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

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


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