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

Church & State

Introduction

Today we have reached the point of critical mass as to just how far we intend to let the State run roughshod over our lives. On one level, as people who live in a country, born of a revolution that established a republican form of government, all Americans face the challenge of how much power they are willing to grant the State to use in curtailing their liberty. As Christians, those who believe that Jesus Christ is sovereign King, Savior, and God, we have to ask ourselves what is the proper role of the Church in engaging the political realm. I believe that for far too long we of the Church have stepped aside from the fray, allowing the State to become the Leviathan that has overreached its proper and moral limits. As citizens the Church can and should speak to the legitimate limitations of the State.

Conflicting Views Within the Church

Those who believe in Christ hold conflicting views regarding the Church’s role in engaging political matters. Although there are many views and nuances, I believe there are three general positions commonly held among Christians. I designate them as passive observers, Romans 13 absolutists, and political engagers.

Passive Observers

The Christian author, Francis Schaeffer, first coined the terms upper story and lower story, describing those Christians who compartmentalized their beliefs so that their spiritual life makes little contact with their day-to-day affairs. Some in the Church hold that our Christian beliefs have nothing to do with the daily struggles we face in life. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Apart from voting, such individuals hold that Christians should not engage the worldly confines of politics. Such engagement, they warn, defies Scripture’s indictment to be in the world, but not of the world. Worldliness, according to Scripture, entails living in alignment with the world’s values rather than those precepts found in God’s Word that speaks to the way in which he would have us live. The passive observer equates political engagement with worldly engagement. They accuse Christians who are politically engaged with seeking ultimate meaning and purpose in worldly politics at worse. At best, they simply believe that Christians who are politically engaged are wasting their time on things that are not eternal. This is a startling example of Schaeffer’s notion of the upper and lower story split. Things in this life simply do not matter. The world as we know it is going to pass away. To spend any time on making it a better place to live is a worldly affair, hence, not a spiritual endeavor.

Romans 13 Absolutists

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement (Romans 13:1-2).

At first glance, this passage written by the Apostle Paul appears straight ahead with no clarification needed.A closer look at its context, however, raises some questions, especially when applied to the political context today in America. Following these verses, Paul states that rulers are a terror not to good conduct, but to bad. Hence, if one does good, he doesn’t need to fear the authorities. If he does wrong, however, then rulers are servants of God to punish evil doers. So the question arises – what if governments reach the point where they call evil, good, and good, evil? In other words governing authorities pit themselves against God’s precepts and law. What is our response to authorities to be then? Moreover, we have Biblical examples where Christians did not simply bow to worldly power. The Apostle Paul, himself, appealed to his status as Roman citizen when wrongly accused and arrested. When a Roman centurion struck him, Paul replied, Do you strike a Roman citizen? Additionally, the Apostles in the Book of Acts when ordered to cease proclaiming the truth about Christ replied, We obey God rather than man. The early Christians defied worshiping the Roman emperor as a god as well as breaking Roman law when they secretly met in the catacombs to worship. Romans 13 absolutists claim that verses 1-2 mean that Christians should obey the government no matter the context. As such they have given a carte blanche to the State, providing it with absolute rule over the Church.

Political Engagers

The Reformed Presbyterians heavily contributed to the values that shaped early America and that eventually led to its break with England. Many of what I call political engagers, can be found today within the confines of Reformed Theology. The aforementioned Francis Schaffer falls within that theological persuasion. Many of those who strongly advocate that Christians should be politically active and savvy are Reformed postmillennialists. Although it’s not the purpose of this article to stake out an eschatological position, I find that I like the work and thought that postmillennialists proffer. To be fair, not all political engagers hold to a postmillennial eschatology. Schaffer held a premillennial position. Having said that I would point to theologians, pastors, and writers such as Doug Wilson, Joel McDurmon, Gary North, R. J. Rushdoony, and James White as examples of those who believe Christians should actively engage the political realm. Although I may not agree with every jot and tittle of what these individuals say, I do like their optimism and the conjectures they offer for ways that Christians can reclaim the culture that we seem to have handed over to those who are diametrically opposed to God’s law.

Conclusion: Engaging All of Life

Reformed Theology and the postmillennialists cited above do not dwell solely on the political realm. They call for Christians to engage all of life’s endeavors – business, education, science, the arts, technology, politics, etc. – and take all these spheres captive in the name of Christ. Indeed I don’t see that any particular millennial position is required to agree with such a notion. We have witnessed over the past several decades, and particularly the past few years, an unprecedented growth of the State and its interventionist strategies that snake inexorably through all the nook and crannies of our daily livelihoods. The attitude that as Christians we should stand idly by and let Statism and its anti-Christian philosophy take over the culture due to some pietistic notion of worldliness seems self-defeating at best and cowardice at worse.

By God’s providential hand, we live in a republic forged out to some degree by Reformed theology by which we are a nation ruled by law, not men – Lex Rex. The call for Christians to actively engage all spheres of life is a transformative one. None of us know when Christ will return. But to merely sit by and wait for his return, doing nothing about the corruption of this culture, while some may see that as an option, I do not believe such passiveness to be a Biblical option. We Christians today have to confront the reality that we will not necessarily witness during our lifetimes the changes in culture that can occur if believers enter all spheres of life and place all their endeavors under the Lordship of Christ. That’s an overwhelming proclamation. None of us know how it will work out. But that’s not a reason for the Church to remain invisible in the midst of cultural battles.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that all three of these camps as I’ve designated them comprise believers in Christ. Hence, regardless of where we land on this issue, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should let unity rule rather than divisiveness. We need to learn how to agree to disagree, yet remain united.

We live in a republic by God’s providence. Politicians are not our authorities. We do not obey men. We obey the law. Perhaps the ones being disobedient to government are not the ones who draw Constitutional lines in the sand and say to politicians, you do not cross here. Rather it is those who do not engage the political realm and work to set it right.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

When Doubts Arise

. . . as far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins from us. [Psalms 103:12]

Introduction

As Christians, do we really live as though God through Christ has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a series of sermons that are a commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), explores the wiles of the devil, and the different ways in which he throws Christians into confusion, particularly about their salvation. One of the ways the devil comes at us is that he uses guilt about our past to make us doubt our relationship to God, leading us to question our salvation. How many believers get caught up in rehearsing their past then wondering how on earth they could be saved? Such guilt plummets us into doubting God’s promises and then into despair. However, regardless of our past, God’s promises through his Son, Jesus Christ, hold true for eternity. At the moment we trusted Christ’s Person and Work for our salvation, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment for that day when God redeems his possession (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Oppression of Doubts

As believers in Christ, many of us most likely have come face-to-face with the crushing doubts that make us question our salvation. In so doing, we have transferred the power of salvation from God’s work to our own efforts. Nonetheless, such doubts arise, and they are oppressive. Whether it’s in a counseling session, a church setting, a family gathering, or among friends with other brothers and sisters in Christ, we hear these doubts voiced by others, or indeed we voice them ourselves. How can we help those who state such concerns, and how can we seek help ourselves when we are thrown into an abyss of doubt? There are many ways within the Body of Christ to find support and guidance. But the Word of God is always one such rock to stand on. What I want to discuss in this article is Paul’s discussion of Abraham (Romans 4), and then what is called the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11.

Abraham: Justification by Faith

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 4) sets out to demonstrate that justification for our salvation comes through faith alone in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, not as a result of keeping the works of the law. Drawing on Genesis (Genesis 12- 25), Paul appeals to the Scriptures to show that Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Consequently, Abraham was declared righteous by God three hundred years prior to when the law was given. Paul goes on to say in Romans 4:11-12, that the purpose of Abraham’s faith was to make him the father of all who believe apart from the works of the law or any form of works that man may devise. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations through his faith. God’s promise to Abraham has come true through Jesus Christ and the church of believers who have embraced Christ through faith alone. Throughout Romans 4, Paul lifts up Abraham as a man of faith, a man indeed whose faith did not weaken (Romans 4:19). Furthermore Paul claims that no unbelief made him waver concerning the promises of God (Romans 4:20).

Abraham in Action

Let’s consider Abraham the man.The Apostle Paul describes Abraham in magnanimous terms as one whose faith never wavered, and as one who continuously grew in his faith (Romans 4:20). One might be tempted to ask is this the same Abraham we read about in Genesis. This is the very man who lied about his wife twice as being his sister for fear of losing his life, not to mention placing her in danger of becoming another man’s concubine thereby undermining the promises of God.This is Abraham who impregnated a concubine to help out God with his promises. Yet Paul describes Abraham as one who was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21). The Apostle Paul reiterates Abraham as the father of those who believe God by faith in his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:6-9).

The Epistle of James: Faith and Works

James, the brother of Christ also exalts Abraham in showing that his faith led to fruitful works when he offered up Isaac, his only son, as an offering to God. He was then called a friend of God (James 2:21-23). No doubt, Abraham grew in faith, but like all of us, he was far from perfect. Additionally James cites Rahab as one who evidenced her faith through her works of allowing the spies of Israel into her city. She was also a known prostitute.

Hebrews 11: The Faith Hall of Fame

The author of Hebrews offers what has been called the faith hall of fame, a list of individuals from the Old Testament who are known for the power of their faith. Let’s considered some of the ones named there. Abraham is once again considered for the strength of his faith. Listed there are Abel, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Sarah, Sampson, and David. Moses was forbidden to enter the Holy Land because he struck a rock in anger to obtain some water for those who had followed him out of Egypt. Isaac is listed for granting blessings to Esau and Jacob, yet he was tricked by Jacob to obtain the oldest son’s blessing for himself. Indeed Jacob is known somewhat as a trickster by character. Sarah laughed when God said she would bear a son during her old age. David faced heavy times of trouble for his adultery with Bathsheba. And Samson was known as a womanizer. The important point here is not the imperfections of the individuals mentioned here. The place these people hold in Scripture is due to the strength of their faith, which is to serve as an example for believers today. None of the sins into which some of these people fell are mentioned in the New Testament because they were cleansed through their faith. And that is the reason we are to remember them and hold them in high regard.

Conclusion

I have been in some dark places in my life at times when I turned my back on God and was not walking and being led by the Spirit. Instead I was sowing to the flesh. After confessing the sins I committed during those times, they still surface in my mind, whether it be by the wiles of the devil or my own guilty conscience. Either way, when I dwell on them and thereby doubt the promises of God, I disparage the work that God has done for my salvation through Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This verse implies that if we confess our sins and God does not forgive us our sins, in some way he is unfaithful and unjust. How can this be? His forgiveness does not depend on our confession, but in and through whom we confess, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. For this reason, as I write this I hate to even mention the shenanigans into which the Old Testament figures fail even though they became part of the New Testament faith hall of fame. Yet their historical and biographical narratives are given to us via God’s Word for a reason.

The Apostle Paul

In addition to the Old Testament saints, we could focus on the apostles and the actions they took in denying and fleeing Christ at his arrest just prior to his crucifixion. The Apostle Paul in a letter to Timothy calls himself a former blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul considered himself to the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1: 15). Yet for those of us who are frequently assailed by doubts due to our checkered and tainted past, I believe that Paul via the inspired Word of God should have the last say here. In his Epistle to the Romans he writes: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Believer, is your salvation in Christ secure? Yes it is.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Power Toward Us Who Believe

“. . . that you may know. . . what is his immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead. . . [Ephesians 1:18-20].

Introduction

When you think of the concept or power, what comes to mind? Political clout? Highly successful business people? Military strength? We all know individuals, historical and present, whom we would consider as powerful in some manner and on some level. As we read in Scripture, however, God provides us with a different take on the concept of power. I’m not taking a leap to what Francis Schaffer would call the upper story. God’s power is real for us on a daily basis. Yet I wonder if as believers in Christ, we understand what God has made available to us so that we can live the kind of life he desires for us?

God’s Power Toward Us

God’s power is manifested in many ways throughout Scripture. He spoke the universe and everything in it into being by the Power of his Word. We witness his power in the many miracles and signs he performed, both in the Old and New Testaments. We learn in the New Testament that God’s Word – logos – in the beginning is actually Jesus Christ. Christ’s many miracles of healing and raising people from the dead demonstrate God’s power. In Christian circles we hear the phrase the power of God tossed around quite often. I question if we believers truly comprehend the power of God available to our lives. I don’t say this as a criticism of anyone in particular. I feel at times I’m quite distant from understanding the true power of God. Yet the Apostle Paul, in the verses that form the epigraph to this article, affirms the power that God works toward us who believe in Christ as our Savior. The zenith of God’s power is witnessed in his raising Christ from the dead. Paul tells us that the might which God works in our lives is the same might by which he raised Christ from the dead. The whole of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful testimony to the riches that God has lavished upon those of us who believe in Christ.

The Counseling Process

As believers in Christ, we are in communion with God. Moreover, we are members of God’s household, children of God, which provides us with boldness and confidence to approach God as our Father. All the power and might that Paul describes in the verses penned above is available to us. Christian clients bring their concerns, doubts, pain, and losses in life into the counseling room. My message to Christians who seek me out for counseling is that they also bring into the room the power that Paul claims God works toward those who believe. Whatever circumstances clients face, God’s power and might are available to them to work through the difficulties that the world throws at them. Our work together is to labor toward clients’ understanding of how to access that with which God has already blessed them so as to apply it to the challenges they bring to the counseling room.

“In the World but Not of the World”

Just before presenting one of the most powerful and beautiful prayers recorded in Scripture, the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), at the close of John 16 Christ told the apostles that in the world they would have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he had overcome the world. An unfortunate mindset that we can fall into as believers is thinking that because of God’s power working toward us, this life should be an easy haul. Although God’s power works within us, the purpose of his power is not to provide us with a cushiony life. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God’s power works in us so as to strengthen us to take on the challenges that being in the world throws at us. As believers in Christ, we are not promised a problem-free life. What we are promised is a power that goes beyond all we can hope for or understand. Like everything else in the Christian life, we must place our faith in God’s promise that such power belongs to us. By God’s power, we take on the struggles, difficulties, and tribulations that life in this world brings upon us. I don’t wish to be silent about the reality that all of this is much easier said than done. Martin Lloyd-Jones, the great Christian writer, has stated that the major reason that believers falter in the face or life’s trials is that they don’t truly comprehend who they are as believers in Christ. I can most definitely attest to that through my own life.

Conclusion

For Christian clients who seek to work with me in counseling, one of the challenges we’ll take on is searching out how to apply God’s power, which is available to us, to not only the concerns you bring to the counseling room, but also to your life as a whole. This does not mean your concerns for which you enter counseling are shoved to the side for a theology lesson. Your struggles in life are front and center in our work together. It does mean that Christian counseling looks to draw on God’s truth as the means to work through the challenges that being in the world brings to our lives. It also means that I, as your counselor, must draw on that same power to do the best work I can for you. If I fail to do that, then I’m failing you as a client.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/July 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Plan of Salvation

Introduction

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), depicts a meeting held before the foundation of the world among the three persons of the Trinity. What Lloyd-Jones calls the plan of salvation was established during that meeting, which finally came to fruition during and through the life of Christ.

Jones also states that when believers falter when facing struggles and difficulties in this life, it is because they fail to see the full implications of God’s plan of salvation. I agree with that assessment. This blog article explores how to apply the plan of salvation to counseling concerns when working with believers as a professional counselor.

The Plan of Salvation

Martyn Lloyd-Jones envisions the meeting of the Godhead in eternity past this way: Before the foundation of the world the Father authored the plan of salvation. The Son was appointed to carry out the plan by taking on flesh, being born as a human, and eventually taking on the sins of the world. He would die unjustly via crucifixion and then be raised from death three days afterwords. Jesus would accomplish the work the Father sent him to do, and he would then ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Almighty. After his ascension, Christ would send the Spirit to indwell and strengthen each believer as a downpayment for what believers would ultimately receive in the presence of God.

The first words Jesus uttered in the High Priestly Prayer is the hour has come. The plan of salvation that the Triune God laid out in eternity past unfolds in history. The hour is not an arbitrary point in history. It does not occur as happenstance or in some peradventure manner. It is a specific point in time, predestined by the Godhead to come to past in the exact moment and manner in which it did. Jesus prays this prayer right before going into the Garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested, turned over to the authorities, both of the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and eventually tried unjustly and crucified. Christ said several things while dying on the cross. In one statement he cried out loud, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This very moment too was decreed in eternity past, when the sins of the world were to fall on Jesus Christ. Nighttime had indeed fallen.

The Plan of Salvation: The Blessings of God

For the believer in Christ, God’s plan of salvation bestows all the blessings and power that one could hope for, but not come close to imagining. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). God has lavished us with all the riches of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14). In his prayer to the Father, Christ states that of all the ones the Father gave him for purposes of their salvation, he lost not one of them. This truth applies to believers today as it did to the disciples at this time. The Apostle Paul claims for I am sure that neither death nor live, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

What also applies to us is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends to heaven and sits down at the Father’s right hand. He had already told his disciples earlier that it was a blessing that he was returning to the Father because only then could he send the Spirit of Truth. As believers when we believed in Christ as our savior, we became indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we can be strengthen by him to live as God calls us to live. In addition to all of these blessings and many more not touched on here, God works his power toward us with the same might by which he raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes that many Christians live fearful and weaken lives because they do not understand and thereby do not access God’s plan of salvation and all its blessings and power that are available to them who believe in Christ.

The Plan of Salvation: In the Counseling Room

Although night fell at the crucifixion, sunrise came and the light of day shone brightly the third day after Christ was laid in the tomb. The resurrection placed God’s stamp of approval on the life of Christ, illuminating the fact that he had accomplished God’s work, borne the sins of the world, and ushered in the New Covenant of salvation in his name. One of the final sayings of Christ while on the cross was it is finished. The Son of God completed what the Father had sent him to do. All the blessings from God now accrue to those who believe in Christ for their salvation. These blessings belong to us believers to draw upon daily to navigate the ups-and-downs of life.

What does this mean in the counseling room as Christian clients and I work together? First, for prospective clients who are believers, it means that you bring into the counseling room with you all these blessings and power that are freely bestowed upon you when you believed in Christ as your savior. God’s power is available to you every hour of everyday. Many times, what we lack as Christians is a full understanding of what the plan of salvation means for us. We lack an understanding of salvation, its necessity and how it came about through Christ. And we fail to understand the abundance of blessings available to us through Christ. We have access to God through Christ that we can claim with boldness and confidence.

The Plan of Salvation: What It Doesn’t Mean

Just before Christ turned his eyes to heaven to speak forth the High Priestly Prayer, he told his disciples in the world you will have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he has overcome the world. What the plan of salvation doesn’t necessarily promise us is a rosy life without any difficulties or concerns. As one who experienced a stroke several months back, I can attest to that fact. Like all individuals, Christians lose their jobs, go through financial difficulties, contract cancer, and face all the difficulties that life throws at them on a daily basis. Hence, Christians clients bring many of those concerns to the counseling room. Counseling does not and cannot provide clients with a guarantee that their lives will be problem free. In fact, God’s Word promises us that we will face tribulation in this world (John 16). Indeed, God designs difficulties in life to test our faith.

Conclusion

Counseling from a Christian perspective is not about discounting clients’ concerns and replacing them with a theology discussion. Clients’ concerns are front and center when we work together. However, the one thing I do believe is that as Christians, clients and I possess a foundation on which we stand to navigate our way through the uncertainties of life. As believers, we can explore how to access the promises of God through his Word to embrace the power he has granted us in Christ to work through challenges that life throws at us. Although there are no human guarantees, God promises us he is with us through everything we face in this life.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/June 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING