Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Obama's Mess in the Middle East

Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, and a former senior director of the National Security Council has written a very lucid, very important article for Mosaic. "Tectonic Shift in Obama's Iran Policy" details how Barack Obama's shameful nuclear deal with Iran is just the beginning of a whole lot of trouble. The president’s goal, at the expense of America’s allies, is full-fledged détente with Iran.

I print a few paragraphs below but, believe me, you'll find the full article very helpful in understanding the mess our president is creating.

Exaggerating the successes of Lausanne may have been a savvy maneuver against the president’s domestic critics, but it weakened his hand against the Iranians by telegraphing his deep personal investment in the negotiations. Failure to get a deal would now be a major embarrassment. Knowledge of this fact gave Khamenei an opening, which he exploited with his defiant speech. Not so fast, the speech signaled to Obama. In order to get the agreement that you’re already celebrating, you must pay—in the form of more concessions to me. 

If past behavior is anything to go by, Obama will give Khamenei what he wants. Indeed, American concessions have propelled the negotiations forward at every stage…

One of Obama’s greatest diplomatic successes is to have persuaded much of the world, including many of his critics, that the primary goal of his Iran diplomacy is to negotiate a nuclear arms-control agreement. In fact, the primary goal is détente with Iran.

In the president’s thinking, détente will restrain Iranian behavior more effectively than any formal agreement. In addition, it will also open the way to greater cooperation with Iran on regional security. Détente will permit the United States to pull back from the Middle East and focus more on its domestic priorities. Finally, it will vindicate Obama’s ethos of “engagement,” which he sees as a superior alternative to the military-driven concepts of American leadership championed by his Republican opponents. In short, détente will secure Obama’s legacy.

By contrast, Khamenei is pursuing highly specific goals. Three stand out above all others. He is seeking, first, to preserve Iran’s entire nuclear infrastructure; second, to repeal the sanctions on the Iranian economy; and third, to abolish the international legal regime that brands Iran a rogue state. In all three areas, Obama has already satisfied his core demands…

The disarray and atomization among the anti-Iranian states in the Middle East means that they (like the American Congress) will likely prove incapable of mounting a decisive opposition to Obama’s détente. But their inability to stop it does not mean they will ever accept it. They will remain dedicated to contesting Obama’s policy, and they will continue to fight back against Iran and its proxies in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq—not to mention new venues that will appear over time.

Détente, therefore, will deliver disequilibrium, the exact opposite of the effect intended. By negotiating an arms-control agreement, the president has shifted the tectonic plates of the Middle East order. And for tectonic plates, it takes a move of just inches to level whole cities.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Traitor Comes Home

“And He entered and was passing through Jericho.” (Luke 19:1) This is the short and unpretentious beginning to one of the most well-known narratives of the New Testament, the story of Jesus’ encounter with the short-statured taxman, Zaccheus. But though this is a familiar account, there’s still much to apply from its teaching and, quite possibly, a few new things to learn too. Let’s take a look.

Tread the rest of the April LifeSharer from Vital Signs Ministries right here.

A Few "Wow" Articles Not To Be Missed

* "Police: Muslims threw Christians overboard during Med voyage" (Associated Press)

* “Faith Takes a Furlough” (Tony Perkins, FRC)

* “Former TSA Agent: Groping Scandal Is Business as Usual” (Jason Edward Harrington, TIME)

* “Girl Scouts Troop Hopes to Attract Transgender Recruits” (Austin Ruse, Breitbart)

* “Chelsea Clinton — $10M Apartment, $3M Wedding, $600K Job: I Just Don't Care About Money” (Leslie Larson, New York Daily News)

* “ESPN suspends reporter after ugly towing-lot rant” (Mark W. Sanchez and Justin Terranova, New York Post) (Warning: the video clip accompanying this story contains the reporter's profane and vile language. And was the lady fired by ESPN as she certainly should have been? No. She was "suspended" for one week!)

* "Obama Says Cuba Doesn’t Sponsor Terrorism. So What Are All These Hijackers and Bomb-Makers Doing There?" (James Kirchik, Daily Beast)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Uneducated and Untrained" Witnesses

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13: NASB)

The local society around Peter and John could not figure out the source of their confidence.  The Greek words give special meaning to what the locals really thought of these two bold men.  First, they were said to be uneducated.  The Greek word is “agrammatos,” which is literally “without grammar.” Peter and John were uneducated fishermen who would, using our terminology, “slaughter the King’s English.”  Second, these men were untrained. This is a word that looks better in English than Greek, for the Greek word is“idiotes.” I think you can figure out what English word grew out of the original Greek!  In essence, the community considered Peter and John to be illiterate idiots! 

But there was one other thing the community saw in Peter and John—they had been with Jesus!  This was a testimony to the belief in the risen Lord.  Everyone knew they had been with Jesus before the crucifixion, but the change in demeanor was proof to the community that they had been with Jesus after the crucifixion, giving tangible proof of His resurrection. Better to have the presence of the risen Lord in your life than the best education this world can offer! 

From “No Replacement” by Dr. Randy White, one of the daily devotional columns you can find at “Word for the World with Dr. Randy White” on

By the way, the above illustration is from the painting “Peter and John Running to the Tomb” by Eugène Burnand (1850 – 1921).

Christian “Witnessing”

Dr. Michael Youssef has these comments about witnessing:

…Many Christians talk about witnessing but most don’t have a truly accurate view of what being a witness means. To better understand the term, just look at what a witness in a court trial does. His duty is simple: to tell the truth about what he experienced. He is not responsible for fully understanding the law or the process; he is only obligated to tell what he saw and heard. Telling others what we experienced when we met Jesus is our duty as witnesses for Christ, and it should be our joy to do so.  How can we keep the gift of salvation quiet and not share it with others?

The Samaritan woman was not a Bible scholar and did not fully understand all that had just happened to her, yet she could not contain her excitement. Her simple testimony was to tell everyone she met, “Come and see.” That sums up our role as witnesses: we are to invite others to come and see what Jesus has to offer them. We are messengers, bearers of the most valuable invitation people will ever receive.

Christians are often relieved to learn they are not responsible for saving souls; that role is divine and not ours. Just as a witness is not responsible for the verdict, we are not held accountable for whether the people we invite to know Jesus ever accept that invitation. A witness only tells his experience and then leaves the outcome up to the judge or jury.  In the same way, we share the Good News and then the Holy Spirit takes over…

“Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef” is a daily devotional available on right here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Repeal the Death Tax...Please!

After a Facebook post earlier today in which I linked to a recent article in the Rapid City Journal in which Senator John Thune advocates a repeal of the death tax, I wrote, "Bob Thune's little brother advocates an idea that's long, long overdue. Why not add a call, e-mail, or handwritten note to YOUR political representatives urging them to co-sponsor and work hard for the passage of the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015. (Thank you Senator Thune. Thank you Senator Fischer. And I'd like to thank you too Senator Sasse but you haven't co-sponsored this important bill yet! Come on, brudda.)

I then e-mailed Senator Sasse using his Senate website. I included the link to Senator Thune's article, the gist of my remarks, and a second appeal.

So, what about it, Senator Sasse? Will you please co-sponsor this legislation? I'd love to add a postscript to Vital Signs Blog and my Facebook page applauding you for doing so.

Thanks for your consideration.

Denny Hartford
Director, Vital Signs Ministries

Ecuador President Trashes America. Our President Applauds the History Lesson.

From Fausta’s Blog comes an illuminating (and sad) report on the Summit of the Americas:

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador managed to tear himself away from Twitter to give a speech condemning the U.S., and portraying Latin America (and especially Ecuador) as a paragon of freedom and human rights. 

Barack Obama was next, and he agreed with Correa!

Obama stated, “I wanna make one last comment, er, addressing er, some of the points that er, president Correa raised that I’m sure will be raised by a few others during this discussion. Er, I always enjoy the history lessons that I receive, er, when I’m here.

Having prefaced that, Obama continued, “I am a student of history so I tend to actually be familiar with many of these episodes that have been mentioned. I am the first one to acknowledge that America’s application to concern around human rights has not always been consistent. And, I’m certainly mindful that there are dark chapters in our own history in which we have not always observed the principles and ideals upon which the country was founded. Just a few weeks ago I was in Selma, Alabama celebrating the 50th anniversary of a march across a bridge that resulted in horrific violence and the reason I was there and the reason it was a celebration is because it was a triumph of human spirit in which ordinary people without resort to violence were able to overcome systematic segregation. There voices were heard and our country changed. America never makes a claim about being perfect, we do make a claim about being open to change.”

Fausta’s Blog then provides links to a few indicators of Ecuador’s “high standing.”
They include:
* Heritage Foundation & Wall Street Journal's Index of Economic Freedom — Ecuador #147
* Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index — Ecuador #119
* Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index — Ecuador #146
* Institute for Economics and Peace/Economist Intelligence Unit: Global Peace Index — Ecuador #109

How’s that for history lessons?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

“Very Strong is a Working Supplication of a Righteous Man”

In the mysterious but wonderful union of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, there is prayer.  Can prayer actually change the course of events then? Of course. Both the Holy Scriptures and personal experience say yes. And does it change the mind and heart of the intercessor? Yes again. Indeed, that is one of its primary and most important purposes. And does prayer please God? Does He enjoy hearing the worship, the meditation, and the appeals that come from His beloved children? Most definitely. So pray, my fellow saints. Pray without ceasing. Pray in humility, gratitude, and faith. And pray with a keen eye to the promises of Your heavenly Father.  

“Very strong is a working supplication of a righteous man,” James 5:16. (From Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Greek text, published in 1862)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Truth: Remember It, Tell It, Live It

The injustice and cruelty of the Soviet Union’s vast organization of labor camps in the 1930’s and 1940’s are now well known. But that knowledge didn’t have to surface. Indeed, without the grace of God acting through such heroic individuals as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the truth might well have remained buried by Communist cover-ups.

Solzhenitsyn's was the foremost voice raised against the grandiose and oppressive Soviet machine. Through rare courage and sacrificial efforts, he managed to alert the whole world to what was happening to countless numbers of innocent human beings.

Solzhenitsyn’s most famous (though not often read) book is the riveting 3-volume Gulag Archipelago. In that incredible work, the former slave camp worker documents the massive catalog of outrageous lies, violence, and criminal corruption perpetrated by Soviet Communism. In the Gulag (and even in his fiction), Solzhenitsyn serves as an historian. It is enough, he insists, to simply record what happened, to give the truth an open hearing. He had a bold faith that when people learned the real story of Soviet tyranny, they would resolve to never again allow the devil an open door to such blasphemy and brutality.

It is in this sense that Alexander Solzhenitsyn is hailed as a prophet – not as a foreteller, but as a “forth teller.” He held up the banner of truth. Simply by performing that service, he helped change the world.

Solzhenitsyn’s play The Love-Girl and the Innocent, set in a forced labor camp in Siberia in 1945, features one of the persecuted men listing just a few of the monstrous crimes performed by Soviet thugs that he has witnessed. The prisoner is beside himself with fury, feeling utterly helpless to do anything about this all-enveloping injustice. But in response, Pavel Gai, an imprisoned ex-soldier who has experienced more than his own share of horrors, answers him with chilling authority. “What can we do? Remember – that’s all.”

And that's what Alexander Solzhenitsyn did.  He remembered.  In fact, it was his constant plea to God to help him remember specific events, people, and situations so that he could record the true history of the Soviet Union's crimes against humanity and God. Solzhenitsyn desired more than anything else to be a faithful historian in order to effectively honor the victims but, more importantly, so that the preserved truth could set the future free.

Ronald Reagan was one of those who was inspired by those revelations and he acted on the knowledge that Solzhenitsyn had so bravely preserved. The Wall fell. The camps are now empty. Truth, just a simple presentation of the truth, can indeed destroy the darkness.

And now in our day, with the dark lies of totalitarianism, terrorism, appeasement, and false religion all pressing again to drown the truth, Alexander Solzhenitsyn's example and exhortations are as valuable as ever.

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Constantly Changing "When Swing Was King"

One of the things that most astounds and delights our “When Swing Was King”
audiences is that we have created 23 different programs!

And each volume has 12 original hit songs. Each volume has over 200 photographs projected on the screen by a Power Point program. And each volume has its own commentary to accompany it.  This means that we need not repeat any our monthly program for two whole years.

The full truth, however, is even more exciting because we actually never repeat a program!

No kidding. I’m always doing something to update, improve, and make more relevant each program in our repertoire.  A good example is Volume 4.4 which we will be playing to our regular schedule of 11 nursing homes and other senior centers throughout the month of April.  Last night I completed my revisions: three different songs, dozens of new photographs, and a wholesomely revamped narrative.

I base the changes on what we learn from our audiences.  We carefully note, for instance, their reactions to the songs and pictures and stories. We also welcome specific requests.  And, since “younger” seniors continually enter our audience, we regularly add in songs from later years.  Our forte remains the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s, but we are also seasoning our catalog with songs from mainstream crooners from later years: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, The McGuire Sisters, Patti Page, The Mills Brothers, The Ames Brothers, Rosemary Clooney, and so on.

Here’s this month's song list which we will start presenting on Thursday.

1) Glenn Miller Orchestra (Main vocals by Tex Beneke)
“Chattanooga Choo Choo”
(Photo theme: trains and train stations from back in the day)

2) Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (Vocals by Bob Eberly & Helen O’Connell)
“Green Eyes”

3) Artie Shaw Orchestra
“Begin the Beguine”

4) Benny Goodman Orchestra (Vocals by Martha Tilton)
“The Lady’s in Love With You”

5) Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Vocals by Frank Sinatra)
“Fools Rush In”

 6) Lawrence Welk Orchestra
“Alley Cat”
(Photo theme: cats)

7) The McGuire Sisters
(Photo theme: Scenes from the year 1955)

8) The Mills Brothers
“Lazy River”
(Photo theme: rivers, riverside activity)

9) The Andrews Sisters
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”
Photo theme (World War II)

10) Glen Gray & The Casa Loma Orchestra
“Blue Again”

11) Vaughn Monroe Orchestra
“There I Said It Again”

12) Sammy Kaye Orchestra

Of course, just reading through a song list is hardly an effective way to experience the fun, interest, and relational value of “When Swing Was King.” So why not check our schedule and choose a presentation that you could attend and help us visit the residents?

We’d love to have you.  But they would love it even more!

Top Ten Hints for a Successful Marriage

Top Ten Hints for a Successful Marriage

Here are ten practical exhortations to keep your marriage sharp, happy, and as effective a ministry as it can be.

10) Take Nothing for Granted.

Routine can be comfortable but it can also wreck spontaneity, passion, gratitude, and fun.  So be careful.  Cultivate a spirit of appreciation for one another. Understand that true love isn’t mere sentiment.  It is action and thus requires time, effort and dedication.  My friends in Belarus have a saying that fits here: “A wife isn’t a guitar.  You can’t play with her awhile and then hang her on the wall!”

9) Build Up Your Marriage Partner.

Discover the compliments that are especially meaningful to your spouse and use them often.  Expressions of gratitude, affection and praise should be business as usual between the two of you...including in public. Billy Sunday, the major league infielder turned evangelist once advised husbands, “Try praising your wife...even if it does frighten her at first!” Convince one another that you are their best friend and their biggest fan.  Don’t worry about their ego getting too big -- life will take care of that.  For your part, you can’t be too much of a cheerleader for your spouse.

8) Hang Out with Godly People.

The company you keep is a far more important factor in a successful marriage than most people realize.  Don’t underestimate it. Develop friendships as a couple with people who take seriously the things of God.  Such friendships will be of immeasurable help in providing accountability, inspiration, assistance, and, as the Scriptures put it, the “stimulation to love and good deeds.”

7) Keep the TV in its Proper Place.

Don’t be fooled.  People do become what they watch and listen to.  And modern television presents an awful lot that is contrary to the spiritual values you’ll need to keep your conscience clean, your adventure with Christ active, and your romance pure and strong.  Furthermore, don’t let the TV steal time that could be better spent in other ways.  TV can sometimes be an innocent friend, but it can more often be a powerful distraction - even a tyrant.  So beware the power of the tube. (This warning, of course, applies to the computer too.)

6) Never Criticize Your Spouse in Public.

And I do mean, never!  Anger, mockery, sarcasm, embarrassment -- these shouldn’t be part of your relationship, period. But when these things occur in front of an audience, it can create loads of hurt, a lot of resentment, and it can severely damage the trust, respect, and intimacy that every strong marriage needs.

5) Pray.

Become comfortable in praying together...not just in crises or during church services or with the kids at bedtime.  Rather, pray together throughout the week as an expression of your union as a couple with God.  And pray with a willingness to take the actions God directs you to.  Also, developing a pattern of praying together will be a tremendous help to the next item in the list.

4) Fight Fair.

Conflicts and confrontations are going occur.  That’s natural and it’s no big deal if you observe some basic rules - rules that are simply applications of the vows you took on your wedding day.  Examples? No rage, no threats, no leaving the house, no name-calling, no whining, no comparison to others, no unfair exaggerations (as in “You always” or “You have never, ever”), no dredging up the past, no bringing in your spouse’s family, and so on. The purpose of the argument should always be kept in view and that is seeking a unified, mature, spiritually sound solution to the problem – not creating wounds, getting your way, or getting even.

3) Serve God as a Team.

You don’t need to always be involved in the same things or be under each other’s feet, but you should always have a lot going on between you, including activities that require teamwork.  Foremost in this area for most couples will be parenting. If and when that ministry comes along, both of you must embrace it.  But there are also household chores, the budget, social interaction, Christian ministry, avocations, and so on. Make sure you are in fellowship and growing together, not apart.

2) Forgive.

Forgive frequently and genuinely.  Forgive before being asked to.  Forgive not only for love’s sake and for your own peace of mind, but forgive over and over because Jesus Christ, as evidenced by the ongoing effects of the Cross, forgives you over and over.  One of the most important ways to express your appreciation of the life Jesus gave to pay the penalty of your sins is to lean completely into His grace. You can thereby forgive others, especially the one He has blessed you with as a life partner.

1) Keep Falling In Love.

You mustn’t be content with your album of wedding photos.  Make your marriage an existential, active, even a celebratory relationship.  And that comes not only from spending time together but from your personal spiritual growth. Robert Browning, one of Western civilization’s most romantic poets, nevertheless took a practical view of what’s most essential in marriage. “Success in marriage,” he wrote, “is more than finding the right person, it is being the right person.”  Dedicate yourselves to developing your relationship with Christ as individuals and you will improve your relationship at the same time.

What's Going On?

Here's a few articles from the past few days you might have missed:

* “Special Editorial: Kill the Deal” (William Kristol, Weekly Standard)

* “Interview With a Christian” (Russ Douthat, New York Times)

* “Munich, Anyone? Obama’s Iran Agreement in Translation” (Roger L. Simon, PJ Media)

* “Religious conservatives are the targets of discrimination, lawyer says” (John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times)

* “Why Obama Snubs Europe: European leaders never thought they'd miss George W. Bush.” (David J. Karl, National Interest)

* “Smash the ‘Bamboo Ceiling’ of Racial Quotas” (John Fund, NRO)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Yet More Breakthroughs Using Adult Stem Cells

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have successfully created 'mini-lungs' using stem cells derived from skin cells of patients with cystic fibrosis, and have shown that these can be used to test potential new drugs for this debilitating lung disease. 

The research is one of a number of studies that have used stem cells -- the body's master cells -- to grow 'organoids', 3D clusters of cells that mimic the behaviour and function of specific organs within the body. Other recent examples have been 'mini-brains' to study Alzheimer's disease and 'mini-livers' to model liver disease. Scientists use the technique to model how diseases occur and to screen for potential drugs; they are an alternative to the use of animals in research.

(Of course, this technique of using adult stem cells is also an alternative to the dead end exploitation of embryonic stem cells.)

Read more about this development in this Science Daily report, "Scientists grow 'mini-lungs' to aid study of cystic fibrosis."

And that's not all.

Just two days earlier, Science Daily published this remarkable story, “A Single-Cell Breakthrough: newly developed technology dissects properties of single stem cells.”

Researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have figured out a way to isolate and grow thousands elusive intestinal stem cells at one time, a high throughput technological advance that could give scientists the ability to study stem cell biology gastrointestinal disorders like never before.

[It's] a way to isolate and grow thousands elusive intestinal stem cells at one time, a high throughput technological advance that could give scientists the ability to study stem cell biology gastrointestinal disorders like never before.

The human gut is a remarkable thing. Every week the intestines regenerate a new lining, sloughing off the equivalent surface area of a studio apartment and refurbishing it with new cells. For decades, researchers have known that the party responsible for this extreme makeover were intestinal stem cells, but it wasn't until this year that Scott Magness, PhD, associate professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology, and biomedical engineering, figured out a way to isolate and grow thousands of these elusive cells in the laboratory at one time. This high throughput technological advance now promises to give scientists the ability to study stem cell biology and explore the origins of inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal cancers, and other gastrointestinal disorders...

Here is the rest of that article.

Planned Parenthood's Tax Grab? It's Actually Worse Than We Thought.

Planned Parenthood has denied that its use of tax dollars – which average a whopping half-billion dollars a year – are used for abortion or for promoting abortion. But a review by the Government Accountability Office found widespread taxpayer funding for abortion advocacy organizations – six of them.

Jim Sedlak of American Life League suggests there's a smoking gun in the report. ‘The GAO reported that 75 percent of the money that goes to Planned Parenthood is not from Title 10, or Title 5 or Title 20, or any of the other programs that we usually talk about.’

Instead, 75 percent of the money is in Medicaid reimbursements...

Seventeen states use Medicaid to pay for abortions for any reason, which equates to taxpayers paying to abort the poor's unborn children.

Read more here.

And then write your Congressman and Senators.