The Good News Doctor Is In
by Becky Hobbs
"Jeff... feels deeply that Christians need to build themselves up spiritually and take good care of their bodies, protecting the temple of God. He has done tremendous research and study in the whole area of nutrition and health, and God has used him in so many ways to help people in really desperate conditions."
"Although Jeff spurned the Lord, He was graciously working in Jeff's life to bring him to faith. One day the budding doctor asked a professor, "You're such a bright guy and understand physics. Why are you a Christian?" The teacher looked him right in the eye and said, "You don't understand, do you? The more I learn about physics and the universe, the more I understand God." A seed was planted."
Jeff decided it [the Bible] was the craziest book he had ever read. No one would ask him to read this to convert him to their religion! Look at what was going on -- murdering family, incest, stealing, double-crossing, backstabbing. Either it was total fantasy -- or it was true. Those last four words changed his life.
As a result of his extensive research into autism and depression, God has opened up for Jeff an exciting new ministry counseling Christian individuals and families with depression and childhood problems. He spends a great deal of time with each patient, believing that many doctors don't talk to a patient long enough to find out what the real problem is.
Dr. Jeff Bradstreet sees only a few patients one day a week in his Palm Bay, Florida, office. But soon he'll reach hundreds of thousands when his The Good News Doctor radio show goes nationwide in October. A special student at RTS/Orlando in the Master of Christian Thought program and on the seminary's Advisory Council, Jeff is a dynamic Christian physician who never set out to become a radio broadcaster, but who has let God lead him through some harrowing circumstances to this rewarding ministry.
During the hour-long live show, Jeff and leading authorities field listeners' questions on a wide variety of health topics, weaving in an evangelistic message for the nearly thirty percent non-Christian audience. The show seeks to put a biblical perspective on "health stewardship," a term Jeff coined from his study of Scripture and medicine. He feels strongly that the Bible teaches that every Christian has a responsibility before God to take care of his health.
Using a concept he learned from RTS Professor Dr. Richard Pratt in He Gave Us Stories, Jeff read the entire Bible and developed twelve health concordances dealing with either food, depression, life-style, or activities associated with problems of health or healing.
"I learned to look at a passage from the perspective of the person who wrote it, the people it was written to, the place, and the time," says Jeff. "I also wanted to find the persistent, lasting truth in the story.
"Take Elijah, for example. He should have been on top of the world after he called down fire from heaven and destroyed the prophets of Baal. But Jezebel says said she was going to kill him. So he lamented, 'Woe is me, I'm the only one fighting for God.' That's suicidal ideation; we'd put him in the hospital on Prozac. God, on the other hand, sent him on a three-day march, made him sleep and eat, and fed him spiritually."
Jeff also takes his message of health stewardship to seminars all over the country. There he teaches that every Christian has the responsibility before God to take care of his health. He also seeks to help participants understand how God is working in their lives, how to confess sin, and how spiritual problems may be affecting their physical health.
One woman suffering from long-term depression wrote Jeff that he convinced her through one of his seminars to forgive a person she had held a bitter grudge against. After ten years on antidepressants, she was able to quit.
Long-time RTS Trustee member Henry Dekker of Melbourne says, "Jeff is developing into a phenomenal person whom the Lord is really using. He feels deeply that Christians need to build themselves up spiritually and take good care of their bodies, protecting the temple of God. He has done tremendous research and study in the whole area of nutrition and health, and God has used him in so many ways to help people in really desperate conditions. Thorough blood work and careful analysis has enabled him to ascertain so many people's real problems and help them to recovery."
A TOTAL PAGAN
Only God could take a person so ignorant of spiritual matters and mold him into a powerful counselor, physician, and broadcaster. But that's what He did with Jeff.
He might have been lacking spiritually, but in other areas Jeff excelled. Born in South Bend, Indiana, he moved to Florida in the sixth grade. A natural leader at Clearwater High School, he was a 4.0 student, voted president of the student senate, and chosen Most Likely to Succeed. At fourteen he was already conducting experiments at the local science center and had dreams of being a research scientist. Not until he played Dr. Chumley in his high school production of Harvey did he become interested in being a doctor. Classmates dubbed him "Doc," and he entered the pre-med program at the University of South Florida in Tampa .
He was smart, but almost penniless. His parents' divorce about this time left him no money for college. Determined to get an education, however, Jeff worked nights as a hospital orderly, and the rest of the time outside of class he pumped gas and did light mechanical work at a service station. Unbelievably, an eighty-hour work week didn't hinder him from keeping a 3.8 overall average during his four years there.
Jeff grew up a total pagan, never even picking up a Bible. He went to church only one time in his youth, when he was left with friends who were regular attenders. Such a background without Christ led him to some fairly selfish, worldly opinions and disasters in relationships.
He entered medical school at the University of South Florida on an Air Force scholarship -- a year of money for a year of service. He loved medical school and thought that science explained the creation of all matter and life. Although Jeff spurned the Lord, He was graciously working in Jeff's life to bring him to faith. One day the budding doctor asked a professor, "You're such a bright guy and understand physics. Why are you a Christian?" The teacher looked him right in the eye and said, "You don't understand, do you? The more I learn about physics and the universe, the more I understand God." A seed was planted.
USF Medical School was a three-year program -- no summer breaks -- but Jeff relished the long hours of lecture and patient care. However, one person didn't like it -- the woman he married during his first year of school. The marriage lasted only six months after medical school. Foolishly, he married again a year later, only to see that marriage also disintegrate within a year.
"I was a dedicated workaholic until a few years ago," says Jeff candidly. "One reason my marriages suffered was because I was never taught how to be a good husband. Ozzy and Harriet were my role models. I had no understanding of marriage; I thought you found someone you liked and got married. What was the meaning of a husband-wife relationship?"
His personal life wasn't the only area in chaos. Halfway through his Air Force residency in obstetrics and gynecology in San Antonio, Texas, Jeff decided he didn't want to specialize in OBGYN. He missed the challenge of dealing with a variety of illnesses. He also wanted to fulfill a childhood dream of flying jets. Friends told him he should become a flight surgeon -- a doctor who takes care of pilots and must fly jets himself to know what conditions they face. Because of an extreme shortage of flight surgeons at that time, the Air Force made a rare exception and allowed Jeff to change specialties.
In 1981 he moved to Scott Air Force Base in St. Louis to begin his three-year stint of service supporting F-15 and F-18 jet pilots. He traveled the world -- Egypt, Germany, Iceland, Greenland, Saudi Arabia. The work was unpredictable; he could be gone for four months with only two days notice.
He'll never forget one medical crisis in the Egyptian desert when Muammar Khadafi was threatening to invade that country. "We had to purify the water daily for our troops. A fellow forgot to chlorinate it once, and we had 6000 cases of dysentery the next day. I've never been so sick in my life. It was 135 degrees in the tents, and I had hundreds and hundreds of patients. I treated them walking around with an IV in my arm."
By the time he left the Air Force in 1984 he was also a practicing emergency room physician. He began traveling all over Central Florida doing emergency work with Melbourne as his home base. In 1986 he joined some friends in establishing several walk-in medical centers and in 1988 opened two primary care centers of his own, hiring other doctors to work for him. Still a workaholic, he worked eighty hours a week running them and seeing patients. Eventually he had one of the largest medical practices in Brevard County.
TAKING THE CHALLENGE
But in 1989 his life changed forever. His banker had been talking to Jeff about the Lord and inviting him to Christian Businessmen's luncheons, but Jeff had politely refused to get involved. Then came the day when one of his patients, a pastor, said, "You're the most Christian non-Christian I know. Don't you think you ought to do something about that? You're a smart guy who's done a lot of research. Maybe you should know the foundation of Western history--the Bible." And he gave Jeff one.
"That was shortly before Christmas, 1988," recalls Jeff with a smile. "I couldn't say I didn't need it because I'd never even opened a Bible. If it wasn't in the movie The Ten Commandments, I didn't know about it."
So Jeff took the challenge, knowing he shouldn't remain ignorant. But it was well after Christmas before he got around to opening the Bible. In January, almost halfway through Genesis -- about where Abraham puts Isaac on the altar -- Jeff decided it was the craziest book he had ever read. No one would ask him to read this to convert him to their religion! Look at what was going on -- murdering family, incest, stealing, double-crossing, backstabbing. Either it was total fantasy -- or it was true. Those last four words changed his life.
"I didn't ask to become a Christian," says Jeff. "I didn't have any particularly overwhelming need. I was a successful doctor and businessman and was happy doing what I'd always wanted to do. But the instant I said, 'Or it's true,' I became a Christian. Instantaneously, my entire life flashed before the Judge and I saw it all. And everything I had been doing was wrong. I had difficulty sleeping that night and didn't really know what had happened. I called my banker friend the next day and told him I thought I had become a Christian. He said he had just gotten off his knees asking God for someone to disciple!"
Another big change was also about to occur in Jeff's life. He had begun dating his wife, Lori, six years before and, scarcely a month after he became a Christian, they married in February, 1989. The two joined Covenant Presbyterian Church in Palm Bay and pastor Dan Hendley (RTS '82) began to disciple Jeff in the faith. Jeff and Lori teamed up --she's a dentist -- and began establishing family medical/dental centers together in the Melbourne/Palm Bay area. They wound up with a large practice and some 150 employees.
Just how much the Lord had changed Jeff was crystal clear when the two came back from their honeymoon. Until then he had been absolutely committed to having no children. In fact, a prerequisite for getting married was an agreement to no children.
"I had no vision of being a dad --mine had always been gone," says Jeff. "I didn't mind taking care of sick kids as long as they went home with someone else."
But returning from the honeymoon, they had barely unpacked when Lori dropped a bombshell. "You know, honey, I'd really like to have children." Jeff remembers gazing out the window, stunned. How should he respond? To his amazement, he heard his own voice saying, ""Yes, maybe that's what God wants us to do." Talk about a change of heart!
Two years later, Elizabeth came into the world to the delight of Jeff and Lori. The joy was short-lived, however, because a year later in 1992 he ruptured a disc in his back while skiing in the mountains of Quebec. In dreadful pain he traveled back to Florida where he had to have surgery to remove the herniated disc. Unfortunately his problems were far from over. Nine months later, nerves became trapped in his spine and moving the wrong way caused excruciating pain all down his leg. Doctors were planning a fusion when still another problem arose. An old football knee injury reappeared which required at the very least reconstruction and possibly replacement..
The health problems could not have come at a worse time. Jeff's and Lori's medical practices had just merged with several others, and now Jeff, totally incapacitated, was supposed to be overseeing a seven million dollar business with nine clinics and 150 employees!
Doctors did the knee reconstruction in 1993. It subsequently failed, even after Jeff spent four months on crutches. By this time he was in such pain that he had stopped practicing, and eventually he had to quit completely and turn over the administrative end of the business to one of the cardiologists in the practice.
Imagine Jeff's shock when he discovered some months later that the cardiologist had stolen over half a million dollars from the practice! While he should have been recuperating, Jeff spent many days with lawyers, filing charges and hoping to retrieve some of the money.
In May 1994 doctors fused vertebrae in Jeff's back to give him some relief. Finally thinking he was coming out of the woods, he had a bad scare a month after the surgery.
"I was getting off the couch late one night when such horrendous pain hit me that I could not talk or breathe. I thought the fusion had broken. By then I had learned to pray, so I pleaded, 'Lord, you promised you would not give me more than I could handle. I can't bear this. Either bring me home or take care of this.' And instantly the pain was gone!"
The incident started Jeff thinking about the relationship of prayer to health and healing. After spending several months in prayer about the direction God wanted for his life, he felt convinced that the Lord wanted him at RTS. So in the winter of 1994 he began the Master of Christian Thought program on a part-time basis.
GOD BLESSES THROUGH TRIALS
In addition to more knee surgery (he had eight operations in five years), perhaps Jeff's biggest challenges were about to appear. In 1994 he was forced to sell his practice. Lori began to experience post partum depression, which was not abating after the birth of their second child, Matthew. And by the time little Matthew reached eighteen months, Jeff began to notice that something was very wrong. Matthew would not look at or respond normally to anyone. He could not play with other kids and had repetitive movements. Tests eventually showed he was autistic.
Jeff confesses, "It took a rather big club to change my direction to what God wanted -- several knee operations, two back surgeries, an autistic child, and a severely depressed wife. I had been praying that God would use me, and now I was incapacitated. I think God was telling me that I had been too busy doing my own thing to be used by Him. God needed me to be available and flexible enough to head in His direction -- not Jeff Bradstreet's. I had gone my own way as a non-Christian and had continued to do so as a Christian."
As a result of his extensive research into autism and depression, God has opened up for Jeff an exciting new ministry counseling Christian individuals and families with depression and childhood problems. He spends a great deal of time with each patient, believing that many doctors don't talk to a patient long enough to find out what the real problem is. He also relies on detailed medical tests to determine any physical problems and favors treating them with nutrition, hormones, and vitamin supplements. Prayer and Scripture also play a big part in his counseling.
"Christian counseling really comes down to a discipleship issue. I was ignorant of Scripture as an early Christian, and that left me vulnerable to wrong thinking, lies, and deception. I try to find out what a person believes about his circumstances and what he thinks God is doing and then take them to Scripture to show them the truth."
Says his pastor, Dan Hendley, "Jeff is the most knowledgeable and articulate physician I've ever been around. He's an incredible servant to the body of Christ in both the giving of his money and his time. He has a genuine, deep love for the Lord and a great desire to see the kingdom of Christ advanced."
Using Jeff's techniques Lori has seen her depression flee. Faith has helped both of them deal with Matthew's condition. At four and a half, he still can't ride a tricycle or dress himself, but he's made tremendous progress. He can say three and four-word sentences, play with toys instead of destroying them, and tell his parents that he loves them. Jeff and Lori consider these great blessings and answers to prayer and are convinced that God works through all things for the good of those who love him.
And that is good news!
|The Good News Doctor can be heard locally|
in Florida on Vero Beach station WSCF.
After October consult your local listings.
The program is also broadcast on the Internet Thursdays at 9 A.M. Eastern Time.
Go to http://rq.matt633.com/radio.htm and click on Christian FM.
Return to REFORMED QUARTERLY FALL 1998 CONTENTS
Return to RTS HOME PAGE http://rq.rts.edu/fall98/goodnews.html
Last updated 09-21-98.