I Have My Rights!

Here in the United States, we seem to thrive on individual rights.  Our country was founded proclaiming that its citizens have the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  We’ve added so many more.  The right to bear arms.  The right to assemble peaceably.  The right to vote — equal representation.  The right to own property.  The right to defend that property.  The right to choose — to make our own decisions.  Even the right to remain silent — unfortunately, one that isn’t used often enough. 😉

There is one thing that fascinates me about our American “rights”.  Even though most would claim that these are “God-given” rights, the Bible often does not back up that claim.  I think of those original “Creator-endowed, unalienable rights” — “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  If these are truly rights given to us by God, then I think the predominance of the godly Bible characters somehow missed their rights.  Prophet after prophet, along with the majority of the apostles and early Christians, did not live a life centered around their “right” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Many of them lost their life for the sake of their faith.  Others were imprisoned and enslaved because of their belief in God.  It was not their own pleasure that drove them to share the message of God with individuals, cities, and nations.  No, it often brought misery, hardship, and turmoil into their life — quite the contrast to the “happiness” our American culture says we have a right to.

That is not to say that as Christians we have no rights — we do.  We have a right that far surpasses any of our “guaranteed” American rights, or rights any other nation or person may give you.  John writes about this as he communicates to us the Christmas message — the message of God coming to earth and taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus.  John writes this message of our “right” in John 1:9-13:

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made by him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

The right to become children of God!  Wow!  This is the right that caused the Apostles and early Christians to fearlessly proclaim the gospel as they should.  God says that to those who receive Jesus, who believe in His name, they have a right — not a chance, not a possibility, not a what-if or maybe, but a right to become a child of God.  We know all about rights in this country and we believe that no one can take our rights away from us.  We demand our rights because they belong to us.

When I dwell on God’s view of me, it is humbling and invigorating that He sees me as His child.  He has set up the true “Creator-endowed, unalienable rights”, and this is it.  Not simply a right to life, freedom, and happiness; a right to relationship!  I have a right to call God my Father.  John says that this is a right I have by birth — not a natural birth, but a supernatural birth.  It is the birth Jesus talks about in the third chapter of John when He tells Nicodemus, “You must be born again”.  It is this acceptance and belief in Jesus that gives me the greatest right ever.  I claim this right.  I have this right — a right purchased by the blood of Jesus through which God says I am His child.

May you and I value the right we have to become children of God.  May we honor that relationship and live up to the responsibility that comes with being a part of the family — God’s family. 

Where Are You Dwelling?

Castle RuinsIt is often interesting to learn why a person lives where they do.  Although each story is unique, there are several themes that are often repeated.  Work related issues, educational opportunities, love for family and relatives, and climate are common reasons many have for living in a certain area.

Christmas is a story about choosing a place to live.  Isn’t that what John writes about in John 1:14:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God became human and lived among us.  God chose a time and place that He, as Jesus, could live among the people He loved so much.  Just as we have reasons for why we live where we do, Jesus had reasons for living where He did.  He had work to do.  Jesus knew from the beginning that His work on earth would be accomplished through His death and resurrection.  Jesus came to teach and train followers who would take the good news of His life to the world.  Jesus dwelt among us — His creation, those He had chosen to adopt as children of God.  And in all of this, the climate was right.  Not the weather, but the timing.  In the fullness of time, Christ was born.  When His time had come, Jesus was lifted up to be crucified.  His dwelling among us had purpose.  The church today exists because Jesus was willing to live and die at the right time, at the right place, and for the right reason.

Will you allow the Word to become flesh in your life?  As you dwell among the world, is Jesus being seen in you?  Has Jesus become flesh and dwelt in your community because He lives through you?  I believe that God has placed His Spirit in each of His children so that as He lives among us, we and the lost around us would see the glory of the Father.

Where are you dwelling?