Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Planned Parenthood Videos: A Quick Summation

On July 14, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of videos about the Planned Parenthood abortion clinics. Reporting for the video project was done undercover and took place over the course of several years. The videos feature executives and staffers at Planned Parenthood and affiliated businesses discussing and demonstrating human organ harvesting and the fetal body part trade. Some of the discussions and footage taken inside abortion clinics is quite graphic.

The journalism project immediately went viral, with millions of people watching the videos. But the media have largely struggled to even mention the videos and what they show. When presidential candidate Carly Fiorina mentioned the videos during the 2nd GOP presidential debate, the media claimed to have no idea what she was talking about. The weak media coverage has left many Americans in the dark about the content of the videos. And sloppy reporting has led to misinformation about the videos.

Here’s a quick and easy guide to the 10 videos that have been released thus far and what they show.

1) Planned Parenthood Uses Partial-Birth Abortions to Sell Baby Parts...
2) Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods...
3) Human Capital – Episode 1: Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts...
4) Planned Parenthood VP Says Fetuses May Come Out Intact, Agrees Payments Specific to the Specimen...
5) Intact Fetuses “Just a Matter of Line Items” for Planned Parenthood TX Mega-Center...
6) Human Capital – Episode 2: Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site...
7) Human Capital – Episode 3: Planned Parenthood’s Custom Abortions for Superior Product...
8) Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Buyer StemExpress Wants “Another 50 Livers/Week”...
9) Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Vendor ABR Pays Off Clinics, Intact Fetuses “Just Fell Out”...
10) Top Planned Parenthood Exec: Baby Parts Sales “A Valid Exchange,” Can Make “A Fair Amount of Income”...

Read the entire text and see the relevant video evidence of Mollie Hemingway’s article, “A Quick And Easy Guide To The Planned Parenthood Videos” published by the Federalist right here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Moving Through Heaven (Section One, That Is)

(Last week I invited 21 of my friends from across the country to join me (and each other) in more purposeful dialogue, accountability, and intellectual stimulation.  Several of them have taken me up on the offer, including our first project.  That project is reading (or re-reading) Randy Alcorn’s monumental book, Heaven.  We’re taking it one section a week (25-40 pages or so) with a view to finishing the book by Christmas.  As part of the conversation, I’m occasionally posting observations and prayer items here on the blog like the one I print below.  Those friends involved in the partnership can respond to my notes and/or write up their own via email, phone, and posts on their own blog or a Facebook page. Maybe you’d like to join us?)

Okay, guys. Out of the 21 that I invited to be a part of this project, almost half have accepted. That’s terrific. May God use our reading of Heaven to encourage us, improve our serve, and increase our present joy as we live more heavenly-minded.

A few observations on re-reading the first section (Chapters 1-4) of Heaven by Randy Alcorn:

* John 14:3 emphasizes that being heavenly-minded is a crucial antidote to fear. Therefore, thinking of heaven as God’s secure gift to us steels our heart against such fearsome things as poverty, persecution, the rigors of illness and age, alienation, crushing disappointment, undeserved slander, etc.  Thinking of (and yearning for) heaven puts everything in correct perspective.  I find this of tremendous comfort and help.

* “God never gives up on His original plan for human beings to dwell on earth.”

* Alcorn’s review of how little attention theologians have paid to the Bible’s teaching is really something.  Our spiritual forefathers have given us much treasure…but they really messed us up with this critical oversight.

* The ignorance and apathy that so many Christians display towards heaven are among Satan’s most dastardly accomplishments.

* Heaven is not beyond our imagination!  That’s a wonderful truth, one that will steady us in hard times as we think, pray, praise, and witness.  Writes Alcorn in Chapter 2, “Rather than ignore our imagination, I believe we should fuel it with Scripture, allowing it to step through the doors that Scripture opens.”

* From page 20.  “Set your hearts” in Colossians 3:1 is zeteo and it’s in the present tense.  “It is a diligent, action, single-minded investigation.”

* Fidelity to God’s Word requires an acceptance of the awful reality of Hell.

* D.L. Moody’s quotes at the beginning of Chapter 4 are priceless.  So too are other quotes that Alcorn cites in the introduction and section one – quotes by Lewis, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, McGrath, Eliot, etc.

* Guys, this week the prayer I’ve been lifting up to the Lord on my behalf and yours was simply that we would all be heavenly-minded warriors for our King, that earthly priorities and attitudes in our lives would be influenced more and more by heaven’s sharp reality.

For this next week, my prayer is a) that heaven will become an ever-escalating delight and comfort in our present circumstances, b) that God gives us opportunities to share with others what we’re learning about Heaven, and c) that we will wisely invest our time and talents in heavenly pursuits.

A Conversation About Government Schools

The first paragraph below is the transcript from one of my 60-second radio commentaries that airs each weekday at 7:59 AM on KLCV out of Lincoln and Omaha.  It deals with present crises that plague the government schools. The commentary, however, was not appreciated by at least one fellow who works for the system. I thought it constructive to post below the correspondence that emerged, both to clarify some of the priority issues involved and to serve as an example that dialogue even among dissenting parties can be enlightening and constructive for all concerned.

The radio commentary: A record 1.7 million graduating seniors took the SAT tests last year.  But their scores were absolutely abysmal. The math scores, for instance, were the worst in more than four decades.  And that’s with 3.2 trillion dollars tossed in the system by local, state, and federal money.  Let’s face it…public schooling has become a genuine disaster. 

Consider what the government schools are producing.  Historical revisionism. Extremes of liberalism’s political correctness.  Sex “education” provided by the likes of Planned Parenthood.  Bullying and the worst peer pressure one will ever experience.  A trashing of Western civilization’s ideals.  And, on top of all of this, a spiraling cascade of academic failure which makes kids dumber by the day.  Oh, my. The government schools – your tax dollars at work. 

The following email note came later in the day from a fellow I’ll refer to as John Doe — “I heard your statements about public schools this morning on Bott Radio while I was driving to work.  I am a Christian, and I work as a special education teacher in a public school.  I found your statements, and the article I found on your website to be very discouraging.  When I shared your statements with my Christian co-workers they were also discouraged.  I know that there are flaws in the public school system, but blanket statements such as the ones you have been making are harmful and hurtful.

Many of the teachers and administrators that I work with are Jesus loving Christians.  For many of the students at my school, Christian teachers are the only exposures to the love of Christ that these children will have.  I see so many teachers loving the unlovable, and giving of themselves in many ways.  I personally have had, and taken several opportunities, to speak openly to my students about my relationship with Christ, and to encourage them in their walk with Christ.  Christ spent his time with sinners ministering to them.  Your call for a mass exodus of Christians from public schools, and statements like 'Better get your children out now before it's too late,' are the opposite of what we need.  We are called to be the salt and the light of the world.  You are right, we could pull all of our Christian students out of public schools and send them to private Christian Schools, but Christ said in Matthew 5:15 'Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.'  Christians need be in society sharing Christ and His love, not withdrawing from it.  Just as you ask people to pray for your ministry, please ask people to be praying for the Christians in public school.  Please work to build up your brothers and sisters in Christ who see the public school system as a mission field.”

In Christ, John Doe

I then responded.

Dear John Doe, thanks for your note. And while I appreciate some of your points (especially the role that Christian teachers and staff can have in the government schools which, by the way, I never opposed in today's commentary), I found some things perplexing. For instance, the things I mentioned you really consider them mere "flaws"? And "blanket statements" that I made? My basic point was that those things which I listed are personally and culturally harmful and yet they are are being paid for by taxpayers. Would you not appreciate more citizens being involved in making education less expensive, more efficient, more responsive to parental involvement, more socially constructive? I sure hope so.

Perhaps the 'blanket statements' that you found so bothersome came from a Cal Thomas article I posted on my blog quite awhile ago. I'm not sure. If so, go ahead and criticize me for posting his column, but please don't attribute a Thomas quote to me. 

And I'm still scratching my head over your complaints about my comments in this morning's radio spot.

Regarding my opinion of encouraging Christian teachers in the public schools, perhaps you'd like to read this one-act drama which I wrote many years ago and which is still on our website. I hope it will give you a fuller understanding of my position.  Also, it may help you to know that my wife taught in a public high school for 10 years. So I know where you're coming from...except for the feeling that any criticism of government schooling is somehow out of line.

So, John Doe, please remember that when you pass things along to others (in this case, the things that your colleagues found ‘harmful and hurtful’), make sure you're quoting the right person and the right statements. That's only fair.

Again, thanks for your note. And thanks for your dedication to be salt and light in your profession.


John Doe responded,  “Denny, Thank you for responding to my email.  I wholeheartedly agree that there are issues that need to be fixed with our government schools, and our society as a whole. I also apologize for attributing the Cal Thomas quote to you.  When I discussed the segment this morning with my colleges I did not mention the Cal Thomas quote to them, and out of respect for you and your ministry I did not share your name or the name of you ministry with them.  (It looks like you do some very good things to help build the kingdom.)

Perhaps the part that I felt most hurtful in the segment was around the 45 second mark ‘a spiraling cascade of academic failure which makes kids dumber by the day’  My request, or suggestion is simply instead of making comments such as these; that you would invite people to pray for our schools and our teachers, or to get involved as a community to make a change for Christ in our schools.

Thank you, John Doe

Here’s my followup note.

I think we're moving a bit closer, John Doe. Thanks for your honest responses.

I'm afraid, however, I must let my comment about the academic failure ('dumber by the day') stand. After all, the radio spot this morning was prompted by the latest SAT scores which show truly disheartening results. When combined with such other indicators as reading and math levels, grade inflation, academic comparisons with previous generations, the ever-increasing need for remedial classes at universities, and failing levels in other standardized tests, the sad result is that kids are, well...dumber by the day.

Now, John Doe, I don't lay all of this on the government schools. Indeed, anyone familiar with my ministry will know I am profoundly concerned with cultural devolution on all fronts: sanctity of life, marriage, religious freedom, family breakdown, government intrusion, the growing sense of self-sovereignty and entitlement in the West, postmodernism, and so on. Nevertheless, whatever forces are involved, the problem of poorer and poorer academic performance IS undeniable.

So why should that statement hurt you? Being disappointed and frustrated by the statement? Sure, I can see that. I experienced plenty of that when I had to fail students in American History 101 when I was a graduate teaching assistant at UNO. But hurt as in offended? No. The question is -- are you doing your best with what you're given? Then, great. Keep praying and plugging along. Do what you can do. That's all any of us can do in trying to be lights in this wild, wicked, and wacky world.

So, John Doe, your request that I not make such a ‘hurtful’ statement but instead pray for teachers and staff (which I encourage with others as well as personally perform) and urge community involvement (like See You at the Pole and churches engaging in adopt-a-school programs which, again, I've wholeheartedly supported), misses the point. That is, one doesn't negate the other. One can make an honest assessment (and description) of the crisis AND yet support Christian adults who pursue education careers AND yet urge positive reform actions regarding the public schools AND yet urge families to consider private school options. Speaking or acting on one front doesn't mean denying the validity of the others.

Does this help? Not in the sense that you must agree with me. Of course not. I'm merely trying to put in proper context both my statements this morning and yours in these email notes. Knocking it around as we have might help us to better understand those with other perspectives and then to better communicate our priority positions. So, again, thank you for your willingness to correspond about these things. I appreciate it.

Maybe someday we can have a cup of coffee and explore these matters a bit more.


I haven’t heard back from John Doe since then.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Profitable Game…for Couples

The matching game we have used with couples over many years has been a grand success. It has generated profitable discussion among couples and their friends. It has served to develop better understanding and appreciation. And it has been a lot of fun.

Why don’t you consider utilizing the questions we have created to use for an evening party, conversation starters with friends, or even as an exercise with you and your spouse. Here is a sample set of questions. For more, just contact us.

Couples’ Game 2015 (A sample)

Questions for wives
1. Who was the more romantic during your courtship?
2. If you received $100 that was an unexpected gift, what would you use it for?
3. What was your husband’s favorite subject in high school?

4. If your husband had the choice of any occupation which would he choose?
5. What was the single most important factor which initially attracted you to your husband?
6. What is the complement which your husband most appreciates?

7. If your husband was suddenly announced as his party’s choice for the Presidency of the U.S., who would he choose for his running mate?
8. What was your favorite musical group in high school?
9. When your husband was a little boy (i.e. elementary school age), what was his answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Questions for Husbands

1.  When your wife is dressing for an evening out, which does she put on first – her dress or her makeup?
2. Who had the strictest upbringing?
3. What will your wife say was your most impressive accomplishment before you were married?

4. If your wife won a two-week, all-expense paid trip to any city in the world, where would she want to go?
5. What is your mother-in-law’s maiden name?
6. You have just climbed into bed at the same time as your wife when you both realized the kitchen light is still on.  Who gets up to turn it off?

7. Assuming an objective panel of observers could be found to examine both your and your wife’s driving habits, who would they select as the best driver?
8. Rabbits!  Would you rather A) hunt them?  B) study them?  C) ignore them?
9. You’ve invited someone special home for dinner.  What is your wife most likely to serve for the main dish?

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm In Heaven...Again

Last night I sent out a letter to 21 of my closest friends, including several who no longer live in the area but with whom I want very much to stay connected. I thought I would post a version of that note here on the blog in hopes that it would stimulate you to do something similar with your friends...or perhaps to even join in this project with us. Here's the note:

Hey, guys,

I’m going to be spending some time in Heaven this autumn – Randy Alcorn’s incomparable book, that is.  I’ve read it a few times before and even taught a couple of classes on it but I figured it was time to go back and refresh my heavenly-mindedness with one of the most delightful, exciting, and influential books I’ve ever read.

Any of you interested in joining me?

I’m going to read, ponder, and use in my intercession one section of the book every week.  Each section is usually 20-30 pages long so that should take me just about to the new year.  But the reason I’m letting a few of my friends in on the project is because I’d love to have you participate.  Maybe you’re too busy with other tasks, other books.  That’s cool.  But  if you’d like to take the challenge, I’d encourage you to not only start reading Heaven but perhaps join in the conversation.  For the three of you who I meet weekly or the others here in the Omaha area I see often, that’s easy enough.  But  those of you far away could use email, phone calls, or the comment section in Facebook when I repost an item about Heaven from Vital Signs Blog that I’ll put there.

I’m making this invitation because I’ve decided not to wait till heaven to develop further some of the best friendships I’ve had in my life with some of the most terrific Christian men.  So…anybody in? 

P.S.  In my prayers for each of you these next couple of weeks, I’m going to use a C.S. Lewis quotation from Mere Christianity that Alcorn cites in Chapter 2 of Heaven:  “If you read history, you will find that Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next…Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.”


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Each Person's Inherent Worth

Tom Sharman, a good friend and the owner of Tesco Studios where a lot of great music has been produced over the years -- and many years of Vital Signs radio programs too -- wrote an excellent piece and submitted it the Omaha World Herald's Public Pulse. They haven't printed it yet and so I asked Tom if I could. Here it is:

"Last Thursday the Omaha World Herald ran three articles spanning the first several pages, all of which dealt with life and death - Nebraska's signature collection concerning the death penalty, the funeral of Ty and Terri Schenzel, and the sentencing of James Holmes.  In the case of Ty and Terri we saw the outpouring of love, sorrow, gratitude and praise for lives well lived in service for others.  By contrast James received a resounding rebuke from the Colorado judge and then jeers and railing from some in the courtroom audience.

The appreciation for the former and condemnation both from the judge and jury of the latter were earned and rightfully given.  But if we had the opportunity to ask the Schenzels if they were inherently better or more valuable people than Mr. Holmes, what would their response would be?  Although our natural thinking would be 'of course, the Schenezels are without doubt the worthy ones', I don't believe that would be their answer.

The reason is that Ty and Terri knew where the true basis of worth comes from - not from what we do (as wonderful or awful as that may be) or by any other standard we exalt, but rather from seeing ourselves and others just as God sees us - each a person created in His image.  This perspective does not all minimize the countless persons touched by the Hope Center or by the actions of James and those involved with the death penalty outcome.  And yes, we can easily see that this image is more outwardly tarnished in some cases than in others, but none of us will ever represent it as designed.  No, if Ty and Terri would have met James face to face, they would have valued and treated him like everyone else would attest who knew them."