Thursday, March 30, 2023

“Oh, What a Tangled Web”

You’ve seen it many times. A group of teenagers is walking together down a street or in a shopping mall, but none of them are talking to one another. Instead, each person’s eyes are glued to the small screen shining out from their individual “smartphones.” 

Or what about the family you notice across a restaurant? They too are ignoring the opportunity for real-time, real-life conversation because their attention is fixed on those small but remarkably powerful computers they hold in their hands. But what about your lifestyle, attention span, self-esteem, relationships, learning abilities, and peace of mind? Have they not all been dramatically altered by the lure of the games, videos, chat, memes, social media platforms, “speed and convenience,” ad-filled articles, and other elements of the wondrous “world wide web?”

Let’s be honest? Has our immersion in the new technology made us smarter? Are we more sociable? More helpful to one another? More interesting? More in tune with God? Have we become more or less human?

You’ve probably guessed my answers to these questions. And so the primary reason I’m writing this post is to announce that Claire and I have decided to tread much more conscientiously in this “brave new world” that is dominated by Big Tech and the worldview it creates. In fact, this public declaration includes our intentions to return as much as possible to pre-Google, pre-Facebook, pre-smartphone habits – habits that kept us happier, healthier, and more engaging.

Of course, some of our friends would argue that we are already troglodytes. After all, we read books. We listen to music on CDs and even vinyl records. We highly value physical activity and interaction with God’s creation. We host dinner parties, visit with our neighbors, and meet friends for stimulating conversations over coffee. Good grief, I still have a flip phone. And Claire says I wouldn’t even carry that around if gas stations still had phone booths!

Nevertheless, I’ve been noticing for quite awhile that the entangling powers of the web have had way too much effect on us too. The splintering of our powers of mental concentration. Too much dissonance and diversion. Too little worthwhile content. The temptations to reduce our reading, praying, conversation, resting, thinking. But recently there’s been a few things that have intensified our awareness all the more. Those things include my preparations for a couple of recent sermons plus reading 3 very enlightening (and alarming) pieces: Anthony Esolen’s book, The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization; Malcolm Muggeridge’s book, Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim; and especially, an Atlantic Magazine article by Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” I heartily recommend them all.

And so Claire and I have decided to take purposeful steps to start cutting our entanglements from the web, thus freeing ourselves from the web’s theft of our time and its re-shaping of our minds. The first part of the plan? 1) From now on, we will be spending substantially less time messing with Facebook. After all, Facebook is intrusive, shallow, misleading on several fronts, and militantly slanted against conservative ideas and information. So, if you don’t notice us “liking” your Facebook posts anymore, don’t take it personally. It’s simply that we’re not going to be there very often.

2) We are certainly not unplugging ourselves from the news of the day. But we are going to spend less time in trying to keep up with every detail of the culture wars. For, as you know, trying to stay abreast of every outrageous headline (let alone trying to respond to them with prayers and principled protest) is impossible. What kind of balance will we be trying to establish then? Well, I will still check Fox News, Powerline, and on my computer in the morning. And I will still read the emails I receive from a few conservative news and opinion organizations as well as those coming in from selected Christian ministries.

I will do these things not only for my own awareness, but also because I take seriously the responsibility to be a “watchman on the wall” who desires to help others better deal with the spiritual challenges before us. And that leads me to #3 below.

3) Both as the Director of Vital Signs Ministries and simply as an older Christian who desires to help his fellow believers to accurately know their culture and to avoid being “ignorant of Satan’s devices,” I will continue to provide relevant information and biblical counsel to others. I will, for instance, still post on Vital Signs Blog (cross-posted also on my Twitter and Facebook accounts) the links to a few of the most important articles I come across as well as my own devotional and exhortational posts. And I encourage you to check out those links and posts to help you navigate the troubled waters without feeling swamped by the flood. And make sure that you are on the Vital Signs email list too because we will be sending out every week a Top 5 list of our highest recommended articles.

4) In order to better defend our minds from the distracting, maddening effect of the internet sites which use pop-up ads, distracting sidebars, and other bells and whistles, we are using Brave as our search engine (We're going as Google free as possible.) and we’re right now experimenting to find the most effective ad-blocker devices too.

5) Okay, the changes mentioned before are mainly in the subtraction category. But what are we adding in their place? Well, it’s mostly a matter of rededicating ourselves to tread the familiar paths we’ve long followed. Reading books. Face to face conversations. Prayer. Times of reflection. Service to others. Physical exercise. Appreciation of nature, music, cooking, entertaining, and beauty. Indeed, the best antidotes to the damaging effects of Big Tech on our brains, our time, and our relationships come from commitment to the well-trod paths of relevant, purposeful, and more harmonious involvement with God.

The web’s entanglement is powerful indeed. No doubt about it. But we can, with prayers, a devotion to resist worldliness, and the pursuit of healthier alternatives to the sinister influences of the internet and Big Tech, break those ties that bind. Want to join us?

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Patriotic Kindness of Elvis

It was on March 25, 1961 that Elvis Presley performed his first concert after being discharged from the U.S. Army. And you may be surprised (and I'm sure, delighted) to learn that it was a benefit concert to help build the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Though held at the relatively small Bloch Arena (situated near the Pearl Harbor entrance) and with general tickets selling for only $5 at such outlets as Sears stores, Presley raised (to use the National Park Service figure) an incredible $54,678.73 towards the Memorial. 

But it wasn't just the money that was important. Indeed, Elvis' electrifying concert (the first he'd done in over two years) was a major factor in kick-starting public interest in what had become a stalled project. Furthermore, it was a concert whose very idea originated with he and Colonel Tom Parker.

The show began with Minnie Pearl, the beloved star of the Grand Ol' Opry, and then onto the stage came Elvis with his complete troupe, including D.J. Fontana on drums, Scotty Moore on guitar, and the Jordanaires as his backup singers. All the proceeds went directly to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial project. Elvis and the others performed for free. Not a dollar was withheld even for expenses.

By the way, the reason Elvis was in the Islands was to begin filming a movie whose working title was "Waikiki Beachboy." Fortunately, they ditched that title and went with "Blue Hawaii" instead.

Though items relating to Elvis' momentous fund-raising, awareness-raising concert can be found in the Memorial's archives, there is no mention of the event at the Memorial itself or even the visitors' center. But that's the way it should be. For the USS Arizona Memorial is a tribute to the memories of the battleship's 1,177 crew who, on December 7, 1941, gave the ultimate sacrifice in behalf of the country's freedom.

Still, it's worthwhile to mention the generosity and patriotism of Elvis Presley -- virtues which played no insignificant part in the Memorial's creation. Elvis had, as you remember, volunteered for the U.S. Army. He wasn't a conscript. And it is moving to see how his pride in America and his desire to honor it's ideals and heritage remained strong even after his military service.

Thank you for your service, Sgt. Mr. Presley.  And in more ways than one.

Monday, March 27, 2023

The Latest "Working Vacation" Is Underway

What a splendid start to our week of “working vacation” in Branson! We began with a relatively easy drive down on Saturday with prayers, conversations, a lot of classic rock music, a couple of old radio programs, and getting settled into the condo about 5. A good night’s sleep followed and Sunday began with me writing some letters while enjoying an early coffee at Panera (the new one up on the strip) where I also visited a bit with some of regulars I’ve got acquainted with over the years. That was followed by breakfast with Claire at the condo and then off to Friendly Baptist Church for their Sunday service.

What a terrific church this and we love coming here every time we’re in the area. The music is outstanding (beloved hymns played by 10-14 quality musicians and a small choir); the pastor leads the congregation in prayers (which include needs in the congregation as well as the pressing issues of the day); the audience stands not for the songs but rather the Scripture readings; alerts are shared about missionaries the church supports; there is a lively time with parishioners greeting one another; and then there’s a dynamic, culturally relevant, and biblically-centered sermon from Pastor Monty Dunn. It is truly an inspiring and very helpful service.

After church, we changed into shorts and tennis shoes for our regular hike along Table Rock Lake, one of our favorite activities when we’re down here. It was gloriously bright afternoon with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees and the lake was high from storms that hit the area last week. I got in 5.8 miles and Claire was right there with me for 3 of them. There were a lot of other people (and dogs) taking advantage of the day and we enjoyed several brief conversations along the hike.

The evening involved salami salad that Claire made at the condo, watching a couple of sermons that friends had asked us to check out, finishing Malcolm Muggeridge’s Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim, and our night prayers together. It was a very good day.

And now today? It began with another early morning coffee at Panera, breakfast at home, and Claire doing the typing the edits I had made on a couple of posts and letters while I read 10 Books that Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help by Benjamin Wiker. (It’s another good one.) And soon we’re off for a few errands, a little shopping, another hike at the Lake and, who knows, maybe our first session of feeding ducks over at Lake Taneycomo. Lord, may all of our time here be invested wisely and then blessed by Your Spirit.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Another Yipes Alert! News That You're Probably Not Hearing

* Major Christopher Schilling of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst reported to local police that a New Jersey mother was a safety concern. Why? She had complained about sexually charged posters at her children’s elementary school.

* A Methodist Bible college in England fired a Christian theologian and threatened to report him as a terrorist because of his tweets in opposition to homosexuality.

* New York City’s first Drag Story Hour Read-a-Thon was officially kicked off by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Said James, “I am proud to have been joined by my colleagues in advocacy and government today in celebration of the love, joy, and family fun that Drag Story Hour brings to our communities. Hate has no home in New York, and I will always fight to ensure our LGBTQ+ siblings’ rights are upheld and defended.” 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also joined in, “Drag storytellers, and the organizations that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that are core to what our city embraces. Stories don’t just teach children to love reading, but help them understand people who are different…The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent. I thank Attorney General James for hosting this event that clearly says New York City is the place where you can be yourself and love who you want.”

* A Minneapolis science teacher, who recommends teachers include anti-capitalist materials in their classrooms, praised the idea of having no respect for authority. “My students this year have no respect for authority," the Saint Paul district teacher said. "And I love that in a person because I have no respect for authority whatsoever.”

* Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said he sees fighting climate change as a top priority for the Navy as the Biden administration proposes shrinking the fleet by two ships and worries grow about how the U.S. Navy stacks up to China’s. “As the Secretary of the Navy, I can tell you that I have made climate one of my top priorities since the first day I came into office,” Del Toro said March 1 in remarks at the University of the Bahamas.

* China has launched dozens of satellites in the past six months and the People’s Liberation Army now has 347 orbiting craft that can gather intelligence on American armed forces, according to the head of the U.S. Space Force. General Chance Saltzman told senators that Beijing was the 'most immediate threat' to U.S. operations as it develops lasers to disrupt satellite sensors, electronic warfare jammers, and even builds craft that could grab and move rival orbiting platforms out of position. It is all part of its plan for a fully modernized, world-class military designed to achieve China's 'Space Dream' of being the most powerful nation in space by 2045, he said. 

* A middle school in Utah’s Nebo School District gave sixth-grade students “disgusting” insects to eat last week as part of an English assignment on climate change, claiming it would save the environment from cows which were “killing the world.”

* An Oregon high school gave students an assignment to write a short story about a sexual fantasy.  “You will write a short story of a paragraph or two. This story is a sexual fantasy that will have NO penetration of any kind or oral sex (no way of passing an STI).”

* A federal appellate court rejected the appeal of a former account clerk in western New York who was fired from his job for refusing to attend a mandatory LGBTQ training in 2018. The plaintiff had argued that the LGBTQ training and makeup session were “aimed at changing his religious beliefs about gender and sexuality,” and that attending the training “would have caused him to violate the religious teachings to which he adheres” but the judges denied his request for a religious accommodation.

* Biden washing machine rule would make Americans dirtier and stinkier…and raise prices. Manufacturers claim the change would make each cycle take longer, detergent cost more, and leave clothes dirtier and stinkier.

* A Maryland teacher, who described herself as “proud as f--- to be liberal” and bragged about “indoctrinating” her students, called for an urgent fight against capitalism while adding, “Revolutions involve violence.” The teacher, Rebeca F. Rothstein, works at North Bethesda Middle School in the Montgomery County School District and believes educators should use their classrooms to turn kids into anti-racist activists. 

* A Roman Catholic priest in the United Kingdom is pursuing legal action against a public hospital trust after he was allegedly ousted from a National Health Service (NHS) facility for responding to a patient's question about the Church’s stance on sexuality and marriage. Rev. Patrick Pullicino, 73, who was a temporary member of staff at South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, was told that the Trust’s policy on equality and diversity “takes precedence over religious belief.” 

* Arrested for holding Christian beliefs at a Christian school? Canadian Catholic high school student Josh Alexander claims that's the story behind authorities arresting – and charging – him for trying to attend class last month. Alexander was a student at a Canadian Catholic high school in Ontario until he spoke his mind over concerns of men in women's restrooms at the institution. Distinguishing men from women and believing God created only two genders, he suggested, eventually led authorities to arrest and charge him for the offense.

* First-year students at the Indiana University School of Medicine are being subjected to woke diversity, equity and inclusion instruction as part of a basic Human Structure class, according to documents obtained by Fox News Digital. Students in the class receive a “sex and gender primer” lesson that includes instruction on gender being a “social construct,” that sex and gender are not the same thing, and on how to be a “more inclusive” healthcare professional when it comes to “gender diverse patients.”

*  Jane Fonda went on national television today and suggested that pro-life politicians should be murdered for trying to protect unborn children. I guess she believes in killing people both in and out of the womb," pro-life advocate Abby Johnson reacted.

“I have notifed Capitol Police of Jane Fonda’s call to murder pro-life politicians,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., wrote.  “Calling for the murder of a pro-life politicians is not only dangerous but it’s incredibly sick. This leads to targeting and can result in someone being seriously hurt.”

* HBO’s "The Last of Us,” a post-apocalyptic show based on the video game that was first released nearly a decade ago, depicted a Christian preacher as a crazed cannibal villain in the most recent episode. The group is led by a man named David, a Christian preacher, and also includes James and Troy, the latter of whom cites Bible verses to support his cannibalistic actions. David, the show’s evil preacher, even attempts to rape a young girl, Ellie, the protagonist, and cites a Bible verse as justification for doing so.

* RuPaul, a celebrity drag star and name behind the show "RuPaul’s Drag Race," claimed that drag queens were on the front lines of the culture wars in an Instagram video. Speaking in front of an American flag background, RuPaul said, “Drag queens are the Marines of the queer movement.” The video has gone viral online, racking up over 127,000 likes in under 24 hours. RuPaul himself has a massive social media following, with more than 4.4 million followers on Instagram alone.

* Hundreds of sexual deepfake app advertisements featuring actresses Emma Watson and Scarlett Johansson ran on Facebook and Instagram over the last few days. The Masters of the Universe apparently had no issue with advertising the technology used to make fake porn of celebrities — and increasingly, normal people too.

* A Colorado elementary school’s private emails show secret plans to defy parents’ wishes on transitioning their child’s gender.

* The FBI created a threat tag following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year, but it later "shifted" to focus on pro-life individuals, an agent-turned-whistleblower told the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

FBI Special Agent Garret O’Boyle, from the Wichita Resident Agency in the Kansas City Field Office, also said the FBI made him divide one domestic terrorism case into "four different cases," in what he described as an effort by the bureau to be able to show Congress an influx of domestic terrorism cases.

* After facing a week of backlash over its decision to rewrite portions of Roald Dahl’s books to make them more inclusive, Puffin will continue to keep the author’s original text in print, the company announced Friday. Puffin will still keep the new version of the text, which swaps out potentially offensive words like “fat” and adds additional passages to make the stories more palatable to modern readers, but will keep publishing the original text under the name “The Roald Dahl Classic Collection,” according to the announcement. Readers will now “be free to choose,” the company said.

* Abdullah Arif, 48, of Stillwater was shot and killed last Thursday outside his tobacco shop in St. Paul. Arif’s murder is in part the result of a broken court system that has repeatedly failed to hold violent offenders accountable. Sadly, Arif’s assailant had walked out of a Ramsey County courtroom just 40 mins earlier, after appearing on a gun-related charge.  

* A local Democrat official in Massachusetts is facing calls to step down after complaining about the cost of special education for children with disabilities who are not aborted. Michael Hugo, the chair of the Framingham Democratic Committee, made the remarks during a city council meeting when discussing a proclamation about access to abortion and crisis pregnancy centers in the city. He said crisis pregnancy centers could misdiagnose a defect in a baby in the womb, leading to them being born and becoming a strain on a school budget. He issued a public apology after 10 days of backlash from members of his own party and parents of special needs children.

* Last week, President Joseph Biden quietly signed an executive order that promises to create a national DEI bureaucracy and embed the principles of left-wing racialism throughout the federal government. The order, titled “Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” relies on three key strategies: creating internal cadres and power centers through the deployment of “Agency Equity Teams”; funding third-party political activism through grants to “community[-based] organizations”; and weaponizing civil rights law by requiring federal agencies to use artificial intelligence “in a manner that advances equity.”

* A school district was forced to pay over $100,000 in legal fees after banning moms from exposing pornographic material at school board meetings. Forsyth County School District agreed to pay attorney’s fees in a federal lawsuit brought by a group of parents who were censored at school board meetings. The Mama Bears settled a federal lawsuit against the Georgia school district after one of the group’s members was barred from reading sexually explicit excerpts at school board meetings. 

* A Massachusetts superintendent doubled down on providing a book to kids which contains detailed information on sex parties, orgies, extreme fetishes, sex apps and other explicit matters.

Fox News Digital asked Peter Schafer, the superintendent of Abington Public Schools, “You are aware that the book discusses the following, among other things: Orgies, kinks, fetishes, sex apps, bath houses, [a] casual hookup app, [and] detailed information on how to have anal sex, as well as other sexual activities?” The superintendent responded, “After reading the entire book and understanding it in full context, I decided to put it back in the library.”

* Pentagon school libraries contained dozens of books with jarring, pornographic content, such as detailed instructions on how to have sex, or radical gender ideology from elementary to high school, a Fox News Digital investigation has found. Fox News looked into over 50 schools, selected at random, at the Department of Defense Education Activity, which services over 66,000 military-connected children in the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. 

* A Pennsylvania English teacher said he included close-up photographs of penises, vulvas, as well as a video of a woman ejaculating in an optional sexuality class, according to an interview. The school told Fox News Digital they were standing by him. In an unearthed 2011 interview he gave to The New York Times Magazine, Vernacchio described his graphic lesson plans which he said have raised concerns outside the school. The teacher said his goal is to desensitize children to images of genitalia. 

* Democrat Pennsylvania State senator Steve Santarsiero sponsored a “queer prom” event which featured lube, condoms and a drag queen show for minors, Libs of TikTok reported. When Fox News Digital reached out for comment about the drag queen performance, the state senator boasted his support of the event which occurred at a Planned Parenthood-sponsored youth program called the “Rainbow Room,” which is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“I am proud to support the Rainbow Room’s annual Queer Prom for LGBTQ youth. I will continue to do so,” Santarsiero told Fox News Digital.

The “Queer Prom” was open to minors starting at age 14 and offered goodie bags of “Condoms, lube, dental dams, latex dam[s].” One of the hosts of the committee shared details of the goodie bag that was distributed to minors at the “Queer Prom.” “We've got tarot cards and candy,” the host said. “Everyone's going to get a crystal star shaped pendant, a progress pride flag, a Planned Parenthood bracelet. Everyone will take one home when prom ends.” 

* Two Florida moms are sounding the alarm on the CDC's disheartening new study that revealed 57% of high school girls experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness – the highest level reported over the past decade. In an effort to determine the root of the societal shift, Quisha King placed blame on the public school system, calling it a “hub” for harm. 

* Spry Community Links High School, in the Heart of Little Village in Chicago, says its vision is to “provide a challenging and supportive environment…to enable our students to succeed in the 21st century.” Number one on the school’s focus list? “Increasing reading and math scores to or above grade level.” But a look at state data that tracks reading and math scores for each Illinois school reveals two frightening facts about Spry. Not a single one of its 88 kids at the school can read at grade level. It’s the same for math. Zero kids are proficient.

Spry is one of 30 schools in Illinois where not a single student can read at grade level. Twenty-two of those schools are part of the Chicago Public Schools and the other eight are outside Chicago. The failure list in math is even longer. There are 53 schools statewide where not one kid is proficient in math.

The data comes straight from the Illinois State Board of Education. 

This column focuses on schools where zero percent of kids are able to read or do math. But we could have just as easily looked at the 622 schools where only 1 out of 10 kids or less can read at grade level. That’s a whopping 18 percent of the state’s 3,547 schools that tested students in 2022. And only 1 out of 10 kids or less can do math at grade level in 930 schools…that’s more than a quarter of all schools in the state.

* A Democrat South Dakota congresswoman, Rep. Erin Healy, took to Twitter on Monday to criticize the Family Heritage Alliance, calling the group “extremist” for promoting the idea that a child benefits from the support of a married mother and father. “Extremist group Family Heritage Alliance said this morning that the safest place for kids are in families that have a married mom and dad.” Healy tweeted. “What a dangerous and un-American belief.”

* A North Korean defector issued a stark warning Monday on “woke” ideology in American classrooms, believing the U.S. could "absolutely" be headed down the path of her home rogue regime if it doesn’t reverse course. “At Columbia University they were literally saying that all the problems that we have is because of capitalism, because of white men, and the solution for all these problems is a communist revolution in the name of equity."

* If you've worked hard to afford a suburban house with a patch of lawn where your kids can play, you're under attack. The Biden administration and Democrats in New York, Connecticut and other states are fighting local zoning laws in order to build high-rise apartment buildings with "affordable" units in tree-lined, single-family neighborhoods. All in the name of equity, meaning everyone can live in a tranquil suburb, whether they've earned the money to pay for it or not. The Biden administration announced Jan. 19 that it will require all towns across the U.S. to submit “Equity Plans” showing how they will make it possible for low-income people to live there by providing affordable housing, transportation and other resources.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Nothing Good Does God Withhold

Among the Scriptures I’ve been studying, thinking about, and using in my prayers of intercession is this Psalm 84:11. “For the Lord God is a sun and a shield.  The Lord gives grace and glory.  No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (NASB)

How wondrous and sweet is that promise. Imagine, absolutely no good thing will He withhold!  Because God is ever gracious to His children and because He is our guide (sun) and protector (shield), He gives us, as it is written in 2 Peter 1:3, every good thing we need pertaining to life and godliness.  Wow.

But let’s go even farther with this idea.  Remember Jesus’ words to the disciples as recorded in Matthew 7:11. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?” And the apostle James writes in 1:17 of his epistle that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with Whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Of course, it’s crucial to understand that these promises do not mean that God is our butler. He is not an errand boy or a genie who is obligated to supply whatever we wish.  Oh, no; God is the omniscient sovereign Who knows what is for our forever good, those exact things that will most bless and exalt us for all eternity.  Thus, we can trust His character as well as His power to give us what is truly best for us…always.

Do we get frustrated when it seems that God doesn’t answer our prayers?  Sure.  Do we wonder why His distribution of blessings seems uneven, sometimes even unfair?  Yes.  And do we chafe at the waiting process, the denial of self, even the suffering that often precedes what will be the “proper time” of our exaltation, as it’s put in I Peter 5:6?  Certainly.  But the verses I cite in the beginning of this note are among the many which remind us of the unshakeable foundation upon which our trust in God’s mercies must confidently rest.  We can rely upon our Savior to give us what eternity will sparklingly reveal were the very best gifts we could have ever received.

Our natural perspective is limited, even distorted, by our desires for temporal comfort and happiness, for peace and success.  But the Lord urges us to look further ahead than those temporal conditions and to calmly trust in His kind providence.  And, make no mistake, God is looking forward even more than we are to the day when He completes His gift-giving to us, to that victorious day when all things are reconciled to Him and we enter into the everlasting splendor of the new heavens and new earth.  And, in the meantime, we hold on to such glorious truths as Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” and 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”

Before I close my comments on Psalm 84:11 and the other “good thing” Scriptures mentioned earlier, let me also emphasize their existential applications; that is, their relevance to our walk in the Spirit today.  For instance, the context of James 1:17 shows that the good gifts that come from the Father of lights center upon the strength and wisdom He provides His children to escape temptations.  God’s good gifts sanctify us. They allow us to turn from evil and to instead “prove ourselves doers of the word.”   Also, Jesus’ question recorded in Matthew 7:11 is to encourage specific prayers of faith for maintaining holy, unselfish behavior.  And finally, Psalm 84:11 emphasizes that the good things of God are given to “those who walk uprightly.”  That’s a very important condition for the blessings.  Careful, consistent, and humble dedication to God’s Word keeps the channels clear so that He will pour out upon us all needed mercies.

How comforting these truths are.  And challenging too.  But they remind us of how glorious and gracious is the God we serve, One Who gives us all good things to empower our service to Him today and which will be completed and added to in the forever life that awaits us. So keep praying, dear friends.  Keep trusting.  And let there be a fresh spring in your step today as you walk uprightly toward glory.

The Real St. Patrick

The arrival of St. Patrick’s Day will elicit various celebrations. For instance, there will be much made of the uniqueness of the Irish race but, at least for the duration of the holiday, the non-Irish are invited to participate in the fun: sporting green clothing, wearing leprechaun decorations, pinching, eating corned beef sandwiches, politically-correct parades, and painting big green shamrocks in the public streets...usually outside the taverns.

It's all strange behavior and quite irrelevant to the memory of St. Patrick. Indeed, when one bothers to look beneath the pagan coverings of St. Patrick's Day to the man himself, one finds a truly noble Christian hero. So, let’s take a look at the historical figure of Saint Patrick. Let’s ignore the silliness and learn the lessons God would teach us about a faithful, zealous servant of Christ.

You might know the legends - how Patrick expelled the snakes from Ireland; how he explained the Trinity by reference to the shamrock; and so on. But the historical Patrick is more intriguing and inspirational than even the Patrick of legend.

The first revealing fact is that Patrick was not Irish! He was a Scot by birth, the son of a decurio (town councilor) who served as a deacon in the church. His grandfather was also a man of the cloth. While still a youth, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and reduced to slavery there. It was a life devoted to tending his master’s goat and sheep herds but Patrick finally began to find a measure of comfort and strength through prayer. This was in dramatic contrast to his earlier years in Britain when, as Patrick himself described it, he “knew not the true God” and did not heed the “clerical admonitions for salvation.”

Patrick escaped from his slavery -- after six years -- and made his way to a port some 200 miles away on the southeast coast of Ireland. He persuaded some sailors to take him with them, but it would still be a long time before Patrick reached home. In fact, there were various adventures in foreign lands ahead, including days where he nearly starved to death. But God was gracious to him and Patrick finally returned to his family, though very much changed. He had embraced the Christian faith of his family by his own convictions now. And he embraced too the call of service in Christ’s kingdom.

Patrick first received a basic clerical training. This would have included instruction using the Latin Bible (which he came to know well) but it was not a highly academic education, the lack of which he always regretted and for which he was sometimes criticized in later years by his enemies. His own Latin writings are certainly inelegant, even at times rustic, but they reflect a purity and power arising from a heart dedicated to the Lord.

Then, in a remarkable display of compassion and courage, Patrick decided to return to Ireland. By his own choice, he returned to the land where he had been worked as a slave, this time to bring the liberating message of the gospel. This was in 435.

Patrick worked principally in the North with his base at Armagh. It was from here that he made his many missionary journeys among the heathen Celtic tribes. Those efforts were blessed by God and were very successful. Patrick was a tireless worker, an expert organizer, and a man of consecrated prayer. By the end of his life, he had planted over 200 congregations and introduced thousands to the true religion of Jesus Christ.

Patrick’s most crucial goals were confrontational and were pursued with tremendous zeal -- abolishing paganism, idolatry, and sun-worship. He was ready for imprisonment or even death in following Christ. Nevertheless, he was generally popular. He made no distinction of classes; he was simple and unpretentious; he was compassionate and humble.  And he never forgot his origins. Indeed, Patrick retained, even in his old age, vivid memories of being an unlearned exile, a slave, a desperate fugitive, and a lost soul who, by the incredible mercies of God, had learned to trust wholly in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for his salvation.

Patrick lives in example, but he also lives through his writings, the earliest to still survive from the British church. They are his Confession (his autobiography), the Letter to Coroticus (which was a protest against British slave-traders), and the Lorica (translated “Breastplate”) which stands as one of the most beautiful pieces of ancient Christian literature. Here's a passage from the latter:

May the strength of God pilot us.
May the power of God preserve us.
May the wisdom of God instruct us.
May the hand of God protect us.
May the way of God direct us.
May the shield of God defend us.
May the hosts of God guard us against the snares of the Evil One and the temptations of the world.
May Christ be with us. Christ before us.
Christ in us. Christ over us.
May thy salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and for evermore.

(The above text is a recently edited version of a “Vital Signs” radio transcript I wrote back in the 90s...maybe even the 80s. Yipes!)

Among Our Ministry Heroes...Alliance Defending Freedom

Among the ministries Claire and I support with prayer, financial donations,
encouragement through letters, and passing the word along to others about their invaluable and truly superb work is Alliance Defending Freedom, the nation’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life. 

And they are educators too. Case in point? This excellent article, "What the FDA Hasn’t Told You About Mifepristone," by Erik Baptist, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom. It's one of the best I've read in exposing the FDA's irresponsibility. 

Below is the link to that article. And then below that is a link to ADF's website where we encourage you to go and browse around a bit. You may well decide that you'd like to start supporting them also.

"What the FDA Hasn’t Told You About Mifepristone"

Alliance Defending Freedom

Monday, March 13, 2023

Jesus Hosts a "Fish Fry" (John 21:1-14)

In this recent sermon, Denny "unpacks" John 21:1-14, one of the most inviting scenes in the gospels. In this passage, we see prophesies fulfilled, Jesus' only recorded post-resurrection miracle, insights into the character of certain disciples, the wonderful hospitality of Jesus, and more.

Friday, March 10, 2023

“Lighthouse” Letters: Examples from Vital Signs’ Latest Letter-Writing Party (Part 2)

Here are a few more examples from Monday's letter-writing party, the latest in Vital Signs Ministries' quarterly ministry of this kind. As I mentioned previously, they were written by different people but all with a desire to be a light in the darkness, offering (as needed in the particular case) enlightenment, inspiration, or encouragement, instead of merely cursing the darkness. 

Like those posted yesterday, today’s notes deal with various pro-life, religious freedom, and morality issues and I certainly hope they might motivate you to write some letters on your own. We always are available to help you do so with information, tips on letter-writing, addresses, and so on. Let's go...

* Dear Southwest Airlines,

Your company has fallen into the same “woke extremism” as so many others and has thereby insulted the vast majority of those who make up your would-be profit base.  Because of this outlandish promotion of leftist ideology and unnatural, dishonorable lifestyle practices, I am one of the many who will seek alternatives to your services.

* Dear CVS,

We write with profound concerns about your decision to sell the abortion drug Mifepristone.  Indeed, because you certainly know the lethal effect of this poisonous drug – it kills preborn boys and girls – we will no longer be shopping at your stores.

Please reconsider this tragic and terribly misguided decision.

* Dear Governor Jim Pillen,

I pray for you to have godly wisdom and to seek His will in all of your decisions.  I pray you will God fearing and be strong in the decisions you make for Nebraskans.  God has allowed you to be our governor.

Please take a strong stand against abortion and abortion pills, transgenderism and woke CRT ideology.

We also need charter schools and revamping our education system.  Discipline of our children needs to come back.  They are crying out for boundaries and teachers and principals’ hands are tied and can’t do their job.  My husband teaches for OPS and I work for OPS also and we have seen the decline of our school system.  We need help.

* Senator DeBoer,

I know that you have opposed LB626 – the Heartbeat bill, but I want to ask you to reconsider this opposition.  Babies in the womb deserve the protection of adults and I pray you will agree.

* Mr. Tucker Carlson,

It is with great gratitude that I write to thank you for your courage in reporting what so few are willing to cover. You stand out among your peers.  I have been skeptical for a long time about reporting on the major networks and print publications because I have seen firsthand how they lie about pro-life Americans. It is amazing you are able to break through.

I pray that you are protected in all that you do and that you know the One Who is truth in fulness.

* United Airlines

Mr. Gary C. Kelly,

My #1 priority when traveling by air is safety and so I am concerned about the best qualified pilots, co-pilots, mechanics, and technicians. I do not care about your employees' sexual proclivities, so please do not think that virtue signaling about how biologically or sexually diverse your crews are is going to impress me as an air traveller. Indeed, I am actually less inclined to use your airlines now that I know this is a priority in your hiring.

* Dear Alliance Defending Freedom,

Part of every Vital Signs Ministries letter-writing party – after we have written letters urging actions on sanctity of life, religious freedom, and other values arising from biblical truth – we make sure we write with thanks and encouragement to a few of the genuine “good guys” in the fight.  And, we wanted to make sure we acknowledge the excellent work being done by your team in enlightening, inspiring, and helping equip saints across the country to stand strong for these values.

Way to go, guys.  You will remain in our frequent prayers.

* Dear Rev. Graham,

In this tempestuous and decadent culture, you and Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA remain beacons of light for the Lord Jesus.  And you do so with winsome and wise service that has such an effective, persuasive effect.  Thank you so much.  And may our Lord continue to lead, protect, purify, and empower you and your colleagues.

We are honored to support Samaritan’s Purse with only a little bit of money but with a whole lot of prayer and public praise.

* Dear Senator Ricketts,

We send along our sincere congratulations for your appointment to the U.S. Senate. It is a much deserved honor and a great blessing to the people of Nebraska…and the nation. We are certain that the same quality of wise, principles leadership that make your tenure as Governor so effective will be a hallmark of your services in the Senate.  And we will be praying to that end.

And, of course, we will pray that you will become one of the strongest of voices there in D.C. for the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and family values.

Again, congratulations.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

"Lighthouse" Letters: Examples from Vital Signs' Latest Letter-Writing Party (1)

As promised in this post from yesterday, I’m printing below a few samples of the letters and cards that were written at the two Vital Signs Ministries letter-writing last Monday. They represent, by the way, several different letter writers.

Today’s notes deal with various pro-life, religious freedom, and morality issues and I certainly hope they might motivate you to write some letters on your own. Vital Signs Ministries always stands ready to help you do so with information, tips on letter-writing, addresses, and so on.

* Dear Coca-Cola,

For a great deal of my long life I have enjoyed Coke products.  However, as your company has gone further and further down the path of radical, unnatural “wokeness,” I have decided to forego the pleasure. No more Coke from now on…unless you quickly reconsider this counter-productive path and get back to making quality products as opposed to pushing an extreme ideological agenda that is so at odds with the best ideals of Western civilization.

* Dear Walgreen’s,

I am a pro-life woman who has shopped and even worked at Walgreens for many years. I am writing to request that you do not dispense pills that cause the deliberate death of an unborn baby and have the potential to gravely harm the mother.

This matters deeply to millions of pro-life persons who up to this time have been regular customers of yours. But you’re certainly going to lose a lot of them if you do start dispensing pills that kill preborn boys and girls.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I implore you to reconsider doing anything that would take a life.

* Dear State Senator DeBoer,

I am a retired woman who lives in your district.  I am also a strong pro-lifer, believing that abortion is the murder of innocent lives. As a young teenager many years ago, I was faced with an unwanted pregnancy.  I was fortunate to have a godly mother who helped direct me to an agency that dealt with adoption.  This happened before Roe v Wade and abortion was illegal but I never would have chosen that anyway.

My daughter eventually found me, and she is now a wonderful mother and grandmother to 6 lovely children.  How thankful I am to know I gave my child life and do not have to look back with regret of choosing to kill my child.

I pray you will turn from your liberal views and realize the value of each pregnancy as a human being and see abortion for what it is, the murder in a brutal way of an innocent child.

* To the Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.

Dear Mr. Zhang Jun,

This is just a brief but impassioned note asking that you use your influence to persuade China to exercise greater restraint, mercy, and justice in dealing with religious freedom.  

We sincerely ask you to act against imprisonment and other harsh treatment of peaceful, productive citizens who simply desire to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your consideration of this critically important matter.

* Senator Ricketts,

Congratulations on your new role in the U. S. Senate.  I was very pleased with your terms as Nebraska’s Governor, particularly in cutting taxes, preserving our freedoms, opposing federal government overreach, and restricting abortion zealotry. You have done a stellar job and I encourage you to continue those fights in D.C.

One particular issue I’m presently concerned about is keeping away the World Health Organization’s intrusion into our national sovereignty.  This is of the utmost importance.

I continue to pray for your courage to stand against the globalist agenda.

* Dear President Biden,

Wow -- you have certainly made a mess of things in these two years and, of course, your most grievous action has been your turning against the Catholic teachings you once claimed to be so important to you. 

I urge you, Mr. President, to please reverse course and begin to honor God, speak the truth, defend the sanctity of all human life, protect America’s borders, and keep us free from entangling relationships with rogue nations.

* Dear State Senator Hunt,

Please vote against the following bills:

LB179 – Forces counselors to affirm transgenderism and same sex attraction in children.  Counselors should be allowed to practice using their own thoughts and skills and not being forced by law to say “yes” to a disorder that needs attention not promotion.

LB169 – Sexual orientation and gender identity protected class.  This undermines constitutional freedoms, unfairly targets small businesses, and gives men unfettered access to places that were formerly safe for women.

LB316 – Replaces husband and wife with spouse 1 and spouse 2.  Marriage between one biological man and one biological woman has always been the truth since God created it and even if we try to change it, it’s still going to be the truth.  Please leave this God-given institution alone.

LR26CA – Removes the definition of marriage from the NE constitution.  This also undermines the truth.  This was placed in the state constitution by over 70% of voters.

Megan, I’m praying for you.  God has allowed you to be in this position and you are accountable to Him. Jesus loves you and created you and He’s the One Who has given you opportunities, skills, and abilities. But you must choose whether to serve the Lord or the self.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting live.” You are included in the world, Megan.  Jesus gave His life for you and He rose again to prove the efficiency of His salvation offer.

* To the FBI,

With your absolutely unconscionable targeting of pro-life Americans instead of concentrating on what should be the priority of your agency (namely, protecting the citizenry from genuine criminals), you are bringing shame and scandal (even ridicule) to what was once one of our nation’s most respected institutions.

Please get back to the real business of the FBI…protecting the United States from the “bad guys” like terrorists, counterfeiters, kidnappers, bank robbers, sex traffickers, and murderers. And leave the innocent, peaceful, and productive citizens (like Christian pro-life advocates) alone.

And again, I’ll have a few more examples tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Letters for Life, for Freedom, and for Sanity

It’s been quite a couple of days – preaching at Grace Bible Church on Sunday morning and then the dash to Aksarben Village Senior Living for our Sunday afternoon church service.  A very engaging time at both. And then Sunday night we were hustling to get things ready for two letter-writing parties on Monday. 

But before we could get to those events, we joined Keith for prayers and our pro-life witness outside the wicked abortion profiteer that is Planned Parenthood.  And oh, what a cold, cold wind was blowing down 92nd Street!

After that, we turned the heater on high for the drive home and so we were ready to finish our preparations for miniature egg casseroles, biscuits and jam, homemade kolaches (thank you, Jean!) juice and coffee for when the Hovanecs, Lawsons, and Morans arrived. Following our meal,  we settled in to write 50 + letters. Great job, guys!

Claire ran errands in the afternoon while I worked on editing the March edition of “When Swing Was King” which needed to be ready by Tuesday morning. Yipes.  And then we enjoyed the evening letter-writing party where John, Becky, Don, Ruth, and Claire and I wrote another 40 + letters.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have very many letter-writers present -- in comparison, the last one in December drew 25 people -- but all those involved did a really terrific job. 

By the way, the targets for our letters were as varied as usual.  They included:

* Urgent requests to Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid to NOT distribute poisonous pills that kill preborn boys and girls.

* Polite, principled protests of the bizarre, counter-productive, and immoral “lurch to the loony left” that have been made by such companies as Bank of America, United Airlines (American and Southwest also), Best Buy, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Walmart, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and McDonald’s.

* Pro-life and pro-family concerns before the Nebraska Unicameral: LB626, LB179, LB169, LB316, and LR26CA.

* Advocacy for more just and humane treatment of religious persons from government officials in China, Eritrea, Iran, and North Korea.

* Several issues related to government action: the FBI harassing pro-life citizens; the foolish passion being demonstrated by the Department of Defense and Department of Education for formerly unthinkable immorality hiding under the terms “diversity & inclusivity;” vote fraud; and more.

* And then a lot of thank-yous to the good guys: Franklin Graham, Tim Tebow, Tucker Carlson, ADF, Nebraska Family Alliance, Joni & Friends, Samaritan's Purse, Senator Ricketts, and several others.

I may post a few sample letters tomorrow.  In the meantime, please consider grabbing paper and pen and writing a few notes of your own.  It’s way better to shine than whine!

Monday, March 06, 2023

A Few Terrific Resources

Dear friends,

We wanted to send along a few items that we think you’ll find of interest and inspiration.  Indeed, we hope you’ll find them valuable enough to pass them onto others…like your pastors and youth pastors. For instance, we are sending links to two remarkable pro-life music videos that we played at one of our sessions at the recent L’Abri conference, they received rave reviews.  We believe both of these can be life-changing, even lifesaving were they to be seen by American youth. Do check them out – you’ll never forget them.

Anyhow, here’s what we’ve got for you.

1) Two brief Bible expositions which make excellent pro-life apologetics. They are “The Real Emmanuel Moment,” and “An Old Testament Defense of Preborn Children: A Brief Exposition of Exodus 21:22-25.” You can find them under Articles at the Vital Signs Ministries website.

2) The link to the Nick Cannon video:
(Lyrics to this song are printed at the end of this post.)

3) The link to the Matt Kennon video:

4) “Abortion and Church History” is also available on our website. It is a remarkable collection of quotations from Church Fathers and others down through the Reformation and beyond. We have a brochure version of that article which you can order from us at no cost, but you can also print off the website version as well.

Again, dear friends, we hope you find these resources of help in your pro-life service.


Can I Live? (Lyrics)

Can I live?
I'm talking, ma
I know this situation is personal
But it's something that has to be told
As I was making this beat
You was all I could think about
You heard my voice
Yeah, uh huh
Just think, just think
What if you could just
Just blink yourself away
Just, just wait, just pause for a second
Let me plead my case.

It's the late 70's, huh
You seventeen, huh
And having me, that will ruin everything huh
It's a lot of angels waiting on their wings
You see me in your sleep so you can't kill your dreams
Three hundred dollars, that's the price of living? What?
Mommy, I don't like this clinic
Hopefully you'll make the right decision
And don't go though with the knife decision
But it's hard to make the right move when you in high school
Now you gotta work all day and take night school
Hopping on the bus and the rain is pouring
What you want morning sickness or the sickness of mourning?
Can I live?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

I'll always be a part of you
Trust your soul, know it's always true
If I could talk I'd say to you
Can I live?
Can I live?

I'm a child of the king, ain't no need to go fear me
And I see the flowing tears so I know that you hear me
When I move in your womb that's me being scared
Cuz who knows where my future holds
Yo, the truth be told you ain't told a soul
Yo, you ain't even showing, I'm just two months old
Through your clothes try to hide me, deny me
Went up three sizes, your pride got you lying
Saying ain't nothing but a migraine
It ain't surprising you not trying to be in Wic Food lines
Your friends look at you funny but look at you mommy
That's a life inside, take a look at your tummy
What is becoming, ma? I'm Oprah bound
You can tell he a star from the Ultrasound
Our spirits connected, doors open now
Nothing but love and respect
Thanks for holding it down, she let me live.


It's uplifing for real, y'all
I ain't passing no judgement, ain't making no decisions
I'm just telling y'all my story
I love life
And I love my mother for giving me life
We all need to appreciate life
And a strong woman who had to make a sacrifice
Thanks for listening
Thanks for listening!
Momma, thanks for listening

Thursday, March 02, 2023