“I stand at the front door of the church. It is Sunday. I like to stand here and watch people entering the church. What unites them? Sinners come in the church. Some are still in their mother’s arms. Sleeping, they come, but not of their own volition. They look innocent enough, but they are still sinners. Though outwardly cuddly and cute, they are among the most narcissistic and self-centered in the congregation. When they wake up, they will cry out, not caring that the rest of us are about important religious business. When they are hungry, they will demand to be fed, now. Cute, bundled up, placidly sleeping or peevishly screaming. Sinners. Sinners come to church. They are being led by the hand. They do not come willingly. Though they put up a fight an hour ago, a rule is a rule, and there they are. They have said that they hate church. They have said things about church that you wouldn’t be allowed to have published in the local newspaper, if you were older. Ten years old they are, and they lack experience and expertise, but not in one area: they are sinners. Sinners come in the church. Sullen, slouched, downcast eyes. They were out with friends last night to a late hour, and the incongruity between here in the morning and there last night is striking. They know it and it is only one of the reasons why they do not want to be here. Dirty thoughts. Desire. Things you are not supposed to think about. These thoughts make these sinners very uncomfortable at church. Sinners come to church, and they have put on some weight, middle-aged, receding hairlines, “showing some age.” They are holding on tight. Well-dressed, attempting to look very respectable, proper. Youthful indiscretions tucked away, put behind them, does anybody here know? A couple of things tucked away from the gaze of the IRS. And a night that wasn’t supposed to happen two conventions ago. These sinners are looking over their shoulders. They are having trouble keeping things together. Maybe that is why there are so many of these sinners here, coming in the door of the church. Sinners come in the church, and the doors at last are closed. The last of them scurry to their appointed seats. The organ music begins, played by an extremely talented, incredibly gifted artist, who is also a sinner. And the lyrics to that first hymn, something about “Amazing Grace,” sung, appropriately, by those who really need it, need it in the worst way. They sing in the singular, but it ought to be in the plural. “Amazing grace that saved wretches like us.” Sinners come into church. And now for the chief of them all, the one most richly dressed, most covered up, the one who leads, and does most of the talking. Some call him pastor. Down deep, his primary designation is none other than that of those whom he serves. Sinners come into the church, and now their pastor welcomes them, their pastor, the one who on a regular basis presumes to speak up for God, making him the “chief of sinners.” Sinners come to church, all decked out, all dressed up, all clean and hopeful. Sinners, sinners hear the good news, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1: 15). Jesus called as his disciples Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Mary and Mary Magdalene. Sinners. Only sinners. And Jesus got into the worst sort of trouble for eating and drinking with sinners. Only sinners. Sinners. Jesus saves sinners. Thank God. Only sinners. We sinners.”
A friend of mine challenged me to write a version of the hymn “Cleanse Me (Search Me O God)” in the style of “The Civil Wars”. This is a live Facebook video of me trying to do that. I hope you enjoy it.
“Crafted directly from inspiration found in hymnals and prayer books, songwriter and worship leader Rick Lee James offers Hymns, Prayers and Invitations. It is with the intentionality behind the last word of the album title, Invitations, that makes this project a stand out. More than a collection of hymny interpretations or simple song book upgrades, James’ purposeful use of lyric, timbre, and track synchronism should lead the listener into moments of powerful communication and worship with the Lord. Hymns, Prayers and Invitations drip with soundtracks of Sunday morning sanctuaries to intimately personal prayer closet concerts.”
“The modern hymn approach to congregational songwriting and singing has a worthy new addition”
“If you’re looking for music that is congregational yet not cookie cutter, get this album”
This episode was recorded on the road after a viewing of the movie, Suicide Squad. I share my thoughts on the film and tell about seven news both for the podcast and for me professionally as a musician. This episode was recorded completely from my iPhone as a way of experimenting with new recording software. I hope you enjoy it.
Itunes Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/voices-in-my-head/id494097807?mt=2
On Tuesday, July 26th, an 84 year old priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was murdered in cold blood while he was leading a mass in France. He was forced to his knees before his throat was slit all while being videotaped. How marred the image of God must be in the people who do things like that, one of them a 19 year old.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He also said, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28).
So how do we pray for enemies like this? How do we possibly love them like Jesus taught us?
Maybe we try praying the Lord’s Prayer for them.
Our Father in heaven, we pray that our enemies would be converted by your hallowed, holy, sacred name.
We pray that your Kingdom would come upon our enemies and Your will would be done in them and to them. Let this happen on earth before they have to stand before your heavenly throne in judgment.
Give them as little or as much provision as is needed to drive them unto you and to beg for forgiveness of their trespasses. Do the same for us until we have prayed to a place where we are able to forgive them, lest we be accountable in Your judgement.
Lead them away from the path of temptation and deliver them from this evil that has overcome them, because Lord, Your Kingdom is the only Kingdom with power, authority, and glory.
As we pray this for our enemies we pray it for ourselves as well. Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy.
In our lives and especially in our deaths, may the love of Jesus be seen in us by everyone, especially our enemies who need Your love so desperately.
Our lives are yours Lord, and with our final breath, help us to tell our enemies, “God loves You and what the enemy has intended for evil, our God will work for good.”