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

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