Should Christians Stand Up for Their Rights?

“Politics are tense these days. Have you noticed? Most of the tensions are centered around whether or not man has a “right” to something. It’s those decades-old arguments “We have a right to own guns!” “We have a right to have abortions!” “We have a right to free speech!” “We have a right to religious freedom!” and so on and so forth. These ideas are ingrained into Americans as immovable foundations of our society. American society and Christianity have been so closely woven together that even the Church expects to be granted “their rights.”  But are these Biblical? Should Christians stand up for their rights?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness(the American Declaration of Independence). From little up, we Americans are taught this as basic truth. It definitely feels accurate, because we feel deeply wronged if our liberty is violated. These “rights” may be God given, but nowhere in Scripture do you find the idea that we ought to defend “our rights.” In fact, you find the exact opposite.

God gave the best example Himself. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is completely divine and entirely perfect. He created the world and is King over it, but in that crucial moment at the Cross when all of His rights as God and as man were being violated all He requested was forgiveness for humanity’s ignorance. He asks us to do the same. It’s true: God has endowed humanity with certain rights, but He asks us to lay down those rights in order to help others and show them that relationship with Jesus Christ, regardless of temporal circumstances, is the true path to Life, Liberty and even Happiness. Jesus Christ, not government. We cannot pick-up our crosses and our rights at the same time. To demand our rights of Life, Liberty, and Happiness…”

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Should Christians Stand Up for Their Rights?.

Why Reading the Bible Is Not Enough

I believe the Bible to be inspired by God, if nothing else because of its incredible, unprecedented preservation. That alone is a miracle. I make it a priority to spend time reading it everyday. But merely reading a copy of the Bible or learning the Greek and Hebrew or having theological discussions about certain passages does not mean you have actually studied God’s word.

It took three centuries for Christians to have access to what we now consider the inspired Word of God, and another millennium before it was available to the masses. This tells me that there is a whole lot more to studying God’s word than merely reading the pages of a book. In order to understand which writings were true and what to believe, early Christians had to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit (personally and through other believers). They had to actually KNOW Jesus: both through conversation (prayer) and experience.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1,14). He is the perfect representation of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15). God’s word, His message, to the world is, simply, Christ.

To truly study the Word of God, we must intently focus on Jesus (James 1:25). This primarily comes through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit who only says what Jesus says (John 16:13).

Reading and being immersed in the Bible is powerful and essential but should be done with prayer and discernment from the Spirit because that is the primary communication between God and man. You cannot understand the truth of the Bible unless the Spirit illuminates it to you.

I cannot stress, enough, my belief that the Bible is inspired by God and should be taken literally and COMPLETELY. You can be certain that God will not tell you to do something which contradicts the absolute truth He has already spoken through the Bible. But knowing the Bible does NOT mean you know Christ. It may lead you to a deeper understanding of who Christ is and His characteristics, just as a detailed map of LA helps me get around. But studying a map is not equivalent with “getting around” and actually KNOWING Los Angeles. The Bible may be a love letter from God, which is pretty awesome, but no lovers are ever satisfied with only letters. They want real interaction.

C.D.

The Incredible Love of the Father

I don’t know about you, but it is easier for me to believe in God than it is to believe God loves me. This hesitation to rest in His love causes me to live under a constant pressure to perform — to prove myself to God and to others. But Christ came as a mediator between God and man to reconcile us to the Father and take away that pressure to perform. Every day I must remind myself that God the Father loves me not because of what I do, but simply because He made me. I can abide in His love because Christ has reconciled me with the Father.

God wants us to agree with truth whether we understand it or not. Truth is simply the way things really are (reality). It is like the answer to a difficult math problem which you accept to be true even though it does not make sense. As you move on and continue to try to understand the problem, it eventually begins to make sense, especially if the teacher explains it effectively. Whether or not you understand does not effect whether or not the answer is true.

It is like that with God’s love. He loves us simply because He made us, but only through Christ can we abide in that love. He wants us to agree with truth because only when we agree with truth (with God) can He truly begin to work through our lives. And this is the truth which we should agree with everyday: in Christ we are cleansed, accepted, and loved by our Father in Heaven.

We must first realize that…

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The Incredible Love of the Father.

Divorcing Jesus

If you haven’t noticed, there is a problem with how the Church interacts with the world. They’re missing each other–and by all appearances, they hate each other.

But I don’t think the church needs to become more Hipper to grab people. Shortly after the early church days, the church became so hip that Constantine joined the Church and the government (Roman) into one holy union. (Kind of like a marriage, right?) You know what followed? Over a millennium of darkness.

Jesus was very intentional about accepting people where they were at, and He did this by loving and forgiving them.

But He had one condition: to receive the Life He had to offer, they had to accept Him. Jesus was very bold about Who He was and the need for people to accept Him to receive life. If people didn’t accept Him (and the life He offered), He didn’t denounce them or throw a tantrum, He simply wept and moved on, unoffended.

Why are we ashamed of Jesus? To be ashamed of Jesus is to be ashamed of love, acceptance, forgiveness and sacrifice! But I think that what scares us is His demands that we admit our own frailty and sinfulness, and that we worship God. This is humbling. But the pain and fear of surrender is incomparable to the peace and joy of walking closely with Almighty God.

Constantine married the world to the church, but to do that he divorced the church from Jesus Christ. Are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to forsake Jesus to please the world?

Constantine got darkness, and so will we. Without Jesus we have nothing…because Jesus is everything.

CD

Got Any Change?

A year ago today I was headed over to Asia with my sister, brother and sister-in-law (my sister and I for two months). It’s crazy how much change happens in a year. I definitely miss Asia and all the experiences we had over there…

But what if we got our wish? What if we could stay suspended in time at our favorite moments? Sure, it would be a blast for a while, but we would eventually become bored and resentful at God. Because life is like a dance and every good dance needs good timing: ups and downs, slow and fast, smooth and bouncy.

I hate change, I hate goodbyes, I hate disappointments–if I could remove them, I would. But in order to remove them, I’d take away the movement of life’s timing and the dance would flop.

So let’s embrace the movement which change brings to life–because that’s pretty much what life is: constant change. Remember that the Master Choreographer is GOOD and knows what He’s doing. Every old and new move is according to His grand plan.

I loved Asia, more than I expected. My bones have been aching to go back and I probably would have hit pause, if possible. But I experienced so much rich LIFE since then that I’m glad I didn’t.

But coming home from a fun trip to Asia is not the extent of the change I’ve experienced. About every year and a half or so, half of our household moves away and is replaced by new people. Strange, right? You see, my family houses the volunteers for the ministry we work for, unfortunately, their terms are only a year or two long after which they move on with their lives. Every time one of them moves on, I get a little bitter about the whole change concept. But invariably when I look back and see where they are and where I am today and the relationships I’ve made with the new volunteers, I would not have it any other way. See, God does know what He’s doing after all.

And then there’s death. One of the irreversibles of change. Everyone will experience death, in some way. If someone does not experience losing a loved one, it means they died first. In every marriage, someone will experience the death of a spouse, most children lose their parents, some parents lose their children. Everyone will die.

But therein lies Hope. Because death does not have to be a period, separating one sentence from another. It can, and should be, a comma, which is a mark of transition, or a colon: emphasizing why. Those who are hidden inside Christ will overcome death and be raised to a glorified life where there is no separation (death) or pain–but if I know the Master, there will probably be change.

Thank God!

Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

“Last fall, I had to make a decision. Being the first year after my Mom’s fatal car accident made 2013 one of the toughest years of my life, as you could imagine. When grieving loss such as the death of a loved one, or even a lost career, a divorce, a cross-country move, chronic or terminal illness or any kind of major loss or change, the regular pains of life intensify. Last year my family and I saw the regular up-and-down’s of life taken to extremes. In the midst of all the raw emotion, I fell into a type of depression. And that is when I was bombarded by the questions and decisions.

As anyone experiencing similar grief, I had a lot of questions about life. I felt like Job who wanted to “take God to trial.” But from all the questions, one monster protruded out from the rest: “Why am I doing all this Christian stuff?” And then all the little monster questions followed right behind: “Why am I hanging onto all these convictions? Why do I follow and obey God? Who’s going to care? Why don’t I just go do my own thing?”

Let me ask you: Why do you do what you do? Teenager, why don’t you have sex whenever you want? Why do you hold on to your convictions? Why do you work hard to obey God? After all, you are saved because of God’s grace through faith — not because of what you do. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about modesty: why does modesty matter? Why don’t we lust and flirt? Why should we bother to live peaceably with each other and strive for reconciliation? Why don’t we murder? Why don’t we lie? Why do we follow the Bible? If none of this adds or subtracts to our salvation, then why bother?”

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Obeying God: Does Doing All This “Christian” Stuff Really Matter?

The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness

Want to do hard things? Want to succeed at life’s toughest challenge? Learn to forgive.

Even the most talented people have limited impact until they learn the basics of forgiveness. But what does forgiveness mean, exactly? Is it merely saying “I forgive you”? Does it mean forgetting as well?

We can try to squeeze it into a simple definition by saying: forgiveness is the continuous state of a guilty person not receiving the punishment that justice or intuition demands he receives. But it is still complicated and cerebral and not very practical. Then of course, life doesn’t have simple answers: there is no logical rationalization which we can unpack and forevermore know how to forgive. If forgiveness is so complicated, how can it be understood? Just as scientists can observe light and say it “is such-and-such” or “affects this-and-that,” but cannot say exactly what it is made of; so can man see forgiveness and give an explanation, albeit a weak one, of its attributes.

Forgiveness is mercy. If someone says “You are an egghead!” forgiveness continues to love that person. It is not merely words: it is an attitude. The words “God bless you” or “I forgive you” mean nothing unless continuously lived out on a day-to-day basis. Forgiveness means not holding the actions against the actor.

When God says in Jeremiah 31:34 that He “will remember [our] sins no more,” He is not insinuating that he has a bad memory. God cannot merely “forget” sins. Instead, He is demonstrating to the world that forgiveness involves the injured choosing to put out of his mind the actions of the injurer. In other words, when someone says “I don’t hold it against you” then he really must not hold the other person accountable for their hurtful actions. This is the example set by God. “Disciples, pick up your cross; follow me; learn from me.”

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The Hard Stuff of Forgiveness.

Let’s Talk About Music

“Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy, for the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving kindness of the Lord.” – Psalm 33:1-5

Let’s talk about music! Music is a wonderful art. Nothing speaks quite as deeply to one’s emotions as music does—especially if accompanied with poetry. Music transcends many arts in that it affects not only your soul, but your body and spirit as well. Because it is so intimate, I believe that Christians—especially young people—should be serious in their approach to music and truly seek God in this area of their lives. This may be hard, but, well, since when has that stopped us?

I do not completely know how to approach this subject because I am not exactly sure where you, my audience, stand on this issue. In some Christian circles this is a really sensitive issue, but in others it is a topic from the ‘90s. There is a huge spectrum of musical beliefs and opinions among Christians. Some people believe that anything musical is acceptable, others believe that a cappella is the only way to worship God through music. Honestly, I have rarely participated in a conversation about music that was actually beneficial or uplifting. Therefore, I do not write this in order to give my opinion or assert my own personal belief. Rather, I wish to give some suggestions to keep in mind as YOU formulate YOUR beliefs. These suggestions are mostly an assortment of tools others have handed to me which I find beneficial in my current musical processing, and I would like to hand them to you.

If we’re not careful we can easily fall into the “ditches” on either end of the spectrum. But God does not call us to get stuck in ditches; He calls us to walk with Him on the road. Again, I’m not here to define where the ditches begin and end, or show exactly where we should be on the spectrum. Rather, I’m here to provoke our thoughts and, I hope, arouse meaningful conversation. Many of you will come to a completely different conclusion than I would after applying these tools, but my desire is that you really be thoughtful and spiritually discerning in your musical choices.

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Let’s Talk About Music.