The Need for a Christian Manifesto

Introduction

In this postmodern age, the idea of a Christian Manifesto may sound like a throwback to a time when the Church prevailed as a political entity, or a time when more people claimed the name of Christian. However, the need is not to return to some idealized past, but to surge forward into the future, thinking in terms of what R. J. Rushdoony calls Christian Reconstruction. For this discussion I will draw on four Chalcedon Reports written by Rushdoony over the years. This blog article is not merely a summary of what Rushdoony has already stated, but a charge to move forward into the future with his ideas of Christian Reconstruction and all that can mean for Christians in this age and the years ahead, whether or not one totally agrees with Rushdoony on every point. The one thing on which we as Christians can all agree is that Jesus Christ is our King, the victory over all of life is ultimately His.

Salvation by Politics

As I stated in last month’s blog article, we live in a political age. We look to the State to meet all our needs and to rescue us from the difficulties that we confront as a part of living. I too harbor guilt for this way of thinking that crept into my life for a number of years. Rushdoony a number of years ago wrote about The Fallacy of Politics (Chalcedon Report 357, April 1995). He stated that one of the truly great evil ideas of the Twentieth Century is that the American people came to see themselves as some kind of victim at the hands of others. Victims tend to be helpless, and so by default they look to others to help them. In a political age, the American people called on the State to save them from their victimhood – whatever they surmised that to be. Consequently, people sought political answers to their dilemmas. Rushdoony pointed out that politics means that a small minority exerts control over the majority. Once the State intrudes into our lives, it will seek to maintain its existence in whatever way it can, including our pocketbooks. Note our present Thirty-trillion dollar debt. Handing over power to the State means topdown control and an ultimate pragmatism on the part of politicians who will sacrifice principles to stay in office. Rushdoony claims that God has made men the primary agent of government (Chalcedon Report 357). If we sacrifice self-government by handing over our lives to the State, then ultimately we destroy ourselves.

Self-Government

This raises the question of what Rushdoony means by self-government. He delineates seven points of self-government in Self-Government Under God, (Chalcedon Report 364, November 1995). First of all, government is the self-government of the Christian man. Second, the basic government institution is the family. Third, for the Christian, the church plays a part in an individual’s government. Fourth, education and the school make up a component of the Christian’s government. Hence, we see the conflict between homeschools/private schools and state schools. Fifth, our vocations govern us. We are to do our work as unto the Lord. Sixth, as members of society, we should meet social expectations where they do not contradict God’s law. And finally, civil government makes up only one part of what is considered government from a Christian perspective. These are the areas that as Christians we must take captive to Christ. When we give our lives over to the State, government becomes and external power that rules over us. Rushdoony states, if self-government is lacking, then no good government can prevail in any sphere (Chalcedon Report 364). We see today a persistent intrusion into the first six components of self-government from the seventh component, civil government or the State. Although now there appears to be more freedom for homeschooling and private schools, these entities had to fight the State for some time to exist. Even today many Christians still send their children to State schools while deploring the content their children receive there. Additionally, those people who homeschool or send their children to private schools are coerced by the State to support State schools via taxation.

The Fundamentals of Statism

In April, 1985, Rusdoony penned Chalcedon Report 237 titled The Ten Fundamentals of Statism. I will summarize what he claimed. First, as citizens we have to realize that the State will seek to maintain its own existence at the expense of the people. This is why it is naive to look to the State for any kind of security, and above all to depend on the State for salvation from life’s daily struggles. Second, although other States are occasional enemies of the State, the people are always enemies of the State. A truly liberated people is not to the State’s benefit. Third, the purpose of taxation is confiscation and control. Note the rise of Executive Privilege over the past decades at the hands of both major political parties. Likewise taxation is about the redistribution of wealth. Fourth, steps to increase State power is always said to be done for the people; however, State power can only increase at the expense of personal liberty. Therefore fifth, the mindset of the State is that freedom is dangerous, but controls are good. Statists always view social problems as due to too much liberty in certain areas. Sixth, freedom must be redefined, especially to counter Christian morality. Seventh, children are the property of the State. Many Statist educators will tell you that children are wards of the State. Note the antagonism toward private education, especially private Christian schools and Christian homeschoolers. Eighth, the State sees church and family as its two primary enemies. Ninth, humanistic education for the most part denies the existence of God and salvation in Christ. Tenth, the State operates in the name of the public. Privacy is a problem to Statist actions and controls. Given these ten fundamentals of the State, Rushdoony delineates what a Christian Manifesto involves.

A Christian Manifesto

Almost exactly a year earlier, Rushdoony authored Chalcedon Report # 225, April 1984, A Christian Manifesto. The manifesto delineates ten points for Christians to act on so as to take captive all spheres of their lives to Jesus Christ. It is also important to realize that the manifesto is not a call for revolution against the State. It is a call to live according to God’s law for those who are in Christ. As such, it represents no coercion or harm to unbelievers who want to live otherwise. But the manifesto does call for Christians to establish their communities in ways that will not be viewed in a friendly manner by the world. As with the Ten Fundamentals of the State, there are ten points to the Christian Manifesto. First, sovereignty is an attribute of God, not of man or the State. God alone is sovereign over all spheres of life. Second, the Bible is given as the common law. The foundation for justice rests on God’s truth. Third, salvation is not by politics, education, or the church. Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. Fourth, the Machiavellian premise that men at the top can make a good society is a myth, if not an outright lie. Fifth, civil rulers who deny God are in places of power, and thereby make them dangerous. This is also true of Christians who do not live according to God’s law. Sixth, the State is not the government, but only one form of government. (See the paragraph on self-government above). Seventh, if the State equates itself with government, the results is tyranny and evil. Liberty is primarily about freedom from the State. Eighth, the Christian is called to exercise dominion in all spheres of life. Ninth, humanism, man seeking to be his own God, is the way of death. Tenth, all institutions will either serve God or be judged by Him. There is no doubt that the Christian Manifesto as delineated by Rushdoony calls for Christians to be active in all areas of life. Although this may sound threatening to the unbeliever, again, such a manifesto does not call for a violent revolution. The basis for society becoming the good society is regeneration, not rebellion or coercion.

Conclusion

Although the Christian Manifesto is not based on coercion toward those who do not believe in God and Jesus Christ as their savior, Christian morality and God’s Law definitely represent concerns for the unbeliever. It means that Christians may indeed begin a mass exodus from State schools. Given that fact, those who depart from State education will not want to support State schools with their tax dollars anymore than unbelievers would want to financially support Christian schools or private schools. It means that Christians will look to God’s word as foundation for civil law. Note the present response to the SCOTUS overturning of Roe v. Wade. We live in a world where people hold diametrically opposing values. Such opposing values will lead to open confrontation, particularly regarding government and the State. According to the Manifesto, Christians will seek to live out their beliefs in ways that counter many values held by a humanistic society. As stated above, the definition of freedom represents one of the core conflicts between believers and a humanistic society. Christians will not look to the State for their idea of a free society. Indeed, freedom is freedom from the State. More importantly, at the moment, Christians need to think about the Christian Manifesto as a way of taking back their family, economic decisions, and education from the State, looking to self-government and all that entails. Many Christians still send their children to State schools although they deplore what the schools teach their children in terms of moral principles. Whether or not we agree with every theological point of R. J. Rushdoony and his notion of theonomy, there is much he says with which Bible-believing Christians can agree.

[All content is based on the Kendal Edition of Faith and Action by R. J. Rushdoony.]

John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., July 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Faith and Analysis

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? – – Psalm 11:3 (NKJV)

Introduction

We live in a political age. Although politics are not unimportant, the messianic character witnessed in the political realm became a reality decades, if not centuries ago in this country, and millenniums ago throughout the world. From the Pharaohs being deified to the divine rights of kings in the Middle Ages to FDR and the New Deal, to Johnson and the Great Society, and so on, etc., people have looked to the political class for some kind of salvation. One only has to recall the so-called pandemic in 2020 to understand how people look to politicians to save them from the flames and arrows of life. Humanistic presuppositions, not only in politics, but deeply Imbued in our culture, have replaced or made secondary most people’s faith in God. Over the summer, July and August, I’m going to write about how this culture looks to politics or various kinds of leaders to save it from the vicissitudes of life, sacrificing any semblance of godly faith. Even those who claim to have faith in Christ have so compartmentalized their beliefs to the point that they have no real bearing on the daily life struggles that people confront. This summer will be a preview for what is to come beginning in September when I kick off the official name change of Contemplations to ContemplationsFaith and Analysis: A Christian Perspective. For convenience, I will call this page Faith and Analysis. I will write a little bit about what that change means in this blog.

Faith and Analysis

There are a variety of ways to analyze what is going on in this culture, from the pure logic of the Enlightenment to the emotionalism of the Romantic era to the rhetoric of postmodernism. All of these methods though they may be at odds in strategic ways are man-generated. As such they ultimately lead to subjectivism and relativism. Faith and Analysis will provide analysis of cultural events from an unabashedly Christian perspective, a Christian approach that is Reformed and fundamental in its approach. Although I will touch on apologetics at times, this blog is not about proving the veracity of Christianity. I hold that without understanding God’s truth, given in Scripture, as foundational to all that we do, then all that we pursue will result in no meaning or purpose. Given this presupposition, Faith and Analysis will be Christian to the core. Church institutions that claim the name of Christ have splintered into many theologies. As stated, the content of this blog will align with Reformed theology and what are considered the five fundamentals of the faith (to be delineated more specifically in a later blog). Suffice it to say, I believe in 1) the existence of the Triune God, 2) the Incarnation and Deity of Christ, 3) the necessity of the Christ’s substitutionary atonement, 4) Christ’s death, resurrection, and second coming, and 5) the inerrancy of Scripture.

Expectations

Having stated my position, I’m sure one the major questions that will arise is what will be the primary content of Faith and Analysis? First, I hope to instill in people the desire to get grounded in Scripture. God’s truth is foundational to our existence and all that we do and pursue. Second, the content definitely will be theological. I hope to introduce readers to theologians over the decades and centuries who have written, lectured, and preached from a Reformed perspective, from the Church Fathers to the present theologians. My hope here is that the appetites of readers will be whetted to the point of checking out these individuals of faith through their writings, which are more numerous than we could get to in a life time. Third, although theological, I desire the main thrust of Faith and Analysis to be analytical, critiquing our culture from a Christian perspective. As Christians, we need to take every area of life captive to Christ. That means, not only theology, but economics, science, the political realm, the arts, family, and the areas of work we engage. All of this requires action on our part to live out our faith as fully as possible, knowing that we can do so only by God’s grace. Finally, I desire that Christians come to see that if we do not live out our faith in our cultural setting, then we hand the culture over to those who are humanistic and anti-Christian in their presuppositions and principles.

Conclusion

Contemplations – Faith and Analysis: A Christian Perspective will contain a variety of types of content, from analyses to historical portraits to book reviews to foci on current events. The word contemplation defines the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. Additionally, it means deep reflective thought and the state of being thought about or planned. Although I established this website in the role of a professional counselor, God was providential in my using the title Contemplations. I can’t think of a better word that addresses our need to meditate on the truths of Scripture as inspired by God. As stated, this summer I will preview what is to come in September. I hope readers will join me for the ride.

John V. Jones, Jr. / June 14th, 2022

GENERAL ESSAY

A.W. Pink – The Sovereignty of God

Introduction

Christianity today has splintered into a variety of theologies, many of which are not only unsound Biblically, but are also purposely anti-Biblical. The five fundamentals of the faith, 1) the existence of the Triune God; 2) the Incarnation and Deity of Christ; 3) the necessity of the Substitutionary Atonement by Jesus Christ for salvation; 4) the death and resurrection of Christ and His second coming; and 5) the inerrancy of Scripture, are not countenanced in many seminaries and churches. Even those churches that claim to be conservative or evangelical do not teach that absolute sovereignty of God. Hence, in many settings today, Christians lack a sound doctrine of God that brings them the comfort that should come with knowing the omnipotent Creator of the universe, whom they claim to worship. They lack the knowledge in God’s word that tells them what He has promised. Moreover, He is with us in our day-to-day struggles in this fallen world, providentially sovereign over every aspect of life.

Arthur W. Pink championed sound doctrine. He wrote the book, The Sovereignty of God, (1918) because he believed that the church during his time lacked sound doctrine regarding that attribute of God. Consequently, he discusses God’s sovereignty from the perspective of sound doctrine based on the five fundamentals of the faith delineated above. Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952) was born in Nottingham, England. As a young man, he ventured into Theosophy, a gnostic-like cult, which he later denounced, converting to evangelical Christianity. He briefly studied at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Through several moves, Pink finally settled in as the pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Eventually, he and his wife moved backed to England where he died in 1952. He became one of the most influential preachers and theologians in the first half of the 20th Century, strongly renewing an interest in Calvinism and Reformed Theology. Because Pink believed strongly in the necessity of sound doctrine, this blog article is not so much a book review as it is a restatement of Pink’s main points on God’s sovereignty. I pull mainly from Pink’s opening chapter, Sovereignty of God Defined, and the final chapter, The Practical Value of This Doctrine. In due time, I may write a full book review, but my hope is for those who upon reading Pink’s cogent thoughts on the sovereignty of God, will be enticed to read this work as well as many others by Arthur W. Pink.

Arthur W. Pink’s Teaching on The Sovereignty of God

In his final chapter, The Practical Value of This Doctrine, Pink delineates 10 important theological reasons why believers in Christ should obtain a sound doctrine on the sovereignty of God. These will be delineated below with a short commentary based on Pink’s thought for each one, pulling primarily from this final chapter and the opening chapter, God’s Sovereignty Defined.

God’s Sovereignty Deepens Our Veneration of the Divine Character

IfGod is sovereign, He is supreme in all things. Basically, to say that God is sovereign means that God is God. God’s supremacy means that no one or anything thwarts His plan and will for the universe and all that is contained in it. God determines the sweep of history as it pleases Him. What he has determined to come to pass will come to pass. God is the Power and the Glory, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He seeks no one’s counsel or advice in what He sovereignly declares to occur. God’s sovereignty means that He is a law unto Himself. He is under no obligation to give an account of what He decrees to anyone. To demand such an account is an ultimate act of blasphemy.

God’ Sovereignty Is a Solid Foundation for All True Religion

God’s sovereignty is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. Contrasted with other religions, without a view to the sovereignty of God, taking in all His attributes, there is no progress in theological knowledge. Just as idolatry is man’s worship of what he makes with his own hands, other religions posit a god that is simply man-generated, thereby possessing no solid foundation on which truths about God may stand. God is to be feared, revered, and served as Lord. Believers in Christ are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. As such God is just and the justifier of those who believe in His Son for salvation.

God’s Sovereignty Repudiates the Heresy of Salvation by Works

God’s sovereignty takes in all of His attributes, including His lovingkindness and His grace. However, one of the most difficult teachings regarding His sovereignty is that human beings possess no merit before God. Salvation is a gift from God. And He gives the gift of salvation to whom He pleases. It is common to humanity that people believe their works and the way they live provide some merit before God for salvation. God will have mercy on whom He chooses to have mercy. As the Potter, He molds the clay as He sees fit (Romans 9) Scripture proclaims, Jacob I loved; Esau I hated (Romans 9) before either on of them was born and could merit anything before God.

God’s Sovereignty Is Deeply Humbling to the Creature

Pink called God’s sovereignty the great battering ram against human pride. The philosophy of man champions man’s merit, either before God, or in man’s own reckoning. As stated above, salvation is from God and no one else. We possess no merit before God. We have nothing to offer Him in-and-of-ourselves. John Stott in his work, The Cross of Christ, stated that God does all the work of salvation from propitiation to redemption. Pink likewise declares that God is the originator and sustainer of our salvation and will bring it about according to His own plan. If sovereignty humbles mankind, then it also leads to the praise of God.

God’s Sovereignty Affords a Sense of Absolute Security

God is infinite in power, so nothing nor no one will resist the outworking of His decrees. The Psalms declare multiple times that those who believe in God can enter His rest, take refuge in Him, and lie down and sleep knowing that they are secure (Psalm 4; 91). The Apostle Paul writes, I know in Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12). God as King of kings, Lord of Lords, is the author and sustainer of our salvation.

God’s Sovereignty Supplies Comfort in Sorrow

For the Christian, God’s sovereignty provides a great sense of peace. There is nothing that happens that is not in His control. As finite human beings, we may at time feel that life is chaotic and totally out of control. God is our refuge, a tower of strength into which we run in times of difficulty and trouble. In all times, God is always there, and He never leaves us. Without the doctrine of sovereignty, the countless difficulties that life would throw at us would be overwhelming indeed. It is hard to embrace in the midst of painful times, but God, in His lovingkindness, wills only our good. God is perfect in His goodness as in all His attributes. The Book of Job is some of the best reading for understanding God’s goodness, even in times of stress.

God’s Sovereignty Begets a Spirit of Sweet Resignation

Upon believing in Christ, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit indwells us. To bow before the sovereign will of God brings an overwhelming sense of peace. It is a peace not understood by the natural man. Unfortunately it is a peace that escapes believers who have not fully embraced the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. David declared that God desires a contrite spirit rather than sacrifices, addressing those who misunderstood and misinterpreted God’s Law. Our bowing before God’s sovereignty is not a resignation to acquiescence, but a willingness to live as God would have us live, thereby demonstrating what is good and true. (Romans 12:2). It means that we are content for the Lord to have His way with us.

God’s Sovereignty Evokes a Song of Praise

The question that believers want answered at times is – Why? Why was I, who no different than any unbeliever singled out before the foundation of the world to be saved by God’s grace in Christ? In time, my life as an unbeliever evidenced all the ungodliness that could be imagined. Yet God in His infinite grace chose to foreordain, predestine, call, justify, and glorify me (Romans 8:38-39) when I possessed no merit before Him. And the only merit I possess now comes in my being seen through Christ and His work of redemption. The why question is not answerable, nor should it be. God’s grace is sufficient. And His grace should lead us to say rejoice in Lord always (Philippians 4:4).

God’s Sovereignty Guarantees the Final Triumph of Good Over Evil

Sometimes it’s hard to look at what is going on in the world and think that one day good will triumph over evil. Yet we should begin with ourselves. God’s gift of salvation means that by His decree, good triumphed over the evil that was us. And one day, the Kingdom will come as prophesied. God reigns, and His purpose will not fail. Numbers 23:19 posits the question Does God promise and then not fulfill? God’s Kingdom will not fail nor all the promises connected to it. As believers in Christ, the Prince of Peace, we can look forward to that time when He will reign in righteous and peace.

God’s Sovereignty Provides a Resting Place for the Heart

As Pink says in this section of the final chapter, no words can do justice to this practical value of God’s sovereignty. God is transcendent and above all, it was He who stooped low to provide the justification for the unbeliever. Christ, as the Second Person of the Trinity, paid the infinite price that salvation costs, a price that no mere man could ever pay. In paying the price we couldn’t pay, He not only is the Lord of our destiny, but He is also the Lord of our heart. When a believer truly understands the cost of his salvation, he can understand how and in Whom his salvation is secure.

Conclusion

There is much more that this book has to offer the believer in Christ than what I’ve drawn here from the opening and closing chapters. Again, I didn’t intend this blog to be so much a book review as a statement of Pink’s teaching on the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, his view on the importance of doctrine, which simply means teaching, and specifically why this doctrine is of supreme importance to any church that purports to be a Bible-believing church. Obviously, I highly recommend that believers in Christ read this work along with other works authored by Pink. A good tandem reading would include this work and Pink’s The Attributes of God. I hope this blog whets the appetite for many who would want to pursue Pink’s writings. What he felt about the modernizing of the church in his time, what Rushdoony would call humanistic philosophy, is still true of many churches today. The absolute Sovereignty of God is not a welcomed doctrine in many pulpits today.

Reference:

Pink, A.W. (2017, Kindle Edition). The Sovereignty of God [published in 1930 by Baker Books]. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books [A.W. Pink first published this book in 1918 and it went through four different editions).

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./May 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part VI – The Venture Continues

[This is the final blog in a series of six articles on this topic.]

Introduction

Throughout Parts I – V on this topic, I wrote much about my personal experiences regarding my stroke, hospitalization, and rehab. I don’t want readers to lose sight of the major theme that surrounds this venture, and that is the sovereignty and providence of God in our lives. He is sovereign and providential in everyone’s life. The blessing is that as believers in Christ, we can know that truth whether our lives run smoothly or hit hard turns on our journey.

God’s Sovereignty

There is nothing particularly special about the fact that I suffered a stroke. I know many individuals (most of them are Christians and are on my prayer list) who suffered or are suffering illnesses much more devastating than what I experienced. God brought many of them from the threshold of death to full healing from such diseases as cancer, myelofibrosis, diabetes, blood clots and amputations, COVID, heart conditions, and heart attacks. As believers in Christ, they can speak to their experiences and how their faith carried them through tough times, fear, and doubts. God is sovereign over all aspects of our lives. Not a sparrow falls of which he is unaware. I believe the difficult times through which we sojourn cause us to focus more on how God works in our lives.

Arthur W. Pink wrote two powerful works, The Attributes of God and The Sovereignty of God. In the former, Pink dedicates a chapter to the sovereignty of God. He states, The sovereignty of God can be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. . . He is the Most High Lord. . . Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. People will ask, if you believe in the Sovereignty of God, and that He is a loving God, then why did He let you or cause you to have a stroke? There was a time in my Christian life, such experiences and questions would have stumped me. And I’m not saying that I have any simple answers for them now. Not a day goes by that I find myself wishing I didn’t have the residual symptoms of my stroke hanging on. But I do not doubt that God is sovereign over my illness. Accidents don’t happen in God’s wise planning. As Tommy Nelson said in his sermon on the venture, we have to decide whether or not we are going to trust God in our understanding of why things happen to us. Some people recover from devastating diseases, and some don’t. One of the things that my stroke helped me solidify to some degree was the truth of God’s sovereignty and providence. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts at times, grow impatient, and find myself perturbed and angry because of my circumstances. That’s what prayer, confession, and communion with God is all about. I would never attempt to guess the reason why God allowed my life to be hit by a stroke. But one fruit of it is I have come to have a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence. In his work, The Attributes of God, Pink states further, quoting C. H. Spurgeon, There is no attribute more comforting to His children than God’s sovereignty.

God’s Providence

God’s providential care of each of us is the outworking of His sovereignty, His sovereign decrees, established before the foundation of the world. Arthur W. Pink, in his work, The Sovereignty of God says this: The Sovereignty of God. . . means the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. That God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. . . He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. If we reflect on the Book of Job, no one can question God or counsel Him on why He has done what He has done. If I had wallowed in the question of why God allowed me to have a stroke, I would have wallowed in a mire from which I could have never extricated myself. Thinking of my illness as a journey ( a venture) on which God is taking me, led me to rest in God’s hands when I had not the slightest idea about what my future held. I look back on that year that followed my stroke, and I have the comfort that God was with me all the way. One understanding of God’s providence is that it entails the means by which God establishes His sovereignty. As I’ve written on previous blogs, I can’t think of a better plan than the path I followed from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital to Denton Select to Day Neuro at Medical City. Add to that the return to Fort Worth Harris and the Pecan Creek Rehab facility following my sub-venture with COVID, and not a better and more caring plan could have been written out. Above all, the graciousness of the Terrell family to take me into their home for nearly a year exceeded all expectations. And here is the truth of the matter: I had absolutely no control over any of that pathway that I followed for a year. God’s providential care is the outworking of His sovereignty. The facilities, the doctors, the therapists, and my friends the Terrells were all the means that God used to providentially guide me through my care and rehab work. God is likewise sovereign in His mercy and love.

Conclusion

The venture continues. God is sovereign and therefore providential over every detail of our lives. As finite creatures, it is difficult for us to see the countless ways God works in our lives. John Flavel, in his work, The Mystery of Providence says, the greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. He states that it would not be worthwhile to live in a world devoid of God and providence. As long as our ventures continue in this life, God’s sovereignty and providence never cease in our lives. A good exercise for all of us would entail our looking back on our lives so as to recognize the various ways that God has been providential in our lives and write them down. Flavel challenges believers in Christ to reflect on God’s providence: It is the duty of saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence in all the states and through all the stages of their lives. The experience of my stroke is simply a reminder to me that God is providential. He always was whether or not I recognized it.

A. W. Pink in his work, The Attributes of God, delineates sixteen attributes of God. These various attributes are not discreet entities. God is self-contained, so His various attributes describe His being. When we hear or read explanations of God’s sovereignty, such as He does as He pleases, when He pleases with all the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, such a description may leave people cold, thinking that God is arbitrary, willy-nilly, or capricious in His dealings with out lives. Nothing is further from the Biblical truth about the Godhead. All of His attributes work together in who God is. As stated above, He is equally sovereign in HIs love and mercy as in his allowing difficult times in our lives. So people may ask, do you see your stroke as an act of God’s love? Every act of God toward His children is an act of love. The love that comes from struggles in life is the recognition that we share various types of sufferings with Christ. Moreover, such struggles are a means to understand more deeply our relationship to God and His providential care in our lives. As Paul stated in his epistle, God comforts us in our suffering so that we can better comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Throughout these six blog articles, I hope the focus on God’s sovereignty and providence stands out more than just my experience with a stroke. I pray that I have encouraged believers to think and focus more on how God works in their lives. If I have accomplished that goal in just a small way, then I’m truly thankful to Him.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

References:

Flavel, J. (1963). The Mystery of Providence.[Originally published in 1678]. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Books.

Pink, A. W. (1975). The Attributes of God. [Originally published 1930] Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Pink, A. W. (2017). The Sovereignty of God. [Originally published in 1918]. Swengel, PA: A. W. Pink Classic Books.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./ April 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part V – The Venture

[This article is the fifth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

After eleven days in rehab at Pecan Creek, Paul picked me up, and I returned to the Terrell’s where life took on its familiar pattern pre COVID. The question that remained was whether or not Day Neuro would take me back after having COVID. I asked my GP to provide a referral to Day Neuro since I had tested negative for COVID. The only thing left to do was wait. God’s providence shown through again. Only three days passed, and I received a call from Devlin at Medical City that I could return to rehab. I was set once again to engage this fine facility and group of therapists for all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. God’s grace displayed itself through the Terrell’s who transported me to and from Medical City three days per week. Paul and Jean’s daughter, Amy, transported me often, and on the drive into Denton from Collinsville, we would listen to Harry Potter audiobooks. The grace of God has many ways of showing itself. If our mindset is not right, we can easily miss how God’s lovingkindness works in our lives.

Medical City: Home Away from Home

Having gotten back on track at the outpatient rehab at Medical City, I discovered that it was a place with which I would gain much familiarity. The facility scheduled me to be there three days per week, three hours per day, for a total of nine hours a week. The work would be consistent, intense, and fruitful. The therapists there provided a tailor-made work out program for me that fit my needs perfectly. Each day, the facility scheduled a three-hour slot that entailed all three therapies. After having taken some time out for COVID, the therapists recognized I had more energy than I had previously to COVID. I reckoned this fact to be due to the infusion treatments I had received. I recognized that my energy level was up, so I was ready to engage rehab. I recognized God’s hand in everything, having returned to Day Neuro. I couldn’t have been at a better place for what my body required.

Physical Therapy

Rebecca served as my primary physical therapist, but others worked with me as well in this modality. Upon returning to Day Neuro, I was still wheelchair bound, but I had learned to do some things on my on, and I could transfer from the wheelchair to other activities without having to be lifted or carried by anyone. Physical therapy challenged me to move more, stand more often, and retrieve some of the balance taken away by the stroke. For the scheduled three days, daily routines included parallel bars, workouts on a stationary bike, standing from a setting and prostrate position, and walking practice with a roller. Progress felt slow but upon reflection, due to the skill and the persistent challenges by the therapists, my progress accumulated at an amazing speed. From my perspective, the balance exercises frustrated me the most. Constantly I experienced the angst of falling, but I never fell once the entire eight months I rehabbed at Day Neuro. I also worked with Mark, another physical therapist, who had attended Baylor, and was a solid Christian. Once again, God had placed me in a truly blessed environment. Every therapist had a particular saying that I remember. I hated mistakes, mishaps, and setbacks that I experienced. Rebecca and Mark would remind me that two steps forward and one step back was what rehab work was all about. Frustration on my part was nothing more than a blinder that would get in the way of what I had to learn. God most definitely used rehab work to teach me patience, a fruit of the Spirit, which I had not cultivated all that much across my life. I’m certainly not saying that I’ve cultivated it now, but I learned more about patience during this time than I had ever known before. Other exercises included the challenge of stepping up onto and over certain obstacles, as well as navigating a set of steps to ascend and descend. Three days a week of intense work paid high dividends following my eight months’ time spent there.

Occupational Therapy

Alex was my primary occupational therapist along with Carolyn. Although some of the occupational exercises overlapped with the physical therapy – e.g. walking with roller and cane – much of the occupational therapy focused on coordination skills, especially with my left hand that had been hit hard by the stroke. Exercises included working with cards, blocks, WiFi, puzzles, and weights, all targeting my strength and coordination. Alex had a saying that I remember fondly. I became overly frustrated with the WiFi tennis game. Noticing my frustration, she would say it doesn’t matter if you win the game but how well you’re learning to maintain you balance as you play. At the end of every tennis match the little figures on the WiFi would jump up and down as a statement appeared informing me that I had lost another match. I really got ticked at those little figures. Alas, Alex was right. I engaged several other activities in Occupational therapy that proved to be very practical. I worked on some typing skills, which helped me work on my computer at home. I also practiced transferring laundry from a washer to a dryer, then hanging the clothes up on a rack. The practice of buttoning the shirts increased the coordination in my left hand immensely. Additionally, this challenge provided me with confidence that I could engage some practical everyday functioning. Another challenge entailed the use of a storefront to shop for canned and other packaged items that I would place in a cart, and then return each item to its place on the shelves. This work challenged my standing balance and the coordinated use of my right and left hands. Carolyn helped me walk with a roller and cane. Her saying was that I was always harder on myself than anything else. Eight months of occupational therapy led to some great strides in my balance and coordination. One final task I accomplished involved my own cooking as I prepared some soup for a small lunch one day. It felt to me as if life was getting back on track.

Speech Therapy

Kayla worked with me as my speech therapist. The cerebellum stroke had paralyzed my left vocal cord. As I have stated in previous articles, my speech had reduced to a whisper, but eventually returned with a gravelly voice, causing me to sound like a bullfrog, although I’ve never heard a bullfrog speak. Kayla continued the swallowing exercises and e-stem work that Melissa had started at Denton Select. She increased the exercises, however, challenging me to do more swallows, including tongue-pinch swallows and what she called hard swallows. I began three different swallowing exercises with a fifteen-count and worked up to a 20-count. She also continued with the tongue exercises that Melissa had established. Kayla added timing to the tongue exercises so that my tongue received a good work out. I felt right away how both the swallow and tongue exercises affected my throat area and my speech. Kayla added a wonderful exercise that we called towel-crunch exercise. I used a rolled-up towel and would hold it under my chin against my throat for a full minute. Following that exercise, I would then do thirty crunches with my chin pressing the towel again to my throat. Without fail, both Kayla and I recognized that my voice would be stronger following the towel-crunch work. A perk in doing speech therapy included practice with certain foods to see how I could handle swallowing them. Ice chips, water, apple sauce, apple juice, and different forms of candies provided a good reinforcement for the work. After several weeks of speech therapy, I found an ENT doctor at U.T. Southwest in Dallas who injected my left vocal cord to see if it could begin to work again. My voice returned in full force for a couple of weeks, but defaulted to slight hoarse-sound bellowing from my throat. The good thing about the injection is that it removed the extra effort I was expending to talk in any length of time. Though my voice is hoarse today, I still do not have to expend any effort to carry on a conversation with someone. Kayla worked with me on voicing, blowing out air through a straw for as long as possible, and saying certain letters of the alphabet, holding the sound for as long as I could. The speech therapy reached its max not too long before my discharge date. I felt that my voice strengthened during my time with Kayla, as well as my ability to swallow certain foods. In fact, I begin to experiment with certain foods, which led to a saying that Kayla reiterated time and again. When I would tell her with what I was experimenting, she would say I can’t tell you not to do that, but I can say that I do not recommend it, which is something you need to know. I truly appreciated her skill and concern, but I must confess that I continued to experiment.

Conclusion

My discharge date from Day Neuro fell on October 6, 2021, three days short of exactly one year since my stroke. The work they put me through there did wonders for my body. When I began my time there, I was wheelchair-bound. Over the eight months of rehabbing, I graduated to a roller, and eventually walking with a cane. Presently I utilize a cane, and at times I practice walking without the cane if I’m on a smooth surface. If I do a long walk here at Good Samaritan out by the lake, I’ll still use the roller. However, the next goal is to engage the long walk with the cane. I well remember the day at Paul and Jean’s home when we put the wheelchair in storage. I hope soon to retire the roller.

This article is next-to-the-last article I’ll write on this topic. I can say without a doubt as I look back on events, God guided me everywhere I ended up. He guided me to the facilities and the very people with whom I worked, and no better plans could have been made. As I think back on all that transpired from October 9, 2020 to October 6, 2021, the only thing I can say is that I had no control over any of it at all. From Denton Presbyterian to Forth Worth Harris to Denton Select to Paul and Jean’s care, to Pecan Creek, to Day Neuro at Medical City, and finally to Good Samaritan where I now live, God providentially guided me to the facilities and the people that best worked for me. Praise His Name.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./March 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part IV – The Venture

[This article is the fourth in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

November 20, 2020: Due to COVID-19 and a host of other political upheavals, 2020 had become an infamous, if not notorious year. I will remember 2020 as the year of the stroke. More importantly than that, however, the autumn of 2020 became a time that taught me just how much I did not know about the multitude of ways that God works in our lives. God’s providential care became a stark reality for me. And November 20th provided ample evidence of God’s grace because on that day Denton Select discharged me, and Paul and Jean Terrell graciously took me into their home. For the next eleven months they would put up with me while I rehabbed through the various difficulties that resulted from my stroke. Rehab included some home healthcare, and the personal care of Paul and Jean;the majority of my technical rehab work would come through Day Neuro, the day rehab facility at Medical City, Denton, Texas.

Grace Followed by Grace

If I typed out this narrative until my hands and fingers no longer worked, I couldn’t say enough to convey all that Paul and Jean Terrell did for me during the eleven months I was in their home. Not only did they prove to be loving friends that went beyond the call of duty in putting up with me for that amount of time, but as a Christian family, they more than evidenced the Spirit of Christ in which they believe and by which they live. Although at times I believed I was a burden beyond description, they never made me feel that way, nor gave me any reason to doubt the care they demonstrated toward me.

Another large piece of grace that fell on me through living in their home involved my attending their church, Grace Bible in Sherman, Texas. I learned that many people who attended that church had been praying for me since the beginning of my stroke. My time at Grace Bible entailed the blessing that always comes with being surrounded by committed Christians who were receiving solid teaching and pastoring from George Cline. I sat under that teaching for several months with the added benefit of getting to know many of the individuals there week-in and week-out. God’s providential care entailed not only my physical healing, but also my spiritual growth. The Terrell’s home and Grace Bible involved a one-two-punch that begin the process of putting me back on solid ground.

Paul and Jean themselves are solid Christians. Hence they shared with me some Christian videos they watched, some books they were going through, and Paul and I began to pray each night for various individuals in the church, as well as for the country. Through Paul I learned about ministries I had not heard that much about – Joel McDurmon, Douglas Wilson, James White, Bruce Gore, and others. I had heard of Rushdoony and his works, but we also revisited his ideas as well. Suffice it to say, my eleven months with the Terrell’s was a time of deepening friendship, prayer, discussions about the things of Christ, and just wonderful all-around fellowship. I could say it was just what the doctor ordered, but more true to the point, my time there was God decreed through his providential care.

Another added piece of grace came with where the Terrell’s lived. There home set in the midst of some trees and land in the small community of Collinsville, Texas. There is something about country living that’s an aid to one’s healing process. There home included a large porch that wrapped around the entire house, and it became the place where a lot of my work took place that helped me move from a wheelchair to a roller, and then eventually to a cane. As I progressed from a wheelchair to the roller, Paul graciously walked with me to provide balance so that I didn’t fall. I faced the threat of falling for several months, and more than a few times I needed help getting off the floor after a fall. Vertigo continued to plague me at times, but slowly but surely the dizziness vanished. I began to reestablish skills such as moving from the bed to the wheelchair, standing up to use the roller, and taking a shower without any assistance. Daily I worked on my balance, lifted some light weights, and strengthened my grip with the aid of Thera-putty. As I stated, being at the Terrell’s home allowed me to rehab. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise. God’s providence became my refuge.

For approximately two months, I worked with a home healthcare group, involving all three therapies: speech, occupational, and physical. After that time I felt ready to engage Day Neuro, which I had heard so much about. My doctor made the referral, and the day finally arrived. A phone call came from Medical City, and finally I would undergo some heavy-duty rehab work at the Day Rehab center there. I was more than ready, but I still didn’t realize how far I had to go.

Sidetrack: COVID-19

I rehabbed at Day Neuro for about two weeks, realizing that once again, God had guided me to the right place. I experienced progress through all three therapies: physical, occupational, and speech. The work was difficult but going well. Then one day riding back to the Terrell’s home with Jean from rehab work, I experienced a chill. Later that night I developed a fever of 100 to 101 degrees. The next day, Paul took me to a facility that tested me for COVID, and I tested positive. Through a referral from my general practitioner, Jean drove me to Fort Worth for some infusion treatments (Monoclonal Infusion Treatment). Once there, they took a look at me and decided to put me in the hospital, which was right next door to them. Once again, I was back in Forth Worth Harris Methodist. Fort Worth Harris admitted me for a week, and I received the infusion treatments everyday for about forty-five minutes to an hour. God’s grace continued to shine through. The people on the COVID floor were skilled, compassionate, and consummate professionals. I had a wonderful room on the fourth floor that looked out over the freeway. I remember watching vehicles pass by, and yearning for the day I could drive again. The virus didn’t really affect my breathing that much, but it drained me of all energy. I was truly wasted. My oxygenation remained in the 90’s if I laid still. If I moved it drop to the upper 80’s. For the lack of energy the infusion treatments worked wonders. But the COVID treatment didn’t end there.

Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center

Following my stay at Fort Worth Harris Methodist, because I had contracted the COVID-19 virus, I was required to undergo rehab at a facility that accepted COVID patients. I was transferred to Pecan Creek Rehab & Healthcare Center in Gainesville, Texas. I knew absolutely nothing about this facility. Once again, the transport took place later in the evening. As the transport driver navigated I-35E North from Fort Worth to Denton, and then I-35 North to Gainesville from Denton, only questions and doubts clouded my mind. Although I had experienced God’s constant care since I had suffered my stroke, I wish I could say that I confidently rested in this sovereignty, but instead fear had seized me because I simply didn’t know what lay ahead. I arrived at Pecan Creek between 8:30 and 9:00pm. I was taken to the COVID unit and to an assigned room. I felt as though the unknown had engulfed me. I had no idea what was in stock for me for the next ten days, which was the determined time I would be in Pecan Creek.

God’s Grace Abounds and Never Ceases

As it turned out, Pecan Creek had an active little gym where staff worked with members who required physical therapy. During my stay, physical therapy was the sole work I embraced. I needed it to regain my strength, work on my balance, and practice more with a roller. I became confident at moving from my bed to the wheelchair and vice versa. Also during this time at Pecan Creek, I developed the ability to go to the bathroom on my own. Likewise I became more confident in using the roller rather than my wheelchair to get around. The nursing staff there worked with me so that I learned to do my own nourishment through my feeding tube.

Although these perks were truly blessings from God, I learned that there were Christian believers on staff, and group Bible studies were available to patients. Unfortunately, because I entered the facility as a COVID patient, the group activities were off limits to me. But God’s grace showed up abundantly in another way. I worked with one physical therapist, named Marsha, who was a committed believer in Christ. Each day we worked together, and she would end our time with prayer. God’s providence once again landed me in a place where blessings abound, not only through the facility and its amenities, but also through the people who worked there.

Conclusion

My work at Medical City Day Neuro had been interrupted by my COVID episode. I had no idea if the facility would take me back after having COVID. I wanted to get back there more than anything I could otherwise desire. Pecan Creek tested me for COVID, and the results came back negative. I was COVID free. I hoped that my General Practitioner could make the referral to get me back in Day Neuro.

About five o’clock in the afternoon, Paul picked me up at Pecan Creek. The hard winter temperatures had set in. But the energy I felt was in the ozones compared to the day Jean took me for the infusion treatments in Fort Worth. I had seen either Paul nor her for those fifteen days. I felt blessed to be back in their home. After being back home for a couple of days, I received a phone call from Day Neuro. I was back in. Treatments wold begin for three days a week, three hours a day. God’s grace had brought me around full circle from the COVID episode back to rehab work. Even in the face of seeing God work in so many ways since I had experienced my stroke, I still found room for fear and doubts. As believers, we are truly blessed that God relates to us through his grace rather than on the basis of our merit. Day Neuro at Medical City was now my immediate future. I felt ready to embrace it with all I had.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./February 14th, 2022

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part III – The Venture

[This article is the third in a series of articles on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

The Venture that God had in store for me moved forward, and once again I was in a transport heading up I-35W. Only this time I was heading back north from Fort Worth Harris to Denton to a rehab facility there called Denton Select. Once again, night had fallen, and I arrived in time to find some rest and get some sleep. The unknown lay opened as to what this rehab facility had in store for me. But God’s providence emerges in all places. I would find that to be true in Denton Select.

Rehabilitation Work

Life as a Christian is still a learning process as the believer grows in sanctification. I would learn about three types of rehabilitation into which I would be immersed over the next eleven months, even after leaving Denton Select. My rehab work would include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My desire to get better collided with my impatience, which produced irritation, anger, frustration, and the desire to just give up at times. This fact presented me with the goals I had to reach to grow not only physically, but also spiritually.

Physical Therapy

Daily prayer was a constant. My eyes were still affected by the stroke, so I couldn’t read anything in book form. Two highly skilled and compassionate physical therapists worked with me. They engendered in me the desire to work hard. I discovered rather quickly the reality of what is known as stroke fatigue. Regardless of my desire to be up for the daily tasks presented to me, there were days I possessed little or no energy. My lethargy frustrated me to no end because I really wanted to engage the therapies. Each day the hospital staff would post on a marker board my scheduled therapies for the day. Some days my workout included four to five hours of work, which wore me out, In the long run, however, I realized how much small increments of progress contributed to my overall physical health. Talk about patience as a fruit of the spirit. God used highly skilled people to teach me some much needed lessons.

My two physical therapists were named Kenlin and Jenlin. I never thought to ask if they were sisters with such similar names. My physical therapy led me to the Denton Select gym where I would work on balance, standing, walking, and muscle tone and coordination. All of these areas had been hit hard by my stroke. I practiced walking on the parallel bars. This exercise, however, presented a couple of problems. The stroke brought on vertigo, especially if I stood up or turned to my right or left too quickly. I had to learn to approach my environment slowly, cautiously, and not “multitask” while walking. For example, if I turned to look behind me while walking, I would lose my balance and fall unless someone caught me. This fact challenged my patience as well. I suppose that anyone in my position would want progress to occur quickly. Secondly, I developed orthostatic or postural hypotension. When I stood up, my blood pressure would drop to the point of making me lightheaded so that I couldn’t keep my balance. When this occurred, I could not engage the physical therapy exercise for that day, which was usually the parallel bars. I had to learn through God’s grace that speedy recovery is not the case with the kind or stroke I experienced.

Speech Therapy

Melissa, another highly skilled therapist, worked with me to regain my ability to speak. As I stated in earlier blogs, I lost my voice to the extent that I could only speak in a whisper. As time progressed at Denton Select, I regained a rough and gravelly voice that was at least louder and more clear than a whisper. Melissa worked with e-stems that she attached to my throat. She would send a current through them at a volume I could stand. This work allowed me both to swallow better and speak with a clearer voice. The swallowing therapy was important work because I still couldn’t swallow food, so I was being fed through a feeding tube that had been inserted into my stomach at Fort Work Harris. By the time I left Denton Select, I could swallow water, ice ships, and some apple sauce. I still had a long way to go before I could eat solid food. This therapy also led to my being tested in what are called swallow studies. I learned that with certain swallows that I could asperate anything I was trying to swallow into my lungs.

Occupational Therapy

Rebecca and Audra were my OC therapists. Some of what we did overlapped with PT. Otherwise I worked on several exercises for coordination. This type or work entailed some of the most frustrating experiences for me. My left arm and hand had lost some of its strength and much of its coordination. Many of the skills that Rebecca and Audra challenged me to accomplish were tough sledding, as they should have been. More than once Rebecca had to remind me that my saying I can’t do something wasn’t going to get it done. I had to try these skills so as to know how much progress was needed. Talk about patience as the fruit of the spirit! Both Rebecca and Audra were fantastic in challenging me and being patient themselves with my frustrations. They also helped me accomplish daily tasks, such as moving from my bed to the wheelchair, taking a shower, and moving up and down the hallway in my wheelchair. I also developed some coordination with my left hand.

Grace Upon Grace

I stayed in Denton Select for several weeks. I remember my release date: November 20th, 2020. The time that passed from the day I had my stroke totaled about six weeks. I clearly needed to keep that in mind because I wanted to progress much faster than I felt like I was. All together, six weeks is just not that long. If I could let go of my impatience, I could see that I was doing much better than I thought. The words from the Russian doctor at Fort Worth Harris returned to me. You are our super patient. We expect good things out of you. Well, I didn’t feel much like a super patient, but I did notice ways that my strength had returned to my body. Though frustrated at times, I did maintain some hope that was nothing but a gracious gift from God.

Then even more grace came my way. I had no idea, what my life would be like after leaving Denton Select. I had spoken with the doctor there about getting into a rehab facility called Day Neuro. The facility had been recommended to me by some of the staff at Denton Select and others outside of there. But God’s grace poured out upon me in another way. Two friends of mine whom I had known since the 80’s at Denton Bible Church, Paul and Jean Terrell, took me into their home so that I could rehab and recuperate. The blessings that flowed from their graciousness extended beyond any measurement that can be devised by the human spirit. Paul contacted the owner of the apartment I had rented at the time and received an okay from him for me to get out of the lease due to my stroke. Both Paul and Jean coordinated the moving and storage of all my belongings I had in the apartment. Paul made sure that my bank and other businesses had my change of address for mailing and billing purposes. For the next eleven months, this gracious family would put up with me while I battled through all the physical challenges of getting stronger so that I could eventually and hopefully live on my own. Once again, God’s providential care and grace fell upon me in ways that I could not even have imagined.

Conclusion

November 20th, 2020, 5:30pm: I checked out of Denton Select, sill wheelchair bound, unable to walk, having weak eyesight, snd a gravelly and whispery voice. But I felt the security of God’s grace as I was heading to live under the care of good, close, and loving friends. God’s providence had already led me to Denton Select and working with therapists like Melissa and Audra who were solid believers connected to Denton Bible. Once again, I didn’t know what the future held as Thanksgiving and Christmas approached in 2020. I knew however I was in good hands with Paul and Jean, and I was in the blessed hands of God’s providence that continued to unfold in ways I would have never even suspected.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./January 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke: Part II – The Venture

[This blog article is the second in a series on this topic. Others will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

October 11th, 2020: Night had fallen over 35W South. I was being transported from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital due to the neurological specialty unit in Fort Worth. The venture that God was taking me through had begun. I had no idea what my future held. Would I ever walk again? Would I lead a normal life again? As the days progressed, other questions emerged? Would I regain the ability to speak clearly? Would I regain the functions of swallowing and eating again? Would my eyesight return? Those early days in the hospital and rehab clinics presented many unknowns. As time passed, what I discovered is how little I knew about God’s sovereignty and providence. Such knowledge would come slowly to me, and it would be a difficult lesson to learn. Yet it would be a lesson as sweet as the drippings of the honeycomb.

Forth Worth Harris Hospital

I had heard of CAT-SCAN’s and MRI’s, but I was to become more intimately acquainted with them because I was going to undergo several over the next few days. Once again it was a venture of new experiences. When specialists placed me between two large radiation machines for a CAT-SCAN and slid me into a tube for the MRI, the seriousness of my condition couldn’t help but dawn upon me. Yet again, I was in the hands of skilled doctors, technicians, and nurses in a situation to which I had to submit and flow with as though I was on a river that makes up one’s life path. Both procedures verified that I had suffered a stroke that affected the cerebellum, pons, medulla oblongata, and slightly impacted the brain stem. Since the stroke occurred on the right side of my brain, it hammered the left side of my body. My balance and ability to walk were totally gone to the point I couldn’t stand up without help from a nurse or technician. I was bedridden and wheelchair bound. At first I could eat some food if I made an effort to swallow as much as I could on the right side of my throat. A nurse taught me how to do that by turning my head to the right as I swallowed. Over the next couple of days, I lost the ability to swallow and eat, and I noticed that my eyesight was becoming worse, especially in the left eye. Because I needed to obtain nourishment in someway, technicians place a feeding tube through my nose that ran down into my esophagus. Soon afterwards, I lost my voice and could only speak in a whisper.

Neurological ICU

For the first day at Fort Worth Harris, I was in an ICU or some kind of ER unit for patients with neurological damage. The thing I remember is how the doctors and staff went beyond the call as to how helpful and encouraging they were. One particular nurse gave me sponge tips to dip in water so that I could at least quench some of my thirst which was heavy duty. The problem was they didn’t want me swallowing too much because the stroke had affected my ability to eat and drink. Thirst weighed heavily on me, and I wanted water all the time. But it was not forthcoming. My prayers took on a life and death theme. I actually prayed that if I were going to be bedridden and wheelchair bound and unable to eat or drink, I wanted God to take me home. I think about those prayers these days. Were they right or wrong ways of praying? They were honest.

Neurological Floor

After only one day in the ICU/ER unit, the doctors transferred me to what I think was the third floor for patients with neurological damage. I went through another series of MRI’s to verify earlier results and to check if the stroke had gotten worse. Again, the nurses and technicians displayed their skills and compassion in amazing ways. During this time, I had a feeding tube that ran down my nose into my esophagus. I soon lost my voice all together and could talk only in a whisper. I would remain in that state for several weeks. Things began to add up in my mind. I couldn’t walk or get out of bed without assistance, my eyesight had gone awry, and now I couldn’t speak. The left side of my body had lost most of its coordination. My prayers continued to be for healing or to be taken home.

After a few days, I was moved across the hall, same floor, but out of the neurological unit to a general unit. I got to know the nurses real well in that room. They were highly skilled, compassionate, and would converse with me every chance they got. We had a running joke where I would try to trick them somehow into giving me water to drink. But they held their course. After a few days, I was glad to hear that the feeding tube was coming out of my nose, and I would actually have a small operation to place a feeding tube in my stomach. I hoped that my voice would return after the removal of the nose feeding tube, but it did not. My daily prayers were for continued and total healing. I would like to claim that my faith prevented me from having any doubts about my future held. Alas, I had doubts and worries, especially about being bedridden and my regaining my abilities to walk, swallow, speak, and see. To say the least I was scared. But I continued in prayers day and night.

On Display

I had seen movies and television shows where a doctor and a team of residents or interns observed patients. I never thought of going through such an experience. Nonetheless, a Russian doctor and her team of residents came to see me several times. The doctor said, you are our special patient because you are doing so well. And we have high hopes for you. I had been told by the other doctors that I was doing well, but I knew I had a long way to go. I didn’t feel like a special patient. It was interesting, however, to witness the doctor and residents observing me. In fact, I kept asking doctors if I were going to remain in my present state or get better. Obviously they couldn’t offer any guarantees, but they believed I would regain my functioning. or at least some of it. But it would take time. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and one I haven’t developed that well. But with the kind of stroke I experienced, patience is a must. During this time and even now, I’ve had my share of frustrations, anger, temper tantrums, and impatience. To develop the kind of patience needed to work through a stroke is a learning curve to say the least.

The Screaming of the Fallen

I had tried my hand at writing some poetry about a year or so before my stroke. Needless to say, I’m not a poet. Nonetheless, I was pleased with some of the things I had written. I coined a sentence, I hear the screaming of the fallen in a poem I titled DarkLand and another titled The Calling. As a Christian, I believe we’re all fallen human beings. On the neurological floor I heard other patients screaming, sometimes for help and alleviation of pain, and other times calling out people’s names who never showed up. I thought about the phrase, the screaming of the fallen. We are captured in these bodies, and our inability to shake them really comes home when we are injured or undergo a serious illness like a stroke. Every time a patient would begin to call out, I would pray for him or her silently in my room. Prayer is a force that something like a stroke will bring home to you in a hurry. For the believer, the comfort and hope come in knowing that one day we will see Christ face to face. Our bodies will be fully restored.

Conclusion

I learned all the nurses’, techs’, and doctors’ names who worked with me at Fort Worth Harris. I couldn’t have been placed in a better setting. The ones that were on shift when I left stopped by to see me and say bye. Although I considered it a real blessing to be at Harris, I didn’t realize it at the time, but God’s providence was carrying me along in ways I would have never imagined. My next stop in my venture would be a rehab clinic. I wanted to be placed in Denton Select Rehabilitation Clinic. God answered that prayer. Once again I was being transported back up North on I-35W. Still my future was clouded with many unknowns.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./December 14th 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

The Stroke – Part I: The Venture

[This blog article is the first of a series on this topic. Other articles will be completed at later dates.]

Introduction

October 9th, 2020: That is a day that will live in infamy, so the saying goes, in my life as long as I’m on this earth. We may be dimly aware of how our lives can be altered at a 180 degree turn, but until we come face-to-face with the experience, it remains only a shadowy piece of guesswork. On the morning of 10/09/2020, I got out of bed and discovered that m[y life may very well have changed in ways that will not go back to what we call normal. As I stepped out of bed, I suddenly became aware that I had lost all sense of balance, couldn’t stand up without leaning against the wall, and had totally lost the ability to walk. Just over a year has passed now sense that day, and although the goal of this article and the one that will follow next month is to tell my story, the ultimate goal of my writing this narrative is to highlight and place in the forefront of thought the powerful providence of a Holy and loving God.

The Comical Version

I found out the hard way the truth of the adage that I can either constantly cry about things that happen to me or laugh about them. The real truth is that’s not an either-or action; it’s a both-and. Although I’ll describe that morning with a few laughs, don’t think that I take what happened to me lightly. Most of the funny stuff comes through the thoughts that popped into my head as I struggled that morning to get out of bed and eventually call 911. As I stated above, when I climbed out of bed, it hit me that I couldn’t stand up as I reached toward the wall to keep myself upright. I tried to take a couple of steps, but my body wasn’t having it. Thought: Something’s not working right here. This thought was made even funnier because I said it out loud to myself.

At this point, I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew I was going to have to call 911. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. Thought: I don’t want the EMC’s taking me out of here in my underwear. I noticed my jeans and a tee-shirt lying in a chair that I had in the bedroom, so somehow I had to get them on. I stepped toward the chair, had to drop to the floor, and I leaned against the front of the chair. In that position, I struggled to pull my jeans on and then with some effort reached up, grabbed the tee-shirt and managed to get it over my head and on correctly. I thought about shoes, but my body said no way. It was at this point that I felt the left side of my face going numb and the left side of my mouth drooping some. Thought: I’m having a doggone stroke. Later that would be confirmed by an MRI and a CAT-SCAN.

In an instant nausea hit my body, and I felt for sure that I was going to throw up. Vanity of vanities, says the author of Ecclesiastes. I had just moved into the apartment, which had been thoroughly furbished with new carpet and tile that resembled hardwood floors. I didn’t want to mess up the carpet or any of the floor, so I lunged into the bathroom that was adjacent to my bedroom. I hit the wall where the handbasin set, lunged backward into a cubicle where the toile set, hit the far wall of that cubicle, slid down the wall to the floor, and lunging forward one more time, somehow I ended up right in front of the toilet. Thought: Later when I reflected on this move, I remembered how I used to love to play pinball years ago when I was in Junior College. I reminded myself of a pinball that miraculously ended up in the slot where I belonged. But all was for naught. I had the dry heaves, so I wouldn’t have stained the carpet or floors.

The time had come to call 911. My cell phone set on a table on the opposite side of the room from the bathroom entrance. I knew I couldn’t walk over to retrieve it. So I decided to crawl on my hands and knees. Nope. My body wouldn’t have it. Playing army all those days as a young kid paid off, so I begin to battlefield crawl on my belly across the room. I was actually pleased with the speed at which I could crawl. About halfway across the room I stopped. I didn’t laugh, but – Thought: If someone were to take a picture of this, it would really look strange and weird.

I made it to the table and called 911 on my cell phone. When the woman asked me the nature of my emergency, i told here that I needed an ambulance because I was having a stroke. She responded, What makes you think you’re having a stroke?Thought: I really don’t want to have this conversation right now. Actually, she was great and very professional. I immediately thought of my numbing face and told her that the left side of my face had lost its feeling and that I couldn’t stand up.

How they did this I do not know, but at the very second that she and I hung up, the EMC’s were knocking at my door, which was locked. I lived in a studio apartment, and thought I was going to have to fall down some fairly steep stairs to let them in. But they got in. I asked them how, and they said they got in through a window. The windows in that apartment were locked or sealed. I decided that I didn’t want to know how they got in. Everyone should be thankful for how the EMC’s work efficiently and professionally. They are top grade at what they do.

I was glad to be taken out in the stretcher in my jeans and tee-shirt rather than just my skivvies. But once in the transport vehicle, one of the EMC’s said that I have to loose the jeans and shirt. Thought: If you only knew what I went through to get these on. Next came the infamous and notorious hospital gown, which I would get to know intimately for the next 43 days..

The EMC took me to Denton Presbyterian Hospital, and I began then what would become a long haul of 43 days in hospitals and rehab clinics. The people at Denton Presby were wonderful, but I didn’t get to stay there long. A couple of days later, I was transferred to Fort Worth Harris, known for its neurological specialities. Denton Presby transferred me to Forth Work around 8 o’clock one evening. I remember a sermon given by Tommy Nelson, pastor at Denton Bible Church, about how he talks with people who come to him, telling him they have a serious illness or diagnosis, that God is taking them on a venture. The issue becomes how people respond to the venture. As I lay on my back on a transport stretcher heading down I-35W from Denton to Fort Worth, I thought of all the times I had driven that stretch on my own. I could see the streetlights and exit signs even though it was a foggy and cloudy night. Recalling Tommy’s sermon, I thought here I am on the venture that God has chosen for me. At that point all anyone can do is just go along for the ride, trusting in God’s lovingkindness and providential care.

Conclusion

Although I used some humor in this article, like a friend of mine said, a stroke is not for the weak of heart. She too had experienced one in her past. I don’t know about not being weak of heart, but I was scared much of the time that I was in the hospital. I recall when I was in a men’s group for a short while at a Bible Church in Austin when the leader of the group asked what kind of experience would challenge our faith the most. I said if I lost the physical ability of my body, that would usher me into some deep doubt. Praise God that I didn’t lose sight of prayer and the desire to cling to him during those times. I confess that when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get better or have any healing, I prayed that God would take me home. But I was on the highway of the venture he chose for me. As stated, at that point, all one can do is run the highway. Over the 43 days I was in the hospital, God’s grace abound in many different ways. Whether we realize it or not, we are steeped in his providential care. To know him intimately makes level the highway and gives meaning to the venture.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./November 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Morning & Evening: A Daily Devotional Through the Writings of C. H. Spurgeon

Introduction

Alistair Begg has provided a wonderful service through his updating of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Begg recast the daily devotional from the King James version of the Bible, which Spurgeon would have used in the late nineteenth century, to the English Standard Version (ESV). As a believer who studied Scripture beginning in the 1980’d, I”m of course familiar with the New American Standard Version (NASB). Recently, I purchased the ESV Study Bible. Although there is nothing wrong with the KJV, the language is strange and awkward at times to twentieth century English speakers. So I appreciate Begg’s updating of Spurgeon’s devotional, as well as his updating Spurgeon’s use of the 19th century English language for twentieth century readers. However, this devotional is not about various versions of the Bible. In his rendition, Begg has maintained the power of Spurgeon as a preacher, as well as his love and faith in our glorious and powerful God.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Spurgeon lived a short life of 58 years from 1834-1892; but in that short life span he displayed quite an impact for Christ on the Church. He was only twenty years old when he began preaching. For thirty-eight years he held the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, later known as the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Without hyperbole, he was probably the most popular pastor of the 19th century. He credited his conversion to a snow storm that blew him off course where he was headed to Methodist church, leading him instead to a Baptist Church. After hearing the sermon there, he stated that he had to rethink his entire approach to Christianity. Although he never completed a specific degree, he strongly believed in learning and became an avid reader, especially of the Puritan Divines. His personal library totaled some 12000 volumes.

Spurgeon became known as a powerful preacher and writer whose words pierced the soul of his readers. The strength of his writing springs from the pages of Morning and Evening. What comes across in these devotionals is Spurgeon’s worshipful love of God, who he presents in all his splendor, glory, power, and providential sovereignty..The impact of Spurgeon’s short life is seen in the fact that when he died in 1892, some 60000 people lined the streets as his body lay in state. On the day of his funeral, as the hearse transported his body from the Metropolitan Tabernacle to the cemetery, approximately 100000 people lined the streets during the funeral procession. Flags flew at half-mast, and many London businesses closed.

Spurgeon’s life was not without other contributions to society. He established as alms house and an orphanage in London, as well as a Pastor’s College that is still open today. He preached his last sermon in June of 1891 and died January 1892.

Morning and Evening

As the title makes clear, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening is a daily devotional that readers engage for a full year. The devotional provides a morning and evening reading each day. This devotional is most definitely geared to the committed believer. Spurgeon’s theology comes through loud and clear extolling the character of God, his just judgment, his free grace, and his lovingkindness. Human effort to please God finds no place in Spurgeon’s writings. The power of his preaching and oratorical skills grab hold of the reader’s soul and will not let go. Many will find joyous tears brought forth by some of the passages that Spurgeon supplies. I definitely recommend this daily devotional for serious and committed Christians. If you are a new Christian, engage this work as well. You’ll find that Spurgeon’s passion for God will take you into a deeper and worshipful understanding of the Triune God. But make no mistake about it, In picking up this work, you’ll read the thoughts of a passionate evangelical, one who believes in the inerrancy and power of God’s word, and a Calvinist who extols the providence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-wise God. The work is Christ-centered, and lifts up Jesus Christ as the Son of God, born of a virgin, who died and shed blood for our sins, and was raised on the third day as a sign of God’s good pleasure. Alistair Begg, once again, has provided an amazing service to the church in his rendition of Spurgeon’s daily devotional.

Reference

Sourgeon, C. H. (2003), Morning and Evening. [Updated and Revised by Alistair Begg]. Wheaton, IL; Crossway Press.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./October 14th, 2021

BOOK REVIEW