Dear friends of Vital Signs, August 2016
It has been a busy time for us since the last LifeSharer letter and I will give you a quick review of those happenings. But first up, I’m printing off three of the posts I’ve written up for Vital Signs Blog in the last few weeks, all of them dealing with examples of the cultural digression we fight against. The first concerns our public witness against abortion, the second deals with appreciating biblically-centered preaching, and the third bemoans the change in childhood development over the last couple of generations.
Jesus Loves the Little Children, Even the Very Littlest
Claire and I held our large, winsome pro-life signs outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill this morning as we prayed against the ongoing slaughter of the innocents committed by the abortion industry. It's usually all we can do there. The abortion clients park in the back parking lot where we cannot address them directly. So, we rely on our signs, praying as we kindly wave to them that they might stop for a moment and speak to us. We also wave to all those driving by, hoping that our witness will be a blessing of truth to them that the Holy Spirit will use throughout their day.
And we sometimes get the chance to speak to employees. Today my basic message to them was, "You know, the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus loves the little children. And the Bible also is clear that Jesus does not take at all kindly to those who hurt children. This, of course, is what Planned Parenthood does. Indeed, you guys are not only hurting kids, you're destroying them. Please, for their sakes and for the sake of your own soul, stop this violent madness. We are praying for you today to quit this terrible job and to turn to Jesus Christ who died on a cruel cross to pay for all of our sins...all of my sins and all of yours too. But you must receive that sweet gift of salvation by turning to him in faith. Please, do this today and walk away from this wicked business."
For more information on how you can be a part of our national prayer project against the violent injustice of Planned Parenthood, please check out the Vital Signs Ministries website for details about the “3 for 5” Prayer Campaign.
Three Key Responses to Good Preaching
The typical sermon in today’s evangelical church makes everybody feel safe, comfortable, and happy. Like the music that opens and closes the Sunday morning service, the sermon is designed to entertain, calm, and lift one’s self-esteem. The audience need not worry about too much theology, too many moral demands, or too many counter-culture exhortations. Learning? You can get that from the History Channel. Sacrifice? It’s time you increased your financial donations. Stretching? That’s for the ladies’ yoga class that meets in the multi-purpose room on Tuesday mornings.
But what if you are among the few that have the blessing of listening to solid, biblically-centered teaching on a Sunday morning? Then may I suggest you make sure you are observing three things?
1) Good preaching should be appreciated. Thank God for the Word and for a preacher who honors God’s revelation enough to study it, submit to it, and faithfully share it with his congregation. Show your gratitude also by following the example of the Bereans of Acts 17:11; namely, listen carefully to the sermon and/or class, check things out in your own Bible study, and consistently extend its applications to your life.
2) Good preaching should be applauded. An expository preacher, one well equipped in hermeneutics and holy living, should be hearing from those that benefit from his teaching. He should be supported, encouraged, defended, helped, and honored – to his face, as well as among other church members and to outsiders. So many preachers who bravely stand against the culture (including the soft-headed, me-oriented themes predominant in modern evangelical circles) end up standing alone. Come alongside and give them a hand.
3) Good preaching should be applied. It’s not enough to hear good sermons or even to pat the preacher on the back. The whole purpose of God gifting you with a good Bible preacher is for your ongoing sanctification. His sermons are to give you solutions to moral and intellectual problems, to equip you to do the work of ministry in your own spheres of influence, and to change you more into the image of Christ.
So, if you have a preacher who is studying to know, live, and effectively preach the Word of God? That’s terrific. Appreciate those sermons. Applaud that preacher. And apply the lessons he teaches you from the holy text. And if you don’t have that kind of preacher? Go find one.
Opie Taylor, Where Are You When We Need You?
As if we needed yet another example of how self-involved, nerdy, and slavishly addicted to computer-generated amusement is American youth, along comes the phenomenon of Pokemon Go, the raging fad that promised to get kids out of doors yet still couldn’t get them out of their own heads. We shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, we have been allowing, even encouraging, kids to spend their leisure time (and they have plenty of it) plugged into television, videos, computers, and now to the even deeper psychological connections created by increasingly interactive smart phone games.
I thought about how stark a contrast Opie Taylor was to today’s American kids when I recently caught one of the reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. In this episode, aired originally in 1964, Opie found $50 alongside the road. After waiting the established period of one week, he was allowed to keep his treasure. The primary lesson of the story concerned how willing Opie was to return the money to its rightful owner, even though he had the legal right to keep it. He wanted to do the right thing. The episode was typical of the show, emphasizing as it regularly did such moral values as kindness, fairness, humility, patriotism, courage, loyalty, good manners, church attendance, and so on.
However, what I found most interesting about this particular program — and what seemed so dramatically unlike contemporary culture — was what Opie was considering doing with his money. He wasn’t thinking about Pokemon objects, role-playing games, video games, smart phone apps, iTunes downloads, or graphic novels strong on violence, sexual images, and mysticism. No, Opie’s plan was to save most of the money (that’s pretty radical in itself) and then spend the rest on one or more of the following: a bike, a baseball glove, an erector set, a football helmet, or what he finally decided on, a fishing pole. All involved wholesome, healthy, active play.
I’ve thought about that program throughout the week, usually when I spot some kid walking along, head down, eyes fixed on the tiny screen of his phone. But I’ve also thought about Opie when I pass by ball fields and swimming pools that are empty of children, streets without bikes, sidewalks without skateboards, yards without kids playing tag, cowboys and Indians, or hide and seek. Alas, all the kids are inside, luxuriating in the air conditioning and plugged into their electronic devices.
Opie Taylor, where are you when we need you?
Okay, the above articles are samples of what Claire and I are up to on the blogs and social media. But what else has been going on? Let’s see…
* Our August schedule for “When Swing Was King” is especially ambitious for not only do we have the 11 senior care facilities where we regularly present our program, we are doing 3 extra places this month. We are even considering adding one (or more) of these to our schedule. In addition, we are preparing the first of our quarterly, 4-page “When Swing Was King” news sheets for residents. These will promote the ministry among residents of the care facilities by providing interesting and fun facts about the music, performers, and the times of the big band era. And each issue will include a short personal note that will allow us yet another avenue for spiritual matters.
* After being invited to address a couple of adult Sunday school classes at Country Bible Church in Blair on June 26th on practical holiness, I was asked to return on August 7th to present a couple more classes on a related subject, “Sharing God’s Light in a Darkened Culture.” We had a great time both mornings.
* Claire and I hosted a dinner party for the Republican candidate for Congress, General Don Bacon; one of his campaign workers, Parker Hoeppner; and the Vital Signs Board members and their spouses. Assure Women’s Center Director Toni Clarke and her husband Bobby and their eldest daughter Alissa were also present. We enjoyed a very frank, stimulating, and encouraging conversation. We appreciated hearing General Bacon talking about his life story, his Christian values, his pro-life convictions, his stands on military strength and cutting government waste, and more. Plus, we had quite a few questions for him…and a few pieces of advice. The contrast, by the way, that General Bacon makes with his opponent in the race, the free-spending, pro-abortion, and highly partisan Democrat Brad Ashford, could not be more dramatic.
* At our July visit to Immanuel Village, we were thrilled to learn that “When Swing Was King” had been voted the residents’ favorite social program! Cool.
* My article “Christianity and Chivalry” was picked up by Kingdom Knights and, with our blessing, featured as a highlight of their website.
* Our recent networking has included lunch with one pastor, morning coffee with another, and Claire and I visiting with yet another pastor in his church office. In one of those cases, we gave the pastor 4 of our winsome pro-life signs for him and his colleagues to use in their sidewalk counseling at the Bellevue abortion mill.
* Other fellowship activities in the last few weeks have included our literary club, several dinner and lunches with friends, attendance at Don and Alberta Kohls’ 50th anniversary party, a delightful morning of kid-sitting, and my ongoing Tuesday morning, Thursday morning, and Thursday noon coffee conversations with close friends.
* Claire has, as always, been busy in most of the above things and in keeping the business end of Vital Signs going smoothly. She also runs our home which is a center for much of our ministry. Claire has also experienced some breakthrough moments in her work in designing a new Vital Signs website. And she has spent some constructive time in promoting The Christmas Room.
* More personal stuff? Well, our “lightening the load” project took bold new steps forward as we got rid of two and a half boxes of old files and papers, an incredibly heavy steel filing cabinet that we’ve had for over 30 years, and over 460 record albums! We had a really fun date night attending an amateur production of The Music Man at the Lofte Theater in Manley, Nebraska. And I was delighted this month to reach my 2016 walking goal of 860 miles. That’s the equivalent distance of the width of Nebraska and back.
* Coming up later in August is yet another speaking engagement at Country Bible Church. I’ll also be preaching sermons on two consecutive Sunday mornings at Hope Church here in Omaha. And we have the last of our dinner party/discussions over the final books in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.
Until next month’s letter, please keep us in your prayers. And, of course. thank you for all of your encouragement and financial support.