Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Stand By for News

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 1, 2023, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

Hello Americans; this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news! For many years I tried to arrange my workday so that I could be near the radio when Paul Harvey would start his daily newscast with those familiar words. Paul Harvey's voice and style made him seem like a friend was telling you what had happened that day. His voice is one of the most recognizable in the history of radio. Over twenty million Americans regularly listened to Paul Harvey each week. One thousand six hundred radio stations carried his broadcast.

Paul Harvey was an innovator in the news business. He was a pioneer in the blending of news and opinion. Harvey never tried to hide that his "news" broadcasts included his personal views and conservative bias. While he personalized the radio news with his conservative opinions, he did it in a friendly way with heart-warming tales of average Americans, and folksy observations that made people feel at ease. 

In 1945, when he was 27, Paul Harvey began reporting the news on the Chicago radio station WENR. Soon, his broadcasts were topping the ratings in the greater Chicago area. In November 1950, the station debuted the 15-minute Paul Harvey News & Comments program. The following year the program was nationally syndicated by the American Broadcasting Company. His distinctive delivery was heard regularly over ABC for almost 60 years until his death in 2009. He was the most listened-to man in broadcasting.

"I have a strong point of view, and I share it with my listeners," Harvey told the American Journalism Review in 1998. Known for his staunch conservatism, he supported McCarthyism in the 1950s and George Wallace's segregation in the 1960s. In his later years, Harvey veered to the left by supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights and criticizing the Christian right for attempting to impose its views on others.

The Los Angeles Times described his program this way. "Harvey's typical broadcast included a mix of news briefs, humor, celebrity updates, commentary, and the kind of human-interest stories he loved to tell in order to satisfy the public's hunger for a little niceness."

On May 10, 1976, Paul Harvey premiered a new radio series, "The Rest of the Story." The new program consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on various subjects with some key element of the story, usually the name of some well-known person, held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with the tagline, "And now you know the rest of the story."

The tagline, "the rest of the story," reminded me of a story about my granddaughter. One day, while I was at work, the phone rang. When I answered the phone, my granddaughter said, "Papa, do you remember when we went to Colorado?" "Yes," I replied. She continued, "do you remember when you preached the Friday night, we were there?" "Yes," I answered. "You didn't finish the story. I was wondering what happened to the boy in the story."

In 2018, the Alumni Association of Campion Academy in Loveland, Colorado, asked me to speak on Friday night of the alumni weekend. My wife and I were graduates of Campion Academy's Class of 1973. We planned a week-long vacation in Colorado, spending time in Denver, Cedaredge, Leadville, and Loveland before attending the alumni weekend. We invited our granddaughter on the trip. 

My wife and granddaughter were in the audience Friday night when I gave my talk. I opened and closed my speech with this story. One night a house caught fire, and the flames forced a young boy onto the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you, and that's all that matters."

Much later, my granddaughter was worried about the boy on the roof. She wondered what had happened to him. She was so curious that she called me. In my sermon, I left the story open because the boy represents each of us, and we have to decide what we will do.

In the book of Acts, there is a story about Paul and Silas. They were in prison for preaching about Jesus. "Suddenly, the ground begins to shake, and the prison foundations begin to crack. You can hear the sound of jangling chains and the squeak of cell doors opening. Every prisoner realizes that his chains have come unfastened. The jailer wakes up and runs into the jail. His heart sinks as he sees the doors have all swung open. He is sure his prisoners have escaped, and he knows this will mean death for him, so he pulls out his sword to commit suicide. 

At that moment, Paul sees what is happening and shouts out at the top of his lungs, Wait, man! Don't harm yourself! We're all here! None of us has escaped. The jailer sends his assistants to get some torches and rushes into the cell of Paul and Silas. He falls on his knees before them, trembling." Acts 16:26-29 (VOICE) When the jailer realized that the prisoners were all accounted for, he brought them out and asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Acts 16:30,31 (NLT)

When my granddaughter asked me what happened to the boy in the story, I told her that the boy trusted the fireman and jumped, so he was saved. The question I need to ask is, what must I do to be saved? I need to believe in Jesus so much that I will trust him and jump into his arms. He can't save me if I don't trust him enough to jump. He can't save me if I am busy trying to save myself. It's time for us to really believe in Jesus Christ: Believe enough to surrender our will and jump into his arms.

Gentle Reader, we are in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. If we stay in our current situation, fire will destroy us. The most critical question in our lives is, what must I do to be saved? In the little boy's situation, the answer was to jump. What is the answer in your life? Will you make that leap of faith? "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Acts16:31 (NLT)

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