Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Week's Top Five (April 29)

Well, this last week certainly showed sad new levels of (to use Francis Schaeffer's word) "stupid-wicked" in the culture. From politics, business, government schools, the publishing field, the incredibly inept and easily corrupted Nebraska Unicameral, and more, we see the deterioration continue at a dramatic pace. However, I don't try to chronicle the culture slide in this feature; I only suggest 5 articles (actually, one of them this week is a video link) as a healthy "sanity check."

The Top 5:

1) The inhumanity of the green agenda: The ‘sustainability’ regime is impoverishing the world. (Joel Catkin, spiked!)

2) Do We Even Know We Are All Socialists Now? In the end, perhaps the best definition of socialism is simply “The endless war against merit.” (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

3) Who was the real Martin Luther King, Jr.? King: A Life is the first comprehensive biography of the black civil rights hero to appear in more than thirty years (David J. Garrow, Spectator)

4) Top Republicans Explain: How GOP Candidates Should Be Talking about Abortion (Suzanne Bowdey, Washington Stand

5) Right here is a link to the first in a series of 5 Hillsdale College lectures on the Inklings. It is "Who Are the Inklings?" By Bradley Birzer.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Week's Top Five (April 22)

I am, of course, aware that 3 of this week's Top 5 are written by Victor Davis Hanson. But that's simply because all three are that good.  Here you go.

* Silicon Valley’s moral bankruptcy (Victor Davis Hanson, New Criterion)

* Can We Do Anything About America’s Decline?: The remedies are agreed upon, but the needed medicine is feared more than the disease. Because today, the government is the cause of our many crises. (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

* The Useful Veneer of the Aging Democrat (Victor Davis Hanson, Daily Signal)

* Open Letter to an Emotionally Abused World (Lori Weintz, Brownstone Institute)

* Surgeon Castrating ‘Gender-Diverse’ Eunuchs Manifests The Evil Of Transgenderism: The idea of ‘eunuch’ as a gender identity that needs to be affirmed with surgical castration is obviously insane. (Nathaniel Blake, Federalist)

Monday, April 17, 2023

About That Nick Cannon Video

In the March letter from Vital Signs Ministries, I briefly mentioned two secular music videos I believed had the potential to be life-changing, life-saving resources. And I still do. 

However, a friend who I hadn’t directly heard from for a long time was concerned enough to call me last weekend with a disagreement about one of those videos. The two I mentioned in the newsletter were Nick Cannon’s “Can I Live” and Matt Kennon’s “The Call.” But my friend’s concern was only over Nick Cannon’s. Because of Cannon’s background and negative reputation, my friend thought he was a poor choice to use as a role model in any way...especially with young people. 

I explained that I was only advocating that particular video (which is the re-telling of Cannon’s own story as a kid who was almost aborted) and that I didn’t think that was condoning elements of his immoral lifestyle. After all, in many other contexts, I quote and/or refer to non-believers when their remarks are relevant -- as did the apostle Paul, by the way.

Nevertheless, I listened to my friend -- a very sincere and godly man -- and admitted I could at least have attached a “warning label” of some kind when suggesting the Nick Cannon video had I known more about who he was. And not bothering to check that out was “my bad.” And after thanking my brother for his honest, and somewhat courageous, counsel, I told him I would pass along that warning now. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

The Top Five (April 15)

Okay, here's our second edition of The Top Five -- our five highest recommendations from the news and commentary covering the culture wars (and more) that I've read this past week. 

* An unspeakable atrocity: The pain is made so much worse by the pusillanimity of the west (Melanie Phillips)

* The Biden 10-Step Plan for Global Chaos: Our enemies do not fear us, our allies judge us unreliable, and neutrals assume America is in descent and too dangerous to join. (American Greatness, Victor Davis Hanson)

* America’s Censorship Regime Goes on Trial: Missouri v. Biden will test the government’s ability to suppress speech in the name of fighting ‘misinformation’ (Tablet, Jenin Younes)

* Trump Isn’t Only One Facing Double Standards of Justice (Daily Signal, Katrina Trinko)

* National Right to Life on the Fifth Circuit Court Decision on the Abortion Drug Mifepristone

And here's a video extra ---- A provocative video ad for the New Saint Andrews College (Lies lose all their power when the deceived become wise. New Saint Andrews College has taken a stand. We will not be torn away from our belief in beauty, goodness, and truth by the lies that are being told. Neither should you. Neither should your children.)

Considering Legalism: A Few Ground Rules

I want to warn you about mistaking perfectly appropriate rules of organization for legalism. Legalism has become a cheap and distorted word in some circles, one used completely apart from its biblical context. A few examples: When your Mom tells you to clean up your room, you cannot yell “legalism.” When the cop pulls you over for having a busted taillight, you should not scream, “You’re just being legalistic. And because I’m free in Christ, I don’t have to obey any of your silly man-made rules.”

And when church leaders say you shouldn’t disrupt morning services by talking or eating breakfast in the pews or snoring or letting your cell phone ring or allowing your child to play with her Chatty Cathy doll -- these things are not -- I repeat, not -- legalism.

Legalism, as explained in the New Testament, is an effort to detract from Christ's authority, His character or the sufficiency of His atoning work on the cross by substituting rules of man-made religion. It's a very serious pattern of heresy. So, don't distract from the dangerous deceptions of legalism by casually tossing around the word as a pejorative whenever you meet rules of order and organization you think are unfair, burdensome or unproductive.

One can argue about the efficiency of rules or their timing and usage. One can even question the legitimacy of the ones making the rules. But throwing out rules altogether is foolish. It makes you an ally of chaos. Indeed, it puts you out of step with the Scriptures themselves for rules (commands, exhortations, warnings) or part of the very fabric of the Word.

Also, to unfairly toss around the charge of legalism in any controversy over rules and guidelines really creates a greater mess. It is a attempt to make a spiritual issue out of something that is often of a purely practical nature. The legitimate discussion of a curfew, for instance, which occurs between a father and his 18-year-old son who still lives at home isn't helped by Junior calling his father a legalist for the very idea of a curfew. No, using the word "legalism" as a cudgel is to be avoided. That's trying to win an argument by impugning the motives or character of the one who disagrees with you or, worse still, it assumes the absurd presupposition that organization itself is a bad thing.

You get the idea? Henry Martyn Robert did not become a legalist when he came up with his now famous Rules of Order. Football referees or baseball umpires are not legalists because they require players to strictly abide by rules. My doctor who ordered me to cut down on caffeine is not a legalist. So, let’s be careful how we use the term.

Monday, April 10, 2023

A Memorable Easter Weekend

A delightful Easter weekend started with an early coffee at Panera where I wrote another chapter in a new Christmas story. And then the day involved three major projects – the application of our first lawn care “stuff,” connecting the garden hoses and giving the lawn its first thorough watering of the year, and completing April's “When Swing Was King” presentation.. Oh yes, we also sent out to our mailing list of 340 our first Top 5. And one more significant item from Saturday – a neighbor’s son was back in town and I crossed the street to visit with him awhile and, thank the Lord, He created an excellent springboard for me to explain to the young man a bit of my conversion story.

Easter Sunday was also a wonderful, memorable day. Because of family get-togethers, it was just Claire and me to handle the Aksarben Village Senior Living Church service but we managed just fine. And in the distribution of the food and drinks afterwards, we had the help of Cyrstal, one of the resident's assistants. Anyhow, it was a fabulous afternoon. The music videos were inspiring to the max: the elegant Gracias Choir and Orchestra from South Korea doing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” Don Francisco performing a very moving rendition of his classic “He’s Alive,” and Guy Penrod blessing us with “Because He Lives.” My brief sermon covered the last verses of Luke 23 and the first ones of Luke 24 dealing with Joseph of Arimathea’s brave act of asking Pilate for permission to care for and bury the body of Jesus and then the unbelievable surprise of the women who came to further anoint Jesus’ body with fragrant oils and spices. But, of course, they are met with an empty tomb. Thus the title of my sermon was “Ladies, You Ain’t Gonna’ Need Those Spices!”

Our fellowship time afterward was especially sweet with Carolyn and Carmen back and Harry recovering from his pacemaker procedure. We served hot cross buns as a special treat for our visiting as well as having baggies with other Easter-themed goodies to take back to their rooms: pretzels, chocolate eggs, and jellybeans. And another really heartwarming element of our fellowship was listening to their responses to the individual prayer letters we had sent each one earlier in the week.  We always have such a super time with these dear friends, but being honored to celebrate Resurrection Day with them was a particularly blessing.

Finally, Easter Sunday closed with Claire’s preparation of a delicious Paleo dinner with pork, gravy, and roasted vegetables. After that, we had a visit from Jacob and Olena who brought over fresh, festive, and delectable Ukrainian Easter desserts that she and her sister Olga had prepared. And can we testify to their taste? Yes...because we cheated and enjoyed them thoroughly! It was a super Easter weekend that we will long cherish.

Friday, April 07, 2023

The Top 5 (The Debut)

As promised last week in a post sent out to the Vital Signs Ministries mailing list, we are sending along the first of our Top 5; that is, our five highest recommendations from the news and commentary I've read this past week. Before I get to the Top 5, however, I offer a rundown of some of the week's lowlights, hoping they serve to keep us aware of Satan's activities all round us in order to stand firm against his desperate measures. Here goes.

It's been quite a week, huh? According to a Wall Street Journal-NORC poll published Friday. The share of respondents who said patriotism was very important dropped 32 percentage points compared to a 1998 poll, and those who said the same of religion decreased by 23 percentage points. The importance of having children dropped from 59% in 1998 to 30%, according to the poll. Meanwhile, respondents who considered money a top priority increased to 43%, up from 31% a quarter-century ago. 

But wait, there's more. Crime soaring out of control just as "handcuffed" police decide to retire in large numbers...Prosecutors cutting crazy deals which let murderers, rapists, and arsonists back on the streets with little or no bond...Profane, violent radicals shouting down conservative speakers at a New York university...Colleges offering special graduation ceremonies for certain ethnicities and sexual preferences...The Country Music Awards featuring a promotion for drag queens...The far, far left winning elections in Chicago and in the Wisconsin Supreme Court...France is on the verge of genuine meltdown.

Hey, we're just getting started. A former President of the United States was indicted in the silliest "kangaroo court" imaginable...Because of their faith, American Christians are denied jobs, adoption opportunities, educational choices, and even the chance to speak in public...another 186 conservative-leaning churches are trying to get out of the United Methodists' clutches because of the wild and wicked liberalism of the denomination...Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly have introduced and passed bills that would eliminate pro-life pregnancy centers...Virtue-signaling publishers are editing (make that, censoring) well-established novels and adding "trigger warnings" to books. 

And just a few final items. Russia takes over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council...the bizarre, doll-like transexual activist Bud Light has been embraced in marketing campaigns by Hershey's and Anheuser-Busch while none other than Jack Daniels has a similar deal with Ru Paul, the infamous sexual deviant, who recently boasted that "drag queens are the Marines of the queer movement"...The Biden administration has added air conditioners and certain kinds of light bulbs to the list of things it wants to deny you (including gasoline, your earnings, and freedom)...Yet more evidence of massive vote fraud is being uncovered...And the U.S. Supreme Court (with the only dissents coming from Thomas and Alito) is just fine with biological boys competing in girl's sports. (Yes, Virginia; the feminist movement is officially dead.) Okay, now this week's Top 5 list:

The Top 5

* It’s Time to Put Away Our Phones (Neil Patel, Daily Signal)

* Future GOP Victories Hinge On Positive Pro-Life Messaging, Not Ignoring Abortion (Jordan Boyd)

* FDA’s Reckless Actions Enable Sex Trafficking (Julie Blake)

* Decriminalise all forms of sexual activity, says UN report (Michael Cook)

* God Has Been Murdered, The Earth Trembles (Sermon excerpt from Melito, Bishop of Sardis in the 2nd Century)

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Points to Ponder for Passion Week

Here are a few quotations about the resurrection of Jesus that you might find useful. We suggest you not only reflect on them yourself but also use them in your prayers and for Easter cards and social media posts.

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Clarence W. Hall wrote, “The resurrection of Jesus changes the face of death for all His people. Death is no longer a prison, but a passage into God’s presence.  Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there.”

“According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  (1 Peter 1:3)

Timothy Keller in his book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, wrote this — “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what He said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like His teaching but whether or not He rose from the dead.”

“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”  (Romans 8:11)

Charles Colson wrote, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one of them was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world -- and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

Philip Yancey wrote, “In many respects I find an unresurrected Jesus easier to accept. Easter makes Him dangerous. Because of Easter I have to listen to His extravagant claims and can no longer pick and choose from His sayings. Moreover, Easter means He must be loose out there somewhere.”

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

“According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.”  (Harvard Law Professor Dr. Simon Greenleaf)

John MacArthur wrote, “The truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter. Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation.”

“Christ the Lord is risen today, Sons of men and angels say. Raise your joys and triumphs high; Sing ye heavens, and earth reply. “ (Charles Wesley from the hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”)

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Lifting One's Voice...Through Letters

Instead of taking a lunch hour today, I had coffee and a protein bar and, with the
extra time, wrote these letters. Check 'em out and consider following through with a couple of your own.

Dear Senator Armendariz,

Wow. We are hearing from a few sources in Lincoln that the pro-life promise of your campaign may not be of the strength that we once trusted in and which was the primary reason that we (and several of our neighbors) voted for you in the November election. I certainly hope that isn’t the case and that you will be fervently, faithfully taking every opportunity that is available to promote the sanctity of life, saving every preborn boy and girl possible from the barbaric violence of abortion.

For instance, Senator Armendariz, we ask you to please stand firm for the Heartbeat Bill as it was originally written and oppose the severely damaging amendments that are being suggested.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request.


Dear Bud Lite,

I read this morning about your new partnership with Dylan Mulvaney. Wow. To try to be so “woke” as to link your product with such a bizarre transexual activist whose aggressive agenda is so dangerous to the mental health of young adults – and even children – is a foolish and immoral move. 

Really unbelievable. 

There will be no Bud Lite in my refrigerator from now on. And I’m passing the word along.


Dear Baker’s Supermarkets,

I have recently learned that your parent company Kroger has joined the ranks of those businesses that have capitulated to the “woke” foolishness promoted by the radical left, going so far as to paying thousands to employees to help them pay for abortion expenses, selling the “morning after” pill (very dangerous to mothers and, of course, lethal to preborn boys and girls), and firing employees, who for traditional religious convictions, didn’t want to participate in LBGTQ promotions.

Therefore, please know that we have stopped shopping at Baker’s stores even though they have been our “go-to” grocery for decades. We have also informed our doctors that we are no longer using the Baker’s pharmacy. And we will be passing the word along to others.

P. S. And yes, I’ve contacted your parent company as well.


Dear Kroger,

I have recently learned that your company has joined the ranks of those businesses that have capitulated to the “woke” foolishness promoted by the radical left, going so far as to paying thousands to employees to help them pay for abortion expenses, selling the “morning after” pill (very dangerous to mothers and, of course, lethal to preborn boys and girls), and firing employees, who for traditional religious convictions, didn’t want to participate in LBGTQ promotions.

Therefore, please know that we have stopped shopping at Baker’s stores (here in Omaha) even though they have been our “go-to” grocery for decades. We have also informed our doctors that we are no longer using the Baker’s pharmacy. 

And we will be passing the word along to others.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Back from Branson

We're back from a productive (yet refreshing) week of working vacation in Branson, Missouri. Prayers and conversation, 5 days with hikes around Table Rock Lake, feeding the ducks (and geese and a big "commotion" of coots!) at Lake Taneycomo, worshiping the Lord with the members of Friendly Baptist Church, twice enjoying lunch at the Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks, doing a bit of shopping at Branson Landing and an outlet mall, having tea in old downtown Branson, slightly cheating on our Paleo diets by stopping by Sweet Susie's, reading, and doing the quarterly review together of our 2023 New Year Resolutions. 

And the work part of the week? Well, there was personal correspondence, plans for upcoming activities, and writing and editing 5 projects. Those 5 were the April VSM letter, the agenda for the upcoming Board meeting, the beginning of a new Christmas story, new articles for the VSM website, and the article "Oh, What a Tangled Web."

Lord, thank you for a very rich time in Branson. And now that we're back home, help us please hit the ground running towards the next opportunities.