20111230-201430.jpg

I really love this Jack Kirby Super Powers artwork I found online from the comic book mini-series based on the Kenner toys.

20111230-202027.jpg

In episode 10 of Saturday Night Live’s 37th Season, a skit aired that caused a lot of controversy. In the skit, Jesus appears to the Denver Broncos in their locker room and tells the team that indeed he is the reason they’ve won their last 6 football games, but they need to start doing some work themselves because he can’t be there all the time. Jesus knows Tebow prays to him before every game but what he needs to do along with that is stretch and read the playbook. Jesus just doesn’t have the time to come in and save them at the 4th quarter of every game.

Jesus then says it’s great that Tebow thanks God so much, but who they really should be thanking is their kicker Matt Prater. Then the dialogue is as follows:

Jesus: Matt Prater, I pray to you brother.

Matt Prater: You pray to me? I didn’t know that.

Jesus: Yeah, you know, uh, that’s because I’m not in everyone’s face about it. (He says this while giving an accusing look at Tim Tebow)

Jesus tells the team that he basically just goes where people call on him. He decides most NFL games, the CMA awards, and shows up at any black event where food is served. He then says, “Sorry, I’m forgiven” for making the statement about black people.

Jesus warns that the New England Patriots will be tough to beat and said that if he is the son of God that Tom Brady must be God’s nephew while comparing the Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, to the devil.

Many Christians understandably found this skit blasphemous. The complaint from most was that Jesus wasn’t treated with much reverence at all in this skit and was basically used to make jokes about Tim Tebow’s faith.
I understand why people of faith are so upset, but I honestly find a lot of humor and even some prophetic imagination in the skit. This skit was not portraying the real Tim Tebow nor was it portraying the real Jesus Christ. They were showing caricatures of what happens when people “pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners” (Matthew 6:5)

Think about how many times on the CMA or MTV music awards someone thanks their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for letting them win an award for their songs about cheating on a spouse, glorifying drug use, objectifying women, and condoning patriotic violence. How many times to sports stars thanks their God and then head off to a drug filled orgy.

Also, when the statement was made that Tebow needs to spend a little less time in the word and a little more time in the playbook I was reminded of my college days when so many of us “pious” religion majors would use our spiritual life as an excuse to slack off on our homework.

Now, I’m certain that Tim Tebow is no slacker and spends as much time in the playbook as he does the Bible. You don’t get to where he is without hard work. He seems like a decent, kind, authentic person who glorifies God in all he does and that’s awesome. Most of us will never have even one conversation with the Tim Tebow so we are not in a position to judge. And, it could be that SNL is simply poking fun at Christians but I think something more is going on.
Could it be that SNL simply called those of us who are Christians to be accountable to the God we serve? After all, wasn’t it Jesus who told us, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mathew 6:6).

I personally have to thank the people at SNL for reminding me that as a Christian I will do my best work in secret. If Christians of faith were offended by this skit then maybe we needed to be. Let’s not forget that God can use anyone he wants to get the message out, even SNL. God used this irreverent skit to speak to my heart about my prayer life. I don’t think SNL’s point was to mock people of faith, but even if it was, let’s not forget what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20: “You meant it for evil, but God intended it for good”. Galatians 6:7 tells us that it isn’t possible for God to be mocked. It’s arrogant to think that a God so great could ever be threatened by small creatures like us. Let’s not miss what the Holy Spirit may be saying to us through this media moment that we will forget about in a matter of days.

Let’s pray for Tim Tebow as lives his faith before the world. Pray that he has lots of good people to keep him accountable because Christianity is not a lone ranger religion. He’s just a human and we need to be careful that we don’t put him or any other human up on a pedestal.

Let’s pray for ourselves too and how we present ourselves to the people in the media. When Christians get offended so easily it just shows them how right they were. How insecure are we in what we believe that we can’t take a joke? Instead, shouldn’t we take offense at the things in scripture that offend God? I don’t think SNL makes the list. God help us if we are only calling on Him at ball games and award shows.

Proverbs 6: 16-19 (NIV)
16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Like my new Superman Snuggie? Click on the picture to get one of your own.

The Christmas story: An unplanned pregnancy to a poverty stricken peasant couple engaged to be married. They were forced to become undocumented immigrants soon after the birth of their baby, Jesus. King Herod slaughtered the male Jewish babies in an effort to put an end to the new “King,”. Jesus is a Messiah who avoids the powerful and wealthy. He lives among the poor, the broken, and those reeking with scandal. Both then, and now, he is rejected by many of those whom He came to embrace. He is a King who reigns from a place of pain and mourning, even to the point of death on a cross. He is furious love and unrelenting mercy beyond what we can comprehend. He loves even those who curse Him and those who refuse to believe. He doesn’t give up on those who give up on Him. For the joy set before Him, the joy of knowing God and man in unity, He endures the wrath of men who are disconnected from God. This is the story, Love came into the world, and we killed Him. Death wasn’t strong enough to keep love away. He is here, hallelujah. True love is born and born again. Merry Christmas.

Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing)

20111225-001210.jpg

Merry Christmas,
I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported my ministry this year. In case you haven’t heard, www.itickets.com is featuring my song, Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting, Longing) as the download of the week, as well as the Newsboys latest single “God’s Not Dead”. These songs will be available as free downloads at itickets.com until next Tuesday at midnight.

Also, all of my digital albums are temporarily on sale for only $4.99 at www.cdbaby.com as digital downloads. You will find several digital song downloads on that page that are not available anywhere else.

Finally, in the spirit of the Christmas I made a YouTube playlist that features several of the Christmas songs that I either wrote or covered over the years. You can find them at the link below. Have a Merry Christmas.

Rick Lee James Christmas Playlist

I will not accept any bull from your house

…Psalm 50:1.

God’s word says it so perfectly. I don’t even need to elaborate.

“Christmastime Is Here” Christmas Cover from my YouTube Channel.

Don’t forget to get your FREE download of “Advent Hymn (Watching, Waiting Longing)” at www.itickets.com from December 20th-27th

I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of humanist author Christopher Hitchens. I had to opportunity to read quite a bit of his work over the last few years, especially while working at the Clark County Public Library. He was brilliant and I found myself drawn to him in many ways. But, what really struck me about him though was his sadness. It was as if I could feel his sadness radiating from everything he wrote. The man had no hope beyond what humans and science could accomplish.

He definitely had courage and rarely did anything that you would expect him to do which made him fascinating. He was a liberal yet he supported the Iraq war, he attacked everyone from Bill Clinton to Mother Teresa, he championed of the working class while living in luxury, and he preferred the term Anti-Theist over Athiest because he believed religion poisoned everything…all religion.

I’m sad to hear of his passing because I’m not sure he ever really delighted in living or enjoyed life as if should be lived. I mean I know he enjoyed alcohol and cigarettes. I’m sure he must have enjoyed his time with his wife and children. He probably enjoyed his mistress that he left his wife for, and the child they had together. But true delight in his life?

You might think I’m trying to attack Hitchens because he was an atheist, but I’m not. While I don’t agree with his him, I understand it. It takes great faith to be an atheist. All religions have left black marks on history and so few people seem to represent their faith well, so I can understand a person rejecting religion. (Although, atheism is technically a religion by definition since a religion is the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs.)

I’m just sad to see a life lived so selfishly, spreading such animosity, and rejecting relationships with so many people, including his own brother Peter who converted to Christianity from Atheism. For any man to let hopelessness be his only legacy is indeed a tragedy and I grieve for Hitchens today. All I can feel as I hear of his death is sadness and it makes me want to love people better.

If Hitchens was wrong about God and gets to speak with Him, then I’m sure the conversation will go something like the poetry in wisdom literature of Job 38-40. This may be the only conversation any of us are entitled to: (3) Then Job answered the LORD: (4) “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40: 3-4)


Read Job 38-40

There are many things I find disturbing about Christianity in our present day, but the problem I am going to address in this article has most likely plagued Christianity from the start. The calling of Christ is a call to genuine repentance, not repression. Repentance is a word that has caused a lot of confusion and in fact has been misinterpreted again and again. Most definitions that you find in the English language dictionaries do a poor job of capturing the meaning of the word. It’s usually defined as being sorry for sin or feeling of remorse deep in your conscience.
There is a much deeper definition that goes way beyond what we feel when you begin looking at the theology of the word repent.

The most common term in the Old Testament for repentance is the Hebrew verb sub, which appears well over 1,050 times. The word is translated as “repent” only 13 times, and the adjective translated as “repentance” occurs only once in the NIV. The more common translation is “turn” or “return.” A related term is naham, is translated three times as “repent” in the NIV. In the New Testament, the most common verb is metanoeo which occurs 33 times and the noun metanoia which occurs 20 times. A synonym metamelomai is once translated as “repent” in Matthew 21:32.

These words go much deeper than simply feeling sorry or feeling anything for that matter. Repentance actually has little to do with our feelings. This is significant in a society like ours that obeys its emotions rather that doing the right thing. Repentance is better defined scripturally as a returning to God while turning away from evil.
Three times Ezekiel prophetically speaks God’s call to the people of Israel: “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” ( Ezekiel 14:6 ); “Repent! Turn away from all your offenses” ( 18:30 ); “Turn! Turn from your evil ways” ( 33:11 ). This calling was a consistent one the prophets (Isa 45:22 ; 55:7 ; Joel 2:12-13 ). The Septuagint usually translates the Hebrew word sub with the Greek word epistrepho which means to turn about or to turn away from.

A simple definition of the word often doesn’t help us. When translating scripture, it is sometimes easier to capture the definition by seeing how it is used. Isaiah 1: 16-17 for example captures the heart of the word repent. “Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

To repent is to abandon our evil intentions and our evil deeds. Both our motives and our conduct have to be radically changed. As you can see from a careful reading of the passage, repentance has very little to do with how we feel. To repent is not just to feel sorry or feel bad. To repent is to do something about the things for which we have become sorrowful. Repentance is a complete change of action that comes from with a change of heart and mind.

The Greek verb metanoeo is formed from two words: Meta which means change, and noe which means mind or to think. To repent is to literally change your mind.

So, if the call is to repentance then why do we so often live instead by repression? In my experience the church is often more interested in repression than it is in real repentance. If we repress something we bury it deep. Repression puts the things we are afraid to show out of our minds so we don’t have to deal with them. Repression helps us ignore the unsightly things in life. If we repress something then we just pretend it isn’t there (like poverty and homosexuals for instance). It’s just easier to repress the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. We bottle our secrets up inside and try desperately to keep the cork on while the pressure ferments and builds pushing harder and harder against the cork until one day the bottle just explodes.

These headlines are the result not of repentance but of repression:

“Latest Catholic Church sex abuse scandal could impact Oregon case” –the Oregonian
“Charismatic Church Leader, Dogged by Scandal, to Stop Preaching for Now” –The New York Times
“Ted Haggard, minister caught in sex scandal” –Los Angeles Times
“Religious scandal threatens to overshadow Jesus” –The Suffolk News-Herald

I think the last headline bothers me more than any of them. “Religious scandal threatens to overshadow Jesus.” In the Christmas story the angel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit is going to overshadow her and in the process she is going to give birth to Jesus into the world.
Mary must have been scared out of her mind. Teenage pregnancy outside of marriage used to be a huge deal, punishable by death. More likely than death, she would have had her nose cut off and would be forced to walk through life disfigured as an example to all other women not to fool around with sex outside of marriage. Some real, true repentance had to come about with Mary in that moment.

It wasn’t that she needed to confess and be sorry for some sin in her life, it was that God had to change her mind and heart so that she would be willing to become an actor in this play that God was producing. She had to put away the plans she had for her future and set out on a new course with her fiancé Joseph. This change of mind/heart/direction/action is also an example of repentance.

The thing is that in spite of all our sinfulness and filings, Jesus cannot be overshadowed. You can mock him, beat him, drag his name through the mud, crucify and kill Him but he will not be overshadowed. He does the overshadowing.

This world has a real need for people who will not repress but will actually confront life head on and repent by letting Jesus overshadow them. We need people who will be transformed by grace to the point where everything in their life changes for the sake of the call. What we have are too many people that try to look the part by ignoring and repressing the chains that are holding them down.

Repression leads to scandal, repentance leads to the cross. Yes, the cross is a scandal to the Jews, and a folly to the Gentiles, but to those of us who are being saved it is the very power of God. It takes courage and honesty to repent. It takes cowardice and deceitfulness to repress. repression is easy, it follows the crowd. Repentance is very difficult and will cost us everything.

So, now the moment of truth, are we people of repentance or people of repression? If the church has called you to repression because it doesn’t want to deal with the hard, lifelong work of repentance then I apologize on behalf of the church. The church is a place filled with people and wherever people are there will be flaws. But, the church is also filled with a God who loves sinful people very much and loves them too much to let them remain unchanged. Repentance is not a one-time confession of sinfulness so we can go to heaven. Repentance it is a lifetime of walking like Jesus, being honest about who we are, refusing to cover up our disgraces to that in the light of Christ they can be healed. We don’t ignore our sins, we confront them, deal with them, and turn away from them.

It’s altar call time. It’s probably the main altar call that Jesus was concerned with. This altar call of Isaiah to repent is echoed in the life of Jesus. Anyone brave enough to heed the call?


Find this great book by Thomas Merton and More at Rick Lee James Amazon Store.

Starting now you can shop at Amazon.com through the link on my web page. When you do this a percentage of your purchase will go toward my music making. If you’re looking for a Kindle Fire this Christmas why not get it through my Amazon page and support independent music.

Shop the Rick Lee James Amazon Store for Comics & Graphic Novels, Music, DVD, Books, Computers, Electronics, Cell Phones & Accessories, Camera & Photo, Video Games, Toys & Games, Baby Jewelry, Kindle Store, Kitchen & Housewares, Magazine Subscriptions, Musical Instruments, Shoes…