Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Top 5 (September 23)

* "Post-Postmodern America, Meet Mao’s Cultural Revolution" (Victor Davis Hanson, Daily Signal)

* "'Disturbing' and 'Inarticulate': Pro-Life Leaders React to Trump’s Abortion Comments" (Ben Johnson, Washington Stand)

* "The Golden Years: The Sanctity of Senior Life" (This is a remarkable video clip made by Dr. Del Tackett at the James Dobson Family Institute, a clip that illustrates the profound importance to the Kingdom of what Vital Signs Ministries does through our "When Swing Was King" shows, our Aksarben Village church services, and our visitation and friendship outreaches.)

* "Canadian school library removes all books published prior to 2008" (Eric Utter, American Thinker)

* "It’s No Accident The Southern Border Is Collapsing, It’s Intentional" (John Daniel Davidson, Federalist) 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Heaven in the Old Hymns

One of the most frequent (and important) themes expressed in the traditional hymns of the Christian faith is the confident expectation that heaven is the glorious and forever home of every believer. Even in those hymns that also tell stories of Jesus or explain the gospel message or speak to the Lord’s enduring presence in our daily struggles, these beloved old songs almost always include comforting the hearts of the worshipper by reminding him of the surety of heaven.

Let me illustrate from just these three songs, the three that we used in yesterday afternoon’s church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. In “The Solid Rock” written by the 19th Century English Baptist preacher Edward Mote, there is profound teaching about salvation being entirely dependent on the faith of the believer in Christ’s satisfactory sacrifice as well as wonderful assurance of God’s loving, powerful presence in the storms of our lives. Yet the hymn finds its heavenly climax in this last verse:

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh, may I then in Him be found. 
In Him, my righteousness alone, 
faultless to stand before the throne.

Our second song yesterday was the classic hymn “Rock of Ages,” published in 1775 by Augustus Toplady, another English minister. Its well-known message also emphasizes the total satisfaction of Christ’s sacrifice for all those who can testify, “Simply to the cross I cling.” But the hymn ends not in the sanctification adventure of the Christian disciple, but in his glorification as he shares in Christ’s eternal victory over death. 

While I draw this fleeting breath, 
when mine eyes shall close in death;
when I soar to worlds unknown, see Thee on Thy judgment throne, 
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.

Finally, our third song in the Aksarben Village service yesterday afternoon was one in which heaven is its special focus. The song (fairly contemporary, being written in 1981) was written by American singer/songwriter Squire Parsons Jr. The title is “Beulah Land” and it gives a lovely, inspiring word-picture of the place Jesus is preparing for His children.  
I’m kind of homesick for a country
to which I've never been before.
No sad good-byes will there be spoken
for time won't matter anymore.

Chorus: Beulah land, I am longing for you
and someday on Thee I’ll stand
where my home shall be eternal.
Beulah land, sweet Beulah land.

I’m looking now across the river
where my faith will end in sight.
There’s just a few more days to labor, 
then I will take my heavenly flight.


I see the lights; I hear the singing.
a brand new song of joy divine.
My soul rejoices just in knowing
that soon these pleasures will be mine.


Oh yes; the unique stimulation of heaven’s reality is a wonderfully persuasive argument for the Church to add a few more of the old, beloved hymns to their Sunday songlist.

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Top 5 (September 16)

* "Report details billions of dollars Warren Buffett has funneled to abortion groups around the world" (Calvin FreiburgerFreiburger, LifeSite)

* "American Library Association Says 'Public Education Needs to be a Site of Socialist Organizing'" (Ben Johnson, Washington Stand)

* "California’s Pro-Trans Child Custody Bill Is Pure Emotional Blackmail" (Kylee Griswold, Federalist)

* "Is the Pope Catholic?" (Bob Tyrrell, Jewish World Review)

* "If You’re A Democrat, Having Sex For Money Is No Barrier To Getting Elected" (Mark Hemingway, Federalist)

And for this Saturday, here's 2 bonus links directly from Vital Signs Ministries -- both of them offering opportunities for principled response to the wacky and wicked ways of our world -- "Practical Prayers" and "When Thanks Are Due."

Practical Prayers

"The spiritual discipline of prayer should be a given to anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bible. After all, the heroes of the Bible constantly demonstrate lives of prayer.  From the patriarchs to the prophets, from the kings to the military champions, from Jesus Himself and His apostles, prayer is presented as an absolutely indispensable practice for the faithful.  

We are also specifically (and frequently) commanded to pray.  We are even given specific prayer targets: the Lord’s will, one another, our daily needs, thanksgiving, our enemies (even those who persecute us), the peace of Israel, laborers for the kingdom’s harvest fields, and so many more.  Prayer, we are carefully taught, is the antidote to anxiety, to losing heart, to selfishness, to worldliness. It is a key path by which the believer finds God’s guidance, protection, and intimacy. 

Yet even with this matter established in our minds, Christians regularly confess that prayer is too often a matter of weakness, frustration, and guilt. Why?"

Read the rest of this brief article in the September letter of Vital Signs Ministries right here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

When Thanks Are Due: VSM's Latest Letter-Writing Targets

Our home yesterday was the scene of Vital Signs’ latest letter-writing parties with a morning brunch meeting drawing only four of us and the evening version drawing nine. Small numbers, to be sure. But together that committed group (Sandy, Don, Mary, Christopher, Keith, Carol, Jeannie, Katina, Karla, and us) wrote 117 light-shining letters and cards! That’s terrific work, guys!  Furthermore, there are four others who have received the letter targets and address sheets we prepared and they are already in the middle of adding substantially to that number.

Plus…there are the letters, cards, and even email messages that YOU may choose to write with the help of the material you can find right here at our website. You see, we don’t merely urge you to “strengthen the things that remain” (Revelation 3:2) by writing pro-life, pro-family letters, we even come to your aid in that cause.

At yesterday’s letter-writing parties, we concentrated most of our efforts in writing thank-you notes to the 33 Nebraska State Senators whose votes (by the most narrow of margins) secured the legislature’s passage of critical bills LB574 (with its bans on “gender-altering” surgeries for minors and its elimination of surgical abortions past the uterine age of 12-weeks) and LB 753 (the “school choice” bill that will help low-income and working-class families send their children to the school of their choice). Both of these modest, common sense, and long overdue measures were vociferously, even violently opposed by the teachers unions, the Democrat Party, and the pro-abortion lobby and so the perseverance shown by those 33 richly deserve our thanks.

Once again, the letter targets and address sheets we used at yesterday’s letter-writing parties can be found at the Vital Signs Ministries website by following this link. And we will even give you a couple of sample letters to further stimulate your own. They are right below.

Sample letter 1) “Dear Senator -------,

Just a quick word of deep appreciation for your principled and courageous support of LB 574 and LB753, two of the most important measures to come before the legislature in some time. In so doing, you withstood the profane taunts, threats, and lies of the extreme left, thereby earning not only the thanks of thousands of Nebraskans but our admiration as well. Way to go! You will remain in our prayers.”

Denny & Claire Hartford

Sample letter 2) “Dear Senator --------,

Many thanks for your Yes votes on LB574 and LB753 in this last tumultuous legislative session. I so appreciate the strong stand you and the other 32 senators took in the midst of some very ugly scenes. Please know we are praying for you. And please remember, being on the side of the angels is always the right place to be!”

Sample letter 3) 

Almost all of the messages I wrote yesterday and last night were contained in the cards we had printed for us which feature mountain photos I’ve taken in my Colorado 14er hikes. However, Sandy had brought with her some wonderful cards featuring Union Pacific trains in majestic scenes with appropriate inscriptions inside. One of those cards showed a long U.P. train skirting a snow-capped mountain range with this message -- “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Thanks for autographing your work with quality.”

Well, I chose that particular card as the vehicle for this message for Governor Jim Pillen:

“Dear Governor, 

I recently came across this card and I thought its message aptly describes the principled visionary, kind-hearted, and courageous leadership you have demonstrated in your first year as Nebraska’s governor. Thank you. However, tonight I send particular thanks for your excellent and oh-so-important work to get LB574 and LB 753 passed through the legislature AND for your Executive Order establishing the Women’s Bill of Rights. What a terrific job you’re doing!

We deeply appreciate your efforts to make “The Good Life” a truly authentic description of the Nebraska culture. You remain in our frequent prayers.”

Denny Hartford

Monday, September 04, 2023

A Very Good Start to the Week

Labor Day greetings!

Our Sunday started with a little watering of the lawn before the heat of the day...and before getting ready for church. We appreciated the pastor’s sermon on Daniel which emphasized the need for a devotion to prayer and we were pleased to see a few friends before the service started. Now it’s true that our time at Grace Bible Church is limited nowadays, not only because of our travel and speaking schedule but, even when we are able to attend, we have to duck out right after the sermon in order to get ready for our Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. So, we extend our apologies to our GBC friends for our “quick in and out habits” there.

The Aksarben service yesterday went terrific. Our visitation team included Don Kohls, Keith Moran, and a marvelous surprise edition of Matt Troutman and three of his kids, Luke, Anna, and Lydia. They were all lively, gracious, and of excellent help, especially as the day included our communion service. They were all needed too because yesterday, in addition to our cookies and coffee after the sermon, we passed out a lot of salt water taffy from our Estes Park visit and two Colorado postcards apiece to each resident.  The sermon (just about 10 minutes as is our custom) was an appropriate one for a communion Sunday. It was entitled “The Memorial of the New Covenant,” dealing with Jesus’ introduction of the Lord’s Supper in Mark 14: 22-26.

And yesterday’s songs were also splendid: “Crown Him with Many Crowns” by the Oasis Chorale at Cornerstone Mennonite Fellowship, “Ever Faithful” by The Collingsworth Family, and “As the Deer Panteth for the Water” by Gracias Choir. We had (as usual) a really swell time.

Finally arriving back home around 4:30, we closed the day with some more watering of the lawn, discussing the week’s upcoming activities, and our night’s prayers together. By the way, those upcoming activities include Claire and I speaking at the Business and Professional People for Life luncheon on Thursday, September 7th at noon at the German-American Society. We will be talking about the unique and critically-important ministries to seniors that Vital Signs Ministries has developed over the years. We think it will be an enlightening, even inspiring program. The cost for the program and excellent lunch at this impressive venue is $25. However, a designated gift has been given to cover $10 of each meal for guests of Vital Signs Ministries. If you would like to attend the luncheon, please respond to this invitation as soon as possible. 

Postscript -- Also, I began a re-reading of A.E.W. Mason’s Fire Over England. Mason’s thrilling novel is set in the late 16th century when England must counter the extremely grave dangers posed by the Spanish Armada. But the book is also significant for Mason’s use of that historical framework to warn readers of the similar dangers posed to Great Britain in 1936 by the rise of Nazi power in Germany.