Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Project - Paint The Pump

There is an old Chinese proverb that says: Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way, and expecting a different outcome. If that's true, then I think it's safe to say that former U.S. President Harry Truman was not insane.

While reading David McCullough's biography of Truman, I came across a humorous incident that occurred in Truman's younger years. It seems that young Harry was afraid of the dark. McCullough writes:

"Coming home alone in the dark, he [Harry] could get 'scared to an icicle'...He was afraid of getting knocked on the head by the hoboes who hung about at the point where he changed trains at Kansas City, fearful of both ghosts and hoboes as he made his way home on foot from the Grandview depot on nights when there was no moon."

I especially enjoyed this part of the story, as McCullough continues:

"Once approaching the house in the pitch dark, groping his way to the kitchen door, he [Harry] walked headlong into the pump. The next day, he painted the pump white."

For Harry, running into the pump once was enough. This nonsense was going to stop - and it was going to stop now!

As we close out another year and look ahead to another, can you think of any pumps in your life that need to be painted?

As I recall, it was during the summer of 1982, on a Wednesday evening. Kathryn, Kandi and I were headed to church and I had the radio tuned to the local Christian when a minister began to expound upon a familiar verse in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... (Heb 12:1)

On that evening, the Holy Spirit used the minister's words to help me to identify my pump.

You see, I loved to read, but I was spending most of my time reading about the music and entertainment world (People, Rolling Stone, etc.), and wasn't spending anytime reading the Bible. I had been a Christian for over a year at that time, but I wasn't growing. I kept running into the same besetting sin.

So that evening, by the grace of God, I painted the pump. Don't misunderstand - I've had to do some touch-up work along the way, and there have been other pumps to paint, (and I'm sure there'll be even more!). But by the grace of God I haven't run into that same one again.

As we close out 2010, perhaps we should pray in this manner:

All-seeing, All-knowing Father: help me to identify the sins that I keep running into again and again, the things which are preventing me from making progress in the Christian race. Grant me the grace, the spiritual strength and determination, to deal with these besetting sins, to repent, and yield myself to You that You may continue the work You began in me - conforming me into the image of Your dear Son. Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

You Can't Outrun the Fallout - Find Shelter Immediately!

I had always assumed that a nuclear attack was not survivable. It appears I was wrong.

It's hard to imagine a more horrible scenario than that of a nuclear detonation. According to the White House's Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation, by-standers miles away would witness a 100-mph fireball shooting five miles into the sky. Sun-surface heat, hyper-explosive pressures and 900-mph winds would level buildings for half a mile. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people would vanish in smoke and flame. Fallout would rain down for hundreds of miles.

How does anyone survive such devastation? Somehow, Tsutomu Yamaguchi did – twice! On August 6, 1945, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima, Japan on a business trip. At 8:15 in the morning, a U.S. bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city, which killed 140,000 people. Yamaguchi, face and arms burned, hearing damaged, and suffering temporary blindness, somehow lived. The next day Yamaguchi traveled to his home town, 190 miles away. His home city was Nagasaki. If you know your history you're aware that on August 9th, another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing some 70,000 people. Once again, however, Yamaguchi was not one of them.

Yamaguchi wasn't the only one to survive. Although 210,000 died in the bombing, some 260,000 people actually survived the blasts. But how?

On July 8, 2010, leaders of a dozen state, local and federal agencies took part in a simulated L.A County security exercise code-named Operation Golden Phoenix. One of the things they learned from the exercise was that a big-city nuke attack is a survivable event. It all comes down to shelter.

Without any shelter for 24 hours, 285,000 caught in an L.A. blast would develop radiation sickness or die. Just getting into a wood-frame house could save 160,000 people. Shelter in place - that's the single biggest message. Radioactive fallout, which is the greatest danger, passes in six to 24 hour's. And since you can't outrun radioactive fallout, find shelter and remain there.

When you think about it, there are many other types of fallout in life. There's a marriage that has imploded, and there is the fallout of angry words and distrust. There's a loss that has broadsided you followed by the fallout of grief and regret. There's a friendship that has blown apart and the fallout of confusion is falling all around you. Your son or daughter has made decisions that have shattered your heart and the fallout of perceived failure on your part is showering down upon you. What's a person to do? Take shelter.

Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! (Ps 61:4)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1)

It's comforting to know that the God of the universe has revealed Himself as a shelter.

It's impossible to eliminate fallout while living in a broken creation, however, there is a well-proven shelter we can run to – our Triune God. Remember – you can't outrun the fallout, so find shelter and remain there.

Pastor Van

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Advent -Celebrating the Coming of Our Advocate

I'm ashamed to admit it, but in my pre-teen years I had a very foul mouth. A boy named Gary, the neighborhood bully and three years older than me, lived next door to me and my family and he always threatened to tell my dad about my well-hidden sin.  Many Sunday mornings he would stand in his driveway as we loaded up for church, smiling his devilish smile, and say, "Good morning Mr. Morris."   I was petrified.  I'll never know why, but Gary never did tell on me.

In the Old Testament book of Zechariah 3:1-10, Joshua the high priest stands before God's tribunal in heaven.  Defiled, like me, his filthy garments exposed his guilty heart.  Like Gary, who threatened to accuse me before my father, Satan, the ultimate accuser, was standing ready to accuse Joshua.  Yet the Lord rebukes Satan and commands that Joshua's stained clothing be replaced by spotless festal robes - a preview of a deep cleansing to come, when God's servant the Branch arrives.

During this Advent season, leading up to Christmas when the Church celebrates the incarnation, I'm sure you'll join me in celebrating the fact that our Advocate; the Lord Jesus Christ has come.  The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:33-34

Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Who will bring any charge against God's elect?  No one praise God!  Not even Gary.

Pastor Van