Friday, February 28, 2014

Planned Parenthood Boss: When Life Begins "Isn't Relevant"

Andrew Johnson over at NRO’s The Corner reports:

The president of the country’s largest abortion provider said she didn’t think the matter of when life begins is pertinent to the issue.

“It is not something that I feel is really part of this conversation,” Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s really relevant to the conversation.”

When pressed, Richards said that in her view life began for her three children when she delivered them.

She explained that the purpose of her organization is not to answer a question that “will be debated through the centuries,” but to provide options for pregnant women.

A Place for Mom...Isn't the Place for Mom, After All.

Medical ethicist Wesley J. Smith writes:

We’ve all seen the soothing Joan Lunden ads for the elder services referral business A Place for Mom. Amidst the warm colors and gauzy colors, it turns out the group supports assisted suicide…

In an age of terrible elder abuse, it is appalling that a business that seeks to earn the trust of seniors and their families would boost the ultimate abandonment of assisted suicide.

If I ever need help caring for my 96-year-old mother, A Place for Mom is the last organization to which I would turn.

Here’s more.

Chick Webb: "The Lord Gave Me Some Years To Play"

Chick Webb, one of America’s most talented and influential leaders of a big band, held court at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York throughout the 1930s. Chick was the man who discovered and mentored Ella Fitzgerald and his inventive, popular band posed a friendly rivalry to those of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and others. However, behind the engaging and generous personality, the ever-present smile, and the happy sounds of one of the greatest dance bands in America, Chick Webb lived with pain and a knowledge that his life would not be long.

Chick Webb suffered from tuberculosis of the spine. It had stunted his growth and badly deformed his spine, giving him the impression of being hunchbacked. Nevertheless, Chick wanted to play music and he worked long hours as a newsboy in order to purchase a set of drums, the instrument suggested by a doctor who thought it might “loosen up" his bones. It did that…and more.

Chick first played professionally at age 11. And he never looked back.

In late 1938, Chick’s health went into a steeper decline. The pain grew worse as did the exhaustion and lack of mobility. But he kept playing, knowing that the musicians in his band needed the jobs that were otherwise so hard to find in the Depression. But in 1939, at only the age of 34, Chick Webb collapsed and was taken into Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, dying shortly afterward.  His last words were, "I'm sorry, I've got to go."

It was sometime earlier, however, that Chick Webb explained to a reporter the reason he was able to go on, to delight music lovers all over America despite his severe limitations. Said Chick, “I can't understand the pain God gave me, I can't understand my sickness, but that's secondary. The main thing is, the Lord gave me the talent to play drums. He gave me some years to play. That's what I wanted to do.”

The music of the Chick Webb Orchestra is regularly featured in the “When Swing Was King” presentations that Claire and I give in nursing homes and senior facilities. We love it and so do our audiences. But knowing more about the man makes that music not only enjoyable, but inspirational too.

Want an example?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"The Morality of the Last Days"

Over at NRO, Jack Fowler remembers William F. Buckley on the 6th anniversary of his death by quoting WFB from a letter he once wrote to some high school students.

“In the passage you quote from Up From Liberalism I intended, indeed, to refer to the religious truth that is our central heritage and to the moral philosophy and human insight that derive from it.

Sometimes this position is referred to (in a phrase going back, I believe, to the days of the Roman Empire) as ‘the morality of the last days’ — by which is meant the world-view of men who know that death is close. But, in the long view, we all stand sentenced to death, and whether it comes in 1995 or tomorrow makes no difference. That is why the morality of the last days always applies to what is ‘finally important in human experience.’

All our techniques of social welfare, all our science, all our comfort, all our liberty, all our democracy and foreign aid and grandiloquent orations—all that means nothing to me and nothing to you in the moment when we go. At that moment we must put our souls in order, and the way to do that was lighted for us by Jesus, and since then we have had need of no other light.

That is what is finally important; it has not changed; and it will not change. It is truth, which shall ever abide in the future. And if it is ‘reactionary’ to hold a truth that will be valid for all future time, then words have lost their meaning, and men their reason.”


Truckin' with Jesus!

Writing the February LifeSharer letter got me to thinking about my early days in Omaha, days that included riding around in Tom Meradith's exuberantly decorated "Jesus truck." I'll be writing about this more next week but I wanted to promote it a bit by posting this delightful photo.

Plus it might make you interested in that LifeSharer letter too! You'll find it right here.

As We've Said, These Aren't Your Mom's Girl Scouts

As millions of moms consider digging into pocketbooks for Girl Scout cookies this year, they may be interested to know about the hiring of Krista Kokjohn-Poehler in the Girl Scouts executive office in New York City.

Kokjohn-Poehler is an out lesbian married to a woman named Ashley Kokjohn. And, given her sexual preference, it may strike some as odd that her job title is "Girl Experience Officer.”

Her hiring five months ago was largely missed by the coterie of Girl Scout critics around the country who make the claim that the Girl Scouts have drifted leftward in the past 20 years…

The main charge leveled by Girl Scout critics concerns the leftward drift of the Girl Scouts, which was founded along conservative religious principles. The leftward drift began in the early '90s when God was made optional in the Girl Scout promise. This precipitated the founding of American Heritage Girls and the first widespread exit from the Girl Scouts.

In the ensuing years, social liberals insinuated themselves into national leadership of the Girl Scouts so that now it is unremarkable when they feature and promote women who are offensive to the sensibilities of hundreds of thousands of traditional-minded moms, including: Betty Friedan; Gloria Steinem; Hillary Clinton; Kathleen Sibelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief promoter of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate; and Wendy Davis, advocate for late term abortions.

The leftward drift likely made them tone-deaf to the inevitable controversy in their hiring of homopunk-rocker Josh Ackley, whose band The Dead Betties and their music video depicting violence against a woman became national news after reporting by Breitbart News last fall.

Penny Nance, former Girl Scout and president of Concerned Women for America, told Breitbart News, “In the last ten years the Girl Scouts have lost about a few hundred thousand members, and part of the reason for that is their tone deafness toward the cultural values of American moms."

Read the entirety of Austin Ruse's article for Breitbart right here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The L'Abri Connection

The conference we attended was sponsored by the Rochester chapter of L’Abri, one of the Christian study centers started decades ago by Dr. Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  It was the first conference Claire and I had attended in several years and we went with great anticipation, especially because we have a rather intense history with the Schaeffers and the ministry of L’Abri.  Would you like to hear about it?  I sure hope so because that’s the focus of this month’s LifeSharer!

To start at the very beginning, we’ve got to go back...and I mean way the spring of 1971.

Want the rest of the story? Here it is at the Vital Signs Ministries website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Today's Posts

Hleb Goes Back to School

Our Belarusian friend and ministry colleague, Hleb Yermakou, was a big hit with students and staff as he addressed 3 different classes this morning at Omaha Christian Academy. Hleb talked about his country and its history, his life and family, his insightful take on Western culture, the faith he has in Jesus Christ as Savior, and more.

And then Hleb followed those events with an informal, friendly session at Grace University's mission conference early this afternoon. In all of these meetings, he was engaging, fun, extremely informative, and yet challenging too. It was a very good day.

Tonight he's scheduled for a get-acquainted dessert party with board members of Vital Signs Ministries (and their spouses).

A busy day? No doubt about it. But then it's just getting started! Your prayers remain very much appreciated for the spiritual impact of Hleb's visit to Omaha.

From Abortion to Infanticide (No Big Step)

...Yet what is perhaps most terrible about these apologias for child-murder is that they have a point. They are not correct about the justifiability of infanticide; but they are correct that if abortion is justified, so is infanticide. People who first hear of [Peter] Singer’s views are apt to respond that he is simply crazy. But if the philosophers of infanticide are insane, it is only in the Chestertonian sense: They are not people who lost their reason, but people who have lost everything but their reason…

Comes the inevitable rejoinder: You have to draw a line somewhere. No, actually, you don’t. You don’t need to draw a line separating human beings who have rights and personhood from those who do not. You can draw a circle around the whole class of human beings instead, and say that no one within it should be deliberately killed when acting peaceably.

(From Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO article, “After-Birth Abortion, a.k.a. Infanticide.”)

Joni Eareckson Tada On Belgium's New Child Euthanasia Law

…Children in all cultures tend to approach adults in authority with trust. They look to us for comfort, advice, and support. To have an adult in authority approach them and suggest euthanasia as an alternative to life is swinging the compassion pendulum to the outer edges of horror.

It should be in our nature as adults to protect our young. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as our global monitor to safeguard children – especially boys and girls who suffer from illnesses or disabilities. Article 5 states, “[The child] has a right to special care if handicapped in any way.”

Is “special care” now three grams of Phenobarbital in the veins if that child despairs of his handicapping condition? I don’t understand how civilized society can defend the right to life of a child with a serious medical condition while abandoning that child at his greatest point of need...

Read more of Joni’s article published here in TIME magazine.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

L'Abri Conference Revisited: The Best of All the Rest

Having already reviewed certain elements of the Rochester L’Abri conference in previous posts (1, 2, 3, 4) and being hard pressed to get on to other stuff (mailing the LifeSharer, finishing work on tomorrow’s sermon, getting ready for Hleb Yermakou’s visit next week), I’ve got one last “Revisted” column for you. It will be pretty quick but I hope you can still glean a bit of how interesting and helpful the conference was for Pat, Claire and myself.

The general sessions I haven’t yet reviewed were “Mindfulness, Meditation and the Mind of Christ” by Richard Winter, “Heaven in a Nightclub” by Bill Edgar and company, and “The Christian Life: An Other-Centered Walk” by Dick Keyes. (There was another, “Spirituality In Les Miserables,” but I confess to skipping out on that one.)

But before I talk about them, let me breeze through the elective lectures I attended: "What Narrates Your Stories?” by Clarke Scheibe; "Is Anybody Out There? Science and the Search for Meaning” by A.J. Poelarends; "Dependence on the Spirit and Delighting in the Law: Are These In Tension?” by Jerram Barrs; "Becoming a Deeper Christian: Learning from the Global South” by Hans Madueme.

My favorites were those given by Barrs and Poelarends but I found them all of value — some for explicit truths that were taught, some for the way they sparked new ideas and spiritual applications in my own head, some for the stimulation they provided through disagreement, and some for ideas they suggested about communication technique.

Okay, back to the general sessions to finish up.

Winter’s lecture covered the “mindfulness movement,” meditation techniques and their remarkably wide influence in medical practice, business, and the ever-popular self-help culture. It was an interesting and informative presentation, to be sure, but yet I wasn’t comfortable with it. Though Winter eventually gave warnings of how “mindful” meditation could be dangerous and suggested, at the end of his lecture, ways of meditation that were more carefully biblical, I found that the first 3/4 of the presentation was much too uncritical of “mindfulness.” For instance, David Siegel’s book, Mindsight, was presented as authoritative (it was one of two sources Winter suggested for further study); the speaker spoke with praise of the benefits he receives by practicing yoga; and the audience was even led in a brief meditation exercise.

Winter made the suggestion that the positives arising from “mindfulness” could be common grace in action. He’s probably right. However, with the force that is being exerted on modern culture by eastern religions and New Age ideas, I would have liked a greater distinction between biblical meditation and the mindfulness taught by Siegel and others. I would also have liked a clearer warning of the dangers of monistic meditation and, perhaps, more help in communicating these dangers to a culture that’s already inebriated with the idea.

“Heaven in a Nightclub” was actually a concert, given late Friday night by a very skilled musical ensemble. It was an attempt to trace elements of African-American history through slave spirituals and eventually jazz music. The musicians were very talented, the readings in between the songs were illuminating, and it was received warmly by the audience. The vocalist was a break-out session presenter, Ruth Naomi Floyd. A few weeks before going to the conference, I had found a couple of YouTube videos of Ruth performing and one of her giving a lecture similar to the one she was giving here in Rochester. I’d recommend that those interested in these important subjects do the same.

And finally, Dick Keyes’ talk (the conference closer) was one of my favorites of the whole show. The dominant theme was the virtue of humility. Keyes contrasted the self-centered life (a natural, inevitable result of man’s sinfulness) to the life of Jesus, a life that can be authentically lived through the Christian by faith. Looking at selfishness, humility, honesty, grace, and Jesus from different angles, Keyes helped the audience to better understand better appreciate the awesome liberty and love we can experience. It made for a great conclusion to the conference.

(Note: In a couple of the earlier columns I linked to Sound Word Associates where tapes and/or mp3 versions of the various sessions will be available, if they're not there already. You might find certain tapes of great interest yourself. And I hope these Vital Signs Blog posts give you some idea as to where to start.

L'Abri Conference Revisited: Claire’s Take on the Break-Out Sessions

In addition to the plenary sessions that everyone attended, there were elective lectures in between. And there was a lot to choose from — 10 each morning and afternoon. Claire, Pat and I all made sure to select different speakers and to take careful notes in order that through discussion later we could receive the most information.

Pat chose “The Hidden Power of Shame” by Richard Winter, “Recovering Our Humanity: Ambition Amid the Ordinary” by Zack Eswine, “Shallow Believers: How Technology Hurts Us” by Hans Madueme, and “The History and Celebration of the African-American Spiritual” by Ruth Naomi Floyd. He found them all of value.

Claire’s elective seminars were “Technology vs True Spirituality” by Larry Snyder, “Spirituality That Is True, Art That Is Hidden: The Apologetics Factor and an Apologetics of Beauty” by Mike Sugimoto, “Permanent Things: True Spirituality in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot” by John Hodges, and “Spirituality in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings” by Jerram Barrs.

Her take on those sessions? Here it is.

Claire writes —

It was a very stimulating two days up in Rochester at the L’Abri Conference.  Pat, Denny and I decided that, with all the offerings for the break-out sessions, we should all go to different ones and then compare notes.  Deciding which ones to attend was really difficult sometimes and we often were pulled to the same one, but we knew that a “dividing to conquer” strategy was best.

One of the best electives I attended was Larry Snyder’s presentation about the threat that technology represents to a Christian’s life.  I wanted to go to this one, in part, because I have already seen so many negative effects of modern technology on culture, family life, the mind and emotions of individuals, and so on.

There was a humorous (and ironic) start to the lecture when Mr. Snyder couldn’t get the Power Point to work properly! Technology as a threat, indeed. And, naturally, it took a young fellow to get things up and working.  But when it did, Mr. Snyder had a lot of evidence from both secular and Christian sources about how technology is shaping our ideas, our religious practices, our social life, even the ways our minds work.

He reviewed some of the new scientific discoveries of how technology is affecting the human brain and he also dipped into social scientists like Neil Postman (author of Amusing Ourselves to Death and others) about the manipulative powers of television. From Postman, he gave us a new word “Technopoly” which basically means that “culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfaction in technology and takes its orders from technology.”

Other perspectives on the problem were brought in from more creative writers — Huxley, Orwell, and T. S. Eliot. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the lecture was Mr. Snyder quoting from Eliot’s “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” a quotation that Mr. Snyder told us had presented a spiritual turning point for him as a young man.

“Where is the life we lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we lost in information?”

And, considering the impact of technology now, T.S. Eliot hadn’t seen anything yet!

Unfortunately, time got away from Mr. Snyder. (From what Denny, Pat and I experienced, that was a shortcoming for almost all of the break-out speakers.) But he was able to quickly pass along a few valuable applications as he ended.

* Give your full attention to whomever you are with.
* Do what is right and good.
* Delight in the power of the Gospel.
* Remember the longer narrative story you are a part of.
* See all things through the lens of common grace.
* Live in the presence of the One Who matters.

Now to the others...

Dr. Sugimoto’s presentation (very relaxed and fun) was infused with his experiences in working closely with  Edith Schaeffer at the Swedish L’Abri during those last years of Francis’ life and in helping with the move to Rochester.  He talked about how Edith and Francis saw truth and beauty in creation and in art of all kinds.  Edith was an artist herself and used her talents in very practical ways.  For instance, Edith wanted to make the meals (food and table) beautiful.  She used flowers, moss, whatever was on hand for her designs.  Even the food arranged on a tray for handouts to visiting hobos needed to be with done with hospitality and artistic flair! But, of course, Edith’s contribution to L’Abri was more than preparing meals.  She was the force behind the great prayer emphasis there.   And her focus on each person and their story was invaluable to what made L’Abri work.

John Hodges’ session was more academic.  He had a wealth of information on T. S. Eliot but not nearly enough time to present it all.  He was very knowledgeable, not just of Eliot, but the prevailing worldviews of the time.  Hodges asked questions, engaged the audience in the meaning behind excerpts from The Waste Land, and read (quite movingly) certain stanzas from Eliot’s works.  He had mentioned early in the lecture that we would explore The Waste Land, Eliot’s most famous pre-Christian work (1922) and Four Quartets, his most substantial post-Christian work (1937-1943). But we ran out of time. I'll have to go back and read them on my own.

Jerram Barrs’ presentation of “Spirituality in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings” drew a large crowd because of the immense popularity of these works...and because he is an engaging, learned Christian man. From the very beginning, Professor Barrs’ wealth of knowledge and love for Tolkien was very clear. He went through intriguing themes of the Tolkien works: Echoes of Creation, Echoes of the Fall, Echoes of Redemption and Echoes of Consumption.  He talked of good and evil, courage, fellowship, readiness for self-sacrifice in all the main characters, joy and sorrow.  Sometimes when Professor Barrs was reading passages or showing drawings from the works, he would get a little choked up.  And, for those of us who have similar experience when delighting in Tolkien, it was endearing.

In brief, I found all of the elective sessions of value -- though most were a bit disorganized. Still, I enjoyed them all. And I'm awfully glad I accompanied Denny & Pat on this trip to the Rochester L'Abri conference.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Today's Posts

L'Abri Conference Revisited: Bill Edgar & Ellis Potter

With yesterday's post (L'Abri Conference Revisited: Jerram Barrs On "True Spirituality"), I began to give an ever-so-brief review of our experience at the Rochester L'Abri conference last weekend. Claire will be dropping in a post or two as well before we're done. And, as I mentioned yesterday, you may well consider ordering a tape or two (or more) from Sound Word Associates who will soon have a full catalog of the conference sessions and workshops. But in today's post, I'll pass along a few notes from the 2nd and 3rd general sessions, "Spirituality According to Frances Schaeffer" given by Bill Edgar and "Three Theories of Everything" by Ellis Potter. Both were excellent.

Edgar's talk began with the provocative line, "The present generation risks not knowing Francis Schaeffer." And then, with a quick review of Schaeffer's life and a more substantial look at the primary themes in Schaeffer's theology, apologetics, and lifestyle, Edgar very effectively argued the point.

This lecture might perhaps be most effective as an introduction to Francis Schaeffer, something to pave the way before reading a Schaeffer book or listening to a sermon tape. There was so much of Schaeffer's personal history, his personality, the development of L'Abri, and the highlights of his philosophy. However, as full of familiarity as it was for those who have read Schaeffer (I've been doing so for more than 40 years), it was still a very interesting, inspirational presentation.

Potter's talk was for the Friday evening general session which meant that the audience had already taken in several hours of lectures. But nobody was going to nod off for this one. Indeed, even though the subject matter was a bit daunting (a comparison of monism, dualism and what Potter calls trinitarianism), his lecture was wise, witty and immensely practical.

For the Christian who wants to better understand Eastern religions and New Age ideas, this lecture is a great start. As important, Potter gave good counsel about how to effectively communicate with the serious adherents of these philosophic systems as well as those who have been unknowingly influenced by them. He also explained how Christianity offers the remarkable and comprehensive solutions for the failures of these closed (and ultimately unworkable) systems. Very good stuff.

Later on this week, I'll have a bit more on the L'Abri conference and, as I suggested earlier, I think Claire will drop in a few items too. But now we've got a couple of "When Swing Was King" presentations to do today so I've got to run. Until later...

Deroy Murdock: "The United States of Decline"

Oh, my. Over at National Review, Deroy Murdock has written the must-read article of the week, "The United States of Decline." 

America is unraveling at a stunning speed and to a staggering degree. This decline is breathtaking, and the prognosis is dim…

America is a total mess.

The Land of the Free is governed by an out-of-control egomaniac, neither bolstered by managerial competence nor hindered by the legislature’s institutional prerogatives. In the Home of the Brave, half of Congress cheers Obama’s unconstitutional behavior, while the other half grumbles and then meekly carpet-bombs his path with white flags.

The American people have been betrayed — both by Obama and the Democrats, whose lust for control intensifies daily, and by Republican leaders in Washington, whose cowardice and defeatism have turned their guts and spines into tapioca.

America, as Paul Simon sings, is slip-slidin’ away. And the worst part hasn’t happened yet.

Murdock covers a lot of ground in his review -- Barack Obama's increasing chutzpah in being a law unto himself; his convoluted morality which sees him lenient and understanding with terrorists while harsh and vindictive with homeschool families; the Democrats applauding the meltdown of the U.S. economy; the alarming fall in America's national security; the despicable cave-in by the Republican establishment to this mess; and more.

Don't miss it. In fact, send it on to your Aunt Hortense. She needs to read it too.

Dr. Mildred Jefferson Would Not "Stand Aside"

From the late Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a highly acclaimed surgeon at Boston University, the first African-American woman to earn a degree from Harvard Medical School, and a co-founder of National Right to Life.

"Many people try to hide behind the confusion of not knowing what happens before a baby is born. But we do not have to be confused. We in medicine and science have a different name for every stage of the development of the baby, but it does not matter at all whether you know those names or not. When a young woman has not had much opportunity to go to school and she becomes pregnant, no one has to tell her that she is going to have a baby.

"I became a doctor in the tradition that is represented in the Bible of looking upon medicine as a high calling. I will not stand aside and have this great profession of mine, of the doctor, give up the designation of healer to become that of the social executioner. The Supreme Court Justices only had to hand down an order. Social workers only have to make arrangements, but it has been given to my profession to destroy the life of the innocent and the helpless.

"Today it is the unborn child; tomorrow it is likely to be the elderly or those who are incurably ill. Who knows but that a little later it may be anyone who has political or moral views that do not fit into the distorted new order? To that question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' I answer 'Yes.' It is everyone's responsibility to safeguard and preserve life. A child is a member of the human family and deserves care and concern."

North Korea's Atrocities: "No Parallel in the Modern World"

North Korea forces women to undergo abortions and young mothers to drown their newborn babies, and has starved and executed hundreds of thousands of detainees at secret prison camps — atrocities that the chairman of a U.N. panel that documented the abuses compares to those of Nazi Germany.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” the U.N. Commission on Inquiry said in a 372-page report released Monday on North Korea’s atrocities. These crimes are ongoing because “the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”

In an unprecedented act, commission Chairman Michael Kirby wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warning that he could be tried for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague...

The report documents crimes against humanity, including “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

It is based on evidence provided at public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington by about 80 victims and witnesses. More than 240 confidential interviews were conducted with victims and other witnesses…

Read the rest of Ashish Kumar Sen's report here in the Washington Times.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Today's Posts

Overpopulation? Really? Here's a Revealing Look.

I know the graphic below is just a picture but it certainly makes one think quite differently about those continual alarms about how Planet Earth is collapsing under the sheer weight of way, way too many people.

I mean, if the whole world's population (read that carefully, the whole world's population -- that means India, China, Nigeria, and everywhere else!) could fit in Texas and still have the individual living space that New York City residents have...Well, I guess those overpopulation alarms are just as wild, as politically-motivated, and as dead wrong as they can be.

This isn't to say that there are not extremely serious problems we need to tackle -- hunger, health, housing, poverty, crime, and spiritual desperation -- but it does underscore that the problem is NOT the number of people the earth contains. So, please...can we not finally stop the counter-productive efforts that fly under the flag of "population control" and get to work instead on the true needs of hurting people?

The Greatest Conservative President Ever?

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor Joseph Postell says that would be…Calvin Coolidge.

And he has written an extremely interesting essay to explain his selection.

Check it out right here.

L'Abri Conference Revisited: Jerram Barrs On "True Spirituality"

The harsh winter weather that affected us driving in to Rochester Minnesota for the 2014 L'Abri conference (see "The Road to Rochester" from last Friday) was, of course, much worse in other parts of the country. Nevertheless, almost everyone who had registered arrived in good order. A few a little late, perhaps, and some slight adjustments were needed for the schedule, but there were over 500 people who gathered in the large Windsor Hall of the Kahler Hotel Friday morning to hear Jerram Barrs give the first general session of the conference, "The Biblical Basis for True Spirituality."

It was a good start.

Barrs began with descriptions of the most popular ideas about spirituality (emotion-based, mystic and other-worldly, self-centered, detached from mundane life, etc.) and contrasted them with the practical, comprehensive concept taught in Scripture. Indeed, true spirituality is simply recovering the original shape of man, man made in the image of God and made to enjoy, love and serve God.

In the Bible's teaching of spirituality, the "I" doesn't disappear. Man is made to have a relationship with God -- loving, practical, fully cognitive, productive, and continual. Therefore, those teachings that demand the human self be extinguished, hidden, or drawn into some oversoul are not in accordance with the Bible...even if certain Scriptures themselves are distorted and taken out of context in order to perpetuate the idea.

But then, of course, there's sin. Sin destroyed our relationship with God. And, in the process, it ruined us too. True spirituality was lost. Until a person understands his tragic doom and turns to the glorious, supernatural, yet fully historic fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty of man's sin and bring us back to bring us back to authentic recover for us true spirituality.

Barr's lecture was a superb beginning to the conference, though I'm sadly aware that my summary here is not at all doing it justice. So, for those of you who want fact, for those discerning, eager folks who want the whole thing...please be aware that tapes of each of the conference sessions (both plenary sessions and elective seminars) will soon be available at a minimal cost from Sound Word Associates. And, yes, if you were only to order one tape, this opening talk from Jerram Barrs might just be the one.

Or, then again, would it be Bill Edgar's general session, or the one given by Dick Keyes, or Ellis Potter's talk on "Three Theories of Everything"? Or one of the workshop lectures?

I'll try to give you a little help throughout this week with a few more posts about the conference. And Claire will write up a couple too. Until then...

While Michelle O Closes Down Airport, British Princes Hit the Sandbags

Last week heavy rain and 80-mph winds in Great Britain caused havoc on the rail network and rising waters endangered farms and homes. British soldiers were called on to provide help in the form of sandbagging labor. And they were joined by volunteers too — volunteers like the heir to the British throne Prince William and his little brother, Prince Harry.

This was on the same day that, over in this country, Michelle Obama's airplane closed down the Aspen Airport in order that she and her personal entourage could go skiing.

Different models of leadership, huh?

And yes, the world notices.

What If Your Family Spent Money Like the Government Spends Money?

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Road to Rochester

Yesterday morning, Claire and I headed out to the airport to pick up our rental car. Claire had found quite a deal from Alamo: three days, unlimited mileage, full-size vehicle for $70. Wow. And the vehicle turned out to be a very new (less than 200 miles) black Nissan with keyless start.

We didn't appreciate how nice was the black color until we realized what a contrast it made to the blowing snow we eventually encountered on the Minnesota roads. And for anything that helped us be more visible to other drivers in that whirling confusion of white, we were very, very grateful.

Along with us for the ride was Pat Osborne, a dear friend of more than 40 years. And the reason for the trip was a L'Abri conference convened in Rochester for Friday and Saturday that Pat had told us about. In fact, Pat has attended several similar conferences here over the years and, knowing that we have long shared his respect, affection and appreciation for the ministry of Francis & Edith Schaeffer and the L'Abri community, he invited us to come along for a special blessing.

I read my first Schaeffer book ("The Church at the End of the 20th Century") in the spring of 1971. Shortly after, I traveled with a few friends to Covenant College near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee for a conference which featured the Schaeffers, Hans Rookmakker, and several other members of the L'Abri team. I was hooked. And, as many of you might know, it was the influence of Francis Schaeffer that the Lord used to move Claire and I into pro-life ministries in the late 70s -- and way beyond.

But back to this conference.

The first several hours of the trip were really great with conversations covering a whole host of topics. Yes, we had high winds along the way but it wasn't too bothersome. Until we hit the blowing snow. Very scary stuff. And very weird too. Because these terrible conditions (snow blowing across the road, forming patches of very dangerous ice) sometimes occurred as the sun was shining. Things got a lot worse when we turned off I-35 at Albert Lea and headed towards Austin and then Rochester. Higher winds. More ice. A dozen semi-trailer trucks off the road and even more cars.

We were so pleased and grateful that we had left early in the day. For another hour and the snow would have certainly covered the white lines of the road which I used to navigate. There wasn't much conversation during those last couple of hours. Instead, there was a lot of praying -- for our safety, for the quick deliverance of those slipping off the roads, for safety for everyone else that had to be dealing with these conditions.

It was with a tremendous sense of relief then when we pulled into a safe, spacious parking space in the garage of the Kahler Hotel in downtown Rochester. We unpacked, found a local spot to have dinner, checked things out around the area, and sat down in the hotel lobby to enjoy another conversation -- this time reminiscing about the old days.

And then to a very welcome sleep.

Today we start in to the conference with four plenary sessions and three workshops. I'll give you a recap next Monday...with a few brief lines during the conference itself for those who are following Vital Signs Ministries via our new Twitter account!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Today's Posts

3.2 Is Heady Stuff: A "When Swing Was King" Update

Rest assured, the 3.2 in the title above doesn't refer to anything from my misspent youth. No, the number refers to the particular volume of "When Swing Was King" that Claire and I are presenting in February to our audiences in 11 senior facilities around town.

3.2 corresponds to the system we've developed ("stumbled into" might be a more accurate term) to keep track of the 23 different volumes we've created so far -- each volume with 12 original hits from the big band era, more than 200 photographs in the accompanying Power Point display, and plenty of notes to keep the commentary interesting and fun.

Earlier this week, I listed the songs for this volume (Solid! "When Swing Was King" Swings Into February) and I did so with high hopes they would prove popular to our audiences. Well, those hopes have been fully satisfied...and then some!

Let me pass along a few responses.

* "Oh, that was a wonderful program! You know, I'm 93 and I knew almost all of those songs. And even the ones I didn't know very well, I had heard before. But, oh my, weren't they all just great!"

* "I loved each song you played. So many brought tears to my eyes -- they were so lovely and they brought back memories that were so sweet to me. Thank you so much."

* "I could have sang along with most every one of those old songs except, you know, I can't sing anymore. As I have gotten old, I just can't sing. Isn't that sad?" I held this lady's hand and replied, "Oh, but you can sure thank the Lord that you were once able to sing, right? Because, you know, some people, like Claire and I...well, we've never been able to sing!" The lady laughed, "You're right. That's how I should think about it."

* "We just love it when you guys come. You make the whole week special because we look forward to it before you come and then, after you're gone, we still we hum the songs and talk to each other about it the whole rest of the week. Thank you so much for thinking of us and doing all this for us."

Our response to such comments is always some form of -- "It is our distinct pleasure. We love putting the shows together and we love even more presenting them to you in person. But it is a really big thrill for us to hear that you like them so much. That means the world to us and we are so glad and honored and encouraged by your appreciation. So thank you. We will look forward to seeing you next month."

And we mean every word.

The Persecution of Christians? It's Increasing By the Day.

Habila Adamu will never be a household name in America -- but to the millions of persecuted Christians in Eastern Africa, he is a symbol of the fierce courage it takes to live by faith in the face of death. Fourteen months ago, the Nigerian businessman was at home when two masked gunman showed up at his door and ordered his wife to leave. We're here, they said, "to do the work of Allah." Pointing their AK-47s in his direction, the shooters asked if Habila was a Christian. "Yes," he replied. They asked him why he hadn't accepted Islam, despite hearing the message of Mohammed. Again, he told them, "I am a Christian. We are also preaching the gospel of the true God to you and to other people who do not yet know God." "Are you ready to die as a Christian?" the men sneered. "I am ready to die as a Christian," he told them. They asked him one more time -- and before Habila could finish, a bullet silenced him, permanently.

[Actually, no. In point of fact, Habila did survive this attack. Here is the whole story. But the illustration of his courage, of course, remains a stirring challenge to all Christians.]

How many of us, Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told his House Subcommittee, could have stared martyrdom in the face and refused to renounce Christ? And yet there are thousands of Habilas around the globe who live in fear of the brutal -- and sometimes deadly -- repercussions of their faith. "It's hard for Christians to wrap their minds around persecution that takes place around the world," testified Boston Globe Associate Editor John Allen. "Two-thirds of Christians in the world today live outside the West," he explained. "They live in Africa, in the Middle East, and other places where they're the targets of convenience for anybody who is mad at the West, mad at Europe, mad at the United States. It's tough to take that out on the American consulate. It's very easy to take it out on the Christian church down the street."

And unfortunately, that's exactly what radicals have been doing from Iran to Burma. "No one is exempt," said Elliot Abrams of the creeping trends of religious hostility. And, as many of the experts told members yesterday, the harassment is gradually making its way to the West's shores. In Pew Research Center's latest report, Christians were not only the world's largest religion -- but its most persecuted. But despite the uptick in violence, the Obama administration can't be bothered to fill the State Department's Ambassador for Religious Freedom post, which has sat empty when the world needs it most…

Read the rest of Tony Perkins’ column in Washington Update right here.

Bills Before Nebraska Lawmakers: Sexual "Orientation" and Casino Gambling

The Nebraska Family Alliance wants to pass along news about two important bills that are currently under consideration by the Nebraska Unicameral. In a 90-second video clip below, Dave Bydalek summarizes what’s been happening with those two bills. It’s good.

But I wanted to also pass along a written report (plus action desired) that was sent out by the NFA.

LB 485 — Sexual Orientation Protected Class in Employment


1) The Judiciary Committee VOTED 4-3 AGAINST a motion to move LB 485 out of committee this week.

2) Senator Conrad, who introduced the bill, has vowed to continue to push for another vote on the bill at a later date.

3) Your involvement played a major role in defeating the bill. Would you take a moment to thank Senator Christensen, Senator Davis, Senator Coash, and Senator Seiler for voting against this bill? Check out our website for a list of Senators and their contact info here.

4) Read more about how NFA and the Nebraska Catholic Conference were instrumental in delaying the vote in the Omaha World Herald.

5”) Any law must respect every American's freedom of speech and freedom of religion. These fundamental liberties are so precious they are specifically protected in the First Amendment. LB 485 violates these fundamental principles." (Dave Bydalek, NFA Policy Director)

LR 416 CA — Casino Gambling


1) This legislative resolution proposes a Constitutional Amendment to legalize casino gambling in Nebraska. Cities would vote on whether to have a casino in their community.

2) At the committee hearing Tuesday, February 11th, only one person came to testify in support of LR 416, with 6 or 7 against.

3) It is unlikely that this bill will be voted out of committee.

4) Read NFA Policy Director, Dave Bydalek's testimony concerning LR416CA here.

Leftist "Evangelical" Defrocked by the AG

Paul Alexander is the Ron Sider Professor of Social Ethics & Public Policy at Palmer Theological Seminary, a liberal Baptist seminary attached to Eastern University in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He was also recently named as a Co-President of Evangelicals for Social Action, an organization that pursues a decidely leftward agenda.

But one thing he isn’ least, he isn't anymore.  He isn’t an Assembly of God minister.

Alexander has been, if Pentecostals actually use the term, defrocked. Why? Well, he’s not only been preaching liberation theology and other heterodoxy, he actually has called for “openness to the promotion of homosexual, transgender and intersex realities as faithful representations of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity."


You know, there’s an awful lot of these progressives around these days, guys and gals who are pretending to be evangelical but who are, in any classic sense of the word, anything but. They are folks who desperately promote hip over holy, socialism over spirituality, and political correctness over biblical principle.

They are posers. Hypocrites. Saboteurs.

I’m pleased that the AG finally got their stuff together with this guy. Indeed, I hope it starts a trend.

Here’s more on the story from Jeff Walton.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today's Posts

Hospital Sues to Correct "False Promise" of ObamaCare

ObamaCare is so full of lies, incompetence, and other "boondoggely bad" stuff that even the mainstream media is being forced to deal out the news.

And here’s an update from Andrew Johnson at NRO — “Seattle Children’s Hospital is taking legal action to correct a ‘false promise’ of Obamacare. With only two out of the seven plans offered under Washington State’s health-care exchange covering treatment at the hospital, one of the state’s key providers of specialized pediatric care, it will sue the state’s insurance commissioner for ‘failure to ensure adequate network coverage.’”

A Joyfully Pro-Life Alternative to the Girl Scouts

As the Girl Scouts of America get more firmly entrenched with Planned Parenthood, radical feminism, and New Age spirituality (see this compilation post), the alternative organization that we have long promoted (American Heritage Girls) is moving in a whole different direction.

Like enthusiastically promoting the sanctity of life.

Here's more.

As the World Burns, the Obamas Party

In the last two weeks, we learned that Bashar Assad has dismantled only 5 percent of his WMD arsenal, despite President Obama’s soaring rhetoric to the contrary. Russia violated a long-observed agreement with the U.S. about testing missiles. Iran’s take on the negotiations over its bomb program bears no resemblance to our interpretation. Chinese officials now happily leak fantastic stories about using their military to punish Japan. All that is trumped by veiled threats from the Sunni Gulf monarchies, terrified of Iran, to buy a bomb or two from Pakistan. We hear other rumors that even China thinks the new leadership in North Korea is unhinged and is not worried about friendly warnings from Beijing.

Whether all these incidents are minor or serious, and whether they are random or interconnected and perceived as proof of the loss of U.S. deterrence, depends on which particular bad actor is studying them to try to guess whether the Obama administration will do anything should a provocateur start a war or attempt to redraw a regional map.

In short, our Icarus-in-Chief, without much foreign-policy experience but with youthful zeal and good intentions, soared far too high for his flimsy waxen wings. Now they are melting, and as the American commander-in-chief careens back to earth, lots of those below are wondering what will come next…

Read the rest of Victor Davis Hanson’s spot on NRO column (“Our Icarus-in-Chief”) right here.

Most Medical Research Is "Seriously Flawed"

Twenty years ago last week the statistician Doug Altman published an editorial in the BMJ arguing that much medical research was of poor quality and misleading. In his editorial entitled, “The Scandal of Poor Medical Research,” Altman wrote that much research was “seriously flawed through the use of inappropriate designs, unrepresentative samples, small samples, incorrect methods of analysis, and faulty interpretation.” Twenty years later I fear that things are not better but worse.

That’s from Richard Smith, who was the editor of the BMJ when that editorial was published. And in this enlightening article just published by Mercator (“Most medical research is flawed, says leading medical editor”), Smith goes on to explain why the situation is as bad as ever.

...Sadly, the BMJ could publish this editorial almost unchanged again this week. Small changes might be that ethics committees are now better equipped to detect scientific weakness and more journals employ statisticians. These quality assurance methods don’t, however, seem to be working as much of what is published continues to be misleading and of low quality. Indeed, we now understand that the problem doesn’t arise from amateurs dabbling in research but rather from career researchers.

The Lancet has this month published an important collection of articles on waste in medical research. The collection has grown from an article by Iain Chalmers and Paul Glasziou in which they argued that 85% of expenditure on medical research ($240 billion in 2010) is wasted. In a very powerful talk at last year’s peer review congress John Ioannidis showed that almost none of thousands of research reports linking foods to conditions are correct and how around only 1% of thousands of studies linking genes with diseases are reporting linkages that are real. His famous paper “Why most published research findings are false” continues to be the most cited paper of PLoS Medicine.

Ioannidis’s conclusion as to why so much research is poor is similar to that of Altman’s:“Most scientific studies are wrong, and they are wrong because scientists are interested in funding and careers rather than truth.” Researchers are publishing studies that are too small, conducted over too short a time, and too full of bias in order to get promoted and secure future funding…

Chalmers, Glasziou, and others identify five steps that lead to 85 percent of biomedical research being wasted. Firstly, much research fails to address questions that matter…Secondly, the methods of the studies may be inadequate…Thirdly, research is not efficiently regulated and managed…Fourthly, the research that is completed is not made fully accessible…Fifthly, published reports of research are often biased and unusable…

I reflect on all this in a very personal way. I wasn’t shocked when we published Altman’s editorial because I’d begun to understand about five years’ before that much research was poor. Like Altman I thought that that was mainly because too much medical research was conducted by amateurs. It took me a while to understand that the reasons were deeper. In January 1994 at age 41, when we published Altman’s editorial, I had confidence that things would improve. In 2002 I spent eight marvelous weeks in a 15th century palazzo in Venice writing a book on medical journals, the major outlets for medical research, and reached the dismal conclusion that things were badly wrong with journals and the research they published. I wondered after the book was published if I’d struck too sour a note, but now I think it could have been sourer.

My confidence that “things can only get better” has largely drained away, but I’m not a miserable old man. Rather I’ve come to enjoy observing and cataloging human imperfections, which is why I read novels and history rather than medical journals.

I'd suggest you read the entire article. It really is fascinating. And alarming.

ObamaCare's Failure Is a "Teachable Moment"

...The reality is that on the facts and arguments surrounding the most far-reaching and transformative domestic program since the Great Society, conservatives were absolutely right and the left was absolutely wrong. That is the case when it comes to ObamaCare’s effect on (among other things) jobs, on businesses, on coverage for the uninsured, on keeping your plan if you like it, on premiums and deductibles, on its cost, and on its overall effect on our health-care system.

Progressives have full ownership of ObamaCare. They built it, they passed it, they own it. This is a “teachable moment,” to use a favorite Obama phrase, when it comes to both the political philosophy and competence of liberalism. Conservatives are absolutely correct to keep reminding the public what they said versus what President Obama and liberals said about the Affordable Care Act; to test their promises against what really happened and to test conservative predictions against what really happened...

(Peter Wehner, “Conservative Vindication,” Commentary)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

True Indeed -- Team Obama Is Hounding Conservative Americans

Catherine Engelbrecht refuses to surrender to the harassment, intimidation, and outright persecution she is receiving from the Obama administration.

Give a listen to this courageous and principled woman. For she does indeed speak for you.

Tuesday's "Two Cents Worth"

Actually, each of the articles I'm listing this morning are worth a lot more than two cents. Indeed, some of them are invaluable.

* “Obama's Loafer Nation” (Ed Lasky, Weekly Standard)

* “Obama Rewrites ObamaCare: Another day, another lawless exemption, once again for business.” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal)

* “Planned Parenthood Gets Away With Killing a Woman in an Abortion” (Cheryl Sullenger, LifeNews)

* “The One Child Policy Revisited” (Marcus Roberts, Mercator)

* “Socialism, Not Access to Care, Is Obama's Prize” (David Limbaugh column)

* “Poof: A Scandal Disappears” (Mona Charen column)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Solid! "When Swing Was King" Swings Into February

Yes, the temperatures are frigid, the winds are blowing, and snow covers the land. But we know that our friends living in 11 different senior care facilities here in the Omaha area will provide Claire and I (and whoever comes along with us) plenty of warmth and good cheer when we show up with this month's "When Swing Was King" shows.

Though we now have 23 different volumes of "When Swing Was King" (each with 12 big band original hits, 230-250 photographs in a Power Point presentation, and a snappy commentary to accompany it all), I still tweak each month's program to make it the most entertaining and interesting I can.

Well, Claire tells me "tweak" is hardly the right word. Tweaking, she argues, might see me changing the order of music or exchanging a few pictures. But when you completely change 4 songs and close to a hundred photos, that qualifies as wholesale revision!

She's right, of course, but we do want to keep the programs fresh and fun and full of stimulation. After all, we have the best audiences in town.

We start the February schedule today with shows in both the afternoon and evening. (The full schedule, by the way, is available right here at the Vital Signs Ministries website.)

So what does the latest version of Volume 3, Series 2 look like?

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra 
"Moonlight Cocktail"

2) Artie Shaw Orchestra
"I Cover the Waterfront"

3) Count Basie Orchestra (Vocals by Jimmy Rushing) 
"I'm Gonna' Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter"
(Photo theme: Mail call)

4) The Mills Brothers 
"You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You"

5) Benny Goodman Orchestra (Vocals by Helen Ward) 
"These Foolish Things"

6) Chick Webb Orchestra 
"Crazy Rhythm"

7) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Vocals by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers) 

8) Lawrence Welk Orchestra 
"Clarinet Polka"

9) Harry James Orchestra (Vocals by Helen Forrest) 
"I Don't Want to Walk Without You"

10) Bing Crosby
"Sunday, Monday or Always"

11) Guy Lombardo Orchestra (Vocals by Kenny Gardner) 
"How Deep Is the Ocean"

12) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra 
"Ghost Riders in the Sky"
(Photo theme: Favorite cowboy stars from big screen and small)

Maybe we'll see you this month!

Meredith Vieira: The End of the Soviet Union Was "Bittersweet"

I'm not watching the Olympics so I was interested to read today's e-mail update from Jim Geraghty (The Morning Jolt available by fee subscription over at NRO).

 Communism Was the Worst Mistake in Human History. Do NBC Sports Anchors Know This?

What you think depends upon what you know...

When I say "Communism," or more specifically, the "Soviet Union," a lot probably comes to mind.

You may think of the occupation of Eastern Europe. Or the massive internal forced migrations. Or the Ukranian famine, which killed 7 to 11 million people in a two-year period. Or the system of several hundred gulags and labor colonies, which imprisoned and in many cases killed 14 million people.   Or the extensive, brutal, far-reaching and ruthless secret police, the KGB, the NKVD and others. Or the Katyn Massacre, killing about 22,000. The treatment of German civilians after World War Two. The deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear conflict in 1963. The KGB's active support of terror groups around the world. The unprovoked invasion of Afghanistan. Or the shooting down of KAL 007.  Or their callous attempt to cover up the catastrophic disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, not mentioning anything to the public for nearly three days.

I'm sure you can think of other glaring examples of the Soviet Union's epic, unparalleled, brutal reign of terror over a large chunk of the globe for decades. The point is that a LOT comes immediately to mind.

Friday night's opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi offered a ludicrously rewritten version of Russian history, in which some of humanity's most bloody chapters were reimagined as Mardi Gras in Candyland.

After a lot of agriculture and farming in a stage full of red representing what we usually think of as the Cold War, the program came to the late 1980s. At that moment, a little girl let go of a red balloon, symbolizing the end of the Soviet Union:

"A bittersweet moment," declared NBC anchor Meredith Vieira.

And I lost it…

Can it really be that Vieira genuinely believes the end of the Soviet Union was a "bittersweet" moment? If one of Putin's goons was in the booth with her, glaring at her menacingly with his hand on the grip of his silenced pistol, I'll forgive her. Otherwise, this may be the dumbest statement ever uttered on television…

Was she so sucked into the imagery — a girl is losing her balloon! — that she forgot what the whole thing was supposed to symbolize? If so, mission accomplished, Vladimir Putin. The end of the Soviet Union — which Putin called "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century" — has now been transmogrified into a sad passing of a simpler, happier era.

The Politically-Correct "Musts" When Reporting on Euthanasia

Medical ethicist Wesley J. Smith writes in a recent NRO column, “I have long ago given up on the media fairly — or even accurately — reporting on the assisted suicide movement. Most stories exhibit some or all of the following bias methods."

* Adopt the advocacy lexicon of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement.

* Center the narrative around a man who “just wants to die,” rather than an event, e.g. actual news.

* Word engineering by redefining terms and blurring moral distinctions to make reasoned ethical analysis more difficult.

* Only present the perspective of pro-assisted suicide activists.

* If an opponent of assisted suicide is quoted, make it a Catholic priest–or better yet, a bishop–to imply that religion is the only reason to oppose. Don’t give actual public policy reasons for rejecting assisted suicide.

* Omit details on how the suffering person can be helped without being killed.

* Pretend assisted suicide has worked without a hitch in Oregon and wherever else it has been tried.

* Fail to report the astonishing levels of abandonment and abuse unleashed by assisted suicide/euthanasia in Europe.

* Pretend the movement is experiencing a ground swell of public support, gaining momentum, etc..

* Threaten dire efforts at suicide because assisted suicide isn’t legal.

* Ignore all mention suicide prevention services that could help transform a desire to die into a desire to keep on living.

Smith then disarmingly illustrates how each one of those tactics are used in a recent New York Times cover story...which makes for very illuminating reading indeed.

Take a look right here.

ObamaCare & Medical Identity Theft

Jillian Kay Melchior shares some very disturbing news in her brief article for NRO, “Medical Identity Theft and Obamacare.” Among the most important items?

* “Most identity theft in the United States is medical-related, according to a recent report from the Identity Theft Resource Center.”

* “In 2012 alone, medical identity theft increased by nearly 25 percent, affecting 1.85 million Americans, according to another recent report from the Ponemon Institute, which researches privacy issues.”

* “Michael Ollove, a reporter for Stateline, noted that 43 percent of identity-theft incidents in the United States are medical-related, ‘a far greater chunk than identity thefts involving banking and finance, the government and the military, or education. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that since it started keeping records in 2009, the medical records of between 27.8 million and 6.7 million people have been breached.’”

* “Regardless, as many as 31 states do not conduct background checks on Obamacare navigators, who have access to enrollees’ names, Social Security numbers, financial records, and health information…Clearly, there’s enormous risk that consumers’ confidential information could fall into the wrong hands.”

Friday, February 07, 2014

Today's Posts

Behind the Olympic Glitz, Russia Is a Sad Nation

Communism is not a good thing. Nor does its various elements (godlessness, tyranny, violence against its own, irrational economic planning, corruption, repression, and an anti-life social agenda) bring anything but poison to the people controlled by it.

Here's a look from Ann Morse over at the Population Research Institute that takes into account Russia's long history of poverty, hopelessness, and abortion.

Russia should be a population controller’s dream come true: it has had consistently low fertility, vast amounts of natural resources and a shrinking population—in fact, Russia has shrunk by 13 million people [in the last 20 years].

But instead of being the poster-child for the population control movement, Russia is instead a public health disaster.

* Russian women on average have 3 abortions for every 4 births, which is actually an improvement from their past; only since 2007 has the number of annual births in Russia outnumbered the number of annual abortions.

* Russia has dangerous patterns of alcohol consumption: the average Russian consumes 10-12 gallons of vodka per year (that’s a half cup of vodka per day).

* Suicide rates in Russia are 2-3 times higher than in the US or Europe: they have the second highest rate of male suicide in the world, and their female suicide rate is also among the top ten worst in the world.

* The average Russian lives only 70 years. Russian men fare even worse with an average life expectancy of a mere 64 years.

* Among countries with more than a million people, Russia has the highest divorce rate in the world.

Read the rest of Morse's article here.

Is Expository Preaching Relevant to Post-Moderns?

After hearing Last Sunday's sermon, an expository sermon covering 1 Samuel 23 that was the latest in my series on the life of David, a first-time visitor to our church told her pew companion that she was amazed and delighted that a preacher talking "straight from the Bible, even from the Old Testament" could make things so "modern" in understanding, interest, and personal application. 

Of course, it wasn't to the preacher's credit. It is the power of the Bible itself that makes this spiritual connection from its various texts to the hearts of people of all nations, all ages, all eras, and all walks of life.

It's why the preacher who truly desires to serve his congregation, to educate them in godliness, to stimulate lifestyles of love and good deeds, to transform the culture, and to glorify God -- needs to be a devoted student of the Word and a humble teacher of its precepts.

The true power is not in his stylish delivery, his cleverness, his hip attire and pop culture references, or his popularity ratings. It's in the text of Holy Scripture.

And this is just as true for post-modern twenty-somethings in Nebraska as it has been for anyone in history.

Here's a great primer on the subject from Mark Deever over at the theology blog, 9 Marks.

Some people today claim that expositional preaching is irrelevant for postmodern people. “People today need narrative and conversation and dialogue and drama! They don’t need expositional preaching.”

In fact, expositional preaching is particularly relevant for postmodern people:

1) Expositional preaching unfolds the multi-faceted riches of Scriptural truth in a way that corresponds to the kind of diversity that postmoderns love to celebrate. The Bible is not a set of philosophical abstractions, it’s a collection of narratives, poetry, songs, letters, history, laws, and prophesies. And the Bible is diverse not only in its literary form, but in its content: it contains bitter lament, exultant joy, romantic love, the rise and fall of empires, tragedy, deceit, oppression, rebellion, deliverance, celebration, and every imaginable facet of human life and experience. 

Expositional preaching should highlight this rich literary and existential diversity, which should be particularly satisfying to postmodern sensibilities.

2) Expositional preaching demonstrates and proves that the Word of God is not merely propositional, it’s effectual (Isa. 55:10-11). Postmoderns say that even if there were such a thing as objective truth, we could never truly grasp it because we cannot see beyond our own perspectives. But expositional preaching rightly responds to these claims by asserting the clarity and applicability of Scripture to all its hearers. 

Not only that, but as a preacher faithfully expounds God’s Word, God will use it to transform people’s hearts: to bring them to submit to God, to delight in his Word, to lovingly obey him, and to humbly worship him. Expositional preaching is particularly relevant to postmoderns because it proves that God’s Word not only asserts propositions, it transforms lives.

Is "Gimme Shelter" Too Simple? (A Guest Post from Dr. Ralph Kramper)

As I grow more experienced in the pro-life movement, I am more convicted than ever about the sacredness of life and the need to protect women from the many tragic consequences of abortion.

Indeed, Greg Schleppenbach's recent article in the Catholic Voice exposes the lie that abortion helps women. He persuasively explains what I've long known from my practice; namely, that abortion hurts women physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I now understand that God has called me from birth (January 22,1945) to get this message out to the best of my ability. I must admit, I have been at times a reluctant soldier. But it comforts me to know the most basic pro-life lesson: God is in charge of success. We are in charge of faithfulness.

Over these past 43 years of involvement. I have waited and hoped for something that might be a breakthrough — a turning point in the battle for life -- even as I invest my humble efforts to change one heart at a time. Perhaps one of those larger breakthroughs is the movie "Gimme Shelter" which was released in selected theaters a couple of weeks ago. The film tells the true story of Apple, a homeless pregnant teen rejected by an abusive mom and a birth father who doesn't want her to interfere with his Wall Street career. In fact, she is brought by her step-mom to an abortion chamber from which she escapes. By God's grace, Apple is brought by a caring priest to a real-life shelter for homeless pregnant women.

Not surprisingly, the movie review in the Omaha World Herald described the plot as "too simple." (That might be an explanation for my ability to understand the plot without one of my adult kids there to explain it!) However, as I viewed the film, it was evident that the plot was indeed simple, but beautifully so. What the reviewer saw as a weakness, I saw as a great strength. For God's unbounded love is simply stated in the gospel and it is simply, practically demonstrated every day...if we only seek His help. And His profound yet uncomplicated grace is sufficient even to bring us through great disasters in life.

It also is a great affirmation of God's grace to see real-life efforts that Christians are making to share that simple love. For instance, the efforts demonstrated in the film occur on a daily basis here in Omaha too, including the ministries of Essential Pregnancy Services, Bethlehem House, and many other pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family ministries. They are living demonstrations of our love from God transmitted to others -- simple but powerful and glorious.

The truth about the scourge of abortion is surfacing more and more. By God's will, it cannot be suppressed. And one breakthrough example is the film "Gimme Shelter." See the movie yourself. You too will be blessed by the true story it tells and by the God Who is the Author of life and truth.

(Ralph J Kramper, M.D.)