Go to bed!

When I got home from work last night, I sat down at my computer to finish today’s blog. For those that don’t know, I work 3PM-12AM . Yes, that’s right, midnight. Then I had a flashback. When I was working on my Master’s degree, there were a few occasions when I worked into the early morning hours on a paper. While typing away during ungodly hours when no one should be awake, I can remember thinking to myself, “Man, this is great! This paper is going to be fantastic. An “A” for sure!” It seemed like my fingers couldn’t type fast enough. Words poured forth with lightning speed.

Of course, after having gone to bed for a few hours of good sleep, things looked a whole lot different. Reading through what I had written, there was only one conclusion: this stuff was TERRIBLE. I remember thinking, “Ugh, this bad. This is so bad. What was I thinking? This paper is a total fail!” I had to undo all the work I had done the night before. The delete and backspace buttons got a thorough workout and some sections had to be removed in their entirety. All that time and work, gone. It would have been better for me if I had just gone to bed.

So with that in mind, I went to bed. I did not want to repeat that kind of fiasco any more. Sometimes, whatever it is that we are doing can wait. There is no substitute for having a clear mind and thinking straight. We can all take a lesson from our technology – use the pause button. Our iPods have them, the DVR has one, and for all the old-schoolers out there, even the tape player had one. I promise, that “thing” that is so important will be there when we get back. We need to learn how to take the time to reset our minds so the work we do will be something of real value that won’t have to be redone later.

Rest, and its subsequent result, personal renewal, is a key component to living a healthy and productive life. When we run around from project to project and don’t allow our bodies and minds the chance to recover, we diminish no only ourselves, but that “all important” thing we just had to get done. Let’s face it, having a day off was God’s idea. Not that He “needed” it, but when God made the world in six days, He made another day just so He could rest. In fact, Genesis 2:3 says, “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” How do you like that? He “blessed and sanctified” the day of rest. Is God cool or what? So, a word to the wise – go to bed and get some rest!

By the way, this post is NOT what I was working on last night – that other one was a total fail.

Advertisements

Weak Prayer

I was up at five o’clock this morning. FIVE!! I am never up that early. Working 3PM-Midnight has my normal body clock on an entirely different schedule. Yet, wide-eyed awake at 5AM. So I got out of bed and figured I would maximize my time through prayer. I was going to engage in some serious time with the Lord.

It was a nice idea. I cannot believe how easily distracted I can get even when there is absolutely nothing going on! My time of prayer this morning was seriously weak. When my feet hit the floor my mind focused on exactly what I wanted to do, enter the throne room of heaven. Somehow, the moment I walked into the hallway and closed the bedroom door behind me, I stepped into the Twilight Zone. My brain ran in a hundred different directions. WHY IS THAT?

After all these years of walking with the Lord, there are still those times when spending time with Him is real work. Like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, there wasn’t a whole lot of real prayer going on. Of course, the disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray – they kept falling asleep. I, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep, but still didn’t really pray as I could/should have either. Jesus hit it right on the head, as He always does, when on that occasion in the garden He said, “…the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38b)

Willingness of spirit is obviously not the problem. I wanted to pray, but it just didn’t happen. I couldn’t pray because I let too much of the flesh in; weak flesh equals weak prayer. My mind took off, yet, honestly, I didn’t do much to reign it back in. When the flesh runs the show instead of the spirit, it will always turn out weak. So whose fault is it, really? Mine. I could have turned on some music and worshipped to force my mind to focus on something. Then there is the exercise of writing my prayer – that always brings a sharpness and clarity.

Live and learn. I don’t want my prayers to be weak. I want all my prayers to be the James 5:16b kind, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Especially the five in the morning ones.

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

 

You Ate It All!

I don’t remember who said it first, but the phrase, “You ate it all!” signified utter contempt among my brothers, sisters, and me when we were young. When that phrase was heard or spoken, it meant that trouble was brewing. I have an older brother, older sister, younger brother and younger sister. I’m smack in the middle, and with so many in the house, invariably there’s going to be some competition when it comes to the best stuff to eat and drink. Hence the “You ate it all.”

If someone had the last of anything, whether it was the Cap’n Crunch, the ice cream, the cookies, or even the last scoop of beans out of the pot, they “ate it all.” Never mind that you may have had the first, and possibly largest, helping, the person who got it last was seen to have had it all. It even came to the place where if we were sharing a can of soda, whoever had the last sip “drank it all.”

This, of course, had the unintended consequence of no one wanting to finish anything lest they be accused of being a hog. Things would be eaten and drank to the place where what remained in the package was the most worthless smidge which wasn’t worth the effort to consume; one cookie left in the tray, three spoonfuls of cereal in the bottom of the box, a gulp of orange juice in the bottle.

Obviously, such attitudes are selfish and my parents did their best to stamp it out. Reigning unchecked, such competition would make for a mad house where everyone did their best to make sure they got not only their share, but part of someone or everyone else’s portion as well. When we consider it deeper, the root desire is to have it all. All for me, none for you. This attitude isn’t just child’s play either. People who don’t get a handle on this early in life make for seriously mean-spirited adults.

John the Baptist faced down just such a crisis of “ownership.” A particular religious leader started a discussion on the finer points of the law with some of John’s disciples. They ended up bringing the conversation to John when the antagonist pointed out, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” (John 3:26) In other words, Jesus took your stuff. Jesus has your cookie. Jesus is eating it all!

John would have none of it. He shot it right down with a powerful principle that, if we can grasp it, can set us free from the need to “guard what is mine.” In John 3:27 he replied, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” John recognized God’s plan for his life and God’s plan for Jesus’ life. He knew that as he walked out the Lord’s purpose and direction, some things would come to him, and some things would be taken from him. John did not get caught up in the game of “that’s mine” or “you have more than me.” He didn’t cry, “UNFAIR!”

Contrast John with the religious leaders. As one reads through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it’s plain to see that they could never get over how popular Jesus was and how much the people loved Him. They couldn’t stand the fact that Jesus associated with everyone, even the worst of sinners. Their jealousy of Jesus ate them alive. It drove them to set traps for Him in an effort to discredit and defame Him.

Ultimately, their envy of Jesus and His “eating it all” was part and parcel of their motives for having Him crucified. When the religious leadership committed themselves to killing Jesus in John 11:47-57, they said, “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” They wanted their own “stuff” and couldn’t stand the thought of someone else having any of it, regardless of the fact that as John recognized, this guy is/was the Messiah.

It really makes me stop to think about what the Lord has moved into and out of my life. Am I still trying to hold on to things He doesn’t want me to have? Do I allow God to be GOD and be the overseer of what I have? Am I dissatisfied with what He wants for me? Is what I have truly what HE has given to me? Or am I hoarding and collecting “stuff” in an effort to play to my baser nature that demands and attempts to “eat it all?” I really don’t want to be consumed and driven the way the Pharisees and Sadducees were. It’s time to take personal inventory and get ready to clear some things out.  Anyone want the last cookie?

 

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

What am I missing?

Each season of the year has things that I like. I enjoy the snow in the winter, the newness of spring, and the “playtime” atmosphere of summer. But of the four seasons, I think I like fall the best. The intense heat of summer begins to fade into a relieving cool. I can turn off the AC, open the windows and let the fresh air into the house all day long and through the night. Fall is soccer season. I played through high school and college and have to admit that even after all these years, with the onset of September, I feel this mysterious urge to go running and kick the ball around. Autumn is also deer and elk season. There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from providing good, natural, organic food for my family all the while helping to steward animal populations by exercising proper conservation. I thoroughly enjoy the beauty of the trees as they change color, creating an “earthbound rainbow.”

Genesis 6-9 tells the story of the great, worldwide flood and its aftermath. At the end of Genesis 8, we find an interesting promise the Lord gives to Noah, and by default all the world through time immemorial. The promise is that the Lord would never again destroy all life as He had just done. He says in verse 22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” When we get into chapter 9, we find the establishment of what I call the Rainbow Covenant. God promised that He would never allow the waters of the earth to flood the earth and end all life again. The proof and reminder of this covenant would be the rainbow; “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

What a wonderful promise. The rainbow is an everlasting sign of God’s grace and mercy. Make no mistake about it, the people of Noah’s time were wicked and for that reason, God brought judgment. As we look to society at large today, can we not see the same kind of selfishness and wickedness? Yet, God’s promise remains.

As I reflect on this promise, I wonder how many people don’t know what the rainbow really means. Growing up in a Christian home, in a society that, by and large, is/was Christian as well, knowing the flood story and subsequent rainbow promise were a sort of given. I knew this story from childhood.

Now, with a larger worldview and understanding of geography, world religions, and politics, I can’t help wonder how many don’t know the promise that I have taken for granted. People around the world see the rainbow in the sky and not know the great promise of grace and mercy behind it. Here is the first part of what I am wrestling with – not knowing does not negate the promise. Those who don’t know aren’t disqualified for the ignorance. They enjoy the benefits of the Rainbow Covenant regardless of their awareness of its existence.

To return to my opening question, “What am I missing?” I want to deal with the second part of what I am wrestling with. There is no end to God. That’s part of what makes Him God. He is the embodiment of goodness, kindness, holiness, mercy, grace, righteousness, and the list goes on. What other promises, what other acts of mercy towards me has He made that I am completely unaware of? WHAT AM I MISSING? I don’t want to miss a thing He has for me. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to recognize and thank Him for His goodness to me. In the face of my own failures and shortcomings, He continues to love me and provide for me. My relationship with God through Jesus is just the beginning. His forgiveness extended through Jesus’ sacrifice is the starting point. I know He has done so much more for me. It’s time for me to do a little looking around and find those times and places where God has extended a promise, a hand of grace and mercy. No more “missing.”

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

 

Is That Your Final Answer?

Many of you will recognize the title of today’s blog/devotion as the tagline from the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Contestants sit in a seat opposite the host and answer multiple choice questions in increasing difficulty, but also in increasing value up to the final $1 million dollar question. As they answer the questions the host asks, “Is that your final answer?” to which the player must respond that it is their final answer in order to “lock it in.” Only then will the show proceed to find out if the answer was the correct one or not.

The contestant must lock in an answer, even in the cases when they don’t know what the answer is. Who knows, they might get lucky and actually pick the right one. In such cases, they get to continue to play for even more money. However, life certainly isn’t like that. GOD certainly isn’t like that. Living for the Lord is a walk of faith that, on occasions, demands that we declare we don’t know the answer, yet proceed anyway.

The story of Abraham underscores this tremendous truth. In Genesis 12:1-3 we find the call of Abraham and it starts like this: “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you.” As the call continues the Lord promises Abram to make a great nation out of him. A nation that will bless the world.

Verse 4 tells us that Abram obeyed the Lord and moved his family. Obviously, the Lord led Abram to the land of Canaan, but often we neglect to delve into the true act of faith required to make that move. Imagine telling not only your immediate family, but your extended family that you are moving. They all come over and help you pack up your moving camels (trucks of Abram’s day) and keep asking you where you are moving to. Your only response, “I don’t know.” Abram had no idea where he was going, only a sense of the Lord’s leading and that when Abram got there, God would tell him; “To a land which I will show you.”

In His famous “Don’t worry” teaching from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus told us not to be concerned over the affairs of life:

“For this reason, I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or  what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek  all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek     first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:25 & 33-11)

I don’t know is a legitimate answer, and often it is the answer required by those who live by faith. Where are you going? What are you going to do when you get there? How will you live? How will you pay your bills? I don’t know, I DON’T KNOW, I DON’T KNOW!  But I know this, God knows! The fact that God knows, in the end, is the only thing that really matters. As He leads, He provides because He is a good father.

We like to put on the false front that we have it all together and have the answers for everything. It gets uncomfortable and we feel silly telling people that we don’t know the answers to their questions. Pretending that we know it all will rob us of our faith. We don’t live trusting to luck, we live trusting in God. It is ok to not know. So, the next time someone asks the tough questions of faith and how things are going to work out, for which there is no definitive answer, look them straight in the eye and tell them, “I don’t know, but God knows, and that’s my final answer.”

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

OUCH!

So, the wife of the Pastor of one of the churches that I attend made an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said the church would pay for guitar lessons if I were willing to learn how to play (the goal being my joining the worship team). With some prodding from my wife, and the gift of his old guitar from my younger brother, for my birthday no less, it seemed playing this instrument was part of my unavoidable destiny.

I’ll concede the idea of learning and playing appeals to me. Playing an instrument is not only a practical skill for someone in the ministry, but there is a component of personal enjoyment as well. I’d like to know how to play some of my favorite songs.

That is, until I had my first lesson. For crying out loud, this thing HURTS! Playing looks easy enough, but until you have to contort your fingers and wrist into the positions needed to squeeze the strings, you don’t realize how much of a torture device the guitar is! Not only that, but the smaller strings really bite into your fingertips! If someone else wasn’t paying the price, I would be more than happy to lay this bad boy down and try something else. But this is what the church needs, so, I can foresee more torture in my near future. The man giving me lessons assures me that I will develop callouses and my fingers and wrist will become more flexible over time. Here’s to hoping that time flies when I’m NOT having fun.

There is a correlation to this in the Christian walk. In I Corinthians 6, Paul deals with the serious nature of sin and the fact that one cannot engage in a lifestyle of sin and expect to make it to heaven. In verses 12-20 he deals specifically with the area of sexual sin. Paul says in verse 18 that sexual sin is unique in that it is a sin against our own body itself, “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”

The problem of sin is that it is comfortable for us. REALLY comfortable. If we will be honest, we will recognize that it is far easier to live the way we want, rather than live the way God wants us to. That’s why Paul gives us a great reminder about the nature of God’s love and the cost of our salvation. In verses 19 and 20 he says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

Jesus paid the price for our salvation. His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection are what has made it possible to have eternal life. It was a price that none of us could have paid. The great glory and promise of this life is the fact that we have now become the temple of the Holy Spirit. GOD LIVES IN US!! WOW!

He will help us to live the life Paul is calling for in the whole of I Corinthians 6 – a holy life. Be aware, it is not easy, and in many ways it is uncomfortable and torturous to lay down the life of sin that comes so easily to us. However, over time, and with practice, a life of righteousness and holiness will come out of us just as surely as beautiful music will one day come out of that guitar of mine. Don’t give up on living for the Lord, no matter how hard it seems sometimes. Trust me, Jesus paid far too high a price to give up on you, and the Holy Spirit hasn’t “moved in” just to “move out”  again.

 

Copyright © 2012 John P. King

Verses from the NASB

Release Day!

Today is the official release day for the book! All of chapter one along with ordering information have been posted. Simply click the appropriate link on the menu bar above. I would love to hear your comments! You can drop me a note through the comment link by clicking on the chat bubble located to the right of today’s blog title, “Release Day!” or through email at smokingnewspaper@gmail.com. I hope you enjoy the sneak peak at the book!

John