Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Christmas Cards -- With a Purpose

What a terrific Christmas card party last! 20 participants. Stimulating and warm-hearted fellowship around 4 tables. And, in about 90 minutes, that remarkable group completed 158  cards and letters! Wow.

Among the recipients of our efforts will be politicians, business leaders, Christian champions, first responders, and lonely senior citizens. Also, 22 Christians imprisoned for their Christian beliefs in Iran, China, and Eritrea were each sent 3 different Christmas cards with encouraging messages and Scriptures in their own language!

Dear friends, perhaps you should ask your pastor, “Wouldn’t this kind of letter-writing party be an excellent outreach ministry for our church? Winsome. Relevant. Easily do-able. Even fun. What about it?”

Oh, by the way, beginning tomorrow and continuing for a couple of days or so, we will post a few of those Christmas cards here on the blog. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Attention Christmas Card Writers!

Monday, November 29th from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at our home is the site for the annual VSM Christmas Card Party. Vital Signs Ministries hosts a quarterly letter-writing night which helps Christians serve as pro-life, pro-family advocates to political officials, business leaders, and media; letters of encouragement to persecuted Christians; and thank you sentiments to military veterans, first responders, and heroes involved in key Christian ministries. 

However, the Christmas Card edition of this important series is always especially engaging, enjoyable, and festive. So, please plan on joining us. We will supply all the materials including the Christmas cards, the address sheets, the postage, and the Christmas treats needed to sustain the letter-writers! 

And, of course, RSVPs are deeply appreciated.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

And Moving Right Along (A VSM Update)

It has been quite a few days for us because along with all of our regular ministry activities for Vital Signs, we have been busy with mowing the lawn for the final time this year, mulching the fallen leaves, presenting several “When Swing Was King” shows, and taking advantage of an especially nice day to put up the Christmas lights.  We also had a splendid time at the church service we conduct every Sunday afternoon at Aksarben Village Senior Living (my sermon was on Philippians 1:22-27) complete with visiting over desert treats afterward.  Related to this ministry too is a couple of hospital visits.

But that’s not all.  We attended a showing of Oliver Goldsmith’s play, She Stoops to Conquer, at Concordia High School on Sunday night, one of the actors being a young friend who was with us on our climb up Mt. Bierstadt last July.  There were also the regular fellowship meetings on Tuesday (Dick, Sharon, & Allen) and Thursday mornings (Patrick & John) plus a “bonus coffee” on Monday with Gary Warrick to discuss Joel Rosenberg's Enemies and Allies, a remarkable book we had both recently read. Oh yes; there was the necessity of moving furniture around to make way for the carpet cleaner coming this afternoon and having a plumber come in and unclog a kitchen drain last night.

Anything else?  Yes, a bit.  Last Friday night I spoke at a chili supper gathering at a church in Fremont and on Monday afternoon we went shopping for soccer balls and hand pumps for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. On Monday morning there were prayers and a public pro-life presence in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion business.And finally, there were letters written, books read, getting our weekly activity packet out to senior facilities, and the preparations made for this weekend’s getaway with our book club at the Prairie Creek Bed & Breakfast outside Lincoln. That will be a very pleasant respite and so we’re looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

With a Little Help From Our (Praying) Friends

For friends of Vital Signs Ministries who serve the cause through intercession, here are a few prayer requests for the Lord's blessings on upcoming Vital Signs Ministries activities. We really appreciate your partnership in this.

* VSM's quarterly writing party (the Christmas edition) is at our home on November 29. Among the letter targets for the evening will be Christian heroes, first responders, senior citizens, persecuted Christians, and politicians and business leaders regarding pro-life measures, abortion funding in so-called infrastructure bills, voter fraud, and unconstitutional injection mandates. You're invited to participate.

* While "When Swing Was King" is making a comeback from the disastrous 20 months of virus lockdowns of senior facilities, we are asking the Lord to open up more opportunities and free us from restrictions in those places where we have been allowed back. Also, now is the time for churches and small groups to invite us to present the lovely, heartwarming, and inspirational Christmas edition of "When Swing Was King."

* I have a couple of speaking engagements on the schedule: this Friday at a chili supper at the Fremont Nazarene Church and another for Nebraskans Embracing Life on December 4th.

* The details haven't been set yet but it looks like the next Book Brunch will be some Saturday morning in December over Mollie Hemingway’s Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections. We might make this a Zoom event so even those far afield of Omaha could participate. Let us know if you're interested.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Pie Social/50th Anniversary Wrap Up

We didn’t have long to bask in the glow of our grand 50th Anniversary pie social party on Friday night. Indeed, I was at Paradise the next morning at 6 for catching up in my journal and planning the coming week...and that was followed by meeting Claire and several of our friends at the abortion business for prayers and public witness to the sanctity of life. The afternoon, in between watching some college football, involved finishing my prep for the sermon, music, and treats for our Aksarben Village church service on Sunday afternoon.  I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t post here on Vital Signs Blog at least a quick review of that 50th Anniversary event.

First of all, we want to thank all of you who attended the event -- 90 in all. And though Claire and I were both doing our best to “work the room,” we regret very much not being able to personally visit all of you. We want you to know your presence was noted and it was deeply treasured.

That congregation of dear friends came from many circles of Claire’s and my life.  Some go all the way back to our Christian Brotherhood beginnings; some from our book club; some from a common love of place (Estes Park, Branson, the Panera coffee shop); some from mountain hiking.  But the whole group present share with Claire and me a dedication to defending and promoting the biblical teaching on the sanctity of all human life. What an honor then it was to hang out with such principled, gracious, and courageous men and women. Thank you for being a part of this momentous celebration. 

Another thank you (a very special one) goes out to those who came early to create such a beautiful and efficient setting for the event.  Setting up the chairs and tables is a big enough job, but these guys decorated the place with tablecloths, centerpieces, chocolate treats, Scripture crds, and more.  They also posted direction signs; prepared the coffee and hot water for tea; prepared the pies and anniversary cake; set up the screen, projector, and speaker for the PowerPoint program; and even placed a welcome table for folks coming in.  It was a heavy job, generously and effectively performed.  Leading the way were the evening’s “hosts” Larry & Deb Harrold but right alongside were Jim & Jeanne Lawson, Allen & Cindy Nelson, Matt Troutman, Karla Struble, and Keith & Carol Moran.  Thank you all.

The program for the evening was pretty simple.  Claire took a few minutes to answer the trivia questions Allen had passed out to people coming in and she told a few brief stories that were heartwarming, funny, and inspirational.  That was followed by a 15-minute musical PowerPoint featuring photos from our 50 years of marriage and ministry adventure. It was nostalgic, fun, and yet inspirational too.  I then closed the program with a few observations from Proverbs about God’s power, love, and wisdom in imparting “good” (a specific Hebrew word) to His children.  For some that “good” is the gift of marriage; for others, it is the gift of singleness.  And that “good” doesn’t stop even when challenges come our way, including even the tragic trial of losing a spouse.  The exhortations were well received, helping us all to appreciate the unique calling Christ serves into each individual Christian.

Of course, there were also a few remarks about upcoming Vital Signs opportunities before we ended the program and moved on to the desserts and the delightful, stimulating fellowship that emerges from saints getting together for holy purposes.

It was a night we will long treasure and we again thank all of you who helped make it such an inspiring success.

Friday, November 05, 2021

News the "News Media" Is Hiding From You

* "26 fire stations in New York City close after workers resist liberal mayor’s vax mandate" (Jack Bingham, LifeSiteNews)

* "Study shows dramatic decline in effectiveness of all three COVID-19 vaccines over time" (Melissa Healy, LA Times)

* "What’s in Third Version of Biden’s Big Government Spending Bill" (Christian Mysliwiec, Daily Signal)

* "Hey Pope Francis, If Abortion is “Murder” Then Rebuke Joe Biden for Promoting It" (Rebecca Downs, LifeNews.com)

* "RFK Jr. tells LifeSite ‘sadistic’ Fauci funded research of grafting scalps of aborted babies onto rats" (John-Henry Westen, LifeSiteNews)

* "(Twix) Candy ad pushes transgenderism, punishment for kids who dare think crossdressing is 'weird'" (Doug Mainwaring, LifeSiteNews)

* "Florida elementary school under investigation for taking students on field trip to gay bar" (Matt Lamb, LifeSiteNews)

The Latest "Wow" Articles from the Culture Wars

* "Audit: Wisconsin Could Have Counted Enough Illegal Votes To Tip The 2020 Election To Biden" (Dan O'Donnell, Federalist)

* "Arrest illustrates how the Steele dossier was a political dirty trick orchestrated by Hillary Clinton" (Andrew C. McCarthy, New York Post)

* "American Media Companies Give Rise to Taliban’s Soft Power" (Annelise Butler, Thomas Vella -- Daily Signal)

* "Mandating Trouble: Mayor de Blasio’s needlessly inflexible requirement that city workers be vaccinated will endanger New York." (Joel Zinberg, City Journal)

* "Project Veritas Video Exposes 'Illegal Conduct' in One NJ Polling Location" (Leah Barkoukis, Town Hall)

* "Washington Post Wants Facebook to Shut Down PJ Media and Others for 'Climate Denial'" (Robert Spencer, PJ Media)

* "Los Angeles County sheriff blasts vaccine mandate causing 'mass exodus'" (Joshua Rhett Miller, New York Post)

“Making Mention” Prayers

The apostle Paul writes to the believers at Thessalonica, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.” (First Thessalonians 1: 2,3)  But Paul and his ministry colleagues engaged in many more “making mention” prayers than these verses refer to. Indeed, he uses the exact same words (connected in every case with prayers of Thanksgiving for believers) in Romans 1:9, Ephesians 1:16, Philemon 4, and very similar wording in Colossians 1:3 and Philippians 1:4. That’s quite a lot of references — more than enough for us to be curious about what “making mention” prayers are all about.

The Greek words Paul uses here reveal no mysterious meaning. No, “making mention” means just what it seems; that is, briefly naming in his prayers the believers in the various churches who have lifted his spirits because of their faithfulness to God. Now, the apostle may well find time to intercede for them regarding other issues. And he may well, in other instances, spend more time in his prayers for them. But what we see in these passages are that Paul’s Thanksgiving-oriented prayers simply make mention of them. We see too that he did so as a frequent activity. That is what is made clear with the word “always,” a word that is used in extra-biblical Greek literature to refer to an ongoing cough. Therefore, this doesn’t point to a mystical preoccupation — an ideal that is, in practice, unattainable. It merely means that Paul remembered, thought of, and made mention of these Christians in his regular, ongoing prayers.

I find these little verses of tremendous interest and full of stimulating applications. Among them? 1) Paul, though responsible for the immense responsibilities of apostleship, preaching the gospel, defending the Faith, overseeing the churches, traveling, sometimes making tents, sometimes dealing with persecution and the trials of imprisonment, was nevertheless a Christian leader who frequently prayed for individual believers. His prayers were not solely concerned with “cosmic forces” but also for individual saints. 2) Paul’s prayers were not prompted only because of trouble, trial, or sin in peoples lives. No, he obviously spent a great deal of his prayer time interceding for Christians who were doing well. Are we remembering to do the same? Again, Paul’s example and the number of Bible verses involved here testify that we should be.

3) Another important thing to note in reading all of these verses is that Paul was not merely praying that God bless these believers, but he was thanking God for their love and loyalty to Christ. Indeed, gratitude towards God is clearly the emphasis. We are so used to supplication in our prayers (asking God for blessings) that we often overlook the need to simply give Him thanks for blessings already received. And Paul recognized that those blessings were not just daily bread, deliverances, spiritual strength, conversions, the fruits of the Spirit, and on and on…but they included God’s splendid work in other saints. We should make sure this is a part of our prayer experience too.

4) Were Paul and Silas and Timothy praying “off the top of their heads” or did they perhaps have a prayer list? Did they have set times of prayer or did they merely find whatever time in the day was available? Did they pray together as a group? Or did they pray alone? Did they talk to God out loud or silently? We will not, on this side of the Jordan, be able to conclusively answer such questions. Yet I feel fairly safe to suggest the answers are: all of the above! And so the task before you and I is to emulate their behavior, using whatever methods serve best to help us pray more frequently, more intelligently, and more confidently.

5) These verses also prove that prayers for others do not need to be long, detailed, impassioned prayers. Some times they will be. That will depend upon the need, the depth of the relationship, and so on. But don’t be fooled by false guilt. Short, “making mention” prayers also please God and draw down His blessing. Furthermore, those brief prayers also lift our spirits and stimulate us to the same love and good deeds we see in our faithful brothers and sisters.

And here’s one more item I have found inspirational in these verses, 6) Just as the faith, love, and hope of the believers in Thessalonica, Ephesus, Rome, and the rest provided great joy to the apostle Paul and his team, you and I can greatly contribute to the joy, thanksgiving, and spiritual health of other believers as we stay the course for the Master. Should our primary motivation for faithfulness be our desire to please the Lord Jesus Himself? Of course. But, in the glorious plan and provision of God, it does not end there. Our faithfulness pleases the Lord, yes; but it also enriches and guides other Christians, rebukes and convicts unbelievers, moves the Kingdom of God forward, impresses angels and disheartens demons, and lays up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

In summary — Make prayers for others a priority. It will take creativity, work, and endless restarts and fine-tuning. But keep after it. Also make sure you’re not neglecting to pray for Christians who are doing well. And pray in joyful thanksgiving to God for their doing so. Finally, let your efforts to create an effective prayer life be as purposeful and committed as all of your other spiritual responsibilities.