The King Still Has Another Move by Ken Ulmer.


“We are born anew into a living hope.”

Easter was and is about God getting God’s way with the world; it’s about God getting the last word in the story, and that word is always life, not death; it is always hope, not despair.

Ken Ulmer is the pastor of a mostly African-American congregation in Los Angeles. He tells the fanciful tale about two men in an art museum who came upon a painting of a chess game. One character in the painting looked like an ordinary man, but the other character looked a little like the Devil. The man is down to his last two pieces on the chessboard. The title of the painting is “Checkmate.” The impression is that for the man in the picture, all is lost; the situation is hopeless.

In the story that Ken tells, one of the two men looking at this painting is a chess champion, and something about the painting troubled him. He begins to study it. He becomes so engrossed in it. His buddy gets impatient and asks what he’s doing. The chess guy says, “There’s something about this painting that bothers me. You go ahead.” So, he stood there studying the painting.

When his friend came back, the chess-master said, “I need to locate the artist and tell him that either he has to change the picture or he has to change the title. There’s something wrong with this painting.”

His friend asked him what was wrong with the painting. The chess champion said: “Well, it’s titled ‘Checkmate,’ but the title is wrong. The painter either has to change the painting or change the title, because the king still has another move. If he makes that move he will win; the king has one more move.”

Now, in that African-American church, when Ken Ulmer said: The King still has one more move…that’s when the congregation started to get noisy. When Ken said “The King has one more move,” the people got excited. When they heard that it wasn’t checkmate because the King of kings still had another move, they started communicating agreement. They knew that the message of Easter is clear: the King of Kings always has another move and it’s a winning move.

That was the case when a man named Moses convinced a nation of oppressed slaves to run away from the most powerful man on earth. At last they’re standing on the shore, with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them. The Egyptians are shouting, “Checkmate!” And the people said to Moses, “What were you thinking?” Moses says to God, “God, what were you thinking, but then Moses begins to understand…

The King still had another move.

And then there was the Good News of a teenager by the name of David who went out into the battlefield. He heard about a giant named Goliath who was challenging the people of God. David spoke out against him and before he knew it, he was face-to-face with a giant. David tries to put on Saul’s armor, but Saul is a 52-long and David is a 36-short, and nothing fits! He can’t even handle a grown-up sword. Goliath and his Philistine cronies are shouting, “Checkmate!” but David knows something they don’t know…

The King still had another move.

Then there was a man named Daniel, who was thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to stop praying to the true and living God. The lions were hungry and Daniel was defenseless. The Emperor Darius says: “Checkmate!” It looked like the end. But when Darius checked to find out how quickly the lions devoured Daniel, he discovered that the lions had a case of lion lock jaw…and Daniel is fine. Why?

Because the King had one more move!

And on Good Friday, they tried Jesus and judged him. They whipped him and beat him; they mocked and scorned him; they hung him up on a cross and they laid him in a tomb. And everybody said: It’s over. It’s done. It’s time to go home! Checkmate!

But they were wrong.


Because the King still had another move.

And when God makes that move, love wins; hope wins; light overcomes darkness; courage overcomes fear; faith overcomes despair.

And you and I are born anew to a living hope.

The promise to you and me is that no matter what we face, whether it is pain from the past, or fear about the future, or struggles with the reality of your life today, whether it’s physical pain, or a troubled relationship, or a trying circumstance, you and I can remember our inheritance and claim the promise.

You are “born into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

By the way, the next time life seems to say, “checkmate,” don’t forget! The King, the King of Kings, always has another move

Explore posts in the same categories: Evangelism, Faith., Sermons, Uncategorized

16 Comments on “The King Still Has Another Move by Ken Ulmer.”

  1. Skeptic Says:

    This story is highly unlikely. First of all, if the king were in the middle of the board, with absolutely no pieces around him at all, then there would be a maximum of eight potential squares that he could move to. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to look at each of the eight and figure out if the king could move there. If the king is next to the edge of the board or if there are other pieces around him then there are even fewer squares to look at. Even a novice chess player can identify whether a king is in checkmate practically instantaneously.

    It is true, of course, that there are very complicated positions in chess that a grandmaster could spend a lot of time contemplating, but these are positions where he is trying to figure out if it is possible to force checkmate on the opponent after a long series of moves; he is not trying to figure out if the opponent is currently in checkmate. Determining whether a person is currently in checkmate is like looking at a light bulb and asking if it is on or not: the answer is obvious.

  2. erwin buchholz Says:

    The illustration has the ring of many of its kind in circulation. I hesitate to use it because it smacks of legend, and the lack of citations add to my suspicion. Which Art gallery? Who is this ‘world class player’? What sources have reported the story? In the balance of probability, this illustration has been collected from extent sources for the purposes of sermon fodder. My contention is that it poses the problem of credibility of the witness(es). Therefore, tempting as it may be, I really have no choice but to pass up the opportunity to retell this tantalizing tale.

  3. erwin,
    Thanks for passing up the opportunity to retell this tantalizing tale.

  4. Doug Says:

    I liked it. It reminds me of the way Christ told his parables. He made then easy to understand because most of the people his time couldn’t read or write. I’m not the best biblical student or the sharpest tack in the drawer, but I get the story and whether or not I know, ‘what art gallery’ or know which ‘world class chessmaster’ isn’t the point. The point of this story is to not count God out, there is always another move.

  5. Mandrae Says:

    Doug I agree, the point of the sermon was to effectively minister the word of god in a way that people can understand. Using this story of the art gallery gives even a babe in christ a very important lesson that they can easily apply. Isn’t that the point? Aren’t we here to reach lost souls? I was blessed enough to actually hear Ken Ulmer at a service in Atlanta and I thought it was fantastic.

  6. Skeptic Says:

    This really is the heart of the matter with religious material in general; it consists of stories that were made up by people to try and illustrate their respective moral point or to explain things that they don’t understand.

    It’s easy enough to accept this when we’re talking about the fabled story of the chess grandmaster, but people will refuse to accept it when were talking about other, equally obvious made up stories, such as someone being swallowed by a whale (or “fish” if you don’t buy the whole whale thing) and perused around the ocean for three days before being regurgitated alive to go along his way.

    Or, take the story of the tower of Babel. First of all, there is absolutely no way that ancient people could build a tower as tall as those we have today and there was no reported smiting from god when the Sears tower was erected. Secondly, god doesn’t seem too concerned with people taking shuttle flights into space. One would assume that, based on the tower of Babel story, there would a certain altitude above which god would say, “ok, you’re getting a little too close for comfort … that’s far enough for you”.

    In ancient times, it would have been reasonable to assume that, perhaps, you could reach god by building a tower tall enough. Today, however, we know better. Of course, people will try to explain this by saying that perhaps the real issue was not the tower itself, but something else or another. This just glosses over the real meaning of the story because, after all, you have to defend it somehow if you accept the bible as being literal.

    • Bob Reed Says:

      The issue comes down to where do you stand on Christ? The stories simply point to Him. Is He or is He not the Son of God and in fact God? If He is God, as proven by His resurrection, then His support of the Scriptures (i.e. Old Testament) must be taken as an indication of their validity, whether we mere mortals (aka sinners) understand them or not.

  7. william marshall Says:

    2nd Comment;
    It was Fantastic and I was going to
    make copies for some of my skeptical friends but my
    dilema is that the negative comments from the skeptics
    might destroy the faith in the people I’m trying to
    reach. Perhaps it could be better not to publish the views of the skeptics.
    I may just cut off the comments of the
    skeptics and send the copies of the story without the
    comments shown.
    That’s my humble suggestion.

    W.F. Marshall

  8. earl woods Says:

    Do you have the picture/painting to this story

  9. Thanks for sharing this post. I read where Dr Billy Graham in 1955 also shared this story and I heard it personally two years ago as an African American pastor preached this same message “The King Has One More Move” as a guest on Dr. Robert Schuller’s tv broadcast.

    Even if I hadn’t heard two ministers preach this I would certainly share this with an audience. Jesus was the Master Story-Teller. What is sad is not that skeptics doubt the accuracy or relevancy of a story but the fact that “Biblical scholars” want to debate (like Pharisee’s) and miss the mission, message and moment completely.

    Too often we hide behind titles, conferences and scholarly rhetoric but the reality is we are existing but not really living for the Lord. Sure, some can preach but until we practice the task of being soul winners we will never go and grow to the next level. What I find offensive is not an atheist with his or her doubts but that born again believers (much less ministers) doubt a powerful story with a practical punch that points people to the Prince of Peace.

    This past year, I witnessed 14,000 come to Christ and it wasn’t because we played arm chair quaterback and wanted to doubt but dared, dreamed and are doing what Christ commands us to do. Reach the lost for the Lord. Our sole mission needs to on souls.

    Brother, thanks for posting this. You are not the first to remind us of the practical yet POWERFUL points you will certainly not be the last. I love what an anonymous preacher of old said: “When your down to nothing- Jesus is UP to something!”

    It blessed me when I heard it before and ministered to me again tonight. May we doubt less and be dligent more because mediocrity is not an option in the ministry as kids of The King. Bless you and rock on —

  10. Suzi Shelton Says:

    I just found this post after looking for information for additional information on Ken Ulmer. I liked the story regardless of the gallary or the location of the chess pieces on the chessboard. The point he was making is relevent and seems to echo the points he continues to make about the God he knows who is indeed ..”a very present help in time of need.”

    I heard him speak today (3/6/2011)and his message continues to be uplifting and encouraging for the majesty of the King of Kings and His eternal love and concern for His children. It is ironic that my brother, Frank Shelton, unknown to me, had read and made the previous comment on 1/19/2010. Go big brother!

  11. James Price Says:

    Perhaps the artist created the painting for just such a one as the chessmaster to to learn from his own great knowledge that nothing is what is seems. That even death is not the end – for anyone. For the believer in Christ the next move is victory, but the unbeliever is never going to see it.

  12. David Ejesu Says:

    Everytime a man comes to the end of his ability God’s ability takes over. The kinng of kings and lord of lords who is God, still has another move. Its a lovely piece of work.

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