I Have My Rights!

Probably no country in the world has been more adamant about the rights of its citizens and the role of government in maintaining those rights. When the U.S. Constitution was written, three delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not sign it because it lacked a bill of rights.

Created in 1787 the Constitution became the official foundation of the USA in 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state out of the 13 to ratify it. Many states agreed to ratify it with the understanding that a bill of rights would be quickly added.

In 1789, 19 amendments were submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. James Madison is given credit for writing them although it is believed others, including George Mason, who had refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, had given input. Seventeen of the 19 amendments were approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate approved 12 of them and in December 1791 the states had ratified ten of them.

Throughout the history of our country these amendments and the rights they gave have been debated and challenged in our courts. Today it is the Second Amendment that has produced so much disagreement and arguing.

The point of this post is not to argue for or against exactly what that amendment meant in regards to our right to possess guns.

But what distrurbs me is the role many evangelical leaders are taking in pushing an agenda of the “rights” of Christians. Many have been very hostile in speaking against those who do not agree with the “Christian” point of view. Sadly they seem to feel that their viewpoint is the “Christian” viewpoint and anyone who opposes that is clearly not a Christian.

The contrast between this militant voice of many evangelicals and the voice of Jesus shows that the Christian “right” has lost its Biblical connection.

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said we need to become a servant. To be a follower of Jesus does not mean you have no rights. It means you give up your rights freely in order to bless and help someone else.

Hear how Jesus was described:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Although Jesus had a “right” to be treated like royalty he gave up that right and make himself “like a slave.” In doing so He modeled exactly what He meant when He said “If any man desires to be first, let him be last and servant of all.”

Jesus ministered in a country that was under the rule of another nation, the Roman Empire. There was much that was unjust in that time. But Jesus said nothing about trying to change the political scene. He said his kingdom was not of this world. He had a plan that was much bigger and greater than any government, any nation, any political party.

The issues we as Christians face in our country today do need to be faced and legislated and thank God because we have rights, we have the right to express ourselves. But we must not invest so much of our time and energy in trying to make our nation Christian by trying to force our beliefs on others that we fail to introduce them to a different kind of kingdom, one based on the love of God. (Laws may change behavior, but they will never change hearts.)

“Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals of the 1990’s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish; to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners….Jesus did not say ‘All men will know you are my disciples…if you just pass laws, suppress immorality and restore decency to family and government,’ but rather ‘if you love one another.’ “

He made that statement the night before His death, a night when human power, represented by the might of Rome and the full force of Jewish religious authorities, collided head-on with God’s power. All his life, Jesus had been involved in a form of “culture wars” against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire, yet he responded by giving his life for those who opposed him. On the cross, he forgave them. He had come, above all, to demonstrate love: “for God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son…”

Philip Yancey in his book “the jesus I never knew.” i highly recommend this book

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How Does Blood Make Me “White as Snow?”

The Christian religion puts a lot of emphasis on the blood of Jesus. Depending on what church you go to, you are asked to remember the death of Jesus by taking communion daily, weekly, monthly. Again, depending on what church you go to, you will told that this wine actually becomes the blood of Jesus – or is just a representation of the blood of Jesus.

Growing up in my church we often sang songs about the blood of Jesus.

What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

There is power in the blood of Jesus.

Oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus, oh the blood of Jesus. It washes white as snow.

To be honest as a child I wondered how blood could make something white as snow. In our culture, we see blood as a stain. If we cut our finger and get blood on our clothes we immediately try to wash it out before it leaves a stain.

The Old Testament is full of the concept of using blood to cleanse. All the animal sacrifices were said to cover the people’s sins. Blood was to be sprinkled on a person with leprosy and on homes with mildew or mold. It was sprinkled on the priests as they began their ministry in the Temple.

The New Testament speaks often of the blood of Jesus making us clean and in the last book of the Bible we are told

they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

While I never understood how blood makes something white, I did believe that the death of Jesus somehow cleansed me from sin.

Recently I read a wonderful book called “In His Image.” The book is co-authored by two doctors who worked in India, one of them with the leprosy colony. Their description of the function of blood in our body is amazing.

When the writers of the Bible referred to the cleansing properties of blood, they had no knowledge of our body and how blood serves us. But, of course, God did.

Modern medical science has shown how using blood as a symbol of cleansing is so accurate when seen in our body.

The writers of the book suggest if you want to see the power of blood as a cleaning agent to put a blood pressure cuff on your arm, pump it up until it is as tight as possible and wait. After a few minutes of being uncomfortable, try to pick up a pencil or cut a piece of paper. They note that after a few minutes you not only will not be able to do those tasks, you will be in terrible pain. When you release the cuff and the blood comes rushing back in, you will find relief from the pain and you can function again.

The pain, they say, comes because you forced your muscles to keep working without any blood supply. As our muscles work, they produce waste products that are flushed away by the blood. When the blood was not allowed to flow through your arm, these waste products began to build up and you had pain from the toxins not removed by the blood.

The authors describe how our blood circulates through our body carrying toxins to our liver and kidneys to be removed and to our lungs so we can exhale the carbon dioxide and rid our body of this poison.

This example of how blood cleanses our body from toxins, is a great example of how the blood of Jesus does “wash us white as snow.” As we accept the forgiveness of Jesus, his sacrifice on Calvary cleanse us from the waste products we call sin. These sins are to our spirit like toxins to our body. If we do not get rid of them we will be poisoned spiritually just as our body would be if blood stopped flowing through our system.

The writers say:

Too often we tend to view sin as a private list of grievances that happen to irk God the Father, and in the Old Testament He seems easily irritated. But even a casual reading of the Old Testament shows that sin is a blockage, a paralyzing toxin that restricts our realization f our full humanity….Pride, egotism, lust and covetousness are simply poisons that interfere with our relationship to God and other people. Sin results in separation from God, other people, and our true selves.

I would encourage you to get this book “In His Image” by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. They share more insights into how marvelous our body is and how it points to the image of God.

Whatever Happened to the Blood?

Growing up in a conservative church background we sang a lot of songs about the blood:

  • There is Power in the Blood
  • Oh the Blood of Jesus
  • What Can Wash Away My Sins? (Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
  • The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power

I hear less and less songs about the blood.  Many seemed to think such songs “turn off” people we are trying to reach.  The very thought of being washed in blood is, honestly, a little strange.  When I turn on my shower I would be horrified to see blood instead of water coming from the shower head.  And who would wash their white tops in blood and expect them to come out sparkling clean.

On the surface it is a silly concept.

Yet when the Bible was written little was known scientifically about blood.  Everything the Bible said about it was in opposition to scientific knowledge.

For instance, throughout the Bible we are told that the life is in the blood.  Yet, until just a few hundred years ago doctors would bleed patients thinking losing blood would cure them.

Recently reading a book by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, In His Image, it was interesting to see how science has discovered the cleansing power of blood.

Such a pipeline exists inside each one of us, servicing one hundred trillion cells in the human body.  An endless supply of oxygen, amino acids, nitrogen, sodium, potassium,…surges past our cells, carried on blood cell rafts or suspended in the fluid….that same pipeline ferries away refuse, exhaust gases, and worn-out chemicals….The components of this circulatory system cooperate to accomplish a simple goal:  nourishing and cleansing each living cell…Every cell in every body lives at the mercy of blood.

We just finished celebrating Easter where much is said about the blood of Jesus being shed and his death that followed.  But, again that blood was shed not for death – but for life.

It is not true that blood represents life to the surgeon but death to the Christian.  Rather, we come to the table also to partake of His life.  Christ came not just to give us an example of a way of life but to give us life itself.  Spiritual life if not ethereal and outside us, something that we must work hard to obtain; it is in us, pervading us, as blood is in every living being.

I can not do justice to this excellent book that uses the science of our body to better understand what it means to be made in the image of God.  It is worth your checking out.