Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thinking of the Christian Brotherhood, Grace, and Darrell Scott

Darrell Scott, a former pastor, exemplary mentor, and dear friend of many years is undergoing serious health trials right now and a few of us, in addition to stepping up our prayers for he and his wife, sent along notes of encouragement and thanks. My letter, including as it did reflections on the Christian Brotherhood, Grace Bible Institute, and Pleasantview Berean Fundamental Church may be of interest to those with connections to those organizations. It may even be of limited interest to those who remember the "Jesus movement" of the late 60s and early 70s.

Also, if you would like to share your own testimony about Darrell Scott's ministry in your life, please send it along to us and we will forward it ASAP. Please send it to

Dear Darrell and Barb,

We are so sorry we couldn’t set it up to get together before Christmas but our plans to do so ended up alerting a lot of prayers in your behalf.  That’s a good thing.  Still, we hope (and pray) that you feel well enough soon for us to put that little party back on the schedule.

Until that happens, however, we thought you would like to hear from a few of those folks.  Some of them may have already sent a note while others may do so now that the hectic pace of Christmas has slowed down.  But there are a few who sent brief testimonies to Claire and me so that we could send them over to you guys.  They are enclosed with this note.

But Claire and I wanted to share a few reflections also for we have been so profoundly affected by your ministry, Darrell.  We are honored to be among that very large crowd of people whose lives have been inspired, educated, exhorted, and encouraged by yours.  We will be forever grateful.

I first made your acquaintance in those heady days of the Christian Brotherhood.  It was late spring 1970 and I had just hitchhiked into Omaha from my home in Denver.  Providence took me to the Brotherhood and, within days of my moving in with Buddy Medlock, I attended the Sunday service at Pleasantview Berean Fundamental Church and was captivated by your sermon…and by your warm, engaging hospitality.

I was a new believer and I hadn’t heard much of solid, expository Bible teaching. But I loved it and knew instinctively it was what I needed.  So, right from the beginning I was listening carefully, taking copious notes, asking questions afterward, and as you always encouraged the audience to do, studying the text on my own also. You provided excellent content in the sermon but also a terrific example of how to carefully, patiently study the Word myself.  You also taught me much about the qualities of a disciple.  Humble yet confident in Christ. Winsome but uncompromising with the truth.  Kind-hearted and servant-oriented. Cheerful. Hopeful. Active in evangelism.

Over the years, many people have wondered about the remarkable impact that the Christian Brotherhood had on so many lives.  Particularly, the question comes up of why the Brotherhood had such lasting effect, much more than most of the “Jesus movement” communes and organizations. The sheer number of young believers who went on to formal theological training and professional ministry, for instance, is impressive. But even more so is the steady growth and Christian service of all the others.  We were not only a “thoroughly converted” bunch – we were wonderfully trained and equipped and sent forth as lights into the world.

But what made the Brotherhood so different from the other “Jesus People” places?  My answer has always stressed two things.  1) We had the incredible resource of Grace College of the Bible available to us with such stellar Bible scholars as Abe Penner, Chuck Nichols, Reuben Dick, Bob Benton, J. Doss Quinelly, and Norm Rempel teaching us three or four nights a week.  It was ironic but wonderful – established fundamentalist scholars graciously coming into the city to teach unchurched, counter-culture, sin-scarred youth the glories of the Bible.

But 2) we had another grand resource available to us besides Grace.  And that was Pleasantview Berean Church with its personable and capable pastor, Darrell Scott.  There at the church, we were able to see how this new life we had in Christ was to be lived in practical, social, and long-term ways.  The heavy theology we were learning in those Brotherhood classes and in reading books by Ironside and Pentecost and Chafer was made alive for us in the persons of Berean’s pastor and other keen saints in the church.

Darrell, your teaching was practical theology at its best.  And you lived what you preached.  You were also so patient and kind to us as we learned.  Never did we feel like freaks at Pleasantview.  Never were we treated with anything but acceptance and hospitality and inclusion.  Indeed, Brotherhood youths were welcomed not only into the front pews of the church (we were so happy and eager to learn) but also into the choir, the fellowship suppers, member’s homes, and, for Gene Jost, Phil Miller, John Foster and myself, into the starting ranks of the slow pitch softball team.  We had all found a church home where our Christian discipleship was intensified and encouraged.

Through God’s merciful provision of both Grace Bible Institute and Pleasantview, we young Christians (many of us with sordid backgrounds and lousy educational records) were transformed by the love in action of patient and skilled mentors.  And that’s why so many of us are still pursuing godliness to this day.  And that’s why so many of us owe you such a grand debt.  We love you very much, Darrell, and we are so grateful for your investment in our lives in those years. And we’re grateful too for all the sweet years of friendship that followed.

Denny & Claire

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Denny Reads Chesterton's "The House of Christmas"

In our first attempt at making a video clip for Vital Signs Blog, Denny talks about his discovery of GK Chesterton in a used bookstore many years ago.

Denny then reads Chesterton's superb poem, "The House of Christmas."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Goin' Christmas Crazy?

"Some of you probably thought the Branson tree-lighting I described in last month’s letter would provide more than enough Christmas cheer to last us for the year.  Not hardly."

The December LifeSharer letter is on the web.

The Week's "Must Reads"

The week’s must-read articles? Here’s my picks:

On Cuba:
* “Why We Isolated Cuba for 53 Years” (Lee Edwards, Daily Signal, The Heritage Foundation)

On the North Korea/Sony Mess:
* “On North Korea, Obama Leads from Behind” (John Hinderaker, PowerLine)

Regarding the Spirit of Lawlessness:
* “Obama issues 'executive orders by another name’” (Gregory Korte, USA TODAY)

* “Two Pa. Legislators Indicted for Voter ID Bribes in a Case the State AG Refused to Prosecute” (Hans von Spakovsky, Daily Signal)

On Other Fronts of the Culture Wars:
* “Different standards for 'gay' bakers and Christian bakers” (Michael F. Haverluck,

* “Holder Decrees Crossdressing Protected Under Federal Law” (J. Christian Adams, PJ Media)

Affairs of the First Family
* “Mrs. Obama's Tall Tales of Racialized Victimhood” (Michelle Malkin, Town Hall)

From Vital Signs Blog:
* “Goin' Christmas Crazy?”

* “Light & Warmth Through Christmas Cards”

* “What a Difference You Can Make”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Light & Warmth Through Christmas Cards

Vital Signs Ministries' annual Christmas card party last night turned out to be a lively success. There were only 9 of us (Larry & Deb, Quint, Ruth, Allen & Cindy, Carol E., Claire and I) yet in 90 minutes we produced a remarkable amount of correspondence designed to lift spirits, encourage action, and draw people closer to the Lord Jesus. It was a splendid Christmas experience.

Among our Christmas card recipients were 16 Christians who have been persecuted and unjustly imprisoned for their faith in such places as China, Iran, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Eritrea. Using the resources of The Voice of the Martyrs' superb website, we had prepared messages to these saints before the party began and we then glued those messages inside lovely, colorful Christmas cards. The messages (again, thanks to VOM) included Scripture verses in the prisoner's own language. All 16 of these prisoners were sent three cards, each card with a different Christmas scene, each card with a different message inside, and each card signed by three of us.

We also wrote Christmas cards (with appropriate messages inside) to Senator-elect Ben Sasse, Governor-elect Pete Ricketts, Congressman-elect Brad Ashford, outgoing Congressman Lee Terry, Mayor Jean Stothert, and others. Also, we all signed thank you Christmas cards to Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Norm Geisler, Joni & Ken Tada, Ben Carson, and others.

And finally — hold onto your Santa hat — we wrote Christmas cards to every resident of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home! That’s right, over 100 veterans, spouses and widows will be receiving beautiful Christmas cards today as Claire and I will take them over personally today. The handwritten messages inside expressed our warmest Christmas greetings, thanked them for their loyal service to our nation, and shared our desire that the holy light of Jesus’ birthday would brighten their hearts in this precious season, bringing them special joy and peace and spiritual strength.

Also part of the evening were prayers for each of the persecuted Christians as well as prayers that God would protect each Christmas card along its way. We prayed too for all the others to whom we sent cards, asking the Lord to use them for His purposes. And, of course, we also had some time to enjoy conversation, cookies, and coffee together. It was a terrific evening, full of Christmas cheer and productivity.

Everyone present last night had one other request to make to the Lord before we left. And that was for similar letter-writing parties to become a regular activity for churches, Sunday school classes, and other groups of Christian friends. Let's remember that raising our voices in the King's service of encouragement, advocacy, enlightenment, and challenge is a necessary and ongoing responsibility for the believer in Christ. And prayerful letters are a marvelously effective means of carrying those voices way beyond our own neighborhoods. This why Vital Signs Ministries has hosted letter-writing parties for over 30 years.

How about you? Perhaps you're interested in joining us for our next letter-writing evening? Or maybe you'd like a little help in setting up your own. Either way, give us a call or email or FB message and we'll do our very best to help make it happen. Thanks. And merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

What a Difference You Can Make

Dick Wilson knows I don’t read the local newspaper so he recently passed along a copy of a column called Annie’s Mailbox. I don’t know what this usually presents (I think it’s an advice column) but on Thanksgiving Day, there was reprinted there a very moving piece written by a RN who serves as an activities director for a nursing home in Tennessee.

Being involved as we have been with ministries in senior centers throughout Vital Signs’ history (the latest activity being our “When Swing Was King” shows in 12 facilities each month), I can testify to the insightful, compelling truths of the column. Check it out.

Dear Readers: Today is Thanksgiving. If you know someone who is alone today, please invite him or her to share your Thanksgiving dinner and help make the occasion truly special.

Today we'd like to run a piece that has appeared in this space several times. It was written by Judy Vekasy, a registered nurse and director of activities in a nursing home in Savannah, Tenn. Here it is:

In this season of thanksgiving and just plain giving, I have some suggestions for those who need something to be thankful for or those who need someone to allow them to give. Nursing homes are full of opportunities.

You say you can't do anything. Can you read? Good. Read to me. My eyes aren't what they used to be.

Can you write? Good. Write a letter or a card for me. My hands are shaky.

Can you sing? Good. Help me with the words and I'll sing along.

Can you tell me about your job? I was a nurse once myself.

Can you listen? Wonderful. I'm starved for conversation.

Can you bake a sponge cake or zucchini bread or angel biscuits or make fudge? They aren't on the nursing home menu, but I remember how good they were and I would like to taste them again.

Do you play checkers or dominoes or rummy? Fine, so do I, but there is never anyone who has the time. They are understaffed around here, you know.

Do you play the violin or the flute or the piano? My hearing is poor, but I can hear any kind of music. Even if I fall asleep, you'll know I enjoyed it.

Once we were somebodies, just like you. We were farmers and farmers' wives and teachers, nurses, beauticians, stockbrokers and electricians, bankers and sheriffs and maybe a few outlaws, too.

We're not all senile — just old and needing more help than our families can give us. This home, whatever its name, is "home" to us, and you're an invited guest. Please come. The welcome mat is always out and not just on Thanksgiving. I hope you will keep this and read it again in January, February, and every other month of the year. We'll still be here, and our needs will be the same.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Anne Frank's Poem, "St. Nicholas Day"

Once again St. Nicholas Day
Has even come to our hideaway;
It won't be quite as fun, I fear,
As the happy day we had last year.
Then we were hopeful, no reason to doubt
That optimism would win the bout,
And by the time this year came round,
We'd all be free, and safe and sound.
Still, let's not forget it's St. Nicholas Day,
Though we've nothing left to give away.
We'll have to find something else to do:
So everyone please look in their shoe!?

(Anne Frank, "The Diary of a Young Girl," December 6, 1944) 

The last line of the poem refers to the practice in the Netherlands (and beyond) of children leaving shoes outside their bedroom door on the eve of St. Nicholas Day in hopes that the dear fellow would drop in them a few coins or pieces of candy — or, for naughty children, a lump of coal.

The poem radiates young Anne's hope and courage and cheerfulness, virtues that were sorely tested in the extremity of her family's circumstances. Thus, the poem serves as a timeless lesson of perseverance amid great dangers and difficulties. It is indeed a relevant exhortation for all of us on this St. Nicholas Day.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Catching Up

Okay, you are back from your Thanksgiving travels and a bit rested from the holiday's hectic activities. Below are a few excellent articles (and cartoons) that you might have missed in those days. They include news and commentary from the culture wars AND a couple that deal with the ongoing work of Vital Signs Ministries.

* “How Obama blatantly disregards the law” (Paul Sperry, New York Post)

* “Enough with The Ferguson Pandering” (Lloyd Marcus, American Thinker)

* “Media Ignore 224 Teenagers Killed in Chicago Since Michael Brown’s Death” (Warner Todd Houston, Breitbart)

* “A Very Special Christmas Tree Lighting” (Denny Hartford, Vital Signs Ministries)

* "A 'When Swing Was King' Christmas Road Trip"

* “A Milestone Sunday: Saying Goodbye”

* “A Culture of Lies: The changes after Ferguson will likely be for the worse.” (George Neumayr, The American Spectator)

* “Be afraid: This is the real Obama” (Joseph Curl, Washington Times)

* “How to Replace Obamacare: Affordable Care Act opponents must make their goal the enactment of a better plan.” (James C. Capretta, National Review)