Wednesday, August 05, 2020

About the Supreme Court’s Latest Decision Against Religious Freedom

Yes, Virginia; that case of Calvary Chapel of Dayton Valley vs the State of Nevada is a VERY big deal.

And to help you come up to speed on the matter, I offer 2 things here. The first is an introduction and link to a Tom Gilson article over at The Stream. And 2) excerpts from the dissents of the injustice, hypocrisy, and remarkable audacity of that Supreme Court decision made by Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.

Tom Gilson, in an article written for The Stream (an article I post a link to at the end of the quotation), observed, “The Supreme Court could not have said it more clearly than they did last weekend in their Nevada decision: Religious freedom is no longer protected in the United States. Not even the freedom of religious assembly. It was perhaps the last shred of uncontested freedom Christianity has enjoyed here, but now it’s up for grabs.”

https://stream.org/pray-for-persecuted-church-nevada/

However, what is certainly as important is to read the excerpts of the dissents in that horrific Supreme Court decision last week from Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. (Justice Thomas joined the dissent but did not write a separate opinion.)

I post a few of the comments from those dissents immediately below:

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
No. 19A1070
CALVARY CHAPEL DAYTON VALLEY
v. STEVE SISOLAK, GOVERNOR OF NEVADA, ET AL.
ON APPLICATION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
[July 24, 2020]

The application for injunctive relief presented to JUSTICE KAGAN and by her referred to the Court is denied.

JUSTICE ALITO, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS and JUSTICE KAVANAUGH join, dissenting from denial of application for injunctive relief.

The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities. Claiming virtually unbounded power to restrict constitutional rights during the COVID–19 pandemic, he has issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. A church, synagogue, or mosque, regardless of its size, may not admit more than 50 persons, but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy -- and in the case of gigantic Las Vegas casinos, this means that thousands of patrons are allowed. That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing. We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility...

For months now, States and their subdivisions have responded to the pandemic by imposing unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty, including the free exercise of religion. This initial response was understandable...But a public health emergency does not give Governors and other public officials carte blanche to disregard the Constitution for as long as the medical problem persists...

For Las Vegas casinos, 50% capacity often means thousands of patrons, and the activities that occur in casinos frequently involve far less physical distancing and other safety measures than the worship services that Calvary Chapel proposes to conduct. Patrons at a craps or blackjack table do not customarily stay six feet apart. Casinos are permitted to serve alcohol, which is well known to induce risk taking, and drinking generally requires at least the temporary removal of masks. Casinos attract patrons from all over the country. In anticipation of reopening, one casino owner gave away 2,000 one-way airline tickets to Las Vegas. And when the Governor announced that casinos would be permitted to reopen, he invited visitors to come to the State. The average visitor to Las Vegas visits more than six different casinos, potentially gathering with far more than 50 persons in each one. Visitors to Las Vegas who gamble do so for more than two hours per day on average and gamblers in a casino often move from one spot to another, trying their luck at different games or at least at different slot machines. Houses of worship can -- and have -- adopted rules that provide far more protection...

The idea that allowing Calvary Chapel to admit 90 worshippers presents a greater public health risk than allowing casinos to operate at 50% capacity is hard to swallow, and the State’s efforts to justify the discrimination are feeble...

Moreover, even if the State’s special regulatory power over casinos could justify different rules for those facilities, the State would still have no explanation why facilities like bowling alleys, arcades, and fitness centers are also given the benefit of the 50% rule. And while the State suggests that it strictly enforces the rules applicable to casinos, photos and videos taken in casinos after they were allowed to reopen show widespread and blatant safety violations...

In sum, the directive blatantly discriminates against houses of worship and thus warrants strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause.

The directive fares no better under the Free Speech Clause...

Compare the directive’s treatment of casino entertainment and church services. Both involve expression, but the directive favors the secular expression in casino shows over the religious expression in houses of worship. Calvary Chapel has also brought to our attention evidence that the Governor has favored certain speakers over others. When large numbers of protesters openly violated provisions of the Directive, such as the rule against groups of more than 50 people, the Governor not only declined to enforce the directive but publicly supported and participated in a protest. He even shared a video of protesters standing shoulder to shoulder. The State’s response to news that churches might violate the directive was quite different. The attorney general of Nevada is reported to have said, “‘You can’t spit . . . in the face of law and not expect law to respond.’” Public protests, of course, are themselves protected by the First Amendment, and any efforts to restrict them would be subject to judicial review. But respecting some First Amendment rights is not a shield for violating others. The State defends the Governor on the ground that the protests expressed a viewpoint on important issues, and that is undoubtedly true, but favoring one viewpoint over others is anathema to the First Amendment...


JUSTICE GORSUCH, dissenting from denial of application for injunctive relief.

This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10- screen “multiplex” may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers -- no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all. In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesar’s Palace over Calvary Chapel.


JUSTICE KAVANAUGH, dissenting from denial of application for injunctive relief.

I join JUSTICE ALITO’s dissent in full and respectfully add these further comments...

The risk of COVID–19 transmission is at least as high at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms as it is at religious services. Indeed, people congregating in restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms often linger at least as long as they do at religious services. And given the safety measures that Calvary Chapel and other places of worship are following -- including social distancing, mask wearing, and certain additional voluntary measures -- it is evident that people interact with others at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms at least as closely as they do at religious services. In my view, Nevada’s discrimination against religious services violates the Constitution.

To be clear, a State’s closing or reopening plan may subject religious organizations to the same limits as secular organizations. And in light of the devastating COVID–19 pandemic, those limits may be very strict. But a State may not impose strict limits on places of worship and looser limits on restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms, at least without sufficient justification for the differential treatment of religion. As I will explain, Nevada has thus far failed to provide a sufficient justification, and its current reopening plan therefore violates the First Amendment..

Fourth are laws -- like Nevada’s in this case—that supply no criteria for government benefits or action, but rather divvy up organizations into a favored or exempt category and a disfavored or non-exempt category. Those laws provide benefits only to organizations in the favored or exempt category and not to organizations in the disfavored or nonexempt category...

To be clear, the Court’s precedents do not require that religious organizations be treated more favorably than all secular organizations. Rather, the First Amendment requires that religious organizations be treated equally to the favored or exempt secular organizations, unless the State can sufficiently justify the differentiation...

I turn then to analyzing Nevada’s rules under the Court’s precedents. As JUSTICE ALITO explains in his dissent, Nevada has now had more than four months to respond to the initial COVID–19 crisis and adjust its line-drawing as circumstances change. Yet Nevada is still discriminating against religion. Nevada applies a strict 50-person attendance cap to religious worship services, but applies a looser 50% occupancy cap to secular organizations like restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms. Nevada has gestured at two possible justifications for that discrimination: public health and the economy. But
neither argument is persuasive on this record..

The State has not explained why a 50% occupancy cap is good enough for secular businesses where people congregate in large groups or remain in close proximity for extended periods—such as at restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms -- but is not good enough for places of worship. Again, it does not suffice to point out that some secular businesses, such as movie theaters, are subject to the lesser of a 50-person or 50% occupancy cap. The legal question is not whether religious worship services are all alone in a disfavored category, but why they are in the disfavored category to begin with. And Nevada has not advanced a sufficient public health rationale for that decision. To reiterate, the State has substantial room to draw lines, especially in an emergency or crisis. But Nevada has not demonstrated that public health justifies taking a looser approach with restaurants, bars, casinos, and gyms and a stricter approach with places of worship...

More broadly, the State insists that it is in the midst of an emergency and that it should receive deference from the courts and not be bogged down in litigation. If the courts simply enforce the constitutional prohibition against religious discrimination, however, the floodgates will not open...

But COVID–19 is not a blank check for a State to discriminate against religious people, religious organizations, and religious services. There are certain constitutional red lines that a State may not cross even in a crisis. Those red lines include racial discrimination, religious discrimination, and content-based suppression of speech. This Court’s history is littered with unfortunate examples of overly broad judicial deference to the government when the government has invoked emergency powers and asserted crisis circumstances to override equal-treatment and free-speech principles. The court of history has rejected those jurisprudential mistakes and cautions us against an unduly deferential judicial approach, especially when questions of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, or free speech are at stake...

The Constitution “protects religious observers against unequal treatment.”…Nevada’s 50-person attendance cap on religious worship services puts praying at churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques on worse footing than eating at restaurants, drinking at bars, gambling at casinos, or biking at gyms. In other words, Nevada is discriminating against religion. And because the State has not offered a sufficient justification for doing so, that discrimination violates the First Amendment.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Postcards from Paradise

This morning at 6 o’clock I arrived (as I do several mornings a week) at the Paradise Cafe in Regency for my morning coffee. The atmosphere is nice and very quiet; the coffee is delicious; and, since I bring my own travel mug, it only costs me one dollar. That’s right – a buck. You can’t beat that deal anywhere in town.

My business here varies. Sometimes it’s my personal Bible study or sermon preparation. Sometimes it’s planning for Vital Signs Ministries activities. Sometimes it’s writing articles for our blog or other social media platforms. And, every Thursday morning, it’s conversation with two of my closest friends.

But very often on these Paradise Cafe mornings, I try and catch up on personal correspondence. Claire and I do a lot of that because we believe that a handwritten card or letter has more power to encourage, challenge, and comfort than ever before. As W.H. Auden once wrote in his poem, “Night Mail,”

…They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and hope for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

But this morning I approached my correspondence list a little different. You see, I had brought along with me a stack of postcards…old postcards that we have accumulated over the years. It was a varied lot. There were cards from our travels in Poland, Germany, England, and gorgeous Hawaii. There were cards from Boston, Washington, D.C., Branson, and a huge pile from Colorado. The stack of postcards even includes some with well-known paintings, famous persons, and historic events. I mean, we've got a bunch. And so I have decided to use them.

So, if you get a postcard from us in the next few weeks or months, please don't consider it our way to write you a shorter note than, say, what might come on a sheet of stationery. Think of it instead as our sharing with you something we had treasured away, keeping it in a safe place until just the right moment to send it to you!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

On Tea, Trivia, and Touching Hearts

I’ve forgotten to announce here on Vital Signs Blog (and Facebook) about the last few “Anti-Boredom” packets that we’ve created for the residents of the 12 senior care facilities where, before the mandated quarantine, we used to present “When Swing Was King” shows every month.

I’m remedying that his morning.  Indeed, you can find all 21 (yes, 21) collection on this page of Vital Signs Ministries website. They are, if we say so ourselves, terrific.

But, as important as the entertainment and mental stimulation factors are in these packets, note too that the personal notes and photos we often include become an extremely valuable point of contact between us and our friends.  So too does the page of quotations and Scriptures we include.

And to underscore the personal touch that we try to add to the gifts we send along, I urge you to read Claire’s opening note to #21 in our series.  Here it is…

Dear friends,

Hey everyone, Claire here. One of the things I like to do – when there is a break in our schedule -- is host tea parties. And when I have the time and opportunity to do so, I have to admit, I “go all out.” I set the table with fancy teacups and saucers, a decorative teapot, crystal plates, fancy napkins and tablecloth, miniature tea settings for extra flair, and fresh flowers. Of course, by that time, I have already prepared the tea party goodies. That usually includes scones (my orange scones are my guests’ favorites), jam, lemon curd, tiny sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, and fruit cups. (Denny often makes these wonderful slices of kielbasa cooked in an apricot sauce for my teas. But he always flees the house before my guests arrive!) Sometimes I attempt something really ambitious like the time I made a Marmalade Cake for a special Mitford-themed tea party where we discussed Jan Karon’s delightful novels. And then when the party gets under way, I love “playing mother,” that is, actually pouring out the tea and encouraging my guests to dig into the treats.

Every once in awhile I will have a theme or specific activity in play. For instance, maybe my guests (always women or girls) will wear a fancy or funny hat. Or perhaps they will bring along a Christmas ornament to exchange. Other times, as I mentioned, the conversation around the tea party table concerns a book we have read. Some of my favorite tea parties have been at Christmastime when I invite all the girls in my family – three generations now – and we use the china, crystal, teapots, and tablecloths that belonged to my Mom. Another memorable party was when a good friend from England was in town. For that one, she helped make the treats and entertained us by detailing how they “do tea right” up Manchester way!

I’m telling you all this because I was thinking how much fun it would be to come over to your place and have a tea party. (And yes, even guys can have a good time at a tea party!) But, alas; the sad fact is we still can’t gather freely. So, let’s do the next best thing. Go brew yourself a cup of your favorite tea (or coffee) and maybe grab a cookie or two. Find a comfortable chair and have some fun with this latest “Anti-Boredom” packet we’ve made. It will be our “quarantine version” of a tea party, complete with relaxation, encouragement, memories, and a bit of fun.

One day soon, Lord willing, we will be able to see all of you and again enjoy fellowship in person! And we will be thrilled to begin bringing you “When Swing Was King” programs again. Until then, know that we miss all of you very much and that we pray daily that the Lord will give you peace, patience, and joy as we pass through these challenging times.

Claire Hartford (for Denny too)

And, again, here is the link to all 21 packets.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Life Is Dangerous…for Christians Too

Life is a battle – an intense spiritual battle that must be fought every day and on every front that our enemies assail us.  And yes, I say “us” because this battle must be fought by the believer in Jesus Christ.  It is true (and wonderfully true, indeed) that through our trust in Christ’s atonement, we are saved from the penalty of our sin. We are in Christ, adopted into His forever family; made a co-heir with Him; sealed with the Spirit of redemption; and indwelled with the Holy Spirit.  Our past decision to believe the gospel has secured our eternal future. That’s a done deal. 

But our present location (the fallen earth) and our present status (pilgrims in the adventure of sanctification) mean that we remain engaged in constant spiritual warfare.  We are not yet home. We are not yet free from the nagging of our flesh. And we are not yet free from the efforts of the devil to tempt and manipulate us into sin.  Therefore, the Christian cannot rest on his laurels.  He cannot relax his alertness and focus.  He cannot rely on his own strength and resources.  No, the battle rages on and we can only stand if we do so in full dependence upon Christ’s provision, protection, and empowerment.

Do you doubt the extreme seriousness of this situation?  Then note just the few Scriptures I print below. Keep in mind, they are not written as warnings or rebukes to non-believers. Rather they represent stern, practical warnings to those who do, in fact, know Christ as Savior.

1) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9, NASB)

Get it?  The would-be prey the devil is seeking is believers.  He’s going after you and me!  It’s true that he can’t steal our salvation. Jesus paid that debt once and for all when He died for our sins. Again, that’s a done deal.  Atonement is forever.  But, make no mistake, the devil can steal our joy, pollute our testimony, distract us from our duty, and cause us to miss out on eternal rewards.  And so Paul’s warning is a serious one.  Nevertheless, his exhortation is incredibly hopeful in that he reminds us we are not Satan’s patsies.  We can resist him.  We can remain steadfast.  We can win our battles.

2) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  (I John 4:1, NASB)

It could not be clearer here too that this exhortation is written to believers. The recipients of the epistle are addressed as “beloved.” But dangerous traps are laid for these saints and, apparently, a few have fallen into them already. The specific snare John mentions is in believing false doctrines spread by evil prophets. And the Greek verb used here is in the present imperative tense. That means that a better translation would be “stop believing every spirit.”  Let that sink in. Can the minds of genuinely Christian people be twisted by bad theology, bad morals, bad politics, bad priorities?  Yes, says the apostle. But it doesn’t have to be so. As clever as the devil tries to be, as alluring as the world presents itself, as intimidating as peer pressure and political-correctness is nowadays, and as comfortable we can get in our ruts of cowardice and compromise…there is always a standard of truth by which all temptations and lies and false promises can be judged.  Left to our own resources, we can be easily duped. But, praise God, He doesn’t leave us to our own resources! He has given us His Word. And as we study, meditate, and obey the holy revelations therein, we can correctly evaluate every teaching, every source. The Bible is the lamp that shows us the way to live and the Holy Spirit graciously gives us the power we continually need to walk in that light.

3) “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  (Hebrews 3:12-13, NASB)

Like Paul and John, the writer of Hebrews also underscores that his warning is for those in the Church, for those he calls “brethren.” But, again, even though our eternal security in Christ cannot be touched, we can be defeated in the existential battles of life if we choose to operate in the “evil, unbelieving heart” of the flesh.  The correction?  Hold fast to our assurance, to our faith in God’s purity and power.  And, instead of listening to false spirits and/or the whining of our own carnal desires, pay close attention to the example, counsel, and intercession of fellow-pilgrims who are living all out for the Lord.

An incredible challenge? You better believe it! But it is a do-able challenge when we lean wholly upon the Lord for wisdom, strength, and joy in the battle.  We can be victorious.  We can light up the darkness.  We can hold high the banner of His righteousness in this sad, sick world.  And we can live lives of devotion, purity, love, faith, and expectation.

4) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6:10-18, NASB)

Let’s do this!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Some Thoughts On "The Disciple's Prayer"

The Latest 
Vital Signs Ministries Letter

For this month’s letter I’m going to write up a few things about one of the most important (but often one of the most problematic) duties of the Christian life.  That duty?  Prayer.  I have been thinking about this an awful lot recently and talking about it with Claire and several friends.  It has been so much on my mind that when I was recently asked to fill in for a vacationing preacher, I chose Luke 11:2-4 as my text, that brief passage that contains what is universally (yet incorrectly) known as “The Lord’s Prayer.”  I’m going to share with you just a few notes about that text along with some practical options that might help improve the quality and consistency of your prayers. I hope so.

Anyhow, you'll find the July letter at this link from the Vital Signs Ministries' website.

Articles You Won't Want to Miss

* "The Agenda of Black Lives Matter Is Far Different From the Slogan" (Mike Gonzalez & Andrew Olivastro, Heritage Foundation)

* "Planned Parenthood Kills More Blacks in 2 Weeks Than the KKK Killed in a Century" (Ryan Bomberger, LifeNews.com)

* "Mal-Educated Rioters and Spineless Politicians Wage a War Against Democracy" (Kay James, Heritage Foundation)

* "'Humanitarian blackmail': UN withholds COVID-19 aid from pro-life countries over abortion" (Elyssa Koren, Live Action)

* "LGBT Colonization of Children’s Entertainment" (Jonathon Van Maren, The Stream)

* "Birmingham Officials Punish Pastor for Speech. That Can’t Stand." (Zack Smith, Daily Signal)

* "Implications of the Hagia Sophia’s Conversion to a Mosque" (Paul Marshall, Providence)

* "Confirmed: 43 Planned Parenthood affiliates received COVID-19 relief funding" (Nancy Flanders, Live Action)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Praying God’s Arrows Will Fly

In my intercessory prayers of recent weeks, I have been praying against the mindless, nihilistic lawlessness which is spreading across the world – lawlessness seen not only in the riots, the looting, and the increased homicides in our cities, but also in the rebellion of the general culture against God’s distinct and holy laws regarding sexuality, sanctity of life, respect for parents and the “ancient boundaries,” modesty, humility, just punishment for criminal acts, and the exclusivity of the gospel.

These prayers have frequently utilized a biblical metaphor that I was drawn to in our reading of Psalms and Job; namely, the arrows of God.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

“Your arrows are sharp; the peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies.”  (Psalm 45:5, NASB)

“If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.  He has also prepared for Himself deadly weapons; He makes His arrows fiery shafts.”  (Psalm 7:12-13 NASB)

“He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, and lightning flashes in abundance,
and routed them.”  (Psalm 18:14 NASB)

“For the arrows of the Almighty are within me. Their poison my spirit drinks. The terrors of God are arrayed against me.”  (Job 6:4 NASB)

I have been praying, therefore, for the arrows of God’s judgment to fly into the heart of the King’s enemies, that the corrosive poison they possess would weaken and overcome the wicked purposes devised by the devil.  For those who will not repent, who will not submit to the holiness and mercy of God, I pray that His fiery shafts will fly swift and sure into their ranks, bringing about confusion, deflation, and defeat.

But I’m not praying for these things in general. I’m praying that these divine arrows fly into the heart of certain key strongholds of the enemy. In fact, here are the specific targets in my list.

* Islam and other false religions (including Communism and the various other strains of Marxism).

* The apostasy, syncretism, cowardice, and love of the world’s approval which increasingly marks the churches of our day.

* The mega-abortion corporation that is Planned Parenthood.

* The lying, manipulative media.

* The Democrat Party and its fellow travelers who have completely sold out to abortion, sexual perversion, religious intolerance, the coddling of criminals, and anti-Americanism.

* The monopolistic and irreligious powers of government educators.

* The malevolent powers of Big Tech (Google, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, and others) which are, like the “old guard” media, going all out to suppress the truth, to persuade people to believe lies, and to mock all things godly.
         
* The Deep State.

A couple of things to note – If you feel uncomfortable with this kind of prayer, perhaps it is because you have paid more attention to the prayers you normally hear in church than to the prayers you find in Scripture.  I would suggest you read through Psalms (prayers for God’s judgments upon the wicked absolutely abound there) but also in the prophets, the New Testament epistles, and Revelation.

Also keep in mind that the pattern of prayer Jesus gives His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4 includes an appeal for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  That means dispensing holiness and justice in Washington, D.C., Beijing, the Kremlin, Damascus, and everywhere else. (Don’t forget, however, that the faithful disciple of Christ desires God’s will be done also in one’s home, business, entertainment decisions, finances, the kids’ education, etc.) So, make no mistake. Prayers for God’s judgment upon sin and rebellion are not only always in order; they are our duty.

Finally, remember always the cautionary promise of Romans 12:19. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  That’s a promise that first appears in Deuteronomy 32:35 but it is repeated in Psalm 94:1-3, here in Romans, and in Hebrews 10:30. It is obvious, then, that God wants us to appreciate that the dispensing of judgment isn’t a bad thing at all.  That is, unless we try to deal it out ourselves.  No, our hatred and anger, our cursing and complaining; any dirty tricks we might want to play on our enemies – none of that serves the cause of justice. Indeed, none of that pleases God in the least.  However, vengeance delivered from the throne of God is another thing altogether.  God’s vengeance is wonderful, holy, and eminently just. It is a comforting promise that underscores both His righteousness and His power.  And so it’s a good thing to pray for. 

Lord, let Your arrows fly into the heart of Your enemies.  Let their wicked schemes crumble and fall apart. And in the confused fight from their destruction, let many souls turn to the liberating, cleansing power of the gospel message.  Yet, even so, Lord Jesus; please come soon for Your Church.

I invite you to join Claire and me in this intercessory campaign against these (and other) demonic strongholds. 

Postscript:

Before I posted this piece, I shared it with a few close friends whose responses were quite valuable. One of them suggested I put Harold Berry's response as an addendum to this. I believe that's a good idea. Harold was a longtime (and much-beloved) instructor at Grace University plus he has worked even longer (and still does) for Back to the Bible. Harold wrote...

"You are on the right track, Denny. We are engaged in spiritual warfare as Ephesians 6:12 tells us: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

I heard an interview recently saying the reason violent groups are even opposed to the religious things is because they are against all authority and think that even the authority of God must be destroyed because that is behind the strength of the United States.

Your powerful post reminds me of the book I am reading, 100 Verses that Made America. Those preachers before the Revolution gave powerful messages using examples from the Bible and applied them to their current problems. We need voices like those now."

A Refreshing Remembrance: Charlie Daniels on "Vital Signs Weekend"

As promised earlier this week, Claire uploaded this 2003 interview I did with Charlie Daniels so you could listen to it here. I think you'll find it pretty cool.

Charlie, we are so looking forward to hearing you play that fiddle in the New Jerusalem!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Here's the Latest "Anti-Boredom" Packet

It is not only the increased risks of Covid that threaten the residents of those in senior care facilities, they are also beset with greater levels than ever before of fear, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, depression, and boredom. That's why we're praying for them more intensely than ever, why we've launched our new “Sweet Treat” Outreach to certain facilities, and why we're continuing to produce our “Anti-Boredom” packets that have had such a positive impact.

Number 19 in that series was sent to the facilities and posted on the Vital Signs Ministries website just before we took a few days in Colorado. You'll find all of those packets at this link.

And I'm working on #20 today.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

A Few Open Letters

Printed below is just a small sample of the 73 cards and letters written at Monday night's letter-writing party. You can find out more about the event here but, as I promised, I'm giving you a few of those letters in hopes you'll start developing your own part in shining God's truth through letters. Here we go...

1) Dear Ken & Joni (Tada),

It’s another letter-writing party for Vital Signs Ministries and when we start thinking about Kingdom saints we want to send along thanks and an “atta boy” or two, you two are always at the top of the list.  We are so grateful for your orthodoxy – in precept and in passionate, practical action.  Stay the course!

Similar expressions were sent by several of Monday night's participants to Franklin Graham, Tim Tebow, President Trump, Senator Sasse, Supreme Court Justice Thomas, and more.

2) To the Disney corporation.

 In context of these two articles:

DROP Disney+: New teen film 'Out' features openly homosexual main character

and

Ducktales Reboot Shows Disney Is Working Hard to Ruin Your Childhood


Dear Disney,

What a sad shame that the Disney corporation has jumped into the madness to destroy the moral principles of Western civilization by accepting – even promoting – sexual confusion and perversion.  And to manipulate the minds and hearts of children to this nefarious end increases the tragedy.

I will continue to urge friends, family, and fellow church members to pass on all things Disney.

3) Dear Congressman Bacon,

We were a bit disappointed in your co-sponsorship of the bill to change the names of military bases in the South.  Given the pressure being created nowadays by lawless forces and the most irrational and extreme forms of “political correctness,” it seems like a poor investment of your political capital and time and energy. 

Congressman, America is being besieged by lawlessness, chaos, fear, division, and economic ruin. So please reorient your priorities accordingly and get to work on things that are the most critical.

From your (generally) robust supporters,

4) Governor Kristi Noem,

I am writing to thank you for the leadership you have shown during this pandemic and resultant panic.  Your resolve, especially in the face of hostile national media, has been very impressive.

God bless you and your efforts on behalf of the great state of South Dakota.  From your neighbor to the south (in Nebraska).

Sincerely,

5) President Chakwera,

Our most profound congratulations for your election to the presidency of the noble nation of Malawi.  We promise to keep you in our frequent prayers, asking God to protect you, to empower you, and to bless your efforts to lead the country.  May our Lord make Malawi an intense and winsome success story.

6) Mayor Stothert,

I was very disappointed to see your endorsement for the "Pride Parade" and the displaying of their flags.  I understand you can’t stop them but you certainly didn't need to throw your enthusiastic support behind this movement which so  intolerantly denies the historic values of sexual morality, not to mention the hard (and obvious) facts of biological sciences. Please stand firm for what is right.

7) Regarding this news item --
Israel shuts down Christian TV channel in rare move

To the Ministry of Communications,

Please back off the cold-hearted cancellation of GOD TV, especially since you had to misrepresent the nature of the contract in order to defend your irresponsible action.  Very sad.  And it’s especially disappointing to me as an American evangelical whose organization (Vital Signs Ministries) and whose church (Grace Bible Church) and whose long-standing personal history has been marked by an outspoken support of Israel.

Are you purposely trying to antagonize one of the most zealous of your country’s support groups?

Come on. Please reinstate GOD TV.

8) Regarding this news item --
Blind woman banned from park for 2 years for sharing Jesus

To members of the Memorial and Library Association (Westerly Library and Wilcox Park)

Amazing! In an America that is burning with intolerance and lawlessness, the people at your park and library decided to disregard common sense, religious tolerance, and the U.S. Constitution in order to to persecute a blind woman who simply shares her faith in Jesus Christ to people who stop to talk to her.

How callous and insensitive and heavy-handed.  And how shameful.

Please make this thing right. And very soon.

And, as you would guess, a lot of letters dealt with issues of lawlessness going unchecked, voter fraud, Planned Parenthood, censorship of free speech, and so on.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June Closes with Lots of Letters

Last night's letter-writing party (an advocacy/fellowship/prayer ministry that Vital Signs Ministries hosts every quarter) was a very encouraging outreach with 17 participants, 73 cards and letters written, and 28 colorful art pages done by the four kids in attendance.

Our letters went to an a lot of people. For instance, many of us wrote to President Trump (and the First Lady), Vice-President Pence, Attorney General Barr, other cabinet members, Senators, and a good array of more local politicians. Still other letters were addressed to business leaders, heads of organizations, diplomats, and even a local body of mini-tyrants from a park who had a 63-year old blind woman banned from the premises for 2 years because she was talking to people about her faith in Jesus Christ.

And the topics covered? Oh, my; here's just a few: voter fraud; the Supreme Court making laws (and really bad ones, at that) instead of applying the Constitution; the desperate need to break the monopolistic powers of Big Tech and the education establishment which are destroying freedom of speech; the ongoing violence perpetrated by Planned Parenthood; Democrats blocking critical legislation like the police reform bill and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act; Israel pulling the plug on a new Christian-run TV channel; and the Disney corporation's latest forays into the promotion of sexual confusion and perversion.

There were a lot of thank you cards and letters sent too. There always are at these parties. Thus, there were “shout outs” to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem; Franklin Graham, Tim Tebow, Joni-Eareckson Tada, Clarence Thomas, and Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the new President of Malawi who is a principled believer in Christ.

And the kids' artwork? Well, some will go to the police officers and firefighters in our neighborhood while others will go to residents of senior living facilities.

In the days ahead, I will share a few of the letters sent as a stimulant for you to write a few of your own.

Thanks to all who came and joined in the fun -- Rik, Debbie, Jim, Jean, Matt, Isaiah, Luke, Anna, Lydia, Patrick, Quint, Carol, Keith, Carol, and Don.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Vital Signs Ministries’ “Sweet Treat” Outreach

Yes, the quarantines are still in place and thus keeping us from presenting our popular “When Swing Was King” shows in 12 senior care facilities every month. In fact, there is no end in sight to this “great hunkering down” as it concerns nursing homes and other senior living facilities.

Our response to this sad situation was to start preparing what we called “Anti-Boredom” packets that would not only serve the residents of “our” 12 facilities but also, by posting our work on the Vital Signs Ministries website, for anyone around the country (and beyond) who wanted to take advantage of the fun, the encouragement, and the inspiration they provide. That ministry, we are delighted to report, has been extremely well received.

However, we decided to try yet another front in our outreach to these seniors; namely, one that would have us “go super sweet” by assembling for residents special packages with different candies (sugar-free for diabetics) as well as personal notes, Scriptures, and even artwork provided by kids.

Well, today (as you can see in these photos) saw our first two attempts. And we are very encouraged by the response so far. One required us to prepare packages of mixed candies for 124 residents and the other for 35. We will keep you posted how things go with this effort.

And, of course, if any of you want to be involved -- helping us buy candy and other snacks, assembling the packages, securing artwork from children, delivering the packages to the facilities, and writing notes of encouragement, please let us know. Please consider it for it is a needed, practical, and wonderfully do-able ministry opportunity for kids, churches, small groups, and families.

By the way, if you're interested in the “Anti-Boredom” packets (the collections we've created of trivia quizzes, quotations, photos, and personal letters) as something to share with family, friends, older church members, neighbors, etc., please check out any one or more of the 17 that are posted on our website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Here' s the Latest (That's #17) in our "Anti-Boredom" Packets

I know Father’s Day is behind us but sparked by our conversations and prayers about our fathers last weekend, Claire and I thought we’d share a couple of quick stories before we get to the quiz questions and quotations in this latest “Anti-Boredom” Packet.

 My “Dad story” for today concerns a really nifty lesson he taught me – a lesson that has been an extremely helpful one my whole life. I still lived at home when this happened; in fact, I had just started learning how to shave. And one day Dad, while walking through the hall, looked in the bathroom and saw me with a face full of shaving cream. And I mean full! He stopped, smiled, and said, “For a second there I thought Santa Claus was in my bathroom!” He then proceeded to explain that I didn’t need as much lather on my face as I had piled on. “But Dad, this is exactly how guys look in the shaving cream ads on TV and in the magazines.” He chuckled and patiently explained, “Son, they do that to make you think you need that much even though you really don’t. You see, the company wants you to use more than you need so that you’ll buy more than you need. And so their profits go up.”

Wow! This was a real revelation to me. It was the first time that I realized 1) how subtly persuasive ad agencies can be (not to mention even more sinister tempters) and 2) how easily duped I could be if I wasn’t careful. Like I said, it was a very valuable lesson. Thanks, Dad.

 Okay, Claire here. My “Dad story” involves fudge. You see, my father was
the best fudge maker in the world – well, at least in Lincoln which was all the world I knew! On Saturday nights, while all the kids were cleaning and polishing their shoes for church the next morning, Dad made fudge. Because I had patent leather shoes, I got done quicker than the others and was able to hang out with Dad while he made this delicious treat. We couldn’t wait to get some, so he would give spoons to all 8 kids so we could clean out the pan after he had poured it out to harden. What joy! And the second blessing was getting yet more fudge later that night.

That’s just one example of how my Dad liked to make special treats for us. For instance, there was also his famous “Three in One” dish -- hamburger, elbow
macaroni, and tomato sauce. Doesn’t sound terrific now, maybe. But we were kids and it was our Dad making it special for us and so we were delighted. And the memories are still rich.

So…let’s get to your memories now with #17 in our series of activity pages.
We’re praying to see you in person soon with a “When Swing Was King” show!

Denny and Claire 

https://vitalsignsministries.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/WSWK-Activity-Pack-17.pdf

Friday, June 19, 2020

Have You Thanked a Cop Lately?

This morning we sent out a few letters to the law enforcement agencies in our area. That included the Omaha Police Department, the State Patrol, Douglas County Sheriffs Department, and a couple of others near us. We suggest you do the same. Perhaps get your kids and grandkids involved...maybe your church, Sunday School class, or small group. The letter below is one of those we sent.

Dear Police Chief Schmaderer,

Just a quick note to pass along from not only my wife Claire and me but from the Governing Board of Vital Signs Ministries, a Christian pro-life work headquartered here in Omaha, our deep appreciation for the ongoing professionalism, courage, compassion, skill and dedication you and the forces of the Omaha Police Department daily invest in the service of our community.  You have richly earned our respect, admiration, and gratitude…and you remain in our frequent and fervent prayers.

We know too that the numbers of citizens who feel this way constitute the majority.  They know that an ethically responsible police force is absolutely indispensable to social order.  So thank you again and please pass on our sentiments to the men and women serving alongside you. 

Sincerely,

Denny & Claire Hartford

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Panther Patrol's Last Mission

As those of you following our ministry in creating "Anti-Boredom" packets for distribution in senior centers and nursing homes know, we have recently been including personal notes, encouragements, photos, and personal stories in the opening letter. Below is the letter that went out today to 12 different facilities (hundreds of seniors being residents there) along with #16's quizzes, questions, and quotations.

(And #16, along with all of the series to date, can be found at this link.)


Hey friends! For #16 in our series of activity pages to help with the isolation and boredom imposed by the quarantines, my reminiscences take me back again to the days of my somewhat misspent youth. Indeed, this time around I’ll tell you about my oh-so-brief tenure in the Boy Scouts in a little piece I’ve entitled…

The Panther Patrol's Last Mission
(or Confessions of A Boy Scout Dropout)

The first outing of the season for Troop 448 took us up into the Colorado mountains to learn some outdoorsman skills, play a wide-ranging game of Capture the Flag, and cook our own dinner. One of our simple duties was to get our water from the stream at the foot of the hill. Always on the lookout for an easier way of doing things, I opted to open the spigot on a water tank near the Forest Ranger tower to fill my canteen. Fortunately, I decided to test the quality of the water with just a sip. Yipes! It wasn’t water at all – it was gasoline! And for that one hesitant sip, for a couple of weeks, everything that I ate, drank, or even smelled seemed like it came from a refinery. Yuck.

The other disasters happened on our very next outing a few weeks later. My troop visited a place we called “Paradise Valley” where we planned to spend a whole weekend camping out. My group of 5 was the Panther Patrol. Cool name. I must confess, however, that several members of the Panther Patrol would eventually represent a kind of “rogues gallery” in our neighborhood.  True, one of these Panthers would spend a successful career in law enforcement, but three of us would end up traveling on the other side of the law for awhile. Looking back, one wonders if the way the weekend turned out wasn’t some kind of foreshadowing of things to come.

First of all, the Panthers were denied their choice spot of a campsite because the Beaver Patrol (our troop's elite corps, comprised of older and more serious Boy Scouts) was given rights to the spot by our adult leaders. Feeling wronged, we decided on revenge and so that night we used our little shovels to dig a trench from the stream straight into the Beaver Patrol's tent. The results were pretty satisfying at first (to the Panthers, not the Beavers) but we were quickly discovered to be the culprits and we were scolded, shamed, properly punished, and warned that we had only one more chance. 

But, like I hinted earlier, there are some boneheads that just aren't cut out for the Scouting life. We behaved ourselves well enough the next day but with the evening, things took a turn for the worse for the Panther Patrol. First of all, they tried to teach us how to make something from small logs that would reflect a campfire's heat back into one’s tent. It was a nifty idea, all right, but instead of reflecting the fire’s heat, ours simply caught on fire itself. Three times.

Next, we got to cutting up a little while making dinner and somehow I managed to brand Jimmy D. with a hot wiener. Now it was only an accident. Scout's honor. After all, Jimmy lived across the street from me and was my friend. In fact, he was so good a friend that I wasn’t even bothered that he used to wear a nylon hose over his head (weighted with a bar of soap in the toe, no less) in order to train his curly hair to lay down a bit. Anyhow, Jimmy played the good Scout about the whole business and didn't snitch me out. Thanks, J.D. What's a smoldering hot dog scar between pals anyhow?

I’m afraid that the comedic complications of the camping trip were not yet over for the troubled Panther Patrol. For that Saturday night, it rained. And I mean, a hard and abundant rain. The other patrols (bless their hearts) stayed dry and warm in their tents. The Panther Patrol didn’t. We were sloppy in pegging our tent down; we didn’t pile dirt over the tent edges; and we had erected the tent on a pretty steep-angled slope. So, when the rain came down, the water ran into our tent, and even beneath the polyethylene sheets we had placed under our sleeping bags. Two of us woke up in the middle of the night thoroughly drenched – and brother, I mean thoroughly. Because not only were we being rained on, the water beneath those plastic sheets had carried us downhill and into the stream just as easy as being on a Slip n’ Slide.

That was the last straw for our Scout leaders and, the way I remember it, the entire Panther Patrol was dismissed from Scout duty -- permanently. In fact, what I heard later may be true; namely, that our names and photos were distributed to the Boy Scouts of America with the warning, “Under no circumstances should a troop undertake to make Scouts out of these rascals. They are a serious danger, both to others and to themselves.”

There you have it – a candid, first-person testimonial that not even the Boy Scouts can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Or, more to the point here, they can’t make a Paragon out of a Panther. But, thanks be to God, His mercy CAN accomplish such a miracle. And I’m pleased to say as a postscript to this story that at least two of those problematic Panthers would discover God’s love and forgiveness later on in their lives. And one of them is sending along his heartfelt greetings and prayers with this latest “Anti-Boredom” packet. We miss you and hope we get back to presenting “When Swing Was King” shows very soon. 

Denny (for Claire too)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Recalling "Back in the Day" Days

# 15 in our series of “Anti-Boredom” packets has been sent to the 12 senior living and senior care facilities where (in the pre-quarantine era) we showed our “When Swing Was King” shows every month. And all 15 are available to anyone through this link on our soon-to-be-revitalized website.

But here, to spark the nostalgia in you that makes for the best motivation to tackle our “Anti-Boredom” page is the opening letter from # 15.

Dear friends,

Isn’t it funny how so many of the most insignificant, even silly, incidents in our lives clutter up our memory banks? While we’re desperately trying to remember the day of our high school graduation or our wedding or some other truly important happening, our minds are cantankerously indifferent to our wishes.

In my case, for instance, instead of being able to remember details about being on the White House grounds for one of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural balls, my mind seems determined to bring up other junk…like a memory of me throwing aerosol cans into the backyard incinerator when a silly lad OR falling off the Jet Ski and thinking I was going to sink to the bottom of Lake Okoboji OR trying to persuade that truant officer that I was swimming in the quarry as part of a high school study project. You know what I mean. Sometimes, your memory is a downright unreliable pal.

But, then again; that’s alright by me for I have learned to be content and even to thank God for having any memories at all. In so doing, I find all of them (well, most of them) genuine gifts that I truly cherish. Examples? Well, I’ve been told that as we age, we are better with long term memory than short term. I certainly find this true in my own experience.

So I tend to especially remember things from my youth – things like spending Saturday mornings scouring the ditches along south Denver streets looking for pop bottles – bottles that were worth 2 cents each. A good morning’s haul could net you candy and pop money for a few days and maybe even a comic book. There’s also the bike rides, baseball games, skating at Roller City, Christmas excitements, dogs, sledding down Rattlesnake Hill, football, shooting hoops all alone for hours, Green Mountain Swim Club, and playing kick the can until the streetlights came on (which meant you had to go home). And of course, there are plenty of wonderful memories of Mom and Dad and Grandma Ellsworth and, if I’m brutally honest, even some sweet memories of my 4 siblings! In fact, there’s one special one I think I’ll tell you about another time.

But for now, have fun with “Anti-Boredom Packet” #15. I sure hope it triggers some marvelous memories of your own! 

https://www.vitalsignsministries.org/vsmnew/application/files/6015/9183/5047/WSWK_Activity_Pack_15.pdf

Friday, June 12, 2020

Calling All Creative Kids!

Because of the quite legitimate concerns over the spread of the China virus in senior centers, our “When Swing Was King” shows remain grounded. Indeed, we have not been allowed into any of the 12 facilities on our regular monthly schedule for the last 3 months. Now June is closed too and the rest of the summer very much in question.  We are really saddened by this.

However, as many of you are aware, at the very beginning of the quarantines, we came up with the idea of creating “Anti-Boredom Packets” to send over to the activity directors in the places we normally present our "When Swing Was King" shows. They could then copy these activity pages and hand them out to residents. Our purposes in this project were to encourage, to lift spirits, to be winsome and useful in our Christian witness, and to give seniors some serious points to ponder along with a lot of fun stuff. And, in all of this, we hoped to show them that our love for them remains very much in place. 

Our activity packets are really pretty neat. They generally consist of 9 pages: 60 or 70 pop culture quiz questions (and answers at the back), quotations and Scriptures, photos, and a personal note from Claire and me.  We are delighted to say that they have won rave reviews from both residents and activity directors, as well as from many others who have copied them from off our website. And, though it takes quite a bit of work to put each packet together, we are really thrilled and will keep them coming. As a matter of fact, a couple of days ago, we sent out our 16th “Anti-Boredom” packet. Yes!

As great a blessing as these activity packets have been, however, we have decided to open a “second front” in our ministries to seniors. That may yet involve the Donut Dodge that we had been planning since last fall but, at least for now, our plan is to “get sweet” by assembling special packages for residents with different candies (sugar-free for diabetics), personal notes, and artwork provided by kids. We did a test run of this idea at Easter and everyone involved found it delightful.  But here's the important pitch in this post -- we need help with getting the artwork to the lonely grandmas and grandpas in the facilities. And that's where your kids come in!

If you have kids who can draw, color pages from a coloring book, and/or write notes of greeting, please connect with us soon because we’re already preparing our first 150 sweet packages. This opportunity is for families, churches, individual kids who are willing to 1) color pages from a coloring book and/or create their own artwork and 2) to give it a heading or caption somewhere that could say “Happy Summer” or “We are praying for you” or “God loves you” or “I hope you enjoy my picture” or anything else they might want to say? We will then gather up every masterpiece created and include them in the “sweet packages” we will give to residents.

We think this is a cool way to get kids thinking about ministry and it would be a big help to Vital Signs Ministries' outreach to seniors. So, what do you say? Can you get your kids to sharpen their crayons and help us out?

Friday, June 05, 2020

A Letter to the President

I'm wrote this quick letter to the U.S. President early this morning over a coffee at Paradise cafe. Claire has typed it up nicely and it's already on its way. However, I'm posting it as an "open letter" in hopes that it might motivate you to follow with a letter of your own.
What do you say?

Dear President Trump,

I write you this morning to very briefly comment on ten items relating to your service to our nation (and indeed, the cause of freedom around the world).

1) We are praying for you every day.  We pray for protection, strength, wisdom from God, and success in all of your endeavors.

2) We are deeply grateful for your bold, compassionate, and just promotion of the sanctity of all human life.  We especially applaud your actions against the mega-abortion corporation that is Planned Parenthood.

3) We urge you to move even stronger against the very real threat of voter fraud.

4) You have served America’s interests well in standing up to the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the Democrats in Congress, the irrational and enraged media, and the corruption of the Deep State.  Many, many thanks. Stay the course.

5) We appreciate your moves to contain the China Virus AND to open the country as soon as possible to reduce the horrific effects of the quarantines, shutdowns, and fear.

6) We also appreciate your spirited defense of the citizens’ freedom of speech and freedom of religion against the dangerously stifling censorship of giant monopolistic companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook.  Press that fight all the way, please.

7) Speaking of Twitter, please be more prudent and winsome in this arena. It is the one area in which your genuine friends find irksome and counter-productive.  But, believe me, it's the only area where your genuine friends want you to ease off a bit. Everywhere else...full steam ahead!

8) You have worked hard and skillfully to bring back America’s military strength and its economy.  Thank you too for standing strong with Israel and other trustworthy U.S. allies even as you refuse to be cowed by the antics of the downward-spiraling, socialist-dominated nations of Europe.

9) Thank you for pursuing so diligently the appointments of judges who have clear records of respecting, preserving, and applying the U.S. Constitution as it was intended by its original writers.

And 10)  Please pass on to Melania our heartiest thanks for the excellent, inspirational, and kind-hearted leadership she has shown.  The United States has never been blessed with a lovelier, more modest, more gracious First Lady.

Sincerely,

Denny & Claire Hartford
Omaha, Nebraska

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

They're Stacking Up

Here are a few of the latest "WOW" articles from the alternative media -- news and commentary that is well-researched, well-written, and relevant to the max.

* "The Lies of Mainstream Media" (Bob Paulson, Decision)

* "Database Swells to 1,285 Proven Cases of Voter Fraud in America" (Kaitlynn Samalis-Aldrich and Hans von Spakovsky, Daily Signal)

* "Largest U.S. Teachers’ Union Endorses Abortion: NEA passes resolution defending the 'fundamental right to abortion'" (Patrick Hauf, Washington Free Beacon)

* "COVID-19 in nursing homes" (Paul A. Byrne, Renew America)

* "Planned Parenthood Abortionist Exposed Selling Aborted Baby Parts Now Caught Doing Unlicensed Abortions" (Micaiah Bilger, LifeNews.com)

* "Obama, Biden Oval Office Meeting On January 5 Was Key To Entire Anti-Trump Operation" (Mollie Hemingway, Federalist)

* "Nate Silver: 'Basic error' on coronavirus stories reveal media’s true goals" (Brian Flood, Fox News)

* "Democrat Moved Mother Out of Care Home After Forcing Nursing Homes to Accept Coronavirus Patients" (Peter Hanson, LifeNews.com)

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.)