Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vital Signs Ministries -- September Updates

We normally post the latest issue of the LifeSharer letter (my monthly communiqué about Vital Signs Ministries) over on our "official" web site. But because I dealt with some more personal matters this month -- my Mom's health problems --we will not be publicly posting the letter this time around.

Below, however, are a few excerpts of the LifeSharer letter (available to you every month just for the asking, by the way) with information which those following Vital Signs activities will find of interest:

1) There’s been quite a bit of cyberspace activity for us recently:

A) The official Vital Signs web site (www.vitalsignsministries.org) is up and looking great with lots of Christ-centered pro-life information. Yes, we’ve still got stuff to put on and renovations to make but that’s a never-ending process. Among the things that are prominently presented there are VSM info, pro-life articles, pro-life and gospel dramas, links to our internet services, and even the video presentation (in two forms, no less) of Come to the Light, the documentary we made about the conversion from Islam to Christianity of Colonel Saye Zerbo, former president of Burkina Faso.

B) Vital Signs Blog. Whew! This is a 5-day a week labor of …well, let’s call it love, anyhow – that covers the culture wars from the perspective of a veteran Christian activist. That means, it’s a blog that deals with a whole host of issues of spiritual relevance but with the clear purpose being to get readers to do something about those issues! Pray. Talk. Write. Vote. Give. And then pray some more!

We’re getting rave reviews for Vital Signs Blog from a lot of folks and we sure hope you’re among our frequent visitors. (http://www.vitalsignsblog.blogspot.com/) And the numbers of hits on the blog recently went through the roof (and just kept going) when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee. That’s because our blog was one of the most accessible and prominent internet sources with news and pictures of the Alaskan governor. You see, I had been touting her since last February!

C) VSM Resources (http://www.vsmresources.com/) is also up and running. This, as you know, is our Russian-language site with sermon outlines, pro-life information and other articles. This is just getting underway and much needs to be added but that’s happening every week now. And, yes, there’s versions of the material available at the site in English too…just in case you want to take a peek.

D) Exposition 101 (http://www.exposition101.blogspot.com/) is the sermon podcast site we explained in last month’s LifeSharer letter. The sermons will keep piling up there too but with one important difference – I’m going to start recording them directly onto the computer instead of doing them “live” from the pulpit of Faith Bible Church. That will dramatically improve the sound quality.

E) The Book Den (http://thebookden.blogspot.com/). This is the site that gets the shortest shrift. It’s a great concept and I’m still plugging away at it too but, hey, there’s only so many hours in the day!

2) Two weeks ago I was honored to once again serve as a chapel speaker for Grace University and I want to thank John Hood and Gerald Burkholder for the invitation. I was asked to speak on “The Christian and Politics” and I took the occasion to cover some ground that normally (but improperly) gets left out of such discussions; namely, the essential motivation for Christian political action being to demonstrate the vibrancy of one’s love of God by showing a honest, relevant and humble love for one’s neighbor.

Politics in this perspective must first be locally expressed; that is, the love of others must be shown first to family and neighbors. Thus, I explained, politics for the believer is not just about legislation, elections and public advocacy but also about the PTA, the Boy Scouts, support for police and firemen, and helping your neighbors shovel the snow off their walks. All of these serve “the body politic.” All of these, when properly motivated, are expressions of neighborliness that reveal the genuineness of our Christian faith.

3) Among the other valuable activities of these past few weeks have been a personal meeting Claire and I had with Congressman Lee Terry and a couple of his staff members. It was a productive meeting in which we talked about several human rights issues including abortion, the ghastliness of tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood, and the persecution of religious believers.

4) I participated in the annual memorial service for children who have died through abortion and miscarriage. This service is sponsored by the Business and Professional Persons for Life who are also responsible for creating the beautiful and inspirational memorial at the southwest end of St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery.

5-A) We had a terrific time discussing Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel at the last Book It! discussion meeting here at our home. There were 7 of us who had read Ms. Ali’s horrific stories of female mutilation, abuse, honor killing and other brutal mistreatments of Muslim women. Following our talk, we prayed together that Ms. Ali would find the grace of God through the cross of Christ. In fact, that prayer has been followed up with many more. And followed up also with the letter to Ms. Hirsi Ali, a nice reply to which came our way the next week.

5-B) One other Vital Signs Book It! note -- The next books in our discussion series are The Faith by Charles Colson, Home Invasion by Rebecca Hagelin and Check with Chip on Stem Cell Research by Chip Maxwell. Call or e-mail for info.

6) I was profoundly honored by the request of family members that I give a brief eulogy at the memorial service honoring my old friend, Ruben Dyck. I had known Ruben for 35 years or more and had enjoyed with him a warm, stimulating friendship. Among the most significant fruits of our relationship was his early endorsement of our pro-life work (when other evangelical leaders were very slow to do so), his participation as a speaker at the Vital Signs “Frontier Issues” conference on aging and my accompanying him (at his request) on my very first trip to Belarus. Though Ruben had his 82nd birthday on the day we returned from that trip (it was his third), he planned to keep going back to Minsk as long as God allowed him. Well, his health began to break that next year and he was unable to return. Could that be part of my motivation to keep going back to Belarus – ten times at latest count? No doubt about it. Ruben, I’m very much looking forward to telling you and Helen all about those trips the next time we have coffee together. And I’ll bet the coffee up there is something else!

7) We had some fresh faces join us for our last bi-monthly meeting of the Omaha Chesterton Society and so the discussion was even more enlivened and helpful than usual. Part of the reason too was the nature of the Chesterton book under discussion. It was Brave New Family, a compelling collection of essays dealing with issues of family, the eugenics movement, modernity’s insistence on changing sex roles, the blessedness of true romance and marriage, and more. It is chillingly up to date, very profound and yet fully relevant even to those who’ve never read Chesterton before. But why am I writing about an OCS meeting in a VSM LifeSharer letter? Well, because the themes of Brave New Family are ones that are right up your alley! And since we only discussed the first three sections of the book and still have another three sections to go, I’m sure many of you LifeSharers would find the reading and discussion of tremendous interest. Please call us for details, okay? (341-8886)

8) Another of the recent speaking engagements I should mention was my “opening the season” for the Christian students fellowship over at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was a good crowd (maybe 25-28 med and nursing students) and after handing out some detailed sheets with Scripture references and statements by Church Fathers and other heroes of the Faith relevant to abortion, I spoke for about 30 minutes. Knowing that the biological aspects are probably well understood by these kids, I concentrated on pro-life apologetics, illustrating my points with stories from nearly three decades of ministry. I talked for a bit too about the nobility of their profession and the unique and wonderful chance they will have to shine the light of Jesus into our darkened culture. They were a keen group and I was honored to speak to them. Many thanks to Dr. Denny Weisenburger who suggested my name to the group and to Martin Goodenberger who made the invitation.

9) Well, number 9 in this list of VSM happenings is taking me pretty close to my space limits here. I was going to use number 9 to explain a bit about the personal study and writing I’ve been doing in preparation for my upcoming teaching seminars in Burkina Faso (September 26-October 6) as well as the planning sessions we’ve had for the team going over. But there’s not enough room. And since you’ll be far more eager to hear what actually happened (with the teaching, the crusade events, the children’s Haggai Fest, the visit to the orphanage, the marriage seminars, and so on) than you would be with just a “prep talk,” I’ll hold off and give you a full report in the next LifeSharer. Okay?