Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Trashy Distraction Results in a Near Miss

This morning I pulled out of the driveway and started through the pre-dawn darkness on my way to the coffee shop.  But just a block down the street I noticed a very ugly and annoying sight.  It was a “gross gathering” of 15, maybe 20 trash bags piled up at the curb. In a few of them, the contents were overflowing into the street and yard.  Making it even worse, I knew this yucky pile of trash had been there for several days already and, with garbage day not until Saturday, it would be there for quite a while longer. As a matter of fact, because of new limitations, it's going to take a few weeks before this stuff gets hauled away.

It was a really offensive, maddening mess.

However, here's the more important thing. In paying attention to my neighbor’s heap of refuse, I myself came way too close to driving into a truck that was parked on the curve across the street. Looking at my neighbor's unsightly example of irresponsibility nearly created my own (and more costly) example of irresponsibility. Yipes.

The morals of the story? They're uncomfortably obvious, aren't they?

1) There is danger in distractions.  Oh sure, I “pride myself” in my attentive driving and I studiously avoid devices or practices that might in any degree lessen my concentration when behind the wheel.  And yet, here I was this morning, driving in a dark neighborhood with my eyes focused NOT on where my vehicle was heading, but on a point off to the side where my mind was stuck.  That distraction was only a couple of seconds but it almost cost me (and the owner of the parked truck) big time.

And 2) As soon as I straightened out my car, the Lord made a second point very clear to me; namely, “Don’t be so occupied by another man’s trash that you fail to perform your own duty.  Because, when it comes down to that, Denny; you’ve got enough of your own rubbish to clean up!”  True, my “trash” may not be piled up on the curb for all the neighbors to sniff at and criticize, but I’ve certainly got my own “sanitation” duties to accomplish.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I wasn't justified in believing that my neighbor's actions are wrong. They most certainly are. Nevertheless, my priority must always be to take care of my own business first and foremost.

So, I drove on to the Paradise Cafe deeply grateful for the grace Christ had poured out.  For He taught me a clear and memorable lesson this morning without requiring me to smash up my car in order to learn it.  Thank You, Lord.  Now, I ask You to help me to extend the applications of that lesson to all the areas of my life where it’s needed. Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2020

"When Swing Was King" Isn't Completely Grounded!

Numbers 11 and 12 in our ongoing series of activity packets for residents of senior living facilities (and anybody else!) have not only been sent over but they are also now available on the Vital Signs Ministries website.

Now, if you've been following the story of these very popular, highly appreciated "Anti-Boredom" packets, you don't need to know the whys and hows behind them. But, if you're new to the idea, here's how I described it in an earlier Vital Signs Blog post...

The "Great Hunkering Down" has kept us out of the 12 senior living facilities where we are honored and blessed to present our "When Swing Was King" shows every month. That's a bummer, no doubt.

But instead of just twiddling our thumbs and waiting for permission to re-enter the premises, we have been creating and sending over "Anti-Boredom" packets with quizzes, quotations, personal notes, and a few photos.

They have been received warmly and wonderfully by both the residents and by the activity directors. They have also been appreciated by some of you guys, especially those who not only have fun taking the quizzes yourself but who then pass them along to the seniors (and baby boomers) among your own family and friends.

So, here you go with #11 (opened by an interesting account of the Thanksgiving Jar Claire and I utilize) and #12 (opened by a note describing one of my earliest (and one of my favorite) jobs.

11 -----https://www.vitalsignsministries.org/vsmnew/application/files/4015/8982/4747/WSWK_Activity_Pack_11.pdf

12 -----
https://www.vitalsignsministries.org/vsmnew/application/files/5315/9018/0349/WSWK_Activity_Pack_12.pdf

Escape! (With Enlightened Information)

* "Pill Pushers Exploiting COVID-19 to Promote Risky Telemedicine Abortions" (Denise Burke, Daily Signal)

* "'AKA Jane Roe': Norma McCorvey’s longtime friends set the record straight" (Nancy Flanders, Live Action)

* "Pope’s words on interfaith prayer against coronavirus sparks controversy among Catholics" (Caleb Parke, Fox News)

* "Blame governors for the coronavirus deaths in nursing homes" (Michael Goodwin, New York Post)

* "Lost lives or livelihoods? -- Bad, bleak and catastrophic are the three daunting scenarios confronting those in charge" (John Robertson, Mercator)

* "Tale of 2 States: New York’s COVID-19 Death Toll Far Greater Than Florida’s" (Fred Lucas, Daily Signal)

* "Leftists Push for Removal of Progressive Champion Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ Film" (H. Sterling Burnett, Cornwall Alliance)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Cal Thomas & Francis Schaeffer

This Struggling NBC Reporter Heard Schaeffer at Just the Right Time by Cal Thomas

Francis August Schaeffer IV came into my life with the perfect timing only God could create. I was trying to figure out the meaning of life while struggling to be a big-time reporter for NBC News in Washington. It was 1971, and Mutual Radio's Forest Boyd invited my wife and me to hear a philosopher-theologian from Switzerland, who talked in a high-pitched voice, gestured a lot with his right hand and wore funny clothes.

After a couple of hours of listening to Dr. Schaeffer, I told my wife I had no idea what he was talking about, but I intended to find out. I bought The God Who Is There but couldn't understand much of it. Later I picked up True Spirituality, a book Schaeffer said he later thought he should have written first. That book unlocked all the others, and I began to devour his work at about the same time I became serious about studying God's Word.

Dr. Schaeffer taught me about the intellectual component of Christianity and muscular faith. He said there was no such thing as a stupid question and that any question, if sincere, deserved an answer. He provided lots of answers to my many questions.

He taught me how to think, which was to be critical in my professional life as a journalist and in my personal and relational life. "Most people catch their presuppositions like they catch a cold" was one of his more familiar statements. Know not only what you believe, but why you believe it was key for him, as it came to be for me.
    
He taught me how to "push people to the logical conclusion of their presuppositions," which I have used effectively in public debate and in private conversation, not to win points, but to point people to Jesus the Christ. His influence, and that of his wife, Edith (who was equally gifted with intellect and an abundance of grace), will continue in the lives of those they personally touched and through their writings for generations yet to come.

(This article originally appeared in The Pearcey Report back in the fall of 2007.)   

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Tenth of Our "Anti-Boredom" Packs Is Up!

#10 in our series of "When Swing Was King" activity packets (consisting this
time around of 70 pop culture and history questions) was sent out to the senior care and senior living facilities yesterday and we are already getting rave reviews about them. 

Please consider checking them out...but not for yourself only. Remember, we are creating these to battle the boredom, to stimulate minds and memories, and to lift spirits of those enduring the isolation of these quarantines. So, pass 'em along to friends and family.

You'll find all 10 of the "Anti-Boredom" collections on this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Envying Sinners? You'd Better Stop It.

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:17,18 -- NASB)

The teacher of Proverbs has an important exhortation here, one that acknowledges the strong allure of sin, yet which also urges the man of God to deny that temptation by turning instead to a healthy, joyful, and forward-looking trust in God. This is an ever-timely warning, one that can provide great help to us in our ongoing battles with sin’s deceptive enticements.

Let’s break down a few elements of this exhortation.

1) Sin begins in the heart -- our inner attitudes and affections.  The overt acts of sin have their start inside us. (Remember 1 John 1:13-16 and Matthew 5.) Walking in holiness is much more than avoiding the deeds of robbery, adultery, cursing, murder, or exploitation. It is not enough to avoid “acting out” sin. The battleground is, in point of fact, our minds.  It is there that that we are either victorious or defeated, pure or corrupt, pleasing to God or disappointing to Him. Thus, the initial warning of Proverbs 23:17: “do not let your heart envy sinners.”  The basic danger we face is not murdering someone, it’s hating them. It is not hooking up with someone who is not your spouse, but mentally lusting for them. It is not breaking into your neighbor’s home to steal, but being unsatisfied and ungrateful with your own income and possessions. Again, sin begins in the heart and so that is where the Lord commands us to be on our closest guard against it.

2) Do we really envy sinners?  We don’t usually think of our struggles with evil in this way.  We are more likely to think of temptation as being an idea or some kind of evil force…perhaps some line of attack from the devil himself.  But this proverb is just one of the many Scriptures that show us temptation can arise from our attitudes towards other people – even unbelievers.  Their beauty and youth.  Their health and mobility.  Their affluence, eloquence, social standing, relationships, freedom, success.  When we allow our eyes to stray from the Lord, from His Word, from the many and lovely gifts He has given us, and from our heavenly future (more on that momentarily), and start comparing our lot with others, we’re in spiritual trouble. We are likely to end up dissatisfied (at times even despairing). We complain and blame God for whatever we feel lacking. We give way to envy.  But God wants to kindly teach us that there is absolutely no future in this.  No happiness.  No spiritual growth. No heavenly reward. So, let’s listen carefully to His wisdom and choose a different course.

3)  “Live in the fear of the Lord always.” Yes, there is another option.  Instead of letting our hearts be filled with dissatisfaction, ingratitude, and envy towards sinners, our hearts can be filled with the Holy Spirit as we live in the fear of God. Now, you’ve often heard that when the Bible speaks of fearing God, it actually means a solemn reverence for Him. And that’s true. But it’s not the whole truth. A comprehensive study of the Bible’s teaching on this matter reveals that while “the fear of the Lord” certainly includes that sense of solemn reverence towards God, it also involves ongoing trust, gratitude, love, awe, obedience, encouragement, comfort and…yes, an honest fear of the repercussions of sin in our lives.  Make no mistake, God is a jealous God Who disciplines His own.  So be sure to behave yourselves as heavenly children. Honor God with a life of faithful obedience to His Word. As you do so, the temptation to envy sinners will lose its appeal. So, delight yourself in the Lord.  Find in Him your joy, your satisfaction, your purpose, and your strength. And, in God’s divine irony, once your focus is on Him, you can properly see others – not as people to envy, but as people to serve, pray for, and be an example to.

4) Consider the future. There is, in 23:18, a marvelous postscript to the previous proverb.  God reminds us that there is another huge consideration in this matter; namely, the eternal consequences of our present battles with temptation and sin.  Those sinners we are sometimes prone to envy?  Their end is judgment and an eternal separation from God and all His delights.  But, in astonishing contrast, the people of God have a sure hope -- a word also translated “expectation” And that sure hope, that guaranteed expectation of believers is a full redemption of mind, body, relationships, and even the physical world in which they will live forever with Christ  And that hope will not be cut off. But the wicked?  That’s a whole different story. He has no portion at all in this.  He is cast out defeated, wanting, and alone…eternally. So why envy sinners? There’s no logic or value in doing so.  Oh no, it is much better to keep the big picture in mind and live in the fear of God: honoring Him, loving Him, and glorifying Him as we joyfully anticipate the grand future before us.

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”  (Proverbs 23:17,18 -- NASB)