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Perspectives and Opinions on Issues and News Topics is a publication of Christian Medical & Dental Associations®. Do you want to know the latest information and news about today’s important healthcare topics? Join the conversation with The Point, CMDA’s blog focusing on breaking news stories in bioethics and healthcare. CMDA’s experts contribute to the blog and also recommend additional resources and information.

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This new Covid world has taught us things. We’ve learned more about ourselves, our families, our country, and the world as a whole and how connected it really is.  Have you had a chance to be still and reflect on what you have learned during this tumultuous time?  I’ve had a little time, but I’d like to take more and really sit and thank God for what He’s done in the midst of the brokenness.  Once you do get a chance to reflect, write those thoughts down and share them with someone and then ask them to tell you about what they have learned. The more you share and hear, the bigger and more beautiful the picture will be of what God is doing.  I’ll share with y’all a little of what I’ve learned.

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“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3, KJV).

It’s hard to guess how many annual revivals I have taken part in or led in 34 years of ministry. One stands out above all the others.

It’s impossible to count the dentists I’ve worked with in the U.S., United Kingdom and Ireland. God has blessed me to know some of His choicest servants in the course of the ministry of dentistry. One stands out who must remain nameless for reasons we shall see later.

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In some ways we are living out the famous words of Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

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“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, KJV).

For most of us on the planet, life has been turned upside down over the last few months. An event that no one (or possibly very few) living today personally remember has taken the world by storm, and many are struggling to adjust to a new way of life. Society appears to be fragmenting, not just across the country but around the globe. Just before all these things began, I moved to Kenya to start a dental clinic in a rural mission hospital. This is something that has been on my heart for many years. I have been here a few months tackling Swahili, and now I am working to acquire materials and doing administrative groundwork for the clinic. There are many days when I feel like I’m running an uphill marathon.

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I know it’s not a new concept, but it was new to me and may be new to you as well. It’s a way to get your mind to sit still and focus on the Word of God and hear His voice. You pick a short verse or verse portion and repeat it by saying the first half as you breathe in and finishing it as you breathe out.

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As healthcare professionals, we know our patients have brains, we know they have hearts. We know these exist because we can see them and study them. They are physical, they are material. But is there a part of us that is immaterial, or is this just a lie we’ve bought into? If so, how can we possibly know it?

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COVID-19 has upended our routines, but the spirit-filled life remains as accessible as ever. I am, by God’s grace, optimistic. Ask the people who know me best, and they’d all agree I tend to find the sunniest take on nearly everything, sometimes to the point of annoyance.

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Emergency appointments are a big part of our duties and schedules at Christ Community Health Center where I work in Memphis, Tennessee. We have a walk-in day once a week at four out of our five clinics, and we also take several walk-ins on other days at each of our clinics. So, transitioning to only emergencies did not feel too weird, it just made our schedules lighter. During this pandemic, I’m thankful we as dentists can provide much-needed emergency services to treat pain, keep people out of the emergency room or give someone a quick-fix to hold them off until they can have more work done.

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“Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him…‘Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us…and opened the Scriptures to us?’…‘The Lord is risen indeed…” (Luke 24:31-34, NKJV).

“The Lord is risen indeed.”

On Sunday morning, March 29, after two weeks of “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” I read the 24th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. It all fell into place. Life had changed so much. So much had disappeared—quick trips to the convenience store, meetings with dentists, friends dropping by and dinner out. Life had become both still and different. Busy-ness no longer drowned out worry. There were no distracting deadlines to offer escape from relational struggles. Reflecting back, for two weeks the quiet had given way to a still small voice and the still small voice had been wrongly identified as the insight of an uncluttered mind. Luke’s telling of the walk to Emmaus cleared up that confusion for me.

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When somebody asks me why I am a Christian, I give them two reasons.

Reason #1: Because I met Jesus and He radically changed my heart (my personal testimony).
Reason #2: Because there is excellent objective evidence that Christianity is true.

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It happened so quickly, it seems. One moment it was business as usual: reviewing lab cases, getting ready for boards, opening our practice doors for patients to arrive, joking with staff and colleagues throughout the day and planning to attend the next mission trip, church service, conference, wedding or other event. It feels as if we all became affected at the same time. In an instant those jokes were replaced by concern as dental boards were put on hold, our office closed to routine dental care, we became unemployed or we put some of our staff on unemployment to keep the practice afloat in the midst of uncertainty. Our plans got cancelled one by one, our normal way of life crumbled. It’s now challenging to find one broadcast, social media post, YouTube video, email or conversation that does not mention “virus,” “pandemic” or “COVID-19”.

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One of the worship songs this morning at church was “Peace Be Still” (featuring Lauren Daigle). I had never heard it before, but it stirred up various thoughts I’ve had and set them together like puzzle pieces. I have many times been like the disciples or Peter in the midst of “storms.” I’ve been dismayed that, from my perspective, Jesus could be asleep while something so crazy is happening in my life. I have also been in seasons where things are so great and then, all of a sudden, I realize I’m out on the water and freak out and let myself sink. Both times, Jesus has been with me, just like He was with them. Merciful Savior, asking me how I could doubt because He was there the entire time and is more powerful than any storm.

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“Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the LORD had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians…And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening…So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good. Both you and these people…will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself’” (Exodus 18:9-18, NKJV).

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If you’re reading this, you already know this is a big and extremely relevant problem for the vast majority of dental and medical graduates under the age of 45. It’s not uncommon these days to graduate dental school with $300,000+ in debt. Heck, I have friends who graduated with close to $500,000 in debt (and when I say friends, I may or may not be referring to myself). This isn’t news.

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“Whatever you do, work at it with all you heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV 1984).

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I recently returned to work from my maternity leave and was reflecting on what I learned from the time off. The thing that stood out to me most was how incredible it was to have community in my life with family and with the church body. They helped my husband and me in so many ways with our children as we transitioned into life with a newborn and a toddler. Seeing how God used these people to help us in this time of life also showed me how I had taken for granted the encouragement He’s given me in my working life through community as well.

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As Best I Can Al Weir, MD December 26, 2018

Last year I read a book by Os Guinness entitled Impossible People. I read something that really set me back on my heels:

“The truth is that the world, as Christians have known it for many centuries, has gone—gone and gone for good…gone so decisively, any simple return or reclamation is out of the question—Christian culture warring has been in vain” (p. 45).

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“Everyone who is called by name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7, NIV 1984).

In Part 1 of this blog series, a search for the meaning of life was presented. That was due to observations of recent events suggesting a concern for humanity’s appreciation for life. In that search, a scientific basis for the meaning of life was presented, but then it was argued to be self-limiting. In contrast, a Christian worldview was presented, and a clearer meaning for why God created us was introduced. Simply, God created us for His glory. As I mentioned in Part 1, being informed that our existence is for some known or unknown God’s glory may instill negative emotions. However, the purpose of this blog is to grow in greater understanding of what it means to be created for God’s glory. To better understand that meaning, let us first look at the biblical meaning of the word “glory.”

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I have a handful of patients every month who mention all the pain and brokenness around them when asked what prayer requests they have. Sometimes it’s directly in their lives, and sometimes they are just overwhelmed by all the hopeless stories on the news and the anger people have at each other over different things.

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“…To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11, ESV).

Everywhere I go I carry a little brown NIV Bible. This particular Bible possesses significant sentimental value to our family. Firstly, it is the Bible my father used during my wife’s and my wedding. In between the pages are love notes from my wife, drawings from son, an ultrasound of my daughter, our wedding vows and other cherished memories that are all used as bookmarks. Furthermore, inside the cover is a note written by my father. This note details some of his emotions regarding his role as a first-time officiant of our wedding. Despite his fears, he found comfort in the fact that his role was ultimately “all about God.” In other words, it was a moment for God’s glory and our glorification of Him. That is the ultimate message that will be discussed in this blog series.

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As you practice your faith, the words “follow the Lord” are often heard and shared. The direction of the Lord does not have a yellow brick road. The words are meant to send you to prayer and develop your sense of discernment. As a dentist, dozens of people will ask you to follow them. These requests are loud and clear and often do have a yellow brick path. Some follow their golden paths before them. God blesses each of us with guidance, and for some it is easy to determine the guidance because many of us in the dental profession can use wise counsel and success to guide our steps. There are roles in every community for successful dentists. I respect the best in my community and love all my colleagues for their shared commitment to excellence. The dangers of greed and ethical challenges are to be lifted up to the Lord likewise to turn our steps to bless those around us. We are guided by the Lord’s work in our hearts, often to avoid missteps as often as we discover blessings.

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A Deeper Faith Al Weir, MD May 21, 2019

Like most of my writings, much of what I have to say is me preaching to myself. Recently I have been struck by several encounters with patients who were either very irritated or irritating. Either way, what should our response be? When someone is being demanding or has unrealistic requests and is upset when we cannot fulfill them? Or maybe they are just plain rude? What do we do?

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Spirit of the Everlasting God May 29, 2019

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).

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Why Do We Follow Jesus? May 15, 2019

Why do you follow Jesus?

These are answers I hear a lot: The Bible says so. I grew up in a Christian home. I had an experience with God.

But we are told our lives will be more difficult. That does not sound good. There will be a reward, but not necessarily in this lifetime. Jesus is not always a “nice guy.” Do we want to believe what is pleasant and easy, or what is true? Even though I don’t like my phone bill, I know it is true.

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Regardless of your practice setting, you encounter them also. Those uncertain of themselves yet confident in the need that has violated their entire body. That need for more, the need to fabricate pain just to get more.

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Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

“And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17.10, NKJV)

Resurrection Sunday blesses the calendars of our lives uniquely this Sunday.  It lifts up the life of our Lord as a model for so many transitions we face along the journey into which Christ has commissioned us.  The passion of our Lord’s heart – poured out in His high priestly prayer of Gethsemane’s Garden – reveals how Jesus evaluated the preparations He made for the transition He would face.

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Chasing the Wind March 6, 2019

In dental school, several of my instructors would mention their theory of why the suicide rate among dentists was so high, sometimes as a joke or some for serious reasons. One professor’s theory made the most sense to me: Work itself can become very redundant and most restorations eventually fail. You can feel like you’ve worked so hard to bring someone’s mouth into health and restore their smile, but if they don’t take care of their mouth, all of your hard work can fall apart. He also mentioned that if you’re in it for the money, that will fail you too. If all you’ve built your life on is your work and your things, then it’s going to be a big disappointment.

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Sheep, Wolves, Serpents and Doves February 19, 2019

Let’s face it. Not everyone in the dental “industry” has a passion for oral healthcare. For some, dentistry is a moneymaking opportunity. Christian owners of businesses are sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes misunderstood and sometimes conflicted.

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Seeing Beyond the Chief Complaint January 29, 2019

Not long ago, a patient walked in to my office and requested tooth whitening. After a brief exam, I found multiple abscessed teeth as well as loose restorative material that posed an aspiration risk. None of these findings seemed to concern him one bit.

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Is Dentistry Becoming Dull? January 28, 2019

Are class II composites getting old fast? Tired of searching for canals on that maxillary molar? Is dentistry becoming dull? This could be for several reasons, but one thing to consider is how much you are doing your daily work for the glory of God. Are you working for yourself, for others or for the Lord?

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Christmas in the Middle of a Mess December 12, 2018

Christmas carols slip past the guardians of cultural sensitivities every now and then, bringing a smile to our souls in the midst of our troubled world. We remember so many times when God broke through history on the pages of His Word to make things new again. We long for a renewal in our lives and world. Sights, sounds, reflections and meditations on Christmas rekindle that hope, and we are reminded that a baby in a small-town stable marked a new beginning in which not just some but all things will one day be made new.

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Inward Thinking July 17, 2018

As professionals in dentistry, our joy of serving our friends and community becomes a process of repeatedly greeting and warming up old friendships and occasionally rekindling lost friendships. Good dentistry is about befriending our customers, perhaps more than any modern day remaining professions. We still have our role in every responsible community member’s life, providing competent cleaning and check ups every six months (annually for the edentulous).

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Thoughts about Pain and Suffering November 15, 2018

All of us suffer, to some extent, through our lifetimes. Those of you who know me know I am a quadriplegic, which limits my ability to do things, and have almost constant neuropathic pain. I have personal experience with pain and suffering, and, being an orofacial pain specialist, I also deal with it on a professional level.

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Take Time to Rejoice and Be Glad October 30, 2018

One of my fondest memories is singing Psalm 118:24 with my mom on the way to daycare: “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. We will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it.”

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Have you ever had that feeling when you walk into a room and stand there for a few seconds and you have not the slightest recollection as to why you walked into that room? But you know, by golly, you know it was something very important and you look around as a minute or two passes.

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Growing into Childlikeness August 23, 2018

One of my favorite literary works beyond the Bible is a poem called “Footprints.” There is a great message about God and His help during our hour of need. More specifically, it is a dialogue between a man and God, and the two are on a beach reviewing the man’s life. In that conversation, the man questions God about His absence during his times of need. That was because the man only saw one set of footprints in the sand. However, God responded, and like a loving father speaking to His son with love and gentle correction, He informed the man that it was during those times that He carried him. God had a similar conversation with the people of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy when He reminded His people, through Moses, of the life that He saved them from.

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The Next Goal July 31, 2018

I have personally lived my life pursing one goal after another. I doubt I am alone in this mindset. Maybe it is the goal of attaining high grades, getting into dental school, graduating dental school, getting married and having children by a certain age, buying a practice and becoming a practice owner, having certain possessions (car, boat, house etc.), being the dentist everyone likes, attaining a certain bonus and the list goes on. Once we have attained a goal, we are often looking and striving to attain a bigger goal.

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Why Do You Follow Jesus? July 24, 2018

These are answers I hear a lot: The Bible says so. I grew up in a Christian home. I had an experience with God. But we are told our lives will be more difficult. That does not sound good. There will be a reward, but not necessarily in this lifetime. Jesus is not always a “nice guy.” Do we want to believe what is pleasant and easy, do we want to believe what is true? Even though I don’t like my phone bill, I know it is true. Jesus claimed He is the Son of God in Mark 14:62. Why should we believe Him?

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The Future Today July 2, 2018

All of us entertain questions about the future. About our lives. About our practices. Where will I be in five years? Where will my practice be? Should I invest in a cone beam at this time? When will I be able to identify the right associate for my practice? These are all excellent questions.

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Financial Arrangements: Who is My Neighbor? April 17, 2018

Faith and money. Suggesting principles for integrating the two can be both challenging and easily misunderstood. When it comes to one’s personal approach to these matters, devout and studious believers are all over the map as to what the Bible teaches. However, we can all agree, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV).

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Let’s Celebrate Church Networking April 3, 2018

Let’s celebrate networking. As a young Christian, I yearned for a community of Christian professionals. The Lord had provided Christian fellowship within the dental school. We encouraged each other with prayers and took turns on mission endeavors. There was easy access to meeting times and meeting rooms. CMDA was active and supportive. Yet, this fellowship was sheltered from non-professional challenges. We all have different comfort zones with grace and tact, but here are a few observations that may benefit those who feel awkward in their transition out of the professional schools and begin their community practices.

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