Fighting the Battle for Others
Even During Times of Persecution
Dr. Bob Christensen
Fighting the Battle for Others-
Even During Times of Being Shunned
Copyright ©2012 Covenant Marriages Ministry
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Table of Contents
Fighting the battle for others
What has been God’s instruction to you?
Moses and his battle with the Midianites
Noah and the townspeople
Abel, the man who obeyed God
Joseph, a man serving God, but shunned by some
David, the future King
Mary and Joseph, were persecuted and shunned
Jesus, God’s crown jewel, suffered persecution
Saint Stephen, the first martyr for Christianity
Jeremiah, the Prophet who endured
Persecution was the Hallmark in the Book of Acts
So, Why should we not expect persecution? (The Chilean miners)
An Ending thought
The Wooden Bowl
Fighting the Battle for Others,
Even During Times of Being Shunned
(Numbers 31 and 32)
This subject may not seem it is a subject that most of us would have to even consider, and yet it may be more important to our present day living and society here in America than what we may think. Today, we in these United States see our people becoming very much more indulgent and demanding. An example, right in our faces, is the “Occupy” movement which has plagued Wall Street and even Main Street USA across our land. I’m not going to say it is totally wrong, because we here in America need to take our grievances to the people, most anyway possible. But, what is the grievance of the Occupy Wall Street crowd? Most of us don’t have a clue, except to tear down America. Only time will tell whether I am right or wrong. Let us consider some other related point which has come to my mind.
Let us consider, for a moment, the time of my birth and young life. I was born in New York City in 1925, not long after we had been in WWI. This was a time of rejoicing and getting back to the business at hand. It wasn’t too long, however, and our dear Nation was facing an awful Great Depression. People were recognizing the need to pull together and help one another.
The times which the Occupy Wall Street crowd are complaining about are a far cry from the pre-World War II years which followed the Great Depression here in the U.S. That was a time in the 1930s when people had to work hard, had little reserve income or savings to sustain them and had to be more considerate to their neighbors, than we are seeing today. The work days were long for all ages, but especially those of working age, if they were lucky enough to even have a job.
For the younger generation, they were involved in work on the farms and also within the cities. It might range from cow-milking to being a paper boy. Or it might have been some construction or manufacturing task, if you were a young man. If you were a young lady, helping mother with the house work, cooking, canning or dress making was frequently required. Or, again, for a young woman it might have been employment outside of the house at some retail store selling clothes, or as a secretary in a lawyer’s office or perhaps as a nurse in a hospital or a doctor’s office, or even possibly as a telephone operator. I should add, that all of these opportunities for men and women were possible, if you were fortunate enough to have landed any job.
There was no such thing as discretionary income. It was all needed to just keep the family going. Life was probably more simple in those pre-war days, but they were also very hard for the younger generation and also for the older working generation.
There certainly was desire and tendency to rally around the family and to support each other and care for each other. The younger generation would begin to look after the older generation from the time they would be old enough to realize the older generation need their help. They all were expected to sacrifice their existence and life and even honor, for all of the other family members. Most of these generations could trace their family tree to a time when earlier members immigrated, mostly from Europe. Because of that, there probably was more of a kinship between the actual families as most were poor to middle class, with some minor variances in wealth.
Life was good in those days, because we didn’t know as much about the rest of the world nor even about our own generation, living in other sections of the country. I even remember in 1948 as my wife and I were travelling across America on Route 66, that we stopped in some area of Nebraska for gas and I asked the attendant what was coming up down the highway. I’ll never forget his answer. He said, I don’t know I have only travelled some 50 miles out of this here town I was born in. He had to have been at least 21 years of age. That was life in middle America prior to WWII and shortly thereafter. Of course about that same time when we had so many young men and women entering the service for their country, then things began to change drastically.
In those pre-WWII years we were much more of an agrarian society. As I started this book I kept being drawn back to a chapter in the Bible. It was in the book of Numbers and it was in chapter 32. Actually, you might say it started in the previous chapter when the Lord spoke to Moses about going to war against the Midianites. God told Israel to gather your people together and go after the enemy, the Midianites. It is most interesting that the children of Israel and the Midianites were actually enemies. The Midianites actually were descendants of Abram and his 2nd wife, Keturah.
It’s a little hard to understand how this battle got started except the Midianites were Nomadic and travelled with their flocks to a large area south of the Promised Land and when Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he was having to share pasturelands with the Midianites.
It was God himself who ordered the Israelites to avenge themselves of the Midianites, so Moses gathered 1000 man army out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This became a rather large task and one that speaks to the fact that we are frequently called to take up the responsibility of helping our family, our fellow Christians not to mention our friends and others where our help is needed. But do we? We will discuss this calling of God to Moses as we get further into the book.
What Has Been God’s Instruction to You?
When we become born again Christians God is anxious to use us to touch the world around us. He is wanting us to be concerned for others and to bring His love into other’s lives, especially when that person may be hurting. When His love engulfs us, it becomes easier for us to bring His love to a hurting world.
Prior to my being born again, I was much more likely to live my life, as Sinatra used to say in his very popular song, My Way. I loved the song as did millions of others, but it was truly after some life changing moments that I began to look at things more from God’s perspective. What a change that made in my life and that of my family, not to mention the many others whose lives crossed paths with ours.
You see, as I have written before, God was eager to get me to where I might really decide that asking Him to be my Lord and Savior would be exactly what I would do and would desire to do. What does it take for God to get your attention or my attention? He had been seeking our surrender to him, in my case, for decades. But why did it not happen earlier? I don’t know for sure, but when it did, I can tell you the exact moment, on the exact day, and where I was.
I had been in church for some 35 years, and I certainly proclaimed to be a Christian, or more specifically a Catholic, but why was I never born again? Was I that unknowledgeable? Or, that resistant to His call? I just don’t know for sure. But when it happened, my world changed forever.
You see, it was the discernment of another Christian, at a time when I was most susceptible, to help the Lord make it all happen. I suspect, it is this very thing which is likely the subject of this whole book. I am sure the Lord had been wanting this step to have occurred throughout my whole life, just like your whole life. But why not? I have no doubt that He knows when we will finally bow our knee to Him, but He also requires other Christians to step up and be His ambassadors. He is too much of a gentleman to force us to do something, like be born-again.
He undoubtedly sees the circumstances building up in our lives, like in the midst of massive snowstorm and the snow is piling high in front of the car. Sometimes we make some poor choices which brings on correction, but other times we may not have instigated any causal action but it is just some attack of the enemy which drives us face to face with our Lord.
I remember a dear patient of mine, when I was surgeon with an office in Pasadena. This was right after my 2 years as a Navy surgeon stationed with the Marines at the U.S. Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego. I was given the task of being sure all 18,000 Marine recruits coming through that facility every 14 weeks, were prepared, from an oral surgical perspective to go forth to Camp Pendleton for advanced training and then on to Korea to fight the war. These were a great bunch of young men who had volunteered to join the U.S. Marines and to help defend our country in any way they were asked.
After my stint with the Marines I had opened an office in Pasadena, California to practice oral and maxillofacial surgery, for which I had been trained. That first year, near the end of 1952 or early 1953, I was asked to see a young woman by the name of Dorothy Gillespie. Her surgery required I place her in a hospital and we both selected St Luke Hospital in Altadena, for her care.
It was during that time that she recognized how concerned I was for giving her excellent surgical care, and at that time when she developed some unexpected post-surgical bleeding, that our relationship became more like a brother caring for a sister, yet in a very professional way. Unbeknownst to me, she was a young woman who had totally given her life to Jesus, and she was most interested in seeing that I too might be saved.
Over the years, Dorothy would travel in her ministry across much of the western United States. Because of the rarity of her bleeding problem, she always felt more comfortable returning to Pasadena to have any oral or maxillofacial surgery accomplished by me. She would write lengthy letters to me when she was away and then she would alert me that she would be returning. In those letters she would explain to me her missions among the native Americans and some other indigent group of people. Frequently, she would be living among some group in the remote areas of Nevada or Idaho, but I suspect, all the time holding her most favored surgeon in prayer for his conversion to the Christian faith.
I never heard her complain of the duty which the Lord had put on her ministering to the people living in those remote areas of the United States, nor for the burden which only God could have placed in her heart for seeing me become a born again Christian. This is a part of what this book is about. It is foremost about fighting the battles for other’s souls, but also for fighting the battles which the Lord puts on our hearts, no matter what the cost.
This time of writing this particular book is long past the time of Dorothy surrendering her whole life to ministering to those who needed her evangelistic touch. She has since passed away into her heavenly reward, but I know her legacy of doing what the Lord commanded her to do has since been completed, at least here on terra firma. She was a faithful servant, and I for one am most grateful for her prayers on my behalf.
She prayed for my conversion to Christianity for the period from 1952 until when I welcomed Jesus into my life as Lord and Savior, in 1983. The Lord not only gave her the opportunity of knowing I had been saved, but just as importantly, stepping out in the ministry which He had given me to do. When Lynne and I were ordained in the ministry of Jesus Christ in 1987, she was there and made the statement, no one could know the contentment and joy she was experiencing. I suspect it can only be in heaven as we see the interaction of God’s saints and how others were wooed into their own born again experience that we begin to grasp the whole picture of how important our lives are in the evangelism of other lives.
I suspect for dear Dorothy Gillespie, she took her calling very seriously and I would hope and believe the Lord would have welcomed her with open arms and made the statement, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Moses and His Battle with the Midianites
Remember, Moses’ army did not do what they were called to do by God, and thus the fury of the Lord raged. In the end, they were forced to go back and do what the Lord had commanded in the first place. In Numbers 31:7 it tells us they went to war against the Midianites, as Moses commanded, and they slew all of the males. But that is not what God had asked them to do. They did also slew the five kings of the Midianites as well as Balaam and the son of Beor. But then they took all of the women and children captive.
Moses and Eleazar, the priest went out to meet them and the bible tells us Moses was wroth with the captains of the army. God knew that the multiple god worshipping Midianites would corrupt His chosen people, and thus why He ordered the killing of all of the Midianites.
The order out of Moses mouth was an interesting command for us of later generations to perhaps fathom. In verse 15 Moses asks whether they have saved all of the women alive? He then commanded they kill all of the males amongst the little ones, and kill every woman who has laid with a man. In other words, whoever is not a virgin among the woman, thou shall kill. But Moses goes on to say of all the women children who have laid with a man, keep as wives for yourself. That would seem to be a very cruel command in our times, but in those days of enlarging the body of God’s chosen people, it must have been God’s wisdom.
It was after that the priest Eleazar commanded the Jewish army to purify themselves by certain rituals which had been spelled out earlier in the bible in the book of Leviticus. Then the Lord commanded Moses as to how he was to divide the spoils of war between the army, the congregation and to the priest as a heave offering to God. This story in the Old Testament shows us that we too are to divide a portion of what we gain from our employment for the benefit of ourselves, others whose needs are known and to God for a memorial, and to be used for the purposes God might show forth.
In the 32nd chapter of Numbers we see the story of the children of Reuben and the children of Gad coming before Moses and making a request. Since as they come across the land from between Egypt and now the Promised Land, they had acquired large flocks of sheep and cattle and were most interested in having good pasture land for these herds to roam on. This was land they had already conquered, but they knew it would suit their needs very well. Actually half of the tribe of Manasseh would be wishing to remain on the other side of the Jordan River, not actually going into the Promised Land.
Moses listened to what they were asking, but then he realized if these tribes stayed on the outside of the Promised Land they would not be available to fight the enemy as the Israelis proceeded into the Promised Land. Moses knew they would be needed to fight the battle for the others, but Reuben and Gad recognized that need. They let Moses know they would definitely want to help all of their brother Israelis secure their inheritance in the Promised Land, but then they asked Moses if he would give them the land on this side of the Jordan River as their inheritance?
As seen in Numbers 32:6-7 Moses asked them shall your brothers go to war and you sit here? He went on to say that would discourage the hearts of the other tribes from wanting to enter the Promised Land, even though the Lord had promised that unto them. That is a point which we need to stress and to which I have elected as a theme for this book.
Are we willing to see the larger picture of what God is doing and are we willing to pay the price, even with our own lives and fortunes, to see the general good occur in our Christian family? That question may be very hard for many to answer, especially in today’s society, since to a great extent we are a give me society. Always watching out for our own good and having little concern about our brothers and sisters, unless it benefits me? To a great extent, my friend Dorothy Gillespie was much more concerned about others entering God’s kingdom than worrying about her own comforts, which I suspect were most limited.
Moses was putting them to the test. Are you willing to sacrifice your goods and futures to come against an enemy we haven’t yet engaged, because if you will not join us in this calling of God, we may back out. In the following verse 8, Moses reminded them of their forefathers when Moses had sent them from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land. They talked about the giants in the land, not the fact that God had already told them the land was theirs. The Lord’s angered was manifest because of their earlier disobedience and He swore that none older than 20 years of age would come into the land He had sworn to Abraham that He would give them.
When we are called by God to make certain choices we must recognize the consequences of being disobedient to Him. Nothing is more visible today than our disavowing our covenant promises made to God in our marriages. Not only do we swear to each other that we will love and remain true to our covenant promises of being faithful in good time or bad, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, but we even swear that to God almighty, and then when someone doesn’t take the trash out, or come ones hair like we expect, we say adios and go for another sucker. That is not the faithfulness God expects.
It was only Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite and Joshua the son of Nun that would enter the Promised Land for they knew they could overcome the enemy, because God had told them so. Those two, of the older than 20 crowd, were the only two Israelites to come into their Promised Land. How many of us have forfeited our promised land because we have not followed the commands of our heavenly Father?
In verse 13 the Word tells us the anger of the Lord was kindled against the Israelites and He made them wander in the desert for forty years until all of that generation had died. Wow! What a punishment, but that is the truth that God sees through in seeking people who will follow Him, no matter what the cost to them personally.
It kind of reminds one of the story of Noah. We’ll touch on that one at a later moment. But the lesson to be learned in these two chapters of Numbers is that there are times in our lives when we must seek the better good and be willing to fight the battle for others.
In the case of the children of Israel at the time of exiting Egypt and moving toward the Promised Land, it would have been interesting to have known how quickly they might have entered the Promised Land, had they obeyed the Lord. For all of the children of Israel, over age 20 years of age, I feel sure they would have wished they hadn’t fallen prey to doubt and rebellion.
The leaders of Reuben and Gad said, in verse 16, we will build sheepfolds for their cattle and cities for their little ones and then they, the mature men, would go forth to fight the battles for Israel.
Moses had at first accused them of being slackers and not wanting to participate in the fight ahead, but they made it perfectly clear, that was not their intention at all. So, as the children of Gad and Reuben and half of Manasseh had requested, the land on the Egypt side of the Jordan would be their inheritance. Obedience has consequences.
In Numbers 32:20-22, Moses said to them, If you will do this thing, if you will go armed before the Lord to war, and will go all of you armed over the Jordan before the Lord, until He has driven out His enemies from before Him, And the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterward you shall return, and be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the Lord.
Moses lets them know that if they fail to do as they have promised, then this is sin against the Lord, and your sin will find you out. This is a lesson for every single person living in this world, but especially for all of God’s chosen people whether Jews or Christians.
Sometimes when we have seen our goal met, we may fail to stand with others who are still in the battle. I particularly feel this in the area of marriage restoration. Lynne and I have been blessed to have seen our marriage to each other totally restored twice, all the way through divorce, by standing on the words and promises of God. I feel strongly that we as Christians must will to stand firmly against the devil in every area of our lives, because the battles we are fighting affect our children and grandchildren. Too many times we secure the blessings we were hoping, praying and believing for, but then forget those baby Christians who need our mentoring and encouragement. There is a legacy being written in your life and that of your family and it is most important that it points back to Jesus and His marvelous atonement for our sin and then for our following Him the rest of our lives.
Noah and the Townspeople
It seems that when anyone has been called by God to undertake a specific, godly task, that person will come under not only scrutiny, but persecution and condemnation. Although little is written about Noah, can you imagine the attacks?
It is interesting that there were no floods spoken of before the time of Noah. In the beginning God had placed man and woman in a garden which was perfect. In that Garden man walked with God, but when sin entered in man slowly began to take his eyes off of God and to begin to think they were gods and did not require a loving and creating God. The bible in Genesis says the sons of God saw the daughters of men and saw they were fair and took wives of all which they chose.
Whereas, man was living in timespans of hundreds of years even out to almost 1000 years, God was showing His displeasure with man and said in Genesis 6:3 that He, God, would not always strive with man and thus set his lifetime calendar at 120 years. God was still showing His great compassion for mankind by allowing him to live here for 120 years.
In Genesis 6: 5 the Bible tells us that God saw the wickedness of man was great and that man’s continual thought was on evil. They too their eyes totally off of God and began to think they were somehow gods themselves. It was so bad that God said He repented for having made man, and it grieved him at his heart. God set out to destroy man, woman and beasts of this world which He had made. But the Word tell us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. It goes on to say he was perfect in his generations and that he walked with God.
The Word tell us that the world was corrupt before God and that all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. Can you imagine how awful that must have been and how there must have been lack of proper mentoring amongst the people, yet we see that occurring before our own eyes, where whole nations are beginning to feel they don’t need to reverence, praise and obey God. It is unbelievable to us who are born again believers and who do seek God that any person could turn totally from God and not reverence nor worship Him.
So God formulated a plan to rid the earth of all mankind with the exception of Noah and his family and two of every beast and fish and fowl. What a tragedy, all because man felt he didn’t require God. So God told Noah how to build an Ark which would allow that small group to survive the flood which God would bring and use to abolish the life on the earth. The Word goes on to say, thus did Noah according to all that God had commanded him.
Do you ever take a moment to think what would have happened if Noah had rebelled? Would then there have been no more people on this earth? Here God had shown Noah exactly how to make an ark which would be well enough made to survive that kind of journey, and it was up to Noah to not only believe Him but then to follow His every command. What if we had been Noah’s next door neighbor? Would we have supported and encouraged him to follow God and build this remarkable thing called a boat or an ark?
Knowing what I know of human nature and what I have experienced as I move ahead to follow God, I suspect Noah was shunned and mocked during much of the time he was building that funny looking “boat” or “ark.” How many of his neighbors came over to help him build the ark? What about his wife and three sons? Did Shem, Ham and Japheth all contribute? I doubt it. They would have just thought old Dad was a bit off his rocker. Can you imagine the townsfolk? They probably mocked him until they realized it was not going to create the effect they were hoping for, then they would sure have given him the silent treatment. How can you deal with such a crazy person? To them, nothing made any sense. That is frequently what a person who has chosen to follow God’s commands will experience.
The flood finally came after 120 years just like the Lord had said it would, and you guessed it all living creatures were drowned except those that God told Noah to take in the Ark with he and his family. The bible said the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth and all of the high hills below the whole heavens were covered. I can hardly even imagine the horror of those who were not following God and were destroyed in this flood. Never before or since has such a flood occurred, and if that wasn’t enough, God placed a rainbow in the sky and told Noah and his family, that this would be the sign of an everlasting covenant between God and Noah and his descendants and every living creature until the end of time. There would be no more floods covering the whole earth. Noah lived a total of 950 years and then he died. We can be sure that he was ridiculed by those earlier generations because of his unusual faithfulness to God, when the whole world had gone astray.
When God beckoned Noah to bring his family along into the ark, it was most interesting his comment. And the Lord said to Noah, come thou and bring all thy house into the ark: for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. WOW! What a comment from God. Wouldn’t you love to have God say that about you? Well He does if you are a born again Christian. He sees the righteousness of His dear Son, Jesus, whose cloak of righteousness you put on when you accepted and proclaimed Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
But again, just think what Noah had to endure in the way of ridicule and being shunned, likely by his own family. As you can see by most of the stories in the bible, that God gives the commandment or assignment to a single person, even in the case of the children of Israel. The vision was first given to Abram. No one else.
As the Lord has lead me to various excursions in my life, I can assure you many around me thought, what is he doing now? Not realizing the call on my life.
As Noah and family and animals entered the ark, God let him know that in 7 days He would start a rain which would last 40 days and 40 nights and that every living substance that He had made would be destroyed from the face of the earth. That wasn’t enough of a challenge, but Noah was 600 years old when the flood began. As they used to say in the Popeye cartoon series, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
I can hardly imagine a more challenging command of God than for Him to tell you, alone, that you were to spend the next 120 years of your life building and ark for a flood that your people had never seen occur. Would you have been obedient? Would I? But what did Noah do, first thing when getting off of the ark? He built an altar to God. The sweet smell of the flesh offering reached God’s nostrils and he said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake. He went on to say as long as the earth remains the Seasons will also last.
You see, if Noah had not taken up the battle for all of mankind, we most likely would not be here today, writing books and praising God for all He has done.
Abel, the Man Who Obeyed God
It is most interesting to study the story of Abel and his brother Cain. Cain was the first born by natural means, on this earth. His brother Abel was child number two from Adam and Eve conceiving. We certainly know that original sin entered back in the Garden as Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. So it would be no surprise that the off-spring were born with sin having touched their lives.
As these two young sons grew into manhood one, Abel, became a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. The bible goes on to say at some moment in time Abel brought a fruit of the ground offering to God, while Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock. This might seem innocuous enough except that they well knew of the need for the Lord to kill animals and remove their hides to make the original clothing to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned.
Remember, before the fall, they were naked and never complained of their nakedness, but after having sinned they were now vulnerable. It was the Lord that made the flesh sacrificed to cover their sin. Abel realized that a blood and flesh offering was far superior to a grain offering where there was no sacrifice of a life.
The bible tells us God had respect to Abel and his offering, but not to Cain. Cain was wroth and his countenance fell. Cain gets in a discussion with Abel out in the field and Cain kills his brother and Abel’s blood cries out from the ground to God. The Lord then asks cain what have you done? Have you killed him and Cain answers he doesn’t know after all is he his brother’s keeper?
God let Cain know that his brother’s blood cries out from the ground and if he sinned he would certainly find a life of failure. In this case sin brought forth condemnation and shunning of Cain. But as we will see, in many instances being a true follower of God will bring forth persecution and shunning of the Christian.
Abel literally became the first honoree in the Hebrews Hall of Faith in chapter 11:4 where it says that Abel, by faith, offered unto god a more excellent offering than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous.
In the 12th chapter of Hebrews, Paul writes of the fact that by His discipline God shows His love. Had Cain been obedient to God, he would not have had to endure the harsh finality of his life. The bible says, for whom the Lord loves, he chastens.
This story certainly depicts the fact that we as children of God must learn to obey God’s general commands to mankind, but even those peculiar and individual commands which the Lord through Hi Holy Spirit can give us from time to time, even if the end result becomes a major sacrifice. We obey despite the cost and sacrifice to us, personally, just trusting God in His perfect wisdom to somehow make it all right. It was sad to think that Abel had to lose his young life after obeying God, but somehow we must look at our lives as if we are truly here on earth only for God’s purpose and always to give honor to Him, even in death.
In so living his life for God, he became the world’s first martyr, first shepherd of the flocks, and as I said earlier, he became the first Faith, Hall of Famer in the bible. What a legacy for Abel to always, everywhere being spoken of in God’ holy bible. But for his brother there was dishonor and punishment.
Joseph, a Man Serving God, but Persecuted by Many
Here is a remarkable story of calling, courage, patience, perseverance, character, faith and love. Joseph born as the eleventh son of Jacob and was most favored by his father. This of course brought him hatred from his ten older brothers. To make matters worse the father made him a special coat of many colors and I suppose that just made him a bigger target. It appears to me that a person who chooses to wear the coat of the righteousness of Jesus Christ then one does become a bigger target. A good example of that is seen when the Florida Gators football quarterback, Tim Tebot, left Gainesville to become a member of the Denver Broncos professional football team. Tim had made it very evident that he served Jesus on the field and off the field. Tim was doing what he was anointed to do, play football and be a solid, visible evangelist for Jesus Christ. He was in no way ashamed of that. But others would murmur and complain quietly at first. You can be sure, if you take a visible stand for Jesus and your visibility extends even to your own family, you will get condemned, persecuted or shunned. It is just par for the course and Jesus himself reminded us we would be persecuted for His name’s sake.
In Joseph’s case, the brothers then conspired to put Joseph away. They put him in a pit, thought to kill him, sold him into slavery and eventually accused of committing adultery with Potiphar’s wife. He was punished for doing the right thing. All of that would have been more than enough to get most of us into a funk. But, with the grace of God, Joseph was able to keep his countenance and eventually he won the hearts of all he met. He spent little time going over the set-backs, but instead, asked himself, what now? It was apparent, because of the calling on his life that those who met him also realized God was with him. What was the outcome? He rose in stature with the Pharaoh of Egypt and eventually became the 2nd most powerful man in that land. What was the benefit God was wanting to come through Joseph’s life? He wanted Joseph to be able to save God’s chosen people from famine in their own land and to give them much wealth even in the enemy’s land.
The story of Joseph has always had an important significance in my life as I have had to go through many trials and setbacks. It is those times when we need to focus all of our energies in serving the Lord and looking carefully for the direction He is wanting to lead you. It means getting our eyes off of the circumstances which may be especially dismal to see. What is He calling you to do?
Let’s just take a moment more to see what God was able to do through the obedient life of an eleventh son of a man of that time. He was a son who was apparently mature for his age, could be counted on to carry forth a serious and important task. He was loyal to his family and showed that as he went looking for his older brothers who were attending the sheep.
These qualities, even at this early moment in Joseph’s life, along with his being his father’s favorite son made him a target of the wrath of the older brothers. You would think they would have been proud of him, but no, they understood the call on his life by his father as well as by God. That was more than enough to reach the tipping point. In other words, the brothers lost their cool.
But as joseph’s life unfolded we see how God was able to bless his quiet and obedient spirit, in ways beyond measure. God was able to give him dreams which would be important to the Pharaoh to the extent Joseph would not only be released from the prison, but then mad 2nd in command over all of Egypt. Put yourself in Joseph’s spot at almost any time in his young life. Do you have any thought that God could or might do the same for you? Can you see any possibility that your God and my God can move on our lives in a similar manner? It will take all of the faith you can muster to call on God and expect to see Him move mountains to bring you through some critical moment. But that is exactly what Joseph had to do and to believe God for.
Did God come through for Joseph? In spades, but look at the persecution and actual shunning which Joseph had to endure. Mocked, falsely accused, imprisoned, and eventually lifted up to be the 2nd most powerful leader in Egypt, and then given the opportunity of forgiving all who had wronged him before, and deliver his family and his Nation out of a famine in his native land. Now that’s being redeemed. His response to adversity is what God used to bring vindication.
David, the Future King
Why would Jesus refer to David as a man after His own heart? In 1 Samuel 13:14 we see where God has brought Samuel, the prophet, to Saul, the king and said, You have done foolishly: you have not kept the commandment of the Lord, your God, which He commanded you; for now the Lord would have established your kingdom upon Israel forever. Samuel goes on to tell King Saul, but now your kingdom will not continue. The Lord has sought “ a man after His own heart.” He went on to say that the kingdom will be placed under a new leader, and not under you, because you have not been obedient to God.
If we go back to David’s beginning he was a shepherd, poet, giant killer and eventually king and an ancestor of Jesus. Doesn’t that sound grand? He had plenty of reason to think well of himself, but then there was another side of David. He has been described also as a liar, a murderer, an adulterer and a betrayer. Somehow, it seems inconceivable that God could possibly call him “a man after His own heart.” But that is exactly what God said. He also chose him to be the future king of Israel and also to be in the lineage of His only begotten Son, Jesus, who was sent here to save us sinners.
We may never think of our God as that loving, but He is, and much more than that. Lets’ consider a few areas where David was attempting to do what the Lord had commanded him and how he ran into much difficulty. What made David be so successful? For one, David had an unshakable belief in the faithfulness of God. If we were to study David’s words in Psalm 139 it will show the reader that David knew full well that God knew his every thought. The bible never minimizes the frailty of David, his sin and his good points are all revealed for the reader to see.
In Psalm 139, David starts out telling God, You searched me and you know me. When I am standing or sitting you know me and you understand my thoughts from afar. You compass my path and when I am laying down. You have known and walked with me in whatever I have done. He goes on to say, Where could I go that you, oh Lord were not present? If I ascend unto heaven, you are there, even if I make my bed in hell, David says, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, you are there. Your right hand shall hold me. He goes on to say that even in light or in darkness, you are there. He tells God you have possessed my reins and even when I was in my mother’s womb you had me covered.
He goes on to say, I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are thy works, and I know that my soul knows full well. How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God. For surely you will slay the wicked, O God.
He ends up and says, Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in way everlasting.
What a testimony of a man who failed just as we have failed, and yet his knowledge and trust in God and His faithfulness allowed him to fight the giant, win the wars and become Israel’s most beloved King.
No matter how we might have failed in this life of ours, we can be and will be redeemed just as was King David. He knew his frailties, but even more he knew his God. He never ceased from praising God, in good times and bad times. I truly feel that is a major key to our success. It affects greatly, the way we think about any situation, good or bad.
Remember, David and Jonathon made a covenant between them. They both always upheld those covenant vows, just like we should do in our walk with God and in our marriages. But you may say, David was never shunned. Are you kidding? The father of Jonathon was King Saul and he sought to have David killed and even attempted that himself, but God was always present to protect and save David for the very calling God had placed on his life.
David at one point in I Sam 20-21 was so distraught about being persecuted, sought after and shunned by King Saul that he feigned insanity. Things don’t get much worse than that. David was without any food or weapon at that moment but he appealed to the priest, Ahimelech, who not only went against the Leviticus law by offering holy bread to David and his men, but he then offered him the only weapon available, which was the sword of Goliath.
That passage where he is being given the hallowed or holy bread by the priest was referred to later by Jesus to the effect that God’s commandments should not be applied without compassion. God wishes his body to not only do good but to preserve lives.
Here we see David fleeing from King Saul and his army into the lands of the Philistines, the very people he had helped defeat much earlier. But seeing that David was being pursued by King Saul, made David a likely friend of theirs. Isn’t it interesting how things can get turned around and upside down at times, and in those moments we had better be sure we are fulfilling God’s commands to us personally. There can and likely will be times in each life where it seems there is absolutely no way out. David was in one of those moments. So, how did he handle it?
Well first the Philistines likely felt they had a warrior on their side who could be helpful. They knew nothing of David’s call to be the next king of Israel. The Philistines became concerned when they realized David had slain thousands of Philistines. David was afraid and pretended to be insane. The insane, or mentally challenged person could not be harmed. This then became a shelter for David.
It really at this very moment that God had another plan and it was being acted out by David and by others. In those moments which you may go through which are very dark and where it would seem there is no escape, just turn your life and whole being and direction over to what the Lord would be wanting to do. Sometimes the answer is not that speedy, but as they say God is never late. In our minds we might well argue that latter point, but truly God does know better than we, what He is wanting to accomplish in and through every committed life. It may take great patience and perseverance, however.
After feigning insanity and being brought before King Aschish of Gath, David fled anmd escaped to the cave Adullum. It was there that his brethren and all of his father’s house heard the news and joined David in the cave. They were the misfits, the poor and in distress people and David became the captain over them. These were the 400 fighting men who eventually became David’s fighting men.
It was right after this initial gathering in the cave, that King Saul’s anger raged over those of his own kingdom and he ordered the slaying of the priests. That day Doeg, at the King’s command, slew fourscore and five persons that did wear the linen ephod. He not only killed the 85 priests but he slew the whole city of Nob, which was the city of the priests. Why, because no one rose up against the sin which was being committed under evil King Saul.
David had made a number of mistakes, but through it all he repented and turned back to follow God and to praise Him in everything. You could say David was shunned by Saul, not for his doing evil, but for his being called to be the man of God. To me, the life of this courageous man is a pattern for each of us to follow, especially in the times where persecution or even outright shunning is occurring. God knows the thought He thinks toward us of good and not of evil. Now, it’s our time to walk the walk which Jesus would ask us to walk, no matter how rocky that path may be, for any given moment.
Mary and Joseph Were Persecuted and Shunned
There are so many things to be gained from reading and absorbing the lessons learned from lives lived in the bible stories. We could never totally, possibly learn about them all, but probably not even about a single life. To the extent we are willing to try, we can gain wisdom, certainly, for the living of our own lives.
I think this story depicts the tremendous courage and stamina required for following God’s purposes for those who are sold out to God. For both Mary and for Joseph this was a very difficult path to follow. They were young and yet they absolutely rose to the occasion.
The children of Israel had been promised a Messiah, but that was hundreds of years earlier. Now, here we are living in Israel, without any prophesy for 400 years, and now something strange is about to happen. The Israelites have been under Roman rule for some time and they are hoping for and expecting an “anointed one”. A Messiah which had been predicted for some long time. Back in the book of Isaiah, chapter 53, Isaiah prophesies about the coming King which will be despised and broken for our transgressions. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: we hid our faces from him; and we esteemed him not.
The angel Gabriel, is sent by God to a virgin in the city of Nazareth. Her name is Mary and she is betrothed top a man named Joseph. The betrothal is similar to the more recent Western activity called engagement. It is a time before any sexual contact between the couple and many times there is little contact at all between the couple. Much like an arranged marriage where the couple may never have met up until the marriage date. The man betrothed to Mary was Joseph of the house of David.
The angel said to her, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women.” When she saw him, she was troubled at his saying. Wouldn’t this just be a frightful moment? But the angel knowing her fear said, Fear not, Mary, for thou has found favor with God. You shall conceive and bare a so and his name shall be called Jesus.
What an interesting and frightening moment for this early to middle teen, virgin girl of Nazareth. Can you even possibly, slightly imagine what was going through her mind at that moment? She knew she knew no man, and if she were found to be pregnant, as an engaged, but not yet married woman, she could literally be stoned to death.
I doubt that any of us can really comprehend what that moment might have been liked. Talk about being shunned. She wouldn’t have just been shunned, but also stoned to death. But, you can be sure God had an angel, Gabriel, who knew how to be compassionate at a moment like that. But what about Joseph? He will be absolutely dumbfounded. When he heard about the fact Mary was expecting, not wanting to make her a public example, thought to put Mary away privately.
But once again, God had a plan, He sent an angel in a dream to Joseph, and the angel said to him, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee, Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. It had been prophesied in Isaiah that a virgin shall bring forth a child and they shall call his name Emmanuel, meaning God with us. The angel let joseph know that Mary shall bring forth a son and you shall call him Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Can you imagine all that was going on in Mary and Joseph’s minds? Here, they were not only going to have a baby, but it would be a boy and his name will be such and such. If that wasn’t enough, how would the townspeople and priests act when you told them that your wife has conceived by the Holy Ghost. One would have to have settled in one’s mind that yes, you are hearing from God. No question about it. What do you mean, Joseph, when you tell us that God was the father of your child? Give me a break, Joseph.
Joseph believed God and took Mary as his wife and honored her virginity until after the baby Jesus was born. But the persecution and shunning would just begin.
It was shortly after the birth of Jesus that King Herod the Great was alerted by three wise men from the East that a Messiah was born. He knew fro earlier prophesies such as Micah 5:2 and other prophesies which spoke of the coming Messiah. To Herod, who wasn’t the rightful heir to King David’s throne, this was a force to be dealt with. He wanted the wise men to go find Jesus and then come back and tell him where he was.
At the same time as the wise men came and gave wealth to Mary and Joseph, for the coming King, Joseph was warned in a dream that he should take his family and flee Judea to Egypt. Only if Joseph and Mary would be obedient to what God had warned Joseph in a dream, would they be spared the death which would sure have over taken Jesus and his parents. It truly was a dire moment. But God had it all planned out with the wise men coming with gifts which had to make their future more comfortable and secure.
Before the wise men left their worship of the baby Jesus, they were warned by God in a dream, not to go the way of King Herod, so they would not tell him where the child was located. Trust me. God doesn’t miss a trick.
In the dream where God warned joseph to take his family and flee, God also warned him that Herod would attempt to kill the baby. God said, stay in Egypt until I bring you word. Herod went ahead and ordered the death of all the babies of Jerusalem under the age of two years. Had they remained there, Jesus would have been killed.
This story, as much as any, shows how the devil will use persecution and even shunning as a tool to harm the people of God, and His plan for their lives. As we go through this book we will discuss more of this very action by the devil against the Christians and Jews who are attempting to follow God’s plans for their lives. That persecution and shunning can come in many ways, be quite innocuous on the surface, but quite deadly when uncovered.
Jesus, the Crown Jewel, Suffered Persecution
If we look in John 19:1-3 we see the story of our Lord and Savior after he was brought to be crucified. The word tells us that Pilate therefore took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe. And said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him with their hands.
Sometimes when I wonder why there is such animus because a person professes to be a Christian and then when I think back to what the call was on the life of Jesus, to come to earth for the salvation of mankind, and then to realize what persecution and hatred he had to endure, it becomes easier to see why we mortals will also be persecuted and shunned.
Wherever Jesus went he sought out how he might benefit others. He asked nothing for himself. Why could anyone want to harm him? The Lady at the well he helped and also the woman being stoned by the judgmental men. He always stood up for the underdog or the one being unjustly harmed. And yet look what the Roman soldiers did to him. The beat him, and parted his clothes. They spit on him and lashed out with tortuous whips which would literally tear the skin off of Jesus’ back. They mocked him and brutally beat him and made him carry his own cross for his own crucifixion, and yet when some small persecution or attack comes against us we wilt or are amazed
In Luke 21:12-19 we see where Jesus himself is admonishing us about the persecution to come. In that chapter Jesus is letting his followers know about what they might expect at some given moment in the future. He speaks about wars and rumors of wars and tells us to be not afraid. He speaks of earthquakes, famines, pestilences as well as great sights from heaven. He tells us be not afraid.
Starting in verse 12 Jesus says the following:
:12 But before all of these they shall lay hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.
:13 and it shall turn to you for a testimony.
:14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what to answer:
:15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
:16 And you shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
:17And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.
:18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
:19In your patience possess you your souls.
I don’t know about you but that brings Holy Spirit revelation of what we can expect, to my spirit.
Jesus was really letting us each one know that there are bigger things to fight and persevere for. Sometime, probably too frequently, we get so tied up in our concerns for our own jobs and daily living that we forget to see the bigger picture where we truly may be required to lay our comfort, wishes and desires down for a greater purpose. That of seeking His kingdom and bringing others into that kingdom of God. We all are cognizant that we are certainly approaching the end times. None of us can know exactly when that might occur. Could be tomorrow or could be 100 years from now. The important thing is to realize those words He spoke to us can be taken for each generation. Particularly, as we profess Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we will find ourselves being persecuted, at times and even shunned.
Jesus doesn’t mince any words in warning and preparing us for such a time. He says we will be betrayed by parents, brethren, family and friends. That’s about everybody that counts in our lives. But He admonishes us to not meditate in our hearts beforehand what we will say. He goes on to say that will receive wisdom and even words to say. That is very comforting. Just be in constant communion with Jesus and expect at the correct time, we will know exactly what we are to say. He says we will be brought before rulers and kings for His names sake, but it shall turn to you for a testimony.
This is all a bit hard to fathom, but Jesus is telling us that it is through what happens at these times that his kingdom can greatly expand. Look at times like when Stephen is being stoned to death. Let’s talk about Stephen in the next chapter.
St. Stephen, the First Martyr for Christianity
It is sometimes hard to see what God’s plans are for a particular life but certainly in the life of Stephen much knowledge can be gained about how we are to live our lives as Christians. Remember in the preceding chapter I spoke of what Jesus was saying would occur in the latter times. There would be all sorts of persecutions. Here we see a great example of what that might look like.
Stephen originally had no special position other than being selected to join with others to wait on tables. Here is a man who was known for his desire to serve the wishes of the Lord without seeking any glory. He just believed the Gospel of Christ and was living it in all that he did. At earlier moments, Peter and John were warned not to speak openly about Jesus, but did they not obey that command. No way, they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ even more, giving God the opportunity to show His saving power. Those moments of courage and testimony against the enemy’s force can be most useful in bring others into God’s kingdom and then giving them that extra courage to take a stand for what God would have them do.
Let’s look for a moment at the life of St Stephen. In Acts 6:2-6 tells the story of the disciples realizing how busy they were doing the Lord’s work decided to ask who might wait tables for them and for those they were serving? They instructed their members to look for men of an honest report and filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom. They needed seven such men and Stephen was the first chosen because as the word says, he was a man full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost. They selected six other men and when they had done so they placed them before the apostles and when they had prayed they laid hands on them and blessed them.
And the word of God increased and the number of disciples grew in Jerusalem. This is exactly the call on our lives. We take whatever gifts the Lord has given each of us and we offer them with our devotion and caring to those around us, and then let’s see what the Lord will do.
In verse 9 the word tells us that Stephen, who was full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. But don’t you know that is a sure way to see attacks come upon you. Imagine in that Jewish culture for someone standing up and preaching Jesus. Even in today’s culture that degree of evangelism, healing and preaching can elicit some unfavorable reaction.
For Stephen, the reaction was beyond measure. There arose in the synagogue of the Libertines and other sects began to dispute wit Stephen. But the bible tells us they were not able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which Stephen spoke. They then went to those higher up and said we have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God. They got a whole bunch riled up against him and captured him and brought him to the council. It was just as Jesus had predicted. They will rise up against you and speak falsehoods and deride and persecute you, for Jesus’ sake.
They spoke falsely against him and said this man speaks blasphemous words against this place and the law. They told that they had him say that Jesus would destroy this place and change the customs which Moses had delivered to them. If you think back in the Old testament you will see where the Israelites wanted to go against Moses, too. All they could do was look at Stephen’s face as though it was the face of an angel. I truly feel the nearer a person gets to following God and His plan for that person’s life, the more radiance will be seen in the face of that person.
It is interesting that these same accusations were made by these same people against Jesus. They falsely accused Stephen of wanting to eradicate or do away with Moses Law. The Sadducees who were the controlling element in the Council believed in Moses laws.
At that point Stephen addresses the Sanhedrin.
He was now brought before the same High Priest, Caiphas, who had questioned and condemned Jesus. Stephen truly was between a rock and a hard place. He well knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, born of a virgin, which had been prophesied centuries before. This argument was not going to set well with these religious leaders. The message of Jesus when he was alive had not resonated well with them either.
Stephen felt and knew he must take them back through all of the Old Testament knowledge of how God had instituted the Jewish Nation and how He had brought them into their own land, but the points which Stephen had to make had to do with the Jews rebellion against God. That would not be welcome.
He let them know that the Jews had rebelled against God’s message and God’s prophets. After a long speech Stephen let them know the Jews had just rebelled against God when they crucified Jesus, the Son of the living God.
Even in our culture today, if we bring up the idea of Jesus being one and the same with God, and that if you confess him as Lord, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. For many that is a concept that is not impossible for them to entertain, but it also riles up anger, resentment and outright hostility in some. This is exactly what was happening to Stephen. He, like Jesus, was just telling them the truth, but it didn’t fit their religious beliefs. Jesus knew he wasn’t to answer most of their questions or comments. It kind of goes back to Jesus’ admonition to us believers that all sorts of attacks will come upon you, for his sake, but don’t meditate on how you will answer. That is exactly why the Holy Spirit resides within the believer. It’s a little like a constant telephone connection. God will show us what to say when we are being hammered unjustly.
This story of the first martyr is a powerful story of the courage of a man in the face of council of Jews who did not want to hear what Stephen was saying. There probably was little chance that Stephen didn’t realize this was a death attack against him, and yet while they stoned him to death, Stephen cried out for mercy for his killers. But God would not have his precious life be given without cause. At the feet of a young man named Saul, later becoming Paul, those observers through down their clothes at Saul’s feet.
It was in witnessing the truth and courage of this young waiter on tables, who was anointed speaker and defender of the Gospel of Christ, that Saint Paul later had the courage to change from Saul to Paul at the behest of Jesus himself as Paul was traveling near Damascus.
As you pick up your cross and follow Jesus with all of the honesty and might that you can muster, believe me your life will touch many others. All you need to do is just ask God daily, to use you for His kingdom purposes, no matter what the risk to your reputation or wealth or whatever. Stephen’s life story has been immortalized and told around the world to billions of people, just because he was a faithful man of God who let his light shine.
Jeremiah, the Prophet Who Endured
The story of this man’s life is absolutely remarkable. Here is a man who had to endure all sorts of attacks on him, personally, just because he was obedient to follow God’s call on his life. He never gained the success that we would label success in today’s culture. He was always poor and mostly maligned, yet he was called by God to be a prophet to Israel and to the southern kingdom of Judah.
Listen to what God said to Jeremiah in chapter 1:4-19. In listening to these words, just consider what you might do when God gives you some difficult command. Will you rebel? Or will you say, here I am Lord? You may say, well God will never call me to do anything important. How do you know that? I think God has a call on every life willing to hear. Sometimes those calls go unanswered or sometimes they just seem more difficult than we may want to fulfill.
Maybe it seems we cannot possibly do what the Lord would ask us to do. How do we know that, if we haven’t stepped out in faith? Later in this book I will talk about some of the times I have had to step out in faith to answer God’s call on my life. Matter in fact it has always been in faith. But truly that is what the Christian life is all about.
Now let’s look at Jeremiah 1:4-19. It shows a powerful call of God on a man’s life. “Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, Before I formed thee in the bel;y I knew thee; and before thou came forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then Jeremiah says, Ah Lord God, I cannot speak; for I am a child. But then the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shall go unto all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shall speak.
Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See this day I have set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? I said I see a rod of an almond tree. Then the Lord said unto me, Thou has seen well; for I will hasten my word to perform it. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all of the inhabitants of the land. For lo, I will call all of the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set everyone on his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about and against all of the cities of Judah.
And I will utter my judgments them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense to other gods, and worshipped the words of their own hands.
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.
For, behold, I have made thee this day an unfenced city, and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.
And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.
If ever, you like me, have wondered, does God really care what I do? Does He really have a divine purpose for my life, this story of Jeremiah, like so many other of the Old Testament prophets, ought to make you reconsider the question.
As I have gone through so much of my life, and where I finally recognized doing things for His purpose was the only way to go, I have seen much more of the call on my own life. I was allowed to go forth in a surgical specialty so that I might be the innovator of a few surgical implants and techniques. I always knew that those innovations were like geodes hidden under the sand, and God just pointed me to them, so I might be the one to uncover them and bring them forth.
It would have been very easy to think that I really was smart enough alone to figure out how to repair a damaged or degenerated temporomandibular joint, when countless other scientists and surgeons had spent years attempting to create a solution for the problem. In 1960 when I innovated the earliest successful replacement implant for the damaged disc and bone surfaces within those joints, I just knew that God must have given me the technique, because it came so effortlessly, on y part. It proved to be a miracle implant for helping to restore function and reduce pain in those joints. Am I grateful? Absolutely, and so are then thousands of patients who have been able to live pain free lives because of that simple implant.
Jeremiah felt inadequate to be what God wanted him to be. God had to let him know that I knew you when I formed you in your mother’s womb. God went on to say, I ordained you and called you to be a prophet to the nations. Can you even get your arms and thought about what that must have been like for a 10 year old Jewish boy to hear and then to comprehend?
At the time Jeremiah was living in Judah it was not unlike our times here in the U.S. Israel was divided into Northern and a Southern Kingdoms. In every way society was going against God’s wishes. Society was deteriorating economically, politically and spiritually. Actually God’s word was outlawed and wars were common. At times like these God raises up the faithful for very special purposes. Whether it be a Billy Graham or an Oral Roberts or a Tim Tebow, each have a certain calling on their life, which they can decide to fulfill, or can decide to ignore.
I think one of the most interesting facets of a person’s life, who has been specifically called by God for a specific purpose, is the need for conviction and perseverance in the face of mounting opposition. In Jeremiah’s life there was nothing which appeared like what we might call success. He wasn’t rich, he was poor. He had been constantly deprived and shunned. He had been thrown in prison, in a well like Joseph, and was captured and hijacked to Egypt against his will.
Jeremiah didn’t have others standing with him. God called him to tell the Nation of Judah to repent for their sin. What a message to have to speak to a nation. A rebellious nation. This would take all of the faith, conviction and endurance that Jeremiah could muster. When you know you have been called by God almighty for just such a moment, and God makes that call very clear, then there is no choice. No matter how foolish that person might appear, it is a God -given endurance which finally over comes.
Folks, that’s a lot of call and required perseverance, which Jeremiah willingly performed.
The very interesting thing is how the person called by God, for whatever purpose will go through a variety of persecutions and at times, being shunned. In Jeremiah’s case even those he knew, his neighbors, wanted to cut him down like a tree. (Jer.11:19), much like the people were doing to Jesus at the time of the crucifixion.
In Jer. 12:5-6 God tells Jeremiah if you have run with footmen and that has wearied you, how then can you contend with horsemen? In the next verse God has l;et him know that even your brethren, and the house of your father, have dealt treacherously with you. God tells Jeremiah to not believe those of your own household if they speak kindly about you.
God let him know the false prophets and kings would be against thee. In essence, he had to stand alone. In man’s eyes he was a failure, but not in God’s eyes. To be successful in God’s eyes requires obedience and perseverance to the call. There will often be no accolades or recognition for what God had you standing for, but often criticism. There will likely be no majority opinion or consensus which will bolster you. You will be all alone, and sometimes appearing quite foolish. But, you may well be a catalyst for a spiritual awakening.
I think the story of Tim Tebow, who is the recent quarterback on the Denver Bronco football team portrays some biblical principles. He came to the team last year and was allowed to sit on the sidelines looking like he might never get the chance. But then this year when the first string QB started off losing several games at the beginning of the Season, the management decided to give Tim a chance. Tim had been an All-American from the University of Florida and was an outspoken Christian, often receiving some unfavorable recognition from sportscasters or other football players. Tim never wavered. He just spoke what God would have him speak. Some little known Rabbi made some derogatory statements about Tim be a right-wing terrorist and would incite hatred for the gays and those who believe in abortion. This is just an example of how far we have strayed from God’s truth and word. To preach the word of God or to stand up for what God has done in your life can create tremendous anger in those who want to hear nothing of Jesus. I have more than seen that in my own life and walk as a Christian, but we’ll talk about that at a later point.
Now back to Jeremiah, the prophet who endured persecution and shunning just for doing what God had told him to do as a young boy. Certainly doing what God would have us do, does not mean you will never be tempted, persecuted or shunned. As Jesus so well told us, we will be persecuted for His sake. Jesus spoke of the attacks on God’s prophets in those Old Testament decades. Jeremiah was given what would seem to be an impossible task of telling the people of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, of their sinfulness and how disappointed God was with their worshipping false gods.
I can assure you, if we were to speak to the people and leaders of America and say to the people, God is not pleased with your idolatry, with your abortions and homosexual lifestyles. You will receive punishment for you obvious sin, the people would most likely rise up and stone us. There is little tolerance toward those who speak God’s words with truthfulness and clarity. Our churches, one and all, have let us down on the abortion issue and certainly again on covenant breaking in the lives of dedicated, or at least professed Christians. For the most part they teach, get on with your lives, or divorce recovery.
It is one thing to attempt to have compassion for those individuals and couples who are having marital problems, but when the message is that of a gentle sponging of the wound or a band aid, that is not the true love that the bible commands of us in ministry.
The same persecution of the born again Christian who speaks negatively about so-called gay marriage. The homosexual lifestyle has been lifted up to be a moral endeavor. Anyone who dares call that lifestyle or endeavor as sin will nearly be burned at the stake. In my 86 year life time here in America I would never have guessed that this most ungodly of activities and lifestyle would have ever become accepted as a normal way of life would have seemed impossible.
The same is true of aborting our babies and not only finding it a legal entity but also an accepted way of behaving. As a surgeon who, during my training period on the anesthesia service at Los Angeles County General Hospital back in the 1950 time period, we were compelled to give general anesthesia to the post aborted women who needed medical attention. That experience certainly gives one a different prospective on how evil an induced abortion truly is.
I have often said that if the public could be informed by videos or still color photographs of what the medical term a D and C really looked like, at the time a young infant was in the womb, there sure would be an outcry against any legalization of laws allowing such brutality. I am sure the same would hold for showing on video or still, color pictures what a homosexual act would appear like, again we would all be repulsed.
I can’t think of any persecution of the human being more extreme than that of attacking our youngest, most vulnerable babies who are captured in the mother’s womb and then horribly mutilating or attacking the child. How did we ever get to this degree of sinfulness and callousness? This is approaching the same degree of hardness of heart, anti-God behavior seen in Sodom and Gomorrah. How could we get that far off course, we ask? Because we gave up on God. We thought we didn’t need God any more. We pushed Him out of our schools and out of our marketplace. We were too sophisticated and intelligent to require any study and knowledge of God. Aren’t we just something?
In Nehemiah’s time the Jews had been in captivity out of their own land for a long period and Nehemiah was encouraged by God to attempt to rebuild the physical walls around Jerusalem. The very first thing he did after weeping and lamenting the knowledge that the walls were down, was to get on his knees and repent for the sins of his Nation’s fathers, his sin and that of his countrymen and then ask God to help him restore the walls of Jerusalem.
That is the only starting point that we as a Nation have, yet are we wise enough to do it?
Persecution was a Hallmark In the Book of Acts
If ever we thought it strange that we as Christians might be facing some degree of persecution, just look at the attacks on those early saints of the Book of Acts. Evil and sin have been present since the beginning of time and the Bible tells us that the enemy goes around seeking who he might devour. Yet, we humans are always so surprised when we come up against some horrible attack or persecution against us individually or collectively in our families.
Whether it be John being exiled to Patmos or Stephen being stoned to death in Jerusalem, it was the very persecution and martyrdom which brought in waves of believers in the early church. If we recall, Peter and John were warned repeatedly not to preach the Gospel, but they didn’t let that stop them.
If we look at the passages which follow the judgment of Ananias and Sapphire, in Acts 5:1-11 for not being willing to lay down all of their earthly possessions for Jesus, at the feet of Peter, we see the apostles going forth and performing many miracles in the lame and sick, because they were all in one accord. With that manifestation of the Lord’s power many were added to the church, daily.
Immediately following that outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the high priest of the sect of the Sadducees, rose up in indignation and laid hands on the apostles and put them in a common prison. The apostles had just healed many who came from across the nation hearing about the wonderful works of God. It says in Acts 5:16 there came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed everyone.
After the apostles had been put in the common prison, an angel of the Lord
by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth and said, Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. The apostles had seen the power to do these miracles given to them by God, but that did not keep them from being persecuted. They just spoke out with great boldness. They were jailed, beaten, shunned and slandered by some of the religious leaders of their times. Here they were living in the very moment that Jesus had lived and done so many miracles that there weren’t enough books available to tell of all the works that he had performed.
Jesus had truly changed their lives, just as being a born again, spirit filled believer today should see his/her life totally changed, so that others can see the difference and be drawn to Jesus. That is the plan God had initiated so many centuries before. He knew if He could get people to lay their lives down for Him and confess Him as Lord, that one person at a time would be used in His kingdom to totally change this world. If not, we would see the destruction and death brought forward by people living lives devoted to the devil. The choice has always been ours to make. Choose life or choose death.
After the apostles had been freed by the angel from prison they went forth to the temple, again, and preached the gospel with boldness, just as the angel told them to do. When the high priest had heard these thing he called together the Council and the Senate and sent to the prison to have them brought forth.
The next part of this narrative found in Acts 5:22-25 is most interesting. Sometimes we wonder if we have heard from God and if so should we courageously follow those instructions. This episode should allow even the fainthearted to gain faith and move forth at God’s command.
The officers came to the prison, as being directed by the Council and Senate, and they found everything from the outside looked quite normal. The guards were standing on the outside and were guarding the prison. The doors were shut, but when they opened them, the story gets quite different and interesting. The officers opened the doors and found no man within the prison.
Now the high priest and captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard these things they doubted where this might grow. You see, God had a plan for his apostles and disciples and no prison or enemy would stop it. After all, Jesus had just laid his life down for any person who would accept him as Lord and follow him just as the apostles had originally done. God’s calling on one’s life will move forward if only that follower will trust God to bring the calling forth.
Then the word says the captain with the officers went forth and brought them to the Council and without violence. Can you imagine being in that same spot because you were evangelizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I suspect most of us cannot imagine being persecuted to such a degree, but if we were, what would we do? If we were to speak about Jesus and our born again experience on a street corner or in the workplace, and some officer of the law said we couldn’t, what would be our stand? I’ll admit, doing so in the workplace is likely against man’s law, but certainly not against God’s wish. He said, Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
In the case of the apostles, they had been warned to not go forth and preach the Gospel, yet they did with fervor. Are we willing to preach the Gospel in season and out of season? Are we of little faith? Or do we have great faith. Jesus had criticized his followers for their little faith.
When the high priest and others in command had learned of the apostles being freed from the prison and now were out even more preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they were very concerned as to whether this move of a pro-Christ religious fervor would gain momentum. Then what would they do? To be truthful, they were more frantic than we might have expected
Again they brought them before the council and the high priest asked them, Did we not ask you to not preach and teach in this name? They went on to say you have filled Jerusalem with this teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
The next statement of Peter and the other apostles was beautiful. We ought to obey God rather than men. It got much worse for the council and high priest when Peter spoke out the following words. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree. Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. He continued., we are his witnesses of these things and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him. Wow!
Talk about setting the stage for severe persecution and death. The bible says when they heard these things they took council to slay them. This is one of those moments when you have to see the power of God emerge. Otherwise, the very apostles Jesus had appointed and taught are going to all be immediately killed.
But lo and behold, God had a Pharisee, a doctor of the law named Gamaliel, who was most respected and full of wisdom. He said, you men of Israel, take heed to yourselves as to what you intend to do as touching these men. He went on to warn them that all that were disobedient to God’s call perished and he warned them to leave these men alone. He wisely told them if this work of these apostles be of men it will surely perish, but if it be of God, you will not be able to overthrow it.
This Pharisee was a wise man, because he well knew you do not want to oppose God’s plan for any person’s life. It has consequences. He goes on in Acts 5:38 and says, Refrain from these men and leave them alone; for if this work of the apostles be of men it will come to nought; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it.
So, Why Should We Not Expect Persecution?
In a more personal way, we have seen persecution beyond what we ever might have expected. Over the years I have written many books touching on many aspects of destruction in marriages. Lynne and I had gone through two separate times where divorce occurred in our own marriage, but then when I would stand on God’s word, our marriage would be restored and again we would be married. I can’t say this is the way anyone might want to live their life, but when the enemy comes in like a flood, damage can occur. But, of course those are the very moments when one’s faith grows. In our case we now have been married some nearly 40 years and have had a testimony which has been helpful to many others traveling their life’s path through the jungle called marriage.
When we finally learned that God had placed much different anointing’s in each of us and because of that, much more might be accomplished in our married life together and in His kingdom, we found things became more enjoyable, fruitful and effective.
The principle occupation which I was trained in and served over the better part of 60 years, was in the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. I had graduated from New York University, College of Dentistry way back in 1948, and then went on to receive training at the Los Angeles County General Hospital in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Following that time period I was called back in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant and was stationed at the Marine Corps Training Center in San Diego to head up their Oral Surgery Department.
Two years later I was discharged from the Navy and moved to Pasadena to begin my private specialty practice,
It was there that God began to mold me in ways that I might never have guessed. The training and experience I had received at L.A. C.G.H, then the U.S. Navy, followed by my early private surgery practice in Pasadena, began to direct my steps toward developing some new and rather complicated surgical techniques using alloplastic implants as part of the surgical treatment.
Not much had been accomplished in this area which would affect the facial and jaw structures. Most everything accomplished earlier by those earlier surgical pioneers had to do with bone and tissue grafting to the jaw and facial structures with moderate success, but sometimes not as lasting an accomplishment as one would have hoped for. Sometimes the bone graft whether it be a rib or hip or some other bone would resorb or diminish substantially leaving the final facial or jaw correction not as perfect as one might have wished.
Because of having performed a number of such surgeries, it became apparent to me that we needed some more perfect alloplastic type of implant for a number of very special situations. Some alloplastic type implant which might allow a permanent replacement for single or multiple teeth. Another implant which might allow for the permanent replacement of various types of jaw structures, i.e, portions or all of the mandible, or cheekbone or orbital rim. Or perhaps the replacement of the patients failing or missing temporomandibular joint. All of these thoughts seemed a bit complicated and possibly not fully possible, but taken one at a time, I felt some solutions might occur.
I didn’t feel like I was to ask for federal funds but to somehow tackle this job by myself. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with the Director of Public Health in Pasadena way back in the mid 1950s. We both were members of the Pasadena Rotary Club and saw each other, usually weekly, at the lunchtime meetings. He was aware of my private research on ways to develop some individual tooth implants and even later on my early work developing implants for the temporomandibular joint. At one point in time he asked me why I didn’t ask for a Public Health Grant. He explained he had ample money in his annual budget, and which was available. My answer was simply, I didn’t feel taxpayers should have to fund whatever was my project, since they would have no knowledge of what I was doing and have no input as to whether they might was to help in this type of research. His answer was most memorable. Well if you don’t use it, we can’t return it to anyone, we just have to use it up. I was a bit appalled by his answer. But, I refused his kind gesture.
Let me give you just a simple view of what surgical implants I did develop over the next 6-8 years.
The Christensen Innovative Years (1960-1969)
Some of the innovations we depict in this chapter will have no direct relationship to the FDA approval process which is the center of this book, but the ones dealing with the temporomandibular joint reconstructive surgery and TMJ implants are the subject of this book.
The purpose for showing these implants is to make the point that each one of these innovations were for a particular implant and were the predicate or original devices for all later implants in those categories. None of these innovations required any Government funding but were paid for by the Christensen’s out of their earnings from the oral and maxillofacial surgical practice.
These innovations all received U.S. Patents for being the first in their class, and were the basis for a large entrepreneurial effort by many other companies whose sales eventually went into the billions of dollars annually.The Circumferential Dental Implant
It was in those years between about age 35 and 40 years that seem to be my more innovative years. I suppose a person needs to get ample experience behind him so as to begin to know what works and where innovation and creativity are necessary.
I had always felt there had to be some way to anchor teeth to the jaw bone as a tooth replacement and for improvement and substitution for the more cumbersome and awkward dentures which people without teeth were wearing. I had first given that some thought back in 1948 when I began my original practice in Chester.
As the years went by it was even clearer that a simple method of attaching a single tooth or multiple teeth should be made available. The only technique which had come forth with any success was the so-called subperiosteal implant devised by Goldberg and Gerskoff in about 1950. It was a very cumbersome type of implant in which the surgeon had to take an impression of the mandible and have a laboratory design and cast a Cobalt-Chrome casting which was meant to cover the superior surface of an entire mandible and have four posts protrude through the mucosa on which to attach a lower denture. It was a remarkably complicated technique in which post-operative infection can torpedo the entire event to everyone’s dismay.
I sought after a simpler, single or multiple toothreplacement type implant which required no earlier surgical technique or special laboratory procedures. Something that would be pre-fabricated and useful in any patient at any instance. My original dental implant I called a Circumferential Dental Implant and sought a U.S Patent for in the late 1958-1960 time frame. I placed them in dogs and cats as my own financed and accomplished research project with success, and then placed them in patients and made a motion picture film of the entire procedure. The film was called “The Circumferential Dental Implant-The New Way” and appeared on the Annual Program for The American Dental Association occurring in Los Angeles in October 1960. The L.A. Times wrote a medical story about my innovation and presentation at that same moment. It made quite a splash with the American Implant Society which was having their meeting in conjunction with the ADA meeting. No one was aware of any of my work. That was the original, individual dental implant in the United States. Many more were to follow.
The Circumferential Dental Implant
The TMJ Implants
This next part of this chapter deals with my innovation of an implant to reconstruct the temporomandibular joint. It truly starts in the late 1950s and more specifically in 1960. As a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon practicing alone in Pasadena California, I was being asked to treat many difficult and complex patient issues. For some of the problems, there had been no effective treatment and I was attempting to think out of the box to be helpful to those patients.
One area of surgical treatment in which there was no consensus and certainly no satisfactory treatment modality, had to do with the surgical TMJ problem. The problem could manifest itself in a host of ways from fractures of the joint all the way to agenesis or even tumors of the particular structures. But the most frequent was degenerative joint disease, just like we see in the hip and knee.
I had examined many patients, during my training at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, who had suffered trauma to the mandible and who then suffered fractures of the condylar neck, unilaterally or bilaterally. The usual treatment being recommended at that institution was the closed reduction with immobilization of the mandible, in occlusion, to allow the fractured condylar portions to heal in whatever position they found themselves in after the trauma As I started my own specialty practice, after the Korean War period, I began to see a pretty significant number of similar patients. I wasn’t comfortable with not attempting to do what we now call an open reduction and skeletal fixation of the fragments.
As time went on I found I had a great deal of success.
Was it a more risky procedure than the closed reduction? Yes, definitely. But I really did master that operation and in the next 8- 10 years I had probably operated some 75-100 such patients with measurable success.
With this background, it is easier to see why I began to operate on the degenerated TMJ, that didn’t have any fractures, but was deteriorating much like the degenerated hip or knee joint. The problem was there was no excellent surgical technique that gave any long term good results. We might do a disc removal procedure, but overtime that would cause more serious problems within the joint. Or, we might do what is called plication of the disc. In that instance, the displaced and somewhat degenerated disc was placed back over the condylar head, in hopes that it would stay in that position, and secondly that it wouldn’t repeat the dislocation or just plain wear out.
There were other procedures, and to be truthful the success rate was usually less than 30% in the first 5 years. Not a compelling reason for doing that procedure. Now came 1960 and Sister Lucille. Here was a young Catholic nun in her mid thirties, who has had a prior discectomy seven years earlier, followed by a high condylectomy some 3-4 years later. Her condyle is now anchored (ankylosed) to the skull base with almost no jaw function.
Now what, Lord? “Physician, do no harm.” And yet both of the procedures accomplished on this young sister were accomplished by a very knowledgeable surgeon, who happened to be an orthopedic surgeon in the Central Valley of California. Was he negligent? No. He was doing the only treatment considered effective at that period of time. But how could I help this young Sister have proper, pain free joint function?
This was the challenge I was faced with that winter day in 1960. Was I capable of improving the situation? I certainly had been recommended very highly by the surgeons at St. Luke Hospital as well as Huntington Memorial Hospital. But, would that be good enough? I certainly could operate on Sister L and get an immediate relief from pain and a greater amount of jaw function, but I could not guarantee that this good effect would last more than a few weeks to a few months. The problem which would occur after any surgery, normally accepted at that time by the medical community, would be that the bones would grow together and she would be worse off after another surgery than if we had performed no surgery at all. Only God could really make a difference. Either He would miraculously heal Sister L, or He would show me how to operate on her TMJ and make it well.
In 1960, as I was driving from Pasadena toward Santa Barbara, God placed an idea in my head which was so simple, so perfect and so just as easily condemned by the naysayers. He showed me that I could take the ten human skulls which I possessed and could fabricate a metal, S shaped implant to cover the bone at the base of the skull, which was the superior joint surface, and the one the degenerating condyle would normally attempt to attach to. Wow!
So, it was December 1960 when I began to work on my new project. It meant I would need to place all ten of my skulls on a laboratory table, unhinge the lower jaw (mandible) and make wax patterns to duplicate the base of the skull in the area of the TMJ. It would need to extend laterally over the rim of the zygomatic process and have 3-5 holes placed for the screws which would be required to hold the implant in place.
This was getting exciting, but could I pull it all together? If when I got the first wax patterns developed, what metal should I use to cast the final implants? What made me think that I could make any of the ten implants which I would fashion fit Sister Lucille’s skull base accurately enough? That was the biggest challenge. If, at surgery, I had her left TMJ fully exposed, and the new implant didn’t fit, what then? I would be no better that the earlier surgeon and she would have trusted me and we both failed.
Well it took me the next couple of months to fashion 15 implants for Sister’s left TMJ. I then had to do some corrective bone surgery to go with the implant, if I was going to give Sister a chance for proper jaw function. I decided to do all of this surgery on a skull, including the bone corrective surgery which would have the effect of lengthening that part of her left mandible and putting the articular portion back into the cup configuration of thebe required to hold the implant in place.
This was getting exciting, but could I pull it all together? If when I got the first wax patterns developed, what metal should I use to cast the final implants? What made me think that I could make any of the ten implants which I would fashion fit Sister Lucille’s skull base accurately enough? That was the biggest challenge. If, at surgery, I had her left TMJ fully exposed, and the new implant didn’t fit, what then? I would be no better that the earlier surgeon and she would have trusted me and we both failed.
Well it took me the next couple of months to fashion 15 implants for Sister’s left TMJ. I then had to do some corrective bone surgery to go with the implant, if I was going to give Sister a chance for proper jaw function. I decided to do all of this surgery on a skull, including the bone corrective surgery which would have the effect of lengthening that part of her left mandible and putting the articular portion back into the cup configuration of the new TMJ implant. It was all getting more complicated, but exciting.
I decided with Sister’s permission, to make a surgical film of the entire surgery. I had fully explained the surgery to Sister Lucille and she and I explained it to the Mother Superior of her order of Dominican Sisters. We were now just three days before the surgery, when I made a costly mistake. There was an excellent general dentist, whose office was near mine, that I made the mistake of telling him about what I was contemplating. He taught at USC and of course had many colleagues there. It turns out they were having an office party that very evening, and my friend Dr. Ray Contino let his comrades know about what Dr. Christensen was doing the next Tuesday on a young Catholic nun named Sister Lucille. There was a couple there that probably was not too friendly with anything I might be doing. Thus, on Monday early afternoon, one of those darling doctors took it upon himself to phone the sister administrator of St Luke Hospital to ask “if they allowed experimental surgery to be done in their hospital?”
The custard hit the fan. Sister had been admitted in the hospital and was awaiting surgery at 7:30 AM on Tuesday. She was unaware of what had transpired over the weekend and on Monday noon. Now, sister administrator found herself in a pickle. After all, Dr. Christensen had been on staff for about 8 years, had taken his rotation as head of the OMS department of the surgical staff, and was very well respected for doing a great deal of excellent surgery, and sometimes on the sisters, at no charge of course, but even the Catholic priest at the hospital.
She had to call me and explain I would not be allowed to do that “experimental” surgery in St. Luke Hospital and especially on a Catholic nun. That last part added by me. Won’t the devil attempt to stop God’s plan at every turn? After all it was God who showed me how we might effectively treat this type of problem. And now what? Only God could have orchestrated the next words out of my mouth. I said calmly to Sister, “I would like to go before the Executive Committee.” It just happens that they were meeting that very night. Well, PTL. So they listened to me as I explained what I have just written, and long story short, they allowed me to operate Sister Lucille the next morning, and all went perfectly. The implant fit well and then it was secured with four screws. My assisting surgeon, Dr. Douglas Donath, and I accomplished the other bone corrective surgery and the patient was returned first to ICU then to her room on the surgery floor of St Luke’s Hospital of Pasadena, California where the first Christensen TMJ arthroplasty was accomplished this week in 1961. That was a momentous moment for future TMJ sufferers.
Over the next 15 years I had the opportunity of operating on hundreds of patients with a variety of TMJ problems. The surgery was proving to be more successful than I might have first imagined. I was on about 17 major hospital staffs in the greater Los Angeles area and in 1964 we put on a teaching symposium on TMJ arthroplasty at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where I performed a live surgery which was televised to about 200 surgeons from across America who were present for the symposium. That TV program on TV 13 in Los Angeles brought a lot of attention to the work that I was doing and was featured as a news story in a number of papers across America.
TV Channel13 in Los Angeles recorded the live surgery and it was shown a couple weeks later on a prime time, one hour program called, “Surgery 64”. It was seen by likely hundreds of thousands in the Southern California region. The patients continued to be referred to me from across the country and many of them had severely arthritic TMJs to where they had not had any jaw function or mobility for over 20 years. The successes were phenomenal and I give all of the glory to God. It was God who showed me very simply how to correct these problems.
There were always the naysayers somewhere in the crowd of professional people, but the successes were so spectacular anybody really reviewing them couldn’t help be impressed.
I started a company called Implants Inc. back in the 1960s but I was just too far ahead of the curve. The professionals just never caught on. The public was much more attuned to why this technique would work, but the profession was cautious.
The TMJ Partial Joint Implant
The Transosseous Dental Implant
My next innovation occurred about 1964 and was what I called the Transosseous Dental Implant. It was an implant which I held the U.S. Patent for which was a dental implant which traversed the mandible in the chin area.
I had learned earlier that the “Implant-a-band”, also known as the “circumferential dental implant” was not the best approach. It allowed, at times, for an invasion of bacterial infection down along the band and around the mandible, especially on the lateral aspect. It was obvious that coming through the mandible would be more successful. I began to design various patterns with a couple of different heads to see what might be best. Since my thought was to come all the way through the mandible, forward of the mental foramen on either side, the length of the implant was important and the screw thread area should be only long enough to stay within the variable bone heights in the various patient subjects. The thread size would also be important as the bone density at the cortical margins would have a limiting constraint to the diameter of the actual threads on the implant. Too large and they couldn’t be screwed through the inferior cortical bone region or would cause a fracturing of the bone at that point.
I had placed several of these in dogs and cats and had the opportunity of observing some of them for as much as nine years with total success.
Like with every other innovation I had accomplished I made a surgical motion picture film of the procedures on patients and used those films at ADA and other national and even international meetings. Those films were very well attended, usually by some 1500 doctors viewing each session. This implant has remained very successful over many decades and could certainly be used as an important implant in our armamentarium.
The Transosseous Dental Implant
The Endosseous Dental Implant
This was my most recent dental implant innovation in the middle 1960s and was designed and made like a sheet metal screw with a large screw flange. I had my first ones fabricated in Ti Al V (known as 90,6 4 because of its metal concentrations) and this became the precursors of most of the more recent dental implants. I developed it in several lengths and widths and then I developed a screw driver in order to place them in bone very quickly after a pilot hole has been drilled in the bone. This implant could be used as an individual, single tooth implant or as a multiple tooth or full arch implant. I made a new surgical film titled, “The Endosseous Implant-The New Way”. This implant was a great success and we placed hundreds of them over the next dozen years.
I required a couple of them a few years ago in my jaws and they have been so very successful. We have always been able to have the final crowns placed on them and they could be masticated on as soon as they were placed. These implants have started an industry that today in 2010 has a gross sale volume of approximately $2.6 billion annually.
The Endosseous Dental Implant
The Modular Mandibular Implant
This was my final implant to be developed by me in the 1960s. The cost of innovation and gaining U.S Patents was beginning to overcome my resources and so I decided to not attempt to patent anything after that.
This implant was designed as a sectional or a modular way of replacing the actual mandible, or any part of it. Over all of my earliest years in practice if I were going to do an excision of a large portion of the tumor patient’s mandible I would either use a bone graft from the iliac crest of the hip, or a portion of the patient’s tibia or a rib graft. Then there would be times I would use some standard bone plate, like a Sherman Plate, and would bend it to work. Later in the early 1950s I would take a thin sheet of stainless steel and use tin shears and drill bits to fashion a rather anatomically shaped implant to replace the patient’s missing mandibular section of bone. Then other times I would compare the patients jaw and skull x-rays to a particular adult or juvenile skull which I had in my collection and would fabricate a wax-plastic pattern and then cast it in C0-Cr metal for use as the final implant for that tumor patient. These techniques worked well but it required time and effort, whereas if I could develop a modular implant made of implantable metal, that would be an advancement in technology. That is what I did and in the late 1960s I submitted the Patent for approval and got it as the first U.S. Patent accepted for approval for this type of device.
As I was about that same time, appointed to the position of Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, in the Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Medical School of the University of California at Irvine, it gave me the opportunity of placing the earliest of these modular mandibles in a cancer patient where half of her mandible was resected. In my years teaching of 4th and 5th year residents at that university, I had the opportunity of teaching TMJ reconstructive surgery and jaw replacement surgery to the benefit of these early surgeons.
The Modular Mandible
The reason for showing these innovations of Dr. Christensen is to show that without the oversight of the regulatory process seen later by the FDA, it was possible for a person to bring forth innovations to help many people around the world. Once the overbearing and flawed regulatory process, which is prevent patients from getting successful innovations in a timely manner.
The Founding of a Medical Device Company
I had been in the private practice of oral and maxillofacial surgery for all of the years after my returning from U. S. Navy duty during the Korean War until God called me to start a medical device company alongside a marriage ministry. His call was in 1984 when He let me know we would start a marriage ministry alongside of a for profit company. I had no idea what the for-profit company would be, but I knew God had a plan and I was to follow His directions. In Proverbs God says, In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths. That was all I needed to know. He truly was in charge of my life, if I would allow it. And that I did.
It was on Father’s Day in 1987 that a very miraculous event occurred in my life. I was standing at the mirror in my shorts, shaving, when all of a sudden a bright light passed through my brain with the words, “I want you in full time ministry” tagged on. That was another life changer for me and for us. But as I told my wife, Lynne, we would jot change directions until we knew in our hearts the time was right for such a massive change to our life.
It was in 1988 when I realized we were to close my oral surgery practice in Northern California and move to the Denver area of Colorado. It was a major decision and a major move as we were to start a medical device company to manufacture and sell the TMJ implants God had shown me how to innovate some 28 years earlier. This would be in conjunction with the marriage ministry He had shown me were to found.
This would be a totally new adventure for my wife, Lynne, and I. We had very little idea what this really would entail. Oh Yes, we knew how to design and manufacture the implants for the failing temporomandibular joint, but we had no idea of the complexity of the regulatory burden which would be involved, nor the cost for starting and running such an endeavor.
I had spent the previous 36 years developing various implants, having them made for a specific patient’s need, and all done at our own expense, Then, we spent years teaching about the various types of surgery and medical implants which the Lord had brought into my mind years before. Those innovative years had been stringent enough, but what would these next years be like?
In 1987, the Lord let me know that we were to close my surgical practice and to start these two entities. But where and how?
By a couple of interesting circumstances it was evident that God would have us move our home and start up a medical device company in far-away Colorado. We had no idea of the complexity of following that command of God. It would mean we would give up whatever job or monetary security we enjoyed, and then to move from surrounding and friends which we had in the Ukiah area of northern California and haul whatever belongings, plus two young boys, a dog and a cat and drive with our worldly goods in a trailer, behind our car, to Lakewood Colorado and move into the basement of a friend in ministry’s home in that city. This would be more of a challenge than we could have imagined.
Over the next 22 years we saw our young boys become young men and set out on their own course fulfilling God’s calling on their lives. They had married and were developing their own families. In that 22 year period we saw our medical device company, called TMJ Implants, Inc., progress and become the leader and forerunner in that area of medical implant production and sales around the world.
Had it all been easy, no, sometimes very difficult especially because of the regulatory attacks and atmosphere in which we in the medical device industry was compelled to function in.
It was a most interesting journey in which we would see much success and also a fair amount of obstruction and persecution. Because we had a marriage ministry, with a daily television show, we were very visible with our Christian beliefs. Undoubtedly that had some effect on our progress in the medical device arena along with the necessary regulatory burden. It was most interesting because the implants which we produced were for the temporomandibular joint where degeneration or some other advanced pathology required a reconstruction of the bony portions of the joint, or replacement of the degenerated disc which lies between the bone surfaces within the joint.
Over the years we saw much success because the implants which the Lord had shown me to innovate nearly 50 years ago were not only excellent, but never surpassed in their effectiveness. The partial joint implant was certainly the most novel and most effective way to treat early and late pathologic changes within this joint. It was a technique which was adopted and used at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, after my bringing it to their attention in 1972.
Hundreds of surgeons around the United States made this surgical technique their mainstay of treatment for multiple surgical entities involving this particular joint.
Having said all of that, let me let you know there was an orchestrated attack on me and my medical device company by the FDA throughout the approval process for these so-called pre-amendment devices. What that means is that these devices which were invented in 1960 were considered pre-amendment devices because the Medical Device Amendment to the Food and Drug Act did not come into being until May 28, 1976. Any device innovated and in commercial distribution before that date was supposed to be given a somewhat lenient route to approval. That was true of a few of the hip and knee implants which were innovated before the date of the Medical Device Amendment. When in 1994 when the FDA finally got around to placing TMJ implants into a classification, they chose to place it in the most costly and rigorous approval category and gave no credence to the fact that the Christensen TMJ devices had been innovated and in use successfully for some 38 years. This story has been chronicled in a 2012 book, by the author, called FDA, you were WRONG and then in a second book titled, David vs Goliath, Round 2, Both of these books can be found on Amazon’s Kindle eReader books.
The bias and conflicts of interests of members of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiologic Health was beyond belief. No amount of pressure from Dr. Christensen or from various members of Congress, which had authority of oversight, could affect a change. The outright persecution of Christensen and his medical device company was legend. It certainly took me back to the words of the Lord about the fact we would be persecuted for His name’s sake, and that was proving to be very true.
Looking back at Jesus’s own words in Luke chapter 21, he tells us not to be surprised that you will be persecuted as you follow Him. He also says, don’t worry about what you will say when they bring you into courts and before magistrates, as the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say. Isn’t that comforting, Jesus has said he would never leave us and that we could call on him at any time for healing, protection and provision, Truly, over the years I have been able to really understand how much our God cares about us, His children.
In a different area, when I was in court at a time some years ago when my dear wife Lynne was divorcing me, after two days of her testimony the judge finally asked me if I had anything to say. I had only a moment earlier wondered what I would say if the judge were to give me that opportunity? The only words out of my mouth were words and thought I had gained from the bible. I said, “my covenant of marriage didn’t start in this courtroom, nor does it end here.” I could hardly believe I had said that to that judge, but I suspect it rang in his ears for some period after I had said it. It took a couple of years when my wife finally realized covenant breaking was not in God’s plan and we were remarried. Sometimes the attacks and persecution can be quite awful, but through it all just stand on His word and continue to do what He has called you to do.
Back to the medical device company and the FDA. The approval process for these 38 year old devices was unbelievable. It cost us and our company probably some 8 million dollars to finally bring these excellent devices through the approval process. The attacks on me and on our medical device company were beyond belief, but through it all, God gave us the victory.
Over the next dozen years, after the approval process, the FDA found other ways to attack me and our medical device company. At one point the levied a $630,000 Civil Money Penalty, or fine against me and the company. All we had ever done was to invest all of our earnings back into the company expecting at some future date we would be able to sell the company and step down from the daily management of the company.
It was in the recession of 2009-2010 that our sales abruptly diminished and the legal burden caused by the CMP would finally do us in. It was not at all what I had desired because at age 85 I would find my wife and I penniless and basically without employment, in the time of a severe recession when new employment was very difficult for any young person, not to mention an old guy. It was hard to believe any of this was in God’s plan for our lives, but I remembered in 1987 the Lord has pierced my brain with a bright, bullet of light in which the words, “I want you in fulltime ministry” attached. I couldn’t have missed that word from God. I had always wondered if I could have missed the Lord’s direction or command, and yet I knew I hadn’t. He had directed me to start the profit company alongside of the marriage ministry.
So much good had been accomplished in those 22 years by bringing forth an excellent surgical technique to replace the diseased temporomandibular joints, thus allowing surgeons to learn about it, and then allowing patients to be healed.
Many thousands of patients were able to have their failing temporomandibular joints replaced giving them pain-free, functioning temporomandibular joints. Lynne and I too were blessed as we had an opportunity of giving surgical presentations in many countries such as: Ukraine, Spain, United Kingdom, Ireland, Honduras, Mexico, and Columbia. It was a time we will always remember and we made friends in each country. For this we will always be grateful to God for the opportunities which only He could have afforded.
Besides those great opportunities in the realm of surgery, we were just as blessed to be able to minister God’s healing power to marriages through a daily television ministry in some 41 cities in America via 2 satellites, but also ministering in churches and by the writing of some 16 books. It was always our pleasure to be able to share the word God had given us to others, young and old, who needed to see what God had planned for them in their marriages. These two ministries were a blessing to Lynne and to me over many years.
A More Personal Persecution
Sometimes things just unfold that you could hardly imagine. As I consider what all of those early Christians endured to bring forth God’s word and the testimony of Jesus Christ, it makes me realize those attacks which we might endure are like nothing. The enemy is out to discourage us from doing what God may have asked us to do. He is the great deceiver and as we get closer to the return of Jesus Christ, the deception may be more frequent and possibly more deceptive. It is imperative that the dedicated Christian, man or woman, young or old be prepared to really stand in the gap for what is right and for what is Christian, even if by any chance that might mean to the death. Most of us will never have to make that choice, but in many parts of the world, they will be required to follow Jesus to a time when death is the only way.
As I reflected on the happenings with the Food and Drug Administration, and the ongoing legal battles and excessive costs, I was reminded that although this unpredictable outcome might have been foreign to me, it was certainly not to God. I then realized, in time, that truly God was changing my direction and efforts in a most peculiar manner. One I would never have guessed nor imagined in my wildest dreams. It was almost like watching some surrealistic dream in slow motion.
As our medical device company was heading into turbulent waters, I knew as the skipper I would have to look out for my crew until all was accomplished. There would be no jumping ship, but if there was a way that this great medical product, the Lord had me innovate some 50 years earlier, could be resurrected, then that was my primary goal.
But, my secondary goal was to keep all of the employees hired during a most difficult moment of demise of my company and a rebirth of the second company in a new location, and with an FDA approval of a site change, even though it would be in the same building, but most importantly under different ownership and management.
What happened next, as the company which I had founded some 23 years earlier was going through death pains, was more than I had expected. A bankruptcy would occur and a new company was anxious to purchase the company in the bankruptcy. Just before and after I had filed for the bankruptcy an officer of the new company had met with me and we discussed the various options. I felt a chapter 11 bankruptcy would really be best as that would allow the company to continue operating and would give all of the former employees a continuation of their employment as well as the same for me. It seems most logical and a win -win for all involved.
I was being assured that my position with the company as far as duties would remain the same. I just would not be the owner, even though I was promised an ownership position with the new company. The prospective new owner was making all sorts of promises and also pushing for a chapter 7 bankruptcy which would create some real challenges in getting the FDA to agree and accept the new move in the same building to a facility whose space was about half of what we had been enjoying.
At one point without my being informed the prospective new owner gathered my employees together and signed them all up for employment and guaranteeing them a continuation of their salaries, if I would continue paying them and their insurance for a period after I had filed. When I learned of this maneuver, I was shocked and felt this was not proper. As it turned out, the bankruptcy trustee learned of their maneuver and told them that was not Kosher and they had to withdraw their offer. I should have realized at that point that the course ahead might be a bit rockier than I would have liked or expected. I had been amazed that I was not informed of the meeting ahead of time by any of my employees, many who had been with me for up to 22 years. I had always bent over backward to supply their every need, even in cases where extra effort or finances had been required to meet some emergency situation. I had always been very loyal to all who worked with and for me.
The Chilean Miner Episode
When we recently heard of the entrapment of 33 Chilean mine workers we were all in dismay and in sadness. But as the story unfolded, it was one of courage, faith, determination, bravery, wisdom, and elation. Each one caring for each other.
What a pattern of courage, faith, determination, loyalty and wisdom was shown by those 33 men, and especially by their leader.
It reminded me much of the loyalty and courage of a sea captain whose boat was sinking in the ocean. That captain is taught and trusted to care for his passengers and crew and to be the last to abandon ship and to care for all he served.
As our medical device company was heading into turbulent waters, I knew as the skipper I would have to look out for my crew until all was accomplished. There would be no jumping ship, but if there was a way that the great medical product, the Lord had me innovate some 50 years earlier, could be resurrected, then that was my primary goal.
But, my secondary goal was to keep all of the employees hired during a most difficult moment of demise of my company and a rebirth of the second company in a new location, and with an FDA approval of a site change, even though it would be in the same building, but most importantly under different ownership and management.
Now, back to the Chilean miners. The leader determined for those first seventeen days where no one was aware if they were alive or dead, that if they had any chance of survival, they would have to pull together in absolute accord. No one could be allowed to bolt or take advantage of another. It was team work and loyalty at its best. They had also, most importantly, put their survival in God’s hands. They mobilized prayer session and eventually sought to save the unsaved among them. The word of God would be the truth they would follow.
Food would be severely rationed consisting of a small amount of tuna and a half a glass of milk every 48 hours. This would be very difficult and emotionally draining, but they were determined to attempt such a fete. They could easily have said, the oldest are allowed to die, while the younger married with children would be allowed to live. Or they could have reversed that, but no, it would be all for one and one for all.
Even as they approached the very ending of their most remarkable life-story, the captain was willing to remain to be the last to be rescued, and he was honored by his men, giving him that position which would likely make him the record holder in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest person trapped underground and yet rescued alive.
Even after being rescued they collectively realized that their remarkable story could be told by any one or more of them, for great financial gain, but no, they remained loyal to all so the story would be told collectively by all, for the gain of all.
I couldn’t help but think of the shipwreck of TMJ Implants and how my concern was for the welfare of the staff, even paying out our last $5000 for their insurance each month for three months after I had filed for bankruptcy, and out of funds in a sister company which I owned and which was closing their doors, but not going bankrupt. I sadly remembered my wife, Lynne, giving up her 401K funds to pay off a credit card debt which had been used by the company to pay staff salaries near the end. It wasn’t fair, but God would have to vindicate me later.
When the new company president approached each of the employees, collectively, but without my presence, there was no thought about what happens to the CEO if we just go ahead and collectively save our jobs and forget about the former boss. As it turned out, I was offered a job as a medical consultant in the parent company, but basically was informed I would have no relationship with the new company nor any of the employees they had hired, and some of which had been mentored and employed by my for up to 22 years.
One very important person in my company I had elevated to V.P. Because of her effort and loyalty over the years. I never regretted that appointment, nor do I now, but I had employed 5 or 6 members of her own family when they were in need of employment or in need of some financial help.
How different that might have been if the loyalty which I had shown them had truly been reversed toward me? As the Chilean mine explosion, entrapment and rescue occurred, I couldn’t help but reflect on their courage and loyalty, compared to my employees. I believe the staff of my medical device company could have explained, in no uncertain terms, to the new acquirers of TMJI, that none would accept their new position unless Christensen was also hired into the new TMJI as the medical director, to be reportable to the new president.
I suspect that degree of loyalty never entered their minds, but how different it might have been. Do I feel anything they did was in malice toward me? No. Not at all. They forgot the covenant type of love referred to in the bible as Hesed, or covenant love, which is best described as love plus loyalty. I suspect many of us growing up in the era of Brokaw’s greatest generation, have an inbred character quality which includes a deep loyalty to friends, family members and co-workers, not seen in some of the younger generation.
I also suspect that the new owners explained in glowing terms how my new position would work to everyone’s benefit. It certainly has isolated the former president to where nothing is ever brought to him for discussion
Again, as difficult as this has been for me personally and for my wife, it is again one of those situations a dedicated Christian will need to come through in full expectation that God has a better plan for victory. So frequently, God’s timing is most often not what we would hope for or expect, but as the word of God tells us, “God’s timing is perfect”. He sees the bigger picture.
Several other very discerning Christians who have watched this unfold have told me that they see God opening even bigger doors in ministry for Lynne and me to walk in to. Just, perhaps, God’s earlier statement to me, “I want you in full time ministry” is about to unfold. With God everything is possible.
As an Ending Thought
Perhaps this following short story gives a view of what being “shunned” is all about. For any number of reasons a person may be shunned or persecuted by family members, coworkers, some with ulterior motives or even society in general. This is the point where we are all given the opportunity to rise up and help defend that very person. Many of us will fail in that opportunity, but there comes a time when our lack of a proper response will cause someone, some community or even some Nation a major harm. I say, as Christians we can and should do better than that. I trust this book will help open your eyes to all of the opportunity around us all, to take a stand for justice and for good against evil. Sometimes that will put you personally at harm, for your reputation, your pocket book or in some even more serious way. It is up to us all to count the cost and then ask, What would Jesus do?
I really believe that during these end of times, we will see a great increase in the attacks on Christians wherever they are. You see evidence of that when the street preachers in Alabama were taken to a bench court because they said homosexuality was a sin. Or the Coptic Christians in Egypt being killed and tortured and with churches and homes destroyed. Some may think that can’t happen here. All it takes is for moral Americans to remain silent in the situations where it might seem the battle is not mine, for the creeping anti-Christian spirit to rise up and take over our lives and our Country. As for one, I am not willing to bow to the devil in this way. I for one have been preaching about the harm and sinfulness of homosexuality for the past 25 years. I’m not about to stop. That degree of immorality will destroy our families and our Nation quicker than anything I can think of. Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s judgment will be just as fierce against us as a people and as a Nation, if we cannot put a stop to such evilness as the legalization of homosexual marriage. To ever have thought in my lifetime we would be having political and social arguments about such evilness, is unbelievable, but it shows you how quickly a Nation may fall. For those who turn blind eyes to this and do not condemn such evilness are certainly going to be recipients of the destruction which such disobedience to God will bring. When the issue comes up, especially in our political debates, I am always amazed that even our good Christian candidates don’t use the very argument which is by far most powerful argument is, “well, God said.”
It is more than clear when reading the bible that God hates sin. What part of hate, do we not understand? In Romans 1:16 Paul tells the Romans that “he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” He goes on to say, “For it is the power of God to all who will believe. And then Paul goes on to say, the just shall live by faith.”
Paul goes on to say, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The bible goes on to say that those who choose not to go God’s way, profess themselves to be wise, but become fools. They change what God says, so God gave them up to their own lusts. They went ahead and changed the truth of God into a lie. It goes on to say God gave them up to their own vile affections, where women lusted after women and men after men. The word goes on to say, that as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind.
How much clearer does God need to make his hatred for sin, and if you think homosexuality is not outright sin, then you are not seeking and learning from God through His marvelous word. Why isn’t that the argument in these political and social debates? It really is so simple, yet you hear so many discussions about the person who comes against homosexuality as a sin as being homophobic. The idea of a homosexual marriage is an abomination and I certainly have no problem calling it that. Marriage is and was a covenant made by God himself between one man and one woman, with God as the witness. Do you really think God wants to be a witness between two men uniting and two women doing the same? Who are you kidding?
The Wooden Bowl
I guarantee you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.
'We must do something about father,' said the son.
'I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.'
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner.
There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye
as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him
were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor.
He asked the child sweetly, 'What are you making?' Just as sweetly, the boy responded, 'Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up. '
four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
This short story portrays how easy it is to be judgmental and even persecute or worse yet, actually shunned another of God’s creation. I suspect at one moment or another, we all have been guilty, but like in the story of the wooden bowl, we too may find ourselves at the opposite end of such treatment than we may wish to be. Learn instead to be kind to all, even when we may totally disagree with that person’s ideology. We certainly cannot agree with contrary to our conscience beliefs, but we can be civil to all.
As I write this statement, it brings to mind our allowing abortions. What an awful travesty and even legacy for our so-called civilized Nation. We are no better than the Aztecs or others who were willing to sacrifice their own children to the false gods. Will God allow this disobedience to go unpunished? No way.
As An Ending Thought
It is so easy at times to think only of how much we may have been attacked because of our Christian faith, and somehow not think of all of the persecution and problems around us. Just this week I heard of nearly 350 people losing their lives in a prison fire in Honduras or the two young children who were taken from the social worker by their father, who was thought to have murdered his wife, and now were also murdered and set afire.
There is so much hurt in this world and even all around us, and most of us will think, that doesn’t concern me. What can I do? I am forever reminded there is something which we all can do. That is to pray over each of these situations and ask that all be given God’s love and most of all His forgiveness.
In the larger scheme of things, these rather difficult moments to get through will pale in relationship to the eternal rewards if we can just persevere to the end. Then remember, during even those tough moments to see what kindness we might show to others amongst us. Let our light so shine, that others will want to know how we do it, and then we can point to our Lord and Savior. He is the one that gives us that perfect peace which surpasses understanding. Go out and fulfill the great Commandment.
The passages seen in Matthew 9:35-38 should makes us think of what truly is important:
We have the unique opportunity of drawing many others into his kingdom by our steadfast Christian walk. Sometimes we feel no one notices our walk in this life, but that is simply not true. People are observing much of what we do, and especially in those troubling times.
Lift your head high and know that you are a son or daughter of God and because of that you are the apple of His eye and He is looking to use you and me in whatever way He chooses and we agree to. The choices are ours to make, so choose life not death
God bless you my reader.
Shunned or persecuted. See: