Dear friends of Vital Signs Ministries,

What a beautiful couple of words those are!  “Dear friends.” According to my trusty 1953 edition of Webster’s World Dictionary, “dear” comes from a German word meaning “worthy of admiration.” Webster’s goes on to list definitions of the word to include “beloved,” “much valued,” and “with deep affection.” The dictionary then explains the word “friend” to mean “fond of,” “intimate associate,” “on the same side in a struggle,” “supporter,” and “sympathizer.”

Those observations are interesting and revealing but, as we all know, the significance of “dear friends” goes so much deeper in our lives.  For friendships tried and true not only reach deep into our past and, for the Christian believer, project far into our future, their present impact is also profound beyond description.

After our 12/12 prayers the other night (a provocative subject in itself but one I’ll take up another time), Claire and I were discussing the remarkable gift of God which is friendship. We were moved to start thanking and praising Him for the many “dear friends” He has blessed us with over the long course of our spiritual adventure together. We agreed that our lives would be substantially weaker, incomplete, and dull without those saints which the Lord Jesus has led us to walk alongside.

Now, as you might imagine, the first group of friends we started discussing that night were those with whom we are frequently and intimately connected in the present. These included our sidewalk counseling team, the Vital Signs Governing Board, our fellow visitors at the Aksarben Village Sunday afternoon church service, our guests at Tuesday morning’s Hartford Café, our book club, and the Thursday morning iron-sharpening group.

We then moved on to talk about the people who are on our Priority Prayer List – friends enduring health problems, grief and loneliness, depression, and other heartaches. Now it’s true that many of those are people we do not often hang out with…some because they live far away and others simply because of different schedules and responsibilities. However, they are often on our hearts as, several times each week, we lift them up in prayers before God’s throne. They are indeed “dear friends.”

Claire then brewed us each a second cup of tea and we continued a survey of the “dear friends” who rank high in our regard. Among those at the top were those faithful, gracious saints who have supported Vital Signs Ministries through the long decades of our prophetic work.  Some of those friends live far from Omaha and are only connected with our work through these monthly letters, visits to our social media sites, and their prayers on our behalf. Thank you all so much for your solidarity with us. Please be assured that your unheralded investments in Vital Signs Ministries will yield great rewards for you in the life to come, including the enjoyment of a deepened fellowship with us and all those who have pursued the same purposes.  That’s a wonderful thought to us.

There are, of course, many others whose contact with us has been all-too-brief. Nevertheless, their contributions to our lives have been influential (and lasting) beyond imagination. For instance, we are still freshly motivated to give our best to God by the encouragement and example of brothers and sisters we first met 50 years ago in the early days of the Christian Brotherhood. There are also all of the devoted friends I made during those dozen or so mission trips into Belarus. And, of course, we have remained friends with several wonderful colleagues from our many trips into Great Britain. All of the heroic pro-life colleagues we have served with in ministries around Nebraska (and the whole nation) are also in the mix. And we could never forget thinking with great fondness of all the sweet friendships we formed in George, Iowa in those months long ago when I was providing “pulpit supply” when Tabernacle Baptist Church was without a regular pastor.  A couple of those “dear friends” still send us a personal note every month – notes of encouragement that are greater than gold to us.

Our evening’s conversation was not over yet, however.  For we hadn’t yet given thanks to the Lord Jesus for our friends from church, from our neighborhood, and from all the facilities where we present “When Swing Was King.”  And not to be forgotten are those family members who also rate as fabulous friends to us. Finally, we didn’t neglect reminiscing about those “dear friends” who have already left us and, at this very moment, are already enjoying the splendor and glories of being in Christ’s presence. We miss each one but we are eagerly anticipating that heavenly reunion where we will be spending eternity in God’s paradise with them. And with all of you.

You know, when my parents came from Denver to Omaha in the summer of 1982 to help celebrate my finally getting through graduate school, my Dad told me how surprised and delighted he was to see how many good friends we had made. Furthermore, they were friends of a much different quality than the ones he had met from the days before my conversion to Christianity! After the graduation dinner party, Dad leaned over and quietly said, “Son, I always believed that if at the end of your life, you could look back and know you had enjoyed true friendship with even one or two people, you would be way ahead in the game. But, Dennis, you and Claire have found a whole bunch of nice friends and they seem like ones who will really stick.”

Dad was right and I have always been so pleased that he was able to witness the evidential fruit of my being “born anew” by the Spirit of God: a divinely changed heart, a radically changed lifestyle, and an exceptionally healthy change of companions.

Okay, I’m going to close this letter a bit earlier than usual. We have 3 “When Swing Was King” shows in the next two days; I have to make the music selections and prep for the sermon at Aksarben Village Senior Living; I’m behind posting fresh material in Vital Signs Blog; there are several cards and letters which need writing; and we’re going out to dinner tonight to celebrate Claire’s birthday.

However, as we move into autumn of 2021, we cherish the prayers of “dear friends” as we seem to be encountering some new (as well as the old familiar) challenges. Therefore, we ask specific prayers for health and spiritual strength, for protection from the enemy, for God’s guidance to be clear to us, and for His abundant blessings on the work of our hands. We so appreciate those prayers.

“Dear friends.” What a couple of beautiful words those are!

But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only.