Friday, February 3, 2017

Bowing to the Alter of the Perceived Important with my Back to the Cross

Back in early November, right after Pam and I had voted early, I posted on Facebook; Just voted! Now can this election just end! All National elections are contentious, but in my memory this one had exceeded them all. My hopeful thought was, “Ok, it’s over, can we all just move on!” Based on social media the answer to that is a resounding “NO!” In many ways a divided Nation has become even more divided. On the one side is what many perceive as sore losers (just to be clear, by losers I do not mean they are losers, just that their side came out on the losing end of the election!). On the other side you have….well you have sore winners (for the sake of full disclosure, this does not mean they are winners, just that they were on the winning end of the election!).

The rest of this post is directed at one particular group of individuals. It is directed to those who have committed their lives to Christ. Those whom the Apostle Paul calls “a new creation”, of whom Paul goes on to say “The old has passed away, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17).

For most of us, we can go back to that moment when the new life began, when we threw our proverbial hands in the air, bowed at the foot of The Cross and said; “God, I surrender myself to You, I put my faith and trust in You….” I’ll let you fill in the blank on how it went for you. For me, it took place in the summer of 1966; back then seat-belts were an option, which included an additional cost! We didn’t have them! When we would travel, much of the time I, being the youngest boy, would sit in the middle of the back seat, leaning on the seat in front of me, arms resting, talking and listening to my parents. God blessed me with an awesome set of parents and I liked being near them. On this occasion, as I leaned forward, the gospel became clear to me and I received Christ. How did it happen with you? I ask this question for a reason, I want your mind to go back to that day, to remember it, to think on it, think on what was going through your mind that day. That day you became “a new creation”. For many of us, something began to burn inside of us, we had this desire to tell everyone what Jesus had done for us. But as time went on, that flame seemed to subside and now it at times seems hardly distinguishable. The Apostle Paul was worried that the same thing might happen to his young friend Timothy, so in a letter to him, Paul wrote “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” (2 Tim. 1:6). As a camp counselor at Camp IdRaHaJe in the mountains south of Denver, I learned how to start a camp fire; I learned that fanning a flame took effort. It wasn’t enough to just start the fire; on chilly nights, or rainy days, when your main source of warmth was that fire, you did whatever it took to keep it going. You fanned the flame. Should we do any less as a follower of Christ?

As I peruse through the various social media platforms, I am getting the impression that we as believers are fanning the flame alright, but it’s not the flame Paul reminded Timothy to fan. It seems that we are desperate to get a message out, but it’s not the message of The Cross, the only message that carries with it an eternal significance, its other messages. It’s our political viewpoint, our view on the POTUS, the Electoral College, SCOTUS, Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, immigration. Our thoughts on abortion or a woman’s right to choose, on Obamacare or the abolishment of Obamacare…..the list seems at times to be endless. Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying these things are not important, each of these items have some importance to them. But we have turned these “important” items into hammers to drive home the nail of our message. With our backs to the cross of Christ, we pound nails into a different cross, one which holds no eternal significance, a cross of divisiveness, a cross that tears apart. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the churches in Galatia, was himself dealing with some divisiveness in the churches. He writes in chapter 5; 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Verse 15 seems to be a pretty accurate description of what is happening all too frequently on social media right now, from the biting and devouring to the consuming. How this must grieve the Holy Spirit! Paul writes in his letter the Ephesian believers; 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Shouldn’t this be the overriding principle behind all of our posts? If it is, then we don’t have to worry about the verses immediately following verse 29; 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

I get the impression that we have forgotten what it is we have been commissioned to do. Nowhere in the Gospels are we commissioned to set the world straight on our political view. I do not pretend to know the mind of God, but I am not sure that He gives a rip who we voted for or to which political party we belong. As important as the Pro-life movement is, it must absolutely take a back seat to the Pro-life movement that comes from those that are dead in their trespasses and sin accepting life eternal through Jesus Christ our Savior! And if our Pro-life post leads anyone away from the Cross of Christ, we need to think real hard before we click Post…..wait, let me change that, we need to pray before we click post! I must admit to you, outside of this post, I can’t remember the last time I prayed before I clicked post! Can you? It is no wonder there is a lot of biting and devouring going on out there. We have to do better, I have to do better. Our commission is to 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them I the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What we post in social media ought to reflect that commission!

Ok, so you have been pretty patient with me as you have read through this post. Perhaps you take issue with some of what I have written. That's fine, to be honest, most of the time when I write posts like this, the vast majority is self-directed. Maybe, just maybe I'm pointing a finger your direction, but 3 are pointed in mine. Can I ask you to do something? Can I ask you to pray? In fact, for those that are able, may I be so bold as to ask you to go to your knees and pray. I have, before I posted this I went to my knees, bowing at the foot of The Cross with my back to ALL else, seeking the face of God Himself. Oh that my life would be pleasing to Him, that my posts would be pleasing to Him, that my replies to others posts would be pleasing to Him. That His light would shine……even on social media!

Desperately wanting to hear “Well Done”,


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

If you are like me, there are times the “Your Memories on Facebook” feature brings to mind thoughts, both good and bad from the pages of the history book of your life. Today was one of those days for me. The video memory that was on my Facebook page as I logged on today was from Dec. 19th, 2012. Just a few days earlier Adam Lanza made his way in to Sandy Hook Elementary School and brutally gunned down 20 first grade students as well as others.  As Pastor Derrick reminds us in the video, the song our youth choir performed that morning was taken from a poem written by Henry Longfellow on Christmas day 1863. Our country was in the midst of the bloody Civil War. That in and of itself was bad enough, but for Henry Longfellow, that was just the start. His oldest son had been severely injured less than a month earlier in that same Civil War and his wife of 18 years had died tragically 2 years earlier in a fire. Those were dark days for Henry Longfellow and the Christmas bells, meant to encourage-to bring hope, had had the opposite effect.

For the vast majority of us, Christmas is a time of great hope, where the bells do bring encouragement. It is a season of joy as we give and receive gifts, and remember the greatest gift ever given, a Savior, whose gift did not end in a manger, but on a bloody cross on the hill Golgotha. But for many, this Christmas….well this Christmas will not be one of joy. It will be one of deep sadness. One of my friends and his wife recently buried their son, a son who took his own life. Very possibly there are already Christmas presents under the tree with his name on them. The shoes that Henry Longfellow wore on Christmas day in 1863, are now tightly laced up on their feet and there is no removing them. They must now walk a dark and painful path and live the words of the poem;

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

One of my co-workers will experience his 1st Christmas without his father. Uncomfortable shoes are on his feet as well.

Then from each black, accurs-ed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Another friend his 2nd without his wife of many decades, onward he treads deaths dark path.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

As my mind dwells on what is now a loved Christmas carol and as I think through the reality that pain and suffering are an inevitable part of life, I am reminded that the shoes of tragedy are not a permanent piece of the believer’s apparel. The Apostle Peter, you know Peter…..the one who denied not once….not twice, but three times that he knew Jesus, wrote after you have suffered a little while, THE God of all grace(Emphasis mine), who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10). King David, who some historians believe was being threatened at that very moment by a conspiracy to take his throne, a conspiracy led by his own son wrote; Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22). Henry Longfellow himself steps out of the dark and painful path and goes on to finish his Christmas poem in the following way;

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”

As I write these words, my eyes move up just a few inches from the computer monitor and are drawn to a verse on a mug, a verse that Pam and I have held on to tightly over the years, especially those times that we have laced up the shoes of tragedy and proceeded down a dark and painful path. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11). Life has taught us the reality of those words. That even in the midst of life’s darkest moments, God is still in control, that He has a plan, and His plan is good. The word Jeremiah uses for “prosper” in this verse is the Hebrew word “shalom”. It means peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment. Please note, this does not mean a life free from trouble! But it does mean that during those times of trouble, as a believer, you are never alone. Those shoes you wear, He wears too! That dark path you walk, He walks too!
So take heart my friend;

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”


Friday, October 28, 2016

I Am Not Ashamed!

This Is Your Time

(Written several years ago)

As I drove home from work today listening to Christian radio, a song began to play. I had heard the song many times before but never really listened. You know how it is don't you? We all do it from time to time. Our minds are busy, stuck on other things. The deadline to meet, the project you had to leave half done even though things were just beginning to flow. You're so preoccupied that you just don't take time to listen. Oh you hear, but you don't listen. Today I listened. The song was Michael W. Smith's "This Is The Time". It only took a couple of seconds before it dawned on me what the song was about. It was a tribute to Cassie Bernall, the young teenage girl tragically shot in the library of Columbine High School, shot for her refusal to deny her personal faith in Christ. My mind was then drawn back to another day when I was driving listening to Christian radio. It was the top of the hour so the news began to play. There is something about the news that catches my attention, I don't just hear, I listen. The top story was of another school shooting, this time in Denver Colorado. The last one took place less than 2 hours from where I lived at Thurston High School in Springfield Oregon. One of the girl's shot was a teen in a youth group where a very close friend of mine was a Youth Pastor. That's just to close!

As I listened, I thought, "Wow, I graduated from a High school in the Denver area." They didn't identify which High School and to be honest with you I didn't give it much thought, there are a lot of High Schools in Denver. I said a short prayer for any of those touched by the tragedy and went on with my day. A couple of hours later I stopped by the local mall to pick something up. I walked past the satellite store and decided to stop for a minute to catch an update on the shooting. I was rocked by the name at the bottom of the screen: Columbine High School. Right there in the middle of the Mall I began to weep. 21 years earlier, I roamed the halls of Columbine. It was the school I graduated from. I'm sure some thought it strange, there I was a grown man, standing in the middle of the mall crying, but I couldn't stop.

The song played on:
It was a test we could all hope to pass
But none of us would want to take
Faced with the choice to deny God and live
For her there was one choice to make

Did you catch that last phrase? "For her there was one choice to make."  You and I know the choice she made, then, in a moment, the blink of an eye, she saw a sight few will ever see. She saw Jesus, standing with His arms outstretched, ready to embrace this precious child, this mighty warrior, this modern day martyr. We wept at the incredible tragedy, she rejoiced at this, the greatest of privileges.

This was her time
This was her dance
She lived every moment
Left nothing to chance
She swam in the sea
Drank of the deep
Embraced the mystery
Of all she could be
This was her time

It was as if Cassie saw her very own standing ovation. This was her time. In the New Testament book of Acts, we see another story of martyrdom unfold. Stephen was a deacon in the first Christian church. He knew the day he put his faith and trust in Jesus that it could easily cost him his life, that mattered not, he would follow Christ even if it meant a walk up the hill to Golgatha. Not much time passed before he, like Cassie almost 2,000 years later, was faced with a choice, "to deny God and live".

Acts 6:11-7:1
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God."

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

7:1 Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?"

A "No" answer and his life was spared, for Stephen there was only one choice.
You and I know the choice Stephen made:

Acts 7:51-53
51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him- 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."

You know, every Biblical reference I can think of referring to Jesus as, "the Son of Man", in heaven, near God, has Him seated at the right hand of God the Father. Check out Acts 7:55

55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

Talk about incredible, it was as if Stephen was receiving his very own personal, standing ovation, an ovation from none other than the very One he was dying for, Stephen made the right choice. I believe Cassie received a standing ovation from Jesus as well, quite possibly a scene only seen by those who lay down their lives for the One who laid His life down for them

I need to be honest with you for a moment. Had this scene unfolded when I walked the halls of Columbine, had I been in the library that day, had the gun been pointed at my head and the same question been asked, I'm not so sure anyone would have written a song about me. Sure, my life might have been spared, but every day, from that day forward, would have been filled with regret.

Do you remember the story of Peter in the New Testament? The cocky guy that followed Jesus. "Jesus, All these other guys might run in fear rather than follow you, but not me. I'm ready to go to the grave if I have to!” (A very loose paraphrase) Soon he heard the rooster, then came the regret. Regret he probably dealt with every day for the rest of his life.

Legend tells us that some years later, Peter was given a second chance. Again he was faced with a choice. Surely Peter had been told of Stephen's words in Acts 7:56

56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

With the sound of the rooster still ringing in his ears, Peter made a choice. Face to face with the mighty Nero, Peter made one last dying request. That he be crucified upside down, for he saw himself unworthy to die in the same manner as his Savior. I'll bet that from that cross he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.

The song goes on to say:

What if tomorrow
What if today
Faced with the question
Oh, what would you say

This is your time
This is your dance
Live every moment
Leave nothing to chance
Swim in the sea
Drink of the deep

This country we are living in is changing quickly. Our eyes may see the day when stories like Cassie's are not seen by the world as heroic stories, but stories of ignorance, stories of foolish people not smart enough to know the right answer to the question. Peter was given a second chance to witness what Stephen had seen. May we never need one, may there be for us only one choice.

Desiring to make the right choice,

Jim Canady

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Your Grace Finds Me"

Matt Redman has been one of my favorite artists for a few years. I think it started when my sister-in-law was battling breast cancer. We were having a semi family reunion at the time. This included a Sunday morning where we all attended church at my brothers church. It was a special service that included my other brother preaching, I shared something I had written and my brother-in-law and nephew sang a duet of Matt Redman’s song “You Never Let Go”. They did an incredible job with the song and it was perfect for what we were all experiencing as we walked through my sister-in-laws cancer together as a family.

Matt Redman has a fairly new song out now that has really been hitting a chord with me. The song is “Your Grace Finds Me”. It is a powerful song that explores how far the grace of God goes in its pursuit of us.
In half of the lyrics the grace of God is readily seen. 

When you first hear the cry of a “newborn” baby, it is easy to see the grace of God! In the “light of every sunrise”, is there any doubt? The ”mountain top”, if you have been to the mountain top, physically and experiencally you know the grace of God! Sometimes God’s grace is so powerful it brings on the “dancing”. On the “wedding day”, I gotta tell you, my wedding may have been close to 28 years ago, but the grace of God was intertwined throughout the entire ceremony! It’s there for the ”rich”, for the “saint”, and it’s “in the sweetest songs of victory”. All those things undoubtedly show God’s grace in powerful ways.

But what about the other lyrics in his song? What about the “shadows”? The shadows are the dark days of life. Those who have struggled with depression know these dark days. They will tell you that they can be bright and cheerful one minute and then depression envelopes them like a dark cloud. Is God’s grace there as well?  Can you see God’s grace in the “everyday mundane”? You know what I am talking about don’t you? Those days that are just…well kinda blah. Not bad, but certainly not good. Can you sense the presence of God’s grace in those times? What about in those times of “sorrow”? The doctor uses the word cancer, your family has just experienced a miscarriage and this is not the first, you could probably add to the list. How could God’s grace possibly be there? Have you been “by the graveside”? Have you been “poor”?  “There in the darkest night of the soul”? Don’t give me your canned Christian answer, when people are going through the times mentioned in this paragraph those canned answers are of little value. I want an answer from your heart, from your life. In what ways is the grace of God present in this paragraph?

I’m interested in what you have to say, so listen to the song and leave your comment. I may add some of my own.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Rights of the Christian

Last week Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have made sure that people of faith could not be forced to violate their religious beliefs to do business with those in the homosexual community. Last year, a family owned bakery in Colorado was sued and forced out of business because they refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. Something similar happened to a photographer in New Mexico. In both instances the gay couples had several opportunities with other businesses not far away that would have gladly baked their cake or taken their pictures, but they were not satisfied with other business, not when they could force the hand of the Christian businesses. The bill Jan Brewer vetoed was designed to protect the rights and religious convictions of the citizens of the State of Arizona against such suits. There is a part of me that is really bothered by militant gays forcing individuals with religious convictions to go directly against those convictions to do business with them. Shouldn’t the religious have the right to say “No”? For the week leading up the eventual veto of this bill, I became upset every time I thought about it. Again my thoughts were, shouldn’t Christian business owners have the right to say “No”? Even the day she vetoed the bill and afterwards I found myself getting angry. My mind kept going back to the question of the Christians rights and being forced to do business with individuals whose lifestyles they know to be wrong. 

Right now in our country this is a huge political hot button. I believe there has always been political hot buttons. Early in our nation’s history the political hot button was “taxation without representation”, later there it was slavery, then women’s rights, then the rights of blacks and on to abortion, which is still one of the political hot buttons today. We, as Christians, can get pretty emotional about these issues, and understandably so. But can I challenge you to re-think your position? Or perhaps I should change that to, change what you think about. Move away from dwelling on what our rights are and move into what would Jesus do?

Let’s think back to the days of Jesus and see if we can come up with some political hot buttons He had to deal with. As bad as things seem to be for us, I think the Nation of Israel had things much worse. Their rights were being infringed upon in every conceivable way. Perhaps their biggest political hot button was taxes. They were ruled over by the Roman Empire and the taxes on them were significant. The Israelites hated paying these taxes and when the Pharisees sought to trap Jesus with a question about taxes His response was Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar's.” Then He said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Mt. 22:20-12). 

Let’s stay on the issue of taxes for a moment. To a large degree the Roman government did not use Romans to collect their taxes, they used Jews (the chief tax collectors were Romans, but they hired Jews to do their dirty work). The individuals who collected the taxes were required to put a certain portion of what they collected into the public treasury, but they didn’t just stop there, no they frequently collected far more and pocketed the excess themselves. Tax collectors were considered to be religiously defiled traitors who furthered the fortunes of the oppressor out of the pockets of God's people. Let’s just say they were hated and despised. So what do you think Jesus did when he came face to face with these low life’s? Well let’s look at 3 examples. The first we seen in Matthew 9:9-10; 9As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed him.
10And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and His disciples.”

What on earth was He doing? Didn’t he realize who He was talking to? This guy was the lowest of lows, why on earth would he want Matthew to follow Him? By the way, can I point out the obvious here? When Jesus called Matthew, this tax collector, to follow Him, he was asking Matthew to be a part of His inner circle, one of His closest companions. Still Jesus said “Follow Me.” Then He had the gull to have dinner with Matthew and a few of his tax collector buddies. This didn’t go over well with the religious leaders watching!

The next example is found in Luke 19: 1-10; ”1He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ Again we see Jesus welcome a despised tax collector with open arms, no hatred from Him, just love.

The last example is in Luke 18:9-14. Now in this instance Jesus is telling a parable so we don’t know that this actually happened, but His message is very clear. Let’s look at it; 9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’” Again we see Jesus look past the sins of the tax collector, pass on an opportunity to criticize and condemn and talk of forgiveness.  It is interesting to note that, as far as I know, Jesus only mentions tax collectors 3 times specifically and each one of them found forgiveness.

So what does this have to do with our rights as Christians? In my minds eye a lot. The rights of Jesus and His people were constantly being ignored and violated, the Roman government and the tax collector’s mentioned above were a big part of the violation of those rights. Yet Jesus doesn’t go on the attack when given the opportunity. He doesn’t criticize them or publicly call them out for their sinful lifestyle. He loves them and forgives them. As I think about what happened in Arizona last week, and what happened in Colorado and New Mexico last year, I can’t help but think that perhaps we, as Christians, are thinking about the wrong things. Instead of dwelling on our rights, let’s look at the issue from the eyes of the Savior and do what Jesus would do. So what do you think He would do? I tend to think he would bake a cake and load His camera with film.

Now just a quick note before you go on the attack. I didn’t say He would condone their sinful activity. My guess is He had some serious talks with Matthew behind closed doors. Good chance He did the same with Zacchaeus. Something had to happen with Zacchaeus because he goes on to say; “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” He never condones the sins of the sinner. He tells the woman caught in adultery in John 8:12 to “Go and sin no more.” No, He never condones the sin of the sinner; He just loves the hell out of them.

These are my thoughts. They are fresh and I have recently done a major shift on this issue. I would love to hear your thoughts.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Who is Really to Blame for Newtown, CT?

It has been just over a week since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Hard to imagine the mind of an individual who would break into an elementary school and brutally murder 20 1st grade students as well as the school principal, several teachers, teachers aids and other staff. All this after he 1st murdered his own mother. As you would expect, this has been a huge topic on the news ever since. It has also been the top topic on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Everyone is trying to make sense of the senseless, but you know what? That can’t be done, you can’t make sense of a senseless act and any attempt to do so would be futile.

Another thing we have seen a lot of is a search for where we place the blame. Many have pointed their fingers at an American society that puts very few limits on guns. Their feeling is that if we put tougher restrictions on gun ownership, these things will not happen. Others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, believe that had the school principal been armed when she went out to confront the assailant, it could have ended right there. There are some religious leaders who point a finger at a society that has systematically removed God from the schools, from the work place, from anywhere that is considered a public place but is not a place of worship. And yes, there are many who place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the politicians. They believe that politicians that no longer seem to have any desire to work together on any front have led our country down the tubes. Nothing gets done because partisan politics in this country has died and drug this country down to the grave with it. The moral compass of our politicians on every side of the political spectrum has so decayed that the citizenship they have been charged with leading has followed their lead and thus the country, as a whole has no moral compass. There are fingers pointing in other directions as well. It seems each side has passionate arguments, and to a certain degree there appear to be valid points for each consideration.

Like much of the rest of this country, I have struggled greatly with what took place on Friday, December 14, 2012. I have also struggled with who to blame. As I stated earlier, I suppose that to a certain degree, each of the areas discussed above have some merit when it comes to blame. But could it be that the lion’s share of the blame lies somewhere else entirely? As I have thought about it over the past several days, my mind keeps going to the same area for who is ultimately to blame. Please understand that it really pains me to write this, but I believe that the church is to blame. That’s right, the church. By the church, I want to clarify exactly what I am talking about. I am not talking about any specific church, nor any specific denomination. That being said, I do want to be a little more specific. The church I am referring to is the evangelic church as a whole. That group of individuals, nationwide, that profess to be Bible believing Jesus followers. We have put our faith and trust in Jesus, rarely miss a Sunday and are even in the habit of serving in some capacity.

Perhaps as you read this you are thinking to yourself, these folks sound like they are pretty sharp individuals, how could they possibly be blamed? Allow me to answer your question with a question. What are we, as Bible believing Jesus followers called by God to do? Yes, I understand that we have been given several directives, but I would like to highlight 2, 2 directives given by God to us that, if we follow whole heartedly, have the potential to make such an impact that it may even stop our own Newtown, CT experience. So what are these 2 directives? Well let me show them to you, lets look at Luke 10:25-37. I’m pretty sure you will be very familiar with this story. It is The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

While the lawyer asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answer was to give him a vivid picture of what a real neighbor looks like. After giving him that picture Jesus simply asked; “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

So what does this parable have to do with Newtown CT? As I am in the habit of doing, let me follow that question with another question. A pretty telling question, and in my own case a pretty convicting question. Actually the question has already been asked, it was asked by the lawyer who was addressing Jesus in Luke 10:25-37. And who is my (your) neighbor? Who are your neighbors? What do they do enjoy doing with their free time? What are they like? What are the chances they would knock on your door if they really needed someone to talk to? Ok, I get it; this wasn’t 1 question but several questions. The point is, if the majority of us were to answer this question honestly, we don’t really know the answers to most of those questions. When we arrive home from work, or shuttling the kids around, or from our errands or…….or from church. We push the button to open the garage and before we are out of the vehicle the garage door is on its way down. We relax on our back deck rather than a front porch. Sure, most of us may not have a front porch, but to be truthful, chances are even if we had a front porch we would still go to the back deck. We like our privacy. But there is a problem with this. God has not called us to be saved into seclusion. He has called us to be saved into the mission field. The “Jerusalem” Jesus is referring to in Acts 1:8 for us, is right where we live. Not just our neighborhoods, it where we work, where we go to school, the places we go for recreation. It’s where we live out our lives’ on a day to day basis.

Let’s go back to Newtown, CT. What do you suppose are the chances that Adam Lanza had people in his neighborhood that were Bible believing Christians? Let’s not limit this to just his neighborhood. Really, shouldn’t we include others he came in contact with on a regular basis? Now let’s go back to you and me, our “neighborhood”. Could there be an Adam Lanza living near us? I would imagine that if each of us really put some thought into it, we could come up with someone who is similar in a lot of ways to Adam Lanza; quiet, a loner, sort of strange, maybe a little backward. We have seen them walk by our house a few times, usually we kind of turn the other way, or go back inside the house or garage, pretend to be busy doing something, anything, anything but smile and say “Hi” or “How’s it going?” They kind of scare us, perhaps rightly so. But is that how God has called us to react? Much of the time Jesus seemed more at home with the sinners than He did the religious. It also seemed the sinners gravitated towards Him, but not because He did what they did, not at all. It was because He accepted them, He loved them. He didn’t look down His nose at them, didn’t mumble under His breath about them or think to Himself, “What a loser!”

In our circles, you can’t be much more of a loser that The Woman At The Well. She was a half breed who had lost count of how many men she had slept with. She was filth through and through, but before Jesus was done with her she was clothed in His righteousness. Shouldn’t that be our desire for the Adam Lanza’s God brings us into contact with? I know, we may not be able to reach them no matter how hard we try, but shouldn’t we at least try? What a fool David was to go to battle against a giant who was covered in body armor, had a sword, shield and spear, when David had nothing more than a sling and 5 stones…… But you know what? David knew that the God whom he served could direct his stone to the perfect spot. He didn’t approach Goliath in fear and trembling, he ran towards him like a man possessed. Guess what, he was a man possessed. The Bible tells us that David was a man filled with the Spirit of God…..he was a man possessed. Don’t we serve the exact same God? So since we do, let’s start serving Him fully and making a difference in our “neighborhoods”.

We have got to get to the point where we stop searching for who to blame when things happen like what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and start, as individual believers, taking responsibility to do whatever it takes so that when Jesus looks our direction He can say of us that we have proven to be a neighbor. Who knows what God may do through our willing and available hearts? We could very well be an important tool in the hands of the Master Craftsman that changes a life destined for utter destruction into a life of eternal significance. We may be the one used of God to stop a potential Adam Lanza, not with a gun, or our religion, or our political stance, but with the unconditionally love of Jesus Christ that is flowing through us.

Jim Canady

Perhaps you don’t struggle in the areas I addressed below. To be honest, this was written as much to me as it was to anyone else. However, if what I wrote struck a chord with you. Let’s do some brainstorming now. What can we do to do better? What are some steps we can take? I know for me and my family, we need to purpose in our hearts to make a difference in our “Jerusalem”. That place where God has placed us. What about you, I would love to hear your thoughts. Jim