Christian Voting Guide

Christians are just like everyone else, we are all wondering how to vote. Should we vote Republican, Democrat, a Third party, or should we just skip the lesser of two evils and not vote at all? How do we make Our decision as Christians?

An unfortunate thing about how our government is set up is that our candidates are a reflection of our people’s morality. In order to get elected in this country you have to follow the lead of the people, not lead the people. If you do something that is against the will of the people, even if that thing is just, then you will not get elected. We elect people who say what the majority want to hear. The danger of this is that the majority is often a mob. This seems the great danger in a democracy. Leaders can’t lead until they get elected, and they really can’t after they get elected because they have to run for reelection.

This is what makes the Kingdom of God that Jesus enacted so appealing to me and so different from the American way. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done” we are literally praying “Thy government come, Thy politics be done”. For Kingdom people, our allegiance is not to a party or a candidate. We don’t vote for what God’s will is going to be because God doesn’t rule based on votes. We submit as Abraham did with Isaac, like Daniel before the lions, like Jesus at the cross. Our pledge of allegiance is “Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not”.

This is why it’s so hard for believers to vote our beliefs at the ballot box. Our beliefs usually aren’t on the ballot. When Jesus calls us, he bids us to lay down our rights and to come and die. In contrast, our culture is all about elevating want to the level of need and needs to the level of rights…and nothing is more sacred to Americans than our rights.

So as we head to the end of this election cycle remember, no matter who you vote for, no matter who wins this election, no matter what laws are passed, and no matter what rights the nation says we have, as Christians our God may be leading us someplace different.

Our Leader actually leads and doesn’t change commands based on our votes. Our Leader will not tolerate lies, sexual harassment, violence, racism, greed, misogyny, narcissism, or any of the other thousands of ways that we break the Ten Commandments.

Our Leader holds us to a different standard. Our bill of rights is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Our pledge of Allegiance is the Apostle’s Creed. Our call to action is given to us in prayers like these given to us by St Francis:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy,
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.”

A Gift-Worthy Donation

I’m so blessed, with a few days left to give before Thanksgiving (my self-imposed deadline) we have only $300 left to raise to meet the gofundme goal.

The album doesn’t release until March 17th, but it goes to press next week. This means that donors at certain levels should have their copy of the record by Christmas. This means that you can pre-order the digital album for yourself and give the physical copy away as a gift depending on your reward level.

The goal is within reach, $300 in 3 days. Donate today at www.gofundme.com/hymns

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We’ll email the entire new album to you as a digital download before it’s available in stores. We’ll also send you the album artwork in digital format as well.

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We’ll send you a CD of the new album signed by Rick before it’s available in stores PLUS a digital copy of Rick’s book, Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Through The Psalms.

 

more at http://www.gofundme.com/hymns

 

 

 

Repress and Turn To God?

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.

Superman, Santa Claus, and Jesus

In 1983 I was given DC Comics Presents #67 as a Christmas present from my parents. I was 6 years old but I still remember it vividly, rolled up and stuffed into my stocking (I also got the He-Man Attak Trak that year, but that was from Santa, not my parents). I loved this comic book and read it over and over again. I think it may have been my very first comic book. I lost my copy somewhere along the way. Maybe it just wore out and got thrown away or maybe it was misplaced in all the moving that we did growing up but I am happy to say that I found a like new copy of this prized childhood memory at Half-Price Books a couple of years ago.

I’m thankful for parents who loved me and gave me great Christmas memories. I just re-read this comic book and it was like the Christmas of 1983 came back all over again. As dumb as it may sound, the story of Superman teaming up with Santa Claus is delightful. I felt like a 6-year-old all over again and it just reminded me that imagination is one the greatest gifts God gave us. I’m of the mind that any adult would benefit seeing the world again through the eyes of the child. Maybe all of us ought to be assigned a 6-year-old to help us see how wild and beautiful the world is around us. A 6-year-old sees adventure and wonder in what would be just an absurd story to many adults.

It’s no wonder that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3.

Lord help us to have the imagination to see Your world as You intended for it to be seen. Open our bored, cynical eyes so we can see the adventure and life-giving wonder that exists in your world. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear the good things You have for us. We wait with expectation for your Advent here.

The War Prayer

Mark twain was born 176 years ago today. In his honor I am posting one of his greatest works, “The War Prayer”. Maybe the most Christ-like parable written in response to war in the last 200 years. Thank you Lord for showing us your heart through the genius of men like Samuel Clements.

The War Prayer
by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.