A Real Power Play

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un – who will come out ahead in this political power play?

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donal Trump might actually be in the same room together for “talks” in the next couple of months. This would be an unprecedented event, one that I will have to see to believe.  It’s difficult to know what kind of power play the Asian dictator might be making. It’s possible President Trump might have some unknown motive (other than his ego) driving him. Regardless of who gains an upper hand in the power struggle over the Korean Peninsula, it will be surreal seeing the two men together in photos or videos given the two leader’s rhetoric this the past year. The desire for power will make people do crazy things.

However, this reminds me of a person who transformed Asia in the late 19th century, James Hudson Taylor. He is remembered as one of the earliest European missionaries to China and the founder of China Inland Mission (CIM). But when it came to power he took a much different approach.

“An easy-going, non-self-denying life will never be one of power.”

– J. Hudson Taylor

Would you post that quote on your Facebook page? Can you say, “Amen!” to that? Are you ready to give up every ounce of power and control that you (think you) have and deny yourself? That’s difficult because usually when people attain some level of power or control, they only want more.

Power, influence, wealth and security all seem to be our life goals in America, but every one of those is a house of cards standing one breath away from collapsing… unless faith is part of the equation, faith in Jesus Christ. But the power, influence, wealth and security that come from being a Christ follower look a lot different from what the world offers. That is the hard part.

That’s the struggle for me and my family right now. We are in a season of being patient, trusting the Lord and denying our own desires to serve His Church. Almost every United Methodist clergy person is going through the same experience. Being an itinerant pastor means that we can’t make a power play and at the same time honor God through this yearly process. We trust that the Holy Spirit and the faithful women and men leading the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church will do what is best for our local “mission fields.” After all, we need to practice what we preach! If this is God’s church, then faith must come first. 

James Hudson Taylor, (1832 – 1905) British missionary to China. Beard game, strong!

Today Taylor’s legacy is felt in every corner of Asia because he helped people in the Western culture see China as an uncharted mission field. Now, 150 years later, the church in Asia has emerged as its own powerful mission-sending organization… and God gets all the glory.

The more we wield our own power, influence and wealth, the more we look like the world and the less we look like people of faith. We can trust that God is in control. And if you want to see real power, look to the sacrificial servant leadership of Jesus. He flipped the world’s power structure on its head. He laid down his life for us, the ultimate sacrifice. But it was also the ultimate power play overcoming even sin and death. He’s proven himself worthy of our trust.

A Choice to Make

icecream_31flavorsWhen I was a kid and we had been extra good – like getting all A’s – mom and dad would take us to Baskin-Robbins the home of 31 flavors of ice cream. I was always so excited but then the challenge came when you walked in the door and were faced with 31 different options! Decisions, decisions.

We are now quickly closing in on election day (as if you didn’t know this by the 24-hour news cycle that has been belching up political fodder for over a year). We are faced with a VERY difficult decision! This is… drum roll… Decision 2016, and we ain’t pickin’ between chocolate chip and butter pecan.

I am reminded of Decision 864, BCE! In 1 Kings 18, there are only two options that Elijah presents to the people of Israel. Follow God or follow Baal. One can hardly blame the Israelites for wanting to follow this false god. Their king, King Ahab married Jezebel. As a high priestess for this pagan god, she sheltered and cared for hundreds of Baal’s prophets. Baal’s presence was all over the kingdom. The people with power and influence were steering everyone towards worshiping him not YHWH.

trump_clinton_wikicommonsElijah finally confronted the underlying issue that had caused Israel so much trouble up to this point. How long will you go on flip-flopping between two opinions? Either serve God or serve Baal. This is a far more important decision that we face every day. It will be there when you wake up on November 9 and the political ads are gone, your mailbox is a little less cluttered and the confetti has been swept off the floor.

A different version of the same question was asked by Joshua when Israel first settled the land of Canaan and began to establish itself as a nation now free from Egyptian slavery. Joshua’s famous statement to the Israelites was, “Choose today whom you will serve… but as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, NLT). His challenge to decide was a familiar one for Israel. They faced that decision daily for an entire generation that was spent wandering.

oppositedirectionssignSo how do you make a decision in a culture that continues to try to lead you astray? What do you do when leaders and people of influence and power are pushing you further and further from what the Bible says and further from the truth contained in Scripture? Well, just like Israel we have to choose. Choosing between Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Ha! That’s mere child’s play compared to the decision about who will be the Lord of your life. SignJRGBlack300