Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Bible Study Among Friends (Even at a Distance)

Several weeks ago, I invited a few of my friends to join me in studying (and then discussing together) the Old Testament book of Esther.  The method was simple enough – read the book, study it in whatever depth you had time for, consider personal applications of the text, and then post a few of your reflections on an email thread so that everyone in the group (there were 8 of us) could benefit. 

Well, it worked really well. It not only provided stimulation and accountability to study the Bible, but it also helped make our friendships sharper and more purposeful as we related our responses to each other by conversation over coffee or even via email. And anything that helps us meet those goals is an important ministry. 

Perhaps you might consider joining us in future projects of this sort.  If you are in an effectively interactive study right now through home groups or Sunday school classes...that's terrific.  But if you’re not (or if you’d like to add to those studies), then give a thought to taking us up on this offer.  

And, by the way, the next project is just getting underway.  It’s a look at the 3-chapter Old Testament book of Habakkuk, a little book by volume but a very big book in its relevance to our own day.

So, if you’re interested in being a part of this exercise, just us send an email and I’ll include you in the thread.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Being About "Others"

In a conversation yesterday with Ralph Kramper, an old friend, pro-life colleague, and long-time family physician (before he retired), I heard a fascinating and inspiring story about Creighton University Hall of Fame athlete Bob Portman. I then learned that Ralph had written a brief tribute and I asked him if I could post it on Vital Signs Blog. Graciously, he gave me the go-ahead and so I present it here with my highest recommendation.

There’s More to Life Than a Number
by Ralph Kramper, M.D.

On Monday afternoon, while traveling from the graduation of a grandson in Wisconsin, I received a phone call on my wife’s cell phone from my good friend Bob Portman asking me if I knew who would be wearing #33 on the Bluejay basketball team.  We had been out of town for five days (no Omaha World-Herald newspaper) and though my own cell phone was fully charged, it was in my suitcase.  So I had no idea.  He explained the assignment of his long-retired jersey to a current freshman recruit who wore that number while in high school.

Bob and I had become friends during his junior and senior season at Creighton as his girlfriend Patty (now his wife) knew me from college at St. Benedict’s in Atchison, Kansas.  Patty and I would listen together to the away games on the radio (I was of no threat!).  I have been a Jay "backer" and season ticket holder since graduating from med school in 1971.  Bob not being allowed to play varsity as a freshman (and with no 3-point line in his day) makes his career stats even more
amazing.  Drafted by the San Francisco Warriors, he played four seasons with Jeff Mullins and Rick Barry.  After four seasons and with options available, Bob chose to retire from professional basketball to devote more time to his family.  I was present at his induction into the Creighton Hall of Fame (legendary UCLA coach John Wooden spoke) and at his induction into the Missouri Valley Hall of Fame.

So it came as no surprise that a man of God with great faith and humility would say “yes” to Coach McDermott’s request to "un-retire" his jersey number.  Having weathered several health storms, Bob epitomizes a man for others.

Living in a society that is so often egotistical and self-centered, it’s refreshing to see someone who is about others and not self.  That unselfish “other” spirit is what I believe characterized the 2021-2022 Bluejays.  May that continue and may we all look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Am I about self, or am I about others?”  It’s never too late to change.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Bravely Bear the Lord's Banner

Banners in the Old Testament are military standards. They first appear in Numbers1:52 and 2:2 in the directions God gave to Moses for the arrangement of the Israelite camps in the wilderness. Those banners, specifically and publicly, identified the tribal armies to which each Israelite belonged. Thus the banner represented identity, strategic organization, purpose, and inspiration for battle. And it is these practical elements that provide the foundation for the metaphorical use of banner in later Old Testament Scriptures. Let’s take a few moments to consider these four elements.

1) Identity. The soldier finds fellowship, accountability, and stimulation to strive harder by being part of a solid corps of soldiers. Therefore, the corps flag, as a visual symbol of all its values, is deeply cherished and carefully protected. Psalm 20:5 emphasizes the blessing of identifying with God in His victories by erecting banners. “We will sing for joy over Your victory and, in the name of our God, we will set up our banners.” A similar expression is seen in the exultation over Zion’s new and forever glory in Isaiah 62:10. “Build up the highway, remove the stones, lift up a standard over the peoples.”

But the banner isn’t only displayed after the victory. No, it is also unfurled preliminary to and during the battle itself. Indeed, the banner of God can serve as a prophetic announcement of His holy, conquering purpose. Babylon, for instance, is warned in Isaiah 13:2 and 3, “Lift up a standard on the bare hill… I have even called My mighty warriors, My proudly exulting ones to execute My anger.” Ethiopia and the other nations are also warned of judgment by the appearance of the Lord’s banner in Isaiah 18:3. “All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on the earth, as soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it.”

2) Organization. Throughout history, military commanders have used the various banners of their armies to help conduct strategic movement during a battle. Though being a whole and unified army, it is composed of different parts and the skillful coordination of their action is critical to success. The individuals within the corps do not necessarily need to know the overall battle plan, they simply need to stay close to their standard and obey the orders of their immediate commanders.

3) Purpose. In some cases, the military banners of an army represented specialized talents, training, or tasks. For example, an infantry corps played a different role in battle than did pikemen or archers or cavalry. In the same way, the Lord often gives Christians different banners to carry, banners that signify their unique callings and spiritual gifts. Nevertheless, they serve in a common cause, under a common Commander, anticipating a common inheritance.

4) Inspiration. Bonds forged by love and trust and shared ideals are tremendously strong. And those bonds yield courageous, sacrificial devotion. Historical examples abound of the honor involved in carrying the flag in battle. One standard-bearer falls but another picks it up and moves forward. Through the cries and confusion, the smoke and shells, the flag continues to wave, inspiring and guiding soldiers in their advance.

All four of these elements are relevant in the “banner verse” that’s been on my mind lately. It is Psalm 60:4. “You have given a banner to those who fear You that it may be displayed because of the truth.” As a believer, one who fears God with proper reverence and love, I am fully identified with Him…and He with me. Scripture teaches that because I have trusted in Christ as my Savior, I am one of His beloved disciples. And that service carries the responsibility of being a bondservant, a faithful witness, a dedicated soldier. And especially applicable to these tasks is His gift to me of a holy banner -- a banner which needs to be publicly displayed.

My identity isn’t static or platonic, it involves function. I am a standard-bearer, responsible to show forth in the public square (as well, of course, in my private life) His truths concerning righteousness, justice, and the offer of grace through the atoning work of Jesus. I must bear this banner for others to see and do so boldly, consistently, gratefully, and joyfully.

God is working out His will in history. And, amazingly, I am honored to be a part of that. In the spiritual rebirth that comes through receiving Christ, God has not only forgiven my debt of sin, He has redeemed me, transformed me, and (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), equipped me for every good work…including bearing His banner in my corner of the battlefield.  

All the banners of the Lord display His character and the glorious truth He offers to men. Like the lights we are given that are not to be hidden under a basket, the banners we are given or not to be stowed away in the trunk of our car to be unloaded only when we attend church. No, the Lord’s banners are for public display. Therefore, if we fail to raise His standard, we are living in flat out disobedience.

“You have given a banner to those who fear You that it may be displayed because of the truth.” So don’t neglect your high calling. Bravely bear His banner.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Thanks, Pro-Life Action League, for the New Signs!

Thanks to talented artist and dedicated pro-life activist, Pat Osborne, Vital Signs Ministries has always had some of the most beautiful and enlightening signs for use in our public pro-life witness over these last 40 years. 

Well, with photos provided by our colleagues at the Pro-Life Action League, we added a couple of new signs this morning for our prayer session outside Omaha's abortion business. And they too are winsome and persuasive. 

The two new signs are shown in this photo at the far right but you can also see a few of Pat's other signs being displayed.

Thank you, Pat. And thank you, Pro-Life Action League.  

Taking a Closer Look: Part Two (A Vital Signs Compilation of Must-Reads)

* "What the Jan. 6 Committee Might Have Been" (Victor Davis Hanson, Daily Signal)

* "6 Truths About The Environment The Biden Administration Would Like To Censor" (Elsie Miccue, Federalist)

* "Shower off: Inside Ashley Biden's diary" (Josh Boswell, Daily Mail)

Thursday, June 16, 2022

On the Home Front

If indeed “all gardening is landscape painting” as Alexander Pope believed, then Claire and I must be categorized in the “untamed impressionist” school! Actually, with the help of the lads over at Well-Rooted Gardens putting down mulch for us several days ago, we are about as content with the lawn and borders as we ever have been. Here's a few pics.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Roy Rogers' Rules (for a Life Well-Lived)

Remember when Hollywood actually helped parents raise their children with high moral standards, social responsibility, and patriotism?

Roy Rogers’ Riders Rules

1) Be neat and clean

2) Be courteous and polite.

3) Always obey your parents.

4) Protect the weak and help them.

5) Be brave but never take chances.

6) Study hard and learn all you can.

7) Be kind to animals and take care of them.

8) Eat all your food and never waste any.

9) Love God, and go to Sunday School regularly.

10) Always respect our flag and our country.

Monday, June 13, 2022

How Dare They, Indeed. (More Must-Reads)

* "Pizza Hut features 'drag kids' book for children as young as kindergarten" (Adam Sabes, Fox News)

* "Biden Administration Forces K-12 Gender Ideology Compliance with Lunch Money Threat" (Breccan F. This, Breitbart)

* "Whisteblower’s Lawyer: Pfizer Got Away With Vaccine Fraud Because Government Was Co-Conspirator" (Debra Heine, American Greatness)

* "Biden Hits New Heights With Festival of Lies During Navy Graduation Speech" (Nick Arama, Red State)

* "North Carolina preschool uses LGBT flashcards depicting a pregnant man to teach kids colors" (Michael Lee, Fox News)

* "Literature is being terrorised by cancel culture" (Nick Tyrone, spiked!)

Today's Must-Reads from the Alternative Media

* "Packin’ heat: Nude Hunter Biden cavorts with hooker, gun in latest mess for president" (Joshua Rhett Miller, Miranda Devine, & and Callie Patteson, New York Post)

* "Okay, Groomers" (Yet More Extremist Sexual Manipulation of Kids) (John Hinderaker, Power Line)

* "Dozens of Georgia churches split from United Methodist Church over LGBTQ issues" (Jon Brown, Fox News)

* "The FBI knew RussiaGate was a lie — but hid that truth" (New York Post Editorial Board)

* "Facebook rethinks news deals and publishers could lose millions" (Facebook has paid annual fees of $15 million to the Washington Post, $20 million to the New York Times and $10 million to The Wall Street Journal) (Alexandra Bruell & Keach Hagey Wall Street Journal via Fox News)

* "There Was a Huge ‘Mistake’ in the 2020 Census… Guess Which Party It Favored?" (Matt Margolis, PJ Media)

An Eventful Saturday

It was certainly an eventful Saturday for us beginning with my drive to Lincoln early this morning to pick up Harold Berry so that he could participate in the upcoming Vital Signs Book Brunch we were holding at Community Bible Church. We had a wonderful conversation. 

Then the event itself was remarkably successful --- 38 people, a delicious brunch (scrambled eggs, sausages, croissants, a couple of types of iced coffee cake, fruit salad, donuts, and hot drinks), a stimulating group discussion of Dr. Mark Christian's book The Apostate which tells of his exodus from Islam, and finishing with Dr. Christian himself talking about his life and new ministries in Christ. 

It went extremely well and we are deeply grateful for the special help from Allen Nelson, Mark & Benita Fichter, and Keith & Carol Moran in setting up and cleaning up. You guys are super friends!

And then this evening's highlight? That huge rain, hail, and wind storm! One of the very large branches of one of our front yard silver maples broke off and was blown over onto our neighbor's driveway hitting his car. Yipes. The damage wasn't really bad but enough to get our insurance guy on the job. We started cleaning up and another neighbor from across the street came over with his chainsaw which made the task of moving the branch back over to our driveway MUCH easier. 

Then a little more cleanup with another neighbor whose trees had also lost some big branches. And then finally, we got back inside to dry off and get ready for my sermons at tomorrow's church services at Wellspring Lutheran and Aksarben Village Senior Living. Like I said, it was an eventful Saturday, indeed.

Monday, June 06, 2022

In Honor of Those Who Stormed the Beaches

Here's the call of duty that members of the United States Navy received just two weeks before D-Day, June 6, 1944. 

27 May, 1944.
From: Naval Commander, Western Task Force

1. We of the Western Naval Task Force are going to land the American Army in France.

2. From battleships to landing craft ours is, in the main, an American Force. Beside us will be a mainly British force, landing the British and Canadian troops. Overhead will fly the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. We all have the same mission — to smash our way onto the beaches, and through the coastal defenses, into the heart of the enemy’s fortress.

3. In two ways the coming battle differs from any that we have undertaken before: it demands more seamanship, and more fighting. We must operate in the waters of the English Channel and the French coast, in strong currents and twenty-foot tide. We must destroy an enemy defensive system which has been four years in the making, and our mission is one against which the enemy will throw his whole remaining strength. These are not beaches held by apathetic Italians or defended by hasty fortifications. These are prepare[d] positions, held by Germans who have learned from their past failures. They have coastal batteries and mine fields; they have [illegible] and E-boats and submarines. They will try to use them all. We are getting into a fight.

4. But it is not we who have to fear the outcome. As the German has learned from failure, we have learned from success. To this battle we bring our tested methods, with new weapons, and overwhelming strength. Tides and currents present a challenge which, forewarned, we know how to meet. And it will take more than the last convulsive effort of the beaten “master race” to match the fighting spirit of the American Navy. It is the enemy who is afraid.

5. In this force there are battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. There are hundreds of landing ships and craft, scores of patrol and escort vessels, dozens of specials assault craft. Every man in every ship has his job. And these tens of thousands of men and jobs add up to one task only — to land and support and supply and reinforce the finest army ever sent to battle by the United States. In that task we shall not fail. I await with confidence the further proof, in this the greatest battle of them all, that American sailors are seamen and fighting men second to none.

6. Captains will please publish this letter at quarters on the day that the ships are sealed; then post on bulletin boards; and remove and burn prior to sailing.

A.G. Kirk (Commander, U.S. Navy)