, but not fully understanding it. Would we have stopped?
The spirit directed Philip to approach the man and offer to help, which he did. The Ethiopian let Philip know that he did not fully understand what he was reading and stated no one had shown him. It is an interesting story in which it would be easy to think that for a Jew to approach an Ethiopian stranger, in a chariot, might bring some unknown risk. But, Philip was prayed up, and filled up with the Holy Ghost, so that when the spirit beckoned him to go to the man, he had no hesitancy.
The Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53 in which it was saying, "He was led like sheep to the slaughter; like a lamb dumb before it shares, so he opened not his mouth:" he went on with the words of that chapter of prophecy found in Isaiah’ 53. The eunuch wanted to know was Isaiah talking about himself, or some other man.
What a great point for Philip to arrive and see this man, of some notable authority, sitting in a chariot by the side of the road, and reading Isaiah.
By Philip being a devout man, filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom, he was ready to be used by God at this very moment.
And sometimes we wonder if God calls and uses people? God has been observing, beckoning, protecting, following and directing your footsteps and mind from day one, and most of us never recognize that point. Philip even had the opportunity of baptizing that Ethiopian, at that very moment in the Jordan River. Wow! What a day that was for both of them.
That very well may have been the first Ethiopian of many, to come to accept Jesus. Just like Paul in Rome, one by one, people come to hear about Jesus and are given the opportunity of accepting him or rejecting him. But, if we are not willing and knowledgeable to do just what Philip did, we are missing the very opportunities that the Lord is affording us.
For Philip to move out of his comfort zone in Jerusalem, and into the forbidden area of Samaria, was a remarkable thing to do. The Samaritans were ripe for hearing God's gospel, and many were converted to Christianity, only because Philip was willing and able to go. Philip ended up Caesarea where he worked with Paul. Paul then took the message of salvation too much of the Roman empire, the Philip did his part in beginning that great movement of God.
In our world today, there are many who still have not heard the good news. Unless you and I go out to touch that world, in whatever ways the Holy Spirit leads us, many will not hear of God's plan of salvation for many years. The Scripture tells us, "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus."
The Compassionate Physician
The gentleman to be discussed was not only an educated man of this time, but a companion of Paul, and a physician who was both humble and compassionate. As my years have gone by and my walk with the Lord has progressed, I have felt the great compassion of the Lord over taking much of my thought. I can especially filled with compassion which Luke must have felt as he moved forward in his life, writing and living the passion and life of Christ.
In 86 years in which I have lived, I have felt such compassion for the people I have been allowed to serve as a surgeon, to the point that it has had me develop new surgical techniques to help restore from and function to someone’s face or skeletal structures of that area. It has been a passion with me and even though I am old, and pretty much put out to pasture, the drive and passion is still there.
Luke was so dedicated and desirous of accurately portraying the narrative of the life of Jesus, and with such accuracy as only someone of his educational and temperamental background could do. He wrote the Acts of the Apostles as well as the book of Luke. For us today thinking about writing such an historic piece of literature may not seem like such a task, but for him to do it with such detail and accuracy in those days before printing presses, typewriters and computers, makes it an entirely different story.
He was given, by God, a most important task of bringing Christ's compassion for people, accurately in detail to millions of readers of his work, centuries later. This is, and was, a monumental task. To all of us Christians who have been blessed to be able to read such accounts in the book of acts, we owe him a tremendous amount of gratitude. They should make us realize that there is much of our lives which should be recorded for future generations in our own families. We really owe the generations who follow us a personal account of especially how becoming a Christian affected our forthcoming life. What a Mark out would make on the generations which followed each of us in a very changing world and what an evangelistic tool that could be.
I feel like assured that any learned man who was a physician in that period, and who gave so much of himself to write such massive works, would also have been a very loving and humble individual. Let his life also touch hours to the point where we wish to be that diligent and helpful to all who follow us. So that they too may know something about our lives, but more importantly, about Jesus.
Luke 1:1-4 gives us a wonderful glimpse of the heart of this fine man. “Forasmuch as many of us have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seems good to me also, having had a perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee most excellent Theophilus, that thou might know the certainty of those things, wherein thou has been instructed”.
Mary M at the Tomb of Christ
This woman was blessed by Jesus in many ways, but she followed him when others did not. It is the story of Mary Magdalene, in whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. She was a caring woman that was loved by Jesus. Jesus in his humanity and his godly nature was always very compassionate and caring about women, even when most of that culture threatened women as second-class citizens. He treated them with dignity and honor, unlike many of that time.
She was a disciple who followed him wherever and she cared for the needs of others. She was present as Jesus was crucified and later was going to return to help prepare his body for burial. On the day of the resurrection of Jesus, she had traveled to the tomb to help prepare his body and was the first to see the empty tomb.
Can you even faintly imagine her astonishment? She was not thinking of a bodily resurrection, but here he was gone. She was going to the tomb to help wash and prepare the body with Wales for burial. The rock has been rolled away and he is missing. The linen napkin has been folded and placed where his head has lain. The folded napkin with a Hebrew sign that whoever laid it in that manner, would return.
Can you imagine the joy of this caring woman who had been freed from seven demons by Jesus, whom she had followed for months tending to him and others, and now she is the first to see his tomb is empty. Jesus honored her faithfulness by allowing her to be the first to know, He is Risen, she told Peter and John who then came to see the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and the tomb was empty. After the two of them had left the tomb she stayed there weeping and finally looked back into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there. I asked her why she was weeping and she answered because they have taken Jesus away.
When she looked back there was Jesus standing there but she did not recognize him. Thinking he was the gardener and when she asked where did you take the body, Jesus answered by calling her by name, and she recognized this is Jesus, resurrected. She replied, master.
Jesus told her not to touch him as yet because he has not ascended to his Father, but tell my brethren I ascend to my father, and your Father, my God, your God.
Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things to her.
What a time for Mary. It is hard to even imagine, with all of our present knowledge, how special a moment this must have been for this servant of God to be the last to see him go on the cross and the first to see him after his resurrection. Wouldn't you give all your worldly wealth to be able to be there and see that all occurring and then have him tell you, "go, tell my disciples?" I would. This is the good news which we are to freely give to others.
A Tent Making Couple with a Heart for God
Sometimes we need to just take a moment to see how we are or might be being used for God's purposes. In Acts 18 we see the story of a Jewish man named Aquila who was married to Priscilla. They had been in Italy when Claudius had commanded all Jews to leave the country. They ended up in Corinth where they first met Paul who had just come from Athens.
They were tentmakers and when Paul came to Corinth, and they were of the same occupation, he stayed with them. Isn't it interesting how God set up the meeting of people for his purpose. Paul was speaking and teaching every Sabbath in the synagogue and he began to let them know that Jesus was the Christ.
As this couple was growing in the Lord they were able to be used effectively for the calling that God had on their lives. They met a man from Alexandria who also was a devout Jew and spoke fervently in the synagogue about the baptism of John. They all met again in Ephesus and when Aquila and Priscilla realized he didn't have the full knowledge of Jesus they took him home and instructed him more fully in the way of God.
It is in just using the anointing each one of us has been given to spread the word of God more fully, never worrying about whether someone else might be more knowledgeable than we are but just attempting to help each other become all he or she can be in the Lord. There is no competition in Jesus, even between spouses. There are gifts which Lynne has been given that are unique to her and when we function together in those gifts, God can accomplish even more than either one of us alone.
They were used by God to befriend and to assist other early Christians and later they were part of a house church in Rome. They were just doing exactly what the Lord was calling them to do, and they should be a great witness to all married couples that through them, God can accomplish much and can bring joy, peace and love to the couple so committed.
In Romans 16:3 – 4 Paul makes the following statement, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life, laid down their own necks unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all churches of the Gentiles." What a great testimony. I would love to have St. Paul make such a statement about Lynne and me. Wouldn't we all like that? I suspect Aquila and Priscilla would just answer, Aw Shucks, it was nothing.
Some Walls Need to Be Built
This is a story of a man who was called to accomplish a massive fete. When the first evidence of a passionate rose in this Jew, living in captivity, he may have had no knowledge how God was truly going to use him. The story is about Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes. He has been blessed to be placed in just such a spot, but do you know, God was there all of the time, whether he knew it or not. That same thing holds true for your life and mine.
What God was working out through an unsuspecting Nehemiah would be something that even today we would have to marvel at. He was trusted by the King, but also he was a man of God who had such an unusual passion for the people of Jerusalem. Here he is living in Shushan, the Palace, when Hanani, one of his brethren came into the Palace and Nehemiah inquired as to the fate of the Jews left in Jerusalem? There were others there of Judah who were able to know more about those left behind. They answered him Nehemiah 1:3 “The remnant that are left in the captivity there in the province are integrative action and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down and the gates thereof are burned with fire”.
When Nehemiah heard these words he sat down and mourned and wept certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.
Whenever God puts some brethren on our heart for accomplishing some calling for Him, we, too, should get down and pray fervently for God's vision of what He wants us to do. Nehemiah reminded God of the covenant He had with his people and the love that God had for His people. He asked God to let His ear be attentive to the plea which Nehemiah was making for the children of Israel, but when he confessed the sins of his Nation, his father's house and for his own sins. He reminded God that we as a nation have dealt very corrupt way with God and have forgotten many of His Commandments, judgments, statutes, made to Moses.
What if we in the United States of America would do just as Nehemiah had done, would we not see some miraculous change in our country? Here we are aborting our unborn babies, we are covenant breaking in our marriages, living in adultery, joining gays and lesbians fake unions, what can we expect of God? Just as with Nehemiah, hearing the plaintiff his people, I can't help feeling much of the same emotion over the destruction which we are seeing occur, and we know is yet to occur, because we have chosen to disobeyed our God. It is sad, for a country founded on God and His principles, to be moving away so far, and not even recognizing the need for repentance.
Let's see what Nehemiah did, and what God did. Nehemiah first got emotionally involved in the tragedy of the walls of Jerusalem being down and the people being in great affliction.
It is imperative that the passion of people rise as calamity or destruction or persecution of the people begins. Otherwise there is no evidence of character or moral fiber remaining. If a people are so far gone that those emotions do not rise in them, then they really become people with a reprobate mind, devoid of godly character. We see a great apathy in the US and in the world, at present over the sin which abounds.
Nehemiah wanted to hear from God, but he also wanted to confess the sins of his people, his family and his own. He knew that the people of Israel had turned from God and thus God gave them over to captivity. He wasn't wanting to not included God in whatever was going to happen. He might have been a cupbearer to the King, but he was no mover of mountains as would be required to re-build the walls of Jerusalem. Any of us who have been privileged to see those walls recognize to re-build the walls would be a task absolutely requiring God’s help in every detail. So, Nehemiah asked God to help and to guide him. He pleaded with God to open his eyes and to be attentive to his request. He prayed night and day. I love it.
He reminded God of his words to Moses about, if you transgress I will scatter you abroad, but if you repent, I will gather you into your own land. He asked God to prosper him this day, for the work that only God could have put in his heart to accomplish.
What has God put in your heart to do? Doesn't look impossible? Then ask God for help and remind him of the passage in Jer. 29:11, ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall you call on me, and you shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
This is exactly what Nehemiah did, and God heard him and came to him. Don't you think God hears your plea? I do, and I expect God will do, what only He might do, to accomplish his purpose in and through you.
Nehemiah’s prayer to God, he knew what only God could give him favor with the King, who then would open doors to others in ways that no ordinary person could do, but through it all, he gave the credit to God.
The King now allows all of the materials needed to be gathered or supplied by adjacent kingdoms, he even sends an Army to help and to guard Nehemiah. Nehemiah uses his God-given wisdom to use those workers of Jerusalem to be the builders of the wall and those artisans in a metal and wood to build the gates.
When Sanballat and Tobiah attempted to get him to stop building the walls, they were mocking his God-given call, he turns to God and says, they are mocking you, God. You deal with them. He did not pick up that burden and take matters into his own hands.
Why would Sanballat even want to stop Nehemiah? Well, Sanballat was the governor of Samaria and he may well have had his own desire to be governor of Judah, also. He may well have seen that if Nehemiah could get all of the people of Jerusalem helping him build the wall that this might make Nehemiah the more powerful person in Judah, thwarting Sanballat’s possible plan to be governor of Judah and Samaria.
In my counseling married couples who are going through separation and divorce, there is always the terrible rejection felt by the spouse being left and rejected by the other. As I learned years before, they are not rejecting you personally, they are rejecting God's plan for your marriage and family.
That is exactly what we see happening here. Sanballat and Tobiah are outright rejecting and mocking God. Just get back to your work, as God has ordained, and let him fight that battle for you.
Does that mean we won't be prepared to carryout spiritual warfare or even more, should God direct us? No. Notice what Nehemiah told his laborers. "We are in your hands, God. We’ll keep your weapons handy in case you want us to use them." So with Spears in one hand and trials and whatever was needed in the other, they continued to build the walls, and "by the way Sanballat, we are not coming down to discuss this with you.
Nehemiah was never ashamed to admit that he feared whatever, but he always turned that fear over to God, and he would not allow that fear to stop him from doing what God had asked him to do. I know I have gone through some very difficult personal battles and challenges, when on the road which God had placed me, and when other even well-meaning persons might attempt to derail God's plan, but I would have to reject their attacks and continue on.
One of the other salient points to remember when you have been called to accomplish something in God's plan, don't spend time letting everyone know about it. Go to prayer, first, and learn to fully understand the task at hand, but also to fully recognize this is God's plan and he isn't telling everyone else about it at this early moment.
Nehemiah had to assess the wall building challenge, first, and then after a short. He began to let a few other very trusted individuals know what God was asking to be done. This is a part of the calling which is most difficult, but important, foremost of us to do. It is so interesting and exciting that you want others to know about it. But that can bring the Sanballats and Tobiahs who may very well be able to discourage you in your infancy with the call.
If you review Nehemiah’s plan of attack, he went out by moonlight to survey the damage to the walls. He knew the hazard and letting others know of what he was doing, prematurely, because when an enemy arises, the loose talk, gossip and outright attacks begin. Nehemiah had to develop his own assessment of the problem and what his plan would be to resolve that problem. That is most important point and certainly one I must be forever reminding myself about.
As I have gone through a series change in my apparent calling, from being the founder, pioneer and CEO of a medical device company to being a writer of Christian books. I have been barraged by rejection, unbelief, questions, doubt, criticism by others and Lord knows what else, but I have asked God to show me exactly what he wants me to do, and to guide my every step. I have also asked God to fight any battles for me during this most distressing time.
It has been a very hard time being separated and terminated from exactly what God had earlier called me to do. My lifelong passion had been in pioneering a whole new approach to surgery of a temporomandibular joint, and yet it seems that God is either allowing or redirect being this change in my life for His purpose…my only thought is, use me God.
The enemy in Nehemiah’s case marked the building of the wall as an act against God. They mocked him and said that the job at hand was way too big and basically would take forever, and that Nehemiah had no authority to even tackle such a task.
Nehemiah never had to address the fact that he did have the King's permission and blessing, but even more, he had taken his request to God and he had God's blessing.
When a person knows what God would have him do, and has prayed over and sought God's direction, then it can be time to bring the calling to a few trusted individuals attention and expect gods Holy Spirit to confirm the calling to them, also. It is more than enough to know that when you get God's approval, and no one else's matters.
That goes also for standing for the healing of your marriage. You would think everyone would be thrilled to see a spouse ending for reconciliation of a marriage, but after standing faithfully twice for my marriage healing, all the way through separation and divorce, I find that very few others seem to get that revelation. Only a few, who then should be there to encourage you, ever do so. Nehemiah was surely going through those times of doubt in others minds, but he needed to stay true to the calling God had made and then leave the outcome to God. Then watch and see what happens.
When the calling and tasks are fully recognized and being implemented, then others get into the action and want to help Nehemiah rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Without walls against the enemy's attacks there will be little safety. Much like the borders of the United States. Without them being secured, there is little security for those Americans living here… Those who wish to do us harm can enter our country with impunity, but also those who have little or no regard for the sovereignty of our nation, can also enter and reside with the country, unlawfully.
You certainly do not want to leave the doors open to your home so anyone may enter. It just doesn't make sense, unless you have so little regard for your safety and your families safety that you don't care if they are murdered or have their goods stolen.
The work of the wall building progressed so very well because the people truly God a vision of God's plan. Remember they had been so discouraged and in disarray because the people were being captured and taken into Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah was a great motivator as he had a passion for what God was calling him to do. When you recognize God's call on your life, you will spare no effort to accomplish that task with excellence and fervor. Rarely will the cost be that important, either.
There will always be attacks against what you as a Christian are doing and the same with our Christian neighbors. It is not enough to be just worry about what God may have asked you to do, like Nehemiah did, we organize others to also stand guard against the attacks of the enemy. Nehemiah also had to attack the rich Jewish rulers who were extracting usury against their brethren residing in Jerusalem. It wasn't enough to just build the wall, he had to be concerned with the needs of others.
Can We Learn from Our Mistakes?
Anyone who thinks that mistakes will be made is either fooling himself or hasn't lived past the first few days or years of life. It would be wonderful if we didn't have to make any mistakes, but circumstances and temptations occur which may cause us to deviate from God's best.
There certainly are many examples of individuals missing the mark in the Bible. The mistakes may have seemed more severe and some less, but all were evident. The important thing was whether the person learned from those mistakes.
Certainly David's mistake in beckoning Bathsheba be brought to his lair, was a bad idea, and when he had entered into an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, it then was necessary to see that her husband Uriah was sent to the front lines of battle so he might be killed.
Our willing desire to pursue sin always leads us to more sin. Our life choices make a tremendous difference and can take away the blessings of God or bring them forth.
The Jailer Is Saved
To me, personally, one of the most interesting stories in the New Testament is found in the book of Acts in chapter 16. In this story we see Paul on his second missionary journey in which Timothy has just joined with Paul and Silas at Lystra. Timothy is the son of a Jewess, named Eunice and grandmother named Lois, but his father is Greek and not likely a Christian. Timothy is now the second or third generation Christian which makes for an exciting heritage for that young man. He undoubtedly was given much information by these two parents. When Paul was to take him with him on his trip, he felt he should circumcise him so there would be little problem accepting him as first a Jew, but then as a Christian.
They traveled through the region and established churches in the faith. They traveled in the area where the Holy Spirit gave Paul directions as to what cities and towns he should go. The Spirit prevented him from going to Asia, proper, at that time. They had traveled from the town of Troas, then to Neapolis and from there to Philippi. It was in that city, on the Sabbath, All went out by the Riverside and that is where he ministered to the woman, Lidia, who was then converted to Christianity.
It was during one of the prayer times that another young woman approached Paul stating "these men are the servants of the most high God which show us the way of salvation. And quote she was a woman filled with a spirit of divination which was not uncommon in both Greek and Roman culture and quite accepted as a form of gaining information for their daily lives. She had masters who gained from her apparent knowledge. As she did this many ways, Paul finally turned to her and commanded the evil spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus, and it did in short order. She was basically a slave to these two Masters, who, when they saw her again was diminished, brought Paul and Silas before the magistrates.
Paul and Silas were just going about the ministry which Jesus had commanded, but in doing so, they were attacked by the unbelievers, just as you may be for doing the same it either to your friends, family or acquaintances.
They stated these men being Jews teach customs which we, being Romans are not legal to receive or observe. And the multitude rose up against them, and beat them and tore off their close. When they had laid many stripes on them they cast them into a city prison. We, living in America at this moment in time, are not having to endure such brutal treatment, but we could travel to other countries in our present world, and we might well be killed for our faith.
Certainly the quickest area to come to my mind would be in the Muslim countries. They wouldn't just throw you in jail, they would be you and then cut off your head. China, of course would be next in brutality to Christians. I think we, too, need to be prepared to give up our lives for the Gospel of Christ to be preached.
In Paul and Silas is time they were placed in the most renders prisms, be in, stripped naked and placed in chains or stocks in a dungeon. Unless we somehow go through a similar moment, I can't even imagine how we might get even a concept of the word or of what they endured, patiently, for their calling to take the Gospel to the world.
In the midst of the brutal attack, at midnight, they began to sing praises to God. What, have they lost their minds? No, not at all. The prisoners heard them and then there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the prison doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosened. Now there is revival and the marvelous hand of God and His Angels coming to the rescue of his servants. Talk about, stirring the pot. God has allowed the very voices of praise of Paul and Silas to really shake up that Roman community. Look what happens next.
The keeper of the prison awakened out of his sleep and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had fled. But, Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Now here comes a spectacular way of bringing someone to the Lord. The very thing Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for, is now being accomplished in the jail itself. If you ever think God is not able to meet all of your needs, this one story ought to be more than enough to convince you.
The jailer called for a light and came into the dungeon trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas and them broke them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. That episode touched my heart, because of what the devil planned for their demise, God used for His glory. At the same night the jailer took them and washed their stripes and he and his family were all baptized.
You just have no idea what God can do through your persecution, suffering, a tax and most of all prayer and praise.
I recently received a letter from a lady named Carol, who worked for me and with me in my surgery pack this for some of the five years ago. She had located me after all these years and had no idea what path I had been on. I sent her and her husband a few of my books and she wrote back thanking me for them. Then she added a short statement which follows:
"You have always been an inspiration to me, doubt you were ever aware of that God led inspiration you gave to people who were around you. Whether they were patience or employees; you set the standards of giving."
It just shows you how God can use your actions, words and prayers to of had many lives. I have always been a giver, maybe to a fault, if that is possible. I'd just rather give than receive, and I always see a need somewhere. Perhaps growing up during the depression and seeing so much need, I changed my own thing of taking, to giving and here nearer the end of my life, I can truly say I have given it all away. I don't necessarily like that for my family, but I do know the Lord has always used me as a giver, and never really a taker. I suspect that is really the life of Paul, and certainly at this time raising God at midnight in a dungeon in Philippi might confirm it.
It was through Paul, Barnabas and Silas's willingness to preach the Gospel in whatever town or city they found themselves in that allowed God's words of salvation to touch the Gentile world. He was a life lived for Jesus. Can we try to mimic his zeal? Maybe we aren't all called to give our lives away preaching God's word, but if we look for and find what ways we are expected to function, then this entire world will change, for the better.
A Special Gentile, Named Jethro
most of us have never heard about a man named Jethro, or if we have heard about him, we remembered little about him. There is little written about this particular man by as I unfolded a small amount about him, you will begin to see something in your own life also unfold.
The story starts in the book of exit us with the Israelites were in bondage under a cruel Pharaoh. He has just told the midwives to abort the male babies born of the Jews. Save the female babies. But one Jewess, a daughter of Levi, found her baby to be special and decided to hide him and raise him. When a few months had elapsed, she felt she should place him in a tiny reed basket in the Nile in hopes his life would somehow be spared. The child was Moses and the daughter of Pharaoh who found him in the Nile and raised him in the Pharaoh's house was possibly a daughter named Hatshepsut. In any case, they allowed a Jewish slave to help raise Moses in the Pharaoh's house. That play was actually Moses his mother. Only God could orchestrate such as an area.
In early adulthood, Moses left all of the special perks of the Pharaoh's house to be with his people, the Israelites. His exit from Egypt was not all one would hope for as he ended up killing an Egyptian, and now he must flee as the Pharaoh has a hit out on him. In doing so he travels to Midian and finally sits by a well. It was at this well where the seven daughters of a Midianite priest would come to collect water for home and animal's.
This was all happening before Moses had been contacted directly by God at the burning bush. The Midianite priest inquired of his daughters as to who was this Egyptian they met at the well? They brought Moses to Jethro, who ended up giving his daughter's Zipporah to him as a wife. It was this close relationship with his son-in-law, Moses that allowed this Gentile man to first learn about the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac. The Egyptians and Midianites all believed in multiple gods. This would be something new.
It is an interesting moment as God is showing his love not only for his chosen people, but for all people. That is the heart that we are to have for bringing others to Jesus. It takes little imagination for us to realize the zeal and passion Moses must have developed from his encounter with God. Anyone having a special encounter, will find his or her life changing, many times to the point that others around that person may think they have lost their mind.
During this time, Jethro, though being a Midianite priest, now becomes a believer and worship are in Moses’ God. The people surrounding the Hebrews of that time, had to be convinced of the power of the God of the Hebrews. He couldn't help but see what God was doing through his own son-in-law. Surely, there was an exchange of ideas and good counsel, and a degree of mentoring between the two of them. For them to be associated to all those years in which Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt had to have a measurable of that on Jethro. After all Moses had received hospitality, protection, a livelihood and his wife from Jethro. There had to be a bond and a sense of friendship and covering between the two.
There is a passage found in Exodus 18:9 which says, "And Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians.”
Can you imagine the excitement and awe that he must have had in watching the 10 plagues occurred the Egyptians? God was doing all sorts of miracles at the hand of your daughter's husband. Wow!
What I see in that short life story and the Association of those two men, is the fact that God truly loves the inhabitants of this world and He wants to do miracles through you and me to bring others into his kingdom. He wants you and me to be so first in God's wonderful and miraculous ability to change lights that even the skeptics will be converted to Christianity. Are you willing? We are so Erie much like the earlier Jews, where those around can't help but see that we are not only blessed, we are at peace, no matter how things might appear.
We just can't be shaken. Period!
As I Live and Breathe
In writing about all of these people in the Bible, when can't help but see how God was working in one's own life. As my wife and I ended our life in the small mountain town of Chester, California where we started our first dental practice, let me take you back to that time in 1950.
Being that I was getting my feet wet doing a certain amount of oral surgery, I must have found myself leaning toward that as a specialty. It is interesting, because of my being groomed for a practice of prosthetic facial reconstruction, by Dean Wright of New York University and Bellevue Hospital, that your IM changing direction and really going more for maxillofacial reconstructive surgery. What a shift, but when I look back at the choices and direction, it makes me feel a little like Moses at the burning bush. I certainly didn't recognize any of that as a calling by God, but as I look back at so much of it, I can see that God was ordering my steps, toward Him and toward the field I ended up in. Many will feel that you can't hear from God until you are saved or walking with the Lord. Not so. Look at the call on Moses’ life or Paul's life. They, too, were just doing their own thing when God very dramatically got their attention.
In any case, I was being drawn from living my life in a small mountain town where I practiced general dentistry to a larger city area where I would start my life pursuing things in the surgical realm.
I went to visit an acquaintance and an esteemed maxillofacial surgeon, in San Diego to inquire of him where I might go to receive some additional training in oral and maxillofacial surgery. I was given either of two choices. One would be at the Los Angeles County General Hospital oral surgery program or the other at the same surgical program in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Both had special advantages. I chose Los Angeles County General Hospital program where one would get a great deal of hands-on surgery experience.
It was am I finishing up at training that I got called to active duty as a Navy lieutenant and to be stationed at the US Marine Corp. Recruit Depot in San Diego. I spent the next 24 months there taking care of the oral and maxilla facial surgery needs of all the Marine recruits coming into service and training during that period of the Korean War. It meant meeting these specialized surgery needs of any of the 18,000 recruits coming into the base every 14 weeks. I was in charge of that particular portion of care so he gave me a wealth of experience in a locked of routine oral and maxillofacial surgery needs in a large group of young men. When not active duty period was over, I now had to consider where I might go, in California, to start my own private oral and maxillofacial surgery practice. By this time my wife Ann, and I had just had our third child, Elizabeth Ann. Again, as I look back on each of those steps, I see God's way and guiding us into an area of our living, as only He might do.
From that point forward, my practice in Pasadena, California blossomed into all that I could have hoped for. It was during those middle years of my life that I believe one of the major callings on my life was fulfilled. In those years in the 1960s God used me to innovate several new surgical procedures and implants involving some form of jaw reconstructive surgery.
The ones I am most known foreword the ones that allowed the total and partial surgical reconstruction of the temporomandibular joint. This had never been done before, with any success, and so my pioneering innovation allowed for the early degenerative disease of the temporomandibular joint to be controlled and reconstructed in a manner in which the joint began to function more normally and to be pain free. This was a major breakthrough in medicine and surgery of the disabled joint, but with any God-given callings, there was a massive amount of persecution and resistance to change, the profession.
Along with the temporomandibular joint replacement innovations which I developed, I also, developed other innovations in the dental implant field.
Over the following half-dozen years I developed the earliest three dental implants in the United States and likely the world, all to God's glory. These were individual tooth implants allowing a person missing a tooth or teeth, to have replacements going right back into the bone like our natural teeth.
Some years later I would found and be the president of a medical device company which would manufacture the temporomandibular joint implants which God had me pioneer.
We stayed practicing in that city for the next 20+ years and then a number of circumstances changed much in my life. One of the major things was that I went through two bouts with lower back surgery. It was during that time that many other things changed in my life also.
But let's talk about some others in the Bible, and I promise later on, will continue a short version of what God was wanting to do in my life.
Mordecai, Taking A Stand Against the Enemy
Here is the story of a man who was born when the Jews were held captive in Persia. He became a man of importance in that foreign land, but God required his efforts and obedience to help protect the Jews held as captives in that land…
The story is found in the book of Esther. This story of a Jewish family at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of the Jews and their deportation into Babylon. Mordecai may have been born in Shushan, which became the capital of Persia. Esther was the daughter of his aunt and uncle. They died and he took it upon himself to raise his young cousin as though she was his daughter. Her Jewish name was Hadassah, but in captivity she was known as Esther.
Sometime later the King, Ahasuerus of the Medo-Persian Empire, found his Queen Vashti to be in contempt of the king’s orders and he sought to replace her as queen. At that same time, Esther had found favor before the king and he selected her to be his next queen. Mordecai had told his cousin, Ester, to not relate the fact that she was really of Jewish heritage, so that fact was hidden until a later time.
The story of Mordecai is one of challenging and changing circumstances and one of hope. In many ways it can parallel, in perhaps a grander way, the challenges that we may go through today. Mordecai continued to be counsel for his cousin now the queen of the Medo-Persian Empire, and the wife of king Ahasuerus.
At one point in time the king appointed a new Prime Minister, named Haman. Mordecai served the king but being of Jewish heritage, he refused t bow to the minister. He now found himself in conflict with Haman whom he refused to worship. Haman was furious and knowing that Mordecai was Jewish, he made plans to go before the king and have a law passed which would mean that all of the Jews living in captivity could be killed.
This would have appeared to leave little hope for Mordecai and all of the Jews, but it had always been Mordecai’s desire to do as God would have him do. He decided he would have to let Queen Ester know what was occurring and she would have to go before the king and somehow intervene. This would be no small thing because if anyone, including the Queen came before the king, without being requested, they could be put to death.
Mordecai explains the situation to Queen Esther and he tells her that she has been called for such a time as this was his belief that God had raised and appointed her for this very moment in time, to save the Jewish people.
The story in Esther 5:1 tells of Esther putting on her royal apparel and standing in the inner court of the king’s palace, as the king was sitting on the throne. The king held out the golden scepter to Esther and she touched it and entered. Her request at that moment was for the king and Haman to join her for a banquet. The story goes on to tell of the pride of Haman, but also the anger of Haman at Mordecai not standing up when Haman met him at the king’s gate. Esther had invited the King and Haman to another banquet God gave the king a restless night. The king commanded some books of records be brought to him and when reading those records he sees where sometime earlier, Mordecai had uncovered a plan where two of the king’s men had planned to kill the king. Mordecai had let the king know of the plan which now was able to be thwarted.
The king asked what honor and dignity had been done to Mordecai? The king’s servants stated there had been nothing done for Mordecai. At that moment of the following day, Haman comes into the king’s court to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai, but again, God had a different plan. The king asked Haman what should be done unto the man that the king would delight to honor? Haman, of course figured that was going to be him. Sorry buster, not you.
Haman arrogantly answers, that the man should be clothed in all of the royal robes and crown of the king and then placed on the king’s horse and paraded through the city. The king tells Haman to make haste and to do that very thing to Mordecai. Haman returns to his wife who says, wisely, that if Mordecai is of the seed of the Jews, you will fall before him. She well knew that the Jews were God’s chosen people and whoever goes against them, will face the wrath of God. That is just as true today.
Haman was wroth, but at the very moment the king sends servants to bring Haman to Queen Esther’s banquet. The king now asks the queen, what is your petition of the king? She said plans have been made to kill all of Jewish heritage and that would also mean the queen. She pleads for the lives of the Jews. The king now asks the pertinent question, who is it that is ordering the killing of the Jews? She answers, Haman who is sitting here in this banquet. The king hears that Haman has built a scaffold on which to hang Mordecai and the king orders Haman and his sons all hanged, that very day.
As we contemplate gloom and doom over some surely minor circumstance or problem, we often forget about the miraculous and creative power of God to see us come through those circumstances or attacks of Satan and his cruel crowd of demons.
Like Mordecai, we are to be daily wishing to serve God to our fullest ability. It is then that we can petition our King for favor. We have been afforded the opportunity of entering his courts with praise and worship. I felt like this would be one story form the bible which would minister to each of us in some special way. When you look at the courage and desire to do right, of Queen Ester, you can’t help but feel pride in her life for what she courageously did. God honored her request and god’s special people were saved, somewhat like the story of Moses in the Exodus.
God truly won’t be mocked, nor will he fail to find ways to honor those who honor him.
The Story of Josiah’s Obedience to God
Some may argue there is no hope for my life as I was born at the wrong time, in the wrong city or country and to obviously ungodly parents. But my friend, there is always hope. In the case of Josiah, he became the king over Judah, the Southern Kingdom, at the time of the invaded Israel in the year 640 BC. He reigned until 609 BC and was followed by his son, Jehoahaz for a few months. He great grandfather was Hezekiah and his father was Amon. His mother was Jedidah.
The kings of Judah at that time were evil and the people were not following God’s commands. Josiah’s father and grandfather were evil. Josiah at a young age began to read the verses of God’s messages and realized the people were not living as they should. They were worshipping other idols. You might say it is much like today as people are worshipping other things and not our one true God.
It behooved Josiah to begin to remove those ungodly idols which were popping up. Josiah began to encourage the people to read God’s word. Today it would be akin to throwing out the idea of same sex marriage, pornography, or the issue of abortion. The people today would rise up against any and all who would fervently say those things are totally against God. Yet that is the truth.
Joshua, as king of Judah, began to see that whatever he had control over would be tackled, so that it would always line up with God’s word. Several things happened as he got in God’s word. He became humbled and definitely concerned that if he didn’t follow God’s plan, there would be dire circumstances for all. The people had such reverence for Josiah, they began to follow him. It was in Josiah’s desire and humility to serve his God that God was able to pour blessings upon him. He cleansed the Temple and helped to revive an obedience to God’s law.
It is this humility and obedience to God’s word which will allow God to make some chances in our Nation and our world. What is my part and your part in this call of God? It is in searching for and finding god’s plans for each of our lives where we can then see things develop which bring forth God’s purposes on this earth. Our part may seem infinitesimal, but when it connects with the other parts which He has planned, a great mosaic will spring forth. Josiah, as the King of Judah for some 31 years played his part in touching God’s people and seeing some correction occur.
In 2 Kings 23:25 the word says, “And like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.”
Wouldn’t that be just a fine statement or the world to say about you or about me at the time of our death? Only in our serving the Lord, whole heartedly, is there any hope. I’m not suggesting you hold your breath. But actually in our serving the Lord with our whole might, will see our lives being fruitful and victorious in ways which He ordains.
The Lord Raises Up Jephthah, As His Warrior
Sometimes in a time of real conflict, the Lord will raise up a warrior and a spokesman. In this time in which Israel was worshipping false gods, God raised up Jephthah to be a strong force against such evil. God had permitted the heathen nations to rise against Israel as a punishment for their sin.
If we go to Judges 11:1 we see it says, Now Jephthah, the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of a harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. Gilead, so naturally those other children, when they grew up, thrust Jephthah out of the house.
In time the men of Ammon made war with the Israelites. The Israelis had basically kicked out Jephthah, but when they needed a might man of valor, and a fighting man, they called on Jephthah to be their leader, and he accepted. Jephthah had done nothing wrong, but he literally was chased out of his own country, by his own family members. In spite of all of that humiliation, rejection and discouragement, God had a plan.
I think too often we have bought into the lie that because you are a son or daughter of the living God, that you won’t be persecuted or cast out of some of man’s realm. I can tell you, from personal experience, that that is not true. Sometimes that is exactly when you will suffer the most humiliation and rejection. Paul talked about the fact that you will suffer persecution. Jesus said the same. If you look at the lives of the saints, you will see that all of them were called upon to stand strongly for their faith, even in the light of being put to death, and they all kept from renouncing their faith in Jesus. Jephtah was certainly such a man of integrity.
He had been rejected and humiliated, but then God made it so he would be called back to be the one leader who could help destroy the warring enemy against Israel. He had lived the life of an outcast, and yet God had another plan.
Perhaps, you too have suffered humiliation.
Perhaps you were the son or daughter of a couple who weren’t married, or maybe you were cast out of school because your race or religious preference. Maybe you were too tall, or not as handsome or beautiful as others and nobody seemed to like you. Or, maybe your parents divorced when you were in your pre-teens and ti hurt your own self confidence. Whatever, there are many reasons why you may have been trampled on, even at times by well-meaning people. Hang in there. God is not through with you yet.
This was a time when Israel was ruled by Judges and the Ammonite nation was quite powerful. They were the nation started from the time when Lot’s daughter slept with her drunk father. This was not going to be an easy job to come against the armies of the Ammon.
So, the kicked out half-brother of Gilead’s legitimate sons, is now being called by the elders of the township of Gilead to lead the fight against the children of Ammon. Isn’t that just something how God can vindicate an honorable man, who had no say in who his parents would be, but he did have responsibility for who he was, and who he became. I thought Jephthah’s reply was, and who he became. I thought Jephthah’s reply was priceless. He said, Did you not hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? And why are you come to me now when you are in distress?
He really is my king of man. They have now actually asked this man who was cast out earlier in his life, and undoubtedly very distressed over the rejection because of his birth, to now lead them into battle. Wow! Only God could orchestrate that. He replied to them, finally, in a very civil and honorable manner when he said, if you bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the Lord delivers them before me, shall I be your head? What a great answer and especially where he asks the Lord to accomplish what will need to be accomplished.
As you read the story you will see that Jephthah attempted to deal in a diplomatic way with the King of the Ammonites, but when that failed, he then sought a military victory. He explained to the Ammonite king how God gave Israel the very land in the first place and Israel was not stealing the land, but wanting to keep what was their legitimate land.
That discussion reminds me of the televised talk between Netanyahu and Obama over the desired peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama stated the Israelis needed to go back to the pre-1967 war boundaries, and Netanyahu taught him some history as the world watched.
There certainly are times when you as a Christian well need to be bold and to speak your mind. It may be in defending your faint, or maybe it is when some ungodly attack is occurring at you your workplace or even in your home. Staying in God’s word and seeking His face allows his Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and to guide you.
The king of the Ammonites would not listen to Jephthah’s words and it said that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jehthah and he began his attack on the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to God that if God would give him the Ammonites in battle, that Jephthah would give back to God whatever came out of the door of his house when he returned from battle. Unfortunately, Jephthah’s daughter came out of the house and he had to offer her life to God. In this case she never married, remaining a virgin all her days. He may have spoken his words in haste, but he was man enough to honor what he had asked God. His daughter was too, and is honored every year for her faithfulness to her father and to God. Many times being obedient to God’s call on your life, will create a cost, as it did for all of the early saints.
The measure of your character and trustworthiness is your willingness to take responsibility, even if you must pay a price, for something you vowed to God. This is especially true and important when you make a vow to God about your marriage vows. Do not be slack to pay any price to keep that vow.
“So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord delivered them into his hands.” Judges 11:3
Do Your Inadequacies Deter You From Serving God?
Doesn’t that title just get us all? For many Christians, the fact of one’s being Christian, as long as it doesn’t require my action, makes it acceptable. Don’t ask me to do anything, is the way they live their lives. I want to be a closet Christian, only. I suspect we all feel that way some of the time. Several things may come into play when we think about our possible entrance into some ministry or godly purpose for our lives.
Certainly for most of us, the possible call from God to do anything very special may bring up the question or even statement, 1) that I am doing a job now raising my children, caring for my spouse, or providing the income necessary to supply the food and lodging for me and my family, so don’t ask me to do more. Or 2) I am not sure whether I really heard from God as to what I might do, and 3) I am not adequate to tackle that sort of job or calling on my life. After all I haven’t gone to college or bible-college to accomplish that task.
I can easily tell you all of those points have entered my own thinking, and at times, even when I knew God was saying, come. There were plenty of people in the bible, called by God for various tasks, who felt just like you do and I did. It is not too important that we have entertained those thoughts, but do we have the boldness and faith to tell god, here I am? Use me God.
Perhaps, because of having lived so ling already, and having seen the vanity of so much of our lives, it gets easier to say, OK Lord, use me. I can say, however, I may not always have been that quick in my positive response to God.
Let me say a few words about a man named Gideon. The children of Israel had done poorly in the sight of the Lord and he placed them under the control of the Midianites. They cried out to God and He had an angel go to a young man named Gideon, who was threshing wheat by the winepress, which was hidden from the view of the oppressors.
The angel appeared unto him and said, “The Lord is with thee, you mighty man of valor.” Then Gideon answers what I’m sure we might have also answered. What do you mean the Lord is with me. Have you seen all of the attacks on us. Where are all of the miracles we have heard about? The Lord has forsaken us and handed us into the hands of the enemy.
The Lord’s answer to Gideon was, “Go in this thy might, and you shall save Israel from the hands of the Midianites: have not I sent you?” Gideon comes back with all of the excuses. My family is poor. I am the least. God comes back with the statement, I will be with you and surely you will smite the enemy with a single fist. Gideon then asks God to show him a sign and to stay put until I bring you a present. God said he would wait. Gideon prepared some flesh from a kid he had killed and brought the flesh and some cakes and some broth and placed them on a rock in front of the angel. The angel stuck out his staff and touched the flesh and flames came out of the rock and enveloped the flesh and cakes and consumed them.
Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto you: fear not: thou shall not die. Boy, that’s an attention getter. Imagine if God sent a messenger to you, and commanded that you accomplish some great fete. How would you do?
Gideon was commanded to tear down all of his idols and the town’s idols. Now, the townspeople are mad at Gideon for tearing down their idols and they want to kill him. This is a most interesting and often repeated circumstance. When you pick up your cross to follow Jesus, the very ones who should be there to encourage and back you are frequently the very ones attack you.
Gideon was still skeptical and challenged God to place a fleece outside his door. God did so and passed all of the tests which Gideon placed before him. God was gracious enough to again let Gideon know that he would be with him when he attacked the Midianites. And Yet, God had to argue with Gideon about the size of the army he was to take with him until they finally settled on just a few hundred men against a much bigger army. I suspect we would have the same argument as Gideon.
It shows us that no matter what we think about our own strength and weakness, Gods is more than able to call us and equip us for any task he puts before us, but we must get rid of any false idols in our own lives. God can and will use us in spite of our weakness and failures. It is just a willing heart, attempting to get closer to God and to follow his commands for our life, that really counts with God.
A Bit More About My Path
After the time in the early 1970’s when I had my third lumbar spine surgery, I had gone through divorce nearly 8 years earlier and had later married again, I took a pause form my surgical practice and Lynne and I cattle-ranched in Oregon, for just a few years. We later moved into the Northern California town of Ukaih to live and to start a practice. I had gotten saved in 1983 while learning to fly jet airplanes. It was during a period while we were living in that area of the country at a time Lynne and I were going through our own divorce proceedings which I really did not want to occur. As I stood for the marriage, at God’s direction, we reconciled and remarried. It was during that time of reconciliation that Lynne and the two boys also gave their lives to the Lord.
It was during the Easter week of 1984 when the Shenkinah glory of God had come into my bedroom, as a bright white light with a coffee can sized red area in the middle, one evening. At that same moment, a godly force pinned me to my bed for a short period. I attempted to raise up out of bed three times but could not until the Light had disappeared. Two days later I received the word, “Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” That verse is found in Isaiah 60:1, which I had never before seen. This was a miracle which none of us could have missed and it totally turned my life and love back to the Lord, and let me know of a certainty that he was directing my path. When people say, that they are not sure there is a God, anyone who has experienced, what I have experienced, knows with a certainly, there is a God and that he loves us immensely.
After just a few years, the Lord let me know we were to give up my surgical practice and start a medical device company alongside a ministry to marriages. We moved to Golden, Colorado and started TMJ Implants, Inc., which would make and sell the TMJ implants which I had innovated in 1960. The marriage ministry was called Covenant Marriages Ministry and was functioning alongside of the medical device company. It was definitely God’s call on my life, which brought forth the beginning of this marriage ministry to help reconcile other hurting or broken marriages.
Over time, Lynne and I had gone through two episodes of separation and divorce and we well realized the tremendous harm to each other, to our children and even to our extended family. Not to mention even to our community from covenant breaking. God had established in our hearts the fact that separation, divorce or better known as covenant breaking, was most harmful, and better yet, could be reconciled by following in the step of Jesus. What a revelation that became to where we had a passion to get hurting families back together again, and to the point where they would be serving God.
We functioned as leaders in both the medical device company and the marriage ministry for the next 22 years until in 2010 the economy tanked and we had to close the medical device company, which was the revenue source for the ministry, also. It was a sad day for both of us, but likely much more devastating for me, personally.
I finally, a year later, began to realize my part in any future development of these implants and the medical device company, was most likely to be a thing of the past. It would be like looking at a fly speck in a rear view mirror, of an old Model A Ford rumbling down the dusty road toward the Lower Cedar Creek in the Pine Hills area, back during the Great Depression years of the 1930’s. One can’t help but think his own life has some special importance, but when you see it from this vantage point after the train has pulled out, and with you still on the platform, there is little significance given to whatever efforts or contribution you might have made.
It took some long time for that realization to finally sink into my brain. I was awake in the early morning of May 23, 2011 when that realization finally sunk in. I suspect I may have looked a little like the actor Jimmy Stewart may have looked with one of his long drawn and blank faces.
It made me consider some of the earliest of the Christians; especially John on the Isle of Patmos, in a cave, likely alone, writing the Book of Revelation and wondering if any part of where he had come from, or was going, was real. It is a surrealistic view and one certainly wonders its relevance to anything. Or is to all just vanity?
It is almost like none of ever happened, but you know it did. As we dissolve TMJ Implants, Inc., I well remember, I was having to maintain the integrity of all of the documents and technology that we had developed over those previous 22 years, and even back over the preceding 50 years, thinking how needed these implants were to the suffering. That material and concept would be most needed and helpful in re-establishing this very important surgical implant for those patients who might later need them. That was goal number one, and goal number two, was just as important to me, and that was keeping those well trained individuals in a group and in a job and in insurance for them and their families, somehow.
Both of those important goals had to somehow be realized, no matter what the cost to me personally or to my family. I had not considered the fact that I might later have been considered to be irrelevant, as I mentioned earlier. You just don’t hardly think that somehow this train is going to leave without you, but as I said earlier, I began to realize we may become less than a fly speck on a rearview mirror of a departing Model A Ford.
It all became a reality for me as the train leaves and you never hear a word from any of those people who kept their jobs, or form those new people who were able to gain from a technology they had never known about for all of those early years of hardship and development. I think it is just a fact of life, but I must say for that Greatest Generation family of people, where loyalty and friendship were so important, it creates a bit of a gap, to say the least.
It is much like a spouse saying he or she is leaving you, but I think this may have been about 50% more traumatic as I had given not only all my life, energy and resources to the effort, but then I was told I couldn’t talk to anyone after that was traumatic, to say the least.
But now let me return to reality. Back in 1987 the Lord gave me a vision about my being in full time ministry. I have written about it several times in earlier books. It was on Father’s Day 1987, while we were living in Calpella, next to Ukiah, that I was standing shaving myself, in front of the bathroom mirror, in just my shorts, when a bullet of light went quickly through by brain. Attached to the light were the words, “I want you in full time ministry.” I told Lynne about it within minutes, but told her we would have to wait for the Lord’s timing, and we did. It was another 18 months before we finally closed my surgery practice ad moved to the Denver area to start the medical device company and ministry, side by side. That concept of the two side by side companies had been given to me back in the 1983-84 time period when I was first saved.
I had always considered the medical device company and marriage ministry both as ministries, but as we left Ukiah and came to Colorado, I had always wondered if I might have missed God. I actually felt sure I had not. But now in 2010, as the medical device company was folding, and then being revived by another entity, I had to wonder; what was God’s direction for me? I knew that God’s hand was certainly in the present situation. I also felt He now was moving us into an area of ministry that I had not fully been engaged in before.
It is that of writing books and possibly giving presentations. Only time will tell.
In any case the change in course which has occurred in our lives, so late in the day, may be a witness to others that God can do all sorts of things to allow us to fulfill His purposes in our lives, and that all are important.
The important thing is to do as the song says, “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace”. He then he can bring to pass the very things that re most needful for you to be doing, for His purpose.
If I hadn’t turned to writing some books of encouragement to others, form whatever I might have gained from the bible, I doubt that I would have gotten through that very tough time of zero contact with so many of my former co-workers and friends. I will be forever grateful to a few dear Christian friends who brought me some daily encouragement, but also to the Lord who always showered me with His love.
I can for a fact state, that if in those most difficult moments you have the presence of mind and the ability, to turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, then the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
I thing as one gets older it is more easily seen how so many things we may concern ourselves about, are truly vanity.
A Final Thought
Sometimes things in this world just don’t end up like you might have hoped, or you would have thought they would, but that certainly doesn’t mean that God is displeased with your effort or even accomplishment.
Things with my pet activity for the past 50-60 years, the pioneering and carrying forth of the teaching of the proper temporomandibular joint reconstructive surgery, may have come to an end for me personally, without much evidence of recognition or appreciation. You know you can feel pleased in your own heart that God gave you the opportunity, and you met the challenge with all of the integrity and wisdom which you had. I can hopefully imagine someday that the Lord will say, I think you did OK. In any case, you can feel you did what you were called to do, and that is by far the most important thing.
As I was writing the last sentence on my computer, I received a call from my dear friend and colleague, Dr. James Curry explaining “he and Dr. Randy Robinson had just placed a Christensen Partial TMJ implant in a woman patient and he commented, that is exactly with you pioneered and accomplished 50 years ago this month on a little Catholic Sister, named Sister Lucille, and with great success”. Yes, this was my Jubilee month and year for this God-given innovation. That just makes it all worthwhile, because that patient who curry and Robinson operated will, like Sister Lucille most likely never require another surgery for her temporomandibular joint.
Sometimes, you are given a task to do for the Lord, which may encompass many years to accomplish, or even decades. The delightful thing is to be used by God to accomplish something which has the potential of helping thousands of others.
At times the Christian may personally prosper very greatly, financially. Or maybe the accolades will come upon that person, but other times he or she can just be grateful for the very opportunity of serving God and His followers.
Not matter whether you do prosper, personally, in either of those ways, just be thankful God saw fit to use your God-given talents in such a magnificent manner. Remember, Jesus was given almost zero recognition or accolades for all that he accomplished by coming to earth, and yet that was His mission for redeeming mankind.
When that episode is over for your life then just look for the next opening for service for your fellow man, and give God all of the glory. That’s what I think.
Dr. Bob Christensen
The Mayo Clinic Letter
It was a pleasant surprise getting the following letter form Dr. Eugene Keller, who is chief of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Section, Department of Surgery, at May Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Back in 1972, when Dr. Turlington was chief of the same oral and maxillofacial surgery section, I had presented a surgical film presentation only 1960 innovation of the partial TMJ implant. It had gone over well before the OMS and ENT staff and residents.
It was some 15 years later that Dr. Turlington started using TMJ Implants, Inc.’s implants for Mayo Clinic’s patients and with a great deal of success. He had done many partial and total TMJ implant surgeries using our devices.
When in about 1989 Dr. Turlington retired and Dr. Keller began using our partial TMJ implant as the main surgical treatment for the temporomandibular joint surgical patients they were seeing at May Clinic. Over the years they have placed some implants almost every week and had written up some four or more articles showing their retrospective studies on hundreds of patients over an 8 to 10 year period, with phenomenal success.
When TMJ Implants, Inc. had suffered an economic loss in the recession of 2009, and in June 2010 we had to take the company through bankruptcy, it meant the implants would not be available until the new owners could resurrect the new company form the my earlier company. I knew that Mayo Clinic and a lot of other surgeons and hospitals around the world would suffer, but I could do nothing about it.
It was in that period that Dr. Keller sent me the following very kind letter, extolling my courage and pioneering spirit in innovating and proving the value of these fine implants. It was a welcome endorsement, when it seemed no one remembered much about my contribution to this surgical field. I wanted you to see Dr. Keller’s fine letter as an encouragement to you in your efforts to accomplish what God has called you to do. Almost no one ever took the time to do what Dr. Keller did, even after some 62 years of my life just giving back whatever God showed me to do, and usually with some heckling, seldom with bouquets, and almost never with awards or banners.
It is OK to give one’s life just doing what he or she can do to help spread God’s word somewhere in the other most parts of the world and at the same time doing what you can to relieve some of the heartache or suffering around the world.
The following two letters were sent to me at the time of my retiring as the CEO of TMJ Implants, Inc., and were the only two letters that I received, at the end of my career. To say the least, they were to say the least, they were greatly appreciated by this 85 year old surgeon. Sometimes the smallest gestures of kindness mean the most.
It is interesting that this is our Jubilee Year since I had placed the first of these implants in June 1961, earliest ones still functioning in patients. The first Catholic Sister had her implants functioning for the remaining 43 years of her life and never had to have our implants removed or replaced even though she had 2 other prior TMJ surgical procedures accomplished by another surgeon. Both of those surgical techniques failed to give her more than a 2 or 3 year period of relief.
It wasn’t that the surgeon who had operated on her had done anything incorrect, there just wasn’t an adequate or good surgical treatment for most of the surgical treatment for most of the surgical TMJ problems until I innovated the Partial TMJ implants to be used for an hemi-arthroplasty surgery.
The Second Doctor’s letter to Dr. Christensen was dated June 4, 2010 and follows:
I received your beautiful card and the sentiments expressed in your letter extolling the virtues of a life of 85 years with over sixty years designing implantable devices which help mankind.
When I was introduced to your implants some 20 years ago, I was unaware that I would 20 years later be so involved in convincing people that this was the best prosthesis I have encountered in my 30 years of surgery practice.
You have been a blessings to so many people in the realm of temporomandibular joint disease that I firmly believe your legacy is indelibly stamped on the live of the surgeons who have placed them and the patients who have benefitted from their existence.
I wish you all the best in your next 20 years of increased leisure time, but I know that you will be there when any one of us needs the expert advice from the master himself. Enjoy, but stay close, stay connected and stay healthy.
Your surgeon friend”.
I am most grateful for both of these fine surgeons taking time to write their beautiful letters to me.
A Song of Love
In the early months of 2011 I kept getting the desire to be able to write a son. I wasn’t even sure, if it was truly at God’s beckoning, what He was calling me to do? Did I want to write the words, or did I think I was smart enough to write the music? Both seemed preposterous until about 4:00 AM on March 27, 2011, I jumped out of bed and went downstairs to write the following words as a poem or song to by beloved Lynne.
I kept humming the song, “Because He Lives”, which I believe Bill Gaither composed at a time 31 years earlier when his son was born. It was to that tune, I was attempting to write the words which were coming into my mind. As I wrote these words I wasn’t sure whether they had to do with the present, or possibly sometime in the future when I might be in heaven, and beckoning to Lynne. In any case, you and she may laugh, but there is my first attempt at writing the lyrics for a tune, or maybe it’s just a poem. In any case, don’t show it to Bill Gaither because he may just laugh hard enough for me to hear him wherever I am.
As time has passed and I have had a very fine male vocalist put the song to the music of Bill Gaither’s song I have been amazed at how well it sounds and flows. I have really felt that God had placed the words in my mind to write down and that the song likely is prophetic in that it is speaking back to my wife from a time I am in heaven. In any case one’s faith is so important and allows all sorts of wonderful things to occur in one’s life.
“One Sunny Day”
As I have played back my love song to you, "One Sunny Day", over and over again. I have been searching for its exact interpretation and meaning. I had no doubt it was God who was speaking those words so easily through me, just for you.
At times I felt it was depicting a time in the future when I might be in heaven and you still here on earth. In that scenario I would be speaking back to you. I now feel that is not what the words are indicating at all.
I now feel it is written somewhat prophetically from the time when in 1983 I am learning to fly jets and my instructor Captain Dale Black leads me to the Lord. It is from that vantage point and after, that I am calling out to you.
Now, it makes much more sense to me and I suspect it will also for you.
In any case, I know God gave it to me as my love song back to you.
Not too many wives can say their husbands even attempted to write them a Love Song.
So, now, I dedicate, One Sunny Day to you, my love. (with interpretation), Bob
(The interpretation of the song was given to Bob on June 27, 2011)
One Sunny Day (The Tune of “Because He Lives”) A Love Song by Bob Christensen For his wife, Lynne
One Sunny Day, He Came For Me
And When He Did, I Fell In Love.
And Now It’s Like, Life Started Over
All Things are New, Life’s Just Begun,
And When I See, My Life Unfolding
I Praise the Lord, Who Loved Me So
Each Day is New, With Love Pervading
I Now Am Free, So Free Indeed
When Love Comes Forth, You’ll Love Tomorrows
And When You Do, You’ll Be With Me
Don’t Fear This Day, His Love’s So Pure
That You Can Always Rest Assured,
But Now’s The Time, I Join the Others,
To Sing a Love Song, Just For You.
You’ll know I’m Near, You’ll Smell the Roses
Life’s Worth the Living, Because You’re Here.
When We wake Up, A New Day’s Beginning
To Bring His Love, In Special Ways
I Put Your Sweet Head, On My Shoulder
And Count The Days, We’ve Travelled Here
Just Praising Him, For All He’s Done
What Love He Gives, When We Are Willing
To Love With Love, Just Like He Gives.
I’m Thrilled You Came, To Join the Chorus
To Join With Me, In Loving Him
And Now We Give Our Praise To Him.
Another Day Has Just Begun,
For Us To Love Him Just As One
Psalm 27, a Psalm of David
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength in my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, come upon me to eat upon my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise up against me, in this will I be confident
One thing I have desired of the Lord, that that will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock.
And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord
Hear O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me. And answer me.
When thou said, seek my face, my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, I will seek.
Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say on the Lord.