Tuesday, November 28, 2023

94 Christmas Letters...and Counting!

Yesterday our home was the setting for Vital Signs Ministries' 2 Christmas card parties (the December "edition" of our quarterly letter-writing parties) with 6 of us involved in the morning brunch event and 7 of us getting busy in the evening. The total of cards and letters from those events?  94. Wow. Nice job, guys!

The recipients of our writing efforts included government officials, businesses, champions of Christian service, pro-life colleagues, Supreme Court Justices, and two colorful Christas cards to each of 12 men imprisoned by the brutal regimes of Communist China and Eritrea solely because the men dared to openly proclaim Christ Jesus. The messages in those cards, by the way, were in the prisoner's own language!  

As is our practice, we print below a few sample letters as an encouragement for you to follow suit and let the light of Christ shine through YOUR letters and Christmas cards.

Sandy wrote Riley Gaines -- Thank you so much for standing up for women and girls rights to be protected against men and boys invading female locker rooms, dorm rooms, sports competitions. I have six daughters, most of whom swam competitively (as I once did myself) so I was particularly drawn to your story and I am so proud of you and your courageous stand. I pray for your protection and that God will give you strength and courage to continue this good fight. Merry Christmas!

Denny wrote to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito -- Just a quick Christmas message 1) to express our prayers that God continue to protect, empower, and use you mightily; 2) to encourage you with the reminder that we are only two of the millions who pray for you regularly; 3) to thank you for the wise and courageous service you have provided not only to America but for the cause of justice and constitutional law that influences the whole world; and 4) to send along our hopes that God grant you and your family an especially bright, beautiful, and spiritually enriching Christmas season. 

Claire wrote the gaming company Activision -- As you well know, most people would want to be hired on their merits, not squeezed out of obligatory categories based merely on race, gender, or political ideology. Why not take this Christmas season to change your business discrimination practices before the federal government comes after you?

And another thing. Deliberately destroying kids’ natural innocence by polluting their minds with violence, debased characters, and sordid, unnatural themes with your game content is shameful in the extreme. Please consider what you can do to improve the culture, not tear it apart. Christmastime can change hearts, please let it change yours.

Becky wrote to State Senator Kathleen Kauth -- Merry Christmas! Thank you for all the hard work and time you put into getting LB 574 and 753 passed. I’m praying for continued wisdom for you as you seek to honor God in this important position. 

Sam wrote to Tim Tebow and the team at the Tim Tebow Foundation -- I hope you are all doing well this Christmas season. I am very impressed with the wonderful work you have all been doing. I pray that you continue to receive God’s blessing. Tim, I particularly love that you have turned your status and fame towards a God-honoring ministry. Your Foundation is certainly honoring James 1:27 where we are told that “pure and undefiled religion is to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Bless you and your work this holiday season. 

Don wrote Samaritans’ Purse Director, Franklin Graham -- I so praise and thank God for all He is doing through the ministry God has given you. You’re simple preaching of the gospel has brought so many to saving faith. Because God leads you to share His love for the lost, He is bringing many to saving faith and we are all grateful for your efforts. We know the enemy is always going to try to stop what God has called you to, so that is where our prayers really come into play. I know the efforts of God’s people will thwart the devil’s evil schemes.

Again, I thank you for all you do for his Kingdom. He is using you and your family (and, of course, your colleagues at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and at Samaritan’s Purse) to bring Jesus’s love and light to a dark and needy world. Have a very Merry Christmas with you and your family.

Denny wrote the team at Assure Women’s Center -- Just a quick word of thanks for the absolutely super job you were all doing in ministering to women and families and the culture at large... and saving lives too! May the joys of this special season be yours in abundance and may our precious Lord continue to protect and empower all of your ministries for His Name's sake.

Claire wrote Home Depot -- We have not shopped at Home Depot for many years because of your decisions to support radical leftist causes that are tearing families apart and sending our young children in an evil direction. How about this Christmas season you take a hard look at the path you’ve chosen and turn around? Face the facts; wokeness isn’t working for your company…or for America.

Becky wrote Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- Merry Christmas! Thank you so much for the firm stance you have taken on the sanctity of human life and for religious liberty according to biblical principles (and yes, the U.S. Constitution too!) I am praying for you and praising God for you. 

Claire wrote Essential Pregnancy Services -- Thank you for all you do for the moms and babies in our area! Continue to stand firm against the darkness. After all, you’re fighting on the side of the angels! Thanks too for your smiles and waves when we’re praying outside Planned Parenthood.! Blessings…

Sandy wrote pro-abortion State Senator Kavanaugh -- Please, as you celebrate Jesus’s holy and miraculous birth, reconsider your opposition of compassionate and just pro-life efforts. Remember, the first person to recognize Jesus was John the Baptist, and he did so from his mother’s womb! (Luke 1: 43,45) In the Bible, children are called “gifts from God,” and they are. Every one of them! Senator, in this Christmas season, I pray that every time you see a manger with the baby Jesus represented there, you will appreciate that He came as an infant to save us all! Sincerely.

Becky wrote the Nebraska Family Alliance -- Merry Christmas! Thank you for all the work you do to honor God and his Word. I’m praying for you to stand firm in the truth and to continue to be bold and fighting for what’s right. 

Claire wrote Target -- The Christmas season time gives all of us an opportunity to take a look at our lives and honestly consider ways to change ourselves for the better. Remember Ebeneezer Scrooge? Well, then, what hat a great time for the executives at Target to drop their callous and counter-productive polices and once again become a genuinely “family store.” Face the facts; wokeness isn’t working for your company…or for America.

Denny wrote to the team at Bott Radio in Lincoln -- Just a quick word to thank you for all the inspiration, challenge, encouragement, and excellent Bible teaching that you air on your station. Every single day lives are greatly assisted in ltheir desire to walk in the pilgrim way towards Christian maturity…and non-believers are informed about the matchless grace of the Savior Whose birth we celebrate in this holy season. Thank you so much and merry Christmas!

Denny wrote President Biden -- In this wonderful and holy Christmas season, we are praying that the Lord Jesus will bring the divine truths regarding the sanctity of human life to your heart and that you will take a hard turn from the evil ways you have mindlessly pursued most of your life. Move instead towards the grace, righteousness, and power of Almighty God through faith in the Christmas gift which is Jesus. And then you will champion holy causes: justice, the immeasurably precious lives of babies in their mother’s wombs, the divine sanctions of marriage between a man and a woman, and so on.

As the President of the United States, you have remarkable powers, so use them for holy goals, not foolish and wicked ones. May our loving God grant you wisdom, courage, and a long overdue faith in Him in this holy season of Christmas.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Top 5 (November 25)

* "Abortion, Miscarriage, and the Reality of an Unborn Child" (Mary Szoch and Katherine Beck Johnson, Washington Stand)

* "What Makes Hamas Worse Than the Nazis" (Andrew Roberts, Washington Free Beacon)

* "The infernal choice behind the hostage deal" (Melanie Phillips, Jewish News Service)

* "The Biden Administration Finances Iran’s Terrorism" (Hugh Iwanicki, American Thinker)

* "Government Deceit" (John Stossel, Daily Signal)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Work and Rest...At the Same Time?

All over town -- all over America -- people are busy because Thanksgiving looms before us. Some are in the ever increasing hassles of travel; some are beginning the preparations for Thursday’s feast; others are doing the last of the lawn chores, putting up the outside Christmas lights, draining the lawn hoses, and trying to otherwise “clear the decks” for both the holiday season and the rigors of winter. Claire and I are not traveling any serious distance this time round but, we have all the other things mentioned above on our to-do list for today. Whew.

So, amid all of this activity, it was especially nice that the devotional I have been going through in recent weeks (Tim Tebow’s Mission Impossible One Year Devotional) took up the matter of working while you rest. Yes, you read that right -- working while you rest.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB)

Jesus calls to those who are overburdened and tuckered out and He promises them rest. Yet it turns out that His rest includes work! A contradiction? No, for Jesus reminds us that He is not a mean-spirited, slave-driving, self-seeking kind of employer; He is gentle and humble in spirit. Furthermore, Jesus partners with us even in the work to be done. That’s where the yoke metaphor comes in.

Writes Tebow, “A yoke is a device that connects two animals together at their shoulders and is attached to a plow. In a field, two oxen are paired together to work -- usually a stronger one to do the heavy lifting and a weaker one to learn the trade. Jesus invites us to take His yoke upon us, and He makes the burden light. He calls us to do His work, but He does the heavy lifting. He remains next to us, continually guiding us and enabling us to go forward and further in our mission.”

He continues,“There is work because we are called to do whatever God asks of us. But there is also rest because Jesus takes the heaviness of the burden away from us as we follow His lead. When we allow Him to lead, He does so with compassion and sensitivity to our humanity.”

It is a terrific sermonette for a day like today, isn’t it? I’m very grateful I was enlightened and uplifted by reading it this morning and, thinking that perhaps this lesson is one that others could use today, I’m pleased to pass it along.

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Weekend for Giving Thanks

It was another engaging weekend and we are so grateful to God for his marvelous gifts of purpose, empowerment, His Word, and good friends with which to travel the pilgrim way. Our weekend started with a delicious dinner of smoked salmon at Tom and Lila Sharman’s. Afterward, we were treated to a photo retrospective of their recent Alaska cruise as well as enjoying fond reminiscences of Tom and I in Burkina Faso as well as all those years of my recording the Vital Signs and Vital Signs Weekend radio programs at his studio. It was a lovely evening.

And then among Saturday’s highlights were our prayers and pro-life witness outside the wicked business that is Planned Parenthood -- a public witness against abortion that is more relevant and critically-important than ever before. And to be a part of that noble company (this particular Saturday morning Claire and I stood alongside Bev, Mark, Ruth, Patrick, Isaac, John and Barb) is definitely an honor. Saturday also saw me deep in sermon preparation and Claire finishing up this year’s 6 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child and taking them over to the pickup point at Grace Central Church.

Our Sunday was also very busy and very blessed. We first drove up to Herman, Nebraska where I presented the final class in a 7-part series on spiritual disciplines. The subject of the class was Corporate Disciplines and we enjoyed lively discussions of the topic after my talk. Next up was the worship service which included me preaching on one of Jesus’ most famous (and most audacious) parables -- the story of the Good Samaritan. We got home in time for a quick lunch and we were then on to our Sunday afternoon church service at Aksarben Village Senior Living. We had a terrific time. 15 Aksarben church members and 5 of the Vital Signs members (yesterday’s crew was Don, Ruth, Dick, and us). The songs were wonderful, all dealing with the theme of thanksgiving. And my brief sermon connected giving thanks to God for an “unshakable kingdom” (Hebrews 12:8) with the story of the Pilgrims coming to America, forming the Mayflower Compact, and celebrating the first thanksgiving. 

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for this weekend’s blessings and opportunities. And thank You for all the other reasons we have to live every day of our lives with an “attitude of gratitude.”

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Top 5 (November 18)

Here's a really remarkable set of "Wow" articles for you this Saturday. 

* "Why I am now a Christian: Atheism can't equip us for civilizational war." (Ayaan Hirsi Ali, UnHerd)

* "A Christian Perspective on The State of Israel" (Stephen Davey, Shepherds Theological Seminary)

* "Putting the Killing of Innocents Out of Mind" (Denny Hartford, Vital Signs Blog)

* "Mexico’s Abortion Cartel" (Carlos Beltramo & Carlos Polo, PRI)

* "RNC Chair: If Republicans Want to Win, 'We Can’t Be Silent on Life'" (Suzanne Bowdey, Washington Stand)

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Top Ten Lessons from Noah and the Ark

After reading and then thinking a bit about Chapters 6-9 of Genesis this morning, I was prompted to once again post a pretty popular article from times gone by. The first list appeared on Vital Signs Blog way back in 2005.

The accompanying painting, by the way, “The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark,” was done by Jan Brueghel the Elder in 1613.

There are a lot of important life lessons to be learned from Noah’s experience with the ark. Simple but profound lessons. Here’s my list of the top ten.

1) Don’t miss the boat! Listen to what God says and do it...now!

2) Plan ahead.  Once Noah got the design specs from God, he acted ahead of the crisis.

3) Don’t be deterred by criticism or unpopularity. Once the Lord has set the agenda, you stay on task.

4) Appreciate nature in the way God has designed it.  Stewardship of His creation is a very serious responsibility.

5) Stay alert for action, whatever your age. Noah was 600 years old when he became a ship maker. (He was even older when he became a sailor!)

6) We’re all in the same boat, baby. Let’s help each other out.

7) Avoid loneliness. Travel in pairs.

8) Learn to be patient and accept God’s will. Sometimes that means you’re a builder; sometimes a zookeeper. Other times, you’ve just gotta’ float awhile.

9) As long as you put your trust in the Lord, even the very worst of life’s storms can be weathered.

10) Do your duty to God no matter how tedious or difficult or lonely. For, in His time, there will come rest from your efforts. Plus, for the present, there’s the beauty and security of the rainbow that’s yours as well.

Saturday, November 11, 2023