A Big Day

There’s no doubt that tomorrow’s election is a big day for America.  Everyone has their reasons for voting for their candidate.  It doesn’t matter the mode, whether we pull the lever, mark the ballot, or touch the touchscreen, the reason we cast our vote is because we believe in that person. We have (hopefully) weighed their view and vision against the opponent.  The reason we vote for them is because our beliefs for the governance of our country align with theirs.

It needs to be noted that there should be an element of faith and trust that we put into our elected officials. That faith, however, should not be blind and it certainly shouldn’t be unconditional. We need to remember that we are electing people who are as fallible and as prone to falling to temptation as any of us. It needs to be understood that government will never have all the answers or solutions to our problems. If we put that much faith in our leaders, then our faith has become misplaced.

When faith in God is usurped by faith in government, we have a big problem. Every Christian in the country tomorrow will declare that they have voted by the leading of the Holy Spirit (myself included), and yet there will be tremendous disparity between the ballots cast. I believe we will all have to give an account for that vote, so we better know why we put God’s stamp of approval on that person. It does create an interesting conflict, doesn’t it?  Is the Spirit schizophrenic? Can’t He make up His mind?

I saw an interesting sign the other day that read, “Our hope is not in the donkey or the elephant, but in the Lamb.” Regardless of who wins tomorrow, God will still be on the throne and Jesus will still be Lord. With that in mind, there is still the idea that government can, and sometimes does, deliberately oppose things we know to be Godly. Anyone heard of Nero or Caligula? The Spanish Inquisition cannot be chalked up as a “governance” win for the Lord. How about the oppression found in modern states like North Korea, Cuba, or China?

So, my question is, who will best help facilitate the growth of the Kingdom? I’m not going to answer that. We all have to prayerfully answer that ourselves and let our accountability fall to the Lord. As Paul wrote in Romans 14:12, a chapter that deals in matters of conscience, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Paul went on to write in verse 17, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When I vote, I will vote for the one who I believe will help facilitate righteousness. Some may be asking, “How is that defined?” Well, I will just say, read the Bible. Plainly. Simply. Openly.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The Wizard of Oz ranks at the top of the list of some of the most beloved films in American cinema.  In case you forgot how the story goes, each of the main characters wanted the Wizard to help them by giving them something they felt they lacked. The person I want to focus on, the Tin Man, wanted a heart.  The Wizard informs the Tin Man, much to his surprise, that he already had a heart.  His good deeds were evidence of his heart.  In fact, the Wizard says that the Tin Man’s good deeds were just as good if not better than the good deeds of the “good-deed doers” of the world (that would be humanitarians for our tongue-tied friend).  What the Tin Man really needs is a Testimonial.  That’s when the Wizard presents the Tin Man with the heart shaped watch and fob.  Now comes the Wizard’s error.  Upon presenting the testimonial the Wizard says, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

On its face this sounds pretty good because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be loved?  But when you really think about it you realize that the Wizard’s statement is one of the biggest loads of hooey ever pronounced.  Even Hitler and Osama bin Laden had people who loved them, and they were two of the most vicious and malevolent men who ever lived.  They brought violence and death to anyone that didn’t fit their mold and vision of humanity.  They were, and are, beloved by millions.  Many might say they got the due and just results of their hatred.  The question remains, should a heart be judged by how much it is loved by others, or by how much it loves others?

Jesus put it this way in the Gospel of Luke, “But love your enemies, and do good to them, and lend to them without expecting anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be called sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:35&36).”  The Bible also says that we know what love is because God has first loved us and that we are supposed to share that love with others (I John 4:19&20).  In Romans 5:8 the point of God’s love for even the wicked is reiterated when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So then, real love is about giving, not receiving.  We must take that first step to reach out to that person who is our enemy, who does not love us, and show them genuine concern and compassion without expecting anything in return.  Stop waiting to be loved and go out and love someone.  Indeed, as the Wizard said himself, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”  He has no idea what he is talking about.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NLT

as we forgive

My wife and I visited my younger brother and his wife for dinner one evening.  I had to laugh at what two of his daughters had done.  They share a room and at some point there must have been a disagreement of some sort because they laid out a long piece of masking tape and divided the room in half – “my space and your space.”  My older brother and I shared a room as kids and had done the same kind of thing on numerous occasions. It gave me bittersweet flashbacks.

Offense can be a tough thing to handle.  It can cause the walls to go up, or the tape to go down depending on the situation.  Sometimes we rely on the walls to help keep the peace.  Of course, the Bible doesn’t call us to keep the peace, but to make peace.  There is a big difference.  Keeping peace allows for the offense to remain, and the walls as well.  Making peace means tearing down the walls by removing the offense.

How is that done?  Forgiveness.  The disciples understood this, but still wanted the offender to have to bear some measure of culpability.  The offender had to know that grace was only going to go so far.  That’s why we see this little exchange in Matthew 18:21-35.  Peter approaches the Lord and asks Him how many times forgiveness must be extended – “Up to seven times?”  Considering the disciple’s diversity of backgrounds and personality types, there had to be some serious, as well as ridiculous, arguments and offenses amongst the twelve.

Let’s be plain about one thing, Peter didn’t ask the “how many times” question because he was curious.  Those kind of questions don’t arise from thin air.  I can imagine someone did something to Peter and he had had enough.  Peter was going to get to the bottom of the shenanigans by having Jesus fill the role of referee.  Maybe Phillip said something about Peter’s wife.  Or perhaps Judas kept sneaking food out of Peter’s lunch.  Or maybe he was mad because  Bartholomew wouldn’t “stop looking at me.” Whatever it was, Peter was going to put a stop to it.

Jesus’ response didn’t bolster Peter’s position.  The question of “seven times” meant there was an end to patience.  The answer of, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (seventy-seven times), meant that it didn’t matter who had done what for the umpteenth time, Peter needed to forgive.  There is no end to the extension of forgiveness.  Jesus then went on to tell the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

To sum it up, servant owes his master a $1 million debt.  He begs for the debt to be forgiven as there is no way he can repay it, and moved with compassion the master does just that, he forgives the debt.  That servant in turn goes out and finds a fellow servant that owes him $10.  He refuses to forgive the debtor and has him thrown in jail.  When the master finds out, he is incensed.  The master has the unmerciful servant brought before him.  The old debt is reinstated and has the wicked man handed over to the torturers until the debt is repaid in full.

I can see Peter’s confidence wilt in his quest for validation when Jesus gives His concluding statement, “My heavenly father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from you heart.”  Wow.  His words, not mine.  The heavenly father will hand us over to the torturers if we do not forgive from our hearts.  The Lord takes forgiveness pretty seriously.

I recently saw the movie as we forgive.  It’s the story of the reconciliation process taking place in the nation of Rwanda as a result of the 1994 genocide.  Over 800,000 people were killed in 100 days.  Yet now, victims are being called on to forgive people who murdered entire families.  It’s a very powerful movie and moved me to tears.  It is, without a doubt, the most compelling and comprehensive picture of what forgiveness means, requires on both parties part, and brings when it is “from the heart.”  It made me reflect on my own pettiness and refusal to forgive my offenders, and none of them has murdered my family.  Obviously, it made me reflect on this passage from Matthew, hence this post.  I have a new desire to forgive as I have been forgiven.  Indeed, “from the heart” as my Father has forgiven me from His.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

Detour

My post for today is up, but it isn’t here!  My sister-in-law, Heather King, invited me to do a special guest post on her site, Room to Breathe.  She runs an excellent daily devotion and asked me to do today’s contribution for Pastor Appreciation Month.  There is also a giveaway involved.  You could get a free, signed copy of my book.  So click here to enjoy today’s post.  Don’t forget to let me know what you think.

Joy in Christ,

John P. King

A Good Scare

Let’s face it, whether you “celebrate” Halloween or not, this time of year everyone’s attention tends towards the spooky, creepy, and downright scary.  I’ve heard some people say they like a good scare every now and then.  Not so with me.  I can do just fine without having the stuffing scared out of me, thank you very much.

I love the fact that the Bible tells us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). I John 4:8 says, “…for God is love.” In fact, John went on to write, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” If we have given our lives to God, if we have found reconciliation with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we have nothing to fear from God. We have no fear of punishment, but the great expectation of living in the love of God which will drive fear from us.

Yet, with this in mind, I see an interesting story in Genesis 15. This is a powerful chapter telling a key part of the story of Abram/Abraham.  The chapter begins with the Lord telling Abram “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Again, we see the Lord’s encouragement to not fear.  In his heartbreak, Abram pours out his soul reminding the Lord of the promise to give Abram an heir.  A promise as yet unfulfilled as Abram and his wife, Sarah, continue to grow old.

God renews His promise to Abram, telling him that his descendants will be a numerous as the stars in the sky.  Verse 6 says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Abram’s simple faith and belief in the Lord is the kind of thing that John was talking about when we find that wonderful loving relationship with the Lord that drives out fear.

The Lord goes on to instruct Abram to prepare a sacrifice.  The offering on Abram’s part and acceptance of the offering on God’s part would be the ratifying moment of a great covenant between Abram and God.  The Lord would forever be the God of Abram and his descendants, and Abram and his descendants would forever be God’s people. In this powerful moment, this ratifying and recognizing of this great covenant of friendship, grace, and love, an interesting thing happens; “Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.” (Gen 15:12).

God Himself showed up to validate the covenant, and with Him came…terror?  It reminds me of the scene where Isaiah received his call (Isaiah 6).  The wonderful, glorious, loving, living God shows up and the first thing out of Isaiah’s mouth is, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” (Isaiah 6:5).  When John, yes the “There is no fear in love…” John, sees Jesus in Revelation 1, he confesses, as he writes, that he fell at Jesus’ feet “like a dead man” (Revelation 1:17).  What does Jesus do?  He reaches out to the one who was known as the “one who Jesus loved,” touches him on the shoulder and says, “Do not be afraid” (1:17).

So what can we make of all this?  Certainly, God does not want us to be “afraid” of Him.”  He does not want us to cower as if any moment He could squash us into jelly.  However, we should never take for granted His Godhood.  He is powerful.  He is mighty.  Stars fall from His fingertips.  He creates worlds with the words from His mouth.  He alone holds all of life in His hands.  Should we not respect that?  Should we not expect that if He shows up, we will react the same way these three wonderful men of God did?  It makes me reflect on the phrase “a good scare.”  I think I would like to have one after all.  A Good Scare, and all that it implies.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

 

Who are These Peole?

I recently renewed my computer security program. Different people use different companies, but in the end, the goal for all of us is the same – protection, keep bad programs out. When the system finished downloading and updating I couldn’t help notice the database of malicious software. It’s a screen I’ve seen before, but for some reason, today it stood out to me. My security program noted the following as it relates to what kind of threats are out there, and how many there are: Malware – 8,053,587; Banners – 29,266; Phishing websites – 729,734; Spam – 134,157; Malicious scripts – 27,931. Wow. Are you kidding me? When you add it all up, you get a figure of over 9,000,000 things out there to damage your computer.

The scary part of all of this is the fact that my security program has an automatic database update. In other words, it runs in such a way as to keep up with the ever growing list of programs being created to do one thing – mess with my computer. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?! What kind of person dedicates their time and effort to deliberately create destruction? The end goal of the product is to disrupt, harass, bring frustration, and generally ruin another person’s life by wrecking their computer.

It’s funny how many times I’ve read things in the Bible, but it takes a daily application to make something really stick. Psalm 37 is a great passage of scripture. Verse four is a verse I’m sure most of us have heard and quoted countless times; Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I’m finding it difficult to talk about this Psalm without wanting to put nearly the whole thing in this post – this Psalm is that good. But I don’t have room for forty verses, so take some time to read and reflect on it, you won’t be disappointed.

However, I do want to point a few things out. First, there is the encouragement to not be envious of wicked people. They plot and plan and deliberately seek to bring harm, but God knows and can handle them. Verse 12 says, “The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, For He sees His day coming.” Evil people aren’t getting away with anything. One day payment will come due, and God will collect.

Second, there is the call to live right. There are some powerful promises in this Psalm for those who are willing to leave the world behind and live for the Lord, to stop the plotting and bad behavior and live a life of honor and righteousness.  Verses 27&28 say, “Depart from evil and do good, so you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones.” One great promise among many in this Psalm.

Finally, God’s got our back. He’s like the security program constantly running in the background doing its job even though we are unaware. The final two verses, 39&40, say, “But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked and saves them. Because they take refuge in Him.” I don’t know who “those people” are, but I do know the Lord. I reaffirm my trust in Him. I reaffirm my belief that He is watching out for me and will protect me from the myriad of threats I am completely unaware of. I reaffirm this because I know He loves me, because He leads me. As verse 23 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Without a doubt, Lamentations is one of the most heartbreaking books of the Bible to read. It’s only five chapters long and doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to read the whole thing. Lamentations isn’t a book we turn to very often for times of reflection, devotion, or inspiration. That kind of “feel good” walk with the Lord comes from Psalms. The name Psalms even sounds nice. Lamentations? That sounds bad from the get go. Who wants to read a downer book for their daily pick-me-up with a name that is synonymous with crying? This book is full of anger, wrath, desolation, and despair. So, beware if you decide to read it, because it isn’t pretty.

Jeremiah pours out all his emotions as he writes about the destruction of Jerusalem. Judgment had finally come to the people of Israel. They had long since abandoned the covenant of grace and love for a lifestyle of idolatry and selfish pursuit. One word could describe their state – wicked. And for this wickedness, God lifted His and of protection and brought in the invading hordes to carry out His judgment against the nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. The people would experience crushing defeat at the hands of a brutal enemy. Cities would be sacked and burned. People would be slaughtered by a bloodthirsty army. Whole communities would be carried off and enslaved. Women raped. Such privation would ensue that starving parents would eat their own children.

This judgment hadn’t come without warning. The Lord sent prophet after prophet appealing to the people to return to the covenant and find grace and life. However, the Israelites ignored God’s warnings and pleas. In some cases, they persecuted and killed the prophets that carried the Lord’s message of repentance and return. The prophet Isaiah is a perfect example. Through Isaiah, the Lord called His people to stop sinning and return to a place of grace. Isaiah 1:18 reads, “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” For this call to repent, Isaiah was put in a hollow log and sawn in half.

We delude ourselves if we think that God is not displeased with sin and will not judge it. Lamentations makes it plain that wrath and anger will be poured out when judgment comes – and it inevitably does. However, in the middle of this book comes one of the great passages of encouragement and consolation. Lamentations 3:21-23 says,

“This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

Even in the midst of judgment, God’s lovingkindness and compassion is revealed. It is ready for us fresh and new every morning. This “hard” book reveals the great balance of God. As was stated earlier, this book carries the evident warning of judgment on sin. Yet, God is not just a big ball of anger waiting to bust us on the head. Judgment comes to point the way back to the Lord’s favor. The intention of judgment is to return us to right standing in Him. For that reason, in the midst of judgment, there is a promise that every morning His love and compassion is renewed. There is an opportunity, every day, to find out how faithful the Lord is. So be encouraged, even when we walk under judgment, God is open-armed waiting for us to return to Him.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB