The Breaking Point
Dr. Robert W. Christensen
The Breaking PointISBNCopyright © 2010 by Covenant Marriages 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, 13120 W. 60th Avenue, Arvada, Colorado 80004
All scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise designated.
Cover by Michelle at FoxFish Photography, Arvada, CO
This will be about God’s allowing those persons who choose to be used mightily by him to fully lay down their lives for his purposes.
In every case it means brokenness, not as in breaking a vase but by accepting the change necessary, much like a well-disciplined horse might receive at the hands of his master. As one who helped break a horse or two, in my youth, I know something about the patience it requires of the trainer. My brother, Chuck, was very good at breaking his young horse “Dusty”, from the time of a colt into a very excellent cow horse which he used for roping etc.
The story that will be told in this small book will incorporate some of the direction in which the Lord led the author, especially in times of crisis, in which many times our attitude needs to be corrected to allow God to be glorified and victory to occur.
As the reader will see, the story of Joseph in Genesis reflects Joseph’s humility, patience, wisdom and gratefulness to God for always being with him, as he is with us, in times of trouble. In Joseph’s case we see how God mightily used Joseph to save the children of Israel, some years later.
Are we willing to allow God to use our lives for his purposes? Many times we give no thought to what God may be doing through us or to the generations in our families who maybe, unknowingly, will follow in our footsteps for better or worse.
All of us have seen a family where the blessings occur in the latter generations especially after some God-fearing grandmother or grandfather has spent her/ his life praying in earnest for God’s protection and direction over future generations. I suspect we have little knowledge of just how important our prayers are in the world which we live. Our walk with the Lord, especially when things get tough, is a witness to many other people. Character, honesty and trustworthiness, often not necessarily shown openly, will be observed even by the casual observer.
If every generation would get on their knees and pray for our nation, what a magnificent change would occur. If we look at Genesis chapters 18-19 we see Abraham literally arguing with God about God’s desire to destroy all who are in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham was aware that there were some righteous within the city and he asked God, “will you destroy the righteous with the wicked?” God had to finally change his direction due to the petition of Abraham. Lot and his family were saved. That is a magnificent evidence of the value of our prayers.
God sent two angels to save Lot and his family. Do you think God might just do the same for your family because of your prayers? Is there anyone in your family, or mine that is not saved, that God could miraculously save, even by sending angels to do miracles?
This book will bring forth a number of occasions which were very difficult in the author’s life but where God has allowed him to see some victory, not always in the present but sometimes in the future. Does it mean that every time things turn out the way we wish? No, but God brings you through those times, too.
I am reminded of David as the young shepherd boy who God would use to slay the giant, Goliath. What a feat? Yes, but who allowed and orchestrated this feat? It was God Almighty who first prepared David for battle by allowing him to slay the lion and the bear. For most of us that would have been more than enough victory to last all of our life.
However God had another plan. David would be king because God was preparing him. How better to get all of the people on David’s side than to have him slay a giant enemy of the Philistine camp. God would take this young, handsome son of Jesse and use him for God’s wonderful purpose. He would use him to say to Goliath, “You come to me with a sword and a spear, and a shield, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” David was saying in essence, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?” The giant even asked David, “Am I a dog?”
Like we Christians, David knew he was in covenant with the living, all powerful God, and so are you. Now, get ready for the battles and charge ahead when God says go!
First and foremost to our gracious and all-knowing Savior and Lord, because without His gentle correction and encouragement in difficult times, and His grace, none could sustain the brokenness which He so desires.
To my wife, Lynne, who has watched me suffer while being broken, and yet because of God’s grace, and our marriage covenant, she has loved me through all of that and remained my covenant partner.
To my daughter, Joan, a saintly child of God, who has always been there to correct me when necessary, love me a lot, and encourage and walk with me through a most interesting life.
And to my esteemed surgical colleagues and close personal friends, Dr. Ric Alexander and Dr. Crayton Walker, who spent hours walking with me through one of the most difficult times of brokenness that this 85 year old surgeon has endured.
I am so grateful and appreciative, first to the Lord for His grace and patience, but then to the ones mentioned just above whom God used to correct and encourage me on this walk.
I am grateful beyond measure for being counted in the men and women who are labeled as “The Greatest Generation”. We may not individually be that prominent, but certainly there were many that took on the challenges before them, complained very little, and set out to improve their world. My hat is forever off to them all and to the ones who have departed, some in wartime and many in peacetime. They were a loyal bunch, almost to a fault.
So many of my colleagues in high school and college went off to war and some paid the ultimate price for our freedom. No one can adequately relate to the sacrifice each one of them has made to keep America and the world safe from tyranny. Some had young families, some were just married, and some never were able to enjoy the beauty and benefit of having a covenant spouse.
I trust all of you reading this small book will say a prayer of thanksgiving for each of these brave men and women who not only stepped out to accept the call to service in the Armed Forces of America, not only for WWII, but the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Iraq War and the more recent Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We, the living, are in tremendous debt to each of the Patriots, and never a day or week should go by that we haven’t said thank you to God, for those who have gone before and those who are still here, but have joined the battle at some particular time.
One: Are all struggles of the Lord.......................................20
Two: What is the Lord wishing to accomplish in my life or yours?.....................................21
Three: Does He afford us extra grace?................................27
Four: Will He ever leave us?................................................32
Five: Did Jesus exhibit brokenness in His life?....................34
Six: Did others let Him down and what was His reaction?...........................................36
Seven: When others do leave us and seem to let us down..40
Eight: What reaction is He expecting of us?.......................42
Nine: What is our attitude?.................................................44
Ten: Are we dying to self?...................................................47
Eleven: Is forgiveness important?........................................50
Twelve: What if the attack is caused by a family member?..........................................54
Thirteen: Does He expect us to mature in Him?................60
Fourteen: With love can we expect suffering?....................62
Fifteen: If God wants to use us, does He expect brokenness?.........................................67
Sixteen: Does it all get easier as you get older?..................70
Seventeen: Do Christians suffer attacks more frequently?..728
Eighteen: What if the fault is all ours?................................74
Nineteen: Should God be praised in all we do?..................78
Twenty: When He took my P-210 airplane.......................85
Twenty one: My Innovative Years......................................88
Twenty two :What should others be seeing in your life...106
Twenty three: Will your legacy be one of giving glory to God?........................................110
Twenty four: When AAOMS turned him down...............112
Twenty five: When his articles and techniques were ignored.............................................116
Twenty six: When they said he had fled to Switzerland..119
Twenty seven: When the Medical Device Company was Lost ………121
Twenty eight: The Aetna battle.........................................129
Twenty nine: The largest of my battles......................................132
Thirty: TMJ Implants, Inc. and the FDA...................140
Thirty one: Adding insult to injury...................................147
Thirty two: On the more positive side...........................155
Thirty three: The lady with the prophesy for Bob.............159
Thirty four: My scheduled talk at AIMBE.........................161
Thirty five: When you think it couldn’t get worse........179
Thirty six: The Mayo Clinic Letter...............................183
Thirty seven: So how does it end?......................................185
Thirty eight: Somewhat Disappointing........................................191
Thirty nine: The Government Pension................................1959
By Helga Phillips
For many years Bob’s and Lynne’s ministry represented a safe harbor, a beacon of hope for me and many others. When “marriage standing” was not encouraged by any pastors, I, who was seeking God for the healing of my marriage, was able to gain Godly knowledge and regain strength through the books and information made available by Bob and Lynne. When I found myself wondering if I was the only one standing for my marriage, they became my lifeline to the Word of God pertaining to marriage and made contact available to many other individuals with the same wisdom and Godly knowledge on the marriage covenant.
In the past year or so, we have gotten to know each other a bit more thru videos, letters, phone calls, and e-mails. Although I have not met them face to face, which I hope to remedy sometime soon, I feel like I have known them forever.
During the past few months, we have shared many situations and circumstances with each other. I have found many parallels between Bob’s and my life, similar struggles, similar attacks by the enemy by way of unfounded rumors, similar rejections, and similar mistakes along the way.
It is my firm belief that this book will enlarge Bob’s and Lynne’s territory in their ministry. I believe it will bring about God’s promotions. Watching both of them come through their current struggles, I just know the Lord has a specific purpose for this battle, as He does in all battles, and He will, in fact, bring about total victory. I absolutely admire the transparency of Bob’s book. It takes the wind out of the adversary’s sail. How can one be attacked when one has already admitted all life’s circumstances, good or bad, and made these public in a book? I most certainly believe that the current skirmishes will increase Bob’s spiritual knowledge in the form of Godly wisdom which is so much needed within the ranks of Christian leadership during the times we live in. My feeling is that this battle has brought Bob and Lynne even closer to one another and to the Lord to the dismay of the enemy. While I know that their marriage has stood the test of time, I do believe that this battle, in fact , will also bring healing to their whole family. I believe that Bob will recover everything the enemy has stolen in the physical realm. Plots and plans of evil from others will be uncovered, and the Lord will turn the evil plots to blessings for Bob and Lynne. When the storm has subsided, Bob and Lynne will be restored with more than what was stolen from them.
Brokenness causes us to be perfectly transparent, to realize our imperfections, to rejoice in the knowledge that we are indeed redeemed and to be vitally aware that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. It means to let go, and let God do whatever He chooses to do with and in our lives. It means being a bond servant to the Lord; if we give up all and serve Him, the rewards will be such that we cannot contain them. Brokenness causes us to forgive when the world tells us we have the right to be angry. Indeed, it means not to only forgive but to forget all that which others have done to injure and harm us. Brokenness causes us to see the hurting world through the eyes of Jesus.
This book will highlight to many unsuspecting Christians just what kind of spiritual warfare goes on around us continuously. The enemy knows his time is getting short and is unleashing mayhem on this earth like never before. Christians must beware because, as always, we are the primary targets. Bob is taking on some very big issues that may very well put him in a hot seat. He discusses ideas that people hush about because they are thought to be politically incorrect. It is time to reveal those issues so others will not be ensnared.
Bob and Lynne have already run quite a race, and they have run it well. They are still running it very effectively. I have no doubt that they will succeed to reach the goal set before them by the Lord. They have had a ripple effect on many individuals within the Christian community, and I suspect they have no idea just how many lives they have really touched over the past years. It seems that this effect is about to be enlarged.
Whatever their battles may be in the future, I will always keep them in my prayers, asking Our Heavenly Father for spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial blessings for them, and I hope you will too. Although their life and ministry have already had an impact on many people, I believe that God has a still bigger plan for Bob and Lynne, a plan that they are not even aware of yet. I am privileged to know both of them; may God bless them for being on the front lines.12
In looking back over some 85 years of my life, it is amazing to see how our Lord has used various circumstances and individuals to bring me closer to Him and to reflect His magnificent grace in my life. In preparing this manuscript, I was reminded of the time back in the mid 1930’s when I had saddled up a spirited brown and white horse, named Heart, and helped my sister Shirley get behind the saddle. We then started riding about one mile to bring forth a horse for her to ride from another area of the ranch.
Heart was a horse Dad bought in about 1935 from a circus, which had come to San Diego where the horse was used for rides around a circular course. The horse had a brand of a heart on her left shoulder. She had been trailored by us to our ranch corral at Pine Hills, near Julian. My brother Chuck and I had entered the corral to go over and pet “Heart” when we were immediately attacked by the new horse. If Chuck hadn’t pulled out his handkerchief from his back pocket to blow his nose and then waved it at the attacking horse, I suspect we might have been run over and hurt badly. That same horse went over backward on Chuck, who was riding her at that moment. I dragged him home, to be seen by the Julian physician, Dr. Fuller.
Back to Shirley and me that early morning. I had saddled Heart and got Shirley behind me as I slid into the saddle to ride that mile down a dusty road. Somehow Shirley may have gotten her heels in the flank of this spooky horse, and Heart let go with a major bucking which sent Shirley flying. Shirley was only about 8 or 9 years old and I would have been about 10 years old. As I turned in the saddle to see how Shirley was doing, I got slightly off center and Heart bucked me off to the left side. That was not the end of the story. My left foot went through the left stirrup and I was now being dragged down the road with my foot caught in the stirrup and my head bobbing along the dusty road.
Only an angel could have gotten my foot out of that stirrup and allowed me to eventually fall, unconscious, to the ground. Shirley was able to get me, partially revived and crawling on my hands and knees in the dust, the 2 blocks back to the ranch house to the surprise and fright of my mother.
My head had a 5 inch, bleeding gash down to the bone in the back of my skull. With pressure placed over the wound, mother drove me to the general medical practitioner, Dr. Fuller, in Julian some 3 miles away to have the wound patiently debrided and closed with sutures under local anesthesia. Of course tetanus was administered, but this was before the days of penicillin and sulfonomide drugs, and my recovery was uneventful. The point I want to make is that in all of our lives, there are times and there are instances where we should realize that only by the grace of God, are we allowed a long and healthy life.
In considering the fact that we had no antibiotics in those Depression years of the mid 1930s, I felt I had been quite blessed. My father, Dr. Charles Joseph Brophy of New York City fought strongly for his own life when he got a minor infection in his face in 1927 and died within a few days. At the beginning of that August week Dr. Charles was perfectly healthy and happy, but a week later he was dead and buried at the time of my brother Charles’s fourth birthday party. This made for a lot of courage and tough decisions by his 28 year old widow with three small children ages 4 years and younger, with almost no money and little real support. Her name was Eva Sutherland Brophy, and I will always owe a great deal of respect and gratitude to this beautiful young, Columbia University graduate, who gave me life and certainly love over all of those interesting, challenging and formative years.
My granddad, Fred Sutherland, developed a ruptured appendix in 1931 and died just a few days later because in his time as well as in Dr. Brophy’s, there were no antibiotics. He was really a man’s man and a remarkable entrepreneur. I enjoyed my little contact with him. In many ways he left a large footprint in the San Diego business world, basically at the time of the 1929 market crash and Great Depression. He, as well as my dad and mom are all heroes in my thinking.
I will always figure that God saved my life in that earlier accident while riding Heart because at that time, there was some other future call on my life.
Perhaps, the story of Jesus at Gethsemine will show the dedication of Jesus, as it was foretold in Zechariah 13:7, that the shepherd would be smitten and the sheep of the flock would be scattered abroad. Through all of that, including the physical beating, the mental torment and the crucifixion, Jesus’s only desire and goal was summarized in his words to his father, “Thy will be done.” Certainly my dedication is nothing like Jesus, at that moment in his life, but perhaps the will of the Father was overriding whatever life I was living, for His purposes.
As the medical device company which the Lord had me birth some 23 years earlier was going through a severe trial for lack of adequate funding in the midst of a global recession, I was being asked by the Lord to endure another “breaking point”. Though I had been through many episodes of brokenness in my life before, this, however, would turn out to be a formidable undertaking for this somewhat frail, 85 year old surgeon, and many of the people I had called friends seemed to be missing.
There are many people whose lives touched mine leading up to this time of giving up the medical device company and during this major attack that I wish to acknowledge.
One of the foremost was my friend and colleague, Dr. Ric Alexander of Huntington Long Island, New York. Ric and I had met nearly 20 years before when he began placing our TMJ implants in his patients. Ric stood with me through all sorts of battles with the FDA and became a strong ally and confidant. Without his encouragement through some of these battles I might not have retained my sanity. His wife, Pam, was also always there to encourage me and to tell me all would be OK. He wrote a letter to the FDA complaining about what they were doing to Christensen and TMJ Implants, Inc. His famous line, “This is America: How can this happen” was picked up and printed by others. It was a quote for the moment.
Another giant in this particular battle was another friend and colleague, Dr. Crayton Walker, who had introduced me a year earlier to the prospective buyers, a medically related company, which would eventually purchase TMJ Implants, Inc. from the bankruptcy court. Crayton is another very talented and double degreed oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Salt Lake City. I have been in some very complicated surgeries with him in years past, and have been a guest in his home with his lovely and compassionate wife, Nance. She and I have had a number of discussions regarding horsemanship since she is an award winning horsewoman. Crayton’s patience with me during this time of turmoil for the company was remarkable and greatly appreciated.
There were a number of dedicated Christians who kept me focused on God’s love, besides my dear wife, Lynne. Let me mention just a few. My daughter Joan Johnson of Minnesota would perhaps be foremost as she loved and counselled me every few days in the times of breaking. My friend Helga Phillips from Texas, was always there to bring me a pertinent and timely word of God, and do so with great wisdom and compassion… So did Susie Meredith and Cheri Wills, of Colorado. Both of those ladies kept reminding me of the victory we can expect in Jesus.
In an earlier attack by certain members of the Center for Devices and Radiologic Health, the medical device arm of the FDA, the attack was so heavy that many congressional leaders, such as Tancredo, Beauprez, Allard, and Degette, got behind TMJ Implants so that the devices which had been on the market some 35 years earlier, could finally be approved through the rigorous PMA process. That battle cost me, the innovator and founder/CEO of the company, millions of dollars. Two attorneys helped the company in that battle in the legal realm. Attorney, Larry Pilot, a strong Christian and one of the original writers of the Medical Device Act of 1976, was always there to encourage and counsel me in that battle. Lynn Watwood was the second attorney who fought our battles in court.
There was another physician who had a high position at the FDA and who was brought into the earlier skirmish at the time of device approval. His name was Dr. Bernard Statland. He turned out to be a giant in our fight for device approval. He told me, personally, that on two separate nights he could not sleep thinking about the FDA’s attack on me, and on TMJ Implants, Inc. He realized, and voiced to his confreres at FDA, that the standard FDA was holding TMJI to was ridiculous and impossible for any manufacturer to meet, and he overrode their votes regarding approval. The surrounding FDA hierarchy came against him, but he succeeded. He had told me in January of that year how much he was enjoying his position at FDA, but by the end of summer he decided to resign from employment at FDA. A few months later he died, I believe of a heart attack, at a very young age. I want to publicly express my gratitude for the courage Bernie took defending TMJI and even me personally, at his own expense. He certainly was a man of courage and character. Roland Jankelson and Kevin Cornwell were two medical device company presidents, who after successfully saving their own medical device companies from the tyranny of the FDA bureaucracy, patiently and wisely counseled and encouraged the author in his multiple battles with the Food and Drug Administration. They have been very loyal friends and have deserved all of my respect.
Roland Jankelson and his dear wife, Wanda, who has since passed away, were especially helpful to me during the nearly 10 years that we were in battle with the FDA. I particularly salute Wanda as her years were limited, but she never failed to let Roland be there for his friend. Roland made himself available night or day in our TMJI battles with the rogue FDA and never complained about my calling on him for support or counsel.
Another person who stood tall, frequently at his own peril, was Jim Dickinson who was the owner and editor of “FDAWebView”, an industry leader in reporting FDA abuse and industry interactions. At times when he reported accurately on the FDA actions, which were more than questionable, he received no favor from the government bureaucracy, but consternation. I do tip my hat to each of these giants in their fields as it would have been much easier for them to have left me to suffer the attacks without their having to be involved. They each afforded me stamina and courage in my fight with the FDA.
There are probably several others whom I should have acknowledged, but whose contributions may have been temporarily forgotten. To each of them, my apologies.
Are all struggles of the Lord? Certainly not. Jesus said “I come to give you life, and life more abundantly.” I think we need to recognize that when Godly correction is needed, it is given much as a parent would discipline a child. What parent would overlook correction of a child if he knew that there was something better, or even new, which the child should know about?
Our Heavenly Father is a compassionate and gentle master. The enemy, however, is out to steal, kill and destroy. He comes to steal the Word of God from the devoted Christian. What obedient child does not recognize the voice of his parent, and knows that the voice of the stranger is not the same, and needs to be avoided or certainly discerned with wisdom.
Many times the enemy’s attacks have been allowed by, perhaps, some lack of vigilance on our part, whether it be an attack on a marriage, attacks on health or even wealth. We need to be on guard, spiritually, just like in our present world, we must be vigilant about terrorists who would wish to harm or kill us. It is extremely important to remain prayed up and to use Godly wisdom and discernment in all we do.
In a present challenge we are going through I have noticed times of dealing with others in the business world that my spirit has gotten very agitated. I am sure this is by the Holy Spirit’s command, and I need to be wary.
What is the Lord wishing to accomplish in my life or yours?
This is always a subject which is of utmost importance to every one seeking God’s will in his or her life. As we travel down life’s path, there are many junctions where Godly discernment is needed.
It well reminds me of a time in my life when I was changing the direction in my life’s work. It was midnight, January 3, 1950, when I left our home in Chester, California, to head for Los Angeles to be interviewed by the director of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Los Angeles County General Hospital.
My wife and I had been at a Lion’s Club dinner meeting, earlier that evening, in another small town, when I heard of a serious storm approaching the area we lived in and the path that I would have to travel. Thus, I decided to be ahead of the storm, I would drive the 75 miles over the High Sierras, from Chester to Red Bluff during this very evening.
So much for the wisdom of men. The roads were perfectly dry as I got in my newly purchased, but used, 1948 Buick Roadmaster sedan and started driving from the Chester altitude of 4300 feet to elevations over 8500 feet and then back down to an elevation of less than 200 feet at my destination in Red Bluff. It sounded simple. Just precede any storm, and the roads would be dry all of the way. What could be easier?
So, at 10:00 PM, I started my journey. The roads were dry and I had a certain degree of excitement for being permitted to meet with the hospital division director. I would drive to Red Bluff, take a hotel room for a few hours and then drive on to San Francisco and then fly on to Los Angeles later.
I drove happily down the road thinking of the possible life-changing direction of leaving my dental practice in Chester where I was being called on to care for a number of serious medical and surgical problems in patients who had no other medical assistance. The only medical doctor was absent because of his family’s annual vacation. If I got accepted for the training at LACGH, I would be furthering my education in the area of oral and maxillofacial surgery. That would be a new direction for me, but one I felt I would enjoy and excel in. Both were true.
I possibly should have been more tired as I had worked all day in my dental practice, attended the Lion’s Club meeting in the town of Mineral, and then drove 30 miles home, and then started my drive back over the mountains.
Happily, the roads were dry, but within 20 miles I was heading into the largest, most challenging experience of my life to that point.
The road was beginning to be fully covered with snow. I had not attempted to place chains on the car and by the time I realized I should have, it was too impossible. Before 40 minutes had elapsed, I had only travelled less than 25 miles up the hill. The roadway was beginning to be obscured, and it was most difficult to actually see where the road was going. I had the wipers going but they could not remove the amount of snow accumulating on the windshield.
I would look to see where the trees were separated, hoping that was where the road was going. At times it would appear the road might be going in two different directions. The shorter snow markers along any normal mountain road were now covered and of no value. The smoothness of the apparent road was evident. But was it really the road?
As I attempted to move along the road at a low speed, the snow would come across the hood of the massive Buick totally blocking my vision. At one point that mass of snow was so fierce that it ripped off the metal visor which was like an eyebrow over the windshield of that light green Buick Roadmaster. I had to stop and break the opposite end visor attachment off of the car. That allowed me to place the broken visor on the floor of the back seat.
In the next half hour I had only gone another 5 miles and found myself stuck against the right road embankment. The car motor had not stopped, but I was completely stuck as I attempted to get out of the ditch. I had not seen a fellow traveler since I started in the snow. By this time it was almost impossible to get out of the car as the snow was up to my window.
All of a sudden I saw some headlights approaching me. It appeared some kind of vehicle was coming down the mountain in my direction. We were perhaps at the 6000 foot level, and I still had to eventually get over the road summit of approximately 8500 feet.
Only God could have delivered me out of that predicament that evening. A truck with four young men came along and rather quickly pushed me out of that awful mess. I thanked them profusely. I could easily see me trapped in a hidden vehicle, covered with at least ten feet of snow in a hidden road bank somewhere along the mountain road, that night in 1950. I could see a massive, snow-throwing vehicle, used in the High Sierras to clear to highways coming along and gobbling up me and the car if these young men had not come to my rescue.
I’ll never forget on July 4, 1948, the road was just being opened from Mt Lassen to Mineral and there was still 14 feet of snow on that road. So, it was very easy for me to see me frozen and being gobbled up by one of those large snow plows. Not a pretty picture for a 25 year old, young husband and father of one child to contemplate.
For the next few hours I plodded along in my powerful green Buick Roadmaster up the hill to the top, and then I started downhill. The road was much more difficult to locate and to navigate as the snow was getting very deep. I felt little comfort in the fact that I had made it over the higher altitude and was now part way down the mountains heading for Red Bluff, which lay in the valley below, and rarely ever sees winter snow.
Whoops, not only was I out of brakes on my car due to the actual snow, but I was now against another bank, and this time there was absolutely no way I could get out. The outside temperature was low enough that I would freeze unless somehow I was rescued. I went backward and forword against the bank where snow was built up to 6 feet high ten feet behind me and a few feet ahead of me. I was stuck. It had to be at least 3:00 AM at this point.
After reviewing the impossible circumstance for some half hour, I was amazed to see lights coming up the hill in front of me and in my direction. What a welcome I gave those basketball players in that bus as they were heading home, somewhere in those majestic and, at times, frightful mountains. They were able to push me out of the predicament I found myself in, and now I could start down the hill once more, watching out all the way for the cliff on one side which could take me down some 200 to 1500 feet, in a split second. That would not be a good ending for this young and aspiring surgeon.
Six hours after I started my 75 mile trip, I pulled into Red Bluff where the snow was now over one foot in depth and my brakes were totally demolished. I parked in front of the hotel, got a room and slept until I needed to continue my journey to San Francisco.
What is the point of this story? I believe when God has a purpose for your life and journey, he will move mountains to accomplish it. No hardship, no snowstorm, no lack of car brakes, nor any lack of provision will prevent God’s plan being fulfilled in your life. The Lord knew I was to be an innovative surgeon who would bring forth the first artificial replacement for the ailing temporomandibular joint in the United States and the World. This God-given innovation of how we could restore function to an ailing or missing temporomandibular joint would someday bring pain-free jaw function to hundreds of thousands of patients.
I would also be given the privilege of innovating the first individual dental implants in this country and possibly in the world, at no cost to taxpayers, always at my and my family’s expense. Today that is a 2.6 billion dollar entity.
If only we could see what God has planned for our lives when we are 20 years old, or older, what a difference that would make in how we live our lives. I suspect we would be much bolder, tackle more challenges and certainly be able to win more battles.
Perhaps it would also have the effect of making us stand up for injustices and oppression either placed upon ourselves or on our neighbors and even the world. If we are willing to see others oppressed, damaged or placed in bondage, and have the ability to see correction made, but don’t do it out of timidity or selfish concerns, then, really, do we deserve any better ourselves?
Hopefully, this short book will encourage you to review how you live your life, with all laid down for Jesus? Or just living your own life the easy, let’s always just get along, manner?
Does He afford us extra grace?
In his word, Jesus lets us know that His grace is sufficient for us. Does that mean that the attacks won’t be severe, or that we might not suffer some loss? No. Just like when I was thrown from the horse, and then dragged for 2 blocks and injured mightily was there some way I might survive? I suspect an Angel of God helped me live through that early summer morning. The only local physician was only in town 2 or 3 days per week. Fortunately he was there when I needed him.
Did God bring me through the snowstorm? I believe He had others available to help me through that very difficult time.
Many years later in my life when I was a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon and happily married to Lynne, we went through separation and divorce. Does that mean that God left me? No. But he used that time to draw me to Him.
Yes, I was brokenhearted when that occurred. Lynne and I had two young sons, ages 6 and 9. My family was now gone in the blink of an eye. I was devastated. Did God have a plan? Yes, He did.
What happened? God knew that I was not only a surgeon but also a pilot who enjoyed flying my own plane. When Lynne left with the boys, what was I to do? Well, you know what? God had a plan. He showed me on more than two occasions I was to learn to fly a jet plane. Why?
Let me tell you, why.
Lynne and boys had moved some 600 miles south from our home in the Ukiah area of northern California to the greater Los Angeles area. What was I to do? Give up my practice in the northern California area and move south? That meant we would lose our only income and eventually all of our wealth. Was that God’s plan? Maybe not His best, but would that be a plan God might use to restore my marriage and family? Really? And give me a mission field?
That is exactly what God would have me do. To anyone else it was insane. But why would God ask me to do that? Let me tell you why. God had a plan for me and my marriage, but at that moment it was totally unknown to me. As I was making plans to give up my practice in northern California and to move to the Los Angeles basin, I was also improving my piloting skills.
I had acquired my private license many years before and had more recently passed my instrument flying course. Overlapping the time Lynne had left our home to pursue divorce, I was acquiring my multi-engine flying license. It was during one of my sessions, when I was flying to Sacramento from Ukiah, that I received an instruction from God that I was to learn to fly jet airplanes. I had heard it once before, but it was so impossible that I had set it aside.
When I left our medical practice in the north, my income would cease and we would lose our new home in Ukiah, our ranch in Oregon and our new P-210 Cessna aircraft. I then would be looking for some form of employment in the south where I had previously had an oral and maxillofacial surgery practice in Pasadena. During those earlier years I had been appointed assistant clinical professor of surgery, in the head and neck surgery department at U.C. Irvine, College Of Medicine. I remained in that position for probably 8 years, starting in the mid 1960s.
Again, as I was pursuing some type of employment in my specialty, is when I again heard I should learn to fly a jet airplane. To make a long story shorter, when I later found a 38 year old ex-TWA captain, who had a jet flight school at the Long Beach Airport, I immediately signed up. It was during that flight school course that God’s purpose unfolded. When Captain Dale Black and his wife, Paula, invited me to dinner one evening, they realized I was not a born-again Christian and they obediently brought me to Jesus.
It was then that Dale informed me that he and Paula had gone through separation, right up to divorce the year before. He told me that he had gotten in his prayer closet and stood for the reconciliation of their marriage. Dale and Paula now had the opportunity of mentoring me in what I knew, instinctively, I was to do. Stand for my marriage reconciliation. That is what I did as God led me toward seeing my marriage healed. This eventually led me to found Covenant Marriages Ministry to help thousands of others do exactly what Dale had instructed me to do. In that year of 1983, there was no one, that I knew, giving that Godly counsel. So, again, God’s magnificent grace was there for me as he will be for you too if you choose to be obedient to him.30 As the years have progressed from that pivotal moment, I have seen the Lord perform many miracles to encourage me and others to always follow his direction.
One of the moments which I have written about before had to do with a vision the Lord had given me some six months before Lynne and boys would leave our home in Ukiah. It was a dream, just before I awoke and it was very vivid. It showed me Lynne dying. I saw myself carrying her around like a large piece of styrofoam. She was about her height of 5”6” tall and was only about 2” thick. I knew in the dream I must find water to hydrate her and revive her. No one was willing to give me water. I went from house to house and from business to business. I was getting frantic, because I knew without that water, Lynne would die. I told Lynne my dream and also my daughter, Joan. Joan had explained the dream to her brother, my son, Peter, a Catholic priest.
About one year later, Peter commented to Joan that the dream reminded him of the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman, found in John 4:13- 14. A year had passed since the time of my dream, but when I read the parable, I realized the water I had been looking for, was not that supplied by people, not even the Samaritan woman. It was the “Living Water” which Jesus was talking about. Lynne had now been gone about 6 months, and seeking divorce.
At this time I had been born-again about one month. As I read that parable in John 4, I knew right away that son Peter was correct.. I knew Lynne needed the Holy Spirit of God, or she would die. Only God’s Spirit could revive her from a death and from a divorce that should not occur. At the moment of my dream in 1982, I had believed our marriage was doing well. But God knew I needed that word of knowledge and so he put the pieces in order. I trust this may give you renewed hope for what God’s Holy Spirit wishes to do in your life. No battle or even attack is too great for God.
Will He ever leave us?
Jesus told his disciples he would never leave them nor forsake them. Is that important? Absolutely. In so many different circumstances, those who normally might be around us and support us can all of a sudden be not available. You can find yourself totally alone. Sometimes, the Lord is attempting to get our focus more squarely on him.
Certainly, one of those moments is when you are going through separation and divorce. Friends tend to take sides, often thinking they are being helpful, but usually they are not. As a pastor/founder of Covenant Marriages Ministry, I am occasionally asked to marry a couple. Perhaps the couple is reconciling, or perhaps it is their original marriage. I always instruct the witnesses to never interfere with this couple’s covenant of marriage.
Stand with both of them for the healing of their marriage, at whatever stage of conflict they may be involved, and never take a side against either of them. The marriage covenant is very powerful, and when people stand on their words of commitment and covenant, God can perform his miracle because he never leaves us. I previously wrote a book titled, Unleashing the Power of Covenant, which speaks to the power available in a Christian marriage covenant for healing and restoration.
There are other instances when friends and acquaintances can be very much missing, when they should be supporting the individual or couple. One of those moments may be when the individual or even couple are suffering a financial setback or even bankruptcy.
If ever I have learned anything it is of the gentle, loving nature of the Father. Just like a parent who always is looking back toward the wayward child to love and forgive him for whatever problem might be present.
At one point in our earlier separation and divorce, I was without a car. I was now living back in Southern California and traveling 80 miles a day for work. I prayed for a VW rabbit as I felt that would afford me transportation and fuel economy. I had met a man, named John, in a restaurant in Glendale, and I mentioned to him I was praying for a VW rabbit. John related he had a VW rabbit that he might want to sell. He knew I was in divorce and was a Christian believing for my marriage restoration. He didn’t know I was broke and had no way of buying a car.
He asked me to meet him at the restaurant the following Tuesday, which I did, and lo and behold, John gave me that VW rabbit, which had two fuel tanks, was in mint condition and had a beautiful dark chocolate brown paint job. I was speechless. Only an angel of God could have met me that very moment, and John was his name. You see, God can find the most ingenious ways to care and bless his devoted servants. I placed 2 inch letters on the back of that VW, which read, “Jesus Lives, He gave me this car.”
Did Jesus exhibit brokenness in his life?
In so many instances, Jesus had to make himself of no importance, to do and have the effect which he desired. This is the chapter and verse which I mentioned earlier. In this chapter of John 4, Jesus is on a trip through Samaria on his way to Galilee with his disciples. The word tells us he was weary and sat down by Jacob’s well while the others departed to fetch some supplies.
A Samaritan woman approached the well to fetch water when Jesus asked her if she would give him some. She asked Jesus why he would speak with her a Samaritan, because the Jews never did. The Samaritans were the infidels as far as the Jews were concerned. Jesus used the opportunity to show that God had a different plan of which she knew nothing. Basically, he reveals to her there is the “living water”; he is using the rejection expressed in the Samaritan woman’s words to show her that our Heavenly Father has sent the Messiah, and that the Spirit of God which she seeks will fill her, so that the natural water becomes a bit less important. It was in this Bible story that God is able to bless not only the Samaritan woman, but her family and some of her town folk. God always does more that we expect or even hope for.
That is the call on each born-again, spirit-filled believer. How can we bring others into God’s kingdom? Jesus’ words later to his disciples, stated, “It is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing.” Jesus not only endured the humiliation of the lack of support of his disciples and friends, which caused unimaginable loneliness, scourging, then the trial, being mocked by Romans and Jews, and finally the crucifixion. Can we even begin to realize the brokenness Jesus had to endure? He walked that path in obedience to whatever the Father had asked him to do.
Was there more of a sacrifice that he should have done to save the world? No more was needed. Can we just pick up our cross and follow him? That is the question?
Did others let him down and what was his reaction?
For most Christians and even non-Christians, the loneliness caused by others withdrawing their love and support can be devastating. In Jesus’ case, the loneliness was felt especially in Gethsemane when Jesus was praying and asking the Father “if this cup might be removed”? What He was saying is that, certainly there must be another way to redeem mankind? Did he really have to endure the pain, suffering, rejection and crucifixion for these people? He answered it Himself, saying “Thy will be done.” He perspired blood at that moment. We can never fully realize nor fully appreciate, the price that Jesus paid for our sins. All we can do is marvel and be eternally grateful to our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus.
The rejection and loneliness felt by Jesus can only be partially appreciated by similar moments in any Christian’s life. Oftentimes we see some great Christian individual and admire the position they might be in, or the stance they are taking, or the honor they might be receiving. It might be someone like President Ronald Reagan or Pope John Paul or possibly Mother Teresa or Billy Graham. In any of those lives where God accomplished so much, I believe we can be sure there were many times of loneliness, suffering, great pain and breaking.
It is truly like looking at a sample of precious metal, such as gold or silver. It must be heated in the crucible until it becomes nothing but liquid and all of the impurities are removed. I believe that picture describes quite well what God is doing in our lives to make us pliable and most useful for his kingdom purposes.
As I live this life and face many interesting challenges, and even periods of rejection or loneliness, I must face it much as did Jesus. There are times in which you are compelled by the Holy Spirit to remain calm and silent. I can tell you, that is not an easy assignment, but certainly Jesus’s walk was not easy. But, praising God, his Spirit is always with us and guides us into all truth. There are other times when the Spirit would have you speak out and possibly fight back.
In 1987, Lynne and I were directed by God to start a medical device company to produce the implants for replacement of the temporomandibular joint. The innovation was given to me by God back some 27 years (1960) earlier and was the first such invention for reconstruction of this joint in the world. The profit company would be started alongside a non-profit ministry to marriages, called Covenant Marriages Ministry. The vision was much bigger than we could perform unless, of course, God would patiently walk with us, and He did.
We dedicated the company, when it was founded, to God, and we always prayed for the covering of Jesus’s blood over the company and people we employed. In fact, we actually had the sentence “to know Him and make Him known” as the expressed goal for the company. We mounted that statement on the entrance wall of TMJ Implants, Inc. so as people came into the office, they would see that consecration to our Lord. Never a day would go by that I didn’t look up at the 9 inch tall, metallic letters and consider exactly what God had planned and had me help develop. It, to me at least, expressed a very noble, worthy and important goal.
Through the next 23 years, the medical device company and ministry grew and prospered. Many were the attacks over those years, and some were massive. But with God’s help we survived them all. Many were the miracles of marriage healings and physical healings through those two ministries over those many years.
This God-given surgical innovation, for serious temporomandibular joint problems, was a first. Tens of thousands of people had been hurt, many seriously, by other surgical treatment types, some of which bordered on insanity. Some people had been so maimed that they committed suicide, and others wished they had.
As I pioneered this new surgical treatment and gathered the helpers and scientists together to prove that what I had been suggesting for some 4o years would be the solution to most of the problem, storm clouds of attacks mounted.
Isn’t that exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said you will be persecuted for His name’s sake? And the Bible goes on to tell us that the devil came to steal, kill and destroy? My life as the innovator of a very useful technique and implant, would be challenged severely. Knowing who I was in God, made the walk much more tolerable for me.
I am reminded of the time when the professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at USC School of Dentistry had informed his students and others at meetings that Christensen and his TMJ implants were the laughing stock of the nation. That was in about 1962-63, and I was still new in my innovation. It was hard to overcome as he was the head of a large department at USC, my alma mater, but also headed that same department at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, where I trained just a year or two after he had trained there. On a few occasions he would counsel patients who were to have me perform my operation, and he would attempt to keep them from going ahead with my recommendations and surgery. It was unethical of him. I had a student in his class wear a “wire” attached to a wrist watch and to record his conversations. That was at the suggestion of a Melvin Belli, Esq partner. We never pursued an attack on him, but certainly could have. At that time he was a tormentor.
The Lord led me to go to one of his presentations in about 1964, where I introduced myself to him, and I said, “Marsh, I’m Bob Christensen, the one you have been talking about.” I don’t ever recall hearing of his speaking against me again. He was gracious that evening letting me know that he had heard of my recent lumbar surgery. Sometimes, one has to just be gracious. I had always wanted to visit with him later when the technique was fully recognized as the best procedure available for the restoration of pain free function in the degenerated TMJ. He died in 1994, and I never did see him again. I regretted not ever attempting to visit him in his later years, as I suspect we might have enjoyed each other, talking about those early years.
When others do leave us and seem to let us down? (Remember Joseph and his eleven brothers?)
The biblical story which I want to speak about, at this point, has to do with Joseph as seen in Genesis 37. If you recall, Joseph was Jacob’s (Israel’s) youngest son. The word tells us that Israel loved Joseph more than all of the others and consequently made him a coat of many colors, which, of course, infuriated the brothers.
They plotted to do him in, and when the time was right, they threw him into a pit in the wilderness.
But you see, God had another plan.
Some Midianite merchantmen passed by and pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmeelites for, interestingly, 23 pieces of silver. The Ishmeelites brought Joseph to Egypt.
Wow! what an interesting route for this favored son of Israel. What is God doing in your life? Have there been any setbacks that appear to spell doomsday? Most people looking at Joseph’s life thus far would say it hasn’t been blessed by God. I would agree. It looks terrible, with or without the coat of many colors.
After some 23 years our medical device company was blessing the world of hurting people with TMJ problems. It had given me an opportunity to be a blessing to not only the 60 or more people who had worked there at various times during those years, but also it was a tremendous blessing to hurting marriages by the contributions which the medical device company was able to make to Covenant Marriages Ministry. It allowed the ministry to have an in-house TV studio and to produce and air a daily TV program to hurting marriages over a wide part of the United States. What a blessing to millions. What a vision God gave me while in the midst of divorce.
The vision had been imparted to me way back in 1983, right after I was born-again. A profit company and a non-profit ministry would be founded side by side. I realized the ministry would be to hurting marriages, but had no idea what the profit company would do. Only much later did God show me that part of the vision. It really is not important that you get all segments of God’s vision at one moment in time. It is most important that God will remember, and he always does.
The company was blessed to be able to see so much being accomplished, but we were always mindful that both the ministry and medical device company were the Lord’s. We frequently recommitted both to Jesus and never took that commitment lightly. Many times we would literally anoint all of the doors with oil, and we would pray over each room. These were God’s companies and we wished to see his mantle always residing over them.
What reaction is He expecting of us?
It is always so important to know exactly what the Lord wants us to do in any given circumstance. When Jesus was departing this earth and leaving his disciples, he made a most important statement, “Wait for the promise of the Father which you have heard of me.” He went on to say, “For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Jesus knew that unless we are born-again and baptized with the Holy Ghost that we were no match for the attacks of the enemy, but, more importantly, we won’t be led by the spirit of God and know the salvation offered by God for our sins. As a minister of the gospel in the Covenant Marriages Ministry, I was always aware of the importance of being spirit-filled, tongue speaking Christians. People attempting to stand for the healing of their marriages come under severe attacks of the enemy, sometimes from friends or acquaintances, but most frequently by the spouse or other family members. Those attacks are usually verbal and emotional but can at times also be physical. It is only by being led by God’s Holy Spirit and being spirit filled that anyone can endure those moments of hurt and still find forgiveness and love in their heart for that wayward spouse.
Having said that, in all we do, it is important to be assured we are being led by God’s Spirit. So much of this world is being led down the primrose path to the abyss, basically leading to hell… Jesus said he wants to give us the abundant life. That does not necessarily mean that we will possess great wealth or that the path will be without obstacles. No, it doesn’t, despite the preaching of many preachers. It does mean, if we are saved and obedient to his call on our lives, he will meet our needs. Didn’t he tell us our Heavenly Father clothed the lilies of the field and cared for the sparrow? Are we of less value to our Heavenly Father? I don’t think so.
What is our attitude?
Are we doing as the children of Israel coming out of Egypt? Are we seeing ourselves as grasshoppers? In Numbers 13: 30 “Caleb stilled the people before Moses and said, ”Let us go up at once and possess it (the promised land): for we are well able to overcome it.” God had already told them that this promised land was theirs. It doesn’t matter that there are giants in the land. That is true for your God-given vision, too!
We can learn even more from what God said to Abram in Gen 13:14, “Lift up now your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward: for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever.”
Sometimes an unusual situation may occur that will bring some action or effect that you might least expect. As the CEO of TMJ implants I was subpoenaed to a deposition regarding a possible lawsuit against our company by a patient who really had no legitimate claim but pursued it anyway. What happened was quite miraculous as Lynne, my wife who was at that moment divorcing me, also had to be present at the hearing as at that moment in time she was president of the medical device company. I am sure she was not looking forward to it.
We both were present, and it was a friendly meeting and one in which I was glad to see happen as I had been standing for the reconciliation of the marriage and family for over 2½ years. Little evidence of any move in that direction had occurred.
I had spent the previous 30 months making sure my attitude remained friendly and Godly in regards to my wife. I had learned that it does no good to be in bitterness about what might have happened – or to be in unforgivingness.
Lynne and I exchanged pleasantries at the deposition and when it was over some rather interesting things were orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. I had very well noticed that Lynne had fixed herself up very well on that day and looked very attractive, as she might normally for an important meeting. I complimented her on how well she looked but tried not to make that a statement which could make her feel uncomfortable.
By the time the deposition was over, it was about 3:30 PM and I found myself asking her if she might like to go to dinner? Wow! Did I say that? To my surprise she said well it was a bit early. Then I said could I pick her up at her home at 5:30 or 6:00 PM? She accepted the invite and said she would drive to where we would be going. I gave her my suggestions; she agreed, and we would now be having our first date in 30 months. Isn’t God great. Even years later, I am surprised by those words out of my mouth. Had they been stifled by me, that date may never have happened.
I rarely would have such a call for a deposition, and yet here was a call for one and one in which Lynne, too, had to be present. Then to be instructed by the Holy Spirit to ask Lynne to dinner was absolutely amazing. That would be the beginning of our dating and remarriage within a month. Only God can help restore a marriage that has gone all the way through the divorce process. As we have taught for years, the power of the marriage covenant, vowed before and including God, can really not be dissolved by the words of a judge. Lynne and I were to see that miracle happen twice, all the way through divorce. How amazing is that?
Are we dying to self?
If we are Christians and stepping out to do what Jesus commands us to do, and certainly the Holy Spirit will be instructing each one to do, then it will involve a large degree of dying to our own wishes. That seems like an impossible task as we are all striving to protect our own selves, and those things we are involved in. Yes, you are correct, which comes to the point of this small book, “The Breaking Point”
No matter how much we may have suffered through some difficult time, and how effectively we may have laid that on the altar of the Lord, we are surely to find there is much more.
As you read through this book I am sure the reader will see the various trials the author had to endure with each one ripping at his soul for forgiveness and mercy and rendering God’s Hesed love to a world that many times appeared outright adversarial.
If we review the various kinds of love God displays in the bible we see first,
• Agape Love. A love that is referred to as God’s love. A love without limits or boundaries. It is love for love’s sake. It is a love because you choose to honor a person. God displayed that love when, “He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
• Phileo Love is otherwise known as “brotherly love” and has boundaries. It is a shared loved which is expressed to those who are in relationship with another, either by blood or by a mutual faith, cause or purpose.
• Eros Love is frequently expressed as “sexual love” and is to be expressed to your marriage partner, and is not to be expressed between persons of the same sex, nor to a person who is not your marriage spouse. This love is for the satisfaction of your spouse in marriage.
• Chesed or Hesed Love is a love expressed inside covenant relationships. It is often translated as “loving kindness” or “mercy”. It is an unfailing love that never weakens, is always present and never diluted. It is love plus loyalty. When seen in the marriage covenant, it is love that goes beyond feelings, it is a love which becomes a “choice” or ”decision” to extend mercy and kindness in all situations, at all times. It is a love commanded by Jesus to all of his people and certainly, most of all, to those who are married in covenant.
Hesed love is the love which compels a spouse to stand for his or her marriage even when the leaving spouse declares, “I don’t love you anymore,” and it should depict to the standing spouse that no judge has the power to dissolve your marriage covenant, no more than he could dissolve your personal covenant of salvation through the blood of Jesus. Truly, the judge is dealing with smoke and mirrors and should be challenged by our faith and stand.
I told the judge hearing our second divorce that my covenant marriage didn’t start in his courtroom, nor would it end there. It was true as I stood for my marriage to Lynne through the second divorce to see us again remarried 2½ years later. Remember, with God, all things are possible.
That statement of mine is in the recorded record of the trial in the Jefferson County courthouse of Colorado. I am sure it made that particular judge feel just a bit smaller in stature on that day. No offense, your honor, but my God is the true judge, and when He lets me know my words spoken in my marriage covenant are to be honored, that is what I am going to do.
Is forgiveness important? (Again Joseph and brothers at the end)
Perhaps one of the most difficult areas in a person’s life is to take responsibility for where we have been wrong or have disobeyed the teachings of Jesus. He admonished us to be as little children, needing to learn from others, and over and over again he exhibited the teachings of forgiveness. When Peter asked him if he should forgive 7 times, Jesus replied 7 times 70 times. In other words, an infinitesimal number of times.
I know in my own life there have been moments of great failure, such as divorce. Does that mean we can’t be forgiven and have a life after failure? That is exactly why Jesus came and did what he did. He was the sacrificial lamb, sent by the Father, to remove our sin as far away as the east is from the west. His sacrifice was paying, in full, our debt for our sin, not just a covering of our sin.
Man could not redeem himself. Only the blood of the perfect Lamb of God could do so. The earlier sacrifices presented to God by the children of Israel, could not remove the sin, but to just cover it, not even forever, just yearly.
The sacrifice of Jesus permanently destroyed the hold that the devil had over all peoples. By receiving the invitation and offering of Jesus, and asking him to be our Savior and our Lord, we have the victory over sin and death. God put his Holy Spirit within each born-again believer and gave us the assurance that He would never leave us nor forsake us. On His part, that was the biggest act of forgiveness that anyone could ever even imagine. What more could Jesus, the Son of God do? He accepted all of our guilt, for all of our sin and sin-nature and paid for that sin finally by being tortured and nailed to the cross. We just spit in his face, went our own way and he loved us back to health, joy and happiness, and never speaks a word about it.
That is the path he is asking us to follow. Can we do it? Yes, but never as well as he has shown us, but we are to try because, with him, all things are possible.
Just as when Joseph was placed in the pit, there was nothing he could do. There was no one who would sympathize with this poor bedraggled man in the pit.
But look at what God had planned. Joseph certainly went through other attacks, but as he sought to obey his God. Then God was able to enlighten him so that others wanted what Joseph had.
It wasn’t long and another serious attack occurred when Potiphar’s wife attempted to say he had molested her. It wasn’t true, but again, he was placed in a jail. What a travesty of justice, but Joseph just kept his attitude right and sought the will of his Father. Joseph had to forgive Potiphar’s wife, the cruel justice system, the jailers and whoever else took advantage of him.
I went through some similar, but different, attacks of the enemy as I was growing the medical device company.
God had shown me I should found and be president over the new company. The Food and Drug Administration made several vicious attacks on the company and on me personally. There was no way I could avoid the attacks, and the cost of them was more than significant, sometimes costing us millions of dollars. My only desire was to bring forth to the community an excellent surgical technique and implant which would restore function to the dysfunctional, diseased, malformed or traumatized temporomandibular joint.
You would have thought that would have been most welcome by everybody. Not necessarily so. In this case the people at FDA had ulterior motives and conflicts of interest and were out to prevent this most trusted implant, with 40 years of successful service, from being approved. It was an awful battle which cost my wife and me millions of dollars which we really didn’t have, but which we took from any profitability the company might have retained. When that particular battle was over, we just had to forgive them and move on. We had won that battle but at great sacrifice and price, and there would be more attacks.
In Joseph’s case he would be redeemed by his God and rise to be the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, just because he sought God in all that he did and then waited for the victory that only God could bring. He truly was favored by God, and it was God who made him a very special coat of many colors.
We will talk a bit later about how God used him to forgive the very family members who had thrown him into the pit. The family reunion and redemption came at a time when they would have perished without his forgiving them and eventually saving them and their entire family. It took his whole life to see that degree of vindication, but Joseph freely gave his life. Sometimes we will find that may be our lot also. In any case, just freely give your life back to God, much like a Mother Teresa.
What if the attack is caused by a family member? (Joseph and Potiphar’s wife)
In one’s life things may occur that go so far beyond what you ever may expect or deserve and that you can’t find words to express. It is in these times when one’s knowledge of his salvation and forgiveness becomes paramount. One of those instances occurred in about 1992-93 in my life.
As I have stated before, and written about in other books, my first wife, Ann and my marriage ended in divorce in the early 1960s. It was not God’s will as we succumbed to an attack of the enemy. I certainly was not a born-again, spirit-filled Christian living a Christian life. Ann and I had eight children, six girls and two boys.
Now some 30 years later, my second daughter, who at that moment was about 40 years old, announced to her mother, her siblings, the extended family, to any friends or acquaintances who might listen to her, that her father, me, had molested her as a child. My daughter, Joan who was the oldest daughter said that was nuts and immediately let me know of the accusations and immediately confronted the accusing sister of such a lie.
Much like Joseph when Potiphar’s wife accused him of attacking her, there was little that I could do. After discussing these accusations with my wife, Lynne, we strategized as to what might be done. I decided, with Joan and Lynne’s concurrence that I should phone the accusing daughter to learn what actually she was saying. The most I got out of her was that this so-called attack had first been suggested by her therapist. Then she had decided it had occurred one time. It was later, however, suggested that, perhaps, it had happened many times over a 10 year period. All of this seemed to be occurring because the therapist was suggesting it.
I was for making the 2 hour flight from Denver with my daughter Joan and an attorney or pastor along, to have a meeting with the daughter, her therapist and her attorney if she would also agree. I also suggested I would be willing to have a lie detector test if she would. Both offers were rejected.
As some further investigation was taking place by our side, it became very apparent that this daughter had been having repeated psychological counselling, at one point by a male counselor who according to what this daughter told me, had encouraged her to believe in the molestation theory and referred her to a female counselor who apparently encouraged the same lie. My daughter Joan had heard the same thing from her slightly younger sister.
This story and its elaboration was following the pattern of a number of other similar stories occurring during this same time period in other families. It was most prevalent in both the Minneapolis and Seattle regions of the U.S. The theory being advanced by the counselors was that these troubled women, who were frequently in multiple relationships and marriages, and yet were so troubled, was caused by “False Memory Syndrome”.
The counselor would lead the distraught woman into believing she must have been molested by her father even though there had never been any mention of such an occurrence to anyone, not even her own sister.
Well, this was a syndrome unknown to the older surgeon-father but not for long. The newspapers were being filled with similar attacks, sometimes not just against the father but even against the mother. This so called syndrome, was creating a maelstrom of hurt, and a few years later, it was totally debunked. The American Psychiatric Association came against those spreading this so-called syndrome as truth when it truly was a totally fictitious one. The insurance companies covering the therapists let their insured know they would not insure them if they were teaching this so-called syndrome as fact.
Suicides occurred in families. Divorce occurred and even terrible lawsuits. Families would become so divided over such false statements and attacks that no degree of denying the accusations would prove to be effective. It was becoming a national tragedy, being fostered by therapists, without legitimate answers. Court cases often occurred, usually ruling against the accusing daughter but at times against the unlawfully accused person and placing him in jail.
I certainly hold these therapists accountable for the harm they have perpetrated in the American people as a fact, when in essence it is almost witchcraft, and used to gain money for the therapist, it caused much harm to the afflicted client and certainly to the parents and entire family. I don’t put all of the blame on my accusing daughter, but when the truth about False Memory Syndrome was uncovered, she should have squarely faced the therapists and repented to her father and other family members. Unfortunately, that was not done, but instead the lie has gone on to further her abhorrent behavior.
In our family, those horrible and absolutely false accusations have separated many family members for decades. The extended family who were involved in the malicious attack might still have questions as to the veracity of what? There is little way of undoing the false accusations. The particular daughter, in my case, has never repented for what she has done. As she moves forward in her life with new mates, they are apparently being told the same old, false story, and when they are told by Joan the accusations are false, they are shocked, as they should be.
At one moment in time, a few years after the time of the accusation, and during the wedding of another one of the daughters, we had a gathering of all the daughters with exception of the accuser, who chose not to attend her sister’s wedding. The daughters sought a meeting with me immediately following the wedding and in a very viewable glass room.
It was not meant to be a friendly meeting, but a somewhat adversarial one. I likely surprised them when, in that meeting, I outright asked each daughter, one at a time before the others, if I had ever laid an inappropriate finger on any one of them. The answer in each case was no! Unfortunately, there has been no real resolve to what had happened.
It is exactly like someone being put in jail for a rape or murder in which he was totally innocent.
Without repentance by the accuser or some DNA evidence coming forward later, there is no redemption of the accused person. This horrible scenario cries out to the justice which only God can bring.
I have, until this moment, never told this story to others, knowing it would only be God who could vindicate me. I had thought, for years, that my son, Peter, the Catholic priest, and now Bishop of Superior Wisconsin might be the reconciler of the family members in love, but to date some 18 years later, that has not happened. Through it all, God has never left me. His grace is sufficient for me even when just a few years ago that accusing daughter, while we were all present for another family wedding, approached me while I was sitting in a car waiting to leave, and out of her mouth came the words, “I thought you were dead.”
I had no words to speak. As a father who has been wronged, I, like Jesus at his trial, had to remain silent. It has been most difficult when you know so many family members and others were fed the lie and apparently bought it, yet none ever inquired of me as to the truth. It is reported that this is a pattern of the so-called False Memory Syndrome perpetrator, to attack the accused parent in some spectacular and visible way, and usually before others to get the greatest impact. I must say she succeeded in her display of bitterness and deceit.
I seriously considered whether I should put this chapter in this book but felt because of my age and having gone through an open heart surgery last year, followed by three cardiac arrests, that I should leave my statement as to the truth in this matter for all to see.
In all of this, God has put an enormous love in the heart of this 85 year old father for all of his children, including not only the one that accused him, but to the several others who joined her to abandon their love and respect for their father. Sometimes these attacks can seem impossible to survive, but when God’s love fills your heart, all things truly are possible.
Does he expect us to mature in him?
In speaking of spiritual maturity one can be reminded of the children of Israel moving into the land they were to occupy. Nothing happened quickly. If we look at the words found in Deuteronomy 7:22-24, “and the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou may not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shall destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou has destroyed them.”
We must recognize that many attacks that come against the people in the world are orchestrated by our ungodly enemy. Consequently, as people of God we are given discernment as to how to come against many attacks, not in the way of the world, but, most importantly, in the manner which God teaches.
When we were new Christians, we were likely not familiar with the spiritual nature of the battle and many times we may have fought back in the manner of the world. How much different it is to fight these attacks in God’s ways.
Having the Holy Spirit residing within us and his guidance in every moment of every day, gives the Christian much peace, discernment and wisdom.
Maturing in the spirit is a lifetime goal and adventure, and just as God spoke to the children of Israel, He will lead us and He will help us win the battle. It is so difficult, at times, to realize how important it is for the Christian to let go and let God.
With love can we expect suffering?
This has probably always been a most interesting topic among Christians, young and old. Many who are young in Christ will have been told that once they have committed their lives to Jesus that all of their problems are solved. I wish I could say amen and just send those reading this tome on their merry way.
It seems to me that the evidence might show that spiritual battles occur as a Christian begins to mature in his Christian walk and be a threat to the enemy. One must finally realize and appreciate the tremendous sacrifice which Jesus paid for your sin and mine to deliver us from the hands of the enemy which allows us to be called children of God so then we need to always be living in praise to God. The attacks on Jesus were fierce and can only be recognized as such but never really experienced except perhaps in some very extreme circumstance.
As this book will depict, my life as a Christian has brought forth attacks which many others can only marvel at. Does that mean that God doesn’t love Bob? Not at all. As I have been given the opportunity of suffering in His name, I am able to understand to a larger degree the love of Jesus and the Holy Father for mankind and even for this humble servant.
Let me tell you a story quite unlike any other that I will tell in this book. It started a few years ago when my cardiologist discovered I had a slight heart murmur. I had not been aware of it and after it had been present for a few years the cardiologist felt we should determine the degree of health of the cardiac valve that was the source of the murmur.
After numerous imaging sessions, with contrast and without, it was determined that I had an aortic stenosis, and it was to be observed for the following 6 months to one year. As time went on and it was confirmed it was not improving but regressing, the time came when open heart surgery was recommended.
Being a retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon with a lot of experience in serious and complicated head and neck surgeries, I am always aware that unforeseen circumstances can arise, and it is wise to be having one’s surgery with competent, experienced surgeons and in a hospital ready for those special emergencies which sometimes occur. In this particular instance, I suspect it was the Holy Spirit that was directing my very path.
With that background, I decided to have my condition reviewed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. I had been privileged to have introduced Mayo Clinic to a surgical technique for reconstructing the temporomandibular joint, a technique and implant I had invented some 50 years earlier. I had presented it in a surgical film which showed at Mayo in 1972, and in about 1987, Mayo Clinic began using that surgical technique as their mainstay for all variety of surgical procedures for restoring pain-free function to this very important jaw joint.
Because of these connections with the oral and maxillofacial surgery department at Mayo Clinic, it allowed me to get to be seen for my heart surgery by the chief cardiac surgeon in that institution. It was for me, the better of two worlds and for which I praise God daily.
A year later Dr. Hartzell Schaff, Mayo Clinic’s chief cardiac surgeon, was replacing my failing aortic valve with a very healthy looking porcine (pig) valve. Since I was president of TMJ Implants, I would need to get back to work as soon as feasible. My friend, Dr. Hartzell Schaff, was very well aware of that fact and doing all in his power to see that it might be accomplished.
An interesting thing happened on the third post op day. I was in my room on the cardiac surgery floor, having been in the cardiac ICU for about 24 hours. I was lying in my bed and conversing with my wife, Lynne, that morning, when the nurses were infusing a drug in my I.V. I had just commented to my wife that I felt a little woozy, and at that moment I went into a convulsive seizure. Fortunately, the resident and nursing staff saw what occurred on my EKG leads which were being monitored at the front desk. Lynne went into immediate prayer mode.
Immediately, the code blue lever on the top of my headboard was pulled, and Lynne saw some 17-20 nurses, residents and staff surgeons, including Dr. Schaff, all rushing into my room. I had a cardiac arrest and now the team had to work quickly if they were to revive this 84 year old surgeon.
Several techniques, which they had planned for in advance for just such an occurrence, didn’t work or worked only for a short moment as my heart stopped beating 3 times in those 20 minutes. What a challenge for the excellent staff in that room, they continued their attempt to revive an esteemed colleague. Finally, with the use of electrodes placed on my left chest and right shoulder they were able to electrically stimulate my heart back into a normal rhythm. At one point I awakened and peered out throughout the maze of staff to see Dr. Schaff’s face. I heard him say, “Hang in there, Bob”, as though I had any choice in the matter. I often remark jokingly that I was born-again three times that afternoon. I certainly give praise to the excellent medical staff at Mayo Clinic, but even more importantly, to God. Many people afterwards stated, “God isn’t through with you yet, young man.” I knew that was true, and I have accepted the challenge.
I also jokingly commented that when the external chest electrodes were being activated, I would awake and feel the jolt of electricity, and it felt like it was “old Sparky” that was used to electrocute the prisoners in Georgia who were being put to death. Although it was perceived as pain, it wasn’t an unbearable thing, just the anticipation of the next jolt of electricity. As a surgeon familiar with these things, it was something to be experiencing it firsthand.
The very interesting part of this was when I asked Lynne if she had become fearful through that horrendous episode which she was watching unfold, she answered, “No”. She felt peace. I let her know I felt the same peace in that interesting morning adventure on the cardiac floor at Mayo Clinic.
To me, it has confirmed the magnificent, all encompassing love of Jesus and the Father for his sons and daughters residing on planet earth. It confirms to me the real need to bring the lost to the table of Jesus. Certainly, as I have seen these 85 years slip by, it just makes me even more desirous of seeing everyone offered the opportunity to be in God’s kingdom by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
If God wants to use us, does he expect brokenness?
Absolutely. Looking back at Joseph and his story, one can only realize a part of what he was going through. Here he was the youngest son. Probably as one of the youngest sons he was babied because it certainly was told that he was favored by his father, Jacob. Can you imagine being next to the youngest of twelve sons in a family? You’ll either be favored or forgotten. I have forgotten how many daughters there were, but I feel certain he had some real allies amongst those sisters.
Jacob must have been given a heavenly vision of insight to the real beauty in this son, Joseph, for him to want to clothe him in a very special coat, of many colors. Isn’t that like you as a Christian? You, and all of us clothed in Jesus, have been given a garment of praise to wear wherever we go. I believe it is that very garment of light and peace which makes us a target for the barbs and attacks by the unsaved and certainly of the devil.
So, Joseph was given a special coat of many colors fashioned by his father, Israel (formerly known as Jacob). Now the battle begins. The Bible tells us he was hated by his brothers who could not speak peaceably to him. Haven’t you found that to be the case of many either unsaved family members or unsaved acquaintances. They just find it hard to speak well of you.
As I was going through the episode of losing everything I had ever worked for in the demise of TMJ Implants, Inc, I found some of the same attitude was occurring in the staff which I had blessed and worked with for some 22 years. It wasn’t that they hated me, because I had shown remarkable compassion to all of them and their families for many years, but they could not speak with me nor comfort me in my terrible loss. I do believe much of this was being placed on their shoulders by the new management of the company.
It was a lonely and emotionally difficult thing for me and my wife to endure. It was helping to complete a brokenness which I had been encountering in many points of my life through the years. Do I think God was permitting it? Yes. If God is going to use us for his kingdom work, he will want to mold us into something that can be used wherever, just for his purpose. We are the clay; he is the potter. Joseph, (first chosen by the father to be his son), is now being stripped of all of his identity, allowed to be placed in a pit and then sold into slavery, transported into a foreign land only to be abused and placed in prison.
But wait, a heavenly vision or dream came Joseph’s way, to be used by God to begin to elevate this young man to a more useful spot. Wow! some will wonder, can God really orchestrate such paths? Yes, if a person is sold out to be used for his purpose, God certainly can and will direct his paths. In Proverbs 3:6 God says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” God literally means what He says, and says what He means.
If a person only looked at a snapshot in time of Joseph’s life you might determine the following;
• Joseph was the next to youngest of the 12 sons of Jacob
• Joseph was loved by his father and received a beautiful, multicolored coat
• Joseph was hated by his brothers
• Joseph was thrown in a pit
• Joseph was sold into slavery to the Ishmeelites
• Joseph was then sold to Potiphar, the Egyptian pharaoh’s captain of the guard
• he was accused of molesting Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison
Does that give us a picture of a serious problem? Are your circumstances as dire? Can God change them and bring you to victory?
Yes, God is more than able to bring me and my wife through this very difficult moment where I have lost the dream God gave me some 27 years earlier. Does that mean he doesn’t have a plan for me now? I believe God has a great plan for my life going forward and I just have to move forward in faith expecting to see God perform another miracle. Will I be given dreams as was Joseph in prison? Possibly, but I will use the wisdom and direction God is giving me to take baby steps until a greater part of his path for me is disclosed.
Does it all get easier as you get older?
As a senior citizen, in his 86th year of life, I can for a fact, tell you facing some of these attacks doesn’t get easier. I do think one gets wiser and understands many of these attacks are truly attacks of the enemy. Then, if directed, one can and should fight the battle in the spirit and allow the battle to be the Lord’s.
As I mentioned earlier. We are presently going through the pit or prison experience of where we have had to bankrupt our medical device company and allow another company to purchase it from the court and move ahead with what was a dream given to me. It has been a very difficult situation for me, personally, and for my wife, Lynne, too, in that we initially lost all of our income and our life’s work, not to mention the daily contact with our staff.
As the new company had to first acquire the failed company from the Court and then move it into a new facility in the same building, much time was lost. The company chose to hire the former staff and so kept their income intact through the bankruptcy. I had really two goals through that turbulent time. One was to keep our TMJ implants available to the surgeons and patients who would need them, and two, to keep the staff employed so they would not have to be unemployed during the months and years of the present recession. Both goals were met.
Do Christians suffer attacks more frequently?
That may be an impossible question to answer with any authority, but I would say that Christians throughout history have been persons with targets on their backs. If we look at the early disciples, they all died martyr’s deaths, except for St. John who, I believe, died of natural causes on the isle of Patmos. The others were crucified, burned in oil, hung upside down and Lord knows what else. They all gave up their own lives so that the gospel of Jesus would be brought forward with power. Jesus himself showed all of us that to follow Him would cost us. Some maybe not as much as others, but certainly there would be a cost for all of us.
As ministers of the gospel and pastors and founders of Covenant Marriages Ministry, my wife and I have seen much pain, hurting and defeat in the marriages of our fellow Americans. The Christian marriage is certainly under attack as frequently as the non-Christian marriages. We have also seen the massive attack where the populous is being encouraged to accept the ungodly acceptance of same sex marriage. Even our school children are being educated in the ways of homosexuality with very few objecting. What an attack on the sanctity of Christian marriage where the manner of God for marriage is one man married to one woman for life.
We have encouraged hundreds of spouses who have been left to stand for the reconciliation of their marriages. The world feels that is ridiculous and that, after all, if one chooses to leave a marriage, he/she should be encouraged to do so. We have seen many marriages reconciled when a single spouse gets the view that his/ her marriage was a godly covenant of marriage and that no judge has the power to destroy a Godly marriage covenant when even one spouse is willing to stand on her marriage vows made before God.
If we review the word found in Revelation 12:12 we can quickly see God’s prophetic word telling us, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you in great wrath because he knows that he has but a short time.”
In the earlier verse we see the words, “And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.”
In I Peter 4:13 the word tells us that we are to rejoice inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, “when his glory shall be revealed. You may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Yes, I do believe Christians suffer, much like the world, but knowing always the victory that is ahead. I would say as does St. Paul that we are to count it all joy to have been counted worthy to suffer for His sake.
What if the fault is all ours?
Sometimes we just have to admit we made a terrible mistake and not always are attempting to justify it. There are plenty of examples in the Bible about some of God’s most respected people making horrible mistakes. One example would be David when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba and also ended up sending her husband to his death in battle.
Another might be Moses before he led God’ s people into the Promised Land and he killed an Egyptian. Did God give up on either of these courageous men? No, but it didn’t mean there would not be consequences for their rebellion and sin.
A cursory review of the psalms which David wrote spells out the sadness he felt and the consequences he endured because of the earlier sin.
I think back in my own life when I was extremely busy in my surgery practice, not to mention raising a family of five children and attempting to innovate new surgical techniques and implants, that I succumbed to taking an injectable form of methamphetamine, attempting to keep awake and have more energy.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. What started as an occasional use of this most serious drug became a real addiction. I could hardly believe how dependent one could get on this chemical. This was in the 1960s, and little was reported on the consequences of a person taking such a drug. We used it medically to awaken drowsy patients from office ambulatory anesthesia where it really did help. Some 12 years earlier a Ms Graham, an RN anesthetist enlightened me about the use of this drug in patients, but she also added, that occasionally it could be helpful to the surgeon who might be overworked and tired because of evening hospital emergency calls, surgery or whatever.
I attempted to break the bonds of addiction from this drug on several occasions over a 2 or 3 year time of abuse, but couldn’t. It turns out many years later as tons of Americans found themselves addicted to “meth” that this drug was found to be the top of the list for being almost impossible to break the habit.
I certainly found that to be so, but I finally was able to stop “cold turkey”, but the accomplishment was extremely difficult, and I suspect God’s hands were there to assist me. That is one drug that it seems pulls you into addiction almost immediately. I never want to go through that ever again. It truly was a “living hell.”
But, like every other difficult time we experience, God can use it to help others if we are willing. Although I have never spoken of my earlier addiction to “meth” before this moment, I have always realized how important that part of my testimony could be to some other poor individual addicted to that awful drug.
Never a week goes by that I am not reminding myself how grateful I am to God for loosing those bonds of addiction. Back in those years I felt I would not live to see 40 years, but thanks be to God, I have lived more than double that life span.
An interesting thing happened some 28 years later when one evening while I was visiting with Joan and family in Minnesota; I was asked out to dinner by Peter, my son. It seemed a bit strange that he would invite me alone to dinner, but I gratefully accepted.
It started out as a nice visit, but soon the reason for the invite was very apparent. Peter stated that Ann, my ex-wife, and many of the children felt I was still addicted to meth, and they would pay for my going into some treatment center for addicts for a period of 28 days. I was flabbergasted and suggested to Peter that as he would be dropping me off at Joan’s house that he come in and tell Joan exactly what he and others were suggesting.
I must say, I was devastated by the suggestion that I was still an active addict. Much of this had been foisted on the children by Ann who was still, 30 years later, most unforgiving for the earlier divorce. We had both asked forgiveness, for the divorce which occurred, of each other and of the children some years ago. Despite that, much unforgivingness reigned in the family, and this was an indication of it.
Joan and I felt that it might be smart to agree to meet with the drug counselor in an attempt to put this attack to rest. We did just that, with Joan standing by me while four or five of my other children stood with their mother.
Fortunately, the counselor was a person who was well versed in addiction as he had formerly been involved in some drugs, himself. He first met with me, individually, and was more than convinced that what I was saying about conquering that dreaded malady some 30 years earlier was certainly the truth. Now, he was to confront the attackers or doubters with me there. It was an interesting moment as the voices rose against me in unison, and I attempted to justify my position. When it all ended, the counselor met alone with the family members, and, in essence, told them they were the problem, not Bob.
As Joan and I drove away from that meeting, Joan just laughed at my attempting to justify my position. It reminded her of someone just shadow boxing. She wisely informed me that I didn’t need to justify myself, and that statement has magnified itself in my spirit ever since.
Should God be praised in all we do?
Absolutely! In Acts 16:22 we see how Christians are supposed to behave when Paul and Silas are viciously attacked. “And the multitude rose up against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God; and the prisoners heard them.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bands were loosed.”
If that doesn’t give you a picture of God’s power to change the circumstances, what will? To me it shows how God and His angels are always available to help those Christians whose lives are completely sold out to Jesus and his work here on earth.
I remember a very special moment in my life and the life of a young African-American boy about four years of age. The scene was as follows. My son Matthew and I had travelled from Golden, Colorado to DIA (Denver International Airport) one weekday afternoon when I was scheduled to meet a surgeon from another state who was coming to a conference we were hosting on temporomandibular joint reconstructive surgery.
Matt and I were walking out in Concourse C which was quite empty, but where the surgeon would arrive at one of the gates. As we went to the gate, I sat down to read over some surgical reprint which I needed to read.
I had noticed two middle aged, pleasant looking African- American women herding four or five young children in the middle of the same Concourse we were in. The children ranged in age from probably 3 to 6 years of age.
As I was reading the journal, Matt hurriedly let me know one of the young boys was choking. As I looked over toward them I could see what was happening and how one of the ladies was attempting to reach into the throat of the choking boy.
I immediately started my run toward the choking boy. As I pulled off my coat, I said to the mother that I was a surgeon and to let me have the young patient whose airway was totally blocked. I picked him up and placed him in a face downward, head lowered position, holding him suspended in the air, but between my two hands.
I then compressed my hands causing the lungs to compress rapidly, and then to my relief, and to all involved, a jaw breaker projected from his throat and mouth and fell to the floor allowing proper breathing to occur. I was thankful to God for the years of anesthesia and surgical experience He had allowed me to perform, which gave me the information to help this young child. I heartily gave God all the praise and glory for what He had done that afternoon in Concourse C at DIA. I then asked the grateful mother if they were all Christians. Her answer was, “Yes.” I said to her that I knew God had a special plan for this young child and to watch over him carefully. She assured me she would.
It was no accident that Matt and I were in that Concourse that afternoon at exactly the moment God needed us there.
There have been many times in my life when God had me step up and be His hands or voice for a special thing He wanted done. Another time was when I was given revelation knowledge of the fact that God wanted me to lay hands of healing on a young boy in Ukiah, California.
It was an interesting situation which first started a couple of years earlier. At that earlier moment, Lynne and I were given the opportunity of praying with a middle aged mother for being born-again and, secondly, for the healing of her marriage. Her marriage was later restored.
A couple of years after that meeting, we had heard that her 12 year old son had brain cancer and was not expected to live more than 2 months. It was only a few days later that the Lord gave me a word of knowledge that I should pray and lay hands on young Matthew for his healing. I let Lynne know what God had shown me but then waited for the opportunity which God would have to orchestrate.
Almost a month went by before that opportunity arose. We were attending a mid-week, evening church service and afterward decided to stop at a Denny’s restaurant to have coffee with two of our friends from church. We almost never did what we were doing this evening after a church service. We, normally, just drove straight home.
We sat in a booth at the far end of the restaurant, but as we passed by another booth, Lynne noticed the mother of Matthew sitting there with her family. I was excited and could see that the mother had recognized us, also. At the end of their eating I beckoned them to come over, which they did. There were two or three children plus the mother and father.
I asked them to please sit with us for a few moments and then I began to explain what God had said to me a month earlier. The mother and Matthew both began to light up with a Godly enthusiasm.
For the next 10-15 minutes I reminded, especially the father who I believe was not saved, of the many times that I could remember of Jesus healing the sick. I knew it was imperative to build their faith. We were all getting so excited as the anointing of God rose over all of that Denny’s restaurant that evening.
Actually, in another booth only 10-15 feet away was a deaf mute couple of middle aged women who all of a sudden began to sign back and forth very excitedly. 84
As we figured later we felt we could have brought all of Denny’s patrons and workers to the Lord that evening as the anointing was that powerful.
It now was the time I had been waiting for. We all joined hands as I prayed for a total healing of Matthew’s body and that the tumor would be gone in the name of Jesus. As we finished, the mother, Janet, said to me, “I knew we were to see you.” You see, God knew exactly what was needed and exactly when and how it would happen. We were all so blessed and so grateful to God.
We next caught up with Janet 18 months later when we flew our plane back into the Ukiah airport, and she was patiently waiting for us. She told us the doctors had just that day taken a final CT scan of Matthew’s brain, and there was no cancer left. He was healed. We were in no way surprised as we had been telling people around the nation, as we preached marriage healing, about Matthew’s miraculous healing some 18 months earlier.
When he took my P-210 airplane
This may have been one of the more interesting moments in my past. At one point back in the 1980s I owned a Cessna P-210 airplane. This was a very special single engine, pressurized aircraft that could fly at about 200 MPH at an altitude of 20,000 feet and would hold 5 or 6 passengers plus the pilot. It had a retractable landing gear, a turbocharged engine and was a very quiet airplane to ride in.
In 1983, my wife Lynne and I were involved in a divorce. She had moved from our home in Ukiah to stay with her folks in the El Monte area of Southern California. On one weekend I had flown my plane to the John Wayne airport in Santa Ana, California. I had parked the plane and placed a wheel lock on one wheel, then grabbed a car and travelled to the Lake Arrowhead region. One week later when I came to get back in my plane for the trip north, the plane was missing. How could that be?
There was a Sheriff’s station on the airport so I enquired as to whether they were aware my plane was missing. Yes, they had allowed my wife to pick up the plane sometime that week. Lynne had a friend who was in the airplane business who accompanied her for the “theft” of my plane. Actually, he had been a man I had bought planes from before, but in this instance, he was attempting to get this very fancy airplane into his possession so that he could sell it and make money so doing. He had jacked the plane up, then took the wheel off the plane, thus getting rid of the wheel lock. Then he put the wheel back on, lowered the airplane, got in and literally flew off.
I never got my plane back, as the “friend” hid the plane from my eyes, except when he would fly over the home where I was finally living. I was on the down-wind leg of the El Monte airport, so he would rev the engine and tip the wings whenever he would fly my plane over my house.
This fellow finally got picked up by the police department for stealing airplanes and at one point had some 36 felony counts against him. His court day was set, and the week before the court date arrived, this 54 year old man had a massive heart attack and died. It was particularly interesting because the Lord had shown me, about one month earlier that he would die. It was a very vivid picture of what was going to happen. I then began to fervently pray for his soul.
It was a bit like Haman during King Ahasuerus’s reign over Persia when the king advanced Haman above all of the princes. Haman had secretly attempted to have the Jews in Persia captured and exterminated.
Mordecai was a Jew residing in Persia whose cousin was married to the King. Mordecai had learned of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. Haman had seen Mordecai in the King’s gate earlier and Mordecai had not stood up when Haman passed through the gate. Haman was wroth and decided to build a gallows to hang Mordecai. He sought the king’s agreement.
But as the Lord would do, he allowed the King to read a historical document which told of Mordecai sometime earlier, alerting the King that two of his chamberlains had plotted to kill the King. Now the King would not allow Haman’s plan to go ahead but said whoever had planned the attack on Mordecai would himself be hanged on the scaffold. So it was accomplished, and Haman died on the scaffold he built to hang Mordecai. It just goes to show you that those who attempt to attack God’s people, may be the recipients of God’s wrath.
So it was with my friend who stole my plane. I never got the $150,000 airplane returned, nor did Lynne get any money for allowing him to steal the plane. Just as God had so vividly shown me, this man was paying a heavy price for the taking of God’s elect’s possession.
My Innovative Years
• The Circumferential Dental Implant
It was in those years between about age 35 and 40 years that seem to be my more innovative years. I suppose a person needs to get ample experience behind him so as to begin to know what works and where innovation and creativity are necessary.
I had always felt there had to be some way to anchor teeth to the jaw bone as a tooth replacement and for improvement and substitution for the more cumbersome and awkward dentures which people without teeth were wearing. I had first given that some thought back in 1948 when I began my original practice in Chester.
As the years went by it was even clearer that a simple method of attaching a single tooth or multiple teeth should be made available. The only technique which had come forth with any success was the so-called subperiosteal implant devised by Goldberg and Gerskoff in about 1950. It was a very cumbersome type of implant in which the surgeon had to take an impression of the mandible and have a laboratory design and cast a Cobalt-Chrome casting which was meant to cover the superior surface of an entire mandible and have four posts protrude through the mucosa on which to attach a lower denture. It was a remarkably complicated technique in which post-operative infection can torpedo the entire event to everyone’s dismay.
I sought after a simpler, single or multiple teeth replacement type implant which required no earlier surgical technique or special laboratory procedures. Something that would be pre-fabricated and useful in any patient at any instance. My original dental implant I called a Circumferential Dental Implant and sought a U.S Patent for in the late 1958-1960 time frame. I placed them in dogs and cats as my own financed and accomplished research project with success, and then placed them in patients and made a motion picture film of the entire procedure. The film was called “The Circumferential Dental Implant-The New Way” and appeared on the Annual Program for The American Dental Association occurring in Los Angeles in October 1960. The L.A. Times wrote a medical story about my innovation and presentation at that same moment. It made quite a splash with the American Implant Society which was having their meeting in conjunction with the ADA meeting. No one was aware of any of my work. That was the original, individual dental implant in the United States. Many more were to follow.
The Los Angeles Time’s, October 18, 1960, Story About Dr. Christensen’s Dental Implant Invention The “Implant-A-Band” Dental ImplantThe“Implant-A-Band”DentalImplant90
The Circumferential Dental Implant 91
• The TMJ Implants
This next part of this chapter deals with my innovation of an implant to reconstruct the temporomandibular joint. It truly starts in the late 1950s and more specifically in 1960. As a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon practicing alone in Pasadena California, I was being asked to treat many difficult and complex patient issues. For some of the problems, there had been no effective treatment and I was attempting to think out of the box to be helpful to those patients.
One area of surgical treatment in which there was no consensus and certainly no satisfactory treatment modality, had to do with the surgical TMJ problem. The problem could manifest itself in a host of ways from fractures of the joint all the way to agenesis or even tumors of the particular structures. But the most frequent was degenerative joint disease, just like we see in the hip and knee.
I had examined many patients, during my training at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, who had suffered trauma to the mandible and who then suffered fractures of the condylar neck, unilaterally or bilaterally. The usual treatment being recommended at that institution was the closed reduction with immobilization of the mandible, in occlusion, to allow the fractured condylar portions to heal in whatever position they found themselves in after the trauma As I started my own specialty practice, after the Korean War period, I began to see a pretty significant number of similar patients. I wasn’t comfortable with not attempting to do what we now call an open reduction and skeletal fixation of the fragments.
As time went on I found I had a great deal of success.
Was it a more risky procedure than the closed reduction? Yes, definitely. But I really did master that operation and in the next 8- 10 years I had probably operated some 75-100 such patients with measurable success.
With this background, it is easier to see why I began to operate on the degenerated TMJ, that didn’t have any fractures, but was deteriorating much like the degenerated hip or knee joint. The problem was there was no excellent surgical technique that gave any long term good results. We might do a disc removal procedure, but overtime that would cause more serious problems within the joint. Or, we might do what is called plication of the disc. In that instance, the displaced and somewhat degenerated disc was placed back over the condylar head, in hopes that it would stay in that position, and secondly that it wouldn’t repeat the dislocation or just plain wear out.
There were other procedures, and to be truthful the success rate was usually less than 30% in the first 5 years. Not a compelling reason for doing that procedure. Now came 1960 and Sister Lucille. Here was a young Catholic nun in her mid-thirties, who has had a prior discectomy seven years earlier, followed by a high condylectomy some 3-4 years later. Her condyle is now anchored (ankylosed) to the skull base with almost no jaw function.
Now what, Lord? “Physician, do no harm.” And yet both of the procedures accomplished on this young sister were accomplished by a very knowledgeable surgeon, who happened to be an orthopedic surgeon in the Central Valley of California. Was he negligent? No. He was doing the only treatment considered effective at that period of time. But how could I help this young Sister have proper, pain free joint function?
This was the challenge I was faced with that winter day in 1960. Was I capable of improving the situation? I certainly had been recommended very highly by the surgeons at St. Luke Hospital as well as Huntington Memorial Hospital. But, would that be good enough? I certainly could operate on Sister L and get an immediate relief from pain and a greater amount of jaw function, but I could not guarantee that this good effect would last more that a few weeks to a few months. The problem which would occur after any surgery, normally accepted at that time by the medical community, would be that the bones would grow together and she would be worse off after another surgery than if we had performed no surgery at all. Only God could really make a difference. Either He would miraculously heal Sister L, or He would show me how to operate on her TMJ and make it well.
In 1960, as I was driving from Pasadena toward Santa Barbara, God placed an idea in my head which was so simple, so perfect and so just as easily condemned by the naysayers. He showed me that I could take the ten human skulls which I possessed and could fabricate a metal, S shaped implant to cover the bone at the base of the skull, which was the superior joint surface, and the one the degenerating condyle would normally attempt to attach to. Wow!
So, it was December 1960 when I began to work on my new project. It meant I would need to place all ten of my skulls on a laboratory table, unhinge the lower jaw (mandible) and make wax patterns to duplicate the base of the skull in the area of the TMJ. It would need to extend laterally over the rim of the zygomatic process and have 3-5 holes placed for the screws which would be required to hold the implant in place.
This was getting exciting, but could I pull it all together? If when I got the first wax patterns developed, what metal should I use to cast the final implants? What made me think that I could make any of the ten implants which I would be fashioning, fit Sister Lucille’s skull base accurately enough? That was the biggest challenge. If, at surgery, I had her left TMJ fully exposed, and the new implant didn’t fit, what then? I would be no better that the earlier surgeon and she would have trusted me and we both failed.
Well it took me the next couple of months to fashion 15 implants for Sister’s left TMJ. I then had to do some corrective bone surgery to go with the implant, if I was going to give Sister a chance for proper jaw function. I decided to do all of this surgery on a skull, including the bone corrective surgery which would have the effect of lengthening that part of her left mandible and putting the articular portion back into the cup configuration of the new TMJ implant. It was all getting more complicated, but exciting.
I decided, with Sister’s permission, to make a surgical film of the entire surgery. I had fully explained the surgery to Sister Lucille and she and I explained it to the Mother Superior of her order of Dominican Sisters. We were now just three days before the surgery, when I made a costly mistake. There was an excellent general dentist, whose office was near mine, that I made the mistake of telling him about what I was contemplating. He taught at USC and of course had many colleagues there.
Bob in 1959-60.95
It turns out they were having an office party that very evening, and my friend Dr. Ray Contino let his comrades know about what Dr. Christensen was doing the next Tuesday on a young Catholic nun named Sister Lucille.
There were a couple there that probably were not too friendly with anything I might be doing. Thus, on Monday early afternoon, one of those darling doctors took it upon himself to phone the sister administrator of St Luke Hospital to ask “if they allowed experimental surgery to be done in their hospital?”
The custard hit the fan. Sister had been admitted in the hospital and was awaiting surgery at 7:30 AM on Tuesday. She was unaware of what had transpired over the weekend and on Monday noon. Now, sister administrator found herself in a pickle. After all, Dr. Christensen had been on staff for about 8 years, had taken his rotation as head of the OMS department of the surgical staff, and was very well respected for doing a great deal of excellent surgery, and sometimes on the sisters, at no charge of course, but even the Catholic priest at the hospital.
She had to call me and explain I would not be allowed to do that “experimental” surgery in St. Luke Hospital and especially on a Catholic nun. That last part added by me. Won’t the devil attempt to stop God’s plan at every turn? After all it was God who showed me how we might effectively treat this type of problem.
And now what? Only God could have orchestrated the next words out of my mouth. I said calmly to Sister, “I would like to go before the Executive Committee.” It just happens that they were meeting that very night. Well, PTL. So they listened to me as I explained what I have just written, and long story short, they allowed me to operate Sister Lucille the next morning, and all went perfectly. The implant fit well and then it was secured with four screws. My assisting surgeon , Dr. Douglas Donath, and I accomplished the other bone corrective surgery and the patient was returned first to ICU then to her room on the surgery floor of St Luke’s Hospital of Pasadena, California where the first Christensen TMJ arthroplasty was accomplished this week in 1961. That was a momentous moment for future TMJ sufferers.
Over the next 15 years I had the opportunity of operating on hundreds of patients with a variety of TMJ problems. The surgery was proving to be more successful than I might have first imagined. I was on about 17 major hospital staffs in the greater Los Angeles area and in 1964 we put on a teaching symposium on TMJ arthroplasty at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where I performed a live surgery which was televised to about 200 surgeons from across America who were present for the symposium. That TV program on TV 13 in Los Angeles brought a lot of attention to the work that I was doing and was featured as a news story in a number of papers across America.
TV Channel13 in Los Angeles recorded the live surgery and it was shown a couple weeks later on a prime time, one hour program called, “Surgery 64”. It was seen by likely hundreds of thousands in the Southern California region. The patients continued to be referred to me from across the country and many of them had severely arthritic TMJs to where they had not had any jaw function or mobility for over 20 years. The successes were phenomenal and I give all of the glory to God. It was God who showed me very simply how to correct these problems.
There were always the naysayers somewhere in the crowd of professional people, but the successes were so spectacular anybody really reviewing them couldn’t help be impressed.
I started a company called Implants Inc. back in the 1960s but I was just too far ahead of the curve. The professionals just never caught on. The public was much more attuned to why this technique would work, but the profession was cautious.
The TMJ Partial Joint Implant
• The Transosseous Dental Implant
My next innovation occurred about 1964 and was what I called the Transosseous Dental Implant. It was an implant which I held the U.S. Patent for which was a dental implant which traversed the mandible in the chin area.
I had learned earlier that the “Implant-a-band”, also known as the “circumferential dental implant” was not the best approach. It allowed, at times, for an invasion of bacterial infection down along the band and around the mandible, especially on the lateral aspect. It was obvious that coming through the mandible would be more successful. I began to design various patterns with a couple of different heads to see what might be best. Since my thought was to come all the way through the mandible, forward of the mental foramen on either side, that length of the implant was important the screw thread area should be only long enough to stay within the variable bone heights in the various patient subjects. The thread size would also be important as the bone density at the cortical margins would have a limiting constraint to the diameter of the actual threads on the implant. Too large and they couldn’t be screwed through the inferior cortical bone region or would cause a fracturing of the bone at that point.
I had placed several of these in dogs and cats and had the opportunity of observing some of them for as much as nine years with total success.
Like with every other innovation I had accomplished I made a surgical motion picture film of the procedures on patients and used those films at ADA and other national and even international meetings. Those films were very well attended, usually by some 1500 doctors viewing each session. This implant has remained very successful over many decades and could certainly be used as an important implant in our armamentarium.
The Transosseous Dental Implant
• The Endosseous Implant
This was my most recent dental implant innovation in the middle 1960s and was designed and made like a sheet metal screw with a large screw flange. I had my first ones fabricated in Ti Al V (known as 90,6 4 because of its metal concentrations) and this became the precursors of most of the more recent dental implants. I developed it in several lengths and widths and then I developed a screw driver in order to place them in bone very quickly after a pilot hole has been drilled in the bone. This implant could be used as an individual, single tooth implant or as a multiple tooth or full arch implant. I made a new surgical film titled, “The Endosseous Implant-The New Way”. This implant was a great success and we placed hundreds of them over the next dozen years.
I required a couple of them a few years ago in my jaws and they have been so very successful. We have always been able to have the final crowns placed on them and they could be masticated on as soon as they were placed. These implants have started an industry that today in 2010 has a gross sale volume of approximately $2.6 billion annually.
The Endosseous Dental Implant
• The Modular Mandibular Implant
This was my final implant to be developed by me in the 1960s. The cost of innovation and gaining U.S Patents was beginning to overcome my resources and so I decided to not attempt to patent anything after that.
This implant was designed as a sectional or a modular way of replacing the actual mandible, or any part of it. Over all of my earliest years in practice if I were going to do an excision of a large portion of the tumor patient’s mandible I would either use a bone graft from the iliac crest of the hip, or a portion of the patient’s tibia or a rib graft. Then there would be times I would use some standard bone plate, like a Sherman Plate, and would bend it to work. Later in the early 1950s I would take a thin sheet of stainless steel and use tin shears and drill bits to fashion a rather anatomically shaped implant to replace the patient’s missing mandibular section of bone. Then other times I would compare the patients jaw and skull x-rays to a particular adult or juvenile skull which I had in my collection and would fabricate a wax-plastic pattern and then cast it in C0-Cr metal for use as the final implant for that tumor patient. These techniques worked well but it required time and effort, whereas if I could develop a modular implant made of implantable metal, that would be an advancement in technology. That is what I did and in the late 1960s I submitted the Patent for approval and got it as the first U.S. Patent accepted for approval for this type of device.
As I was about that same time, appointed to the position of Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, in the Head and Neck Surgery Department at the Medical School of the University of California at Irvine, it gave me the opportunity of placing the earliest of these modular mandibles in a cancer patient where half of her mandible was resected. In my years teaching of 4th and 5th year residents at that university, I had the opportunity of teaching TMJ reconstructive surgery and jaw replacement surgery to the benefit of these early surgeons.
The Modular mandible
What should others be seeing in your life?
As hard as it is to walk through the valley and always project victory in Jesus, that is exactly what God asks us to do. Do we do it well? Not always, but God never leaves us even during those times we feel so alone or discouraged. He does tell us to speak to that mountain of attack, in Jesus’ name, and cast it into the sea. So, that’s exactly what we need to do.
Some 27 years ago when Lynne and I were going through divorce, I found that a most miserable time, and it seemed whatever advice I received from Christians, pastors and others, it was always “Get on with your life.”
In one large church in Southern California, I was encouraged to get in their singles group which was dedicated to getting you over the shock and awe of being divorced and get with other young people so you could basically find a new heartthrob and get over the pain.
It only took one evening of that scenario for me to realize that was neither God’s best, nor God’s plan for my life. After all, God had led me 600 miles to learn to fly jet aircraft and to meet Dale and Paula Black who gave me the vision of standing for my marriage.
I must say, pastors and church members have not taken the courageous stand they should be taking for marriage reconciliation. One evening, years ago, after Lynne and I were reconciled and in the ministry of helping to encourage marriage reconciliation, I was driving to get to a church where I would be speaking. I got on a freeway heading in the opposite direction from where I should be going. Somewhere along that freeway, that particular evening, I saw this 40 foot neon sign on the crest of a church building and the sign said, “divorce recovery”. It almost made me sick. I couldn’t believe that the churches were not advertising “marriage recovery”.
There was another time when we were attending the marriage of our son, Matthew. It was happening in a church we had not been in before. Outside the church building that evening someone had placed a sign for “divorce recovery” sessions. I immediately went into the church office and demanded it be taken down while Matthew would be having his marriage ceremony. They obliged.
It has been a tremendous disappointment to me and to others standing for the healing of their own marriages that the church pastors have not gotten the vision of marriage reconciliation. When one sees the harm and rebellion which evolves because of covenant breaking (divorce), how can they not be courageous and truthful enough to stand faithfully on God’s word that He hates divorce?
It is quite similar to the horrendous attack on God’s plan for marriage by those who are striving for the abomination of same sex marriage? What a travesty and lie from the pit of Hell.
As one whose medical training as a surgeon included a period as an anesthesiology resident on the Ob-Gyn floor of a very large hospital, we were compelled to give general anesthesia to women who were having a D & C procedure for incomplete abortion and spontaneous miscarriage.
Two of us, acting in that position as anesthetists, would be called to assist in the anesthesia for maybe 20 to 40 women in one day. I am not here to speak against what was an absolute medical necessity for those particular female patients, but to report that if any person wanted to get a preliminary view of what an elective abortion would be like, they should have been watching these procedures. The embryonic and uterine materials were curreted from the uterus and unceremoniously dropped into an old bucket attached to the operating table and Lord knows what happened to the contents thereafter.
As the years have rolled by and I have been involved in Covenant Marriages Ministry, I can’t help but think of the callousness of all of us doctors in the room toward those just described patients and what they were going through when having the D&C procedure performed. I saw the same thing in the courtroom with the judges and attorneys present as they were attempting to dissolve a marriage covenant. Just throw the marriage in a bucket and discard it. No way.
We got bamboozled into believing it is OK to destroy a human being within and outside of the human body. We have now literally murdered some 50 million American babies whose great futures might well have sustained this Constitutional Republic, and for why? God is not pleased, and this horrific sin will come back to destroy this nation which has been willing to turn its back on God.
Now comes an equally horrific sin, homosexuality, and none dare call it treason. None dare call it sin. Is common sense and any degree of human dignity lost?
Let’s put up on billboards, for all to see, the medical picture of abortion and late stage abortion. I suggest the picture would horrify most of the nation and hopefully get them on their knees repenting to God.
Now, how about doing the same for what the gay and lesbian community feels is a respectable sexual lifestyle in a so-called same sex marriage. I suggest what we would see being suggested and permitted would cause an equally repulsive picture.
So as we started this chapter, “what should others be seeing in your life?”, it would be my hope that they would see a lifestyle suggested in the Bible and in devotion to the sacrifice Jesus paid for your sin and mine and for an unbelievable gratitude to God. How can we possibly feel comfortable and satisfied if we are not seeing that in our own lives? Does this not call upon each one of us to stand against these forces of evil which surround us and to attempt to bring other lost souls to Jesus?
Will your legacy be one of giving glory to God?
Perhaps we have spoken to this point enough in the preceding chapter, but as we live our lives, are we even considering this point?
Jesus has done all he needed to do to pay the price for fallen man’s redemption and he has shown us how to walk the Christian walk in humility and in victory.
Is it an easy walk? No, it can, at times, be very difficult. Look at the lives of so many of the earlier saints.
If we look only at the life of St. Paul, we will see a life of failure, when in his early life he was persecuting the early Christians and stood and agreed with the murder of St. Stephen. How could he justify that later? He couldn’t. But because of God speaking directly to him on the road to Damascus his life changed.
He was shown Christian love by Ananias. He went through very difficult circumstances in his life but was always watched over by God and his angels to accomplish so much in order to bring forth the written word of God during his lifetime.
As he stated, “...to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That is how we are to live our lives. Is that even possible? Only by the grace of almighty God. Paul was accused falsely, imprisoned, stoned, whipped, charged with treason, ship wrecked, but through it all he lived a life that gave tremendous glory to God. He ended up even in prison writing a major portion of the New Testament and securing his legacy in a way none of us can ever attain. We can only hope to be able to meet St. Paul in Heaven and hear the first-hand story of his life which he lived, sold out to Jesus. Oh, what a day that will be.
Will anybody feel the same about the courageous life we lived? Not likely to the extent just mentioned, but we have been given the opportunity to live a life which will not only give glory to God Almighty but to have a positive effect on our immediate family, friends, acquaintances and the world we live in. Will the effect and legacy be one that Jesus could say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”? Or will it depict a mediocre life, missing many occasions to lift up Jesus’s banner so a hurting world might be saved.
When AAOMS turned him down
Early in my career as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon I was greatly disappointed by the rejection of my application to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Let me give you a bit of background. I had previously trained in my specialty at the Los Angeles County General Hospital, followed by a 2 year active duty in the U.S. Navy, as a surgeon based with the U.S. Marines in San Diego. This occurred one month after we entered war with N. Korea, in August of 1950.
My service time was very busy accomplishing all of the oral surgery needs of the Marine recruits entering the Corps. There were some 18,000 inductees every 12 weeks, and my job, along with my staff was to meet their oral and maxillofacial surgery needs and keep them functioning in their training and allowing them to graduate with their particular class, without any delays. It was a major assignment for me but one I took very seriously and accomplished with, I believe and was told, excellence.
When in 1952 I was released from active duty with the U.S. Navy, I secured a position in a surgery office in Pasadena. The son of the owner had been a corpsman of mine in my practice treating the Marines. He knew of my surgical ability to do a good job and to complete the tasks at hand, firsthand.
That association lasted 12 months, and then I was on my own to either move elsewhere or stay in Pasadena. At that time my wife and I had just had our third child who had been born at the U.S. Navy hospital in San Diego. So, to say we needed employment would have been an understatement.
I learned at that time that a senior surgeon in San Diego had wanted me to join his practice in San Diego but somehow my present employer had never let me know that fact. The position had been filled by another Navy surgeon who I knew and who was stationed with the Marines at Camp Pendleton. Interestingly, it was that very San Diego senior surgeon who had recommended I train at the LACGH. What a blessing that would have been to have joined his practice as Dr. Bullard was one of 5 founding members of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in 1945. He was a gentlemanly, Christian surgeon for whom I had a great deal of respect.
I was encouraged to stay in Pasadena by many others in the medical community and many at the St Luke Hospital where I was doing some 95% of the oral surgery cases even though there were some 6 other surgeons on the staff. I decided to stay in Pasadena and to open my own surgical practice.
After a few years of practicing as an individual practitioner, I decided to place an application for membership into the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. There was no question about my competence and training, but still, like many others practicing in the Southern California community, I knew the Association was laced with politics. We had seen a number of other highly qualified and respected surgeon’s applications get rejected. I believe at that time a single vote might get one rejected, and if someone didn’t want the competition of the new applicant in his community, that might be cause.
To make a long story a bit shorter, my application was rejected. I was very disappointed, but there was little I could do. The local Southern California chapter of the AAOMS was just as political and rejected a pretty large number of practicing and very qualified surgeons, also.
In the early 1960’s a group of about 25 of us decided to start our own Southern California “Association” of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, to the consternation of the Southern California “Society” of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Well, when you do something like that it really raises the ire of the elite group.
We had years of seeing our “Association” grow and prosper in many ways. We enjoyed many benefits of excellent teaching courses, some of which I had been asked to teach. In the second year, I was elected as President of the Association.
Fifty years later, two dear friends of mine, Dr. Frank Di Placido and Dr. Boyd Tomassetti, both of whom had recently been President of the national AAOMS suggested I resubmit my application for membership. They both reasoned that since I had been so helpful to hundreds of their surgeons by teaching them reconstructive surgery of the temporomandibular joint, my acceptance should be a shoe-in.
I wasn’t absolutely convinced that the politics of their group might not still be a problem but agreed to submit my application with the two past Presidents heartily endorsing me. Well, like some 55 years earlier, AAOMS was consistent. They rejected my application again. Does it truly matter in the long view of things? No. Like so many of life’s challenges and obstacles, unless they bear some relationship with your Christian walk, they are truly not worth worrying about.
When his articles and techniques were ignored
In Mark 6:4-6 we see an interesting passage. “But Jesus said to them, a prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands on a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages teaching.”
So many times the strong Christians will feel rejected by family members and others in the community who may not recognize the call nor the gifts which God placed within them, to accomplish the calling which our Lord expects.
Can you imagine the years of rejection that Joseph endured by his brothers and entire family waiting for a Godly breakthrough to occur.
We see it in families where divorce may have occurred, and the rejection and rebellion runs rampant in these families. Having experienced so much of that in our own family, over the years, has made Lynne and me very sensitive to and compassionate for the families experiencing that devastation, rejection and pain.
In a personal and business setting I was sometimes dismayed at a professional journal, whose job it is to disseminate important, useful and scientific information to their professional readers, when they would not accept an excellent article I may have written, on some important or even new technique, to present to their readers. It didn’t happen every day, but there certainly was a pattern which reeked of politics. In the long view, God always allowed some degree of vindication, but those moments of being rejected were painful.
But again. Look at the rejection being talked about in Jesus’ ministry. In his own home town he could accomplish little. Here is the son of God laying down his entire life for humanity, to save them from hell, literally, and they ignored him? But didn’t we ignore or reject him in our earlier, unsaved lives? As the passage says, “He could do no mighty work.”
So, hold your head high and realize you are saved by his Grace, and you will be protected, healed, prospered and loved by no other than the Son of God, whom we all shall shortly meet.
Always remember, as it speaks in Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all its benefits:
• “Who forgives my iniquities“
• “Who heals all my diseases“
• “Who redeems my life from destruction“
• “Who crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies (best known as hesed or covenant love)“
• “Who satisfies my mouth with good things“
• “So that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s“
• “And He executes righteousness and judgement for all that are oppressed“
• “He will show His paths to the seeker“
• “He is merciful and gracious and slow to anger...”
What more can we children here on earth hope for or expect? Our rejection is for a moment compared to our eternal future with him. So cheer up, we are more than conquerors.
When they said he had fled to Switzerland
When the executive staff of the new TMJ implants re-formed the company which I founded, and was attending the annual convention of AAOMS, they, of course, wanted to make a very good impression and a splash.
They published a Press Release the day before explaining they had acquired Christensen’s company. The attendees, who attended the meeting in the hospitality suite, were thrilled to know the company would go on with the excellent product we produced. Many surgeons commented over the excellent innovation of Dr. Christensen over these past fifty years. The implants had been so successful over those fifty years that many hospitals and surgeons across America and Europe stated they had no other way of treating the temporomandibular joint disease processes they were confronted with on a daily basis. They all were greatly relieved that the new parent company had seen fit to acquire TMJ Implants, Inc. and to employ Dr. Christensen as their Medical Consultant.
However, at that meeting, it became apparent that the competition was not just as happy. One of the new management team was standing next to the booth of TMJ Concepts, a company which had been founded about 30 years after my original innovation, and one who had been favored by the lead FDA person approving our 50 year old and imminently successful devices. As the new team executive stood by the TMJ Concepts’ booth he overheard the sales person telling a surgeon, “Christensen has fled to Switzerland.” This of course was an outright lie and was likely being used to discredit me and my product. These things are small potatoes, but it shows the foolish tactics the enemy, or in this case the competition, will go to discredit your God-given mission. This was one of those things that gave us all a good laugh. “They fled to Switzerland.” Sounds a bit like the children of Israel fleeing to Egypt.
When The Medical Device Company Was Lost
This was the very thing which motivated me to write this very book, having, as stated before, innovated the surgical technique and implants for reconstructing the human temporomandibular joint, and now having the company fold in the face of a financial crisis and be acquired by a new entity.
This meant not only the loss of a job, being CEO of TMJ Implants, Inc., but the loss of the normal working relationship with my former personnel. I was given the position of Medical Consultant to the parent company
Emotionally, I felt devastated by the entirety of the process and the loss of communication on a daily basis with my former staff.
I kept crying out to God, not, “What now, Lord?” I knew that only God could turn this into something worthwhile. Prayer partners, in other locations, began to lift us up in prayer, which helped immensely, and a few ventured to say, “God has a special purpose for you; just believe.”
I felt that, too, as we moved down this new path, almost like forgetting what God had called us to do for so very many years of my life. I just wanted the patients to be helped and I did want the employee’s jobs to be saved, no matter what happened to me.
It is easier said than walked out. I just kept praising God in every waking moment for all that he had done and allowed me to be a part of for the many years which I have lived. I felt a great deal of gratitude for my wife, Lynne, as she was having to endure the hardship which she saw placed on my life but also the uncertainty about our financial future, which at best was shaky or maybe better described as non-existent in the natural.
This was a defining moment, and certainly it seemed I had reached the “breaking point”. What could and would God do? He had told me some 23 years earlier, very vividly with words placed clearly in my brain, “I want you in full time ministry”. Was He moving us back into full time ministry? I had always said that my position and work as president of the medical device company and our positions as founder and pastors of Covenant Marriages Ministry were all ministry. But perhaps secretly, I had wondered if I had not fully obeyed the Lord. Did He really just want me in “full time ministry”? Those years earlier when God ran a bolt of light through my brain with those very words, “I want you in full time ministry,” they could not have been missed by anyone. But had I?
Was the picture changing now? I didn’t know for sure but had always told God to use me in anyway he pleased. Just use me God. That was a license plate I had seen the day after being saved October 25, 1983, the license was a California plate and read UZMEGD. I had told about all of the license plates which the Lord sent my way in my earlier book, Miracles Along the Way.
As we take one small step after the next, Lynne and I await his next command. In any case, letting you see some of the struggles which have occurred in our lives and how our Lord has delivered us out of them all, hopefully will be helpful to you as you face your life’s struggles, always looking to Jesus as the author and finisher of your faith.
The Aetna battle
This is a storm which arose rather suddenly and unexpectedly on the horizon, which was extremely harmful to the thousands of patients who would require TMJ implants manufactured by my company.
We had in 2001 received complete approval of our product through the strenuous PMA process of the FDA. There should have been no opportunity of any insurance company to single out the Christensen partial and Christensen total TMJ implants, whether they be of the “stock” variety or the “custom” variety, and yet that is exactly what the Aetna Insurance Company was doing.
It was a spiritual and a political battle that we had to fight to get past the lies which were being fomented about our products. They had used the lies being told by a Dr. Daniel Laskin who was a fair-haired past president of AAOMS and who did everything possible to prevent our partial TMJ implants from gaining favor and recognition. It was amazing to what lengths some of these individuals would go to discredit my years of work in this field.
Then another esteemed member of AAOMS, Dr. Larry Wolford of Dallas, was also quoted by Aetna in their famous Public Policy Bulletin 0028, where he stated that his study of some 23 patients over a three year period, showed diminished results compared to Wolford’s own company, TMJ Concepts. His results in that very
limited study were always suspect when compared to the retrospective studies we had collected which showed results twice as good as Wolford’s and better than those of TMJ Concepts.
It was on these distortions of actual fact that Aetna was standing, and we were doing all we could to undo Aetna’s ability to deny these patients such a needed medical device. We literally sued the Aetna Insurance Company in Federal Court, but they were able to get our lawsuit dismissed. Each time we were in this position it was costing us resources and money that we did not have to spare.
We then had to pursue them in the Court of Appeals, which didn’t seem overly hopeful since we had found so much of the court system either corrupt, disinterested or unavailable to help.
The timing of this was coming into the springtime of 2009 when TMJI was being sunk by an international recession and by some heavy, burdensome debt caused by taking on some new technology and expensive equipment. It was becoming apparent that the company was not likely to survive the economic downturn and that a bankruptcy was most likely.
In the middle of that timing was a young lady, with the initials of K.N., living in the Spokane area, who desperately needed our partial TMJ implants. There would be no other treatment which would give her any chance of success, and yet Aetna was refusing to accept my innovation as a viable treatment covered by their policy.
I had been working with a Dr. Farole, in the East, who was on Aetna’s Medical Advisory Board. He was doing all he could to help us gain the acceptance of our product that we deserved and the public needed.
After one of those hearings at Aetna, in late 2008, headway was being made but I personally was getting more than anxious and more than disgusted with Aetna. In about March 2009, I learned that the Advisory Board had recommended that our devices be accepted, almost 50 years after I had first brought them to the profession and public’s attention.
Mrs. K.N.’s situation was now most desperate, and she did not have the $10,000 needed to purchase the implants, assuming Aetna would have to pay for the actual surgery and hospital expenses. When after I had personally learned the Advisory Board had actually accepted the implants for coverage, but they still were denying Mrs. K.N., I personally made the decision that we would offer the implants, worth $10,000, to her for no cost. The surgery was accomplished and we received zero from the Aetna Insurance Company, except the great satisfaction that we not only helped this very appreciative, Christian woman, but that we would shortly realize our fight for acceptance of our very excellent TMJ implants was successful.
That was a victory which we fought against a Goliath, but with God behind us the battle was won, I feel sure to the consternation of Doctors Laskin and Wolford. This victory should give all of those Christians fighting unfair battles, a bit more comfort that with God all things are truly possible.
The largest of my battles
This chapter may be the hardest to write to tell the story which consumed almost decades of my life. It truly starts in the late 1950’s and the specific year of 1960.
As a successful oral and maxillofacial surgeon practicing alone in Pasadena California, I was being asked to treat many difficult and complex patient issues. For some of the problems, there had been no effective treatment, and I was attempting to think out of the box to be helpful to those patients.
One area of surgical treatment in which there was no consensus and certainly no satisfactory treatment modality had to do with the surgical TMJ problem. The problem could manifest itself in a host of ways from fractures of the joint all the way to agenesis or even tumors of the particular structures.
I had examined many patients during my training at the Los Angeles County Hospital who had suffered trauma to the mandible and who then suffered fractures of the condylar neck, unilaterally or bilaterally. The usual treatment being recommended at that institution was the closed reduction with immobilization of the mandible, in occlusion, to allow the fractured condylar portions to heal in whatever position they found themselves in after the trauma.
As I started my own specialty practice, after the Korean War period, I began to see a pretty significant number of similar patients. I wasn’t comfortable with not attempting to do what we now call an open reduction and skeletal fixation of the fragments. As time went on I found I had a great deal of success. Was it a more risky procedure than the closed reduction? Yes, definitely. But I really did master that operation and in the next 8- 10 years I had probably operated some 75-100 such patients with measurable success.
With this background, it is easier to see why I began to operate on the degenerated TMJ, that didn’t have any fractures, but was deteriorating much like the degenerated hip or knee joint. The problem was there was no excellent surgical technique that gave any long term good results. We might do a disc removal procedure, but overtime that would cause more serious problems within the joint. Or, we might do what is called plication of the disc. In that instance, the displaced and somewhat degenerated disc was placed back over the condylar head in hopes that it would stay in that position and, secondly, that it wouldn’t repeat the dislocation or just plain wear out.
There were other procedures, and to be truthful the success rate was usually less than 30% in the first 5 years. Not a compelling reason for doing that procedure.
Now come 1960 and Sister Lucille. Here was a young Catholic nun in her mid-thirties who had a prior discectomy seven years earlier followed by a high condylectomy some 3-4 years later. Her condyle was now anchored (ankylosed) to the skull base with almost no jaw function.
Now what, Lord? “Physician, do no harm.” And yet both of the procedures accomplished on this young sister were accomplished by a very knowledgeable surgeon who happened to be an orthopedic surgeon in the Central Valley of California. Was he negligent? No. He was doing the only treatment considered effective at that period of time. But how could I help this young Sister have proper, pain-free joint function?
This was the challenge I was faced with that winter day in 1960. Was I capable of improving the situation? I certainly had been recommended very highly by the surgeons at St. Luke Hospital as well as Huntington Memorial Hospital. Would that be good enough? I certainly could operate on Sister L and get an immediate relief from pain and a greater amount of jaw function, but I could not guarantee that this good effect would last more than a few weeks to a few months.
The problem which would occur after any surgery, normally accepted, at that time, by the medical community, would be that the bones would grow together and she would be worse off after another surgery than if we had performed no surgery at all. Only God could really make a difference. Either He would miraculously heal Sister L, or He would show me how to operate on her TMJ and make it well.
In 1960, as I was driving from Pasadena toward Santa Barbara, God placed an idea in my head which was so simple, so perfect and so just as easily condemned by the naysayers. He showed me that I could take the ten human skulls which I possessed and could fabricate a metal S shaped implant to cover the bone at the base of the skull, which was the superior joint surface, and the one the degenerating condyle would normally attempt to attach to. Wow!
It was December 1960 when I began to work on my new project. It meant I would need to place all ten of my skulls on a laboratory table, unhinge the lower jaw (mandible) and make wax patterns to duplicate the base of the skull in the area of the TMJ. It would need to extend laterally over the rim of the zygomatic process and have 3-5 holes placed for the screws which would be required to hold the implant in place.
This was getting exciting, but could I pull it all together? When I got the first wax patterns developed, what metal should I use to cast the final implants? What made me think that I could make any of the ten implants which I would be fashioning fit Sister Lucille’s skull base accurately enough? That was the biggest challenge. If, at surgery, I had her left TMJ fully exposed, and the new implant didn’t fit, what then? I would be no better that, the earlier surgeon, and she would have trusted me, and we both failed.
Well, it took me the next couple of months to fashion 15 implants for Sister’s left TMJ. I then had to do some corrective bone surgery to go with the implant if I was going to give Sister a chance for proper jaw function. I decided to do all of this surgery on a skull, including the bone corrective surgery which would have the effect of lengthening that part of her left mandible and putting the articular portion back into the cup configuration of the new TMJ implant. It was all getting more complicated, but exciting.
I decided, with Sister’s permission, to make a surgical film of the entire surgery. I had fully explained the surgery to Sister Lucille, and she and I explained it to the Mother Superior of her order of Dominican nuns.
We were now just three days before the surgery when I made a costly mistake. There was an excellent general dentist whose office was near mine. That I made the mistake of telling him about what I was contemplating. He taught at USC and of course had many colleagues there. It turns out they were having an office party that very evening, and my friend Dr. Ray Contino let his comrades know about what Dr. Christensen was doing the next Tuesday on a young Catholic nun named Sister Lucille.
There were a couple there that probably were not too friendly with anything I might be doing. Thus, on Monday early afternoon, one of those darling doctors took it upon himself to phone the sister administrator of St Luke Hospital to ask if they allowed “experimental surgery” to be done in their hospital?
The custard hit the fan. Sister had been admitted in the hospital and was awaiting surgery at 7:30 AM on Tuesday. She was unaware of what had transpired over the weekend and on Monday noon. Now, sister administrator found herself in a pickle. After all, Dr. Christensen had been on staff for about 8 years, had taken his rotation as head of the OMS department of the surgical staff, and was well respected for doing a great deal of excellent surgery, sometimes on the sisters, and even Catholic priest at the hospital at no charge of course.
She had to call me and explain I would not be allowed to do that, ”experimental” surgery in St. Luke Hospital, especially on a Catholic nun. That last part added by me. Won’t the devil attempt to stop God’s plan at every turn? After all, it was God who showed me how we might effectively treat this type of problem.
Now what? Only God could have orchestrated the next words out of my mouth. I said calmly to Sister, “I would like to go before the Executive Committee.” It just happens that they were meeting that very night. Well, PTL. They listened to me as I explained what I have just written, and long story short, they allowed me to operate Sister Lucille the next morning, and all went perfectly. The implant fit well, and then it was secured with four screws. My assisting surgeon , Dr. Douglas Donath, and I accomplished the other bone corrective surgery, and the patient was returned first to ICU then to her room on the surgery floor of St Luke’s Hospital of Pasadena, California where the first Christensen TMJ arthroplasty was accomplished this week in 1961. That was a momentous moment for future TMJ sufferers.
Over the next 15 years I had the opportunity of operating on hundreds of patients with a variety of TMJ problems. The surgery was proving to be more successful than I might have first imagined. I was on staff at about 17 major hospital staffs in the greater Los Angeles area and in 1964 we put on a teaching symposium on TMJ arthroplasty where I performed a live surgery which was televised to about 200 surgeons from across America who were present for the symposium. TV Channel 13 in Los Angeles recorded the live surgery, and it was shown a couple of weeks later on a prime time one hour program called, “Surgery 64”. It was seen by likely tens of thousands in the Southern California region.
The patients continued to be referred to me from across the country, and many of them had severely arthritic TMJ’s to where they had not had any jaw function or mobility for over 20 years. The successes were phenomenal, and I give all of the glory to God. It was God who showed me very simply how to correct these problems. There were always the naysayers somewhere in the crowd of professional people, but the successes were so spectacular anybody really reviewing them couldn’t help be impressed.
I started a company called Implants Inc back in the 1960’s but I was just too far ahead of the curve. The professional dental group just wasn’t up to what God wanted accomplished, and they just never caught on. The public was much more attuned to why this technique would work, but the profession was cautious.
Years went by, and at one point in the mid 1970’s Lynne and I and the children decided to go cattle ranching in southern Oregon. We gave up the surgery practice for hay baling and calf roping. I had grown up on a ranch as a cowboy, so this was very natural for me. Not so for Lynne, but she took to it like a duck or turtle to water. She learned how to milk Josie, our 5 gallon a day.
Jersey milk cow, sell the milk, help with hay, feed the 80 black Angus and do whatever was necessary. The only problem with ranching was, at least at our level, you can’t adequately make a living.
We came back into northern California where I settled in to being a surgeon again. After a few years we knew we were to start a new medical device company along-side of a ministry to marriages. We answered God’s call and left northern California to move to the greater Denver area where we started Covenant Marriages Ministry and TMJ Implants, Inc.
That was the beginning of some of the greatest challenges and outright battles we had ever seen. The year was 1988 in December. Actually, we sold our home in Ukiah and closed our practice the first week of January 1989. On the drive over with our dog, cat, two children, household furnishings and each other, one of our two cars broke down in Wyoming on Highway 80. We buried that car in Wyoming and arrived basically broke in Lakewood Colorado and started our ministry and medical device company in the basement of the Phillip’s home.
In looking back at that adventure I can hardly believe we would even think that starting such an adventure could ever be successful it was just a determination to do what God wanted us to do, one small step at a time. We had no idea what difficulty and storm clouds would lie ahead.
Now to the story of the regulatory process and TMJ implants and Dr. Bob Christensen. What a story this turned out to be.
TMJ Implants and the FDA
In about October 1983, when I was being born again into the Kingdom of God, God was allowing me to get rid of the past and to accept everything as a new direction for my life. What a change this was for me, again; it was not easy. Everything we had worked for was lost, but through it all, I found Jesus, and eventually my marriage was restored, and we moved back to the Ukiah area to start a new practice. The year was 1985.
A couple of years later when we were settled in practice. On Father’s Day, 1987, as I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror and only dressed in my undershorts, a bullet of light passed quickly through my brain, and attached were the words, “I want you in full time ministry.” I knew that was a spectacular word from God that I could not have missed, even with my eyes closed. I knew that we were to wait for further instructions from God and that He would be faithful to show us.
A year later we knew we were to close down the practice for the second time in the Ukiah area. In 1984 God had given me a glimpse of our leading a marriage ministry and a for-profit company, but at that time, there were no further instructions. We would have to wait for God.
By early 1988 we knew we were to start TMJ Implants, Inc. and Covenant Marriages Ministry, side by side and within 2 months God gave us instructions to move from northern California to the Denver, Colorado area to start both company and ministry. This was the beginning of an interesting adventure.
We had two friends in Lakewood, Colorado. They were the Phillips who were starting Nova Shalom Ministry. They housed us and gave us an area in their basement for us to start the ministry and the medical device company. What a cozy beginning. It was from there that the two entities grew. We eventually moved into larger buildings which we rented and expanded the medical device company to eventually be in about 27,000 square feet of office including about 3000 feet for the ministry.
Over the next half a dozen years, the medical device company went up to $4.5 M in sales and employed about 38 people at its peak. The ministry employed 3 to 5 workers at its peak, but jobs were frequently transferred from one entity to the other as needed. Book publishing, church conferences on marriage restoration and a daily or weekly television program for marriages occupied most of what was accomplished in the ministry. There were always many phone calls and letters which needed to be replied to in order to minister to those in hurting situations in their marriages.
As we started the medical device company we ran into an escalating amount of regulation and pressure from the FDA. In the early years here in Golden, Colorado, we found that the FDA had no classification for the TMJ devices I had innovated some 40 plus years earlier. They could have been a Class II or Class III medical device, the latter being the highest class such as implantable heart valves. Typically, with the bureaucracies, things can get overlooked or slip through the cracks. I believe that is what happened with these TMJ implants since the Medical Device Act of 1976 was supposed to have classified all medical devices, especially the critical ones that are actually implanted within the human body.
The FDA had some making up to do. In the early 1990- 93 time period a couple of interesting things occurred. First, was a company named Vitek headquartered in Houston that had developed an implant for the TMJ in the early 1980s. The implants were a copy of my work, but they used a soft material to line the skull base instead of the cobalt-chrome metal that I had used. Since one of the two innovators was an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, as was I, it gained some immediate popularity. He was a favored member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. That implant caught on fast and was being placed by hundreds of surgeons in tens of thousands of patients around the country.
In 1987 I was asked to speak at a meeting of the OMS staff and residents at Methodist Hospital in Houston. The Vitek Company was headquartered across the street and also had offices within the hospital. I gave them a fine talk and then met with Charlie Holmsey, the engineer president of Vitek and with Dr. Jack Kent, the co-inventor of the Vitek implants. The patent attorney for Vitek was there and seemed anxious to personally meet me, the surgeon who had invented the original devices some 27 years earlier. I’ll never forget one comment he made in front of the others. He said, “Dr. Christensen, you are the one that started the Christensen family of patents for the TMJ.” I had never taken the time to review what other patents might have followed mine.
Within a year, the Vitek implants began to fail in a big way. Patients began having massive swelling around the implants, on the side of their heads, and large tumors began to occur, sometimes penetrating the skull base or even the skin. They were massive and ugly. The problem was, they copied the design of my implants, as my 17 year patents were expiring, but they chose the wrong material. It was a fiasco and caused much embarrassment to the FDA who had never really studied the effect of the Vitek implants. Congress got involved in the scandal and the WSJ even did some reporting on the fiasco. But through it all, the Christensen TMJ implants which God had shown me how to innovate and place them surgically, perked right along with 30 years of success.
You would have thought that would have made the FDA and the oral and maxillofacial surgery community thrilled. But no, the pressure for what hadn’t been done now needs to be put against Christensen and his TMJ Implants, Inc. The FDA unleashed a furious attack on the implants being sold in the early 1990s. First, they classified the TMJ implants, generally, as class III devices meaning they all would be put through the most rigorous scrutiny possible with clinical trials etc. The approval process is called a PMA or pre-market approval process.
For any medical device manufacturer, those are the most serious words you might hear from the FDA. It means millions of dollars of expense. There will be tests and more tests and even more tests. For a little company operating on a shoestring, and having no extra resources behind them, and with a single device, those words were not welcome.
The ironic thing was the fact that like the hip and knee implants, the Christensen TMJ implants had been available since 1960, some 16 years before the Medical Device Act was inaugurated, and thus should have been classified as a “grandfathered device” not requiring any real scrutiny. That’s the way the orthopedic division of the center for devices and radiologic health, of the FDA, treated the hip and knee implants. There was no clinical trials. Just present any articles and evidence of success you have and we will accept your statements as fact, and you will be immediately approved.
Not so for the Dental Division of CDRH, which were overseeing the TMJ Implants. What a mistake. The people in charge didn’t know a TMJ implant from an amalgam filling. They just messed up the whole approval process for these devices and cost our company years of being able to help the public plus many millions of hard earned dollars to get through a tortuous approval process.
The CDRH of FDA had a Dr. Susan Runner as the head of their Dental Division which was to oversee the approval process for these implants. She had trained, in a section of her training in OMS, under a Dr. Louis Mercuri, who was one of the two investigators for TMJ Concepts, a competitor, and at one point a part owner of the TMJ Concept company. This should have disqualified Dr. Runner from being involved with the approval process of any TMJ implants by FDA, but it didn’t happen.
When it came time for the approval process of TMJ Implants and TMJ Concepts, she voted TMJ Concepts approved in about 6 weeks and then took TMJ Implants off the market for about 21 months, before it was finally approved. It was unbelievable. It meant we had to downsize our company from 38 persons employed to about 12-15 and our sales had to drop from the $4.5M to about $1.9M overnight. It was almost impossible to pull our company through that fiasco.
We got several of our congressmen involved, including Tancredo, Allard, Beauprez, Degette and Lord knows who else. Our story was spoken into the congressional record twice. The WSJ did an op-ed in our favor, but nothing could stop the FDA bureaucracy. It was hellbent for destroying TMJ Implants, Inc. The name of Christensen was being battered around the FDA. On one occasion, a few years later, a Dr. Stan Brown, a PhD researcher in orthopedics at FDA was speaking before an orthopedic device manufacturing company in Gainesville, Florida. My son Matthew was in charge of clinical research monitoring for that orthopedic company. I had told Matthew that I had met Dr. Brown and that he, Matt, should introduce himself to Dr. Brown at the end of the two day seminar. Well, Matt did just that, and the first words out of Dr. Brown’s mouth were, “Oh. You poor bastard.” So my fame spread like wildfire at the FDA facility in Rockville, MD.
To conclude this segment of our battles with the FDA, we finally in January and February 2001 got our devices finally approved by the FDA. This now was a device that had been in commerce since 1960 with tremendous success across the United States with probably 18,000- 22,000 devices placed and probably 95% still functioning in the patients they were placed in. This record has not been surpassed by any orthopedic implant that I am aware of. The battles with the FDA don’t end here but will be in the following chapter.
Adding insult to injury
In 2004 TMJI had a scheduled site inspection by the Denver District Office of the FDA. We had always attempted to have a friendly relationship with the district office, but we were always very aware of the fact they were walking in lockstep with the Center. Their lead investigator was Nick Nance, who I always figured I had a good working relationship with, but in essence I found I was wrong. That last visit of his was probably in 2005 and it was quite interesting what happened. At one time during the inspection it was just me and Nick together in a hallway and he gestured to me for a “pay off”. In essence saying if you will pay me under the table, I can fix things. I was so flabbergasted at what I was seeing that I didn’t answer or even show that I recognized what he was doing. To me, it was scary as I knew if I in anyway acknowledged his gesture, I could end up in jail. It could well have been a real set up, and I wasn’t interested.
Several things happened after that inspection that were especially weird. Probably the most important was his claiming we had not filed 17 events as MDRs. What does this mean in lay terms? When a medical device company learns of some event occurring in a patient that may have an implant placed in her, an evaluation needs to be made by the company to determine if the implant contributed to a serious, permanent injury or death. If a reasonable person can surmise that this was the situation, then the company is required by FDA to file what is called an MDR (medical device report). These reports are then posted on the FDA website for any attorney or disgruntled patient to review.
The company, TMJ Implants, Inc. Is required to prepare a decision tree, acceptable to FDA, to use as a tool in making such an evaluation of any such event that it receives. These events are logged in the company files and can be reviewed by District during any such site inspection. That was the case for TMJI. Since I, personally, was not only the innovator of these implants and this type of surgery, who could better evaluate such events? Well, Nick Nance determined he was the arbiter of such events and he chose to say 19 of them required filing as MDRs. In my review of these events I would take into account years of laboratory testing results, clinical trial data, and a large group of devices being tracked by our company over a 10-12 year period. It all would play a part in my review of any event. That was not the end, but what did I know about TMJ degenerative disease and other entities and their propensity for wanting to progress, like any other arthritic disease in any other joint of the body. It all plays a part in reviewing any event. Did I think Nick knew more than I did? No, he did not.
No questions asked, according to FDA these events needed to be filed as MDRs. I of course reviewed these events and found them not to be reportable according to the CFR (Code of Federal Regulation). Nine of the events could not be determined from the original event filings, by some unknown individual or entity, as to whether any implant had ever even been placed in the individual patient, and if so, whose implant and when?
The whole MDR system was broken, and needed to be scrapped. My reviewing of the additional 8 events depicted several things, but mostly that these several patients had a long history of frequently questionable surgical care, before any of our implants were ever placed, which would be the most likely contributor to why the patient was either having some ongoing pain or problem or might require some additional surgery.
None of these events were just some simple thing but frequently were a bit more complex, and most of them did not represent any permanent, serious injury or death caused by the device. Thus my decision that filing of an MDR was not a requirement according to the CFR. Well, the debate went back and forth for a few months between me and the Center. Finally, on about November 12, 2004, I received a letter from the top person at CDRH, written on the 4th, who told me, when I asked the question who at FDA was making the determination that I was wrong in my assessment. I was told that I could appeal my decision to the Commissioner. I did that by letter as they requested on November 16, 2004.
For 8 months I received nothing from CDRH or FDA regarding the subject, but on about July 21, 2005, I received a notice of a CMP (civil money penalty) having been levied against TMJ Implants, Inc., Robert W. Christensen as CEO and Maureen Mooney as regulatory director at TMJI. I had never before heard the word CMP, nor was I ever familiar with FDA having ever filed such a punitive action against any medical device company for an MDR issue. The total amount of the CMP was $640,000 (divided in three equal parts between the three entities mentioned above.)
Maureen Mooney was very troubled by the actions of FDA and required my assurance that the company would stand behind paying any such CMP leveled against her, personally. We certainly agreed as she and her husband had just finished purchasing a new home and had a very young family.
Well, this started a long and hurtful slope of legally attempting to fight this issue. I, early on, asked FDA that if I went ahead and just filed the 17 events as MDR’s would that nullify the CMP I was informed by the lead FDA attorney that I would have to pay a six figure penalty. That didn’t help as we didn’t have such funds available, and where was Christensen’s interpretation of the MDR issue incorrect? That question has never been answered. The FDA just quoted the CFR, period! No explanation of how, who or what they did to come up with their interpretation They just insist, their way or the highway.
An interesting thing occurred back in that 2005 time period. There was a gentleman in an executive position of another pretty sizable medical device company who came by to discuss an issue with me. He had a female neighbor who had worked at the Denver District. She knew Nick Nance, Denver district’s most senior investigator, and had been told by Nick Nance that there were two companies he, Nick, was out to get. They were the other gentleman’s company and TMJ Implants. Inc. I was rather surprised and shocked. I really had felt Nance and I had a good working relationship, up until the time he gestured for a “pay off”.
Interestingly, too, was the fact that Nance was scheduled to retire within just a few months after his last visit with me. Within a month of leaving FDA, he died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He was only about 54 years of age.
Nothing we attempted could take the CMP off of the table. According to the CFR, we were permitted to seek a hearing for correction in several legal ways. The first was that we petition the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for a hearing. He is a single judge appointed by the FDA commissioner. We could bring witnesses and compel FDA to bring their witnesses who made their decision.
The only witness FDA brought was a bean counter out of their organization who had no ability to evaluate whether any medical event might be classified as an MDR. We, of course, travelled to Rockville, MD and brought Dr. James Curry of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who had placed some 500-600 of the Christensen TMJ implants over an 18 year period with tremendous success. Dr. Ric Alexander of Huntington, L.I., NY was a second surgeon with, also, a great deal of experience. Both of these surgeons, along with my input, should have been more than enough to match any economic specialist from FDA about the sense of Christensen’s decision on the MDR issue.
The message was clear, but totally unmatched, so now it would be up to the decision of the ALJ (administrative law judge). He returned a decision some months later and it was a complete sell out to the FDA’s prior decision. The CMP for $640,000 was due and payable. What a sham.152
The next level of hearing allowed in such cases would be to petition a hearing before the Departmental Appeals Board (DAB) of HHS, for another review. One must remember that HHS is the parent over FDA, and since they appoint the three judges to the Departmental Appeals Board, we likely would not get justice here either.
Some months or year later we were heard on paper before this three man board, and, to no surprise, we were again overruled without any “fact” witness having ever testified before either legal entity. There seemed to be no way we would ever get an answer to my original question, “Who at FDA was making a decision at the FDA that countered my experience and decision to not file these events as MDR’s”?
The next level of hearing was at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Denver. It again would be handled by briefs and words already filed in our case by our attorney. Remember, TMJ Implants, Inc. was being asked to pay for whatever it was seeking without any help from the government. What might we expect from our Federal Court? The big problem was that there was no way we could have a hearing before peers, as in a jury trial. In that scenario, we felt we would win this argument, hands down. but the setup of this sort of proper hearing had thoughtfully been precluded by the bureaucracy from the time it had been organized.
We were hoping for a fair hearing from this Federal Court, but again, what a sham. We had listed all sorts of mitigating circumstances that should have been judged fairly. They weren’t, and the same decision rendered by the ALJ, the DAB and now the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals was forth coming. What a disappointment, to put it mildly. The only point we won was to get Maureen Mooney removed from the CMP. Christensen, personally, should also have been removed, but wasn’t, even when it was shown he had expended all of his finances to keep these implants on the market.
As of this moment of writing these chapters, we have taken the company, TMJ Implants, Inc. and me personally through the Chapter 7 variety of bankruptcy. We gave it all to accomplish what I know God had asked me to do. It reminds me of something which happened in the last 3 years. I was having a pulmonary function test as part of a general health exam prior to an upcoming review regarding the need for a cardiac valve surgery. In that test you are asked to breathe in fully and then blow out all of the air in your lungs. When I had done so for the third time, I, all of a sudden, passed out, and when I awoke, there were three EMT type persons surrounding me to be sure I hadn’t died or that I wouldn’t possibly fall out of the chair. A little later when I visited with Dr. Daniel Smith he made the comment that I sure had given it my all. I asked if this happened often and his answer was “Possibly a time or two in any given year.” This was at National Jewish Hospital here in Denver where they see hundreds of thousands of pulmonary patients each year. I guess I was one in hundreds of thousands.
Yes, he was right; that has always been my level of involvement in any of life’s experiences or tests. Certainly in bringing these implants forward all these years for the patients who required them; it has been my highest goal. Did I make it? Yes, I did, but it caused my wife and me to lose all. Was it worth it? Yes, anytime you are fulfilling God’s plan for your life, it is absolutely necessary and expected that we as Christians are asked and compelled to give it our utmost. That is what this book is all about.
On the more positive side
Perhaps, by telling the story of always seeking God’s best in some rather dire circumstances, the reader might get the impression that the author’s life has been one of difficult circumstances without any mountain top experiences. That is just not the case. I don’t want either to be making myself out to be some giant of a person by elaborating just a few of the honors which have filled much of my life, but to express gratitude for the many wonderful experiences I have enjoyed during my lifetime.
First, I have been blessed to have been given the following U.S. Patents as the first in the nation, and all in the 1960s:
• The first partial TMJ implant patent
• The first modular mandibular reconstruction implant
• The first circumferential dental implant
• The first transosseous mandibular dental implant
• The first endosseous dental implant
I was also:
• President of the California Association of Oral
• Received the Golden Eagle Award for “Endosseous Implants, the New Way” 1965
Placed in the following honorary positions:
• Who’s Who in the West
• Who’s Who in America
• Who’s Who in the world
• Who’s Who in medicine and healthcare
• Who’s Who in science and engineering
• Who’s Who in finance and business
• Honorary member of Hollywood Academy of Medicine
• Adjunct professor of bioengineering, Clemson University
• Assistant clinical professor of surgery, U.C Irvine, College Of Medicine
• Peter J. Daniels Caleb Encouragement Award
• Fellow, American Institute of Medical And Biological Engineering157
• Honorary member of the Mexican Association of Maxiollofacial Surgeons
• Life fellow of the Colorado Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Named in my honor:
• The Robert W. Christensen Biomechanics Laboratory, School of Engineering, Clemson University
• The Robert W. Christensen Biomaterials Laboratory at Alfred University
• The Robert W. Christensen Maxillofacial Implant Award, International Society of Medical Implants and Devices
• Robert W. Christensen Fellowship of TMJ Surgery, University of Tennessee, School of Medicine
There certainly are many other things which have happened which have brought many benefits to those in need including the author of this short book. Some of those would be being the author of 13 books, and some 50 or more published scientific articles as well as host of surgical films and TV appearances describing many surgical topics but most frequently relating to arthroplasty of the temporomandibular joint and some other craniofacial deformity’s surgical correction.158
Again, it is with deep gratitude to our Heavenly Father for the opportunity which he has afforded me in the past in allowing me to have a small part to play in these several areas.
The lady with the prophesy for Bob
In the mid 1990s Lynne and I and our friends Henry and Grace Falany were attending the annual Ken Copeland Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center with about 16,000 others attending. It was the second evening session of a four day meeting. We were sitting in the lower tier, about 15 rows from the platform enjoying the convention. At the mid-evening break when everyone stretched out and got just a bit of a rest, we were standing in an aisle talking when a nice looking young woman approached me and said she had a message for me from God. She handed me a small piece of paper on which she had written down the last three verses of Psalm 91 and the last two verses of Psalm 92.
I thanked her for the message, and she disappeared as quickly as she had arrived. For some months I had been getting a message from the Holy Spirit that I would live to be at least 95 years of age and would be kept busy in Christian ministry of some kind. I read the two verses, which follow:
Psalm 91:14-16 states, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.
And with long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”
Psalm 92: 14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the Lord is upright: He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
When I looked around to see if I could tell where the lovely young woman messenger had gone, it took me a while, but I spotted her in the next level up, a good distance laterally from where we were sitting or standing. This was no easy delivery, and all I could feel was why me, Lord?, Then again, I am so grateful that God always has a way. As I go through these most recent battles of losing my company and even, seemingly, my staff, I just have to remember, with God all things are possible.
My scheduled talk at AIMBE
This short episode is one of the more bizarre things to tell. In 2003 I had been nominated for membership in a very prestigious bioengineering society by a friend of mine Professor Subrata Saha, who at that time was in charge of Research and Development in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Loma Linda University, School of Medicine. He asked me to be on the Research Board of that department.
Later Professor Saha held professor positions at Clemson University and Alfred University and currently is a professor at SUNY, College Of Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery. This particular society which Dr. Saha had recommended and sponsored my membership was as a Fellow in the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. This was made up of about the top 2% of professors of bioengineering in the engineering colleges of America. Almost all of the 500 members were PhDs, some 40 had also their MD degrees, and I would be one of two members who held DDS degrees, the other person had also a PhD. To say the least, it was an honor to have been included.
I believe the rationale for Dr. Saha recommending me for membership was the fact that I had innovated the earliest individual dental implants in the U.S. as well as the first TMJ implants in the U.S. with U.S. Patents in all. I was deeply honored to have been included with such noteworthy individuals, many of whom had invented many major breakthroughs in medicine.
About two or three years later, I was asked to be a moderator on the opening session for the 2006 meeting in Rockville, MD. I would be also giving a presentation which I titled, “Innovation, Regulation and Entrepreneurship”. It would give me the opportunity of not only speaking on the balance between those three subjects, but also leading some discussion about how fragile they are to the innovation which is so necessary in a free society. I had submitted my presentation slides about three weeks earlier to the program chairman. I had planned the whole presentation to be sensitive to the fact that there would be FDA higher-ups as members and participants, thus I would make my talk constructive and not overly accusatory.
The three weeks had gone by and Lynne and I spent all day at airports getting to the hotel where we would be lodged and where the following morning I would be presenting. As we approached the hotel desk with a degree of anticipation, we let the attendant on the desk know our names. He then handed me an envelope, which had my name on the outside. When I opened it and read it to Lynne, our jaws dropped in disbelief. The letter from the Program Chair just stated my position on the program had been cancelled. What? We were terribly disappointed. I asked the attendant on the desk if he knew how I might find the Chair who had written or at least signed the letter. He pointed to a gentleman in the lobby. We approached him and asked what was happening. He just let me know my presentation and leading of the following morning’s session had been cancelled.
Lynne and I spoke briefly and then decided we should not stay and attend the meeting but should now turn around and travel home. Before doing so, I called our regulatory attorney, Larry Pilot, and let him know what was happening. He said just wait for him, and he would give us a ride to the airport, which he did, giving us the opportunity of discussing this distasteful event with him. Larry had helped write the Medical Device Act of 1976 when he was an attorney at FDA. He was fully aware of all of the politics surrounding the FDA and people in medical device manufacturing, such as me. We were all bummed out by what had just happened. It was showing the effect of the FDA on this Institute. It was showing that free speech was not fully tolerated here in the United States. We were very discouraged about that episode as I feel sure that some good would have come out of that presentation and discussion, but as we have found over and over again, the FDA will do everything possible to prevent an open and free discussion of any item they want to control or where the discussions might show the errors of their ways.
I can only lift this situation up to the Lord and ask for any vindication which He feels is necessary. Certainly, I need to forgive those in charge, but I must say, that was a long trip home that evening.
When you didn’t think it could get worse
It is very interesting how when you are attempting to follow God’s direction for your life that, still, things can get very tough. As I have mentioned in the earlier chapters about some of the battles we fought to bring our TMJ implants through the FDA approval process, how there was injustice and conflicts of interests in the people overseeing that approval process, yet with God all things were possible
If it hadn’t been for Dr. Bernie Statland’s help at the CDRH hearings and in-house meetings, I suspect our approval might have been much longer. However, being taken off the market for 21 months was most egregious. I know of no other pre-amendment orthopedic type of device that went through anything like what TMJ Implants, Inc. was put through. I was so sorry to have learned of Bernie’s passing. He knew that the people in charge at CDRH and FDA were treating us very poorly, and he decided that needed to stop. Tim Ulatowski, one of the real culprits, was in charge of the Office of Device Evaluation, and he, according to the daily record, told Dr. Statland he, Statland, would be approving our devices over the heads of him and Runner. That had to have been a difficult moment for Statland and may well have been the turning point for him at FDA. I suspect he decided there was too much corruption and politics at CDRH and FDA for him.
U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, read our story of the FDA battle for approval into the Congressional Record twice. Lynne an I were in Washington D.C. that very morning, and Tom came out and handed me a copy of what he had read into the record. I was very appreciative of his efforts on our behalf. He, too, was frustrated by the bureaucratic double talk and stonewalling which was going on.
As we approached a Chapter 7 bankruptcy for TMJ Implants, Inc and later for me personally, a number of things occurred. I had asked our bankruptcy attorney, Andrew Snyder, whether all of the debts we as a company were listing would be discharged, and his answer was always yes. One of the debts we were most anxious to see gone was the CMP, (civil money penalty) levied unjustly by the FDA against TMJI and me personally. I had always been told yes that it would. On June 6, 2010 TMJI filed for bankruptcy, and the creditor’s hearing was about a month later, that all appeared to go as planned.
It was on September 6, 2010 I believe, that we filed for a personal bankruptcy protection for me. The creditor’s hearing was, I believe, on October 3, and appeared to go OK. The Trustee did want to take some tax refunds we had received for 2009 Federal and Colorado which totaled about $10,000.
I had just been employed as a Medical Consultant with the new company to oversee a few items having to do with the fabrication of custom implants for the new Golden Medical Device Company, called TMJ Medical.
I had hoped, and was told, they would set me up an office here in the Golden or Arvada area, for me to work out of. They just never came through with that promise, so Lynne and I went out and rented a one room office in a very attractive office building just a short few blocks distance from our home.
I got busy purchasing a couple of desk consoles for computers and for work stations so that both Lynne and I might be able to work there when we wished to. It also meant getting a new lap top computer, moving my home computer to the new location and getting some chairs and so forth in the new facility. On October 5th we were getting Best Buy and their Geek Squad hooking everything up and networking the computers. After a long day we started home, but as we did, we received an e-mail from Andrew Snyder, Esq. The FDA filed an injunction against my getting any relief from the $170,000 CMP debt issued against me personally. What a blow.
I called Andrew to inquire about why this debt was not to be discharged in the personal bankruptcy and for the first time he stated a government penalty was not dischargeable? What? If that was so, was the identical CMP against TMJI discharged at the TMJI bankruptcy? Yes, he answered, because there was nothing left but a shell. I let him know in no uncertain terms, that this senior citizen in his 86 year had expended every resource he owned to keep these implants available for the public and basically I was little more than a shell. That argument didn’t seem to resonate.
He informed me that to attempt to fight that battle in a legal way would be very costly and unlikely to succeed. Yes, after my horrible skirmishes with the FDA I had to agree, and there was no way we could undertake that venture, even if it were the wise thing to do.
Lynne and I headed out for a quick bite of dinner and were a bit bummed out by what we had heard. In essence, the FDA could easily get a judgment against me and they could add on their 8-10% interest annually and could then garnish up to 25% of any paycheck I might receive until the debt would be paid in full.
Even in this terrible scenario, God is more than able. It could well be that after the FDA has filed their summons for being separated from my personal bankruptcy, they might decide to settle for a few pennies, or they may decide to never go after the money they think I owe them, which there is no way, in the natural, to pay.
The Mayo Clinic letter
It was a pleasant surprise getting the following letter from Dr. Eugene Keller, who is chief of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Section, Department of Surgery, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Back in 1972, when Dr. Turlington was chief of the same oral and maxillofacial surgery section, I had presented a surgical film presentation on my 1960 innovation of the partial TMJ implant. It had gone over well before the OMS and ENT staff and residents.
It was some 15 years later that Dr. Turlington started using TMJ Implants, Inc.’s implants for their patients with a great deal of success. He did many partial and total TMJ implant surgeries using our devices.
About 1989 Dr. Turlington retired, and Dr. Keller began using our partial TMJ implant as the main surgical treatment for the TMJ surgical patients they were seeing at Mayo Clinic. They, over the years, placed implants almost every week and wrote up some four or more articles showing their retrospective studies on hundreds of patients over an 8 to 10 year period with phenomenal success.
When TMJ Implants, Inc. had suffered an economic loss in the recession of 2009, and in June, 2010, we had to take the company through bankruptcy, it meant the implants would not be available until the new owners could resurrect the new company from the first company. I knew that Mayo Clinic and a lot of other surgeons and hospitals around the world would suffer but could do nothing about it.
It was in that period that Dr. Keller sent me this very kind letter extolling my courage and pioneering spirit in innovating and proving the value of these fine implants. It was a welcome endorsement when it seemed no one remembered much about my contribution to this surgical field. I wanted you to see Dr. Keller’s fine letter as an encouragement to you in your efforts to accomplish what God has called you to do. Almost no one else ever took the time to do what Dr. Keller did even after some 62 years of my life of just giving back whatever God showed me to do, usually with heckling, seldom with bouquets, and almost never with awards or banners.
It is OK to give one’s life just doing what he or she can do to help spread God’s word somewhere in the uttermost parts of the world and, at the same time, doing what you can to relieve some of the heartache or suffering around this world.
The following two letters were sent to me at the time of my retiring from the CEO of TMJ Implants, Inc, and were the only letters that I received, at the end of my career. To say the least, they were greatly appreciated by this 85 year old surgeon. Sometimes the smallest gestures of kindness mean the most.
This 2nd letter was from another surgeon who had successfully placed our TMJ implants in many patients.
So, how does it end?
Remember, in Joseph’s life story the ending was spectacular and very redeeming or vindicating. To name just a few areas of success seen in his life, let me list them. He went from the pit to being a slave, then a prisoner in jail, a prophet to the pharaoh’s court and finally to the second most powerful man in Egypt under the pharaoh.
He was well known for his integrity, his loyalty, his Godly wisdom, favor and his compassion, especially toward his family which had turned against him so many years before. He, with God’s direction and help, saved his family and the nation of Israel to be able to survive a horrible famine. His greatness has, of course, been told through the generations in the Bible, and rightly so.
Is there any likelihood that God will somehow redeem another individual’s life in similar manner? Not likely, but does that mean God won’t lead the oppressed into a new path for his life? I believe God is more than able and more than likely to show compassion and victory to those who have stood up for a Christian way of doing things, but only time will tell.
In remembering what God was able to do with the children of Israel as they travelled out of the Pharaoh’s bondage in Egypt and through the wilderness, it should allow the Christian going through various trials to remember some of the following points:
Review from where you have come. In the case of the families coming out of Egypt remember God saved the first born in their families. He also allowed the 10 plagues to condemn the Egyptians. He parted the Red Sea; he gave them manna to eat and gave them a cloud by day to keep them cool and to lead them as well as a pillar of fire by night to protect them and keep them warm.
He gave them water from the rock, and when they got to a place where the water was bitter he showed them what to do to make it sweet.
This should be enough to make any red-blooded Christians excited about what God will accomplish in their lives if only they would lay their lives down for God’s purposes.
So as I move forward to see what God is going to do in my life and Lynne’s life, we can’t help but be excited, because His Word tells us that He that has begun a good work in us, will be faithful to finish it. That doesn’t mean we will have no attacks, but we “Overcome them by the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb, and they loved not their lives until the death.”
When you’ve done all, stand. Rest in the Lord.
The words from the following song states better than I what we should remember and praise God for.
“You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.189
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up, to be more that I can be.”
Somehow, Lord, you will see me through this. Just as the song says, “When I am on your shoulders, you raise me up, to be more that I can be.”
I don’t know what every person that is reading this small book is going through, but I do know that as we lay our lives down for Jesus, he can use us mightily to touch a hurting world. How many have family members who have resisted accepting our Lord and Savior? Can we not, by praying and standing in the gap for them, see those lives turned around and their generations saved?
I, for one, am expecting to hear of great things happening in your life as you, like me, turn back to God and pray and believe for a more Godly family, a more Godly nation, and a more Godly world.
Remember, Jesus rebuked Peter for saying he wasn’t to go to Jerusalem. There will be many around you, friends or family, who may attempt to dissuade you from going the way the Lord is directing you. Listen to that still small voice within you, and then as you travel your path, make sure it lines up with God’s word. Then tackle the job ahead.
In Luke 18:28-29 Jesus said to his disciples. “Verily. I say unto you, There is no man that has left his house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” Be not fearful in stepping out in doing what many may feel is impossible, it is possible for God and His people.
I have a paper weight on my desk, given to me by Jerry Savelle when I was a member of his president’s cabinet, which says, “To think small is to disappoint God.” I really do not want to disappoint God. I would love for Him to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Remember His call to all Christians is as follows, “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
As the children of Israel crossed over the Jordan River they were commanded to place rocks in the river so that those who came later would know of God’s hand in delivering them and watching over them. I humbly offer this book of testimony for others to see as they cross over to follow Jesus at their breaking point.
Several things have occurred since I wrote this book and which might be reported at this time.
As I have mentioned in the narrative earlier, the Lord had instructed me to start a medical device company alongside of a Christian ministry to marriages. As part of the marriage ministry, we had developed a television program which was carried over two satellites and seen in about forty States in the United States. The programs were produced in our own TV studio which was in house alongside of our medical device company. Early on the programs were produced and shown weekly, but then for next 10 years, they were produced and shown 5 days per week.
This meant that a good portion of my time was spent producing each program as well as being the CEO of the medical device company. It was a challenge, but one I enjoyed very much as I would line up guests who would be in discussions with me on a particular program about marriage and God’s plan for marriage. Other times Lynne and I would do a teaching from some section of the Bible. We had produced many programs over the years and had interviewed some marvelous individuals and had some interesting and informative teaching and interview type programs.
When the time came when we were having to move both our medical device company and marriage ministry into a smaller facility in the same building and then when TMJ Implants, Inc. went into bankruptcy, all of the 17000 square foot facility with its desks chairs, conference tables, files, manufacturing equipment and the TV studio was moved into another part of the same building. Much of my personal wall hanging displays were moved into a storage facility. It was my thinking that since the TV studio was not part of TMJI that it had also been moved into the storage facility with much of my other materials. Some 6 months have gone by with my thinking that I had the entire TV studio and cameras and various computers used for editing and duplicating and producing full length videos.
As time has been passing by, I have been interested to hear how progress is occurring in the new location of the medical device company whose name has been changed to TMJ Medical from the original company name of TMJ Implants. Inc. In the first week of 2011, I received a call from Lester, who had been in charge of our ministry TV program for about 8-10 years, as well as being the IT person for the medical device company. After a few cordialities, I asked Lester if he might be able to get the Covenant Marriages Ministry’s website up as I think it was taken off of the air. He said he could. Then I asked if he might be able in some spare time, to help me set up the TV studio, if I could figure out where I might put it? He was being slow and vague in his response and after I pursued it, he let me know I didn’t have the TV equipment; it had never been placed in my storage area.
I was flabbergasted. I asked Lester “Where is it?” He finally and rather sheepishly said it had been given to a church. I then asked the next logical question, “What church?” He wouldn’t tell me, which makes me feel sure it is the church he attends and ministers at frequently, but he would not tell me where it went. I asked, “Why wasn’t I told?” He said it didn’t involve me. What? As I pursued which church, he just hung up the phone in my ear.
Here is an individual I had mentored by having lunch just with him daily over a period of years. I had ordained him and also his wife into the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ probably 5-6 years earlier, and this was my thanks?
In an earlier chapter I spoke about the Chilean Miners and their unity during their entrapment underground for a prolonged period of time. I mentioned that their decision was to either survive together, or perish separately. They chose the wise direction of what is good for one must also be good for all. In other words, they were willing to sacrifice for one another and most importantly to cover each other’s backside, whenever anyone of them might be open to an attack. It was a Christian approach and one I had wished my former staff members would have pursued during the dissolving of TMJ Implants, Inc. Considering all of the years which Lynne and I sacrificed our entire future for the medical device company and all of the employees, I am saddened by their not wishing to cover our backside in this entire endeavor. I was the only employee of TMJI who didn’t take any salary for at least 7 years, and then when I did, I gifted back to meet encumbrances through all of the remaining years and cut my final salary in half when the recession hit. I submit, I did all of this freely as unto the Lord, because I knew He was the one that called me into that position in order to bring an excellent medical device to market for the good of many. This has been an interesting episode in my and Lynne’s life, and I have no regrets for doing what I felt the Lord was asking me to do. I am saddened by the lack of respect the former staff appeared to show for their leader.
Let me mention another interesting point which has unfolded since completion of this book. As I was writing this book, I felt I was on a time table and I wasn’t quite sure why. Then, when I started the next book, “On My Heart”, which was an autobiographical narrative written to my grandchildren and great grandchildren, I really felt an urgency to complete it. I kept wondering if something was destined to happen in my life which would make completion impossible. I mentioned that fact to Helga Phillips who had written the Foreword to” The Breaking Point”. I just couldn’t shake the urgency of getting it written in a very few short weeks. I had never experienced that urgency before.
I suspect some events yesterday may have shown me exactly why. I had finished writing “On My Heart” by about December 20, 2010 and the first printing occurred before December 30, 2010.
On 1-11-11, I received service of a Summons by a U.S. Marshall for the suit by the U.S. Government vs. Robert W. Christensen for the payment of the FDA Civil Money Penalty in the amount of $170,000 plus interest and costs, which apparently is non-dischargeable through a personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The like amount against TMJ Implants, Inc. apparently was dischargeable by a similar action, but not against the individual. This had never been made known to me by my bankruptcy attorney through any of those procedures. This action, if allowed and if not paid gratuitously by some other entity or individual, will allow the Federal Government to garnish any income I may have for whatever number of years I might live, unless possibly I live to the proverbial and biblical 120 years, then it possibly could be paid off. I suspect this situation, certainly known by God, allowed His Spirit to inform my spirit that I needed to complete my love letter to my children and their children.
How does this end? I can only rely on the mercy and provision of God to sustain Lynne and me through this travesty perpetrated by the devil through our own American government.
I do not want to conclude this small book on a negative note but to encourage all of the generations who follow, that although this appears as a situation which would break anyone’s spirit, it only shows me that we must be on the right track, because the attacks have become so severe, but through all of that, my faith has and does remain very positive and I am most grateful to God for allowing me to preach the Gospel of Christ and to point many other souls to the redeeming power of the Blood and Name of Jesus. As Paul once said, “follow me as I follow Jesus.” Place your entire faith in Jesus, because man will quite frequently fail you.
The Government Pension (Tongue in Cheek)
In Chapter 36, I spoke about the FDA’s action on the Civil Money Penalty and how it apparently penetrated the Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which I personally have been subjected to because of the failure of the medical device company maintaining financial viability. On March 29, 2011
I received the Court Order stating that the CMP was now an Order of the Court. See below.
. Case:10-01809-EEB Doc#:5-1 Filed:03/24/11 Entered:03/24/11 14:20:41 Page2 of 3
IN THE UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
ROBERT W. CHRISTENSEN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
ROBERT W. CHRISTENSEN,
Bankruptcy Case No.1 0-35387 -EEB
Adversary No. 10-1809-EEB
DECLARATION OF STEPHEN D. TAYLOR 1
I, Stephen D. Taylor, make the within declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746.
1. I am the Assistant United States Attorney who is assigned the responsibiity
for the litigation of this Adversary Proceeding.
2. I have reviewed the file, including the pleadings file, of this case, and I have
personal knowledge of the facts set forth herein.
3. On November 3, 2010, Plaintiff United States filed a Complaint to Determine
the Non-Dischargeability of Debt (“Complaint”). [Docket No.1.]
~ Case:10-01809-EEB Doc#:5-1 Filed:03/24/11 Entered:03/24/11 14:20:41 Page3 of 3
4. The Complaint seeks a declaration that the civil penalty imposed on
Defendant by the Administrative Law Judge for violating 21 U.S.C. § 360i(a) of the
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is non-dischargeable pursuant to 11 U.S.C.
5. On January 10, 2011, the Summons and Complaint was personally served on
6. On April 2, 2011, the Court granted Defendant’s Unopposed Motion for
Extension of Time to Answer Plaintiffs Complaint (“Order”). [Docket No.4.]
7. Pursuant to the Order, Defendant had to and including March 15, 2011, to file
his answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint.
8. As of March 24, 2011, Defendant has failed to answer or otherwise respond
to .the Complaint.
I, Stephen D. Taylor, declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the
United States of America that the foregoing Declaration is true and correct.
s/Stephen D. Taylor
Stephen D. Taylor
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Executed on March 24, 2011.
After receiving the above Court document I decided I would write a short email, with tongue in cheek, to two of my surgery colleagues, with bcc to a few of my friends and family members who had followed this saga for some years. I attached the above document for each of them to see.
The following is what I jokingly wrote To Dr. Ricardo Alexander and Dr. James Curry as my April Fool’s Day joke:
Subject: My Government Pension (my email dated 4-1-11)
Dear Ric and Crayton,
In case you want to know what a government pension and inheritance looks like for serving your country and humanity quite well and for innovating the only superior, proven treatment for TMJ, DJD and ID, this is what it looks like. When you give your life and all of your resources and possessions to such a worthy project, you can expect your U.S. Government to honor you in ways unspeakable.
I am so honored to have gained a position in history a little like Colonel Travis and James Bowie at the Alamo. The 17 events, now surely classified as MDRs, and filed as a CMP should go down in history as one of the most massive military weapons in the U.S. arsenal. It can cause such devastation.
Now, maybe we can even find out if 9 of those 17 events, listed in patients, ever had any implants even placed in their TMJs and if they did, whose implants were they? If we are really lucky and astute, we might determine who at CDRH/FDA had such wisdom in this type of disease process to overrule my earlier decisions that these did not require MDR status? Won’t that be a find?
The courageous surgeons, Ric Alexander and James Curry, standing with me, at our “Alamo”, better known as the “ALJ hearing”, should surely go down in history as real Patriots. I salute them, and will always remember fondly those colleagues and others, who could have helped in the fight, but didn’t.
As Dr.Ric Alexander says, This Is America-How Can This Happen?
Have a blessed future and remember the pioneers!
P.S They haven’t spelled out whether the pension they are giving me is $170,000 or maybe $250-500,000 as their interests accumulated. WOW!
I had blind copied the above email to Larry Pilot, Esq. who is a friend and an attorney of great merit. He responded with the following email which I felt needed to be incorporated in this book and discussion as he was one of the original FDA lawyers to write the original Medical Device Act of May 28th,1976, which is the very Act that allows the FDA to control and regulate medical devices and treatment types. His comments are most noteworthy.
Larry Pilot’s Letter to Bob follows:
Your disappointment and disgust with personnel employed by the FDA is TOTALLY supportable. Since the 1960s, I have been involved in numerous matters relating to the activities of the FDA including nearly 10 years as an Official and more than 30 years continuing in the practice of the law.
Many FDA employees whom are identifiable by name have caused and/or contributed to the travesty that is your experience. I am sorry that our firm could not continue to represent the company and individuals beyond limited discovery efforts. But, it is a FACT that throughout your ordeal there is NO evidence to identify any person WHO made any DECISION for any one of the alleged failures to file a MDR or the basis for such determination. It is incredible that the ALJ Davidson could allow the proceeding to continue with the patent knowledge that there was no evidence to document a decision and decision maker for each one of the alleged MDR violations.
This was not Justice but a clear abuse of process for which the continuing motive of the FDA was venal and discriminatory. I blame the incompetence of ALJ Davidson, FDA Administrators, and the Justice Department, not the Federal Courts. It is unfortunate that 200 the Congress did not investigate the facts and the utter sloth of the bureaucracy which wasted taxpayer assets for an objective that produced NO BENEFIT to the public. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practice for our FDA!
As any unbiased reader can easily see, something else was on FDA’s plate and desire to go after Dr. Christensen in such a cruel manner. Never have we seen such a Civil Money Penalty be levied against a small company over a dispute over a few cases as to whether an MDR should or shouldn’t be filed. Then to carry this all the way into the Court system, and have zero, in-house fact witness against him is most remarkable. The District Director at the Denver District Office of the FDA had spoken at one of the meetings TMJI had with them, that in the 20 previous years they had never seen any problem with the Christensen TMJ implants.
All the way through this ordeal, we had asked first for an appeal to the Commissioner, which had been promised to us and which we filed on November 16th, 2004. We never received an answer from the Commissioner, but eight months later we received a $640,000 Civil Money Penalty. We attempted to settle it by filing the events as MDRs, with our objections. They said No. Even through all of the court proceedings and even after the Chapter 7, we sought to settle such a trivial matter for $10,000, but they said No, again, and went for the final Judgment of $170,000 plus whatever costs and interest they decide to add to this amount.
As Larry Pilot, Esq. so aptly stated, “This was not Justice but a clear abuse of process for which the continuing motive of the FDA was venal and discriminatory.”
It will be most interesting to see what the Lord brings forth next in this interesting time for the Author and his wife, but nothing will keep us from our faith in God and our hope for a future, no matter how short.
Does Our Character Show?
One of the virtues most important in any life is whether that life shows character. Good character comes from making choices which line up with God’s purposes in our lives and hopefully are consistent. I have had to walk through some rather tough battles with the FDA, especially. Often times there were those around me and occasionally, some looking from a distance, who may have thought when I stood up on a principle, I was wrong or maybe just plain foolish.
It is a bit like knowing who you are in your marriage and the covenant of marriage which you made before God. Either you honor that covenant, or you turn your back on what God would have you do, and what you intrinsically know is the right thing to do. I wish I could say I always did the right thing. I haven’t, but in the battle with the FDA/CDRH on the issue of acceptance of our implants and the later issue of the CMP, I have done what I knew in my heart was the right thing to do. Did I pay a price for obeying that still small voice within me? Oh, yes. But I hope that it gives others the courage, faith and conviction to trust God in all that you do and then let the chips fall where they may.
In the battle with the FDA, the circumstances came to a point where I would have to go against what I believed was the correct thing to do, and possibly lose my TMJ Implant company. or to bow to the incorrect, politically motivated FDA action. I chose to do what was right, and yes it helped to bankrupt the company I had pioneered. With the Lord’s help, I did what I was called to do, and yes, I would stand up again for what I felt was correct. Amen!
God bless you, my reader.
Dr. Bob Christensen204
Other Books by the Authors
The Seagull and the Pigeon
Standing in Love
Satan, You're Not Stealing My Marriage
Why I Chose to Believe in My Marriage Healing
Miracles Along the Way
When You Say I Do… God Says I Will
Turning Earthly Profits Into Eternal Rewards
Run to Win
Unleashing the Power of Covenant
The Face of God
On My Heart
The Breaking Point
Bob and Lynne Christensen Covenant Marriages Ministry 13120 W. 60th Avenue Arvada, Colorado 80004 www.covenantmarriages.com