Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cool Cowboy Counsel (From One of the "Coolest" Cowboys of All)

Here’s a reminder that “once upon a time,” there were superstars in American entertainment whose desire was to actually help parents (instead of impede them) in their hopes of raising good kids, kids who embraced such virtues as idealism and hope, justice and courage, humility and selflessness. 

Pass 'em along. And thanks, Hoppy! 

 “Ten Guidelines for Life”
from Hopalong Cassidy 

1) The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be truthful at all times. 

2) Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions. 

3) If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way. 

4) Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy. 

5) Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show-off. 

6) If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways. 

7) Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them. 

8) A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean. 

9) Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully. 

10) Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Improving Your Prayer Life -- Part 1 of 4


Prayer is a critically important part of a thorough, consistent Christianity. Almost all of us would acknowledge that. Nevertheless, knowing that truth doesn’t mean that it is easy to apply. For even as we admit the extreme value of prayer, in our honest moments before God, we must also confess that prayer is a very difficult thing to get right. So, unlike the heartfelt, wise, relevant prayers we read in the Scriptures, our prayers seem so often to be awkward, anemic, and therefore, infrequent. Many Christians end up making peace with mediocrity or even surrender altogether.

Well, dare I say that there is yet hope (and practical help) for Christians who desire a better prayer life? Yes, I say exactly that. For I am one such believer who has experienced substantial improvement in my prayers. I certainly haven't arrived at the goal that God has set before me, but recent years have seen remarkable progress in both my and my wife's prayers of thanksgiving, worship, and intercession. And if God's grace is abundant enough to forgive us for past failings and to grant repeated fresh starts to build better prayer habits, He certainly will do that for others.      

It's a really exciting opportunity the Lord sets before us. And it is no doubt a perfect time in history to get our prayer life in better order. For yes, we can increase our understanding of prayer; we can experience a greater (and more natural) motivation to pray; we can improve our methods of prayer; and we can build our confidence to confidently, joyfully converse with the Lord Who so loves us.

In a 4-part series I'll be posting here on Vital Signs Blog, I’m going to address the subject of prayer designed to help us make practical improvements in our prayer disciplines. I'll begin with some wonderfully encouraging points related to what many refer to as "The Lord's Prayer," and then in subsequent posts deal with prayer as an natural outgrowth of authentic spirituality, suggest an eminently do-able evening prayer model that Claire and I love, and finish up with a presentation about the problems we encounter with prayers made in public.

I hope you'll come along on this adventure...and we will start with the article I link to below. It originally appeared as the July 2020 letter for Vital Signs Ministries and is entitled, "Some Thoughts on 'The Disciples' Prayer.'"

https://vitalsignsministries.org/newsletters/some-thoughts-on-the-disciples-prayer/

Thursday, October 15, 2020

What? Me Worry?

While in Branson during our 2 weeks of working vacation, I have read several fine books. One, however, was particularly helpful and so I recommend it most heartily to any Christian who deals with anxiety, depression, defeat, distraction, and/or lack of focus and overcoming power over temptation. In other words, I recommend it most sincerely to all Christians! 

The book is Worry Less, Live More by Robert J. Morgan and we came by it in a most providential way; namely, it came completely unrequested in the mail one morning. I had never heard of the book or its author and, to be quite honest, it didn’t seem like the kind of book I usually go for. But when we figured out that it came from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as a token of appreciation for our support of that ministry, I decided to give it a try. I’m really glad I did. 

Worry Less, Live More is a pretty basic Bible study of one of the most popular texts of the entire Bible, Philippians 4:4-8, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 

 But the popularity of this text doesn’t necessarily equate with a proper understanding, let along an effective application, of it. And so I found Morgan’s book stimulating, challenging, and comforting. I think you may too.




Monday, October 05, 2020

And What Might We Learn From This Country Church?

My, my, my. Did we ever have church yesterday morning!  Claire and I are in Branson and we re-visited Friendly Baptist Church, a church we have attended a few times since meeting many of their members when we joined them two years ago for the Life Chain.  In fact, we assembled with them again yesterday afternoon for that same pro-life witness.

But let me get back to the church service.  Before I go into a description of this church, however, let me warn you that you just might find my remarks a little unsettling. Why? Because they may suggest some important things that your church should be doing too…but are not.  If that’s the case, be aware you are far from being alone.  Indeed, the reasons that I’m talking about them is both to encourage you by the fact that there are still churches in America like this…and to illustrate a few “targets of opportunity” for all of us to work towards in those of our churches that need revival and reform.

First of all, let me say that the sermon was a fine, biblically-centered one.  Excellent content.  Well-crafted and delivered, though with humility and compassion.  Relevant.  Bold. Furthermore, it was a sermon which presented illustrations of a “grown-up sort” instead of Hollywood film clips, pop music lyrics, video game parallels, GIFS and memes, corny jokes, quotes from modern celebrities, and so on.  I really appreciated that.  Instead, the preacher used several other Scriptures to illustrate and expand the morning’s text (James 1:26-27) as well as insightful references to Charles Dickens, Martin Luther, Alexander Hamilton, the opportunity of a new Supreme Court Justice who would oppose Roe v Wade, the terribly poor record of the food stamp policy to alleviate poverty, the U.S. Constitution, the counter-productive rhetoric and actions of Black Lives Matter, a kind but firm presentation of biblical truth to someone caught up in sexual perversion, and more.  The sermon was challenging, persuasive, and presented important and immediate applications for the hearers.

But though the text of the Bible should always be the star of a Sunday morning church service, there are other elements. In this case, there were times of prayer, Bible reading, and music. (And, I mean, a lot of music -- but I’ll get to that in a moment.)  Let me begin with a review of the prayers. There were prayers lifted to God for the effect of that afternoon’s Life Chain, for the health of the President and First Lady (and other members of the administration who had tested positive for the Covid virus), and the health of several members of the church congregation who were undergoing trials.  Also, there were prayers for Amy Coney Barratt and the Supreme Court; for persecuted Christians around the world, for an overcoming end to the lies, chaos and destruction fomented by the devil; for the pastor and his hearers; for police and firefighters; for the election; and for all of us to hear carefully and heed consistently the message God had for us through His Word. These were critically important matters for believers in our time that were brought before the throne and Claire and I really appreciated that often-neglected ministry.

The Bible reading included a lengthy reading of Proverbs 14 by one of the congregation’s lay leaders who gave an excellent introduction to the text before asking those who could to stand while he read the Bible text itself.  Later, the pastor began his sermon with reading from Chapter 1 of James and the congregation stood for that as well. 

And then there was that wonderful music. We purposefully arrived at Friendly Baptist Church early because we knew that 8-12 musicians show up long before the service begins. They come to play beloved hymns about a half hour before with dozens of the saints coming in to enjoy the worshipful concert. These musicians (mostly older) play guitars, keyboards, fiddles, saxophone, steel guitar, harmonica, and more.  It is a really superb ministry with the people listening to great old hymns (instrumentals only) as they sing along, pray, enjoy memories, and prepare their hearts for the teaching of the Word.  But when the service starts, there are plenty more hymns to sing as well as 2-3 special music presentations. It was, as we have experienced before at this church, charming and inspiring and something which well contributes to a wholesome body life for the congregation.

But I’m not done yet.  Let me finish by telling you a bit about the announcements, the church bulletin, and what’s going on throughout the week at this church because they reveal how much further the ministry of the church goes beyond the Sunday morning program. In this too, I must say, the church is unfortunately unusual among evangelical churches of our day.  For instance, the announcements included a heartwarming pitch for the Life Chain outreach given by the pastor.  He spoke eloquently about the need for such public witnesses for the sanctity of life, warmly thanked the congregation for their faithfulness in this outreach in the past, and then gave a personal charge to everyone to join him in the afternoon’s event. Perhaps it’s needless to say, but that also impressed Claire and I a great deal.  Later, one of the members of the missionary committee explained how a final push for Operation Christmas Child would let them beat the record for the number of shoeboxes they had set in previous years. Yes, there were a couple of announcements that dealt with programs centered around the church building but how refreshing it was to see how this church sees it’s “holy business” as being outside the walls of the building too.

This visionary perspective was even seen in the church bulletin for there we saw another pitch for Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Child outreach, more information about the Life Chain, information about two other missionary endeavors, and finally, the weekly prayer calendar suggested by the Voice of the Martyrs, Wow. And the building is used beyond that Sunday morning too. For although, Covid has caused them to suspend Sunday evening services for awhile longer, there’s still Sunday School classes, a Monday night Bible study, a sewing circle, Wednesday night prayer service, and who knows what else? 

Like I said, we really experienced church yesterday morning. And how we pray that other American churches would rediscover (and quickly too) the need to speak to truth to the culture, to challenge pew-sitters to stop being molded by the world, to heartily seek to equip and  mobilize the church in counter-culture outreach, to get seriously involved in pro-life ministries, to find new respect for the beauty and power of traditional hymns which have been so beloved by generations, and more. Thank you, Lord, for allowing Claire and I the blessing, the inspiration, and the serious challenge that came our way yesterday through the brethren at Friendly Baptist Church.

Friday, October 02, 2020

Denny Reflects on The Mitford Novels

I’m sitting here in the pre-dawn quiet enjoying a cup of coffee and thinking about the beauty, relevance, and rich significance of what I’ve taken recently 
to calling “Mitford ministry”; that is,actions of Christian service that emphasize the values (and even the methods) that one sees portrayed so winsomely in the ministries of Fr. Tim Kavanaugh in Jan Karon’s heartwarming series of Mitford novels. 

Yes, I’m aware that some of Karon’s following relish the Mitford books as “escapist fiction,” enjoying them because the small town charms and eccentric characters present a welcome relief from lives that some readers might feel are either too hectic or too humdrum. I understand the sentiments of such readers because I too love the sheer pleasantness of the novels. However, from my first Mitford book (which I must confess was postponed for way too many years after Claire first started encouraging me to read them), I have found a wealth of spiritual conviction and challenge amid all the charm. Karon is a superb writer and storyteller but her talents are used not merely to entertain – as wonderful a purpose as that is – they also guide, equip, and encourage. For in and among her vivid place descriptions, fascinating characters, humor, literary references, and “page-turning readability,” Karon presents life lessons for the Christian that are winsome, memorable, and remarkably persuasive. 

 Let me mention another angle I take on the Mitford novels that might surprise those of you who know my longstanding appreciation of G.K. Chesterton. That angle is simply this – I believe Jan Karon’s Mitford novels are among the most Chestertonian literature around, celebrating as they so effectively do such blessings as home, family, friendship, courage, forgiveness, compassion, humility, sacrifice, food, what might be described as “local patriotism,” and an orthodox Christianity that is revealed in both precept and practice. A stretch? Not really. For beyond the abundant novelties and paradoxes which one relishes in Chesterton, the core values he celebrates in Manalive, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, The Flying Inn, and so many of his other novels, essays, and poetry are the very values I’ve mentioned above. 

 But it is not only the values of G.K. Chesterton I encounter when I’m in Mitford, it is also those ordinary, day by day acts of Christian love which Frances and Edith Schaeffer underscored were the stuff of “true spirituality.” Indeed, the early years of L’Abri reveal how devotedly the Schaeffer family sought to live out the same Chestertonian (and yes,“Mitfordian”) virtues I listed above. The Schaeffers argued the necessity of a solid intellectual understanding of Christianity while also insisting that the disciple’s lifestyle be marked by personal holiness, humble prayer, an appreciation of God’s handiwork, and an intense desire to serve the Lord through practical love towards others. 

 Did Jan Karon find inspiration for her novels from these saints? Maybe a bit. Maybe not at all. But that’s not the important point. Rather it is that Jan Karon, G.K. Chesterton, and the Schaeffers were all moved by the Holy Spirit to use their art (and/or their preaching, journalism, and personal walk of sanctification) to stimulate love and good deeds among their fellow believers…and to present a winsome apologetic for the gospel to unbelievers. But before I conclude “my musings on things Mitford,” let me reiterate the most important life lessons with which Fr. Tim Kavanaugh (and other characters and plot situations in the Jan Karon novels) refresh and challenge me. 

 1) The overarching value of personal spirituality. Over and again, Karon illustrates the beauty of the fruits of the Spirit in one’s life. And this means patience and forgiveness in dealing with “very draining persons;” spending time in both personal and corporate prayer; commitment to spiritual disciplines; personal development, including reading the Bible and other quality literature; and seeing divinely-inspired duty in such practical things as washing dishes, walking the dog, and preparing meals. 

 2) Devotion to marriage, family, and community. This includes such practical things as writing letters to one’s spouse; care in selecting gifts; hospitality of a variety of forms, including letters, calls, entertaining, and visits; ministry to children, the aged, and the sick; “home loyalties,” including support for one’s church and local businesses; and engaging joyfully in the dominion mandate in projects both big (building a new wing of a hospital or adopting a child) and small (gardening or restoring a nativity set). 

 3) Evangelism and discipleship that’s willing to be “in for the long haul.” 

 4) The “attitude of gratitude” for God’s creation, His Word, His will, and His plan of salvation through the gracious and substitutionary work of Jesus Christ. I would add that Karon also stresses thankfulness for the simple, beautiful things of life. For instance, Fr. Tim and Cynthia aren’t chasing the latest technologies or methods; they find happiness and contentment in warm blankets, a snuggling pet, a complement, a snowfall, a handwritten letter, a lunch at the diner with friends, an old book, a restored piece of furniture, a poem, a cup of tea, the moonrise, and so much more. They even seek to live with an “attitude of gratitude” when God brings challenges, disappointments, and trials their way. 

 Like millions of other readers, I would probably have thoroughly enjoyed Jan Karon’s novels and found a wealth of spiritual stimulation in them even if, for decades earlier, I hadn’t sought to live out the virtues taught me by Chesterton and the Schaeffers. But having done so has made the Mitford novels a very special treasure for me. Thank you, Jan Karon. 

 So, for art that doesn’t merely seek to imitate life but rather to enrich and deepen it with examples of lives well-invested for the Lord…lives reflecting personal sanctity, gratitude, joy, endurance, hope, and extremely practical “small dose” ministry which beautifies and blesses, Jan Karon’s Mitford novels receive my highest recommendations.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Wind in the Willows Brunch

Our next Saturday morning brunch will be at our home on Saturday, November 14th at 10:00AM with an intriguing, heartwarming, and much beloved book as the focus of the morning.  That book began as tales told by a father to his young son but ended up winning the praises of such notables as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne, and President Teddy Roosevelt. Indeed, Roosevelt not only persuaded Scribners to publish the book but he considered the characters in the book to have become his “dear friends.” The book?  Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows.  

You say you haven’t read it lately? Maybe even since the days of childhood? Well, I would urge you to discover afresh the joys, the beauty, and the profound life lessons of The Wind in the Willows. And to whet your appetite, here are a couple of interesting responses to Graham’s classic. The first is from A.A. Milne, the author of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Milne once said of The Wind in the Willows: “I shall not describe the book, for no description would help it.  But I shall just say this; that it is what I call a Household Book.  By a Household Book I mean a book which everybody in the household loves and quotes continually ever afterwards; a book which is read aloud to every new guest, and is regarded as the touchstone of his worth.  But it is a book which makes you feel that, though everybody in the house loves it, it is only you who really appreciate it in its true value, and that the others are scarcely worthy of it.  It is obvious, you persuade yourself, that the author was thinking of you when he wrote it.  ‘I hope this will please Jones,’ were his final words, as he laid down his pen.”

Here’s another sparkling observation from Milne: “One does not argue about The Wind in the Willows. The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and, if she does not like it, he asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly. The book is a test of character. We can't criticize it, because it is criticizing us. But I must give you one word of warning. When you sit down to it, don't be so ridiculous as to suppose that you are sitting in judgment on my taste, or on the art of Kenneth Grahame. You are merely sitting in judgment on yourself. You may be worthy: I don't know, But it is you who are on trial.”

C.S. Lewis also chimed in on The Wind in the Willows. “It might be expected that such a book would unfit us for the harshness of reality and send us back to our daily lives unsettled and discontented. I do not find that it does so. The happiness which it presents to us is, in fact, full of the simplest and most attainable things -- food, sleep, exercise, friendship, the face of nature, even (in a sense) religion. That ‘simple but sustaining meal’ of ‘bacon and broad beans and a macaroni pudding’ which Rat gave to his friends has, I doubt not, helped down many a real nursery dinner. And in the same way the whole story, paradoxically enough, strengthens our relish for real life. This excursion into the preposterous sends us back with renewed pleasure to the actual.” 

Elsewhere Lewis wrote, “I never met The Wind in the Willows or the Bastable books till I was in my late twenties, and I do not think I have enjoyed them any the less on that account. I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” 

And finally, here’s one more. G.K. Chesterton scholar James Woodruff once named The Wind in the Willows as the most Chestertonian thing ever written by anyone other than Chesterton. He claimed this was because it is “a celebration of the primal things Chesterton loved -- Home and Friendship and Adventure -- all suffused with a sense of wonder and lived out by characters who write poetry and go forth to battle and both eat and drink with right good will.”

We are really looking forward to The Wind in the Willows Brunch on Saturday morning of November 14 (10 o’clock at the Hartford Cafe) and we hope you too will plan on being a part of this fun, festive, and stimulating morning.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Finally, A "When Swing Was King" Gig!

Thank the Lord, it’s been quite a day. The beginning was the regular coffee conversation early this morning at Paradise with Patrick & John. This is a seriously intentional fellowship and it's always stimulating and encouraging to me. Thanks so much, guys. I’m so honored with your friendship. Then it was home for breakfast and to oversee the young fellow doing the autumn reseeding and aerating of the lawn. 

 Next, I finished up #29 in our series of “Anti-Boredom” Packets and Claire sent them out to the senior care facilities. We also put finishing touches on a Power Point presentation for this Sunday’s service at our church. It involves photos of Vital Signs Ministries activities over 37 years backed by a terrific 3 1/2 minute song by Scott Wesley Brown, “Who Will Stand in the Gap?” While I was doing this, Claire was doing VSM finances, posting the September LifeSharer letter on the web, sending it out to our email list, and posting on the website the last couple of our activity packets. 

 And finally, the pièce de résistance; namely, our first “When Swing Was King” show since February! 

 That’s right. We were invited in to Immanuel Village Assisted Living to present amplified songs in their outside courtyard but in a place where residents could hear it by sitting inside a common area (safely distanced) or actually sitting on the patio near where Claire and I were working the computer, microphone, and speaker. We didn’t know if it would work – the distance, the divided audience, the lack of the photos which normally accompany the show, the time since we’ve been there, and so on. We were expecting 3 or 4 people to be sitting way out yonder with no substantial communication between us. 

 We were intensely happy to be completely wrong! For we ended up with a combined audience of 25 or more and, for about 90 minutes, they were deeply involved in enjoying the music and stories, welcoming us back with wonderful enthusiasm, and letting us know how much they have appreciated the activity pages (along with the personal stories and photos that accompany each packet) over these long months. We were even able to have several conversations with them. The activity directors suggested they weren’t all that surprised by the turnout because, “Hey, they are really grateful for you guys thinking of them and putting in all that work on those activity pages. We kinda’ figured you’d get a bunch.” Wow. What a sweet blessing for us. And what a combination of blessings for the day. Thank You, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Where Did It All Come From?

There are really only two options in the end. Either there is a personal God Who made everything (carefully, purposefully and in keeping with His moral character) or everything is mere meaninglessness, an absurd collision of matter and chance to which the only authentic response is despair.

How incomparably sweet then that the revelation of Holy Scripture corresponds to the overwhelming evidence of the world, the moral conscience, and the universal longing of the human heart in acknowledging that God is there…and He is not silent.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Finishing Well: Lessons from King Asa

As I started work this morning on the Vital Signs Ministries monthly letter, it dawned on me that I hadn't presented a link here on the blog to last month's (August) letter. I sometimes overlook that because I post it on our Facebook pages and the VSM website and then forget to make sure it's here too.

Right below is the link. And, if I do say so myself, it's a relevant challenge indeed so, please check it out.

Finishing Well: Lessons from King Asa

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Going to the Dogs? #26 in Our "Anti-Boredom" Packets Is Out

Alas, the quarantines in the senior care facilities continue.

And, as long as this sad state of affairs goes on, we will keep creating our "Anti-Boredom" Packets for the residents who live there...and anyone else who needs a lift.

Last Friday, our first action after arriving home from our Colorado climbing trip was to send out #26 in our series. You can take a look at it (and all the others) on this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website.

And yes, inside #26 you will find 2 "dog photo quizzes" (with answers) that will give you a few smiles and memories. Here's one of them:


Friday, August 28, 2020

Back to the Top: Climbing Republic Mountain

When I was coming up to my 65th birthday, I decided to celebrate a little differently; namely, by attempting a hike of one of the 14ers back in my home state of Colorado. (The 14er label comes from being at least 14,000 feet in elevation.) And, you guessed it; that turned out to be the most harrowing, difficult birthday I ever had! But, thank the Lord for His enabling mercies, I made it to the summit of Mt. Bierstadt (14,065) and really relished the achievement. I followed up with another birthday hike the next year, making it up Mt. Quandary (14,265).

The recap and photos from those two adventures are 1) here  and 2) here.

However, the next year I was unable to keep up this new tradition because of both a torn meniscus and torn calf muscle. Those and other physical issues also kept me off the mountains for both my 68th and 69th birthdays (the latter coming just 8 weeks ago). Alas, it looked like I was forever done with that particular activity.

But, thank the Lord, He gave me another chance last Wednesday and despite the wildfires, the ongoing physical difficulties, a sleepless night before (stretched out in my car while a cold rain fell), and certainly the toughest climb yet, I was blessed to accompany 4 friends (Ron Scheffler, Mark Fichter, Sterling Fichter, and Ryan Dinville) to the top of Mt. Democrat (14,148) or, to use the historic name, Republic Mountain. (Note: The Mount Democrat moniker began with miners with Confederate sympathies who despised that a nearby peak had become known as Mount Lincoln. As one chronicler put it, they changed the name of Republic Mountain to Mount Democrat "to even the scales.")

Anyhow, here's a few photos and comments about the climb.


1) After enduring a lot of rain and cold while camping out on Tuesday night at the Kite Lake Trailhead, we started out about 5:10. Using flashlights, we headed north towards the saddle between Republic (Democrat) and Cameron.  This photo, taken after about 90 minutes of hiking, looks back southwest towards camp.


2) This is the goal...well, kind of. This far view of the mountain we will be directly climbing in about an hour (from this spot) actually shows the "false summit" of the mountain. This means that the true peak is hidden and you've got to go find it!


3) At the saddle between Republic and Cameron. My camera here is pointed almost directly north. Below is the valley in which the Middle Fork of the South Platte begins and in the background you can see Bartlett, Wheeler, North Star, and other impressive peaks.


4) This shot looks a bit further over the edge (no small test for a fellow who deals with vertigo) towards the valley floor. That shadow is thrown by Mount Cameron.


5) From the same vantage point, this photo shows how the valley breaks to the east. I love the contrast you find in the mountains of light and shadow, angle and curve, beauty and bleakness. By the way, the rounded mountain shown on the far horizon is Mount Quandary.


6) Okay, this is the first pitch towards the west and up from the saddle. If it looks intimidating, that's because it is! Indeed, not only must the hiker deal with the steep ascent in this portion, he or she must also scramble their way around with literally no path to guide them for quite awhile. One can sometimes find a few cairns to provide general guidance on the way back to some kind of trail. But, even then, this part of the climb is pretty frustrating, slow going, and a bit dangerous. So, be careful, kids.


7) Looking back toward the saddle and the ascent towards Cameron, this point in the trail represents a much-welcomed break from the scrambling. For quite a ways now, the hiker will be gingerly moving up several switchbacks on his way to the false summit.


8) At the broad plain beyond the false summit, there's still a ways to go. But this makes a great place to rest for a few minutes, take in the grand views to the west and southwest (which includes Mount Arkansas), and psyche up for the remaining 20 minutes or so.



9) From the same vantage point, this photo looks south towards the area where we started the morning. The light ribbon you can see moving down the Kite River Valley is the hardscrabble road that one takes (preferably, in a tough, high-clearance vehicle) from Alma 6.5 miles to the trailhead.


10) Arriving at the summit, all of us exchanged cameras to get both individual and group photos...plus the ones in which we posed with a 5-foot flag I had brought along. We took pictures for others who were there and one couple eagerly took advantage of our general offer to use our U.S. flag.  

And I'll post below again the photo that leads this story. It is surely one of my favorites from all my mountain photos from over the years. On the left (as you look at the photo) is Ryan Dinville (a family friend of the Fichters who now is a student living in Denver with obligations to the U.S. Air Force -- Ryan is an eager and skilled hiker and an overall nice guy); Mark Fichter (a recently retired farmer from southwest Iowa who now lives with his wife, Benita, in Bellevue -- Mark is a leader in his church and has long been a pro-life colleague), me; Sterling Fichter (Mark's oldest son who now farms on his dad's land -- Sterling is an experienced hiker with 11 14ers on his record so far -- and he is a toughened historical reeanactor whose specialty is the American mountain man era); and Ron Scheffler (a longtime friend and supporter of Vital Signs Ministries, Ron is married to Linda who was spending time with Claire in Breckenridge and Frisco during our absence -- this was Ron's 2nd 14er and he did remarkably well.)



Saturday, August 15, 2020

Denny Talks to Dr. Paul Kengor About Ronald Reagan's Christianity

It's another "blast from the past" from Vital Signs Radio.  Denny Hartford interviews Dr. Paul Kengor about Paul's book GOD AND RONALD REAGAN




Thursday, August 13, 2020

On Intelligent Design

"The fundamental claim of intelligent design is straightforward and easily intelligible: namely, there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence." 
(William A. Dembski)


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Old Glory



Evangelo "Vann" Morris is a combat veteran turned motivational speaker & narrator. This retired Navy officer LOVES America and was born to inspire. He has visited 45 countries and has made hundreds of speeches in 20 years.

Check out Vann's site right here.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Number 23 in the Anti-Boredom Series Is On Its Way

Alas, the quarantines in the senior care facilities continue.

And, as long as this sad state of affairs goes on, we will keep creating our "Anti-Boredom" Packets for the residents who live there...and anyone else who needs a lift. We sent out #23 in our series last Thursday. And you can take a look at it (and all the others) on this page of the Vital Signs Ministries website.


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."