Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Asking the King to Make His Move

Dr. Kenneth Ulmer is the pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California. It's a predominantly African-American Church that recently purchased The Forum -- where the Lakers used to play basketball. He's been their pastor since 1982 and has overseen their growth from 350 people to more than 13,000 now. His is a remarkable story.

And he can preach.

He's one of those rare men who not only has lots of good knowledge (he earned a Ph.D. from Grace Theological Seminary) but lots of passion as well.

And did I mention he can preach?

He tells this story about two guys walking through an art museum. They come upon a painting of a chess game, which is very interesting because one of the two men happens to be an international chess champion.

There were two characters in the painting: one looked like a regular guy; the other looked like the Devil. The regular guy was down to his last piece on the chessboard, and the title of the painting is Checkmate.

Something about the painting intrigued the two men, but the chess champion could not stop staring at the painting. He became so engrossed in it, he eventually told his partner to move on without him. Something about the painting wasn't right, but he couldn't figure it out and wanted more time to study it.

After a while, he began to run through the museum to find his friend. He said, "We have to find the man who painted this. We have to tell him that he must change his picture or change its title."

His friend was bewildered. "What? What's wrong with the picture and its title?"


When Dr. Ulmer tells the story, this is where you start to get goosebumps. It can't be checkmate if the King still has one more move. The game can't be over as long as the King still has one more move. Anything can happen as long as the King still has one more move.

God's people are in slavery in Egypt. They've come under the ruthless hand of the mighty Pharaoh. He's killing all the baby boys. It looks like Checkmate, but...the King still has one more move.

The people leave Egypt, headed for the Promised Land, but Pharaoh is determined to bring them back. They find themselves with the armies of Egypt behind them and the Red Sea in front of them -- trapped between the Devil and the Deep Red Sea. It looks like Checkmate, but...the King still has one more move.

A little boy named David goes out to fight a giant named Goliath. He doesn't fit into the suit of armor he's offered, so he goes out to fight with a rock and a slingshot. It looks like Checkmate, but...the King still has one more move.

Elijah is totally outnumbered. The Queen has been executing the prophets of God and replacing them with the prophets and priests of Baal. The people have been seduced by the worship of foreign gods, and it looks like Checkmate, but...the King still has one more move.

A young man named Daniel refuses to stop praying to his God and gets thrown in a den of lions. Three other young men refuse to bow down and worship an idol and get thrown into a fiery furnace. The nation groans under the strain of captivity and exile. It looks like Checkmate, but...the King still has one more move.

Eventually, Jesus himself entered our world and submitted to the most cruel and inhumane torture imaginable. He was mocked and beaten and killed and buried in a tomb. And when they slid that stone in front of the entrance to his grave, it must have looked like Checkmate, but...the King still had one more move.

There's a reason I'm telling you this. And it's a very personal reason.

My father-in-law is dying.

I don't mean he's dying like we're all dying. I mean he's dying right now. He may not last through the holidays. And my wife is distraught.

See, Dean is not only not a Christian; Dean has been openly antagonistic about Christianity.

But did I mention he's dying?

He's got 70 tumors in his lungs, one in his brain and one behind his ear. If he ever finds out I told you all this, he'll probably never speak to me again.

But did I mention he's dying?

It's pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point. He's dying. There's no amount of medical technology that's going to magically appear to save him. Certainly, miracles are possible, but he's not going to last much longer.

The only hope I have to offer my wife is this: Even though it looks like Checkmate right now -- the King still has one more move.

Would you please pray that our King will make his move? Pray for Dean's heart to open and soften and receive what he has fought so hard to resist all his life. Pray for grace and mercy and love to do what reason and argument and logic never have been able to do. Pray for Dean. Pray for my wife. Pray for us all. Please.