Run to Win
By Bob Christensen
Run to Win
Copyright © 2005 by Covenant Marriage Ministry
Printed in the United States of America
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of
Covenant marriages Ministry, 17301 West Colfax Avenue, Suite 135, Golden, Colorado 80401
All Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise designated.
To our Lord Jesus who has given us His testimony and
His plan for running a race to win!
To my wife, Lynne, who has blessed me in so many ways and
always stood beside me in some very dark days in our race to win.
To my children, Bob, Joan, Peter, Patty, and Matt, who have each been a special blessing in my life.
A special indebtedness to Roland Jankelson, Ric Alexander, and
James Curry for their friendship and counsel over these
Past many years. Also to their wives, Wanda, Pamela, and
Sherilyn, all of whom allowed me
to take of their husband’s precious time and talents.
And to all of my co-laborers at TMJ Implandts Inc.
and Covenant Marriages Ministry who have worked with me
and been there to support and encourage my every step, not the
least of whom was Amber Arnold who helped with the
manuscript, and always with a smile.
A special thank you to my friend and U.S. congressman
Tom Tancredo who championed our case before the
U.S. Congress and read the TMJ Implants Inc.’s
story into the Congressional Record, twice.
and to another dear friend and U.S. Congressman,
Bob Beauprez, and his Chief of Staff, Sean Murphy,
who assisted our medical device company in
our battle with the FDA’s CDRH.
Not to forget U.S. Senator Wayne Allard and his staff,
Who intervened numerous times to help our medical
device company, TMJ Implants Inc., win the approval of its devices
from a reluctant and arbitrary Food and Drug Administration.
My grateful appreciation is conveyed to each of the above
for helping me run to win.
How does a person respond, , indeed, how does he cope with his integrity, his professional reputation, his company’s very existence unexpectedly come under attack from rogue government bureaucracy seemingly acting with no purpose other than to punish him from resisting their unlawful decisions and perhaps from their desire to favor a particular competitor? Does he run and hide, give up, just go away, or does he “run to win” The message delivered so eloquently by Dr. Christensen in this book is set forth against just such a backdrop of governmental abuse, corruption and cover up.
But this book is not about the details of such government regulators gone amuck. Rather it is the author’s story of how his total life’s experience and deep religious faith combined to give him the strength, conviction, and moral courage that sustain and guide him during his ongoing personal crisis, whether personal, professional, or financial. This book delivers a message that is both inspirational and tutorial.
Dr. Christensen’s life journey, spanning some eighty years and counting, is fascinating reading in itself. The reader gets to share the life of “Cowboy Bob,” “Healer Bob,” “Scientist Bob,” Teacher Bob,” “Entrepreneur Bob,” “Father Bob,” and “Author Bob.” Each of these Bobs are part of this unique man, healer of physical suffering, but also teacher, by example, of spiritual and moral lessons. Indeed, Dr. Christensen is what Dr. Albert Schweitzer must have had in mind when he said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” To Dr. Bob Christensen who has given me the honor of writing this foreword to his book, I say: “What an example you are: well done my good friend.”
Friends of mine who have met my parents and siblings have commented that there are no “Indians” in our family’; only chiefs (pardon the political incorrectness). One friend went so far as to say, “Your family members have the potential of ruling the world or destroying it!” Descended from Irish immigrants, we have enough of the Irish blood in us to make us fighters; just give us a cause and may God give us prudence! Dad has a particularly high level of this adventurous blood running through his veins. Not always was the prudence there to direct that creative energy!
Almost twenty years after my parents divorced. Dad had a radical and transforming experience of God’s love. It was at that time that I really go to know my father. I had had the same kind of experience nine years earlier. Now, not only was I beginning to appreciate a new and wonderful relationship with him as father, we were beginning what has become a very treasured and lifelong relationship as friends, the greatest of friends! Both of us had discovered what St. Augustine (400 AD)- described as part of the human condition: “Thou as made us unto Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!”
There is another fifth century saint that I am very fond of. Life St. Augustine, he too wrote his “confessions” St. Patrick’s short autobiography summarizes the same transforming action of God that I have had the privilege to witness working in the life of my father:
…the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord, my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And He watched over me before I knew Him and before I leaned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and He protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me…For after chastisement from God, and recognizing Him, our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.
This book describes one man’s race and his determination to win that race. This “winning” is not to be understood in the competitive sense; the race is won by faithfulness, to the will and call of Jesus who created us to share in His Trinitarian love:
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. I made known to them your name and I will make it know, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Keep running, Dad!
-Joan Brophy (Christensen) Johnson
As I write this book and this preface, I look back over a life that has spanned some eighty years. Not long ago I mentioned to my wife, Lynne, that I was born only six years after World War I ended. In that moment, I suddenly realized how many wonderful years had gone by since that early April day more than eighty years ago when Robert Wayne Brophy was born to a couple in New York City.
My lifetime covers a period of extremes in our national history – from the “roaring twenties” through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the sputnik of the fifties, the Vietnam era, the moon walk in the sixties, the computer in the seventies, the Internet of the eighties, the globalization of so many enterprises in the nineties, until today we are already well into a new century. Having been in military service in World War II and the Korean Conflict, as I see the wars and concern with terrorism in our world today, I am more mindful than ever before that my heavenly Father has watched over me and guided my every step.
After my father’s death in 1927, my mother married Leland Walter Christensen, a self-made building contractor and later cattle rancher, who was my “father figure” through the years of the great depression and whose name was given to me and my brother and sister. Though he was a task master, he taught me a great deal about the construction of houses, barns, bridges, and roads. This information assisted me a great deal in my quest for new solutions to the problems related to rebuilding and restoring function in the jaws and faces of patience I with later treat. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I also owe a special thanks to my brother, Charles Warren (Brophy) Christensen, who was a great older brother. He taught me by his six simple to press for high marks in my school grades. He fought in the battle of the full touch and World War II and later and managed a successful civil engineering company in San Diego.
My dear younger sister, Shirley Adele (Brophy) Christensen, was always the most joyful, loving sister one could have ever had. She died at an early age only to complications of breast cancer, but she's left my wife, Lynne, and me many wonderful memories – especially of our time with her on our ranch in the Applegate Valley area, just outside Grants Pass, Oregon, as she milked Josie our Jersey milk cow, and helped to feed the 80 or more beef cattle and bailed grass hay. She had a great sense of humor. She had a devoted husband and three wonderful children.
My wife, Lynne, has been a great comfort and encouragement to me and gave me two wonderful sons would have worked with me in our medical device companies. Lynne has been by my side in so many different situations – as my colleague and partner in our marriage restoration ministry, as office manager and my assistant in an oral surgery office, and as a "farmer” (milking a cow!), Not to mention her assistance in starting our medical device company and our Christian marriage ministry in the 80’s. Our older son, Andy, purchased our Medical Molding Corporation and has become a leader in the field of stereolithography and its medical applications, such as assisting surgeons perform such delicate surgery as separating conjoined twins and performing various mock surgical procedures. Our younger son, Matthew, has become a working associate at TMJ implants Inc. and has grown into a position as Clinical Affairs expert. He also lectures on the value of stereolithography as an aid in the manufacturing of specialized implants for TMJ and John reconstructive surgery. Matthew and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Bryce and Lily Rea. Lynne and I thoroughly enjoy spoiling them.
Matthew and listen and their two adorable children have moved to Gainesville, Florida, where he has taken a position with Exactech Inc., another orthopedic medical device company, as a Clinical Monitor Associate.
The various people who have assisted us in making both the ministry and medical device companies function and grow have been many and we are indebted to all of them in special ways. I administrative assistant and company vice president, Nancy Johnson, has been a very special help and source of encouragement, especially in difficult times. We value highly her skills and greatly appreciate her loyalty and unwavering friendship.
She has always been a dear friend at TMJ Implants Inc. and one who was always there to help guide TMJ Implants Inc. successfully through some turbulent waters. Our former director of operations and my friend, John Durnell, was very helpful in the early years of TMJ Implants Inc. I am grateful for his with Jim and endurance. Lester Hardrick has become a genuine prayer partner as the director of the television ministry of Covenant Marriages Ministry as well as a specialist in stereolithography and SLA model manufacturing as a tool in the surgical field.
Our dear friends, Lynn and Mary Jo Watwood, have not only been present on numerous occasions to pray with us and for us, but they have also been a special encouragement and wise counsel as we have confronted the Food and Drug Administration. Lynn became our in-house legal counsel for TMJ Implants Inc. and has served us very well in that role.
Several of my eight children born in my earlier marriage to Ann are especially deserving of my gratitude. My daughter Joan Johnson is married to Howard and they have seven delightful children. Joan is both a daughter and friend; only a few dads are fortunate enough to have a daughter as special as Joan. We are in contact with each other almost every day by phone and have a relationship that reminds me in many ways of the one my sister, Shirley, and I enjoyed. Her Irish sense of humor comes to the surface of frequent we and what we say to each other often results in laughter (and occasionally tears)-even though others around us don't seem to understand what was quite so funny, or sad.
My oldest son, Bob Jr., has been a special witness to me in the business world. He has been immensely successful and is very dear to me as a son, friend, and consultant. His wife, Debbie, is lovely and was very successful as a stockbroker before retiring to raise their daughter, Megan Reilly. On January 4, 2005, their twin boys were born, named Luke Forsyth and Ryan William, to a very happy mother and father, not to say grandparents. Another son, Peter is diocesan Catholic priest in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is a son any parent would be proud to call "son." He is very talented in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and extremely talented in the arts. I am particularly proud to call him "my son."
A younger daughter, Patty, is a nurse practitioner and is married to Tom – they have four lovely children. Patty has been very supportive of me and is a daughter any father would be proud to claim as his daughter!
I would like to mention my other children, all of whom are talented in their own fields, whether it be creativity in the legal realm, for book publishing, sales or home decorations and improvements, or business. They all seem to have an entrepreneurial spirit which in all likelihood is built into the genes of each. They are Elizabeth, Mary, Colleen, and Michelle, who have not always called me dad, but for whom this father still has great affection for each of them.
Of all the dear friends the Lord has put in our lives in the struggles of the recent past, none of them have been closer or more supportive than the following three professionals: Roland Jankleson, Ric Alexander, and James Curry. Roland Janklleson is an entrepreneur from the state of Washington, who has become a friend and consultant extraordinaire as we walked through our trial with the Food and Drug Administration. He had gone through a similar battle when he was the CEO of a medical device company and he knew that the tax we would encounter. It was through his capable leadership that our company was able to enlist both Congregational and the Inspector Gen.'s assistance in curtailing, at least temporarily, various activities of the CDRH branch of the FDA.
Dr. Ric Alexander, Director of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital, New York City, was a daily consultant and fellow warrior in my battle with the FDA. He was a loyal friend to me personally as well as a step past colleagues in the medical world.
Dr. James Curry and James Latta have stood with us over the last 15 years as loyal friends, supporters, and users of the Christensen implants in hundreds of patients. They, along with Dr. Alexander, have lectured and taught hundreds of other surgeons the who, when, and where of TMJ reconstructive surgery all across America and around the world. I am indebted to each of these four men who have persevered with us in helping us make a difference in a hurting world.
There are so many others whose lives have touched Lynne's and mine in so many ways, but haps my sharing just a little bit more insight about these friends and colleagues will help you see how the Lord can and does use other people to help you as you carry your burdens in life. Certainly, with the Lord Jesus has done for Bob and Lynne Christensen, He is willing to do for you… and more.
-ROBERT WAYNE (BROPHY) CHRISTENSEN
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected,
but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which
Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended,
but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward
call of God in Christ Jesus.
(PHIL. 3:12 – 14)
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run,
the one receives the prize? Run in such a way that
you may obtain it.
(1 COR. 9:24)
A Race to Run…
A Race to Win
What do you do when your life’s work is threatened, along with your livelihood and reputation?
What do you do when you are “challenged” in a way that is virtually life–or–death for your business and your "reason for being”?
What do you do when you are moving along at full speed and suddenly our "trip up" by an unexpected intrusion by an unwelcome force? That unexpected force may hit your marriage, your career, your finances, your health, and family. Divorce might be an adulterous affair, and economic downturn, a natural disaster, a deadly disease, an emergency involving a child, or a major set-back in your finances. Certainly if that unwelcome and on anticipated problem hits your business or your ministry, your marriage, health, family, finances, and career will be affected in some way! How do you respond?
I have faced those very questions.
Have you ever found yourself FORCED into running a race you never intended to run?
I certainly have. The "sounding gun" went off for that race nearly 10 years ago.
The race was one initiated by the Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health (FDA, CDRH). This federal agency decided that two devices I had invented, lawfully marketed, and successfully used for 30 years, were suddenly subject to reevaluation and a new "approval process." The reason for this initiative against my inventions and my company was not because of any fault found in my devices. Rather, a competing company named Vitek, which had used a different design and in theory or materials, had experienced numerous problems of the massive "failure.” Facing very high dollar lawsuits, Vitek was forced to cease manufacturing.
In the wake of the Vitek disaster in the 1980s and early 1990’s the FDA in 1994 classified all of the surgical implant products I had developed as "Class III” implants, the classification for "significant risk medical devices." In 1998, the FDA implemented new regulations requiring that my company submit Pre-Market Approval applications (PMA’s) for our devices. It was as if the surgical implant devices I had created, some 40 years earlier, had never been on the market. Indeed, we were forced to stop the manufacturing and distribution of our devices until they could be "approved."
In simple terms, I was facing the loss of my company and a lifetime of being at the cutting edge of medical technology. Such a loss not only meant the loss of personal income but income to my employees. Beyond that, this action of the FDA meant that my personal reputation as an oral surgeon was called into question. Beyond that, the nonprofit "ministry" that I had funded with proceeds for the nonprofit medical device company was endangered. And beyond that, if my company folded, countless people who might otherwise have benefited from our surgical implants would not have them available to alleviate their pain, restore their job function, and in general, improve their quality of life.
The stakes were high.
The opinions given to me tended to fall into three categories.
There were those who told me that if I choose to "run" a race against the FDA, I couldn't possibly win. In their opinion I was smaller than a "David" and that FDA was bigger than a "Goliath." My attorneys and a number of people in the medical profession advised me that a fight against the FDA ruling would be a waste of my time, energy, and money. They encouraged me to "quit while I was ahead." That may have been good legal or professional advice, but it certainly was not good spiritual advice in my opinion. The plain and simple fact was that God has not released me to quit what He had called me to do.
There were those who suggested I simply shut down my company and ministry and "retire with a smile" and not give the FDA a second thought or even a response.
There were those who thought that the entire "race and quote might be fairly short – simply file a quality Pre-Market Approval (PMA) and gain approval and move on down the road.
I couldn't buy into the first two sets of opinions. I hoped for the third opinion to be the correct one.
We filed our first PMA in January of 1999 and the pre-– clinical and clinical data were presented to the FDA advisory panel on May 11, 1999. This advisory panel unanimously recommended approval to the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health. We felt very positive about this, especially since the conditions for final approval recommended by the Advisory Panel were substantially similar to those recommended for our foremost competitor.
To our surprise, however, the CDRH imposed additional regulatory requirements on us – although these same regulatory requirements had not been imposed on our competitor – which meant that we were forced to pull our products from the commercial market and limit our devices to "research use only" for nearly 18 months! The CDRH kept requesting more and more information and research substantiation… Even though there was no reason given for assuming there was any unreasonable risk associated with our devices. In other words, we were asked to prove with more and more data that our devices were "safe and effect of" in spite of the long history of their safe and effective use and the extensive data and information provided the agency.
Furthermore, the CDRH did not require this additional data from our competitor – in fact, the device was given full approval within two months.
We began to suspect we were in a riggid race. Everything we saw seemed to indicate that the decision of the CDRH was intended to put us out of business while promoting our competitors business.
Have you ever found yourself in that kind of situation?
The deck seemed stacked against you… Unfairly… unjustly… without good cause?
What do you do?
And especially, what do you do if you were a Christian? How do you respond?
We decided to run the race… And to run it to win.
We knew from the outset of that we were actually running two races simultaneously. We were running a race to prove that our medical devices were excellent and worthy to be on the market. That race involved months and months of research, requesting and receiving letters of recommendation from scientists and surgeons who were familiar with our devices, and conducting additional clinical trials as required by the FDA.
The second race was a race to show the evidence of behind the scenes inappropriate behavior on the part of the FDA that had resulted in unfair discrepancy between the way we were treated and the way our competitor was treated.
The first race we have won. The approval of our products came in 2001. The road getting there was rocky and contentious. But in the end, our devices have been approved and we are again in full manufacturing and sales.
The second race is one we are still running. A How and Human Services "IG’s” inquiry was started even the IG's investigation seemed to have been met with great resistance by FDA's entrenched bureaucracy. I have enlisted the help of my state senator and congressman. I have met with the FDA on several occasions "face to face." I continue to push for a Congressional hearing. I readily admit that I have become increasingly dismayed as a taxpayer and loyal citizen that the FDA is a government agency that resists accountability for the corruption that has been disclosed in our case and others. In our government system of "checks and balances," this is a government agency that has no check or balance. The FDA is the left to regulate its own processes and protocols. Talk about the fox writing the rules for access to the henhouse!
This book, however, is not a denunciation of the FDA.
This book also is not about the details associated with either race. If you need that kind of documentation and detail, I have several hundred pages of references, exhibits, and data collected in three bound booklets. I'd be happy to discuss this material with you and share what may be appropriate.
Rather, this book is about what it means to be challenged to a race such as the one I faced. It's about what a person does when forced to reevaluate who they are, what they have done, and whether to continue their work or ministry – or marriage, or career. It is about what a person does when forced to deal with persecutors and prosecutors. It is about getting the right perspective on the race and then making a decision to "run to win."
God’s Word admonishes us, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) this book gives insight into how to do just that.
One of the most courageous stories in the Bible is that of a young Jewish girl named Haadassah who rose to become queen Esther of Persia. When she was faced with personal annihilation, along with that annihilation of all the Jews in Persia, her cousin and her father figure, Mordecai, said to her, "Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14)
In truth, you have come to precisely the moment you are at in your life for such a time as this. Everything you have experienced and done in the past has a bearing on what you do in your current situation, which will in turn impact what you do in the future. The problem or struggle you are facing is one that calls for the full force of faith, wisdom, and courage.
Queen Esther did not go into her role as Queen ever anticipating that she would face the challenging difficulty she faced. In all likelihood, you "never in a million years" anticipated the struggle, trouble, trial, or difficulty in which you find yourself.
God, however, was not surprised at what has happened to you. He wasn't "caught off guard" by what happened to me and my company. I'm not at all suggesting that God caused your problems or mine. What I am declaring is that God knows all about your problems and mine, and He has a plan for us to overcome this time of difficulty and in emerge victorious. God does not intend for us to lose the race we have been forced to run.
The decision you make – and the one I had to make – was whether I believed God would be with me in the race and help me to win. That decision was one I made quickly and decisively.
I never for a moment doubted God's desire or ability to help me cross the finish line.
What about you? The most critical decision you will face is the one you must make up front: Are you willing to trust God to help you run and win?
If you are, the rest of this book is for YOU!
Get a New Perspective on Your Life
When you are hit with a problem that seems to strike you "out of the blue," one of the most valuable things you can do is to get a renewed perspective on the whole of your life. The more you know about your own past, the stronger the closing you will have about why you may be in your present crisis and what you can anticipate in the immediate future.
The more you see God at work throughout the whole of your life, the more you will have faith to believe that God will bring you through your current crisis.
God's Word tells us repeatedly that God has a plan and purpose for every life that is prepared for us even before our birth. God creates us with a specific role in mind! The Bible tells us:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. (EPH. 1:3 – 4)
The prophet Isaiah had an understanding that it is the "Lord who made you and form view from the world." (Isaiah 44:2) the psalmist declared:
You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb…
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet uninformed,
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
(PS. 139:13, 15 – 16)
When I began to face the in Norman T of the challenge presented to me by that FDA I found myself reflecting on my personal history – and what I learned about myself gave me valuable clues about God's purpose for my creation. Let me share a few pages of my "background" with you so you might better understand me, and in turn, have a framework for reflecting on your own life so you might have a better understanding of yourself.
My mother, Eva, was born in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, in 1899 and was raised in Lawton where parent a mercantile store. My maternal grandparents, Fred and Margaret Brown, divorced when my mother was very young; Margaret stayed in Lawton and Fred moved to California, and I believe that is when he changed his name to Sutherland.
My mother went to Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, which was a two-year women's college at the time, and then went to Columbia University in New York City to finish her training as a teacher. During her first year at Columbia University, she needed to see a dentist and was referred to Dr. Charles Joseph Brophy. She saw him during her second year at Columbia – as a dentist – and after that, they begin to date and eventually remarried.
Charles was about 13 years older than my mother. He came from Stamford, Connecticut, the middle child of three children. He had an older sister named Katherine but the family called her "Kitty," and a younger brother, Frederick. When Charles was a younger teenager, his father died. His mother worked as a seamstress and Charles went to New York City to work and help support the family. He got a job in a dental lab making plaster of Paris For dentures and claims. He lived in a rat infested attic in a poor part of the city, and in the course of his work, the cited the dental lab was not the place he wanted to stay. He said his sights on becoming a dentist and while still working full time at the lab, he put himself through a three-year dental school program at New York College of dentistry, which later became NYU College of dentistry, graduating in 1912. He then supported his brother, Fred, through the same dental school program and the two Brophy brothers us became dentists in New York City. Their offices were in a medical dental building located on 59th St. overlooking Central Park. Charles Brophy married my mother in 1921.
My brother, Charles Warren, was born on August 27, 1923, to Charles and Eva Brophy. I was born two years later on April 6, 1925. The name given to me was Robert Wayne. My sister, Shirley Adele, was born 20 months later on January 29, 1926. My aunt "Kitty" also married a dentist so there were a number of dentist associated with the Brophy family.
With a father, uncle, and uncle by marriage all dentists, it seems obvious that I would become a dentist as well. That certainly wasn't obvious to me, however, as I grew up.
The year after I was born, my father was diagnosed as possibly having tuberculosis, a disease that was both deadly and highly contagious in the early part of the last century. The first line of treatment was to send those suspected of having tuberculosis to a sanatorium, and that's what happened to my father. He went to Trudeau Sanatorium in the Adirondack Mountains and my mother stayed in New York City with the three of us children, all of whom were under the age of five. She later moved with Charles J. to Saranac Lake where they entered the home on the lake. My father was never fully diagnosed as having tuberculosis but he was weak and in poor health and as a result, he stayed in Saranac Lake about a year to regain his strength. Just shortly before he was scheduled to return home, he developed an open sore on his face and this sort became infected with staph infection. In that era before antibiotics, infections spread quickly. This infection spread to his brain and within a few days, my father passed away.
My mother found herself as a young widow with little money left to her in the form of life insurance. She moved back to Lawton, Oklahoma, with the three of us children so she could be close to her mother, our grandmother. We were there only for a summer and then my mother moved to Southern California to be with her father, Fred Sutherland. Early in his adult life Fred had been a narcotics agent in the San Francisco Police Department, rising to the leadership of that department.
As a boy, I took note of some of the postcards that my grandfather had accumulated – on the front of each postcard was a photograph of an emaciated, gaunt, stickly man who had been arrested for drug dealing, possession, or use. On the back of the postcard was the person's downward spiral story related to drugs. The general message came through loud and clear: "Don't use drugs! If you do, you could end up like this man!"
My grandfather had a reputation for going into and cleaning out the opium dens located in the Chinatown section of San Francisco. He was apparently a strong, old man in his younger years.
At the time we went to live with grandfather Sutherland, he had moved to San Diego where he owned a taxi Business with about 40 or 50 cabs. He later developed and owned the Sutherland bus line that ran buses to various cities across the border in Mexico. He owned property on the border, which he later sold to the government for a border crossing. He also owned a large and an 800 acre ranch in the mountains east of San Diego. We spent one summer about the Lodge – my mother worked as something of a manager of the Lodge at the time. I remember vividly the city the gymnasium that my grandfather had built at the Lodge for the prizefighter Jack Dempsey to work out in. He also built a beautiful swimming pool next to the large for the guests who came in the summer months. Granddad Sutherland had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and we lived with him in the well-to-do Mission Hills area of San Diego for several years. I started school at Grant elementary school, next to the cemetery.
My mother had given her life insurance money, which was to her after Dr. Charles J Brophy died, to my grandfather to invest. As was often the case in those years, my grandfather had invested the money but did not put my mother's name on the investment, no debt believing it was a man's responsibility to take care of this this matters. Neither my grandfather, mother had counted on my grandfather dying from an acute attack of appendicitis. This occurred in 1931 in the early years of the great depression. My mother and we children were living in a house owned by her father, was driving one of my grandfather's cars, taking her life was solid financially. Suddenly, from life was turned upside down once again. My grandfather's estate was far more complicated and overextended and my mother had known, and very quickly all money and property once owned by my grandfather was ravaged by creditors and attorneys, with virtually nothing left for my mother. And this meant of the life insurance money she had received from Charles. He was totally unrecoverable. Within a matter of months, we had to move out of our house, give up the car, and find a new way to live.
Shortly before my grandfather's death, my mother met a man named Leland Walter Christensen. They unload one weekend and I not only acquired a stepfather, a new name.
My mother Eva, with Lee moved to a small one-story stucco house in another area of San Diego. Those were years of the Great Depression and finances were tough on our family. My stepfather was having a difficult time making payments on the house where we were living so he decided to use his experience in the construction business to build a house for us. He built a three-story concrete block house for just about $5000. It wasn't much to look at on the outside, but it was spacious and comfortable on the inside, and for most of my growing up years that house was "home" to me. My stepfather was also an entrepreneur. He purchased a gasoline station and started a successful termite extermination business.
In the 1930s, an investment in anything other than land was perceived to be very risky, so with any extra money they were able to burn, my mother and stepfather begin to purchase small parcels of land in the mountains east of San Diego. Eventually, these small parcels added up to a couple hundred acres – we rightfully called our property in the mountains "the ranch." The ranch was located outside Julian, about 65 northeast of San Diego. Leave built a house and on, and we spent most of our weekends, school vacations, and summers there… building.
We had beef cattle off on the ranch, and always had at least one Jersey milk. For many years, we had one of those cows named "Bossy” living with us on the ranch in Julian during the summer months and then in our back yard down in San Diego during this period our San Diego house that to we can and that was Bossy’s “pasture.” We also had a few chickens and rabbits in pens and pictures – it was our own little "farm" on Fairmont Avenue in East San Diego.
Our home was right next to the school I attended and I didn't particularly want my friends to know that I had to mail features to count every day. Occasionally Bossy would get out her enclosure and it was more than a little embarrassing have the principal announce over the school a loudspeaker that I needed to go out and deal with my cow!
My mother was very creative and artistic. She was a good-cook, well-read, and had an appreciation for the "better things" of life.
Lee, my step father, had grown up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His father, a railroad man, had died when he was a teenager and we had gone to work to support his mother and two younger sisters, Hortense and Leona. Lee work for his uncle who was a contractor, and had an ability to build just about anything. My brother and I learned a great deal about construction from very at an early age I developed an awareness of how things "went together," as well as an understanding about how to used to make. In school, I took various "shop" classes, such as tin shop, electrical, print, and woodworking shops. On the ranch, my brother and I learned how to use an anvil and forge, and do basic blacksmith work, including how to shoe horses and make simple wrought iron objects.
Lee was innovative in what he built. In constructing the houses at the ranch he figured out how to run pipes through the fireplace area so that the fireplace not only heated the house, but also generated hot water that was stored in a tank for our paths and washing of dishes. He put quails of pipe up on the roof in a boxlike contraption, over tarpaper and underclass, to create a form of solar heating. This was highly innovative for the 1930s in that part of California!
In many ways my mother and stepfather were offices. My stepfather was not an affectionate or form person. He was a decent, hard-working man who took more of an instructional or correctional role with my brother and me and a bit less with Shirley. My mother, in contrast, was a highly encouraging person. She was eager to see us become all what we could be.
What's the Meaning in All This? Reflecting on these very basic fact about my early life gave me a renewed realization that I was not born in a vacuum – neither was I a product solely of my environment or experiences. The same is true for you. There's part of you that you "inherited" from your parents – it was built into you by God using your parents’ DNA. There's also a part of you that was shaped by what was taught to you – God allowed you to have those educational experiences. Let me share a few of the conclusions I have drawn from my own life:
My grandparents were entrepreneurial and "in business." So am I.
My grandparents were divorced. So was I.
My mother and "birth" father both placed a high value on a college education when a college education was not the norm. I have the same value for education.
My father was a dentist and skilled in dental prosthetics. So am I.
My stepfather had a very strong work ethic. So do light. Also, I can see how my work as a surgeon and innovator of dental and surgical devices was enhanced greatly by many of the "construction" concepts and skills I learned from Lee, as well as in school.
My mother and stepfather lived on a ranch. I have as well.
My ancestors seemed to be very breezily and in overcoming problems. I have been as well.
My grandfather was willing to stand up for what was legal and moral. So am I.
What are the parallels you see between the traits, experiences, and propensities of your peer's and grandparents and your life?
Work and School... School and Work
When we were teenagers, my brother and I helped after school with Lee’s termite exterminating business. I did not enjoy that work. My job always seemed to be to crawl under the houses and I hated seeing black widow spiders that I invariably encountered.
My brother and I were also very active at school. I played for three years on the varsity football team at Hoover High School. And always, homework was a priority. Chuck, Shirley, and I were good students and we had ambitions to attend college. We knew that my mother and step father didn't have the means to pay for us to go to college, so we knew we had to find a way to "pay" for college ourselves.
How did Chuck and I do so much at such an early age? The only real answer I have is this: we didn't have television to watch and we rarely listened to the radio, with the exception of FDR’s fireside chats and The Lone Ranger. Life was school, homework, work, and sports teams. There wasn't any "idle time." There was no goofing off on weekends.
Actually, on most weekends and during vacation times from school I was "Cowboy Bob.”
In the mid-1930s, we began to keep cattle upon the ranch. We purchased our first white faced cattle from a stockyard in Yuma, Arizona. I remember making that trip with my stepfather, Lee, my brother, Chuck, and an experienced cattleman named Henry Hoskins. Henry and his brother were the ones who taught Chuck and me how to rope, herd, and Dr. the cattle we subsequently bought. We first learned how to write on a Shetland pony and later on range horses. We bought our own saddles, and in the end, we both were very good "working cowboys," as was my sister Shirley.
While we were watching some of the cattle was with their calves in the stockyard in Yuma, one of the cows broke loose from the herd and begin to chase my brother and me. We narrowly missed being poured by that rangy old cow’s very sharp horns. Much to my surprise, Lee purchased that rogue cow and hauled it up to the ranch in Julian. We had a terrible time getting that animal branded and dehorned. I've never encountered a meaner cow.
On the first trip to purchase cattle, I was Lee about 10 years old. In all the years of my young life I had never experienced a day as hot as those we had in Yuma! Some said "it was 130 in the shade." Before we could head home, we had to wait at the cattle corral for the brand inspector to arrive so we could transport are purchased cattle back to California. The inspector didn't come, and didn't come. We were there for three days!
One of those days I was standing near the cattle in the corral and I said offhandedly, "The brand inspector probably doesn't know a brand from the scar." That was a statement I had heard Henry say. Little did I know the brand inspector had just arrived and was near enough to hear my words! He automatically assumed that I was voicing the opinion of my father… Hence, I was in hot water – well, actually, I was sent to sit a couple hours under a hot truck away from the corral!
That was perhaps the first time I learned that our words have impact on other people. We need to be very careful what we say, and especially what we say in offhand and careless remarks that may be perceived as being judgmental or callously critical. It's very easy to resort to name-calling and labeling when things don't seem to be going our way. The end result, however, of verbal branding is often far more "lasting" then even a hot iron brand on the backside of an animal.
In truth, of course, a brand is a scar and I didn't really know what I was talking about as I stood by that corral. Words leave wounds as well. We err if we think that the old saying is true: "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Words can hurt. They can leave lasting scars.
In our cowboy years, my siblings and I learned how to drive a herd to market miles away in the Imperial Valley, to build fences and set fence posts, to clean out with and treat them with pine tar and dirt, and to haul the out to the cattle when the snow got deep, to "cut" the cows, shoe the forces, and do a myraid of other ranch duties.
My brother, Chuck, developed a fever and over the years, he got out of my Chuck the work related to failing and pitching the hate we purchased to feed the cattle as a supplement to the pasture. At work felt to me and occasionally to Shirley, who was more likely tied up with mother.
Many people don't realize that the mountains fairly close to San Diego have a 4000 foot to 6000 foot elevation, so that many times during the winter months we found ourselves in the mountains in snow. On numerous occasions, we took along a toboggan so we could haul our supplies, including kerosene lanterns, from the main road into the ranch house about a mile away.
In working with my stepfather in his termite extermination business, we often work with chemicals that we now know are dangerous. Some of those chemicals became part of our ranching life, as well.
I will never forget the time when Lee and I mix up a large batch of arsenic, bran flakes, and sawdust with a little water. We put the mix in gunnysack, drove to the mountains, and sowed this mixture into the 130 acre pasture to kill grasshoppers that had pretty much invaded the ranch at Julian. As night was approaching and I was still walking over the ranch acreage tossing poison into the fields by hand to kill a plate of insects, I thought about a "home movie" that had been sent to us of my cousins in New England. They were playing badminton on their back lawns in white shorts and shirts and tennis shoes – they looked very wealthy and genteel. I thought to myself, they live on another planet!
We didn't put cattle back into that grasshopper infested pasture for about two months after we treated the field. And then, we only put a few head of cattle there – they were purebred prize steers my step father was seeking to fatten up for sale. When Chuck and I went back up to the mountains a week or so later, we saw buzzards circling in the sky and road our horses over to the area where an animal obviously had died. To our horror we discovered that the dead animal was one of the pure bred cattle. My step father was a livid when he came up to the ranch that night and learned that one of his prized animals had died.
The next week, Chuck and I came upon another one of the cattle that had died, but it was not one of our herd, it belonged to the neighbor. We never could fully prove that it was the arsenic, brand, and sawdust mix that had killed the cattle, but in all, it was a nasty business and a very far cry from a life of badminton on the East Coast.
Chuck and I learned how to break our own horses and how to tip the horns of the young calves with weights so they could turn downward and be less dangerous. One of the horses that we acquired had been part of a circus act. This horse had a habit of charging at us with its teeth bared, ears back, and head down as if it were going to mow us down. On one occasion as the horse came charging at Chuck and me, Chuck pulled out a white handkerchief and looked at the horse. The horse veered away from us.
I saddled this horse one day and pulled Shirley up beside the saddle. She dug in her heels a little bit too hard into the horse’s flanks and it looked, tossing Shirley off. He continued to kick up and tossed me off as well, except that one of my feet got stuck in a stirrup and the worst raced away. He drug me with him, and I bounced along the ground until finally my foot came loose from the stirrup. Shirley dragged me up to the house since I was only semi-conscious at that point. My mother drove me to the nearest position several miles away and he worked for a couple hours to clean all the debris from the wound and stitch up my head.
The horse later reared back and fell over on Chuck, and yet another time, the horse reared up and struck me in the back of the neck with one of its hooves. His name was "Hart” and what a heart!
There were times when I am amazed that I survived life on that ranch.
As "Cowboy Bob," I took all that in stride. When we were riding and roping, we were still busy cutting down trees and chopping them into firewood.
We worked hard. But we really didn't know that there was any other life.
Reflecting back on the "ranch" experiences of my early years helped me understand that working hard is deeply ingrained in me – I really can't imagine life any other way. I was "branded” at an early age with a great deal of resiliency and a "drive" to see a task to its completion.
As you reflect back over your life you no doubt will come to one of the same conclusions I did: "I am the way I am for a reason.”
Some things about ourselves are deeply entrenched. The way you respond to a major struggle or conflict is likely the way you learn to respond to conflict as a child. That certainly doesn't mean that you learned a good response as a child. Some of the ways we instinctively respond may be incorrect or inappropriate. We may need to relearn how to deal with a difficult situation. Nevertheless, reflecting on your early years can give you valuable insight into how you might respond to the current crisis, attack, or unexpected challenge you are facing. Draw upon the strengths that lie deep within you. Seek to strengthen or change those things that are weaknesses.
I also came to a new realization that it is only by the grace of God that I am alive and that I survived some of those early years experiences. In truth, God has kept me alive to face this current crisis! What is true for me is also true for you. It's no accident that you survived life thus far. God has kept you alive for the very struggle in which you are engaged today. Trust God to bring you through it – even asked He has brought you through countless difficult times in the past.
Following God's Plan Without Knowing It
Much of my upbringing, horse, with lived according to what others planned for me. That's true for most people. There may be parts of your early life that you wish had been different. I think that's probably true for all children. There comes a time, however, when a person must assume responsibility for his own decisions. Not all of these decisions are going to be good ones, or bad ones – just as not all the decisions our parents made for us were totally good or totally bad. We bear responsibility not only for our decisions, but also for dealing with the consequences of those decisions. We also bearers possibility for changing patterns of behavior and attitude we were taught if the change is warranted!
I encourage you to reflect on the choices you have made through the years and the experiences related to them.
I certainly found that exercise was helpful as I faced my time of struggle with the AT DA. I some much more clearly than ever before how God had been leaving me and guiding me into His plan for my life, even though I was totally unaware of His involvement.
I was in elementary school when my mother told me that my father, Charles Brophy, had been a dentist. As soon as I heard that he had been a dentist, it was as if a light bulb went on inside my mind. I just knew by the third grade that was what I wanted to be when I was an adult. Over the years, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd answer, "a dentist."
Now, I didn't know entirely what was involved in being a dentist, or becoming a dentist, but dentistry was my career goal from an early age. Well, that and playing football, or calf roping, or whatever.
I graduated from high school in February of 1943, shortly after World War II started. At the time I graduated, the Naval Academy at Annapolis had a very good football team – fourth in the nation, and two of my former teammates were playing on the Navy team. I loved playing football and was a good tight end. Given the war "climate" of those years, owing to the Naval Academy and playing football became an interest to me.
My Brother, Chuck, had gone to Sand Diego State College and then to the University of Southern California to study engineering. I signed up for the Navy and then with a V-1 classification in the Navy, I started college at San Diego State. I entered college as a pre-medicine major with every intention of eventually going to dental school.
At that time I was just about finished with my first semester of college, which I had started immediately upon graduation from high school in February 1943. I joined the U.S. Navy V-1 program so I could continue my premedical course. Later I received a card from the navy which stated if you were not already in medical or dental college you would not be able to continue, so I traveled to Los Angeles for a three-day physical exam in May so I might join the U.S. Naval Air Corps for flight training. This would now put me in the Navy V-5 program for Navy pilot training. I passed the three-day physical exam.
At the very moment that I was taking my flight physical, the Navy sent me orders to report to Notre Dame University and to continue my V-1 premedical training. A week later when I asked if I could return to V-1 status, the Navy agreed and sent me to the University of Southern California (USC) as a pre-medicine major.
“V-1” status in the Navy was a little like being in R.O.T.C. today except that we wore a uniform and were in full-time “service” while we were also in full-time study. At any moment the Navy could have sent any one of us off to the Pacific into combat. It was a tough course-I found it very challenging to keep my grades high, while at the same time being on “active duty.” I was taking up to twenty-two units a semester of academic work, eager to be on the fast track toward dental school. Within a year, I had completed three semesters of work, sometimes taking as many as five science courses at a time.
I was at USC with five other pre-dentistry students in my class in the Navy program. After one year of study, the Navy shipped us out to the U.S. Navy Hospital at Corona, California, for the summer and I was assigned to work as a medical corpsman with an oral surgeon. That was my first encounter with the field that would eventually be at the core of my life’s work.
At the end of the summer, the Navy asked me where I would want to study dentistry if I had my choice. Knowing that my father had gone to New York College of Dentistry, I put New York University College of Dentistry as my first choice.
In those years, a person didn’t have to complete baccalaureate degree before entering dental school, and at the end of the first year of dental school study to "receive" a baccalaureate degree as long as the baccalaureate that he and dental school study for at the same university. In my case, however, I was transferred to NYU from USC so the baccalaureate degree became a moot point as far as the Navy was concerned – and as a Navy corpsman, what the Navy wanted became what I wanted! I was glad to go to NYU and be in New York City for the first time as an adult. It was an opportunity for me to explore my own personal roots – to be in the city where my mother and father had gone to college, my parents had met and married, and where I had been born!
I was a California cowboy…not a city boy… And there I found myself in the biggest of all American cities! I was a novice.
Previously, while I was a medical Corpsman at the US Naval Hospital in Corona, California, I was in "apprentice seaman," the lowest rating possible – even those who finish boot camp have a higher rating! As soon as those in the Navy saw that single stripe on my uniform, they automatically assigned me to washing floors, picking up cigarette butts, driving the elevator or doing some other mundane task. It didn't matter that I was a pre-dentistry student.
A couple of my classmates who were also, at the moment, medical Corpsman stationed at the Corona Naval Hospital were caught loafing and were sentenced to the break for a week at a time and given no food but bread and water, better known as piss and punk. We sneaked in vitamins in the tooth powder can.
I called my uncle, Frederick Harold Brophy, when I got to New York City. He didn't know that I was coming. He was still practicing dentistry in the building where my father had been a dentist and his senior partner. I was amazed at some of the old equipment he still had, some of which he was still using. After we met, he invited me out to his home for dinner…and then asked me to stay with him and his family, and I did for three of my four years there in New York City.
My uncle had been the president of the dental Society in Manhattan and had a great reputation among his peers. He was also very often politically in New York City and was a highly benevolent man. Living with him and his wife, Muriel, and therefore children was a wonderful experience for me. Three of my cousins were still at home when I went to live with them- Patty, Jack, and Babs. Their eldest child, Ted, was also in the Navy as an executive officer on a submarine.
The way of living in New England in my uncle's family was far different than what I had known in San Diego. So was the course structure of dental school! We were on a year-round accelerated course. For the first two years we never saw any great for our courses – therefore, we had no means of knowing how well we were doing in our lab work and assignments. Occasionally, someone would be called to the acting Dean's Office and told they weren't doing well in classes. I never had that happen.
About halfway through my junior year, I was noticed that I and two other students – all of whom were excellent student, had failed a course in bacteriology in our second year and that we were required to repeat that course before we could go forward. This decision was based on our taking a three question "final" exam in the bacteriology course. A group of us had missed one of the three essay questions on the exam – missing one out of three essay questions means the grade is a 66 on a 100 point scale, which was not a good score.
Fortunately, or so I thought, the course schedule at NYU College of dentistry moved from a trimester to semester schedule that year and I rather unexpectedly had a summer "off" from my dental studies. I was told to take that someone to repeat the course in bacteriology and I found a bacteriology course offered at Columbia University Erie it unfortunately, as I got into the course I realized that it was a course in commercial bacteriology – cheeses and beers and the like, rather than medical bacteriology.
The NYU College of dentistry required that we earned a grade of "B and quote or better in our repeat course. I got an "A." But then at the end of the summer, the college of dentistry also required that we take an exam prepared by the NYU in medical bacteriology. Again, we faced an essay test with three questions, one of which was about the professor's latest work on lobar pneumonia. We had not been taught anything about his latest work and paper on lobar pneumonia. With great dismay, we all faced the fact that we were very likely underway to failing bacteriology the second time, at which point the Dean had warned us we would have to repeat our entire second year of dental school! The three of us in this predicament were all very good students.
My uncle, Harold, had been appointed to the Council of NYU (which was a significant honor since no other person had been named to that counsel who possessed a DDS degree) and I appealed to him. He went to battle for us and approached a new Dean for the NYU College of dentistry. We were allowed to continue our dental studies and two of us in group of students who have failed bacteriology went on to win three of 11 awards given out at our graduation ceremonies. (And, by the way, if you need to know anything about lobar pneumonia… I can tell you!)
Throughout dental school, I enjoyed that pinnacle courses more than the pure science courses. The main Dean of the NYU College of dentistry was a well-known specialists in prosthetic devices for children with cleft palates and he took me under his wing and groomed me in how to work with cleft palate children. He had developed a device that negated the necessity for babies born with cleft palate to undergo immediate surgery. The device covered the void in the babies palates and allowed cleft palate infants to nurse and later develop an ability to talk. It was also beneficial to adult, to allow them to eat and talk more normally. I found the work with cleft palate children both found fascinating and challenging, and one of the awards I received upon graduation was that Ellison Hillyer prosthetics award. The other award I received was the Samuel Charles Miller award in periodontia. Both areas were ones in which I had a special interest, and were areas that became key parts of my life's work in later years.
By the time I graduated, World War II had ended and the Navy had disbanded its "V" units. In essence, I had completed through this program my 2 1/2 years of act of service in the Navy and was free to go where I wanted after graduation. I had several options. However, I would remain in the U.S. Navy reserves for a number of years and could be activated at the whim of the Navy.
The Dean wanted me to stay in New York City and had the newly founded department of the facial prosthetic restoration at Bellevue Hospital. My uncle wanted me to become a partner in his dental office. I, however, had a desire to get back to California.
Meanwhile, I have met a young nursing assistant named Ann and in my junior year of dental school, we were married. We moved to California in the summer after I completed dental school.
I immediately took the State Dental Board exams to practice dentistry and unfortunately, past the first time. That was a major accomplishment for a student from "out-of-state." I was ready to work as a dentist, but didn't really know where or with whom.
I met my mother's dentist in San Diego to seek his advice and he told me that his brother, who was a physician, had told him about their needs for a dentist in his town of Chester, which was located in the High Sierra range of the mountains near Mount Lassen in North California. I drove up to Chester and like the opportunity I saw.
The physician in Chester had also told me about the availability of some dental equipment at a clinic that was being closed. I was able to secure a loan and purchase that equipment and then haul it up to Chester and install it in a new building in town. The building had been constructed by a logging company and the physician and I ended up sharing clinical space, which was to the advantage of both of us. Ann and I moved into a log cabin that we rented and in our first year there, our first son, Robert W., Jr., was born. We call him Chris.
The physician with whom I shared the clinic space was away quietly of the time and I ended up seeing his patients, which included a smattering of just about everything from delivering babies to cleaning out gunshot wounds in man who had come into the mountains to hunt. It was on-the-job training! I also was learning a great deal about oral surgery, again totally by necessity. The area attracted skiers and the occasional job fracture patients were brought to me, as well as those who somehow managed to ram ski poles through their palates and into their eyes. I had an amazing set of experiences for young dentist.
After I had been in Chester a little more than a year, I decided I wanted to complete the training necessary to become an oral surgeon. We moved to Long Beach in southern California and I began my oral surgery training at LA County Hospital, working part-time as a dentist to support our young family, which now included our second child, Joan.
As neared the completion of my oral surgery training, the Navy called me back into active service at that outset of the Korean conflict. I was assigned to the US Marine base in San Diego as a naval officer and worked there, I headed the oral surgery department. We had a very heavy and very patient load drawn from the 18,000 recruits who were coming through that face every 12 weeks. I saw everything from massive tumors to teeth needing extraction to serious job problems.
We bought a house in San Diego and our third child, Elizabeth, was born in the San Diego Naval Hospital, during our duty in San Diego.
After I completed this two-year term of service in the Navy, I took a position that was offered to me by an oral surgeon in Pasadena, California. To my surprise, after I had been part of this practice for about a year, I went away when weekend to give a lecture at a tumor conference in Colorado Springs and upon my return, I discovered I had been "let go." I never knew the reason and didn't take the time or energy to pursue an answer. I was too preoccupied with a bigger question, "what do I do now?"
I decided that I would open my own private oral and maxillofacial surgery practice in Pasadena. The practice grew quickly and I routinely performed surgeries at several hospitals in the area, especially at St. Luke's Hospital, which was a Catholic hospital.
A year earlier we purchased and older Spanish-style home with a bit of land in the Altadena area and began to put down roots. We had our remaining children: Peter, Mary, Colleen, Patty, and Michelle – they joined Chris, Joan, and Beth, eight children in all. And with a full-time homemaker and mother, our children were enrolled in Catholic schools, and we were raising our children as Catholics.
During this time I was becoming better known in the medical community in the greater Pasadena area and my patient load included an increasing number of surgeries. A significant percentage of those surgeries were related to facial trauma – some very extreme cases – as well as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) surgeries and job fractures. I not only became a chairman of the oral surgery section at St. Luke's Hospital but I was also very active and vice president of the tumor board. As a result, I had a number of unusual surgery opportunities that many who are oral surgeons do not normally have.
A Special Interest in the Temporomandibular Joint
Given the unusual opportunities presented to me at St. Luke's Hospital, I seemed to gravitate a little toward surgeries related to the temporomandibular joint. I became something of a "TMJ” specialist.
In those days, the early 1950s many surgeons simply wired shut a badly damaged or broken jaw. I opted instead to work with phone plates, pins, and wires in an attempt to reset these broken bones and position them anyway that would allow for maximum mobility and minimal pain later. Many of the trauma cases were fractures of the condylar portion of the mandible which made up one component of the temporomandibular joint. Within a relatively short period of time, I had done nearly 200 of the surgeries and was gaining a reputation for innovative and effective restoration of job function.
I continually sought ways in which to improve the work I was doing. I had a number of skulls in my office and I began experimenting with various prosthetic devices in an attempt to find something that would help people with jaw and TMJ fractures and diseases. The more I worked with the schools in my office, the more I saw that it might be possible to use very precise measurements to create prosthetic devices that would uniquely fit and individual person's bone structure. Every skull is a little different, and so, too, every temporomandibular joint or jaw.
Let me explain – as simply as possible – a little of the structures involved with the temporomandibular joint for those of you who do not have a medical background or do not have experience with TMJ problems.
The temporomandibular joint is located where the jaw and cranium meet. It's the "hinge” that allows the child to open and close. The temporomandibular joint is somewhat similar in the structure to a hip’s “ball and socket" – the end of the jaw is a ball that slides on a disk of fibrous tissue into a socket like structure that is part of the skull (cranium). If the disc tissue gets displaced were becomes perforated, it allows the condyle to function against the base of the skull causing serious pain and a flattening of the bony surfaces. This can even allow the condyle to penetrate the temporal bone surface and protruded into the middle cranial Faso which contains a portion of the brain. If that happens, the result is not only extreme pain, but severely limited jaw function, not to mention potential injury to the brain tissue.
There are a number of reasons for the "ball" part of the jaw to wear away. One of the main causes of TMJ problems is related to the wearing away of the fibrous tissue disc between the two bone structures in the joint. If this fibrous tissue disc is missing, bone begins to move against bone, causing each piece of bone to become rough. The result is as painful as it fans. If bone continues to wear against bone, without major fracture or dislocation, the edges of the bone will begin to fuse together with the growth of fibrous tissue in that area, or eventually with phone. Why does this happen? Well, the body perceives that this loss of fibrous tissue between the bones is a tantamount to a broken bone, and just as broken bones knit together in a leg or arm, these two pieces of bone in the temporomandibular joint will attempt to knit together.
My: surgery was to try to smooth off the jagged edges of the bone and reshape the "ball" end so the all and socket mechanism could be restored as much as possible with the use of a device. The device would be a covering over the base of the temporal bone surface and separate the two bones’ articulating surfaces.
What Does All This Mean to You? As I reflected back over the experiences I had as a man in my 20s and early 30s, I recognized clearly that this was a very specific set of choices that had led me to the very struggle in which I found myself with the FDA!
What if I had not become a dentist?
What if I had not worked with the Dean of the NYU College of dentistry in developing prosthetic devices for cleft palate children?
What if I had not gone to Chester and had the variety of surgery experiences afforded me there?
What if I had not become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon?
What if I had not had such a wide Friday of surgical experience with Navy personnel in Southern California?
What if I had not encountered the unusual surgery opportunities at St. Luke's?
What if I had not begun to seek a "better way" to deal with jaw fractures and degenerated temporomandibular joints?
Certainly my life would have been far different in the 1990s!
I feel certain that if you look back over the choices and decisions you made in your 20s and 30s, you'd come to the same conclusion about your effect on your later life.
I also recognized that God had been leading me and guiding me with His Omni potent but unseen hand in ways that I could not have "engineered." You no doubt will come to that same conclusion. There are some things that we simply don't "arrange" or "achieve" for ourselves. There are opportunities and experiences placed in our path that are beyond human involvement.
Be Open to God's "New Idea"
The vast majority of people I have encountered during my life have lived pretty much "routine" lives. Some have had amazing careers… I might call their careers and "ascending rut"! They have been promoted, and promoted, and eventually promoted to the top. Others have lived ordinary "straight line ruts”-one step in front of the other, veering in wonder action or another only if forced to do so. And still others have lived "descending ruts,” a string of bad choices all with a common thread.
I don't believe any kind of a "rut” is what God had in mind for us. Certainly, we are to live every day as "one day at a time." Jesus admonished His disciples to keep their focus on the NOW moments of their lives. But within now focus of TODAY, I strongly believe we are to live our lives as creatively and fully as possible! We are to be continually on the alert for God's next "best idea” or God's "new direction."
I just recently read two extraordinary stories. One was the story of a man who had come out of a, after 19 years. His doctors, nurses, and family members said they were eager to visit him each day in the hospital to see what he remembered and what he would say. The other story was about a family whose young daughter had suffered a severe folic acid deficiency, which had left her pretty much in a vegetative state. When she was giving folic acid supplementation, she seemed to improve miraculously – she was able to walk and laugh for the first time in her life. Her mother said she awoke every morning feeling the same kind of anticipation she felt on Christmas morning – eager to see what her little girl might be able to do.
What a wonderful sense of expectancy both of these families had! I believe we are to have that same sense of expectancy. A gain might not hold any startling new moments, new insights, new inventive ideas, or new experiences for us… but then again, it might! We need to live in anticipation of those "new" moments so we don't miss them.
That was my experience with Sister L.
Sister L Was Eager to Try a "New" Way
Sister. L was referred to me after she had been through two TMJ surgeries by another surgeon several years previously. The fibrous tissue disc in her joint had been removed in the first surgery, and then in the second surgery, part of her lower "ball" part of the joint had been cut off. The rough bone edges had begun to grow together. The result was that she could hardly open her mouth to speak or two – or, in her case, to teach. She was also in a great deal of pain. She was only in her 30s at the time and she faced the prospect of a lifetime of increasing pain and increasingly limited job function as the years progressed.
The normal procedure at the time would have been to surgically cut apart the two bones, smooth off the edges, and restore some ability to the joint. The downside of that procedure, of course, was that the bones would eventually begin to knit together again – the process was not a solution but a temporary measure that likely would need to be repeated again and again through the years.
As I was driving down the freeway when day, I began thinking about Sister L’s situation and questioning, "How can I keep that lower part of the job from adhering to the upper bone structure?" Suddenly, the idea came to me that I might be able to fashion an artificial "socket" for her from a man-made metal material.
Such a stock it would need to be fashioned in such a way that it "fit" her skull, and could be retained in that position for perhaps many years.
In those days – the early 1960s – we did not have the sophisticated imaging techniques and devices we have today so there's no way of knowing in advance of a surgery the precise measurements in this part of a person's skull. What I concluded was that I might be able to fashion several sockets that might be close to the right shape and size based upon other measurements of her skull. Then, during the surgery, I could use a socket that was the best "fit."
That's what I did.
I prepared wax models of 10 different prosthetic devices using ten skulls in my lap. Then I took these wax models to a dental lab and have them cast in the same cobalt chrome alloy that was used for top-of-the-line ball and socket prosthetics used in hip surgeries.
I fully explained to Sister L what I was hoping to do to help her. I also had a discussion with her Mother Superior. The surgery was scheduled for June of 1961.
I hadn't really told other professional colleagues about my plans for the surgery. However, on the Friday before the Tuesday that her surgery was scheduled, I had a visit from a dentist who worked in an office close to my office. I told him what I was preparing to do and he seemed quite excited about what he perceived to be a new and innovative procedure. At a cocktail party that night, he told several of his colleagues about the procedure I was preparing to do.
Sr. L was admitted to the hospital on Monday at noon and by two o'clock that afternoon, I had a phone call from the Sister Superior at St. Luke's hospital questioning my intention of performing "experimental surgery" at St. Luke's. I explained to her that the surgery was not truly "experimental" because we had already been doing a number of surgeries using prosthetic devices and bone planting in repairing cranial, jaw, and TMJ problems.
The Sister Superior notified me that she was going to take action to stop the surgery on Sister Alan and I countered by requesting a meeting of the hospital's executive board. The board was meeting that Monday evening and I was given a slot on the agenda.
I had planned for a film crew to film the next day’s surgery. Sister L had already been admitted to the hospital. Both the filming and the surgery were totally at my expense. The prosthetic devices were prepared and sterilized. Always prepared and ready to go.
I met with the board that evening. They had called in a specialist who held degrees in both medicine and dentistry and practice oral and maxillofacial surgery. Every aspect of the procedure I was about to undertake was put under very intense scrutiny. Sr. St. John, a young nun who had been a Navy nurse, was present at the meeting and she later said to me, "I've never seen such a persecution as I saw that night."
The meeting lasted until 1030 in the evening and it wasn't till midnight that I've received word that the board would allow me to perform the surgery the next morning. They added this proviso: "In the future, if you are going to do surgeries such as these, you need to have a reconstructive surgeon or a second oral surgeon agreed to your treatment plan." That didn't make much sense to me. Nobody I knew who worked as a reconstructive or "plastic" surgeon or oral surgeon was performing surgeries such as those I have been doing! Nevertheless, I agreed. The surgery went very well the next morning. The artificial plate or "socket" was installed, the lower bone was repositioned to fit into it. Her jaw was wired shut for six weeks, and in the end, she had nearly mobility of her jaw and virtually no pain other than the pain normally associated with any kind of surgery.
The following year, I did a similar surgery on another side of her jaw after the fibrous tissue disc in that joint developed a hole in it. Then 27 years later, when bone tissue had begun to grow around the artificial plate in her left joint, I went in and cleared away that bone and fashioned an improved "ball" portion to her joint.
In all, more than 40 years after her initial surgery, she continued to do well with the original "socket" device still intact.
The film of that first surgery was shown in oral surgery departments and conferences all across the nation.
I began to perform similar surgeries in a number of hospitals in the greater Los Angeles area, including the prestigious Huntington Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, and Los Angeles County general. Eventually I was given permission to perform the same surgical technique in more than 15 hospitals in the area. I was invited to lecture at the Hollywood Academy of medicine, a prestigious group which also inducted me into its membership.
That is not to say that I immediately received other wide spread a claim or approval for the work that I had pioneered. One particular oral surgeon – a man who had degrees in both medicine and dentistry – actively spoke out against my work and did his best to undermine the work that I was doing and to keep patients from being referred to me. He was also a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at one of the dental schools in the area.
I soon learned that he was seeking to develop what amounted to a "competing" device, but the device never performed well anatomically and was made of inferior materials, and in the end, it failed in one patient and never was used again.
As a little aside here, after about four years of professional harassment by this same surgeon, I went to hear a lecture being given by this man. I introduced myself to him after the lecture, saying, "Hello. My name is Bob Christiansen – I'm the one you've been speaking against all these years." He acted as if we were old friends – "Hey, Bob, how are you?" After that moment, I never heard of anything else he said against me. It was as if that one brief encounter defused all of the professional had going of the previous four years.
Increasing Notoriety and Opposition
in January 1964 I set up the research foundation for oral surgery at all he would Presbyterian Hospital and I performed a surgery that was videotaped by KCOP – Channel 13. The surgery was projected live to a separate auditorium within the hospital, where a couple of hundred physicians and oral surgeons have gathered from across the nation. I was doing pioneer work – and very few had attempted any kind of TMJ reconstruction.
I anticipated some P are opposition and to counter that, I had picked the best people I could find to be part of the teaching panel associated with the event: a PhD/MD anatomist out of Loyla University in Chicago who had done a great deal of work in bone on bone degeneration and head anatomy, the chief of orthopedic surgery at Orthopedic Hospital in Los Angeles, a neurosurgeon, the chief of the ear nose and road department at Los Angeles County General Hospital, and a couple of other oral surgeons.
During the morning of this event, we showed a film that included footage of Sister L’s surgery as well as footage from several other surgeries we had done in the previous three years. I lectured along with a couple of others on the teaching panel. The life surgery was canceled for the early afternoon.
The patient for the event was an older woman who wasn't necessarily the "ideal" patient, but the surgery went well and she was very pleased with the results. We had four other patients on "standby" should there be any last-minute glitches with this older woman's availability.
The television station that had filmed the surgery subsequently asked if they could edit the surgery into a one-hour primetime program that would be aired as part of the stations "Surgery 64" series. Everybody involved agreed and next thing I knew, the program had erred and my face was on the page in TV Guide.
It seems that increased opposition nearly always comes with notoriety. That was certainly true in my case. Fortunately for me, I was nearly always able to counteract the claims of my critics with solid factual evidence.
Those who opposed my work tended to focus on the fact that the prosthetic devices I was using were "hard." We were using cobalt chrome. They could not envision how this material could be suitable in an area that normally has softer, more fibrous tissue. Others, however, who later tried to develop prosthetic devices using softer materials invariably failed. Literally thousands of softer material devices that were implanted in people had to be replaced, often after the patients had experienced dramatic failure of the devices and great deal of pain.
These same concerns were never registered against the use of cobalt chrome for the use of hip replacement devices. Cobalt chrome hip units were developed in 1937 by Dr. Smith – Peterson and Dr. Otto Offranc. In 1964, I received a letter from Otto Offranc. He had seen an orthopedic surgery Journal article I had written about my first surgery using the new device and as he wrote, "This is a real contribution to the art of surgery of a disabled joint." He comp cemented me on my device and talk about it development and use at his Department of orthopedic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, which was associated with Harvard University, School of Medicine. It was interesting – and albeit a little amusing to me – that one of the arguments leveled against me by the FDA was that we were using "1960s" technology and material. My counterargument was that if a technology and material are still the "best" after 40 years, why change? Glass has been around for several thousand years and is still widely used in our world today. The technology for making glass hasn't changed much through the millennia. Just because a technology or substance has been around for 40 to 50 years does not make it obsolete. Cobalt chrome is still the finest metal alloy available for permanent prosthetic devices in the human body. We are fortunate to "get it right the first time."
In the early years, another of the objections voiced by my colleagues was a concern related to the "partial" reconstruction of the joint. These critics believed that only a fool joint replacement – both the lower "ball" part and the upper "socket" part could be successful. I strongly advocated that many TMJ patients did not need a full joint replacement. I also strongly advocated that patients should never be denied a less expensive and lower risk alternative to a full joint replacement when a partial reconstruction was just as satisfactory, and certainly less invasive.
Again, these same objections were voiced by the FDA! For me, it was like "old criticism" resurfacing yet once again. This time, however, I had 40 years of experience and success to back up my theory. We never experienced the problems that those early years critics predicted. In the four decades since I first developed the TMJ prosthesis, known as the Fosse – Eminence and Condylar Prosthesis in the industry, approximately 15,000 partial joint devices and about 8000 total joint devices have been implemented successfully around the world!
Another of the early concerns was that the temporomandibular joint differs from one person to the next. Nobody could see how "one-size-fits-all." They were right – one size doesn't fit all. I never thought that that would be the case.
In the earliest years of doing the surgeries, I developed 65 wax models for each side of the head – the right side TMJ and the left side TMJ and I had one device for each of the 65 skull models cast in cobalt chrome. Each device was a slightly different size or shape. I went to a surgery with a "bag of rights" and a "bag of lefts," and during the surgery, I determined which device was the most perfect fit. Once the surgery was over, I'd order a replacement device for the one I had implanted so I always had a "complete kit" available to me each time I went into surgery.
This became the general system we still use. We found through the years that some of the units were seldom used, so the kit today has 44 "left and quote and 44 "right" prostheses, each in its own sterilized pack. A hospital or surgeon will order a complete kit, and then order replacement devices as the devices are used. The kit includes a "fitting" set of prostheses, which we call slicers, that can be sterilized in an autoclave. These "Sizer's" are not for implantation.
In more than 90% of the classes, one of the fossa Eminence prosthesis will work with a patient, but occasionally, we need to customize a first basis. It is like shopping for shoes – most the time a person confined issue that will fit but occasionally, someone will have a foot deformity or size that requires custom made shoes. The same is true prosthetic devices associated with the temporomandibular joint, and for that matter, the hip joint.
In our manufacturing offices today, we are able to customize units for these patients, and not only for those who have unusual TMJ problems but also for those who may have related to bone abnormalities. The customized implant units are conducted on the basis of CT scans. In our company today, we received C T scans from nations around the world and we have the ability to customize and implement precisely for one person – sometimes the device replaces part of the cheekbone, part of the jaw, part of the base of the skull, or in a few extreme cases, the entire job or large portions of the base of the skull.
I don't want to leave you with the impression that the early years of TMJ implants were mostly about criticism Erie it far from it! I enjoyed numerous successes. I was invited to speak at a number of prestigious conferences and my work was published in the best journals. I became an assistant clinical professor of head and neck surgery at LA County Hospital and at the University of California/Irvine Medical School. Those were honored positions for me. My work was primarily with head and neck surgery residents. I helped them with a number of surgeries associated with crushed cheekbones, fractured jaws, and other traumatic injury cases as well as cases in which tumors had eaten away craniofacial bones.
Other Implants As Well. I also was involved in the development of other dental devices. Even before I became concerned with TMJ – actually from the day I started my practice in Chester – I was intrigued by the possibility of replacing individual teeth with a metal implant attached directly to the jawbone. At the time, there wasn't anything being done in this area.
In 1948, a couple of doctors in Rhode Island came up with the idea of a process that resulted in "permanent dentures." The process involves exposing a portion of the lower jaw that had been stripped of all teeth, taking an impression of backbone, making a framework that would be placed on the phone, and then making a set of permanent dentures that could be incurred on that framework. It was a cumbersome, complicated process. It isn't easy to make a perfect impression of the jawbone, or to build a framework that fits the bone precisely. The procedure is also prone to infection. When the process worked, it worked well. But in too many cases, the process didn't work. And even when it didn't work, it was a very arduous experience for both patient and oral surgeon. Failure frequently took the form of infection or exposure of the framework to oral solutions usually dooming the procedure.
In many cases, of course, a patient does not need a complete set of dangers, but rather, just one or two teeth. In 1959, I began to develop models for doing individual teeth implants and I subsequently held the first three US patents on dental implants in the United States. The third design that I came up with proved to be the most effective and successful. It was a design that called for a post to be screwed into the upper or lower jawbone, and then a porcelain or metal bridge attached to the posts. From one to a dozen or more teeth could be replaced in this way, either upper or lower teeth. Once I had perfected the technique, I performed this procedure on literally hundreds of patients with great success.
Most of the dental implants today are an offshoot of that design. Some of the procedures and products are nearly identical to what I developed more than 40 years ago. The industry today sells more than $1 billion annually.
What Does This All Mean to You? My message to you is this: When someone attacks your work, they are attacking your ideas, your energy, your creativity, your reputation, your integrity, and the "whole" of the body of your effort and achievement. Even if that isn't their intent, that the outcome. And that's the way you feel as a person under the attack.
I found it very helpful in my struggle with the FDA to get my eyes off the immediate "attack" and focus on the whole of the body of work I had done in my life. I also came to recognize more clearly than ever before:
When you see that the Lord is with you and all things, and that He is guiding you and doing His "new things” in your life, you can't help but have greater boldness and greater peace!
God's Amazing Inventiveness!
I also encourage you to begin not only to see your own life from this perspective but ALL of life from this perspective: God is an awesome creator – not just in ages past, but in the present day! There's nothing like God's ability to produce something that is unique. He is infinitely inventive!
I firmly believe that if you are capable of disassociating yourself a little from the house and wins and various processes associated with your immediate struggle, you will find God's work utterly fascinating and awesome. I find it truly amazing at times to discover how God chooses to act. His methods are always unique to an individual, or to an individual relationship.
As far as we know, God only parted the Red Sea on one occasion. As far as we know, God only allowed one young man to slay a powerful war savvy Giants using a slingshot and a stone.
As far as we know, God only authorized when city walls to come tumbling down after a group of people circled that city wall for seven days and then blew trumpets and shouted praise to God.
As far as we know, God only healed one leprous man who dipped seven times in the Jordan River at the command of a prophet.
The Bible is filled with one-time only miracles. Don't expect God to kill you or restore your relationship or to turn your business around in precisely the same way that He has dealt with another person or couple or company. Expect God to do the unexpected in your life. Expect Him to heal you, restore your marriage, or turn around the negative situation you are facing – but expect Him to act in a way that is individualized, personalized, and unique to YOU.
The Heavens Are Not Too High! In the early 1950s, a patient of mine was commissioned to create a "plate" that represented the first unmanned spacecraft launched into outer space. The copper and glass plate depicted the spacecraft at the top of a thin red line, with a story "universe” in the background. On the back of the plate were engraved the words, "The heavens are not too high."
My patient generously gave me a copy of this plate. Which I still have.
Later, I commissioned this man to do a similar design for TMJ implants Inc. that showed a human skull with the TMJ implant, against the background field of the star filled the universe. For years, I had a 4 x 6' mosaic of this design thinking in my office.
Well I like this design a great deal, there was something about that phrase, "The heavens are not too high," that was compelling to me. I meditated on that phrase for some time and finally came to the conclusion: "In man's search for knowledge of God's untold secrets, the heavens are not too high.” We have used this phrase and or surgical motion picture films over the years. We must never limit our search or think that we have uncovered all there is for man to know, enjoy, experience, or discover. But still has "new ideas" to reveal to us. He still has "new and better" ways for us to use our time, resources, and talents. He still has a "new product" that will add to our lives – helping us remove, eliminate, or compensate for problems, or helping us to do more, perceived better, or express ourselves more fully.
Untold inventions are like geodes buried in the sand by God. The inventions are there – we just need to "uncover" them. We need to search for them until we find them, from deep in the earth to the highest heavens. They might even be common on the outside, but within they are the best of God's creations.
Personal Tragedies and Pain Can Be Used by God
One of the most amazing truths I've discovered since becoming a Christian is that even personal tragedies and pain – failures and flaws – can be used by God. No life is a continual string of successes. Every life has some failure. Mine has been no exception.
In the 1960s, Ann desire to move the family down to Palos Verdes Peninsula, a little more secluded area of the greater Los Angeles basin that was near the beach. We found a beautiful home that had a fantastic view of the ocean. My commute was significantly longer – given the flow of traffic, it could take from 45 min. to more than an hour for me to get from home to a hospital. Since I sometimes traveled to several hospitals in a day, it was not unusual for me to be on the road for 100 to 200 miles a day, doing surgeries or engaging in consultations with patients or other oral surgeons in between "road trips.”
The result was that I developed severe back problems. I have never known TMJ pain, but I have known pain!
In 1961, shortly after I had performed the surgery on Sister Al, I faced surgery on two of my lumbar discs at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. Two months later, I faced a second surgery on yet another lumbar disc.
The pain and physical limitations associated with those back surgeries, coupled with the long commute I faced each day from home to work, resulted in my choosing to spend more and more nights closer to the hospitals in which I worked. My wife, Ann, and I became estranged and ultimately, we divorced in 1964.
Looking back, I know it was not the right thing to have done. Nothing about the circumstances that led to the divorce, nothing about the divorce itself, and nothing about the circumstances after the divorce were "right. And quote there was no way that I could compensate for the pain that was caused to Ann and the children. There was also no way that Ann and I could seem to find our way through the pain that we each were experiencing at the time. Bad choices turned into worse choices.
My experiences led me to adopt a belief that I have now advocated for more than half my life: It is always better for a couple to stay married and to find a way to forgive each other and to kill their marriage, rather than to divorce. Always.
I had no real understanding at that time, however, how to forgive, or how to ask for and receive forgiveness. I had no real understanding about how to experience a healing in a marriage. Is nice to bring you something he felt like he was on the road selling interest you build And ultimately, I didn't have any awareness that I should seek to stay married more than I could seek divorce.
Ann later moved to Minnesota and I remained in California. I met Lynne in 1971 and we were married a year later in 1972 Erie it after we were married, I moved my office from Pasadena down near to the Palos Verdes area. We opened a clinic in the Lawndale area and I worked with several other dentists and continued to do TMJ surgeries.
Eventually I grew weary of city life in Southern California and decided to purchase a cattle ranch in Oregon. I was hoping to begin a transition from my private practice as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, to rancher! Lynn had never been around a ranch, but she was willing to make the move to Oregon, and not only that, but to milky jersey cow and hold down the fort while I commuted to Southern California to keep a surgical practice going. We did this for over a year and then realized that we were going broke "ranching." We started a practice in the Ukiah area in northern California and Lynne helped me in the office.
Lynne and I had to children – Andrew and Matthew. Then, after 11 years of being together, Lane decided to leave our marriage. She moved with the boys back to Southern California to be close to her parents. I certainly didn't want to be in northern California if my young sons were in Southern California, so I began a transition back South.
I had taken up flying in the 1960s and while we were in Ukiah, we had our own airplane. I had undertaken an "instrument and quote flying course will we were in Ukiah and after Lynne left, I decided to add "multiengine" to my qualifications as a pilot. While I was taking this course, I began to have a deep desire to learn to fly Jets. In retrospect, I believe God had impacted that desire in me for His purposes.
I moved to Southern California east of Pasadena – three blocks away from Lynne and our sons.
I was at a difficult point of my life financially. With an impending divorce and giving up my practice in Ukiah, I was facing bankruptcy – a loss of our ranch in Oregon, and a loss of our new home in Ukiah and the loss of my practice and the clinic building we had purchased. I had never been close to bankruptcy before and it was a devastating thought for me.
Lynne was not excited about my moving to Southern California and seemed to resent my showing off that our sons’ soccer and baseball games. I was having a great time, however, watching them play and helping coach their teams.
I had a tough time finding a job. Unemployed and facing bankruptcy, I nevertheless pursued enrollment in a jet flying school. About halfway through the course, the instructor and his wife invited me to dinner. That night – October 25, 1983 – was the most important evening of my life.
The instructor and his wife were born again Christians and the instructor knew from my conversations with him that I was not. My mother had been raised a Presbyterian and Lee was a follower of Christian science, but neither my mother normally instilled any kind of religious education into us children. Since our weekends were spent on the ranch, there wasn't any "churchgoing" on Sundays. I had virtually no religious upbringing.
I converted to Catholicism at the time I married Ann, who was a Roman Catholic. I had been faithful in attending the Catholic church over the years, even when Lynne would not go with me to church. I had enjoyed friendships and good working relationships with the nuns and Catholic priests with, I was acquainted, but had no personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I didn't know enough to know that I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus, but I certainly knew that religion had been important, but not a powerful experience for me up to that particular night. The instructor and his wife explained to me in very simple but powerful terms what it truly meant to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. And that night, I prayed with them while kneeling at the coffee table in their living room. My life was transformed from the inside out in ways that were stunning and also mysterious and amazing to me.
This instructor later shared with me that his wife had left him two years previously. He had begun to pray diligently for their marriage to be restored and miraculously, his wife had returned to him just a few days before their divorce was final. They were in ministry to others who were hurting in their marriages and who did not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Looking back, it seems so clear to me that the Lord prompted at me to pursue the jet flying course for the sole reason of coming to know Christ as my Savior and for catching a vision of what could happen if people pray and believe for their marriages to be restored. God knows how to reach a person in ways that are unique to that person. He used my interest in flying to bring me into contact with precisely the right people who could help me spiritually. I believe that's what God does in every person's life. He uses their natural interests, desires, skills, and abilities to direct them into association with people who know Jesus Christ and who are bold enough in their relationship with Him to talk about Him and reach out to others in need.
I encourage you today – if you were praying for someone to know Christ, pray very specifically:
Mine eye in their home was a tremendous turnaround moment for me. Up to that moment, I hadn't really trust God with my life and all the decisions I faced in my career, my marriage, and my family. I hadn't even thought that it might be possible for my marriage to be restored. Lynne had become involved with another man and was making plans to possibly marry him. The idea that we might be reconciled to each other with a new idea.
A Dramatic and Immediate Change
After I was born again, the Lord began to work in my life in simple and small ways, but for me, they were very dramatic. Sometimes when life seems very dark, even the smallest candle can shed tremendous light.
For example, one night while driving on a California freeway, I saw a California license plate that read UZMEGD –“Use Me God.” I thought to myself, That's really what I want. I began to pray for God to use me in ways He wanted to use me.
In many ways, my born-again experience with like a whole new start for me when he came to attending church and to pursuing various spiritual disciplines. I had a new love for reading the Bible – and the Scriptures begin to make more sense than ever before. My flight instructor had given me a Bible after I had prayed with him and his wife in their home, and before long, that Bible was well marked. Certain verses seem to leap out at me every time I opened the Bible read it – I made countless notes in the margins of that Bible about ways in which I felt God had spoken directly and very personally to me.
I had a new desire to pray.
I had a new level of faith to trust God to answer prayers.
I had a new awareness of God speaking to me through a variety of circumstances and situations.
Every morning was a new spiritual adventure for me! I was going to work, spending time with my sons, and going through the motions of having a normal life, but in many ways, my life was not normal. I was living a new life that seemed to be touched by the supernatural at every turn.
Almost immediately after I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and was filled with the spirit, I began to attend the church on the way That, pastored by Jack Hayford. Every sermon pastor Jack preached seemed to be aimed directly at me. On the weekends that I had our sons with me, I took them along. They accepted Christ as their Savior and were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile, touring the week, I went every morning to mass at the Roman Catholic Church that was just down the street from my rental house.
Some people no doubt thought I had become "ridiculous" in the way I prayed and believed for God to meet my needs in those early days after my born-again experience.
I lost everything in the divorce and bankruptcy, including my automobile. I began to pray for God to give me a car. One morning I stopped at a restaurant England Dale on my way to work and well at the table, I overheard some guys talking about flying. I introduced myself to them and they began to talk. During the next few weeks, I saw these men several times of the restaurant. I eventually told one of these men, Josh Nasrall, that I was praying God would give me a VW Rabbit because that particular brand of car didn’t use much gasoline. He immediately replied, “Well, I have a VW Rabbit that I may want to sell. Ask me next Tuesday.”
I met with him the following Tuesday. I didn’t have any money so I was a little concerned about how I was going to pay for this car. To my great surprise John said, “I’m going to give you this car. I had it fixed up and it is yours you think that whatever you're doing.”
Shortly before this time, I had read in my Bible these wonderful verses in the book of Proverbs:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And he shall direct your paths.
(Proverbs 3:5 – 6)
I was thrilled receiving this dark brown little Rabbit. I had absolutely no doubt that this was God's way of revealing to me that every aspect of His Word was true and could be trusted – and furthermore, not only was every verse in the Bible true, but it was true for me. That was a tremendous revelation to me, who had not grown up reading the Bible and who had not had much experience in trusting anybody to be true to their work, much less God.
I began to ask the Lord, "how can I acknowledge You?” I certainly knew what it meant to trust the Lord.. I knew what it meant not to rely on my own understanding of a situation… But I also wanted God to direct all my paths and that meant I had to acknowledge Him. I didn't know what the first meant.
By this time I had started working on a strange little clinic owned by Russian Jews. I had been trying to win this to them about Jesus but hadn't made any headway. When I try to evangelize others who came to the clinic, I immediately was reprimanded. I didn't know what more I might do to "acknowledge" the Lord in my workplace.
Ah…but I had a car! So I put in large, 2 inch white letters across the back of that dark brown VW Rabbit: "JESUS LIVES! HE GAVE ME THIS CAR!”
The response from other drivers on the freeway was amusing but not particularly discouraging to me. Some people honked and smiled – others honked at him and laughed or made obscene gestures. Now, in the years before I was born again, I would have been critical of anyone I saw driving a car that made such a bold statement about Jesus. I never would have wanted to be in a position that might bring me a negative response… for any reason. Reputation, professional stature, and my pride as an accomplished oral surgeon were paramount to me. Now, I was more than willing to be a "full for Christ.”
When I showed up at one of my son’s soccer games with this car, Lynne and her parents were appalled. They really thought I had "lost it." From my perspective, I was experiencing the exact opposite: I had found the only relationship that truly mattered for all eternity!
My going to the Church on the Way ways disturbing to Lynne. As a part of our divorce settlement, I had insisted that I be allowed to raise the boys as Catholics. Lynn had no problem with that – but once I truly began to take my relationship with God seriously, she grew concerned. Nevertheless, I continued to take the boys with me to church on weekends and to talk to them openly about my growing faith.
Also during this period, I began to have dreams that were very meaningful. And some of those dreams, I saw land on an operating table and she appeared like a 2 inch sponge type of body. I knew looking at her that she needed water to live. It reminded me of the lady at the well where she was in need of the "living water." I carried her around to various homes and businesses looking for the "living water," but to no avail. I turned away from the operating table and began to pray with others who were also standing nearby. When I turned back toward her, she began to return to life. It was an extremely vivid and very troubling dream.
I awoke from a dream knowing deep within me that land needed to come to Christ and that I needed to pray earnestly and with faith that she receive Jesus as her Savior, regardless of what might happen in our relationship. I began to pray diligently for herself nation with a deep knowing in my spirit that she was going to be born again.
Lynne and I were apart for about two years. She was living three blocks from where I lived. Miraculously, one night the Lord impressed very strongly on her heart that she was to "go home" to me. She loaded the boys and their dog and her personal belongings into her car and drove three blocks over to my house.
I took her to church where she accepted the Lord as her personal Savior and was baptized in water. We were married a few days later.
One God broke through the hard shell of her heart, the reconciliation between us was almost instant.
We first married on March 17, 1972 (St. Patrick's Day), just two days before her birthday. We were married the second time on April 6, 1985, which was my birthday.
What Does All This Mean to You? Obviously I made mistakes. Obviously God used those mistakes to bring me to where HE wanted me to be all along. God also used both Lynne’s mistakes and my mistakes to bring us together as a married couple in the kind of marriage HE wanted us to have all along.
I don't know what part of your current struggle is related to your past failures, flaws, or human foibles, but I do know this… if you will trust God with your life and turned to Jesus as your Savior and then follow Him as your Lord… HE will lead and guide you and make all things new in your life. HE will direct you in the paths you are to walk, so that you might experience His abundance and reflect His glory.
God Has a Perfect Plan and Purpose for All Things
There have been people who have said to me, "Bob, how can you preach a message of ‘standing’ in faith for a broken marriage to be restored? How can you believe that God will bless your Covenant Marriages Ministry when you have been divorced?”
My answer is this: The message I preach is not a message that I came up with in my own thinking or for my own pleasure. Neither is it a message that I preach to justify my behavior. The message I preach and teach is that Word of God. It's the message that counts.
And yes, if you haven't figured it out by now…the ministry that God established alongside TMJ Implants Inc. is a marriage reconciliation ministry.
As a "messenger" of God's Word about reconciliation in marriage – as the preacher and teacher of the message – I know full well the devastation, pain, and sorrow it divorce. I know what sin and error can produce. I feel very confident that the message I teach is the truth of God: "It is God's desire that spouses stay together! Marriage is God's idea! Don't ruin it!”
I also know what it means to continue to "stand" in faith for a marriage to be healed after one spouse walks away from the marriage. I know that standing in faith and love works when a person trusts God with his whole heart to restore and bring about reconciliation.
God does not look at our failures of the past. He only looks on the state of our heart. If we are standing in forgiveness before the Lord – having confessed our sins and received Jesus Christ as our Savior – God looks only at our “present” state and His sole concern is how He might prepare us, uses, and lead us into the fullness of His Lessing for His name’s sake.
Don't allow a failure in your past to keep you from declaring what you know to be the truth of God's Word. God's Word is always true and it is worthy of being proclaimed with enthusiasm and power.
God's "New Idea" for Your Ministry
During the Easter season several months after I was born again, I awoke to find my bedroom filled with a strange light – like a white clouds that arose from within my bedroom. It was 4 to 5 feet across and had a coffee can sized red circle in the center of the white cloud – at the foot of my bed. I try to sit up but couldn't. I felt absolutely unable to move, glued to the bed. It was only as the light dissipated that I was able to sit up. I didn't feel anxious about the experience, just amazed and very curious.
Two days later I saw a picture in a studio on which was this first: ”Arise, shine, For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you." (IS. 60:1) I knew this picture and first were for me. These words were directed, personally, to me, so I purchased the picture. I also knew deep within that God had a plan for me and that I needed to ask Him to reveal it to me and then be faithful and walking out the plan He revealed. I later learned that it was the Shekinah glory of God; His very presence within my room. It was at that time I was "filled" with the Holy Spirit. Such an experience is one that is absolutely life-changing. Why me, Lord? I knew I was a sinner, never deserving such a proclamation of His love, and yet I knew I was saved, and He does love us that much.
I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to say to the Lord, "Show me what it is that YOU want me to do, and then help me to do that." The Lord is ever faithful and revealing His desires to those who truly want to know them! He is ever faithful and helping those who want to obey Him to do so!
From the time I was born again, I began to make notes to myself on legal pad about what I knew God was speaking to me.
I knew with great certainty in my spirit that one of the things the Lord was revealing to me about my purpose in life was that I was to have two companies that would stand side-by-side. One was to be profit-making company. I had no idea at the time with that might be. The other “company” was to be a not-for-profit enterprise that would minister to people whose marriages were in trouble. That part was very clear to me although I felt very unqualified to pursue such a ministry and had no idea how the Lord my work things out so I could ever establish such a ministry. I also knew that in some way the profit-making company was to find the not for profit company so that there would be no need to ask for contributions. Everything that was done in ministry was to be funded by the profit-making venture.
Now for the Lord to reveal to me that I was to be involved in a marriage restoration ministry at the time I was going through a separation and possibly divorce seemed I chair absurdity to me! Nevertheless, I had no doubt about what I knew had been spoken to my spirit, and I believed that God would make a way where there seemed to be no way.
Isn't that what God always does in fulfilling His Word? He parted the Red Sea for the Israelites when they were "trapped" in what seemed to be an impossible situation – the armies of Pharaoh to their rear, and before them a body of water that they could not cross.
These ideas about a profit-making company and a not-for-profit making ministry were crystal clear in my mind and heart – documented only in handwriting on a yellow legal pad. I knew, however, that they were God's desire and that He would bring them to pass in my life in His timing and by His methods.
After the Lord revealed these ideas to me, I consulted with an attorney and an accountant about what I might begin doing to implement these ideas – and believe me, those meetings were short. Although I was employed, there was no way either this attorney or accountant could foresee that I might one day be in a position to start my own company, much less a ministry. I could have been very discouraged upon leaving the breakfast meeting with those two professionals. As it was, I listened to what they have to say and concluded in my heart, This is going to be all God. I knew I had to wait on God to arrange all the details, and doubt when the time is right, He would show me the next step to take. How…and when… and through what means…and involving which people…I had no clue.
Lynne and I began to grow together spiritually after she was born again. We also became involved in an organization called "Born Again Marriages.” We were asked to speak on several occasions, and that seemed very comfortable to me although it was a little more difficult for Lynne.
Through the coming months, we associated with several couples, each of whom had some type of ministry to those who were experiencing divorce and seeking restoration. One of these ministries focused on marriages that were in trouble, although no separation or divorce had occurred. One of the ministries aimed at comforting one spouse in the aftermath of a separation or divorce. Another ministry sought to reunite couples after separation. Yet another seemed at helping couples that had reunited to grow in their relationship.
The more we got involved in these ministries, the more Lynne and I felt that our unique calling was to minister to those who had been rejected by a spouse – and that our calling was to encourage that rejected person to trust the Lord for personal healing, to forgive the spouse who had left the relationship, and then to stand in prayer and faith for the "strained" spouse to return to the marriage so that the marriage might be fully restored. We didn't see anybody ministering in exactly the way the Lord was leading us to Minister. That was challenging to us because we didn't have a specific "role model" to follow – but it also was a great faith adventure for us. We placed our reliance upon the Lord to lead us, guide us, and teach us what He desired for us to know and do.
I have a great compassion for those who are hurting and who have been rejected for a spouse. It's a comparison that I know the Lord has placed in my heart – it is not my natural tendency. I also have great bold this in proclaiming the message of "standing in faith for restoration."
I often say to audiences who have invited me to speak on the topic of marriage restoration, "If a judge in a secular court said to you, ‘Your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is over as of this moment,’ you wouldn't believe that Judge. You know that you have covenant relationship with Christ that is beyond what any human being can do to destroy it or make it ‘null and void.’ In your heart you probably say, ‘Say what you want, judge. I know that Jesus is still my Savior and my Lord.’
"Well, the same thing is true for your covenant relationship with a spouse. Your marriage vows are sealed by God and they are just as permanent before Him. Even if a judge in a secular court tells you that your relationship with your spouse is over, it is God's opinion on the matter that counts, not the opinion of the secular court. No human being can make null and void what God has authorized or sealed. I believe strongly that if you will stand in faith before God and trust Him to restore what only He can restore, God will be faithful to the covenant vow have made. He will move heaven and Earth, if need be, to bring about the reconciliation of your covenant relationship with your spouse."
I especially encourage pastors to counsel those who come to them in the aftermath of a divorce, "as much as you may comfort the person who has a broken heart and is suffering from rejection, you also need to encourage the person to stand in faith for God to act on their behalf and do what no human being can do – restore the marriage." To do less than that will harm many subsequent generations more than we will ever know.
None of us really understands the full power of a covenant made before God.
None of us fully understands the power of faith, or the power of encouragement and love, or the power of forgiveness. None of us is capable of comprehending the infinite wisdom and power of God that works in mysterious ways to change the human heart and mouth the way bitterness, hatred, or anger. None of us is capable of grasping how God's love can transform a person so that a person is truly capable of loving, forgiving, and making the changes necessary for a marriage to be healed.
Our God is a great and powerful God, and awesome God who delights in transforming and perfecting the lives of those who will turn to Him, trust Him, and seek to walk in obedience and faith before Him.
I do not believe that as believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are ever to "give in" to divorce as an option. We are called, instead, to believe for relationships to be healed and marriages restored.
Through the years, I have been dismayed at the signs I have seen outside a number of churches: “Divorce Recovery." I want to tear down those signs and replace them with a sign that says "Marriage Recovery." Now, I'm not saying that those who aren't divorced should not be treated with compassion, kindness, and love. What I'm saying is that it's time for the church to show people how to recover, renew, or rebuild their covenant marriage before God, not recover from a secular dissolution of their marriage. I know that it grieves the Lord every time a Christian couple gives into the devil's temptation to cause and allow a divorce to occur. That is not God's best!
Two Things You Can Know in Certainty
When a time of struggle or difficulty comes our way, we often find ourselves filling confused. We often question things that we "thought" we knew. Let me assure you of two things that you can count on being true with absolute certainty.
Now I certainly am not and mindful that God has given us free will. God does not make us do anything, including reconciled with a spouse. What, it is always God's desire that to people who are married love each other and serve Him together as a couple. God always acts on behalf of restoration, healing, deliverance, and reconciliation – in other words, He never pulls people apart. He always acts to bring about wholeness and completion.
When marriages are not restored, the reason is that human will is fighting against God's sovereign plan.
At times people have said to me, "Aren’t you sad when you pray and believe and then don't see a marriage reconciled?”
“I am sad,” I respond. “But the reconciliation of the marriage is not my job. My job is to teach people about the power of having a covenant relationship with God in their marriage and to encourage people to trust God to heal their marriage relationship. It's my job to teach people the biblical basics about how to love and forgive each other and have a fully restored marriage. It's God's job to do the reconciling.”
There's nothing on this Earth that we can predict as human beings other than the fact that God will always be faithful to His Word, that He will always love every person infinitely and unconditionally, and that He will always offer the free gift of salvation and forgiveness to all who turned to Him and request His forgiveness. Everything else on this Earth is subject to God's plans and purposes – His deciding, His timing, His methods, His consequences, His judgment, His sovereignty.
I had to learn to trust God to do His work. "Standing" in faith for your marriage means to stand in love, not in criticism, condemnation, bitterness, hatred, anger, or rejection. One of my first books was titled, Standing in Love.
I also had to learn to trust God to use His methods in His timing. There are times when I lay hands on people and pray for their healing and nothing happens, at least not to the natural I. There are other times when I've laid hands on people and pray for their healing and God has miraculously intervened and healed the person. Sometimes healing is slow…sometimes fast. The same for marriages. There are times when I agreed in prayer and faith for God to restore a marriage and nothing has happened, at least not in the natural round in a timeframe that I've lived to see the results. There are other times when God has moved so quickly to bring about reconciliation that we all stood in amazement at the power of God to turn a heart and to heal a relationship so quickly.
One of the young man who works with me in the Covenant Marriages Ministry once said to me that he saw the implants we manufactured for TMJ patients as being like the role of a covenant in a marriage. The implants allow two bones that are supposed to connect and function well to do the work God intended. In similar fashion, covenant allows two people to connect and function well to undertake the ministry that God intends for them as a couple.
From one bone wearing down the adjacent bone…or from one spouse causing harm to the other spouse. Many times the spouses in a marriage generate friction – they wear away the love they once had for each other – and the result can be a great deal of pain and a total lack of communication, trusting, and relating as a couple. A renewal of understanding of their covenant relationship can help reinforce the relationship and restore an atmosphere of love and healing.
Let me remind you of the words of the prophet Jeremiah on this:
"They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul." (Jeremiah 32:38 – 41)
This word is what we need to continue to believe for our marriages! God is not enabled to accomplish all that He said in that wonderful verse.
Through the years I've encountered many people who believe that it takes "to" to make a marriage work. Yes…and no. In a marriage covenant before God, there are three entities involved: God, the husband, and the wife. Yes – it takes TWO to make a marriage work but the two involved maybe God and the wife, or God and the husband.
There are nonbelievers who make the marriage work – husband and wife in agreement. I've known a number of couples who have been married for several decades, are happy and satisfied in their marriages, and to have loving families…who don't know Jesus as their personal savior. They have agreed that they will stay married. Their agreement is what sustains their marriage when outward circumstances and situations become difficult.
The most blessed marriages I have seen are those in which all THREE parties to the marriage covenant are in agreement – God, husband, and wife. Those marriages are based upon God's order for marriage, with husband and wife each fulfilling their God-given roles. Those marriages are ones that have the fullness of God's blessing in their union and on their families. Those marriages are the ones that are the most satisfying and what influence others for Christ in the most dynamic ways. God's Word says plainly, "A threefold cord is weekend, but it is not broken as long as one spouse remains in full agreement with God's Word for the healing of the marriage. God Word also declares, "Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him." (ECC. 4:12)
If one person is in agreement with God, the covenant remains in effect. And God will continue to act as only He can act to bring the straying spouse back into marriage. The spouse who has rebelled against the covenant may continue to rebel. He or she may not respond quickly to God's presence, pressure, or the painful consequences that always follow rebellion. The rebellious spouse may experience tremendous discomfort. Their heart may become even harder, their problems may compound, their words and actions may become more strident or hateful. As long as to are in agreement together for the restoration of the covenant, God remains involved in a process of reconciliation no matter what it takes and for as long as it takes.
One person with God is always a majority.
Does this mean that all rebellious spouse is will return to a marriage? No. The rebellious spouse may never return. But this is certain, the rebellious spouse will experience consequences related to his or her rebellion, and those consequences will compound and multiply the longer the rebellion continues.
Again, I readily admit that human will is involved. God does not override human will… But He does do this: He causes a person who is resistant to His will and plan to become VERY miserable!
When Faith Suffers a Severe Blow
"But," you may be saying, "I just don't know if I have the faith to continue to stand for reconciliation or restoration. I don't know if I have the faith to continue to believe for God to ‘heal’ this break in my ministry or to restore this ‘loss’in my business."
When we find ourselves in a struggle, very often our faith suffers a severe blow. If you are feeling low on faith, I encourage you to do these three things:
To forgive means to "release" all hurt and bitterness from your heart. It means to turn all of your pain over to the Lord. It means to place the other person's life into the outstretched hands of our everlasting and loving Father, and to trust God to deal with the person in His way, in His timing, and using His methods.
To forgive means that you no longer act as judge or jury over the other person – you no longer attempt to exert any control over what should happen to that person. You no longer seek to influence anyone about how to respond to that person or act toward that person. To forgive is to totally "let go" of the other person in your emotions and by your will…and to "let God" takes charge.
To forgive isn't easy. Forgiveness strikes at the very core of our own pride – we usually want to have control over a situation, and we especially want to make certain that a person who wrongs us or hurt us is brought to justice. To forgive is to say humbly before the Lord, "I can't handle this. You take charge. You died for my sins. I trust You to do what is right for this person for whom you also died."
Forgiveness sometimes has to occur over time – every time an old hurt full memory rises to the surface, every time a new insult or incidence of rejection is experienced, every time there's either their remembrance or the experience of a harsh word…there’s a new opportunity to forgive.
To stand in faith means just that, it means to stand in faith and to trust God no matter what others say or do, no matter how bleak the circumstances may be, and no matter how much you hurt or suffer.
Standing in faith means to stand in love, forgiveness, and to express appreciation for the other spouse before God, your children, your friends, and any other person. You must choose to value the other person as a child of God and to speak well of that person. I cannot over emphasize that point about not speaking against your covenant partner or anyone else's covenant partner. Whenever I might get the chance to marry a couple, or remarried a couple, I always let those witnesses to the marriage no they are never to take sides and speak against what God has joined together.
Certainly that doesn't mean you are to be totally blind to their faults or to live in denial about the serious nature of sinful behaviors. Rather, it means that you are to affirm what you know to be God's opinion and feelings towards the other person. The matter what your spouse may have done to you, God has sent His only begotten, Jesus, to die for that person's sins. God loves your spouse. He desires to have a relationship with your spouse. He desires to heal your spouse and to make your spouse whole – physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and in all other ways. God desires to transform your spouse into the character likeness of Jesus Christ. He desires to feel your spouse with the Holy Spirit. He desires to manifest Himself through your spouse in loving and helpful words and acts to other people.
In speaking well and acting kindly toward your spouse, you are affirming all of these things that God says are true about His relationship with your spouse. You are believing for the best and focusing on what is good – even though the natural tendency as a human being may be to expect the worst and focus on what is wrong.
Let me summarize this for you:
These four principles certainly apply to every struggle, no matter its nature! They also apply to my situation with the FDA.
I had to make a renewed commitment that I was going to trust God in ALL things. Not only did I need to commit myself to trusting Him in the race without FDA, but in ALL areas of my life.
I had to walk in forgiveness when he came to those who seemed to be out to destroy my company and me.
I had to continue to believe for God's highest and best for my life. I had to do my best to encourage, build up, and appreciate my faithful coworkers, my spouse, and others who were running this race with me in faith.
God has a plan. Seek it out, and then walk it out.
Choosing to Be Chosen
in the early 1950s I had a patient who prayed for me to come to know Jesus as my personal Savior. I didn't know she was praying for me, but she prayed nonetheless. I am eternally grateful that she did so. As she prayed for me, the Lord reminded her very strongly of a verse of Scripture: "He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, Kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake." (Acts 9:15 – 16)
From the beginning of the Covenant Marriages Ministry that Lynne and I establish, I knew that I was chosen by God for just that purpose.
Now, being "chosen" doesn't mean that everything will be easy. David was anointed to be King…but for much of the next decade he literally was on the run for his life because of the persecutions of King Saul.
Elisha and Elisha were chosen to be prophets…but each of these man experienced recurring threats on their lives. The same was true for Jeremiah and many of the other prophets.
Jesus was sent as the only begotten Son of God…but He suffered on the cross, and prior to the cross, was ridiculed by His critics, misunderstood by His family, abandoned by His closest friends, and rejected by countless thousands who found His message too difficult.
The verses above parentheses acts 9:15 – 16), show to my patient friend about me were, in the historical context, a word from the Lord about Saul, who became the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul accomplished great things for the furtherance of the kingdom of God. He preached a powerful message that was a "new" message to the vast majority of those who heard it. Paul also endured more persecutions and perhaps any person in the history of Christianity. In defending his role as an apostle to the believers in Corinth, he wrote:
Are they Hebrews? So am. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? – I speak as a full – I am more: in laborers more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received 40 stripes -1. Three times I was be in with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils of the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and oil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting is often, in cold and nakedness – beside the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:22 – 28)
I don't know anyone who has endured so much pain, suffering, discomfort, or misunderstanding as the apostle Paul. All of that, however, he considers to be "of little account" compared to the glories of knowing Jesus as his savior, serving the Lord in obedience, and experiencing the strength of the Lord in his times of weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10.)
Is Every Person Chosen
Is every person chosen by God for some task or will on this Earth? Absolutely yes!
You may never have thought of yourself as being "chosen" but let me assure you today, you have been chosen. The crucial issue is your choosing your having been chosen.
Do you have to accept God's purpose and plan for your life? Is it an automatic "given" that just because God has chosen you for a task that you have no say about what happens to you? The answer to both questions is "no."
You do not have to accept what God has ordained for you as your purpose on this earth. Williams of people have refused God's plan for their lives. God has given every human being a measure of free will. He allows each of us to exercise our free will in three major areas:
One: We are given free will to accept or reject God's offer of mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Two: We are given free will to accept or reject His Old the Spirit and guidance, comfort, and power that the Holy Spirit offers to give us on a daily basis.
Three: We are given free will to accept or reject the tasks and relationships that God places into our lives. We sometimes called the "tasks" that God puts in our path our "calling" or our "ministry." In truth, every calling or ministry is a series of very specific tasks – incidents of going to specific places, giving a specific message, doing a certain deed, brain in a specific way, and so forth.
Free will has some limitations. We do not have free will to destroy God's ultimate plans and purposes. We do not have absolute free will to wipe out God's name from a place, to destroy God's prophets, or to keep God's will from being manifested. There are many instances in the Bible where God allowed a rebellion, or a sinful person or group of people to exercise their free will "only so far" before they suffered Dyer or deadly consequences. For example, the sons of Korah, part of the Israelites under Moses’ authority, were allowed to foment rebellion against Moses for only so long before the Earth literally opened up and swallowed them, their families, and their tents and their possessions. (See NUM. 16:1 – 35.)
God continually invites us to choose what He has chosen for us. His rewards go to those who obey His commands, fulfill His calllings, speak out to His messages, and become pure vessels or delivering His divine gifts.
Jonah was a person who said "no" to God's chosen role for him. Jonah was called to be a prophet and he specifically was appointed to the task of going to the great Assyrian capital city, Nineveh, and once there, to "cry out" to the people about their sinfulness and their need for repentance. Rather than carry out this set of tasks, Jonah boarded a ship for Tarshish, about 2000 miles away from Nineveh. Tarshish was about as far as a Jewish person at that time new to travel – it would be like ours saying, “I'm going to the end of the Earth," basically to reject God's plan.
As Jonah traveled, God sent a great storm that tossed the ship about the sea to the point that it was about to break apart. The Mariners on the boat with Jonah cast lots to see why this great storm had come upon them and the lot fell on Jonah. They confronted him, saying, "Please tell us! For whose cause is this trouble upon us?" Jonah admitted his of rebellion against God. They asked, "What shall we do to you?” Jonah replied, "Pick me up and throw me into the sea." They did just so and just as Jonah had prophesied to them, the sea became calm.
The Bible says that the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Only then did Jonah prayed to the Lord and agree to obey God's call on his life. Immediately, the fish vomited Jonah onto dry land. (See Jonah 1 – 2.)
Again, the Lord said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." (JON. 3:2) This time, Jonah chose God's calling. He called out God's message throughout Nineveh. The people of Nineveh – including the King – believed God, proclaimed a fast, put on a sackcloth, and repented before God. God saw their works and their hearts and spared them great disaster.
Let me point out to specific things to you from this example of Jonah.
One: How Do You Respond to God's Calling Determines Your Blessing, or Your Misery. Jonathan had the free will to refuse God's calling, but as long as he did so, his life was miserable. He had no joy, he had no peace, no safety or security, and little awareness of God's presence with him. He said to the Lord from the fish's belly, "I have been cast out of your sight." (Jonah 2:4)
We may choose to refuse what God has chosen for us, but in doing so, we put ourselves in the same position of rebellion as Jonah. All of the consequences associated with rebellion become a possibility in our lives. Rebellion ultimately is a matter of refusing to obey what you know God has said to you. Let me share just a few of the consequences of disobedience with you:
Nothing good ever is associated with rebellion! There is no blessing, no prosperity, no wholeness, and no salvation for those who choose to live their way instead of God's way. This is not only true when it comes to the eternal matters of salvation – it is true in our daily, practical walk through life. God does not honor disobedience, He does not wink at sin, He does not pour out the fullness of His blessing on those who willfully turn away from Him.
On the other hand, all good is associated with obedience and a joyful "diligence" in doing what God has said. The blessings of God are very opposite of the things I listed above:
God's word is very "black and white" on matters of obedience and rebellion. The choice is ours. We are the ones who determine the state of our lives – whether we will live in misery or blessing – a courting to our willing to obey God's call with our whole heart, mind, and soul.
TWO: God's Calling Does Not Change. God does not change His mind because we refuse His calling. God's will for Jonah was this: Preach in message of repentance in Nineveh. God's will for Jonah did not change because Jonah rebuilt. The Bible tells us that "the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time" – and the message from God the second time was exactly the same as the message the first! (See Jonah 1:2 and 3:2.)
God's methods or "routing" may change – in other words, the "path" to accomplishing the goal may become a slightly different path if we were fell from God's original plan and then later opiate. God's original method for Jonah did not include Jonah taking the "sea” route to Nineveh – only the land route north to this a Syrian stronghold. But God's principal and God's purpose NEVER change. God Word plainly states, "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:29)
Three: God Calls Us First, and Then Equips Us. From the world standpoint, I'm sure I was not the most qualified person to develop a medical device company. But God called me to do it, and then He gave me the insights, designs, and ability to succeed at it.
From the world standpoint, I was not the most qualified person to preach about God's covenant related to marriage. But God called me to do it and He has taught me what it is I him to share with others.
We need to recognize that there is no "set patterns" about who God calls or why. There is no automatic "criteria" for leadership. God chose a number of people to lead the Israelites who were not remotely qualified in the eyes of the majority – they probably would have failed to win a popularity poll. Moses was regarded by the Egyptians as a murderer and a traitor to Egypt for having killed and Egyptians lave super visor. David was an adulterer. Gideon was so afraid of the enemy he was threshing grain in a wine press and night to avoid being detected.
God sees what man does not see. This certainly was evident when the prophet and high priest Samuel was sent to anoint a new King for Israel. God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse, and Samuel, as spiritual as he was, was quite happy to anoint the first sign that came into his presence. The LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as a man; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
God sees what He has given to you as your basic gifts and talents. He calls on you to His. And then He equips you with that out her skills, successes, and the abilities to complete the task.
Four: we must be willing to be a "doormat for Christ" If That Is What God Calls Us to Be! We live in an age in which we believe it is always wrong to be a "doormat." There are times, however, when the Lord asks us to swallow our pride and to make ourselves available to be of use to other people. The fact is, a doormat is a very useful device! A doormat keeps "dirt" from being tracked word shouldn't be. As Christians, we sometimes need to listen to people vent their anger, problems, or hurts so they don't carry those emotions or hurts into other relationships or circumstances.
The differences that we choose to make ourselves available to others. We may choose to be a doormat because the Lord has impressed upon us at being a doormat is an act of genuine service. What we are not called to do is to allow sinful people to use us for their purposes of advancing evil. It is one thing to be a doormat for Christ…it’s quite another thing to become a doormat that the devil uses.
In the middle 1980s, Lynne and I were driving in Ukiah, a small northern California town. I had established an oral maxillofacial surgical practice their and we were ministering to others the love and the word that God has placed in us about God's desire and ability to restore broken marriages.
When Saturday evening as we were about to retire to our bedroom, the phone rings. As an oral maxillofacial surgeon I was quite accustomed to late-night phone calls, on this particular night I was not anxious to because third. I was tired and was looking forward to getting some much-needed sleep.
The call was from a young woman who had five children and was believing for the restoration of God's love in her marriage. She had attended several of the Friday evening meeting we conducted where we talk biblical principles for strengthening marriages Erie it I could tell immediately from the tone of her voice that she was experiencing a crisis. Her husband had just informed her that he was going to out of their home during the next two days to live with a woman he had met several hundred miles away. This young wife was devastated at his decision and had attempted to convince her husband to stay with her. They had been discussing the situation for about an hour when she called.
The last thing Lynne and I wanted to do was to travel 20 miles to Minister a rebellious husband. Nevertheless, I asked the woman if her husband would be willing to have us speak with him. She said he would be willing, gave us directions for getting to their house, and Lynne and I set out.
The directions call for us to drive 15 miles on a paved mountain road until we came to a turnoff onto a dirt road that would take us up the mountain to a home 5 miles into the words. The woman had agreed to meet us at the junction of these two roads so we could find our way in the dark. By this time it was nearly 11 o'clock tonight.
When we met the woman, she informed us that her husband has changed his mind and decided he did not want to meet with us. Well, the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart to the contrary and I firmly said her, "We are following you."
As we drove up to the front of their home, I could see the husband lying on his bed dressed only in his underwear. It took several minutes for his wife to convince them to put on some clothes and meet with us. As soon as he entered the room it was obvious he had been drinking.
After the usual but limited formalities, I began to question him about his plans. He told me he had fallen out of love with his wife and was leaving for a "new love." I begin to address the situation with God Word and with His love. After about an hour, the man's hardened heart begin to soften and we let him in a sinner's prayer and he accepted Jesus as his Savior and made a commitment to follow Jesus as his Lord. We allowed him to repent for the sin that he had committed and the heartache he had even unknowingly afflicted on his life.
Every new forced what I had said about the harm that would come upon his life and his family if he abandoned them. No great breakthrough occurred in their marriage before we left at evening, but both Lynne and I felt at peace that God was at work. We got home about 1:30 AM, exhausted but grateful to God for the opportunity to share His Word and to lead a person to salvation. We knew we had done all that God had asked us to do.
A couple days later the wife called and told us her husband had changed his plans and was going to stay at home and try to make things right with her. We rejoiced with her! Over the next year or two, we continued to receive group words from her that the marriage and family were doing well.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Because I believe there are several principles in this experience that relate to all of us as Christians.
First, the main "credential" any of us has is our relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is on the basis of our relationship with him that we make ourselves available to the Lord to be used in whatever ways He desires to use this!
Lynne and I didn't knock on doors, seeking people to help. We didn't advertise our services as "marriage experts.” We simply make ourselves available to the Lord, saying, "God, use us in whatever way You want and whenever You want."
Second, we must be quick to act when the Lord gives us opportunities to minister to others. On that particular night it would have been extremely easy for us to say, "Call us in the morning." who knows how different the outcome might have been if we had taken that route?
Third, we must listen closely to what the Holy Spirit directs us to do. Standing out in the middle of nowhere in the dark, listening to a woman save her husband had "changed his mind" about our coming, could have been taken as a signal that "now is not the time." The Holy Spirit let us otherwise – "now is precisely the time." Listen closely when others try to discourage you or to send you a message that the good word God desires for you to share is unnecessary or unwanted.
Fourth, a spiritual problem is at the foot of virtually all problems in the natural, physical, or relational rounds. If a person is coming against you, refusing to hear God’s Word or to acknowledge God's truth, in all likelihood that person does not have a solid relationship with the Lord. He or she is very likely unsaved and needs to be born again.
How does this relate to you in your current struggle or difficulty?
Recognize that the circumstance in which you find yourself it's an opportunity for you to make yourself available to the Lord and to say, "Lord, use me in whatever ways You desire in this circumstance."
Then, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Listen closely and do what he tells you to do!
Trust God with the “Whole” of Your Life
From a human standpoint, there is no reason to ever link a medical device company and a marriage restoration ministry. I said to the Lord more than once, "You gave me two tough ones! TMJ problems are difficult help. Marriages are difficult to restore. The only thing these two entities seem to have in common is this ‘difficulty factor’!”
There may be very little conceptual link to what God leads you to do as a career and with God leads you to do as a ministry. The link is going to be your life. You – with your unique need set of gifts, talents, gills, abilities, personality, and interests – are the ones God will use and reward. It's what He has built into you at results in the success of your career and the success your ministry.
Don't wait for an obvious "Association" to appear between your business and your outreach to others. Look into your heart. What has God placed within you? What are your desires, your interests, your experiences? What are the areas of passionate interest and compassionate care?
I am a fully certified oral surgeon.
I am an ordained minister.
I am the CEO of a medical device company.
How can I keep these roles separate? I don't. I am why — the Lord knows the many facets of my life and to Him they work together as a whole. It's only we human beings who divide ourselves according to various labels and "job descriptions." As you enter our medical device company, for example, you will see these words prominently displayed on the wall: "To know Him and to make Him known." That is my purpose in life, and therefore, it is the purpose of all I do, including the medical device company.
A number of years ago when I was working as an oral surgeon in Ukiah, California, I heard about a boy who is suffering from brain cancer. His physicians had given Matthew just a matter of a few weeks left to live. The Lord let me know I was to pray for his healing. Matthew and I, however, had never met.
I had met Matthew's mother about a year and a half previously and she was experiencing some difficulties in her marriage. We had met and prayed together, and I had led her to the Lord. I was not a total stranger to her, although I had never met her husband, Matthew, or any of her other children.
Then came the evening – a month after the Lord let me know I was to pray for Matthew – when I saw this woman and her family at a local Denny's restaurant. She recognized me, and as she came to our table with her family, the Lord let me know again that I was to lay hands on Matthew and pray for him. Before that, however, I was to minister the boy’s father, who I knew was unsaved. I shared with this man every instance of healing that I could recall Jesus doing and I concluded, "And He sent His Word and healed them all." We then joined hands for prayer over Matthew.
As we prayed, I had absolutely no doubt that Matthew was healed. There was such a heavy presence of the Lord in that restaurant that, looking back, I wish I had stood in preach a message of salvation to all those who were dying there. I feel a certain number of people would have been saved!
I didn't see this woman or Matthew for about a year and a half. Whenever Lynne and I ministered across America I told the story of Matthew's complete killing that very evening. The day we saw each other again was the day that Matthew had been in for the results of his final CT scan. There was no evidence of cancer!
An oral surgeon holding a prayer meeting at Denny's restaurant is not the norm!
It's not unusual for me to be preparing a television segment for Covenant Marriages Ministry and to be interrupted several times to read x-rays, check the model for a prosthetic device, or handle phone calls related to a particular TMJ case in a faraway city or nation. That's all in a days work as far as I'm concerned. I can't say brigade my professional work as an oral surgeon for my ministry work. The various aspects of my life make up the whole of who I am and what I him to be on this Earth.
I believe that is the way, God intended for our lives to function. He didn't call us to be Christians only on Sunday or only at church. He calls us to be Christians, and obeyed His leading, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
No matter what skills the Lord has led you to acquire in your life…no matter what type of ministry gifts the Lord has given you…the Lord expects you to ye old all to Him. All gifts and all: and all talents and all opportunities come from Him. We give back to the Lord our availability and willingness to obey. He is the One who blends who we are with the tasks to be done for the purpose of accomplishing His plans and purposes on earth. What a wonderful adventure lies before us when we choose to obey the Lord with all that we have and all that we are! It's exciting to see what He brings our way in any given day. Just the way a person does his or her work can be a great witness to others. I recently heard about one woman who had three people come to her and say, "We know you are a Christian." She couldn't think of anything she had done that might have led them to that conclusion. She asked, "How do you know that?" They replied, "We've been watching you and listening to the way you talk. You never swear and you never use that language or tell dirty jokes. You smile at every person you meet even people who aren't very nice."
She was amazed that these simple actions, which she considered to be of virtually no account to a Christian witness, had led these coworkers to conclude that she was a follower of Jesus Christ. She said, "I admit it. I do try to follow Jesus Christ, who is my Savior. Why do you ask?"
They said to her, "Because we have been talking and we want what you have." She had a wonderful opportunity to lead these three coworkers to Christ during their lunch hour that very day!
You never can tell how and when and with whom the Lord will seek to use you on any given day. Make yourself available to Him and see what happens!
One day I encountered a woman I knew to be a fellow Christian and I greeted her a calling her name and then I asked, "How are you?" She immediately took my hand, dissolved into tears, and proceeded to tell me her troubles at length. There was just something in the way I asked a simple three word question that gave her the open door she needed to vent her pain and then to receive words of prayer and counsel so that Christ might begin a healing process in her.
Did she care that I was an oral surgeon? No. Did she care or even know that I had developed prosthetic devices to help people with TMJ problems? Perhaps, but it wasn't at all important to her in the moment. Did she ask to see my credentials as a licensed minister of gospel? No. What this woman needed was a caring Christian who would pray with her, share versus from God's Word with her, and believe with her that God had a plan for her healing and wholeness, and a plan for the healing and wholeness of her family.
See Healing Gets God's Work
Let me give you one additional word about healing from my experiences as both an oral surgeon and as a minister. Ultimately, God is the healer. No surgeon heals. No minister heals. God heals.
Does God heal every time a person receives prayer for healing? No. I've been healed by the Lord on occasion, and on other occasions, I have not been healed of certain ailments.
But as an oral surgeon, I know this – no surgeon "heals" a patient and not all surgeons are successful. A surgeon may rearrange, remove, or implant tissue or devices… a position may prescribe medication or therapeutic treatments…a hospital staff may do its utmost to prevent infections and to provide an environment that is conducive to healing…but in the end, it is God and God alone who heals.
While many people believe only in prayer and healing through "faith," others believe only in medicine. The fact is, God heals through multiple methods. We need to retain our confidence that not only can God heal, but God desires to heal, because God's ultimate purpose is to bring us to wholeness.
Wholeness includes balance and health – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, relationally, and above all, spiritually. God always does what is most effective in conforming us to the image of Christ Jesus.
I mentioned in an earlier chapter that I once had three surgeries on my back. Some years after the surgery on my back, God let me know that my back would be healed by Him. It occurred in 1984 in Jack Hayford's Church on the Way during a Sunday service. God used BOTH methods to bring me a complete healing – surgery and prayer worked together for "wholeness" in my back.”
How do I know I was "made whole?”After my back killing, I operated the ranch in Oregon. We build about 400 tons of a a year. I probably build every bale of hay 2 to 3 times in the course of the harvest and subsequent use of the hay in feeding our cattle. That simply isn't possible with serious back problems. A second clear point of evidence to me is the fact that I can ski. I didn't take up skiing until I was 70 years old, which was several years ago, but I enjoyed skiing a great deal and am a pretty fair skier at the time I'm writing this. Again, this isn't what happens to people with lingering or perpetual back problems!
Ask God to make you "whole." Trust Him to do work that only He can do.
Ministry or Business?
Let me also address the issue of whether it is more "Christian" to run a business or have a ministry. Neither is more valuable than the other before God.
The ministry of running a company is just as potent as a ministry of teaching people about the covenant relationship a couple has in marriage. Through the years I have had numerous opportunities to minister to people with whom I have conducted business, and at the TMJ Implants Inc. Headquarters, we have a very strong Christian witness in the artwork and artifacts we have on display. I believe there is also a Christian witness in the products we manufacture and supply to hospitals and surgeons.
In my experience, a ministry is a very wonderful place to give people good business principles – and a ministry should certainly reflect the highest and most financially sound and godly business practices. A business is also a very wonderful place to spread the gospel!
Here's just one example of something that happened at TMJ Implants Inc.
a number of years ago we were audited by the IRS. The agent in charge of the body it was a friendly woman in her 60s whom I'll call Gail. We gave her a nice office in which to work at the TMJ Implants headquarters, and did our best to treat her well. From time to time, I'd have brief, pleasant conversations with Gail, who always seemed to be very glad to have "set up shop" in our place of business.
As Gail begin to go through our books for the years in question, she discovered that our auditor for that year had made an error and we owed some $30,000 in back taxes. We quickly acknowledged that a mistake had been made.
The discovery of that error, which was a simple case of not transferring a number from one ledger page to another, seemed to prompt Gail to continue her probe deeper and deeper, over wider and wider areas that were not covered in the initial audit request.
When Gail's presence in our midst past the one-year mark, I realized that Gail was trying to reinvent the wheel when it came to the way we conducted business and Our business ledgers. I began to pray about what I should do in this situation and the Lord prompted the idea in my heart that I should relocate Gail to a work area that was a little less "comfortable." I had been reluctant to move her, even though we really did need the nicer office in which she had been working to provide a good to new employees. Then, every weeks later the Lord impressed very strongly on my heart that TODAY was the day I was to lead Dale to the Lord. I asked one of my associates to pray for me as I went to talk with her.
I grabbed my Bible and went to her office and said, "Hey, Gail, the Lord wants me to talk to you about Him and to lead you to Him today.”
She said, "Oh, okay." I sat down and talked to her and let her to Christ Jesus. It was a time of great rejoicing. When I shared what had happened with an associate who had been praying for me, he said, "The Lord probably center here just so we could lead her to Him. Now shall probably leave." And within two weeks that's exactly what happened!
Later, the IRS sent another agent to the office and this agent couldn't believe how much time Gail has spent, or how much she had overstepped the bounds of her instructions related to the audit. This agent quickly closed down the audit; he paid the bill owed, and went down the road. The final statement with the IRS was for less than 1/10 of the amount that she was pressing for.
I was grateful to have the auto completed…but also grateful to have the opportunity to lead Gail to Jesus Christ.
Now, from the world's perspective of "political correctness," I did just about everything "wrong" in this case. It didn't seem at all expedient or wise from the world standpoint to give this IRS agent a nice office space and then take it away, or to walk boldly into this woman's work space and talk to her about Jesus Christ. I knew deep in my heart, however, that I was doing precisely what the Lord wanted me to do. And in the end, my obedience to the Lord was what mattered. He used what I did to bring about HIS purposes and a conclusion that was to my benefit and Gail’s.
That's the way the Lord has worked in my life again and again. He has always proved Himself faithful to His Word. Often, He has asked me to do things that didn't make sense from a rational, political astute perspective. Perhaps the Lord recognizes that I am willing to obey Him even if His Commandments seem a little foolish in the eyes of the world. Every time I am obeyed that deep inner problem doing that I have come to recognize as God's voice, He has honored His Word fully and to someone's eternal benefit – as well as to my earthly benefit and earthly reward!
See Your Struggle in the Light of God's Wholeness
I encourage you today to see the struggle in which you are engaged as involving the "whole" of your life. It isn't just your marriage…or your health…or your career…or your business…or your ministry. The WHOLE of you is impacted by whatever it is that you are battling or enduring.
Also see that God intends to use the struggle in your life to bring you to great wholeness, spirit, mind, body, emotions, relationships, and finances. His benefits are always for the WHOLE of you. Trust God to make you stronger, more vibrant, and more effective AFTER this struggle than you ever were before!
That certainly has been and is our experience in the aftermath of the difficulties we had relating to the FDA
Making the Decision to Quit or Stay The Course
Throughout the entire experience with the FDA approval process, I knew that part of the reason God had me in this situation was because He knew I would refuse to quit the battle once it was engaged. There were countless reasons, some of them very compelling and seemingly "good" reasons, to give up the fight, closed the company, shut down the ministry, and retire with a modicum of these. That would have been easy to do.
When a person faces a decision such as that, however, there are two things that always must be considered.
What Has God Said?
First, we need to ask, "What has God said?" That's the overriding and most important question I asked at times when I felt the most discouraging or puzzled as to what to do. Had God called me to establish the medical device company and to establish a long cited a marriage – restoration ministry – yes, or no?
As I have stated previously, I have absolutely no doubt that God had called me to establish both TMJ Implants Inc. and Covenant Marriages Ministry, and to put them together in a unique way that once supported the other in financial and spiritual ways. Had God told me it was time to stop the company and ministry? No. Therefore, I had to come to the conclusion that God wanted me to continue on the path He had set before me.
Again and again, as various once prayed and spoke wise counsel into our lives, God seemed to be saying, "I'm with you. Continue on." There was never any burning desire or driving reason to stop what God had led us to start.
Did God lead you to do what you were doing? Did He lead you to start that particular degree program… to marry that particular person…to adopt that special-needs child…to pursue that career…to build that retreat center? I don't know what God is leading you to do but I know this – He has been leading and is leading you to do something with your life. If you are sure that you are doing might He lead you to start, then the question to ask when difficulties arise is, "Has God changed His directive?"
If the Lord is good enough to tell us when to begin a new venture to bring glory to His name, He certainly is good enough to tell us precisely when to end a particular venture.
I am aware that various enterprises in this life have a divinely appointed "season." I know from my days of working a ranch that there our growing seasons for various crops. Some things have a beginning and an ending. Ultimately, all things do, of course. Our lives have a beginning and an ending. Therefore our careers and ministries do. There are appointed times for various aspects of life. The Bible says this so eloquently in ECCLESIASTES 3:1 – 8:
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.
Our challenge is to go to the Lord and ask, "What time is it? Is this the time to make war…or peace? Is this the time to plant…or pluck what is plant it? Is it a time to keep silence…or a time to speak?"
So often we ask the Lord, "What should I do?" But then we fail to ask Him the second vitally important question, "When should I do what You’ve told me to do?" God has a way, a means, a method for the accomplishment of all that He purposes. He has a perfect time a bull. He uses people in virtually all that He purposes for us. We need to ask the Lord very specifically:
If we are willing to wait patiently for the fullness of God's answers to these questions, we will save ourselves a great many detours and mistakes. That does not mean that we are to sit and do nothing until we have ALL the details of a plan from its start to its completion. It does mean that we are to wait until we know the NEXT STEP God has for us to take. God reveals His plans and purposes one day at a time, one step at a time. Any time we come to a decision making, choice making, idea developing crossroad in our lives, we should ask the Lord which way to go and how to proceed.
Most of us are quick to seek God and to listen intently to what God may be saying to us if we sense that God is asking us to START something. Very few people, however, seem to listen that intensely about God's timing when it comes to STOPPING something. The Lord gives just as much direction, however, about stopping as He does starting.
I have met a number of people through my life who have started and pursued both brilliant careers and green ministries. Not one person has told me that at the time they started their career or ministry, all the financing was in place, all the people were in place, the economy or the political climate was perfect, or that their personal lives were fully in order. Rather, they have told me that they truly had deep within was a burning desire and a willingness to trust God to help them walk out the dream that God has placed in their heart.
I believe this is the same way we need to approach the stopping of anything that God has led us to start. There needs to be an equally burning desire and urgency to stop, change, move, redirect, or in some way change the course we are following. We must not let negative circumstances dictate what we do. We must not let opposition shut down what God has started in us and through us. We must not throw up our hands and say, "Well, things are getting a little difficult, the resources are dwindling fast, I'm getting older, and therefore, it must be time to quit." No! Quick to only when GOD says it's time for you to quit doing something.
Recognize, too, that when God says it's time to make a change, He rarely cause a person to flat-out QUIT. Rather, He calls a person to "do something else." God may redirect one's energy and talents and abilities, but He doesn't "shut him or her down." It's the enemy's work to diminish us, to steal, kill, and destroy us. God's work is to build us up, use us, enrich us, in large us, and bless us abundantly. (See JOHN 10:10.)
God does not take people from demise to demise, but rather from grace to grace and from glory to glory. His path is always upward and onward. He takes His people from height to height. There's no place in the Bible where God says that there comes a time for a person to take their ease, put up their feet, and do nothing. The Bible gives the very opposite of that message – there's always a call to expansion, to give more, to winning more souls, to praying more, to study the Scriptures more, and to be a greater blessing.
The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Length in your records,
And strengthen your stakes,
For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.
(IS. 54: 2-3)
Who Is Being Helped?
There is a second important question to consider when we face difficulties or intense struggles that are related to our life purpose: “Who is being helped?”
God calls his people to be a blessing. That was the great challenge given to the Israelites, beginning with their ancestor Abraham. God said to Abraham, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Genesis 12:2 – 3)
God’s pattern through the centuries has remained, "Blessed… To be a blessing."
There are times when we face extreme difficulties that we are wise to ask, “Who is being blessed?” Related questions might include:
I recognized that as I faced the difficulties being hurled at us by the FDA, I could quit…and the only people who would be truly BLESSED by that decision would be me and my immediate family. We would be the only people who would walk away with any degree of financial well-being. But the truth is we were committing all of our resources to help get this company through the attack of the enemy. There was NO turning back! But the question also loomed, "Would we be spiritually blessed by giving up what God has called us to do?" The answer to that question was "no."
On the other hand, who would be blessed if we remained in the business and therefore, continued the ministry?
In the first place, all those who were employed at TMJ Implants Inc. And Covenant Marriages Ministry would be blessed – both financially and spiritually. But if we were successful, Lynne and I would be most blessed.
In the second place, those who were the recipients of the devices reproduced at TMJ Implants would be blessed. I can't begin to tell you how debilitating TMJ devices and other jaw replacement devices we have created, have likened the change in their well-being to a "miracle.” I believe in many ways we are in the miracle producing business. We are putting a stop to degenerative, debilitating, and destructive process in their body and giving these patients facial mobility, a better ability to communicate and to eat, and a new hope for life without abiding pain and discomfort.
In the third place, those who have been helped or blessed by the messages of Covenant marriages Ministry would continue to be blessed. The years we have had countless reports from people who have watched our television programs, received our literature, and logged onto our website, telling us that we had given them just the right counsel or encouragement to stand strong for their marriage, and God had given to them both the love and wisdom about how to trust Him to restore, rebuild, and truly to reconcile their marriage relationship.
Certainly the opposite of blessing is "cursing." We could also have asked about the shedding down of TMJ Implants Inc. and Covenant Marriages Ministry, "Who would be hurt?" or, "Who would we fail to help?" The answer: all those who might still benefit from our medical devices and our marriage message!
Blessing is not just about who HAS been blessed Thomas but about who God still desires to bless! That's true in the natural – in our case, with a physical device for the temporomandibular joint, and in the spiritual – in our case, with a ministry message specifically aimed at helping people stay married and avoid divorce. Who will be blessed in the future by our company? Those who in the future will need our medical devices!
Who will be blessed in the future by our ministry? Untold numbers of husbands, wives, and children!
Is it the vision of who still might be helped that, in part, keeps us enthusiastic and eager to win the race.
The Importance of Obedience and Vision
The answer to the two questions above produces one or two outcomes:
Rebellion and self-focus
Obedience and generosity
These two outcomes are very different, and I believe it is helpful as you face difficulties and struggles to record ninth the full consequences of the choice to quit or to continue (which includes the choice to continue in a revised direction).
The person who quits doing what God has authorized and helped a person to do is a person who move into rebellion against God's plan. He may not do this consciously, but the result is rebellion nonetheless. Rebellion is always a very negative state in God's word:
Certainly when I referred to be rebellious against God, I am not referring to starting and then stopping things that were your own choosing or human wisdom. We all make errors in judgment and we all miss manage our time, money, and affections at times – and when we realized our errors, we are wise to correct them! Also, there's nothing rebellious about joining a community service club and then dropping that membership after a few years of service…there’s nothing rebellious about taking up golf and then quitting golf…there’s nothing rebellious about moving from one neighborhood to another or from one city to another. UNLESS God told you to join our club, take up golf, or remain where He put you!
I had no rebellion against God’s commands me when I purchased a ranch in Oregon and later sold that ranch, started a surgical practice in North California and later gave up that practice, or took up flying and later gave up flying. Those were decisions I made in my limited human wisdom and according to my personal preference and desires. They were not commands from God. Where we need to be extremely careful is when we are dealing with those things that God has commanded us to do, or authorized us to do. Anything that relates to a covenant or a command of God is not something we can lay aside!
Your God-Given Vision. If you lay aside something God has commanded you to DO, you will lose your "vision" for who God has called you to BE. The Lord calls us to engage in certain act TVs and ministries not only so we can be a blessing to others, but so that we might become all that He created us to be. God works THROUGH us, and also IN us. He is always molding and making us into the person with whom He wants to spend eternity.
At times, God may take us back to Ground Zero, but when He does that, He does so with a purpose of rebuilding us so we truly can regain our focus, redirect our energies toward His goals for us, and fulfill our reason for being. The same is true for the companies and ministries He leads us to establish. At times, God reduces us – or prunes us – so we could become MORE fruitful in the future. From the outside looking in, it may appear that God is destroying us because the pruning is so severe. From God's perspective, however, he is preparing us for a brighter future and a GREATER mission.
The Lord taught this lesson to the prophet Jeremiah:
The Lord which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: "Arise and go to the potter's House, and there I will cause you to hear My words." Then I went down to the potter's House, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand.” (JER. 18:1-6)
If you lay down the vision that God has called you to pursue, you will be cutting short your purpose on this Earth and you will become greatly discouraged deep within your soul, perhaps even to the point of being depressed. On the other hand, if you allow God to renew your vision for what He has called you to do – if you catch sight again of the command He gave you and the goals He set before you – you will have a renewed energy and drive to accomplish His purpose. In the end, you not only will be a blessing to others, but you will experience deep inner satisfaction, joy, and meaning for your life.
There have been a number of times and areas in my life which I have failed. But I know this – I have not failed when it has come to being obedience to the best of my ability in establishing TMJ Implants Inc. and Covenant Marriages Ministry. These commands of God on my life were and are "non-negotiables." They are at the very core of the reason God made me and continues to allow me to live on this Earth.
Do you feel that way about the work and ministry which God has placed you today?
When God Calls You to Fight
So many people believe that Christians are to roll over and play possum in any kind of conflict. They take Jesus’ admonition and "turn the other cheek."
There are numerous instances in the Bible in which God authorized His people to pursue an enemy that had come up against them.
One of those instances involved David and his band of men who were on the run from an angry and jealous King Saul. David was on his way home to their encampment at Ziklag and he arrived to find the Amalekites had attacked the small city and burned it. The Amalekites had taken captive the women, along with their sons and daughters.
When David and his men arrived on the scene and saw what happened, they "lifted up their voices and wept, until they had known more power to weep." They were totally consumed by sorrow and grief. David, who's to wives Abinoam and Abigail had been taken captive, was "greatly distressed" – not only at the taking of his wives but because his own men were threatening to stone him, blaming him for the capture of their loved ones.
What did David do? A bit did two things that are of tremendous importance to any person who is fighting a battle for something that is precious and "of God."
Strength in Yourself in the Lord
The first thing David did was this: he "strengthen himself in the LORD his God." ( 1SAM. 30:6) Most Bible scholars believe that meant David spent some time alone before the Lord, singing praise and songs and putting his entire focus on the Lord.
The Bible tells us that honor, Majesty, strength, and gladness are to be found wherever the Lord's salvation and glory are greatly praised. (See 1 Corinthians 16:23 – 27.) The Bible also admonishes us:
Do not be wise in our own eyes;
Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7 – 8)
One of the Psalms attributed to David begins:
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? (PS. 27:1)
David knew that praise to the Lord – exalting Him as Savior, Deliverer, Healer, the Almighty God who was capable of creating and restoring all things – not only brought about a renewal of his physical strength, but also his emotional strength. Praise resulted in energy and confidence and courage.
Certainly this is true for us today. Show me any person who spends concentrated time praising the Lord and I'll show you a person who has strong faith. All also show you a person who is receptive to God's healing power, strong in body and spirit, and who has tremendous courage in taking on the devil and his minions. Praise is the key to STRENGTH.
Notice especially that David did not act in knee-jerk "retaliation." He did not pursue the enemy in the heat of spirit of revenge.
Revenge steps a person's strength. It drains away important emotional, spiritual, and physical energy that is of great importance in taking on an enemy – whether it is confronting the enemy of our souls in prayer or meeting with a natural enemy in a courtroom, a conversation, or any other form of confrontation.
If you are being assaulted, you must take the time to prepare yourself for a godly response. In nearly all cases, there is a time to do this. Don't speak or act in haste. Don't flesh out in anger or with a spirit of vengeance.
Seek Specific Direction from the Lord
The second thing David did was to call for the priest and two and choir of the Lord, "Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?" The answer came in a prophetic utterance from the priest, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all." (See 1 SAM 30:1 –8)
David's pursuit of those who had burned his town and captured all the wives and children was not a rash, hurried decision. David took time to calm his heart before the Lord and to remind himself that God was greater than any loss, problem, or threat he experienced. He took time to consult the Lord and to get God's specific direction.
We are wise to follow David's example! So often we can see an enemy coming against us…or we experience devastation as the result of what someone has done to us…and we immediately want to retaliate. At other times, our sorrow and grief at the loss are so overwhelming that we just want to bury our heads in our hands and cry into we are exhausted. God's alternative is for us to go to Him in our loss and remind ourselves of who God is! We need to put our focus on what God is capable of doing. We need to recall that God is greater than any natural or political force, any institution or organization, or any person on earth. He is wiser and more powerful than any enemy who seeks to do us harm. And, we need to ask God, "What is Your plan? What do YOU want me to do?"
I truly believe that if you will ask God for direction – with a heart full of faith – that God can conquer all situations and all enemies. God will give you the answer you need. He will show you the path to walk. He will give you a clear objective and a clear understanding of the goal that is to be accomplished.
Strength and Direction – A Powerful Combination!
Show me a person who operates with great strength – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – and with specific direction, and all show you a person who is prepared for victory.
Courage without wisdom made very well be marked by rash, unfocused action.
Wisdom without courage may very well be marked by inactivity.
Both courage and wisdom are necessary. Get both before you act!
Never diminish your own eyes the power and wisdom of God! Don't sell God short! The Bible gives us this proclamation of the Lord, "I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard from Me?” (JER. 32:27)
Separate Offense and Defense
David and his 600 men set out in pursuit of the Amalekites. When they got to Brook Besor, 200 of the men were ordered to stay there. These men are described in the Bible as being too weary to cross the brook. (1SAM. 30:10) They were left to defend some of David's supplies while he and the others went in search of the enemy.
David knew that it was better to go with fewer numbers rather than to go with men who were out of energy. That pattern is one that is found throughout the Scriptures. God's plan again and again is for a view people of strength, energy, courage, faith, and wisdom to take on the enemy. Those who are doubters, or who are weary, are better left out of the battle. They only become dead weight to the fighting force – they detract from the might, moral, and maneuverability of the attacking army.
At the same time, David did not regard those who were weary with dishonor. He trusted them with the extra supplies his band had brought with them for the pursuit. He entrusted them with the mission of "holding the fort."
If you are seeking to accomplish something for the Lord and you come up against the enemy that the Lord instructs you to attack, make sure you surround yourself with people who are up for the challenge. Leave behind those who doubt the outcome or wisdom of the battle…leave behind those who are fearful of the fight…leave behind those who are exhausted. Go with your strength!
At the same time, don't denigrate or ridicule those who are left behind to "guard the home front." They perform a valuable service, even if they are too weak for the fierce fighting of the battle.
Offensive and Defensive Players. In many ways, David separated his band of men into "offense" and "defense." This is perhaps the first time this was done in military history. We don't find this pattern either in the Bible.
I played football in high school – tight end. I played at a time in a school in which a team played both offense and defense. I can't passes and blocked when I played offense, and made tackles when I played defense. I must've meant that I've been a little amazed over the years at the great specialization that has occurred in football. At times, certain layers are called in only for certain types of plays and team formations.
David's idea turned out to be a very effective one. There are certain people within your organ is nation who are perhaps better "offense" team players…others are likely to be better in "defense" roles.
Look for the Unexpected Information You Need
At the time David began his pursuit of the Amalekites, he didn't know where the Amalekites were located. He could only see the beginning of the trail they left as they departed Ziklag – he knew the general direction they had traveled. The trail was several days old.
You very likely don't know exactly what you're enemy has planned, or where the pockets of your enemies strength lie. That is certainly true for every military campaign. There are many aspects of any war that take shape only as the war unfolds. A good war plan is one that allows for great flexibility, even in the heat of battle.
Don't be entirely set on the game plan you think will work and that you map out in advance of the battle. Be flexible. Continually be on the alert for key pieces of information you need.
As David and his men pursued the Amalekites, they came across an Egyptian in a field. They gave him bread and water, a piece of cake made out of figs, and to clusters of reasons. In other words, they extended hospitality to him and gave him time to regain some strength before they asked him, "To whom do you belong, and where are you from?" The young man admitted that he was an Egyptian who had been captured and was a servant of an Amalekites. Here committed that his master had been among those who had attacked and burned Ziglag. The young man then told them that he had been left behind by his master when he became ill.
David asked, "Can you take me down to this troop?" The young Egyptian replied, "Swear to me by God that you will neither kill me nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will take you down to this troop." David agreed. (See 1 SAM. 30:11 – 15)
if you are pursuing an enemy under God's direction, I encourage you to keep alert for "unexpected knowledge" that God may send your way. Time and again throughout the Scriptures, the Lord gives very precise information to His people so they can accomplish the goals He has set before them.
When Joseph, Jacob's son, was looking for his brothers to take them provisions, God put a very specific man in his path. (See Genesis 37:15 – 17.)
When Daniel received word that Nebuchadnezzer had authorized the killing of all the "Wiseman" in Babylon because they could not tell the King what he had dreamed, David cried out to God and "the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision." (DAN. 2:19)
When Esther learned of Haman's plot against her people, God gave her a very precise plan to follow so that her husband, the King, might be made aware of Haman's evil heart. (See ESTHER 6-7)
God has a way for you to win the battle He has authorized you to fight and to claim the victory He has authorized for you to have. Look for the Lord to give you precise instructions as you forward in faith and courage.
In David's case, he knew that he was to pursue the Amalekites and he has the promise of a victory… but he didn't know where the Amalekites were encamped. God provided that information to him through an unlikely but reliable source.
David and his men came upon the Amalekites and found them "spread out all over the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of the great spoil which they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah." (1SAM. 30:16)
The enemy was celebrating, rather than keeping watch. What can we conclude from this? They weren't expecting anyone to come after them – they thought they were invincible and that they could not be found or defeated! They were only a few days’ travel from Ziklag but they thought their victory was secured.
Very often that is precisely the impression the devil plants into the hearts and minds of those who are our enemies. They believe they cannot be discovered – either the evil they have done will not be uncovered on their whereabouts will not become known. They believe they can hide their tracks. We have certainly seen this in our world today in everything from examples of corporate fraud to well-known kidnapping and murder cases two instances of internal terrorism. Those who commit terrible crimes often believe that their crimes will never come to light or that they will never be brought to justice. They hide, sometimes in "plain sight," thinking they are invincible to God's eyes. Nothing can be further from the truth. God sees your enemy and He knows the outcome of their pride filled rebellion and sin.
David waited until twilight to attack. They usually is the most dangerous time to attack. But, it is also the time when the enemy is least likely to think you will be attacked. After an entire day of eating, drinking, and dancing, the Amalekites were ready for a long night sleep. They were exhausted from their celebrating. They thought they were at the height of their strength in that hour, but in truth, they were at the height of their weakness.
David and his troops "attacked from twilight until the evening of the next day." We don't know how many Amalekites were killed that night, but the Scriptures tell us that "not a man of them escaped except 400 young men who rode on camel and fled." (1 SAM. 30:17) That phrase implies to me that there were thousands of Amalekites in the roaming horde of "pirates" that had been stealing and killing and kidnapping across Philistia and Judah.
We also know that David "recovered all that the Amalekites had carried away, and David rescued his two wives. And nothing of theirs was lacking, it either small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything which they had taken from them; David recovered all." (1 SAM. 30:18 – 19)
Can you imagine the great rejoicing of that night? No doubt weary from the battle, and watchful for any pockets of retaliation, David and his men nonetheless must have experienced great relief, great joy, and raise satisfaction.
Not only did David recover all that he and his men had lost at Ziklag, but they also took possession of all the flocks and herds that the Amalekites had stolen from others in Judah and Philistia.
They claimed that as "David's spoil.”
On their way back to Ziklag, David and his soldiers came to the place where the 200 weary men had left at the Brook Besor. Some of those who had done the fighting said to David, "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoils that we have recovered, except for every man's wife and children, and they may lead them away and depart."
David replied, "My brethren, you shall not do so with what the LORD has given us, who has preserved us and delivered us into the hand of the troop that came against us. For who will heed to you in this matter? But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part the who stays with the supplies; they shall share alike." This became a law among David's men and later a statute in Israel – those who do the fighting and those who defend the Army supplies receive equal portions of the spoils of war. (See 1 SAM. 30:20 – 25.)
An Opportunity for Even Greater “Advancement”
One of the most important aspects of David victory over the Amalekites came after the people returned to Ziklag. The Bible tells us that David "send some of the spoils to the elders of Judah, to his friends, saying, ‘Here is a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of the LORD’– to those who were in Bethel, those who were in Ramoth of the South, those who were in Jattir, those who were in Aroer, those who were in Siphmoth, those who were in Eshtemoa, those who were in Rachal, those who were in the cities of Jerahmeelites, those who were in the cities of Kenites, those who were in Hormah, those who were in Chorashan, those who were in Athach, those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were accustomed to rove.” (1 SAM. 30:26 – 31)
David used the spoils of the Amalekites to "make friends and influence people." He used the spoil to gain further security for his band of followers and their families…to build a "hedge" of protection around his band of followers…and to establish a reputation of integrity, strength, and leadership throughout the entire region. Did his sharing of spoils benefit David later when he came to be anointed king and set up his headquarters in Hebron? Absolutely!
Two Other Key Lessons. In my opinion, two of the interesting aspects of David victory over the Amalekites are ones that are often overlooked.
The first interesting aspect of the story is that David had been looking for a fight – not just against the Amalekites.
Why was David away from Ziklag in the first place? Because he and his men had gone to help in ally, Achish, the King of Gath. This King, Achish, and his troops had been called into a greater battle against the armies of King Saul. When the other Philistine princes learned that David and his men were joining their fight, they protested. They were afraid David's loyalty would shift to Saul in the heat of battle. Achish called David and, in essence, told him to go home with his men. David protested, which Achish took as a sign of loyalty, but in the end, Achish prevailed. David went home "in peace" – without any ill will from Achish.
Can you see what a miracle this was? Achish remained supportive of David, and at the same time, David and his men didn't testify against King Saul.
God had engineered a tremendous "victory" for David in this. If David had refused to help his ally Achish, he would' have put all his men in danger of a later attack from this Philistine ruler. If David had fought against King Saul, he would have been fighting against his brethren, the Israelites. God made way for David not to have to fight in this battle.
That's a very important point for you to consider if you believe God is leading you to take action against someone who comes against you in a confrontational, mean-spirited, or evil way. God may have a way out of this situation for you that involves NO direction involvement or action on your part. You may very well provide a "way of escape" that allows you to receive no recrimination or ill down the road.
The Lord certain they didn't spare David from fighting. But he spared him from this particular fight. We don't need to fight ALL the battles that present themselves to us. We need only fight those battles that the Lord specifically directs us to fight.
The second interesting aspect of this story, in my opinion, is this: David was fighting the Amalekites and regaining what had been stolen from him even as King Saul was fighting the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.
David was securing his family, his positions, his leadership role, and his reputation even as King Saul – who made David his arch enemy even though David was never anything but loyal to King Saul – was losing everything he had, including his own life.
David had only been in Ziklag for three days when a man came from Saul's camp to tell him of the death of Saul and Jonathan and the battle of Gilboa. The battle with the Amalekites turned out to be the last battle David had to fight before he became king over Judah.
What if David had not obeyed the Lord and pursued the Amalekites? What if he simply stayed in Ziklag, bound up in grief and sorrow, and had attempted to ride out the storm of criticism from his highly demoralized band of followers?
David would have been in an extremely weakened position. He certainly would not have had a very large or loyal "support base" for his rule of Judah.
As it is, David went up to Heborn a short time after he received the news of King Saul's death. He took with him his two wives, all his possessions, and all of his followers and their households. They certainly must have made an impressive entourage as they entered Hebron.
David and his men did not rebuild the burned-out Ziklag. God had "shut" that door in a very definite way for them. At the same time, God opened the hearts of the people of Heborn. They immediately recognized David as their new king, and he ruled over Judah for 7 1/2 years in Hebron.
Always look for God's greater purpose and victories He gives you. You may "lose” something at the hands of the enemy – David lost Ziklag. He never lived there again. But you may also "gain” something even greater as the result of God's victory over your enemy. David "won" Hebron and the throne of Judah. His life move forward in dramatic ways…he literally moved forward into the fullness of the destiny God had for him all along.
This is God's purpose for you in fighting and defending an enemy. He has a "greater good" in mind for you. Look for it. Anticipate it. Be ready to walk into it!
Confronting the Lies
One of the allegations made by the FDA against my company was the claim that there was no "science" behind the development or implementation of the TMJ prosthetics we were manufacturing. That was a claim I could not let stand. There was a great deal of "science" involved in developing the TMJ implants. There was also a great deal of follow-up research to prove that the implants had successfully stood the test of time.
Throughout the Scriptures, we are called to condemn untruthful statements, although we are never called to condemn those who make the statements. There is a significant difference and it is vital that you recognize as different as you engage in any kind of conflict, struggle, or debate.
From God's perspective, untruthful statements are evil. God's desire is never that the enemy will have victory over the godly man or woman, but rather, that the godly man or woman will have victory over evil. The Bible gives this promise:
"No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,"
Says the LORD.
Many people are quick to quote the first part of this verse-“No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” What a tremendous promise this is. But note the next line…”Every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.”
That’s something many Christians are reluctant to do. They hold to the opinion, “If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t day anything at all.” That may be a cultural proverb, but it isn’t God’s Word. There are certain situations in which we are to raise our voice, and some of those situations are ones in which we as the righteous of the Lord are being judged unfairly and unjustly by the unrighteous.
We need to say to those who gossip about our past faults-“You’re wrong. I may have made mistakes bit I am a forgiven child of God. From God’s perspective I am no longer guilty of that sin.”
We need to say to those who hold us in condemnation because of or our opinions based on God’s Word-“I denounce what you are saying. I believe God’s Word to be true and I stake my life on it.”
To condemn the voice of judgment against you does not mean that you are condemning an individual to hell or saying that any person is unworthy of God’s mercy. Rather, it is to state in clear and unequivocal terms the truth of a situation. We are not to roll over and play deaf, dumb, and “dead” when lies are perpetuated about us, and especially when those lies are aimed at our Christian witness. We do not need to deal with judgmental persecutors by calling them names, making personal insults, or making statements that defend our personal righteousness – but we are to deal with them by stating the truth and refusing to back away from the truth.
Praying that God Will Defeat Your Enemies
We err greatly if we think that we are never to pray against those who unfairly and unjustly accuse us, wrong us, or seek to undermine the good we are doing or the Gospel we are proclaiming. Read the Psalms! The psalmist fairly regularly sings out against his enemies, asking God to destroy them. Let me share with you the first nine verses of PSALM 35:
Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and Buckler,
And stand up for my help.
Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
"I am your salvation.”
Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
And let the Angel of the LORD pursue them.
For without cause they have it in their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his neck that he has hit in catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.
And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD;
It shall rejoice in His salvation.
There's nothing "Mr. Nice Guy" about this Psalm!
What is it that we must be sure about as we pray for God to deal strongly – yes, harshly – with those who undermine or persecute us?
We must be sure of these things:
Here's how: Recognize that sometimes it is only when a person's way becomes dark and slippery that they feel pursued by the Lord that a person will truly turn to God, seek God, and begin to repent and ask for the mercy and forgiveness of God.
I know a woman who prayed for her estranged husband, "Oh, Lord, bring him to the end of himself. Cause everything he attempts to do in his rebellion to fail. Make you miserable. "She knew that only if her husband was willing to lay down his pride would he ever turned to the Lord and accept the Lord's offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. She knew that only if her husband experienced failure and misery would he ever desire to obey the commandments of God.
At first I say what happened in her life. Her husband begin to fail at every turn. His affair with his new lover failed. His business started to fail. His health started to fail. He was miserable.
And in his misery, he turned to the only person he knew who had any compassion whatsoever for him – his "former" wife. He began to attend church with her, accepted Jesus as his savior, and reconciled with his wife. He found himself when he came to the end of himself and found the Lord.
In praying for the Lord to fight against those who fight against us we are giving up control to the Lord. We are saying, in essence, "Do things Your way to bring this situation to a good end and to bring glory to Your name!" We are putting ourselves in a position to stand out of the way and watch God work.
Openly and Firmly Reject the Lie
There are some evil claims made against the person that a person should reject. I don't believe a divorce decree is a claim that a person should automatically "accepted." I don't believe a false accusation in the press or in the legal system is something that should be automatically accepted. I don't believe any form of defamation of character or an insult on a person's integrity should be automatically accepted.
Many people say, "Oh well, it'll blow over"… "Let bygones be bygones"… "Develop a thick skin"… "Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill"...”Don’t let it bother you.” Well, there are some instances in which a person should let a sin that has been confessed and forgiven be a “bygone.” There are some situations that are not worth getting miffed over, and in those cases, we should not allow a mountain to develop from a molehill. There are some situations that we should ignore and move beyond, not giving them the time of day or even an ounce of our emotional energy.
There are other instances, however, when the statements mead above reflect a lack of courage or an unwillingness to challenge an attack of the enemy. There are times when statements such as these are expressed in false humility or are made glibly because a person does not want to get involved. And there are still other times when a person may make these statements because he or she feels it’s more expedient to pay a fine that isn’t warranted, “plead to a lesser charge” in order to avoid a court stand, or agree to whatever is being proposed even if it is wrong.
That isn’t the message of the Bible. God’s Word tells us that a lie should never be allowed to go unchallenged or uncorrected with the truth. An injustice should not be allowed to stand, especially if an innocent third party is involved. A sin should not be “winked at” or give tacit approval. The work of the enemy of our souls should never go unchallenged.
Dong’ Ignore What the Devil Says to You
When the devil confronted Jesus in the wilderness, he made a series of false statements and accusations to Jesus. Jesus did not "ignore and quote with the devil said. Neither did Jesus debate the devil's misuse of Scripture or play any mind games with the devil. Jesus went straight to the truth of God's Word" it back to the devil. (See Matthew 4:1 – 11.)
When the devil said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread"… Jesus answered, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Jesus was quoting DEUTERONOMY 8:3)
The devil said, "If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down, For it is written: ‘He shall give his angels charge over you,’ and,' In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’"
Jesus replied, "It is written again, ' You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'" (Jesus was quoting DEUTERONOMY 6:16.)
The devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and said, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Jesus replied, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written,' You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" (Jesus was quoting DEUTERONOMY 6:13.)
Jesus made it very clear that by His example that we are to:
A Godly Response to Your Persecutors
How do you believe God regards those individuals or groups of people who are persecuting you? What do you believe He intends for them?
The Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah:
"Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day." (Jeremiah 36:2)
In this case, the Lord told the prophet Jeremiah to write about what He was going to do against those who were in rebellion or disobedience to His commands. From time to time you may find this to be a good thing for you to do as you faith and adversary or persecutor. Write out what you believe God is saying to you about those who are in opposition to God's call on your life.
What are the potential outcomes of doing this? There are at least two I hope you will consider:
First, when you write out what you believe God desires for your enemies – which is another way of looking at those who are persecuting or severally criticizing you – you come to recognize what you are thinking and feeling. Opinions seemed to crystallize when they are put into words. You will better be able to evaluate whether what you have written is what you really desire God to do. You will have a better understanding of your own heart.
Second, when you write out what you believe God desires for your enemies, you are forced to confront any feelings of vengeance, retaliation, hatred, anger, bigotry, or bitterness you may have…and to confront these feelings in the light of what God Word teaches. God Word clearly stands against:
"Be angry, and to do not sin": do not let the Sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil…Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, climber, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (EPH. 4:26 – 27, 29 – 31)
How Are We to Treat Your Persecutors
What does God Words say about how we are to treat our enemies and those who persecute us?
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on
his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good. (ROMANS 12:20 – 21)
At the same time, we are to stand up for the truth and to continue to proclaim what we know is right. Jesus did not "give in" to the lies or the ridicule of those who came against Him. Rather, He spoke very directly to them in a straightforward manner. Jesus did not back away or back down from His teachings and miracles when He was persecuted or falsely accused – if anything, He preached all the more boldly!
The apostle Paul was quick to say, "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscious also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit.” (ROMANS 9:1)
We also must not seek to align ourselves in any way with those who lie about us, or to have fellowship with those who oppose God’s plan for us. (See EPH. 5:9-11 and 2 COR. 6:14)
If you have any question at all about how you are to respond to an enemy your persecutors, and asked the Lord to reveal to you His plan, His approach, and His response. God Word calls us to "walk as children of light" and to find out "what is acceptable to the Lord." (See EPH. 5:8 , 10)
I believe it is vitally important that you learn how the Lord desires for you to respond to those who attempt to thwart your spiritual growth or the fulfillment of the ministries and work that God has called you to do. It isn't God's wisdom to lash out in anger or to take rash action. God has a purpose in allowing you to experience a time of struggle or trial. I know what that purpose is. Find out how God wants you to proceed. Find out what God desires for you to say and do as His witness in the situation.
God's promise of to us always is that if we will ask Him humbly to show us what to do, how to respond, when to act, and with whom to interact, He will show us. His Word says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who
gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it
will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with
no doubting. (JAMES 1:5 –6)
Note the four things God says about His giving wisdom in this passage above:
First, He gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Jesus’ promise regarding the truth is this: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asked received, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (MATTHEW 7:7 –8)
Second, God gives wisdom “liberally.” He tells us everything we need to know to accomplish His purposes for us. He may not reveal to us all that we want to know or all that we think we need to know…but He reveals clearly and generously all that we truly need to know.
Third, God gives wisdom "without reproach.” He doesn't chide us for asking for wisdom.
Fourth, God gives wisdom to those who ask in faith for wisdom and then act on their request with faith – in other words, those who begin to speak and act according to the way the Holy Spirit prompts them, fully expecting that what they say and do will be in line with God's Word.
Much of the wisdom God reveals to us about how to deal with our enemies is to us as we read God Word and study it. There's no substitute for going to God Word and asking, with a heart and open mind to hearing and receiving, "Lord, teach me how to respond. Show me what it is that You desire for me to learn from this situation. The bill to me Your plan and purposes.”
Ultimately, if you truly are seeking to fulfill God’s plan for your life – in both your career and your ministry – you will come to recognize that the struggle or persecution you are experiencing has a place in that plan. God has allowed you to go through this for a reason – to strengthen, purify, edify, or heal you, or for another person to be brought to Christ, or healed or delivered in some way. God’s purpose may be to move you into a new dimension of recognition or reward, and to prove you worthy to receive that reward. Don’t miss what God is doing.
No Christian Is Exempt from Persecution
I do not at all believe that God sends persecution and trouble our way. But I do believe He allows us to go through hard times and that if we will yield ourselves to Him in those difficult seasons of life, His purposes in us and through us will be accomplished in a way that is even greater than if we hadn’t experienced the persecution.
Also recognized that no follwer of Christ is going to be exempt from persecution. We like to think God will clear the path and make our way smooth-going from the time we are born again to the time we set foot in heaven. That isn’t what the Bible watches. Jesus taught as part of Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute
you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for
My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for
great is your reward in heaven, for so they
persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
(MATTHEW 5:10 – 12)
If we truly are what walking in the "right paths" that God has set before us, we are going to come up against persecution.
"Why," you may be wondering, "what a person receive persecution for developing a medical device – how does that relate to ‘righteousness’?”
This is not only a valid question, but an important question because it relates to anything you may do in your life as a Christian that you do not overly see as being connected in any way to a ministry.
The medical devices created by TMJ Implants Inc. are not "righteous." No inanimate object or a natural substance is never automatically good or evil. That's true for television, money, vegetables, books, computers, minerals, and surgical devices!
At times, I feel certain the devices I invented may be surgically implanted by people were not righteous.
But I also know this…as the creator and manufacturer of these devices, I am a righteous person Erie it I am not righteous on the basis of any good works have done, but so is because I have received Christ Jesus into my life as my Savior and Lord and He is righteous.
Any righteousness a person has is because of their relationship with Christ Jesus. The Bible tells us, "You were in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) Because of what Jesus did in dying for our sins, we have the privilege of becoming "the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) We are "ambassadors for Christ" as a result. (2 Corinthians 5:20) We are also called "workers together with Him." (2 Corinthians 6:1.)
If my medical devices are successful and helpful to people, then the overall healing ministry of Jesus is enhanced on this Earth. My medical devices are successful and profitable, the work of Covenant Marriages Ministry is made stronger – in other words, more money can flow into the ministry to help people. Is marriages are made stronger, the overall work in civilization and restoration ministry of Jesus is enhanced on this Earth.
The same principle holds true for you no matter what line of work you may be pursuing. If you have received Jesus as your Savior, you are a righteous person. It doesn't matter if you raise corn, manufacture automobile parts, self-insurance, or work as an elementary school teacher. The work you do is done "as unto the Lord.” Jesus has made you righteous, and as His righteous emissary on this Earth, what you do is an extension of what Jesus is doing on this Earth. Your hands, in effect, are an extension of His hands. Your fee walk where He desires for you to walk to carry the gospel to people. Your mouth becomes His means of expressing love and forgiveness to others.
A righteous person doing good work is an ambassador for Christ at all times. And if you are persecuted for what you say and do that is in keeping with God's gifts to you, God's call on your life, and God's commandments to you…then you are being persecuted for "righteousness" sake. God honors the persecution you wind your for His sake. In fact, Jesus said to those who are persecuted for His say, "Great is your reward in heaven!" (See MATTHEW 5:12.)
The work that you do may not be perceived by you as a "ministry," but from God's perspective, all of your life is perceived as part of your with us for Christ on this Earth. You have a direct opportunity for speaking the truth of God's Work with your coworkers as well as any other person you encounter at the shop, gauge in the creation, participate in community service club, attend church services and church social functions, and fulfill all of the other responsibilities and chores of your life. The tithes and offerings that come from money you earn from your work benefit God's work on this Earth. You have an indirect witness to countless people you don't even know. And you ultimately are "salt" on this Earth, and a glimmer of light in the darkness of this world. (See MATTHEW 5:13 – 14.)
Our challenge is to make certain that we are persecuted for the right things we are doing, the right relationship we have with Jesus Christ, and the right causes we are supporting or that we represent..and that we aren't being persecuted for our own stupidity, shoddy work, lack of excellence in service, bad judgment, or poor choices. If we realize that our persecution is rooted in our own error or sin, we need to repent quickly and ask God to help us restore and mend any wrong that we have perpetuated. We must ask Him to help us make good choices and to manifest better judgment, higher quality performance, and greater wisdom in the future. The Lord promises to help us do these things, and even more… He promises to restore to others what we can't personally or individually restore!
God's Promise to You in Times of Persecution
In the time of Isaiah, the Lord called His people to a "fast." We often think of a fast as giving up food or beverages. A fast, however, is a giving up part of ourselves so we might receive more of the Lord in our life and extend more of the Lord to other people. That is the true and broader meaning of a fast. When we fast, we give up what we believe to be part of our "rights" in order to help others. We open our lives to others so we might bless them, never raising ourselves up to and aloof position of judgment or to a position in which we ignore or become apathetic toward those in need.
Some of the people in Isaiah's time where fasting and then saying to God, "See, I've fasted!" – And then expecting God to reward them, even though they were acting in harsh ways toward their laborers and engaging in behaviors that God described as wicked. Read what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah:
“"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To lose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say,
‘Here I am.’
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noon day.
The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall rise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repair of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
(IS. 58:6 – 12)
What a wonderful passage of Scripture this is!
At times I believe people who undergo persecution are tempted to say, "See, Lord, I'm persecuted. Reward me for being persecuted." The Lord says to us that His rewards are not given on the basis of our being persecuted, but on how we continue to serve others in the midst of our persecution!
The Lord's promise to those who will continue to fulfill His call on their lives in a time of persecution are stunning:
To be a "Repairer of the Breach” means that we will have opportunities to help people restore broken relationships, including mankind's broken relationship with God. To be the "Restorer of Streets to Dwell In” means that we will have the opportunity to help groups of people live in greater peace with one another. What a high calling and what a wonderful privilege it is to think God can use us in these ways! Jesus, of course, is ultimately the "Repairer of the Breach” and the "Restorer of Streets to it Dwell In,” but as His followers, we served to extend Jesus’ ministry on the Earth today.
Peace with God and peace with one another are to noble missions that before every Christian.
Forgiving Your Enemies
No matter how grievous a person's actions against you, you must forgive that person.
"But how?” you may ask.
The main way is to focus on what God has forgiven you. Without the mercy of the Lord, you could not be cleansed of guilt and sin. His mercy to you has been infinitely and eternally generous. If he truly focus on all the Lord purchased for you on the cross, you will find it much easier to have compassion on those who "trespass" against you.
Each of us who calls ourselves a born again Christian was once a sinner, separated from God. The Bible makes it very clear:
There's an old saying, "There, but for the grace of God go I." That statement is certainly true for every one of us who has received Jesus as Savior. Apart from the forgiveness of Christ, we are in the same boat as the person who has caused us pain.
Jesus died on the cross for all sinners. He extends His offer of mercy and forgiveness to the person who hurt you or caused you to experience rejection or a loss. What Jesus did for you on the cross, He also did for the person who wronged you.
Furthermore, Jesus loves that person who hurt you as much as He loves you. He longs to forgive that person, restore that person, kill that person, and to see things reconciled between you and that person.
"But what," you might say, "about the person who hurts me who claims to be a born-again Christian?"
God knows with that person has done against you. He will deal with that person.
Just as you are not yet perfect and always – and no person is – so that fellow believer who has disappointed you or harm deal is not yet perfect. Just as you do not yet fully display the fullness of the character of Christ Jesus, and have not yet been fully conforms to His image – and none of us have achieved full conformity – so the fellow believer who hurt you is not yet fully conformed or made perfect. We need to recognize that God is still at work in each one of us who is a Christian. We are "in process," but none of us has "arrived" at perfection.
None of us perfectly or fully manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (GALATIANS 5:22 – 23) The Holy Spirit is still at work in each of us who claims Christ as Savior – He is continually refining us so that we might become more loving, more joyful, at greater peace, more patient, kinder, more faithful, more gentle, quicker to display good virtues, and to exert greater self-control.
Recognize that just as the Holy Spirit hasn't given up on you, He hasn't given up on others who are in the body of Christ.
We Are Commanded by Christ to Forgive
The Christian was absolutely no biblical basis for harboring a spirit of unforgiveness against any other person, and ultimately, it is a spirit of unforgiveness that lies in the root of all bitterness and vengeance.
Jesus stated very plainly, "Forgive, and you will be forgiven… With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." (LUKE 6:37 – 38) Jesus also said:
Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the plank in your own? Or
how can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me
remove the speck that is in your eye," when you
yourself do not see the plank that is in your own
eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your
own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove
the speck that is in your brother's eye. (LUKE 6:41 – 42)
Jesus taught, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (MATTHEW 6:14 – 15)
When Peter asked Jesus how many times should a person forgive me "brother" who sinned against him, Jesus replied, "I do not say to you, up to seventy times but up to seventy times seven." (MATTHEW 18:22) This use of numbers is very interesting. Seven is a number in the Bible that relates to perfection or completion. 10 is a number associated with the law. Therefore, seventy is a number that refers to the perfection or fullness of the law. The phrase "seventy times seven" can be interpreted, "the fullness of the law brought to perfection." It is only when we are willing to forgive, and forgive, and forgive, and continue to forgive, that we can enter into the perfection Christ has for us. It is only if we are willing to forgive that the Commandments of God can be fully manifested and brought to perfection in our lives.
We must forgive if we call ourselves Christians. Our own forgiveness and perfection are at stake!
We Are Commanded to Love Our Enemies
In many instances, a person who is hurt and rejected by someone comes to see that "offending party" has an enemy. Jesus gave us very clear direction about what we are to do with regard to our enemies:
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate
you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those
who spitefully use you.” (LUKE 6:27 – 28)
Love becomes an outward act of giving – in fact, giving is the fullest expression of loving. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies by:
That's what true forgiveness is – it is losing our stranglehold on the person and turning the person over to God fully, asking as we do that God will act in their life. Forgiveness is yielding all control and all justice to God, which is what we do in prayer when we say to the Lord, "I forgive this person. I give You total control in that situation. I trust You for justice. I asked You to do what is right for me and for this person. Use whatever methods You want to use, when You want to use them."
Now what happens when we do these three things with loving attitude – an attitude that reflects a genuine desire in our heart that God will bring the person to salvation and begin to conform the person to the likeness of Christ?
Well, wonderful things happen! We may not experience them immediately or even directly, but God does answer prayer! I have seen results of these three actions in people's lives on numerous occasions. Only do good to others, their hearts. Often are softened, their attitudes change, and even their facial expressions and body language changed to reflect greater openness. Sometimes a person will make a total turnaround or dissolve into tears when someone they have hurt expresses "good" to them.
When a person returns a word of blessing to someone who has cursed him, that person who does the cursing is very often taken aback were caught off-guard. But the person intended as a "fight and quote becomes an opportunity for a rational conversation or a peaceful silence. Tenderness replaces toughness. This may not happen immediately, but repeated blessing in the face of repeated cursing does change attitudes and as attitudes change, behavior changes.
When a person begins to pray for those who are mistreating him, the person very often begins to see settle changes in the other person's behavior, and nearly always a change in his own attitude and behavior. A woman once said to me, "There was a woman in my charge prayer group that I just didn't like. We had very different personalities and a very different approach to prayer. Finally I decided that I either have to quit going to the group or things would have to change. It's at that point the Lord whispered in my ear, ‘Pray for her’. I found that the more I prayed for this woman, the more I was able to tolerate her, and eventually, even to enjoy her company. It's really tough to hate someone you were praying for on a regular basis. The Lord gave me a compassion for this woman that I We didn't have before. He also gave me a tolerance for our differences that I didn't have."
"Do you get along today?” I asked
The woman replied, "The other gal moved to the city about 100 miles away! This was the answer I had desired initially, but I'm glad she didn't move for the two years I was praying for her.” I learned very important lessons in those two years and I'm grateful for how the Lord used her to teach me about prayer and about the need to prayer for those I don't like."
I encourage you today – if there someone you believe is wrong view in any way, begin to pray for that person. Every time they say something negative to you, respond positively. Every time they do something that irritates you or hurts you, find a way to show kindness or to give back something that is good. You'll find that YOU ask. Much greater peace and joy, and you may very well discover that God brings about a change in the other person's life.
Above all else – anytime you have feelings of resentment or bitterness, remember what Jesus did for you.
The When You Can Hate: Your “Real” Enemy
We must never lose sight that we have an enemy whose goal is the destruction of our soul, and the devastation of every aspect of our lives. Jesus told us that the devil comes to "steal, kill, and destroy." (JOHN 10:10) the devil comes to take everything precious from us, to kill our influence and reputation, and to destroy anything good we have produced.
The devil comes against all people, but especially against those who are serving God and who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. John wrote in revelation: “The Dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the Commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (REVELATION 12:17)
REVELATION 12:11 tells us, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their families to the death."
Remember what Jesus did for you. Make it very plain to the devil that you have said that the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross. It isn't what you have done or not done that matters most in your battle against the devil. Rather, it is what Jesus has done!
Be Bold in Your Testimony. Continue to speak about Jesus. Praise His name! Talk about Him! Tell the devil how wonderful Jesus is! Even if nobody else will hear your "witness" about the Lord, speak it to the enemy of your soul and to yourself. The devil will flee at hearing about Jesus, and you will be encouraged in your spirit as you speak about Jesus.
Continue to do these two things every day of your life, no matter what comes your way. You may lose the battle against a person or organization or entity. But if you will do these two things, you will never lose your battle against the devil. Asus honors your trust in Him and your testimony. He will reward you even if nobody else does. He will give you the justice you deserve. He will bless you and give you an everlasting legacy.
Refused to Give in to Fear
I have observed through the years that people sometimes give up in their pursuit of what God has called them to accomplish because they are afraid of failure. They are anticipating that they will not succeed, and therefore, they don't begin or continue to attempt what God has set before them.
This question is very important as you pursue your God-given goals: "How will I know if I am successful?"
One of the ways of answering the question is to ask yourself how you define failure. It is a sense of failure that causes a person to quit.
Failure, of course, comes packaged in a variety of definitions. Two of the main definitions are:
Not Reaching a Goal. To some, failure is the setting of goals and then not reaching those goals. The goal may be the introduction of a product or service, the starting of the company, or learning of a subject area. There generally is an unspoken: behind our ventures – the goal of being rich, being famous, for being "acceptable" to a particular group of people.
Scientists hope their scientific theories will be adopted by their peers, and thus, they will achieve a degree of "fame" among their fellow scientists or an academicians. Some physicians hope they will become famous enough among their patients to attract and even larger clientele, which will help them become which, and once they are rich and famous, they will certainly be "acceptable" the people they want to influence or with whom they want to associate. I recently heard about a person who sought to be famous and materially successful just again acceptance of his own father…or so he hoped.
Being Criticized or Rejected by “Important” People. To some, failure is being criticized or "put down" by people who are considered to be important, famous, or powerful. That criticism may take the form of rejection – being ignored or being excluded.
God gave an important word about this to the prophet Ezekiel:
"Son of man, do not be afraid of them not be afraid
of their words, though briers and thorns are with
you and you do well among scorpions; do not be
afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks."
If either one or both of these perspectives on failure are ones you hold to be true, then your concept of success is likely the flip side:
I readily admit that in the years before I was born again, those were two hallmarks of success I pursued. I wanted to be the best surgeon in the city (wherever I happen to be located) and to have my practice, my expertise, and my surgical skills recognized and appreciated. I wanted to have the trappings associated with those schools – a high income and a prestigious position in the best hospitals. I also wanted recognition and acceptance for the medical devices I invented – I wanted my peers and others whose opinion I value to applaud my work and use my devices.
I suspect that the vast majority of people in the world, and also a very high percentage of Christians, have similar views of success.
The broader and deeper questions, however, are: “What does God say that success? How this will be a success? What does God considered to be a failure?”
God Word says that success is obeying the commandment of God is fully and with as much excellence as is humanly possible. This is where obeyed completely shut our understanding is limited – our vision is finite, our will can be we get times. The pursued and desire to obey the commandments fully and with excellent is the definition God holds out to us as "success."
That means, of course, that we must know what God commands Erie it means we must set our wills to "obey" in all circumstances, at all times, and in every area of life. It also means that we must develop a passion for obedience – there must be nothing halfhearted or partial about our commitment to the Lord for our pursuit of what He has commanded us to do. We must want to live the life God calls us to live – including the careers He calls us to pursue, the ministries He calls us to undertake, the businesses or endeavors He calls us to establish, the use of our talents and skills in the ways He calls us to use them.
Furthermore, we must want to live the life God calls us to live with all our heart, mind, and soul. Jesus said the first command was to love God with our heart, mind, and soul – and the very heart of living is obeying. Jesus said to His disciples three times on the night before His crucifixion, that those who loved Him for those who obeyed Him. (See JOHN 14.)
If that is success, what is failure?
Failure is quitting.
As long as we are continuing to learn, and to seek to know and understand and we apply God's commandments…we are exceeding. When we quit learning and applying God's coming…we are failing.
As long as we deeply desire to opiate God and to fulfill what He calls us to do…we are succeeding. When we change our minds and begin to do things according to our own will – in other words, when we quit desire to opiate God…we are failing.
As long as we're serving the life of God calls us to live with passion – our whole heart, mind and soul…we are succeeding. When we quit a wholehearted pursuit…we are failing.
No Christian is ever a “failure” in God’s eyes if that person loves God, is obeying to the best of his ability, and is continuing to seek to do what God has called him to do.
I have seen people make colossal mistakes, but because their heart is right before God and they are seeking to obey God…God turns those mistakes into remarkable advantages and positive steps forward! The apostle Paul wrote about this: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (ROMANS 8:28)
Surviving the Valley of the Shadows
On to the most famous psalms in the Bible is Psalm 23 that tells us the Lord is our shepherd. He leads us into green pastures and beside still waters. He also rescues us when we find ourselves in a “valley of the shadow of death.”
In Israel, the mountains and hills are marked with narrow gorge-like ravines. These ravines are continuously in shadow- they never receive direct sunlight. A sheep that falls into such a ravine, or wanders aimlessly there, is in grave danger of being attacked by mountain lions and other predators who stalk these areas.
How does this apply to our lives?
One of the lessons is surely that “valley times” are inevitable in each of our lives. None of us rides the mountaintops continually. We all face times when we err, sin, make judgments errors, or find ourselves overwhelmed by life’s negative circumstances.
One time when I was a young man out on our family’s cattle ranch, I rode my horse down into a fairly narrow valley and after a little while, I realized I was disoriented and I didn’t know how to get out of the valley in which I had rather aimlessly ridden, It was only when I rode up one of the mountains at the side of the valley that I could get my perspective back and see the direction that I needed to go.
There are times like that in all of our lives. We find ourselves in a valley and we feel disoriented, perhaps even discouraged or afraid. We need to get back into the Scriptures to get the Lord’s “higher” perspective on our situation or circumstance. We ned to ask Him to reveal to us what we should do, the decisions we should make, and the direction we should move.
Another lesson to learn from valleys is that when we find ourselves feeling “lost” or in “danger, “the worst thing we can do is panic. There person who panics is likely to get himself in to deeper trouble-even greater danger or even more “lost.” The first thing we must do is stop-stop doing what we’ve been doing and stop moving. Then we need to get on our knees and ask the Lord for help. If we continue to try to solve things on our own – frantically trying first this and then that, rushing to this person and that place, we are going to expend a great deal of energy and effort that are of very little help.
The time we spend in valleys is nearly always temporary. Tines of discouragement, anxiety, and fear hit us…but if we will remain steadfast in our faith…this time will pass. Every circumstance we face on this earth TEMPORARY. Nothing lasts forever except God Word and those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Those are the only "eternal absolutes" mentioned in God's Word.
Remember always that whet you are facing, no matter how dire, is a temporary solution from God's perspective.
When You Are Between “A Rock and a Hard Place”
Jonathan, the son of King Saul, once found himself literally between a rock and a hard place. The Israelites were under fierce attack by the Philistines, who would come to the battle with 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen, and "people as the sand which is on the Seahorse in multitude.” In contrast, King Saul had a Army 600 soldiers, no chariots and no horsemen. The people of Israel so frightened at this massive Philistine army coming their way that the Bible tells us that they hid themselves in caves, in pickets, in rocks, in whole, and in pits…and some Christopher the Jordan River to dwell in Gad and Gilead. Only a few faithful soldiers followed King Saul "with trembling." (See 1 SAM. 13:5-7)
The attacking Philistines divided themselves into three groups, one of which cut off the path of Michmash, an important trade route for the Israelites. Jonathan found himself near this pass and he said to his armor bearer, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side”– referring to the other side of the pass. The Bible tells us that "between the pass is, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharper on the other side." (1 SAM. 14:4) One rock faced north, the other cells – these rocks formed something of a "bottleneck" in the past – a very narrow passageway. Jonathan's intent was to do whatever it took to eliminate the band of the winds regarding this part of the past. He said to his armor bearer: “Come, let us go to the garrison of these uncircumcised, it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1SAM. 14:6)
Through the years, this verse is a great deal to me. What a tremendous truth it conveys! NOTHING restrains the Lord from doing His work. He works if many are believing for a miracle. He also works if only one or two are believing for a miracle.
We are called by the Lord to do what we know to do, and to do it with love and the best of our ability. Then, we are to trust God to do what only God can do. It doesn't matter if you are performing surgery, seeking conciliation in your marriage, working for the healing of the body, mind, or spirit – the principles constant. We do ALL that we know to do to the best of our God given ability. And simultaneously, we trust with all our faith for God to act.
I had one attorney who went after me four times for cases in which he and his clients contended the implants we manufacture had caused harm to a patient. Unfortunately from my perspective, an insurance company settled the first claim, which I believed we should have contested. The next two cases we won in a jury trial. The fourth case was withdrawn before it went to court.
The truth is, certain surgeons may have made errors in some of their surgeries, but the devices we manufacture are not faulty and have never been shown to be faulty when they are properly implanted.
Now, did I find joy in being sued on these four occasions? Certainly not! I didn’t enjoy that process any more than the people of Israel enjoyed being attacked by the Philistines. I don’t know of any person who takes delight in being summoned to court and facing charges of negligence that has inflicted pain and suffering on another human being.
Jonathan had said to his armor-bearer, “We will show ourselves to them [the Philistines]. If they say thus to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. But if they thus, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us.” (1 SAM. 14:8-10)
Most of us would have said that Jonathan had it exactly backwards. It’s one thing to have the enemy come over to your turf. It’s another thing for you to have the courage to go up to their position – and to assume in the process that this is a sign that the Lord is going to give you a victory. But, that’s exactly what Jonathan perceived as being God’s Word to him. Sure enough, the Philistines said to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.”
Jonathan and his armor-bearer began climbing up these steep rocks, Jonathan leading the way and his armor-bearer after him. They were crawling up the face of these rocks on their hands and knees.
Those who have studied this area believe the encounter went like this: Various Philistine soldiers were positioned on the ledges of the face of the rock. Jonathan, climbing upward could see the enemy soldier, but the enemy soldier, looking down, could only see Jonathan – not the armor-bearer. From the top, they also had difficulty looking down and seeing their fellow Philistines. Each enemy soldier in the garrison only saw Jonathan when he appeared “suddenly” at the enemy soldier’s feet.
Very likely, Jonathan grabbed the ankles of tan enemy soldier or caused the other soldier to lose his footing on the ledge. As he began to slide down the face of the rock, his armor-bearer wielded Jonathan’s sword and killed the soldier. One by one, Jonathan “picked off” the enemy soldiers until he and his armor-bearer had killed about twenty of the Philistines in a very rocky and steep area that was only about a half-acre in size. (See 1 SAM. 14:12-14.)
And, at that precise time of their attack, God stepped I and did what only God could do. He sent an earthquake. The Bible says, “The garrison and the raiders also trembled, and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling.” (1SAM. 14:15) The Philistines became frightened and fled. The Israelites became bold and pursued the Philistines – they literally came out of the caves and pits and thickets in which they had hid themselves and they began to chase after the fleeing Philistines. The conclusion in the Scriptures is this: “So the Lord saved Israel that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven,” which was located west of the pass at Michmash. (See 1 SAM. 14:23.)
In many ways, I felt as if the court system called to me, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.” This one attorney in particular seemed insistent on “showing me” – and the judge or jury- that he had a case against the implants we manufactured. In each court case, we had to methodically illustrated, point by point, argument by argument, that right was on our side. And in the en God prevailed in giving the judge and jury wisdom to see that, indeed, we had done nothing to harm the patient. It was also very interesting to me that at the close of each court case, several Christians would come forth – from the judicial staff, jury, audience, or witnesses – to give me a word of encouragement from God.
Trust God to do the same for you!
God’s Promise to Those Who Will Persevere
I learned to ski at the age of seventy. I could have said, “I’ve had a bad back in my past. I’m seventy years old. I live in Colorado and the altitude of these ski slopes is high – probably not a particular good thing for an older person. I’ll just sit on the sidelines and enjoy the view.”
I didn’t do that. I learned to ski and have had a great deal of fun skiing!
When I was about seventy-five, I was hit by a reckless snow-boarder and between the hit and in falling, I tore my rotator cuff in my left shoulder and also hurt my left knee. My goggles were fractured by the impact, but certainly saved my head from a more serious consequence.
We were scheduled to take a trip to Hawaii in approximately six weeks so I put off any surgery until after that trip. After the surgery, I developed a pulmonary embolism, which could have resulted in death. I diagnosed my own condition just moments after I came out of the anesthesia and called for the thoracic surgeon who confirmed my belief.
Fro man People that would have signaled an end to skiing. I felt that I needed to get back on skis again. And I did.
I could have retired when the FDA told us we needed to submit a “Premarket Approval” application.
I could have closed TMJ Implants and worked again as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or perhaps taught in a medical school.
I could have started another business.
But if I had chosen any of those paths, I know that I would not have been in the perfect path God had ordained for my life.
I said to the Lord, “I know You put it into my heart to build a profit-generating company and a ministry, side by side. I know You led me to establish TMJ Implants Inc. and Covenant Marriages Ministry. I know Your calling regarding these two entities has not ended. And therefore, Lord, I’m going to trust You in this.”
On more than one occasion, I cried out to the Lord, “I’m going to keep doing Your bidding. I’m going to keep lifting up Your name…even higher! I’m going to keep preaching and teaching the messages You give me…even louder!”
I prayed, “Lord, I’m going to trust You to bring us through this trial. I’m going to trust You to reestablish us. I’m going to trust You to win the victory.”
God’s Word has a number of promises to those who will choose to endure, continue to trust in Him, and persevere in their pursuit of God’s call on their lives. He has made many promises to those who will be faithful in obeying His commandments. Let me remind you of just a few of these verses:
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” (IS 40:31)
We do not “lose time” or “lose out” when we endure in steadfast faith through a time of persecution or trial. Rather, we gain strength! We find ourselves renewed, revitalized, reenergized, refocused, and “recharged.”
Three of the main things that god promises to us during a time of persecution are these: there will be an “end” to the trouble; God will teach us more about Himself during the time of persecution, and He will help us and encourage us as we go through the struggle.
A Limit to the Struggle
No persecution last forever. There’s a divine “time limit” place on any problem or persecution. God does not require a person to endure more than he can endure. This is the promise of God that rings from cover to cover in the Bible. At times, God calls a person home to heaven rather than allow them to suffer or struggle further. At other times, God puts an end to the persecution, often using very dramatic methods against those who persecute His people.
God’s Word tells us plainly, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations [times of testing, persecution].” (2 PET. 2:9) God has already provided for your victory or your “escape” from a difficult time.
The apostle Paul encouraged the early Christians, “NO temptation [time of testing or trail] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 COR. 10:13)
I don’t’ know what trouble or persecution you may be going through today as you continue to obey God’s commands’ and call on your life, but I do know this: The day that the trouble or persecution will “end” has already been scheduled on God’s calendar!
Insights into God’s Purposes and Nature
May times the Lord will use a time of persecution or testing to teach us lessons that are valuable and eternal. Ask the Lord what He desires to teach you as you persevere and continue to stand for righteousness in your time of struggle. It may be possible to lose sight of the goodness and faithfulness of God in a time of struggle or persecution. We tend to find ourselves asking, “Why me?” Why this? Why now? Where’s God?”
God’s Word calls us to remind ourselves continually of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us at all times:
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion, “says my soul.
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (LAM. 3:22-24)
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Or whom shall I be afraid? (PS. 27:1)
In the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. (PS. 23:5-6)
It may be a lesson about an area of sin or weakness in your life that God desires to cleans or strengthen.
It may be an important insight into the way God works in human hearts, the future God has planned for you, or the methods that god wants you to use.
Be sensitive and open to ALL that God desires for you to learn!
Help, Counsel, and Encouragement
I strongly believe that if you will continue to pursue what God has called you to do, He will send “helpers” to you-various sources of information, counsel, and encouragement. The first and foremost helper, of course, is Himself!
The Holy Spirit Will Help You. Jesus repeatedly referred to the Holy Spirit as our comforter and our counselor- the divine “helper” who is called alongside s and who dwells within all who profess Jesus as Savior and Lord in their lives. Even if there is no human being who seems to be “only you side,” the Holy Spirit is always on your side! He is the One who is present to guide you step by step through this life all the way to eternity.
Part of the way the Holy Spirit encourages us is to remind us of what we have read on God’s Word and what we know to be true about God’s nature. The Holy Spirit also reminds us of ways in which God has been faithful to us in the past. I certainly have experienced this encouragement of the Holy Spirit on a number of occasions.
The Holy Spirit also gives us the ability to stand, and to continue to stand, against evil. The apostle Paul wrote that as we pray for God’s deliverance, fully clothed in the spiritual armor of the nature of Christ Jesus, we are “able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (EPH. 6:13)
People with information can help you. God does not leave us without information or guidance. One of the main roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to lead and guide us in the direction God would have us go, and certainly
God uses people with good information as part of the way He guides us.
Asked the Lord to reveal to you what you need to know and to bring to the "light" anything that is presently hidden in the darkness that can work against you. We currently sell the Lord do this on a number of occasions in our confrontation with the FDA. Something that came to the light for various directions and indirect relationships that the members of the food and drug administration had with our foremost competitor.
Also asked the Lord to bring to you those who may have specific information or insights that can be helpful to you.
One of the wonderful blessings to me was the way the Lord seemed to bring people across my path who helped me in unique and extremely timely ways. Let me give you an example.
Roland Jankelson headed a medical device company, Myotronics, in the state of Washington in the 1990s. His father, Benerd Jankelson was a prosthodontist, teacher, and a researcher I knew nearly 50 years ago – we both seemed to be on the same lecture circuit. One of Dr. Jankelson's sons, Robert Janelson, also became a dentist and has carried on his father's work and is a leading lecturer in his field throughout the world. The other son, Robert's twin brother, Roland, pursued a business career, and after his father's death headed up the medical device company his father had established. This company found itself involved in a similar battle with the FDA in 1992 – 95. Roland testified before Congress providing evidence of FDA abuse, corruption, and conflicts of interest by FDA employees. This testimony and resulting federal investigations of FDA abuse resulted in several people in the FDA being removed from their positions, as well as removal of a couple of key people serving on a corrupted FDA Dental Panel. Ironically, it was the same division of the FDA, CDRH that was involved in the abusive activities directed toward the TMJ Implants Inc., my company.
I remembered reading about this and sought out more information as our situation with the FDA intensified. Roland was extremely helpful to me, both with information and insights, as well as moral support. He has remained said fast with our medical device company in all of our attempts to get a Health and Human Services Departments Inspector General investigation of what we perceive was criminal wrongdoing by the Center for Devices and Radiologic Health of the FDA. In every area we encountered were we to this day perceive as cover up. Even our US congressman could not get the longjam broken.
TMJ implants Inc.'s story of FDA abuse was read into the Congressional record on two occasions by our friend and US Congressman Tom Tancredo. That effort for investigation was later followed up by our friend and U.S. Congress and Bob Beauprez. I can't say enough about the efforts of both of these congressmen for the help they afforded this little medical device company. God always provides for those endeavors He has sanctioned.
A Documentation of the Process Can "Counsel" You. When he came to having "information," one of the things I realized the Lord was speaking to my heart was that we needed to document fully the process we were undertaking. The Lord prompted me to keep a daily log of letters and notes so that we would have a full record of all the procedures and processes we faced. This log not only served as our "memory" from month to month, and eventually year-to-year, but also gave us an insight into the "trends" that we seemed to be experiencing.
"Encouraging" People Can Help You. I am thoroughly convinced that encouragement is just as important as information in times of struggle. Those whom God calls alongside you to encourage you may not have any real understanding of the issues or details related to the problem you are experiencing.
The people in my own company certainly walked the road with me spiritually. The Lord also let us into association with several people, both pastors and laymen, who prayed for us as we faced specific decisions and difficulties.
These are also two women, one named Dorothy and another named Mary Jo, whom God has called to pray for Lynne and me personally, as well as to pray for our company and ministry, who have very little understanding of medical devices or political processes. Does this make them any less and in courage her? Not at all. I drove great strength from knowing that these women are praying for our godly success and the defeat of all spiritual forces that are coming against us. The power of their prayers does not lie in there knowing any details but rather, in their knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and no what it is the Lord desires to do in our lives – defeat the enemy, bring us to wholeness, and use us to let other people.
Continue to Believe in What God Has Ordered
In any difficult season, God calls us to continue to trust Him and to continue to believe that what He has said He will do... HE WILL DO!
David knew what it meant to be discouraged. At times there must have seemed to him that he would never truly be King of Israel, even though he had been anointed to that position by the high priest Samuel. For nearly a decade, he was frequently on the run, hiding in caves and wilderness areas from the wrath of King Saul who was jealous of the anointing on David's life. David wrote this:
I would have lost her, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord! (PS. 27:13 – 14)
As much as the Lord may bring alongside people who will encourage you to continue to stand strong and to continue to trust God, the Lord also expects you to do what you know to do in encouraging yourself.
How does a person encourage himself or herself? There are three main ways:
First, voice your thanksgiving and praise to God on a daily basis. Search reciting to the Lord all the things for which you were thankful. Every time I turned to the Lord and began to think Him and praise Him for all His blessings – my salvation, the salvation of my children, my marriage, my health, my sound mind, my spiritual gifts, and on and on – I found myself feeling more encouraged.
Surely God who has been faithful the past will continue to be faithful in the future. Surely God who is capable of doing all things can handle the problem that is currently on my horizon. Surely God who is able to move heaven and earth can move on the hearts of men and women who are opposed to His plan!
Sometimes the easiest way to add thanksgiving and praise to your life is to surround yourself with praise music. Fill your car, your home, and even your private workspace with music and honors and lift up the name of Jesus.
Second, read God's Word, and especially focus on the promises of God and the word of Jesus. You may find it helpful to buy a Bible that has the words of Jesus in red letters. Fill your mind with which Jesus had said and you will have a clearer perspective on your problems. The your mind with God's promises and you will have a greater hope for what God is bringing to pass on your behalf.
Third, stay in fellowship with others who believe God and have a heart for following God. Encourage them to obey God and to remain faithful to the calling of God on their lives. As you encourage them, you will find yourself encouraged in return! Be open to the encouraging words that others give you. Be grateful for them. Take them to heart.
When you are going through a difficult struggle, it is more important than ever that you remain consistent invoicing your thanks giving and praise, regularly read God Word, and stay in fellowship with other Christian believers.
Keep the Vision for You
The Lord said to Jeremiah, "Writing a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you." (JER.30:2) The Bible tells us that this practice of "writing God's directives" was also important to other key people in the Bible.
When the Lord gave the design of a new temple to the prophet Ezekiel the Lord said, "Write it down in their site, so that they may keep its hold design and all its ordinances, and perform them." (EZEKIEL 40:11) When we write down God's call on our lives, we have a reminder of what God specs us to do with our time, energy, and resources. We are to keep that vision "insight."
I strongly encourage you today to write down the call that you perceive God has on your life. What does He wants you to do? To accomplish? To create? This say or write or express? Write it all down! Put the vision into words and then post those words were you will see them frequently.
You may want to write down the vision of the Lord for your life on a little card that you talk into your wallet or into the visor of your car. You may want to write it down on the back of the Bible him you read daily, or write a friend of your personal journal or prayer log. You may want to I did on a piece of paper you keep in your jewelry box for post on the mirror in your bathroom. Keep the vision before you!
The Lord set this through His prophet Habakkuk:
"Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it terries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come.
It will not tarry." (HAB. 2:2-3)
What you write out will motivate you. It will remind you that your life has purpose and direction. Your vision will continue to speak encouragement to your heart, so that even during times when you see little progress are felt dismayed at certain things you see happening around you, you will be reminded that God has an "appointed time" for the fulfillment of the vision He has placed in your heart. Be patient with God's process. "Wait" for His timing and for His methods to work on your behalf. The fulfillment will come!
The more you read what it is that God has called you to do, the more that vision will become a part of you. It will be present in your mind and heart – you will remember it, and it will be the "lens" through which you see the world and the perspective from which you make decisions and choices. The Lord said to Jeremiah:
'This is the covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel after those dates, set the LORD; I
will put My law in their minds, and write it on their
hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be
My people." (JER. 31:33)
Although the Lord was speaking in this case about the Holy Spirit one day writing the truth of God into the hearts and minds of those who would accept Jesus, the principle is one that extends to all the Word of God. When we commit God's commandments and calling to our memory – when we honor God's calling to the point that it is given priority in our hearts – we are much more inclined to pursue God's: and to do so on a consistent basis day by day. The vision God has given us for our lives calls us continually to praise God, action trust God for His divine guidance and help, and to think God for all He is doing in us and through us.
Note Dead-End Purposes
God doesn't call was to a dead – end purpose or a cul-de-sac of "mission." He calls us to be fruitful, multiply, to take dominion over the earth, and to be blessed to others. God expects you to go somewhere and He promises to be with you until the moment you "arrive" at the destination He has purpose for you. He does not send out His Word without affect. His promises call to you were promises and a callback He will help you fulfill!
God Word holds out this wonderful promise to us:
"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And did not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me avoid,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it."
(IS. 55:10 – 11)
God Word accomplishes what God purposes. It may not be what we purpose in our own hearts, or with our own limited perspective and energy. But His call on our lives this accomplish with He desires to accomplish if we will come to believe and to pursue the vision He holds out to us.
Furthermore, the word God speaks to us is the word that has moved location built into it. It produces – seed to the sower, bread to the future. It blesses us (with bread for us) and blesses others (with harvest – producing seeds that are sewn into their lives).
Be encouraged that God is at work! He is not only doing something in you before you... By his doing something for others who will observe your life, perhaps read about you some day, or who may hear of your work or be the recipient something you have created, and invented, manufactured, produced, preached, or done!
I have no doubt that part of the purpose for the struggle that I went through in my marriage, as well as the struggles I've been through with the FDA, were for the purpose of telling you as you hold this book in your hand,
"Don't give up! Stay encouraged! God’s call on your life is not void. It will come to pass if you will continue to believe for it him pursue it, and indoor whatever persecution you may experience."
I can absolutely tell you that in my walk with the Lord over the past 20 years, there have been numerous times that I wanted to quit in the calling He had prescribed. That I always do everything perfectly? No. But I did stay focused on the direction He had called me to pursue. There is no quitting when God calls you, matter what the personal cost. He is faithful!
Believe for the Fullness of God's Goodness
God's desire is for His people to receive the fullness of His goodness. Only God knows what "fullness" involves. What we can do with certain key is that His goodness is infinite and He always has more for us.
Several people said to me that the time of the FDA battle became intense, "Why don't you just retire, Bob? You've done great work. People have been helped. Why fight so hard? Why don't you enjoy your retirement years?"
Well, in the first place I don't really believe in retirement. I believe that people me shift gears and do different things in life, including new things in their older years, but I don't believe that any Christian is ever called to retire from full and active service to others.
As long as a person has breath he or she can pray and intercede for others. As long as a person has energy he or she can work to help others. As long as a person is capable of engaging in business, professional practice, invented or creative work, or any other form of enterprise, a person should do that. The phone is a person's breath and a voice, he or she should be active in the witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. The more talent that you use, that He has given you, the more likely you will receive more.
There's no place in God's world that mentioned a time in a person's life when appropriate with bonds is to sit down, relax, and take it easy. Rather, we continually are to be about the goal of extending the kingdom of God and of winning souls and taking the message of God's healing, restoring, and delivering power to those who are sick, in me, broken hearted, or in bondage of any kind, including depression, pain, and discouragement. We are to be doers of the Word, act of to the best of our ability.
I have observed over the years that people who "retired" often quit work suddenly and completely. They lose a significant purpose for living and in many cases, they seem to die shortly after they have stopped getting up every morning to go to work. That isn't the only tragedy – the world also loses the great benefit of that person's talent, knowledge, and experience.
I am a strong advocate for people in their older years to become mentors. I believe the "senior citizens" should continue to produce, create, invent, teach and be involved with people, and to continue to contribute to God's kingdom in as act give away as possible.
There are days when I think you might be nice to quit work and do a little woodworking and a little more relaxing. But the deeper part of me says, "That might be nice for a few days and I should just take a vacation to do those things." I also have a deep feeling that I may still be challenged to teach some of what I've learned and to make available some of what I've vented to our way nations. Just recently I have been asked to speak in Singapore and Ankarra, Turkey to their respective associations of oral-maxillofacial surgeons. That excites me far more than work working! Also, I've been asked to speak in Vienna to the international Society of oral and maxillofacial surgeons as well as the Mexican society. Only our dear Lord can bring so many opportunities.
The truth is that the vast majority of people who are older than 75 do not live in nursing homes and do not have dementia or Alzheimer's. Much of the media seems to come they are all old people are wasting away in their bodies and minds – that simply is not the case. The vast majority of older people can still think and reason (and solve problems). Still carry on intelligent conversations, still write letters on a computer board or with pen in the, and still praise the Lord and intercede on behalf of others. It doesn't matter if your hearing or eyesight are failing... These four functions are tremendous! Just think of what an older person might do to help a younger person with information, friendship, encouragement, or prayer on their behalf!
I would much rather see what the Lord is going to accomplish through my life than to retire and, in essence, say to the Lord, "That's all I'm willing to do."
No... Retirement is not an option. I believe deeply that God intends for me to remain TMJ Him once he and Covenant Marriages Ministry – not only for the immediate future but as long as there is a need for these entities or the Lord returns, whichever comes first.
I also have a very strong hope and believe that what we have done in our battle to preserve the TMJ implant design will be beneficial to all the others who are in business of designing and manufacturing medical devices. The good designs need to survive and be marketed around the world – not on the basis of any political connections or legal wrangling, but simply because they are good designs that can help people live are productive and helpful lives.
All Truly Good Causes Are "Godly" Causes
All truly good causes are ultimately godly causes because God is associated only with what is good, helpful, and beneficial to His people – and conversely, He allows good causes to prosper even if they aren't overly evangelistic for the Gospel. Because of that, a V he for a troop good cause is always going to have benefits for people "beyond" the person who fights the battle I have no doubt about that.
The battles that we have fought and won against the US food and drug administration in some way will benefit others beyond TMJ Implants Inc. A precedent for justice has been set. Others will benefit, including those who do not have anything to do directly with medical devices.
Not only that, but countless thousands of people around the world will benefit because this device remains available and readily on the market. We have already seen an increase in orders from oral and maxillofacial surgeons in other nations.
And not only that... But the income from TMJ Him and in can continue to fund the not-for-profit ministry activities of Covenant Marriages Ministry. People who have no need of TMJ prosthesis but do have hurting marriages can be helped.
When marriages are restored, couples have a much more give witness for the Gospel, which means that overall, the gospel will be furthered throughout the world on two fronts – from those who have restored marriages proclaiming the power of what Jesus can do take heal broken hearts and broken relationships, and from those who have received help for their TMJ problems proclaiming the power of what a Christ centered medical device company can do to extend the physical healing power of Jesus.
No victory for godly causes ever hollow for returns void. Anything that is steeped in God's Word and has its goal the extension of God's Word is something that is going to multiply and reap eternal benefit.
Looking Forward To What God Will Do
I have an idea what may be accomplished before God will call me home, but I believe that we will continue to see great progress in medical devices to bring comfort and healing to people. I also believe we will see a resurgence of believe that marriages are worth saving and that covenant relationships established by God are extremely powerful.
As I have prayed during our struggle with the FDA, one of my prayers has been this: "I'm going to trust You to send other companies to walk this path with me. I'm going to trust You to bring allies to my side." God is answering this prayer in remarkable ways that are still unfolding.
We have been in touch with several international firms about manufacturing our device – all of which I find fascinating. When it seemed not long ago at all doors were closing, God now appears to be turning things around to open more doors than ever!
In an amazing way that could only have been God's handiwork, I actually was in touch with some of these firms many years ago, using some of their ideas and equipment and they, in turn, used some of my ideas and innovations.
The Lord also seems to be sending new associations my way on the international scene. Let me give you just one example.
A little over a year ago I had an e-mail from Dr. Ho in Singapore. He indicated he had seen some articles and advertisements about my work in medical journals and that from what he could tell, we were on the cutting edge of prosthetic device for the jaw and head. He told me about a woman who was missing about half of her jaw as a result of cancer.
We had just recently completed prosthesis for a teenaged girl who was missing the back part of her jaw on both sides and part of her cheekbone. These bones in her skull had never developed owing to a developmental birth defect known as Goldenhar syndrome. The work we did included re-sculpturing the base first goal and rebuilding her lower jaw. In our reply to Dr. Ho, we sent him some digital photographs, described the process we had gone through, and indicated that we were willing to see if we might be able to help the woman under his care who had lost significant bone mass owing to removal of a tumor. A young woman's spectacular surgery and results were recently shown on television as part of the Ripley's Believe It or Not series. Not only where they feed on the Ripley's program but were later seen again on the Montel TV program.
Dr. Ho was working in a national hospital and money was of short supply. I told him we were willing to help in this particular instance so that our work might become better known in that part of the world. We were also moved by the story of this woman who was only 47 years old, was miserable, and who was facing the rest of her life in a state that most of us would consider to be deplorable. I told Dr. Ho that we would do the work if he could provide a CT scan that took measurements 1 mm apart rather than the 3 mm collaboration that is sometimes used. He indicated that he would provide such a scan.
We were going through a financial crunch ourselves at the time this work came our way, but we decided to go ahead with the casting of this prosthesis. We finished our work shortly before Christmas and sent the device off to him by international courier service. I considered it our "Christmas gift" to this woman who had such dire need.
Several weeks later, I received a call from this meant my home. Actually, I received two calls. All I heard on the first call was the word "ho" and I thought it was a prank call in the holiday home ho-ho spirit! I'm grateful Dr. Ho called back! He and his team were amazed at what we had sent. The woman was healing nicely and was more grateful than words can convey.
Dr. Ho then invited me to come and speak to his colleagues. I told him that sounded like a very interesting possibility. He seemed very grateful that I was willing to come just for the reimbursement of my travel expenses him and I encouraged him to invite anybody who knew in Singapore to come to a meeting to discuss the surgery and to hear about what is available in the world of prosthetic devices. I am eager to see how the Lord may use that possibility.
What I do know with certainty in this situation is that the Lord has placed it in our hearts to do this work... That the device we sent is a device aimed at doing "good" in this woman's life... That the Lord often uses "good” works and generosity as a means of softening the hearts of those who can have great influence for the gospel in their community... And that the Lord always rewards the giving of those who give with a pure heart and a desire to see the healing power of God extended to people in need. I have a strong belief that as we follow the Lord step by step, He will lead us into the future He has destined for us all along, including in the future GOOD business plan, HIS technologies, IS associations and organizations, and HIS ministry opportunities.
No Shame in Standing up for What Is Right
I have absolutely no regrets about what I have done in the last several years in "running the race" against the FDA. Even if I had lost the race for approval of my devices, I run the race in such a way that I would not feel any shame. Therefore, I am in a position to trust God fully and openly for in ABUNDANT harvest of return into my life. God's Word says:
"You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame."
Have you suffered and "irreversible" loss, a setback, or a situation in which you feel you have been cheated out of either time or possessions? There are several other verses I want to share with you to encourage you:
*Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 3:9 – 10)
*The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
*"All those who devour you shall be devoured;
All your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
Those who plunder you shall become plunder,
And all who prey upon you I will make a prey.
For I will restore health to you
And heal you of your wounds," says the LORD.
(JEREMIAH 30:16 – 17)
For what I am believing specifically? One of those things I am believing for is the restoration of the lost income we experienced as we ran our "race."
We suffered a loss of about $10 million in the course of the battling the FDA. That wasn't just out-of-pocket legal expenses but the loss of revenue during the years of the various reports and hearings. I'm expecting a big harvest from God – not only in my life but in the lives of countless people around the world – because I believe strongly God's Word:
Rejoice in the LORD your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you –
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
So I will restore you the years that the swarming locust has eaten...
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My evil shall never be put to shame.
(JOEL 2:23 – 26)
A Call for Greater Responsibility
I am also trusting God to create a greater climate of responsibility, fair play, friendliness, and cooperation in our federal government.
Michael and challenging the FDA was never simply have my own medical devices approved, but to help further the day when the FDA would act more responsibly toward all medical device companies and to spend their millions of taxpayer dollars more wisely.
I recently was invited to speak to a national biomedical conference in Bethesda, Maryland. More specifically, I was invited to be one of the three speakers on a panel to address issues related to the government's regulatory process and tort reform. The person who spoke before me presented some constitutional issues related to the FDA. The man who spoke after meeting gave a personal story about his experience with the FDA, which resulted in his needing to go abroad for a successful back surgery because the FDA would not approve the procedure in the United States. The man who had invited us to speak knew my story but did not know with these other two men were going to say. It must have appeared, however, to those in the audience that the chairman of the panel and all three of us speakers had been in direct communication and had plotted a coordinated strategy about who we would share. Well, the strategy was coordinated... But not by any of us! I truly believe God had a hand in prompting each one of us about what to say to that group.
We didn't know at the time that several key people associated with our FDA struggle were in the audience. They were employees of the FDA. Rather than be the people of "power" at the conference, however, they became people on the defense. I believe they had an eye-opening awareness that their own positions were not omnipotent and that they were subject to be challenged from a number of directions that they had not previously anticipated.
Several people came to me personally and to my other two colleagues later during the conference to say, "You really helped us. We know far better what we are up against and how we need to proceed!"
Even more recently, I was selected to be one of the 10 co-chairs for The First Annual International Conference on Medical Implants held in July 2003. This was a great honor to me since there were so many internationally known scientists in this field. The conference organizer and chairman, Jafar Vossoughi, PhD is a well-known scientist in the biomedical engineering filled. Meeting at the same time was the Second Annual International Symposium on cardiac surgery. The two groups shared an awards dinner on July 25. Three Nobel Laureates were at this conference.
Shortly before the conference on Medical Implants, Dr. Vossoughi let me know that I would be receiving the first Maxillofacial in plant award given by the conference. In addition, the word was being named in my honor.
This truly is something only the Lord could have brought about.
What was somewhat amusing to me was that David Feigal, M.D., was appointed to the advisory board for the implant conference. He is the director of CDRH of the FDA, the very group with whom I have been in conflict! The Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. McClellan, was also scheduled to speak. Another top FDA position was also among those named as co-chairs. I could only wonder if these men had any idea about the Ward that was scheduled to be given to me, or that my name was to be linked to the award in the future. Needless to say, I felt as if I was on the sidelines of office drama, amazed at God's marvelous sense of humor!
By the way, another member of the TMJ Implants Board of director's, Dr. Subrat Saha, was honored with the orthopedic implants award at this conference.
Trusting God for Ongoing Creativity
I am so trusting God for an outpouring of His ongoing creativity – not only when it comes to creating new devices to help others, but in creating new marketing approaches and new ideas related to distribution or delivery.
We have already experienced God's "new idea" for us in the operation of Covenant Marriages Ministry.
At the time the FDA first levied certain charges against us, it would have been very easy to shut down Covenant Marriages Ministry – at least temporarily. I knew the fight against the FDA would be very costly. Certainly the fight was costly in terms of money – a cost that included not only legal fees but also loss of revenue. With less profit from TMJ Implants in, less money was going to be available for the television and print outreaches of Covenant Marriages Ministry.
We asked the Lord, "Do You want us to continue or to cease the operation of Covenant Marriages Ministry? The answer that came to us after much prayer and consulting with wise Christian advisors was that we were to continue. God has called us to these for profit and not-for-profit enterprises at the same time, and He gave us no "release" in our spirit to discontinue either of the for-profit company or the not-for-profit ministry.
We then asked the Lord, "HOW do you want us to continue?" The Lord gave us a very specific plan.
We had been producing a daily television program. Well, we continue to produce programs but rather than right time and broadcast these messages, we streamed them over the Internet. In pursuing the Internet Avenue, we quickly discovered, of course, that we could make available not only our "latest" message but many previously recorded messages. People could call up specific content and watch our messages at times that best fit their schedules and most directly addressed their needs and questions. Not only that, but people around the world could access our Internet site – many of these people had never watched our television program. We never would have generated enough income to buy enough time to cover the number of people that can be accessed through the Internet 24 hours a day!
We were able to continue the ministry God had put in our hearts – in a way that involve fewer people, eight for equipment and paid for studio, and in a way that cost far less. The new methodology also requires far less time and was much less complicated and was extremely efficient and effective in covering much of the world, for pennies, instead of millions. That's God! If you need us, we are at www.covenantmarriages.com.
God's way is always one that will make maximum use of all resources required or available; maximum use of our time, talent, and energy; and result in maximum outreach and effectiveness!
There's an old saying, "When the Lord closes a door, He opens a window." That certainly has been true in my life. In virtually all cases, when the Lord has closed door He has opened an even larger avenue for greater good.
Some of the most creative and restorative work we have done with TMJ Implants has been done for patients in faraway lands.
Some of the most far-reaching results of our Covenant Marriages message have been in the lives of people who were never able to watch our programs on television.
I never want to second-guess what God may do next!
God's methods are always subject to change.
Time stood still on only one day soon God's people could win a battle.
On only one occasion did God raised up a man from a dungeon to a prime minister role in a single day.
Don't limit or second-guess HOW God may work in your life or on your behalf.
I have gone into court battles expecting the arguments and procedures to go one way... Only to be surprised that God had a different plan.
I mentioned in an earlier chapter that TMJ Implants was sued on four occasions. What I did not emphasize was that the plaintiff's attorney was the same in each of these cases!
The first case was settled by the insurance company before the matter went to court. The next two cases went to court; both which were decided in our favor. I had an opportunity to speak directly to the plaintiff’s attorney after the second case he lost. He congratulated me on the "win" and I smiled and said back to him as warmly as I could, "You're just on the wrong team."
I was amazed at the change I saw in his eyes. He seemed to expect a gloating attitude for me, or a condescending retort. He seemed unprepared for my kindness. He nodded and walked away. Before he departed, he let me know I was a formidable adversary and he would not be against me again. Therefore, I wasn't at all surprised later that the fourth lawsuit was "with strong" – totally dismissed. I certainly like that method the best! I gave all the glory to God! I stand today willing to pursue any method God leads me to pursue because I know the Victor he is ultimately His to win and the glory is ultimately His to claim!
God Uses Many Healing Methods. Just as God can use many different methods and resolving legal issues, He uses many different methods in healing. We need to be open to all of them, and we need to pursue ways in which ALL of God's healing processes work together. I've certainly seen God work in healing and restoring people's lives through a wide Friday of methods – both medically and spiritually. Can God heal TMJ pain directly and sovereignly without any need for a man-made implant? Certainly! Does God also heal TMJ pain through medical devices? Most definitely.
I've had a number of locations in my life when God has led me to lay hands on person and pray for that person to be healed... And they were healed. Other times they have not been healed, although I to believe the person was "helped" in their battle against a particular ailment or disease. God is the One who does the healing.
Now to some of my colleagues the fact that I pray for a person to be healed may seem and incongruous with my work as a surgeon. I don't see it at all incongruous because I know that I'm not the one who does the healing and I'm not the one who sets the time of full for a particular healing to be completed. I know God works in infinite number of ways and that His timing is always perfect.
Through the years people have told me stories about how God reconciled their marriages. The basic principles of reconciliation seem to be the same – just as the basic principles of physical healing are the same – the distinct times, methods, places, and circumstances are highly varied. They are unique to each couple.
Look for the Lord to do a "new thing" in your life. The Bible tells us,
"Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.
And beast of the field will honor Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I give waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To drink to My people, My chosen.
This people I have formed for Myself;
They shall declare My praise."
(IS. 43:19 – 21)
This passage tells us that the Lord will do a new thing in your life and you will recognize that it is of Him. I like that line about the jackals and ostriches. Those who are out to rip us apart – like jackals – as well as those who turn their heads the other way or put their heads in the sand to "avoid getting involved" – like ostriches – will both be put in a position to honor the Lord!
And the purpose for the Lord's work? It is to bless His people and to bring forth our praise.
I have seen this happen in my struggle with the FDA. To my knowledge, no other company has faced what we've faced, or had the precise outcomes we've had. Some who have attempted to destroy us are no longer at that FDA, and some who were blind to the procedures of the FDA have now had their eyes opened. The Lord's name is being praised, and the devices and ministry that less people are continuing.
I encourage you to pray for God's creativity. Ask Him to show you how to make the most of the resources He has given you, and how to reach the most people possible with the good messages and good products that He has allowed you to produce.
Take Courage... and Run!
I don't know the details of the attack that is coming against you today. The attacks against you may be against your finances, your work, even your life. The attempt is an attempt to destroy you – not only your current reputation, but any legacy you will leave. The legacy we as Christians need to leave it is not only one of material or organization also says, but also one of Christian witness.
Peter Daniels gave me his Caleb Encouragement Award one evening a number of years ago. In many ways I believe strongly, just as Caleb believed, that my mission is one that I must complete.
Caleb and Joshua were the only two of the 12 leaders sent by Moses to spy out the Promised Land that made it to the Promised Land. 10 of the leaders returned stating that the land was very fertile and desirable, but it was filled with giants and fortified cities. The conclusion was, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we." (NUMBERS 13:31) Caleb and Joshua had a different opinion: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.' Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them. (NUMBERS 14:7 – 9)
The people chose to believe that 10 later majority that was afraid. In fact, they sought to stone Caleb and Joshua. God stepped in and told the people through Moses, "Except for Caleb and son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swear I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised." (NUMBERS 14:30 – 31) The Israelites subsequently wandered 40 years in the wilderness until all of the naysayers and doubters had died.
When the time came for the Israelites to cross over the Jordan and begin to take possession of the Promised Land, Caleb was 85 years old, but he was still a strong warrior. He helped fight the battles at Jericho and Ai. The land had been divided. And then Caleb went to Joshua, "I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for work, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day [45 years before]; for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said." (Joshua 114:11 – 12)
Joshua blessed Caleb and gave him the mountain of the Giants as his inheritance. There, he defeated the enemy and settled the area which became known as Hebron. It formally had been called Kirjath Arba-Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim, the Giants.
Caleb never gave up.
Caleb never stopped believing that God was going to fulfill all that He promised to Caleb.
Caleb never stop fighting for what He believed with all His heart that God had given to him.
Caleb was victorious.
That's the pattern of faith, work, and total reliance upon the Lord that the Lord desires for each one of us. We may not see the victory in a day. We may have to walk through a wilderness time. We may have to fight other spiritual battles in the interim. But that day will come when God will "give us the mountain" that He has set aside as our inheritance.
Every life is not only a story to be told... It is a legacy to be created and to be lived. Hold onto the vision of God's legacy for your life, and run your race with all your strength!
A Final Confirmation
Since the first chapter of Run to Win was written, several events have taken place that have reinforced my heartfelt belief about the faithfulness of God as expressed in His Word: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jeremiah 29:11)without trying to "make things happen," these events have unfolded in ways I would never have expected.
Some 50 years ago, while I was in practice as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I made application for membership In the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. I did so along with several other surgeon friends of mine in the southern California area. But my application and heirs were turned down.
Over the years I did not resubmit an application, nor have I been a member of the national society. During the intervening years, however, I have been privileged to teach a great number of members how to treat patients with serious TMJ problems using that implants I developed.
Then in 2004, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons invited me to speak at their National Convention in the very surgery I had first described some 40 years earlier! Doesn't God have a sense of humor? Several of the earlier antagonists have retired from practice or died, and suddenly, the opportunity for membership in this prestigious society was resurrected. I was asked to resubmit an application, with two of the past presidents of the society (Dr. Francis Di Placido and Dr. Boyd Tomassetti) volunteering to endorse my application. I was also invited to make a presentation at the 2005 annual convention of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. I have also been invited to make presentations at the Mexico Association of Oral and maxillofacial surgeons Annual Convention, and at the international Association of oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Annual Convention in Vienna. With God all things are possible!
Just recently it appeared that God was opening the way for the sale of TMJ Implants Inc. to a top quality orthopedic surgical device company. The sale held within the opportunity for a full restoration of all the finances that my wife, Lynne, and I lost during the difficult years in which the FDA did not allow us to market our implants. Though the sale of the company did not occur, it doesn't change my belief that God is in every detail of our lives, if we allow Him, and that He will make all things beautiful. My trust is in Him. I believing that God will allow me to stay active in the company until I am at the age of Joshua when the Lord finally allowed him to take over the land of his enemy in the Promised Land.
Another wonderful thing that is occurring as I write this chapter, is that there appears to be a real, godly restoration of relationship with several of my older children, who for a number of years were alienated from relationship with their father. Remember the words found in Malachi 4:5 – six. "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and that parts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with the curse." Certainly, such a reconciliation is great be welcomed by me!
These events have all been a tremendous confirmation to me that if we let go and allow God to be God in our lives, then, truly, all things do work together for good for those who love and serve the Lord. (See ROMANS 8:28.)
And when it's all said and done, it's done.
Robert W. Christensen
1951-1952 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Lecturer in Oral Pathology
Lieutenant USNR, Dental Corps
Performed oral surgery for United States Marines
1950-1970 Member and term as President of Southern California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
1953-1973 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
Private practice – Pasadena, California
Performed all major oral and maxillofacial surgery Techniques and innovated several jaw reconstruction techniques
1964 Contributing Editor: Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine,
and Oral Pathology
1966-1972 Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery
University of California Medical College, Irvine, California
Taught head and neck surgery to third – and fourth-year medical school residents
1973-1977 Oral Maxillofacial Surgery practice – Lawndale, California
1977-1981 Retired from active practice
Lecturer, Oral Pathology at Portland Community College
Lecturer, Oral Pathology at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
1981-1988 Practiced the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery
1988-Present Cofounder and President of TMJ Implants Inc.
Nonmedical Books Published
Partial List of Articles Published
Partial List of Presentation Given