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,

* "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. 


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


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).


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.