Are you coasting, or accelerating?

mirror

Are you too distracted to be distinctive?

If you’re reading this five-minute, beginning-of-the-week memo, you’re probably not one of the self-focused entitled crowd who are watching the Breaking News for the next announcement of debt forgiveness and extended unemployment benefits. That growing segment of the population may never grow up; what’s the point?

In your journey of personal faith, the free stuff is just the starting point. Life replaced death; forgiveness redacted your guilt in the courtroom of Heaven; those gifts were free to you, but cost the Giver His life to make possible. Entitled? No way. Chosen? No question. What now?

God paints the picture of your new spiritual life in human terms. The convert – whether 5 or 55 at the time of their redemption – is now “born-again,” and your spiritual progression will mirror that of a newborn child. What does God want – and, expect – of the adopted members of His family?

Early on, He patiently waits for us to move through the infant and toddler stages. Diapers and pacifiers – playpens and strained peas – are all part of the earliest days of life; it’s just part of the deal. But, once through the adolescent phase of spiritual growth… what’s next?

A newborn in diapers is cute; a toddler on a trike poses for pictures; a kindergartner citing ABCs may be outperforming their classmates. But… what if those are the persona of a young adult? We’d be worried about developmental impairment, not asking them to host a mid-week small group.

What is the profile for a spiritual grown-up who can now find the place reserved for them in God’s Kingdom? What does maturity look like?

Here are God’s developmental standards for the grown-ups who can fill the prime spots in His Kingdom: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”  (I Timothy 3:1-7).

You can be a follower and underperform, but if you want to be considered for promotion – by God – in His ranks, it takes proof that you’re Living the Life He died to make possible…

Birth is awesome… but no one wants their newborn kids to just survive. Any great parent wants their kids to thrive. Is God a great parent?

Here’s what Jesus made really clear: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

It takes more than knowing that verse by heart; it’s about taking the truth to heart and living it out. Next stop: LifeMastery!!

Your local church community is organized to get lost people saved, and new believers caught-up with what they missed in the early-stages of Sunday School. But the current status of American church-goers has been surveyed to our chagrin: the majority of churched born-agains lack the maturity detailed by Paul to model the “life to the full” that Jesus came to make available.

For the folks who are ready for more… will they get caught at church in the traffic circle of the Path of Life waiting for the immature to catch up? Or, will they find the mentoring needed to accelerate forward?

My disclosure is necessary here: that’s what we do, for high-potential but under-served Christians like you. It’s all we do: we help followers of Jesus become fully-ready for the Calling that God is withholding until you prove yourself worthy.

Are you taking full advantage of what we have to offer you? Is it worth ten minutes to explore our new website and consider your options?

Bob Shank

Don’t miss the offramp ahead…

We’re spending too much time micro-managing right now… and missing the macro view.

You’ve heard it before: “Life is a Journey.” That’s a pretty good word picture. Here’s the situation: on that journey, the progress can stop – though you’re still behind the wheel – if you get into a traffic circle and fail to find the offramp to the path ahead.

We looked at a passage from Hebrews last week that explores that situation: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. (Hebrews 5:11-12)

Some people need to take another lap around the traffic circle at church: they’re not ready to move on. But, what about the ones who “get it” and are ready to go to the next level?

Paul was coaching Timothy on his journey and was protecting him from the voices who wanted him to hold back: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). His counsel was gritty but right-on: don’t allow anyone to stall your progress for wrong reasons.

If you read me regularly, you know that I’m a cheerleader for church. It’s the local gathering of the family of faith; God’s children need each other, and – together – we worship and serve our mutual Heavenly Father. We get that…

The local church in our generation is dealing with a challenge: most Christians who are “Alive” are stuck in infancy.  Churches address the infant issues of faith-based living more than the critical matters needed for believers to graduate into their long-term role in the Kingdom. Milk, or meat? Infant Christians choke on the higher-level teachings needed to go to battle against the Evil One…

To use an educational paradigm: the Local Church has the K-12 classrooms that teach the basics. When you’ve mastered the basics… where do you go next? Where do you find the life lessons that take you to the next level?

Jesus recruited 12 men – who had been in Saturday/ Sabbath classes at the Synagogue their whole lives – to go into training for their Kingdom Calling. They spent three years with Him… and then changed the world.

In an era when people are looking for one-stop shopping – to get everything they need offered to them, conveniently, in one place – the prospect of looking outside the neighborhood to find assistance to advance into the life – and, Calling – that God offers can often be viewed as unnecessary – or, worse, disloyal – by the leaders at the church who are doing the best they can to work with the folks who are still doing donuts in the Sunday morning traffic circle where most Christians mistake movement for progress…

If you’ve been part of The Master’s Program, you get it. If you’ve done a self-check on your maturity (see last week’s Point of View) and have to admit your infancy, stick with Sundays. But… if you’ve hit the point where you can finish the Sunday morning sermon intuitively – filling in the blanks on the handout that’s in the program before they open the Bible text for the message – where do you apply for your next stage of your grow-into-usability challenge?

Have you graduated from Sunday School? Are you ready for what’s next?

You need to join us for an online conversation about your Kingdom future. On Monday, May 24th, you’ll have the chance to think outside the traffic circle. Will you change the world during the rest of your days? The answer to that question hangs in the balance. Click to register; you’re a couple of clicks away from saying “yes.”

Bob Shank

Are you sitting at the kids’ table?

dead or alive

Talk about going against the grain…

For the last year-plus, the world has been obsessed with death. Last week, I told you that we’re going to make a deliberate break from the headlines and talk on Mondays, instead, about Life!

You may have felt last week’s edition to be overly elementary, but – as I explained then, with Nicodemus – even highly religious people can miss the point about what it takes to get started with God. Born dead, spiritually, the first step into Life, everlasting, is to verbalize and internalize the essential minimums: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Okay, great; people come to faith and receive the Gift of Life, through no worthiness or effort required. Now what? What’s the Macro Track for long-term life in relationship to Jesus Christ?

Today, we’re making the crucial observation: as with human life, infants are full of life and potential, but their progress into maturity will be a process that holds both promise and pitfalls.

In human development, proper care ensures that a person will progress toward their expected future. In spiritual development, the path to maturity requires external support and internal assent. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he had to call them out for their stunted growth: Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). That had to be a hard letter to write, and even harder to receive.

This isn’t just a verse or two out of context. Listen-in to the writer of Hebrews: how much are Christians ready to hear and follow regarding their Life, at the Macro Level? “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:11-13).

In the evangelical world, the metric that commands the most attention is the spiritual birthrate. The street cred for ministries and ministers is often found in “how many people accepted Jesus?” When there’s an “invitation,” the response stimulates celebration – and, rightly so – but, what’s next?

The passing of time doesn’t guarantee growth in your faith! Without growth, you can actually require a refresher!

Here’s a “tell” for a believer who has hit a blockage: “… no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).

Here’s a “test” that is seldom applied: do you know enough to keep from being blown off course by deliberate or ignorant false teaching based on discerning merit and based on the solid message of Scripture?

We’re going somewhere with this series of Monday disruptions. We started with Life, last week; we’ll make no assumptions about that life-or-death matter. Today, the risk of offense continues: how far have you come in your spiritual development? Is your inner man an inner child, still dependent on milk? Or, are you further along… and regularly dining on meat? Do you know the difference?

The Gift of Life is great; but, what’s next?

Bob Shank

So, what are you: dead or alive?

dead or alive

May Day! May Day!

Be careful whereand, howyou announce that. Technically, it’s the tag given to May 1st – this year, last Saturday – but it has meaning that stretches beyond that. For Socialists and Communists – since 1889 – it has been their International Workers’ Day. In radio communications, it’s the universal distress signal, sounding alarm and calling for rescue. Historically, some pagan cultures marked the transition into summer, light and life on May 1. They knew when things changed every year.

When did things change, for you? Looking back, what was the point in your life calendar when your darkness turned to light; when death and despair gave way to new life and hope? Is that an inconsiderate question for me to ask of you?

Paul’s unique relationship with the people in the church he planted in Corinth gave him license to be bold and direct about critical matters. Here’s the way he phrased it: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

I’ll bet that everyone present for the reading of that message from the Apostle assumed their membership in the group to be authentic. But Paul was not going to take anything for granted; some $100 bills are skillful counterfeits; some people in the group photo for churches are still lost.

Early in Jesus’ public ministry, a man with the highest religious status was confronted with a challenge from Jesus: “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:1-7).

This continuing conversationbetween me and youis intensely personal, and happens every week. You have a pretty good idea where I’m coming from; I don’t have much to hide, given how transparent and confrontational I’m apt to be, frequently. Though we’re pretty far along in these discussions, I don’t want to make assumptions without confirming the facts. As Paul challenged his buddies in Corinth, let me ask you: have you examined yourself to see whether you are in the faith?

I’m not asking if you attendor, have joineda church; this question has nothing to do with membership in or support of any faith-based fraternal organization. Pure and simple: have you met the standards set forth in Scripture? Again, Paul – this time to the believers in Rome – with clarity: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). Is that your honest situation?

What he just saiddeclare with your mouth, believe in your heartis God’s test of authentic faith. On May 17th, 1959, the pastor of our church – Paul Alleman – shared those basics with me, and my five-year-old heart said “yes!” My spiritual Vital Signs confirm the validity of what happened that day; I’m in the faith, alive in Christ.

So… what’s your story? Have you examined yourself? Do you pass the test?

Bob Shank

What are you waiting for?

step out of the shadows

This is your last chance…

Being mortal humans – while part of the eternal Redeemed – carries with it some tendencies that are important to recognize and segregate. Some of them are positive, and warrant protection and preservation. There are also aspects of our human experience that deserve to be confronted and challenged. An example: though we have direct access to God, we’re prone to come to Him with our suggestions rather than to come in search of His directions.

We’ve spent these weeks – post-Easter – zeroing-in on the key encounters that Jesus had with His key leaders before He wrapped-up His mission on Earth to return to His throne in Heaven. Today is the last of these conversations; it will end with His Ascension, back to the dwelling place of God.

Eleven of the original Twelvewith Judas gone, there’s an empty chair that’s filled later – are present for the final huddle. This is their last chance to talk – directly – with the Son, while He was within their visible circle. One question would be allowed; what’ll it be?

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

Some background is in order. Since the earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry, He had been focused on a particular message: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Matthew breaks to cover in depth the Sermon on the Mount, and then picks up where he left off: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:36). The crowds were coming to get what they were after – to receive, or to observe, miracles – but Jesus’ message was the principle distinctive of His earthly ministry: He was “proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.”

How would Jesus respond to their inquiry? “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:7-8).

For three years, Jesus had been inspiring God’s Chosen People – Israel, the people of the Covenant first extended to Abraham – by reiterating the promise of the restoration of the earthly Kingdom over which the heir to David’s throne would one day reign. God’s Messiah would fulfill the prophesies given over centuries to the people who lived in faith that God’s promises were solid: “…they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).

The Eleven had an understandable question: “God, what’s next? Are you going to do what only You can do – right now – to bring the end to this era and unveil the next? Is this the time that you’re going do to your part, and establish Your eternal Kingdom?”

Jesus’ answer took them by surprise: “The next move isn’t mine; it’s yours. If you want to see my Kingdom come… here’s what you need to do: start here – in Jerusalem – and become global. As I told you a few days ago, in Galilee: make disciples from every nation. Go in the Spirit’s power; go with your own stories (‘be my witnesses’), and leave the timing to my Father. Now… get going!”

Then, as now, we’re tempted to use our access to God to challenge Him about our agenda; we’re anxious to see Him keep His promises, which will ultimately benefit us.

He’s still responding in the same way: according to Jesus, the next move is ours, not His.

Get moving… and don’t expect His Kingdom to come until we’re finished going, to the ends of the earth.

Bob Shank

Where do you go for answers?

step out of the shadows

Are you a CEO?

If asked in the context of your career, the answer is apparent: just look at your business card. An organizational chart somewhere will be an independent confirmation of your claim: Chief Executive Officer; every enterprise has one, and most of the players beneath her/him aspire to replace them…

Ask that question in the context of a church community, and the acrostic frames an entirely different identity. Among pastors, the meaning is stark: Christmas and Easter Only. CEOs – in the worship world – are the folks who come out for the annual big-events… and see little/no reason to show up in-between…

The Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are certainly once-in-forever events, but they’re more than dates-on-the calendar, to be remembered for their one-off occurrence. The Incarnation marked the intervention of the Eternal God into the fallen human race; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus were factors in the Gospel of Salvation that make personal redemption possible.

How can men and women whose legacy from Adam and Eve has assured eternal separation from God and paints a future of hopelessness break out of that irresolvable conundrum? Simply put: Make the truths embedded in Christmas and Easter personal.

Paul knew that to be the most important conclusion that any person could ever reach: “Now brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

This is Christianity 101; it’s the foundational understanding that must be personally embraced by every person to gain its redemptive benefit. By this gospel – good news – the sentence of judgment is reversed and the provision of forgiveness is assured. How will the entire world population ever discover God’s amazing offer of forgiveness and life through Jesus?

It was post-Easter, c. 30 AD. Jesus had 40 days before He would return to His throne in Heaven. One of His meetings – days before his departure – was crucial: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20).

I wish we had a YouTube of that encounter; the look on the faces of the 11 would tell a story that this blog-post page cannot recapture. They had invested three years to follow and listen; they rode an emotional see-saw as they saw their imaginations crushed and their leader defamed, only to be blindsided as he beat death and proclaimed the spiritual victory. What now?

For the Apostles, Jesus answered the questions that every person – at some point in life – poses in the quiet moments: Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do with my life?

Their answer – and ours – came as the finale: You are my witness. You are here to get the Gospel to every person, in every nation. Your life is yours to commit to the Great Commission.

Be careful when you ask the critical questions: Jesus, who has all authority – not just in Heaven, but on Earth – has the answers. Now, the question turns back to us: what will we do about that?

Bob Shank

If your heart’s not in it, neither will you be

step out of the shadows

Can this last?

Mention the concept of sustainability in the 21st Century and most minds will turn immediately to issues surrounding the environment. Earth Day is next week; for the growing numbers who self-describe as “spiritual, not religious,” there’s a good chance that their posture toward Mother Nature will become worshipful as they join forces with other adherents on the 22nd to consider whether current global practices can be sustained across future generations; sustainability is their mantra.

Having the Carpenter from Nazareth as a movement leader for just over three years was a unique experience for dozens of people who had put their lives on hold so they could follow his travels and hear his compelling explorations of life, stretching into a future he referred to as “the Kingdom” which they presumed to be an imminent possibility, if he really was the long-awaited Messiah.

Then, everything imploded. Remember the events recounted in the week leading up to Easter?

Their emotional pogo-stick over that weekend was extreme. The crowds were convinced on Sunday that their champion had arrived. Intrigue and betrayal put him under arrest; a miscarriage of justice put him on a criminal’s cross. A wealthy patron sheltered his dead body in an exclusive crypt, and an unprecedented miracle put his closest followers back in touch with the resurrected Jesus.

Post-Easter appearances: they were selective and strategic, leading up to his return to Heaven 40 days after he defeated death. There was unfinished business – especially with the key leaders who had been the consummate insiders for three years – that demanded his attention. The question that must be answered: if Jesus was no longer on-the-ground, would his movement collapse without leadership?

Eleven Apostles remained (Judas was dead); seven went back to the Sea of Galilee to re-enter the ranks of the professional fishing community they had left to follow Jesus. With Jesus going back to Heaven soon, did it make sense for them to just go back to work?

John was one of the seven; he tells the story as an insider in John 20. To summarize his narrative: following Peter’s lead – “I’m going out to fish” (v 3) – they fished all night (the conventional approach) and caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus appeared on the beach, but at a distance (they didn’t recognize him). He hollered across the Lake: “Catch anything, guys?” Their answer, “Nothing.” He did what he had done three years before: the Carpenter is coach to the lifetime fishermen: “Try the other side of the boat.” You know the story: they did as he suggested and hauled-in 153 tilapia (a historic catch). John, in the boat, processes the scene instantly and tells Peter: “It is the Lord!” (v 7).

On the beach, the fish are stacked and ready for processing; Jesus stands next to the trophy catch and forces a value assessment for Peter. He asks him, “…do you love me more than these?” (v 15). The question – and Peter’s answer – repeat three times; it’s the critical question that had to be addressed.

Here’s the question that had to be settled: would a life of Kingdom leadership only be Peter’s priority if Jesus was there – in the flesh – to lead the way? Or, would Jesus’ absence signal the end of the devotion shown by the Apostles to the movement he had come from Heaven to launch?

If the call to leadership could not be the priority for these men without Jesus there, then the advancement of Kingdom of God is not sustainable with Jesus back in Heaven.

Butwhat if the Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Triune God – could become part of the promise, going forward?

Two things would be critical: the passionate commitment of the leaders, and the crucial contribution of the Spirit. Before the Crucifixion, those factors hadn’t been resolved; post-Easter, they’re coming together as mission-critical for the New Covenant to become global.

Peter and the others came to the right determination concerning their priorities; have you?

Bob Shank

Are you able to connect the dots?

step out of the shadows

He is Risen; He is Risen indeed! Now what?

The build-up to the Main Event was just as real 1,991 years ago as it was last week. Big cheers on the Sunday before, lots of activity during the week, a Passover Seder on Thursday that was the apparent highlight of the whole holiday… then the stuffin’ leaked out of the whole operation.

The Man who put the crowd into a celebratory frenzy just five days earlier is railroaded and convicted by Jewish and Roman authorities; a seedy criminal named Barabbas gets a humanitarian pardon while the Carpenter from Nazareth was condemned and executed with haste and malice. It was all over… or, was it?

Sunday morning’s events were the subject of yesterday’s message. Churches around the world – whether meeting live despite pandemic protocols or broadcasting through whatever channel possible – converged on recounting Easter’s profound happenings. A rolled-back stone; Roman guards sleeping on the job, angels declaring the miraculous truth that the miracle-working teacher has reversed the natural order and has emerged from death to live again, forever. Key women and men from the cohort of insiders who had been with Him for three years were reporting contact with the risen Jesus.

Over the next six weeks, the Resurrected Son of God would make selective appearances with key colleagues; after those encounters, His personal transition back to Heaven will happen. During that 40-day period, the conversations He had were not random or redundant. After three years of public ministry, critical briefings occurred that concluded His preparation of the successors who would lead the expansion of the Movement – the Church – into a global enterprise. What was left for Him to say?

This is the first of four installments, on that theme: with whom will Jesus spend time, and what does He want them to hear?

On Easter afternoon, two men from the expanded circle of Jesus’ followers were in transit from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village seven miles away. They were Cleopas and Simon; not members of the Twelve Apostles, but part of the 72 disciples Jesus trusted with assignments (see Luke 10). After the astounding experiences the prior week, they had lots to talk about and process…

As they walked, a Man fell in with them. It was Jesus, but He was able to shield them from knowing it was Him. “He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’ (Luke 24:17). Their demeanor was gloomy, but they filled Him in on the headlines concerning as they perceived them. They confirmed Jesus’ status before God and the public; they recounted the miscarriage of justice from His betrayal – through His trials – to His crucifixion. They related their now-dashed hopes that He was the promised Messiah who would redeem Israel. Their hottest-news was the report of the empty tomb, but their updates ended with that open-ended factoid…

They were talking with Someone who knew the whole story: “He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27).

Jesus stayed in character until they sat down – together – for dinner that night. As soon as they figured out that it was Him, He disappeared.

These guys were in the second ring of insiders and had the current events down cold. What were they missing? They didn’t know how to connect the dots of eternal Scripture with daily headlines.

Then as now, the challenge is real: until you can connect those two sources, your value as a leader in the Kingdom will be compromised. Truth from the Bible informs current happenings.

Who is helping you to make those connections? That’s the mission of this Monday morning executive briefing: followers of Jesus need to know how to make sense out of the constantly changing cultural explosions in the light of God’s revelation of past, present and future reality.

Care to continue walking with us on this path, away from Easter and toward our common future in Heaven?

Bob Shank

Is Easter fake news, or the real deal?

step out of the shadows

God is a myth; the universe exists apart from any supernatural force claiming credit for creation. Man is born, then dies… and his consciousness ends. Life is one big exercise in the chaos theory; no overriding code of justice has any jurisdiction or authority: you answer only to yourself. Trusting anyone or anything but yourself is a guaranteed one-way ticket to CrazyLand and a recipe for betrayal.

The preceding paragraph would be a self-description for most liberal political contenders – and an outtake from the doctoral thesis for most contemporary university professors on secular campuses – but it represents the antithesis of a personal biblical worldview. I reject it, absolutely!

Here’s a tragic observation: many – most? – Christians in our generation live as if those declarations are “just the way things are,” despite their claim to beliefs that oppose them.

We’ve said it here for the last few weeks: we work alot on getting the beliefs right in our heads, but until those truths settle into our hearts – as evidenced by an abiding trust in the Higher Power who is the God of the Bible – we lack the power to live what we believe.

What’s at stake? Answer: plenty. A life founded on fearwhich is the absence of trust – is debilitating. A life of misplaced trustwhen confidence leans on anyone or anything that disallows the continuing active engagement of the Almighty in the affairs of life, here and now – is delusional. A life characterized by unyielding trust in God – whose control of eternal history and life’s nanoseconds are sure – is liberating and life-giving.

David, the eighth son of Jesse – whose life took a turn for greatness when he was an adolescent tending his father’s sheep – spent nearly 15 years from the being anointed as Israel’s second king to realizing that role. In between, he was Saul’s mortal enemy and at risk for his life. How do you live with vulnerability as a constant threat? Here’s his journal entry: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?… In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11).

That’s great for Bible heroes, the modern skeptic would respond. “What do you do when you live at risk from cataclysmic threats by the crosswinds blowing in international and domestic politics, the inability to ensure that the marketplace dynamics will allow ongoing commercial viability, potentially overvalued public markets putting personal holdings into high-risk, and the uncertainty over the control of the pandemic – for personal health, for herd immunity, or for societal calm? How should I sleep at night – or function by day – with the odds of trauma and tragedy multiplying?”

David had 15 yearsfrom his calling to his crown – in the laboratory where his trust in God would be tempered and hardened. For Paul the Tentmaker, his life as an apostle mirrored David’s: from his calling in Antioch to his martyrdom in Rome, he spent 15 years fulfilling his life purpose (with 40% of his years spent incarcerated for his ministry messaging). What would his outlook be, given that kind of personal challenge? His call-out to the believers in Rome revealed his strong foundation: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

We lack gauges to measure the forces at work in our hearts; if one existed, the red extreme would track fear while the green extreme would evidence trust. Which exists at the majority level in your soul?

If Easter teaches us anything, it is that the power of God and the promise of the Resurrection are most explosive in the face of certain defeat. Don’t leave this week and its essential headline without injecting the declaration into your innermost being: He is Risen; He is Risen, indeed!

Bob Shank

PS: Jesus 1.0 – forever past, in Heaven – was incredible.  Jesus 2.0 – incarnate, on-mission on Earth – was unprecedented. Jesus 3.0 – out of the grave, alive forevermore – is the ultimate! Watch your inbox for our announcement: TMP 3.0 – coming out of the covid lockdown – will be our best-yet service to leaders! Just after Easter… we’re coming to serve you with more!

Will heart failure take you down?

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It’s the acrostic mentioned most in PandemicLand; the CDC gets more headlines than AOC. The Centers for Disease Control is one of government’s principal bureaucracies tasked with making people in America live longer.

Covid-19 is just the latest in trendy infectious goblins who come and go across the timeline of history. One of these days, we’ll find the way to make the virus die – so it cannot kill us as well – and we’ll get a break before the next deadly threat shows up.

Before Covid’s high-scoring appearance on the CDC’s Most Unwanted List, heart failure was one of the Grim Reaper’s most effective knock-out punches. About 6.2 million adults in the United States suffer from heart failure; in 2018, it was mentioned on 379,800 death certificates. It’s a club that no one wants to join, but – once inducted for membership – there’s only one way to drop out.

The #1 cause for death among the living is heart failure; not the biological version, but the emotional. Though biological heart failure travels on a one-way street that dead-ends at death, the emotional variety can be reversed by employing the right therapies.

We’ve been in the lab the last few weeks looking closely on the heart disease that thrives on fear. Fear thrives in the absence of trust; the false solution to the problem is to place one’s trust in things or people who are untrustworthy. Discovery of the only proven sources of confidence is key to reversing the condition.

The science of hopein addition to the discovery of trust – is not a recent breakthrough; the archives of antiquity provide insights about the timeless antidotes to living death through heart failure.

The PsalmsIsrael’s hymnal, the songs that condition the heart for lifeare packed with insights about where our trust should be anchored. Listen to the prescriptions – still in effect – that described the solution: “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7). “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:6-7). “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” (Psalm 49:5-6).

Zero in on the truth. From Psalm 19: The Law of the Lord – the Scriptures – can be trusted. They make simple people wise. From Psalm 20:  The Name of God – His earned reputation – is the source of real strength and power. From Psalm 49: The Provisions of God – His promise to provide all that we need – is the solution for need in the worst of times.

It should come as no surprise that the credentials of today’s spiritual skeptics place them at the pinnacle of scientific recognition. The most intellectually august among us often dismiss those who embrace the God of the Bible – and the Truth of the Scriptures – as simpletons without credibility.

The Psalms are a timeless medicine cabinet for the heart; they also provide caution for the deadly alternative: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (Psalm 14:1-2).

Sounds pretty clear: fools reject God, and God rejects fools. When a person trusts God, hope takes up residence in the heart; when a person dismisses God, in their heart no good thing can exist.

Is science-without-God the proposed solution? The field tests report a failure rate is 100%. Is God and God alone the ultimate solution? The field tests report a 100% efficacy.

Is faith and trust – resulting in hope in the heart – your daily prescription against the decay that is rotting the culture around us?

Bob Shank

You pick your solution: natural, or supernatural?

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It’s a truism that I’d rather not test: swimming in shark-infested waters is not problematic… generally. The condition under which the idiom breaks down is clear: when there’s blood in the water, the shark behaves differently…

Have you been out-and-about lately? For the last 12 months, we’ve all been asked to shelter-in-place and avoid human contact. When sources have been the prevalent providers of our information diet, whatever they’ve been serving has become our default. Fed with constant charts, graphs and storylines of death and destruction, the natural human reaction is to generate fear at historic levels. When you’re with people today, look above their mask and into their eyes: what do you see?

In a sociological sense, fear stimulates a reaction among people like blood does among sharks. Unpredictable and destructive behaviors cannot be restrained when fear hits a boiling point…

We’re taking a few Mondays to raise the specter of solution in a time of cultural concern. The effort to quell fear and restore calm – for ourselves, for society – requires a deliberate call for trust to be restored as the basis for any order to ensue. H.L Menken said it well: “It is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest, that holds human associations together.”

Trust is essential, but its object is critical for it to have power. Jeremiah quoted God with this crucial distinction: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these delight,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

Demanding voices around us say, “Trust me!,” then prove themselves to be untrustworthy. Cultural icons may sing, “Lean on me…” but revelations from their hidden victims expose their fallacies. After 2700 years, God’s caution reduces the reliability of earned degrees, accelerated titles or growing assets in the competition for trust. Who – or what – can compete with Him?

Our options shrink. Live in fear, or lean on trust; clearly, trust is the preferred option. The search for an object worthy of trust then unfolds: do we inventory our own excesses and become self-providers? or, do we interview the candidates calling for our faith to be placed in them? Whose offer for security comes from a selfless foundation that is not compromised by self-interest?

Ralph Waldo Emerson – whose writings from the 19th Century give him voice today – was far more of a free-spirit than theologian, but after considering the options he concluded: “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all that I have not seen.”

In a time when the Christian faith was a growing force in the Roman Empire, a transient tentmaker named Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus who lived in the city where an emperor demanded trust from his subjects. His input was clear: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

If you don’t have a list of things about which you’re afraid, I’ll save you the trouble and give you the results: it’s long, and some of the entries could hurt you badly. Some take away freedom that you once took for granted; some could cost you large slices of your financial holdings without first asking your permission. You aren’t paranoid; the panic felt by many is founded in fact.

But your list doesn’t own you or control your outlook. You have the only real answer, and it’s the same one provided by the Christians in Rome under Nero’s crazed domination: the God of hope is offering to fill you with all joy and peace – to an overflow level, affecting people around you – because you trust in Him. Real problem; real solution. What’s your choice?

Bob Shank

Are you one of America’s hostages?

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Strange times; wouldn’t you agree?

If operating in a sterile laboratory, highly-educated advocates for evolution’s core principles would suggest that, over time, physical bodies and social cultures would tend – through natural selection – to become better-and-better, alleviating the emotional toxin called fear from society. Given enough time, sophisticated and schooled people will figure out how to eliminate the sources of our fears and introduce the ultimate outcomes for which everyone, everywhere longs.

If that’s the agenda for the elite among us, understanding the variety of issues that stimulate fears among the majority is the starting point for the people who can direct resources toward solutions. What are the fears that drive people, today?

The latest credible answers to that search precede the outbreak of Covid last year. Ongoing fears are still there but have likely been overshadowed of late by the fear of death-through-infection. Hoping for herd immunity through multiple vaccines and masks, a credible study from 2019 identifies the fears that were stalking the wellbeing of most Americans. What are we afraid of?

The Top Five Fears, in order of dominance: Corrupt government officials (77%); Pollution of oceans, rivers, lakes (68%); Loved ones becoming seriously ill (67%); Pollution of drinking water (65%); Loved ones dying (63%). The list continues… and is effectively predictable.

Though a conversation fraught with emotional energy, it bears recognition that Fear #1 – “corrupt government officials” – runs at the front of the fear marathon. Here’s the enigma of life, in a nutshell: nearly 80% of our citizenry live with relative certainty of corrupted government leaders… who are elected based on promises to alleviate all of the rest of the punch-list of influential fears.

To make the broad statement with anecdotal exceptions, our skepticism is fed by the unrelenting stories, told too frequently: Rags to Elected Office to Book Deals/Speaking Fees/Legacy Wealth, while the problems on the Fear List compound on their watch, defying meaningful solution.

We probably cannot fix the 21st Century World in this Monday morning missive, but this objective overview leads to a fascinating question: must we be part of the populace who lives in the dark shadow of unrelenting fear?

If you relish feeding your own fears and consuming the unrelenting flow of mind-controlling media bent on restacking the power list of Top Ten Fears (three of the second five on the list are tied to climate change and demand an end to modern life as you know it), close this blog now and listen for the sound of yet another political leader – domestic or international – calling for our confidence in their ability to bring solutions (hoping to be invited to Davos, after their term ends, to enhance their ongoing personal wealth creation).

During this monthleading up to Easter – our Monday  theme will be focused on a critical recognition: belief and trust are at the epicenter of everything on the list, and everything in your life. Belief and trust are not the same: belief is the first-order conclusion one must reach; it’s very much the cognitive embrace of a body of truth. Only then is trust operative: trust takes action – from the heart – based on the foundational truth that one embraces.

God’s history of creation and the story of mankind is an anthology of epic successes and avoidable disasters. He has archived the highlights of mankind’s attempt to live life in a fallen world. The contrast between people who believe the right things (and then place their trust in them) and people who rely on themselves and others to be more trustworthy than the Creator Whose claims are readily dismissed, but are eternally right, is rejected by most. Are you among that majority?

From now ‘til Easter, the question we’ll explore: What do you believe? and, Whom do you trust?

Bob Shank

How are you doing where it really counts?

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I hope you’re taking this personally…

We live in a crowded world. In every generation, a few people stand-out, and the rest of us live wondering whose tracks we should be following into the dark fog of the future. As people who claim affiliation with the living Lord Jesus, His model remains superior to all others: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2a)  points us toward Him as the Champion worth emulating.

 In America, presidents get four years to prove their worth; in the Kingdom, Messiah would have three. His prep made the task possible: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52). Two decades of personal discipline would enable three years of public declaration.

For us all, this has been a call to action as we launch a new year of challenges. We’ve touched on body, mind and soul; today, we’re finishing with the spirit.

If your physical plan was just to “go to the gym,” and you only went once a week… you’d be a Gatorade junkie, but you’d be fat instead of fit. It might include workouts with a coach every seven days in a crowded room… but don’t expect much.

When we addressed the soul, we discovered that it is the invisible part of our humanity that enables our relational engagement with other people. The condition of one’s soul is more clearly understood by those with whom we seek to maintain healthy connection. Self-perception about the condition of my soul is utterly worthless: the perception of people about us is the only reliable test.

So it is with our spirit. No one is born with a spirit, but it comes to life upon the declaration of confidence – by faith – in the offer of the Gospel to forgive, redeem and adopt all who come to God on His terms.

God is the only reliable evaluator of the condition of our spirit. As sons and daughters of the Most High God, becoming like the Father is the potential found in the domain of our now-present spirit.

Lost humans who have no linkage with Jesus make bold claims about spirituality, asserting knowledge about strengthening spiritual capacity. To that, Paul offers inspired caution: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

How are you doing – today – where it really counts? Here’s the truth of the matter: you probably don’t have a clue.

My friend Randy Frazee has done us a great service with the Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool. In a concise workbook of self-evaluative tools, this user-friendly exercise will let you – in the privacy of your own home – shine the spotlight on three essential categories: Beliefs, Practices and Virtues. In an hour – being honest about yourself – you’ll have a good picture of where you’re doing well, where you need some help… and what you can do about becoming more spiritually fit.

If you wanted a comprehensive physical – to see if you’re as healthy as you think you are – you’d go to the Cooper Clinic and get the truth. If you want a spiritual to match, you’ll go to Amazon and see Dr. Frazee. Click here to get a copy headed to you, pronto.

You’ve ordered a bunch of stuff on Amazon since last March that you didn’t need and haven’t used. Before you forget about it, order it and find out how you’re doing!

Bob Shank

It’s time to flex your friend muscles…

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We’re breaking the rules for four weeks. Polite society likes to admonish people against allowing something / anything to be “about them.” During this early-2021 exercise, we’re making it all about us, and lining ourselves up alongside Jesus, who did just that for nearly two decades: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

He came to do important workHis work – that no one else could do. He would be Game-On for three years, intent on completing the work that His Father gave Him to do (see John 17:4). Like an athlete who prepares for years in anticipation of an Olympic performance that will only last for seconds, the investment into maximizing potential is the difference between records and regrets.

Jesus wasn’t unidimensional; neither are we. Body, mind, soul and spirit would all be operative in alignment for Him to do what He came to do: plant a church (120 remained committed between his Ascension and Pentecost, when the movement went massive), train His successors (12 men – minus Judas, plus Paul – who would take the baton from Him and take the faith global), and die on the cross (the redemptive act that would set the stage for the Resurrection and fulfillment of God’s plan from the beginning). How could a person do all of that in just three years? He was in shape on all fronts.

Two weeks ago, we made our body the issue; it will enable or compromise your lifetime potential. Last week, we elevated the continuing cultivation of knowledge and wisdom to legitimize your leadership. This week, we’re asking the question: why take any steps to be prepared for greatness… if no one wants to be with you?

The soul is a mystery to many, but God understands its invisible function well: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

We may not see the line of distinction between soul and spirit, but God does. Because of the sin we are born with – from Adam – every person is born without a spirit. That missing piece is restored at the moment of faith, when God generates an eternal spirit that will be the point of connection between the child of God and their Heavenly Father, forever.

Every human has a soul; it’s the part of who we are in which emotion and will are operative. It is the element of our existence that connects with other people; we speculate about “soul mates” and discern that facet of our existence that makes relationships happen. Relationships engage the soul…

With our spirit, we relate to God. With our soul, we relate to people. The fact that we – as followers of Jesus – have the capacity to interact with God and other people doesn’t mean that everyone is equally effective in fostering those relationships. How do we get our souls fit for friend duty?

You’ve probably read the classic on becoming a winsome winner with others: How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie).  It may be time to get back into it again. Why? You are here for one reason: to influence people. What you know about God is life-or-death material for everyone you know. Will you ever be able to tell them what they need to know? Answer: No, unless you first prove your chops as a friend!

What was the biggest “loss”- for most people – from a year of mandated confinement? Answer: they’re dying for meaningful human engagement.

This is your chance to see your stock soar as a friend. The lack of community – and the toxic shouting that defined the now-past election year – have created a toxic residue in most people’s souls. What can we do?

Who’s on your list: people you’d like to see elevated as better friends in 2021. Are you ready to see your value soar among the people you want as your friends, who need to be under your influence?

Bob Shank

For you, unless you already know it all…

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Maybe today is a holiday for you (Presidents Day; despite the political divides over things having to do with that office); around the Point of View territory, every Monday is “on.”

The morning after Super Bowl, we opened a short series focused on you. We’re working from an intriguing insight into the life of Jesus; one verse that describes his earth journey, for 18 years (ages 12 to 30): “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Body, mind, soul and spirit were, for Him, more than latent facets of His incarnational: maximizing each of those dimensions was crucial to His readiness for His short and powerful season of eternal Calling.

Last week, we looked in the mirror and realized that our physical body is more than a biological oddity: the day we say “yes” to the Gospel and are adopted into God’s family, the Holy Spirit moves in and unpacks. Physical conditions and activities are no longer “personal decisions;” they’re made with His interests foremost in our considerations. “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” is a claim of ownership and expectation that must be recognized.

And Jesus grew in wisdom…” The mystery of God emptying Himself – the Greek word is kenosis – means that the omniscience that Jesus had through Eternity was dialed-back when He stepped into humanity. God – Who has all wisdom and knowledge – entered Earth with the need to reload knowledge and relearn wisdom in preparation for His historic mission to redeem the lost race.

Loading knowledge and learning wisdom: culture presumes those acquisitions are to be made in a classroom, with intake of both subsiding upon graduation then dissipating after midlife.

Solomon had been raised in privilege; his father, King David, had created the most prestigious learning environment for the son he shared with Bathsheba. Through a tenuous set of generational conflicts among his siblings, though not the firstborn crown prince, Solomon ultimately emerged as God’s designated successor for the great King who was “a man after God’s own heart.”

Named as the next sovereign over God’s chosen people, how would you answer God’s offer to give you anything you asked for? “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? (2 Chronicles 1:10). He already knew everything he needed to know to be a prince, but for the greatest role of his lifetime, he knew he needed more.

It’s a holiday, so let me cut to the chase: you may be the smartest player in your current peer world, knowing all you need to know to contend and achieve in the roles you have in play today. If that’s all you’re here to do, great. But, what if there’s more?

Jesus had apprenticed under Joseph in the family building business in Nazareth. He probably knew everything He needed to know to be the best contractor within His territory. But… he was heading for a future that was exponentially greater in significance than what He had done during the decades of preparation. Messiah would require wisdom and knowledge that stretched far beyond the bandwidth of a carpenter. Why is that insight about His earth life worth noting?

Simply this; then you can return to your holiday: if you already know everything you need to know for the life you have today, congratulations. And: don’t expect any remarkable new assignments – something that might be characterized as a “Calling” – in your future.

But, if you believe that God may have more for you to be and to do on your way to your Final Review by the returning King, it might be worth investing some of your prime hours in the pursuit of information – knowledge – and experience – wisdom – that would aid in preparing you for potential promotions into your unique Kingdom assignments.

What are you doing – today, in this season – to become who God made you to be?

Bob Shank

It’s time to get physical…

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Okay, let’s get one thing straight: this has nothing to do with shame. Guilt and Shame are not the identical twins from Hell; they’re often mistaken for one another, but it’s a doppelgänger deal. Shame attacks your identity as irreversibly flawed; it’s a prime tool in the arsenal of the Evil One. Guilt is different: it addresses what you do and is imminently fixable for Christians. Shame is bad; guilt is good, if it points us toward self-improvement (through Holy Spirit conviction) and better choices.

We’re coming up on one year since the first lockdowns occurred. Back then, it was the Wuhan Virus (since then, the bug – and the Communist Party – mounted a massive public relations campaign and did a rebranding deal, to CV-19), and it locked most of us in our homes for the better part of 2020. The result: lots of time margin, and 10+ pounds of “new you” to show from working from home.

Then… yesterday. Based on a Google study of most-searched foods going into last weekend – by state – here’s what probably took you down another notch. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin: Buffalo Chicken Dip. Washington, Utah, Arizona and Louisiana: 7 Layer Dip. Texas: Chocolate Chip Cookies. Minnesota: Chex Mix. Massachusetts, Tennessee and Colorado: Chili. Idaho and Nevada: Birria Tacos. Virginia and Oklahoma: Charcuterie Board. California: Cheeseburger Sliders. If you weren’t feeling guilty before Super Bowl, you’re probably still riding the Calorie Bus into overload territory today. What are you going to do about it?

For the next four Mondays, we’re focusing on Jesus’ own fitness strategy, leading into his personal three-year Pro Season. At 30, He went public – across the Promised Land – with his primary message as the Messiah: the Gospel of the Kingdom (e.g. Matthew 4:23). What were the disciplines He used to get ready for that high-demand time, when His Calling would be His only focus?

Here it is, blunt and brief: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Body, mind, soul and spirit were the four dimensions of His preparation for the mission that changed history. For Jesus, from age 12 – when the Joseph and Mary family returned from Egypt to Nazareth – to His great Reveal at the Jordan baptism at age 30, that self-emphasis ran parallel with His family and work life in that tiny rural village in the upper Galilee region.

Here’s an intriguing observation: people with no knowledge of God through the redemption arranged by the Lord Jesus are likely to regard their bodies – and their manageable physical condition – an important aspect of life. In stark contrast, Christians often see little or no correlation between their eternal life in Christ and their current life in their mortal body. For the Child of God, does the way we regard and maintain our physical self matter to God?

That isn’t a question left to speculation: Paul made it clear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Before your conversion, you needed no permission to misuse and abuse your body; it was yours to treat as you saw fit. Most of the behavioral habits that fast-track disease and death – chemical and behavioral addictions, unbounded intimacy outside a committed marital relationship, sloth, gluttony – run counter to biblical principles. Our actions in life don’t win salvation, nor can they negate the work of the Savior. The real question: does the way we abuse – or preserve – our body matter to God?

The simple fact: God bought you – and everything about you – at the Cross, and He is now the Owner in residence in your body. Wherever you go, whatever you see, whoever you’re with, whatever you eat/drink/do alone or with others: He’s right there with you. Others are watching, as is He.

Knowing that generates guilt for you, or glory for Him. How should that impact your actions?

Bob Shank

Step out of the shadows…

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So, how do you become champions of Super Bowl #55? To get to the pinnacle of accomplishment in professional football takes more than a conventional approach. Once proven to be the best in one’s field, the opportunity opens to write the book on the process that delivers the results.

If winning the title game for the ’20 NFL season is worthy of serious devotion and dedication, the pursuit of top status in a lifetime – what we often refer to as significance – is even more crucial to understand. Success lasts until someone surpasses your achievement; significance is an eternal marker and cannot be surpassed by anyone. It isn’t competitive; it measures results against one’s potential, not against others on the quest of lasting impact.

We opened this conversation four Mondays back. The ultimate objective of life was described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  Any and all activities of life are to be conducted with the understanding that bringing glory to God is the essential qualifier.

To glorify God is to allow Him to be seen as great through His creation – we, who have been restored to life through faith in Jesus Christ – by lost people whose only chance to encounter Him is by seeing His power unleashed in His redeemed followers who have become family.

How do you and I crack the code for a Super Bowl-level victory in glorifying God? We’ve worked through three steps so far:

  1. Achieve godliness in your earthly life, qualifying you to compete in the Glory league.
  2. Discover and pursue your unique Kingdom Calling, which is your highest assignment.
  3. Participate in producing fruit measured in people, who are Heaven’s currency.

Tough criterion, but entirely possible as we follow the lead of Jesus, the apostles, and history’s contingent of men and women who have lived in service to the Kingdom that is to come. What’s the last key secret to the life of eternal significance?

Hear me out; filter the static you may have heard from others on this point and listen – instead – to the voice of the One Who is the focus of our efforts: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

There is a follower of Jesus whom the Enemy allows to be attributed the great works done in service to the King. Who is it? Anonymous. Let me say their name again: Anonymous.

Lucifer’s losses begin when a spiritually-dead human hears and responds to the Gospel. Every win for the Savior is a defeat for the Devil. The next set-back for Beelzebub happens when the Child of God begins to live for the glory of God. Godliness; calling; fruit: these are all salt-in-the-wound of the Serpent, destined to disrupt his attempts to defame God among men. His last-gap desperate tactic to distract the glory from God: convince the person living for the Light to cover up their works of glory so that no one knows who did it.

Jesus’ instruction was vivid: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15).

Moments after that imperative, Jesus added this caution: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (6:1). If your good conduct was principally to get applause for yourself from people, the benefit stalls on earth and never reaches Heaven. But if your real desire is to send applause to the God Who is worthy, hiding your Light display will disallow God’s glory.

The final point: 4) Allow people to see through your good works, to see the Good God Who is behind it all.  Give God the shout-out!

There it is; the ultimate objective of life: Glorify God. You now have the formula. Are you following through to make it happen?

Bob Shank

What are you measuring? Does it matter?

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If years had rankings, most of us would put 2020 on the bottom of the best list. In your lifetime, has any year come packed with more toxicity than the last? No aspect of life was left out of the maelstrom. If we had a way to elect a do-over year, I suspect that ’20 would win in a landslide.

With that common view, what can we do – individually, or in community – to assure that 2021 will come out of the shadow of its predecessor and emit the glow of hope?

That’s what we’re addressing in this Monday morning time-out. We’re laying the groundwork for a great year, and this short series is back-to-basics, for sure. You and I are alive for one thing: everything we do is to work toward the certainty that God is being glorified. That’s it, period.

That sounds very declarative, doesn’t it? Is there a respected authority whom I can cite to confirm that conclusion? If you hold to the inspiration of the Scriptures – that God the Holy Spirit was communicating to His creation through select human scribes – this succinct statement from Paul the Apostle is informative: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whatever we do has, as an ultimate purpose, the elevation of God’s recognition by His creation. His glory is our ultimate purpose in life.

Two weeks ago, we recognized that our lives – by disciplined effort – have to prove to Him that we’re good-to-go, on His behalf. If the transformation – from unfit to fitting – cannot be modeled in my life when it’s on display, I cannot expect to bring Him glory.

Last week, we learned that we have to become clear about our unique, God-given assignment (what the Bible dubs our calling) and complete it before we die. Jesus demonstrated the transition from career – what we’re paid for – to calling – what we’re made for – as a strategy to glorify His Father.

Today is the third-of-four steps to ensure that our pattern of life allows a sustainable contribution to God’s glory: we must constantly evaluate the results of our service to Him as validation of our engagements.

Jesus is a source of wisdom on this crucial matter. The night before His sacrifice on Calvary, He told the Apostles at the Last Supper: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).  In the stewardship of our lives to glorify God, what are the outcomes that prove our efficacy?

In the marketplace, we talk a lot about the bottom line. What are the outcomes we work to enable? Unless that is clear, lots of valuable time and money can disappear without consequence.

God the Holy Spirit is active in your life to make you a better person. His work produces results: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Don’t mistake the fruit of the Spirit for the fruit of your life Calling. God is at work in you to make you a better person; He has called you to be at work in His Kingdom to produce disciples. Your efforts – singly, and in community – toward that end are critical to bring glory to Him.

Farmers understand clearly: protecting a bushel of seeds is counter-productive to the harvest. Wisely scattering that bushel across the ground will multiply the seeds. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:23-24). Save your life… and you’ll lose. Sacrifice your life… and you’ll win. Jesus demonstrated that; the yield from His death has resulted in billions of humans who will be with Him in the Hereafter. He did His part; what about us?

My callingin actionconducted in collaboration with others will result in real people who turn from death to Life who will populate Heaven for Eternity. I’ve been directly involved in that process for decades and I know that my efforts have helped to produce tangible results: names added to the Lamb’s book.

By what metric will you measure the success of your lifetime?

Bob Shank

You can’t finish if you never begin

point of view

Okay, I know it’s a holidayand Dr. King’s life and legacy are worth some fresh attention and national respect – but we started this conversation last week, and we have some things about which we need to be clear, before we do anything else.

I created an historic onramp onto this topic, citing the work of the Westminster Assembly – in England, almost 400 years ago – whose collaboration resulted in a summation of Christian belief that was founded on the Scriptures as the primary source.

Here’s what we’ve said, thus far: they got it right with their first question – and answer – in the Westminster Catechism: What is the chief end of man?  The answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

What man has to learn is embedded in the fabric of creation, apart from human confusion: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).

The rest of creation exists to glorify God, but since Eden corrupted the integrity of mankind in God’s universe, for us, glorifying God has to be rediscovered and relearned. It starts with a recaptured relationship – through a saving faith in the Lord Jesus – but, then, getting back to the place where all of life elevates and celebrates the majesty of God takes some deliberate effort.

How much of our life is supposed to make that happen? “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul’s answer is all-encompassing: whatever we do is supposed to aggregate to His glory.

What does it mean to glorify God? As we said last week, it means that, as a result of everything we do, people will be able to get an accurate vision of who God is, and that revelation will make them respond with wonder and worship.

Today is second-of-four attempts to summarize the overview of our best life. How do we become effective in glorifying God? Step #1 from last week: I must make myself worthy of His Calling. That’s the challenge of becoming God-like: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). That isn’t a “try ‘til you die, but never make it” exercise: it’s about getting fit for duty in service to the King and His Kingdom.

Here’s Step #2: to glorify God, I must discover and complete my assignment.

In and around The Master’s Program, we talk a lot about finding and fulfilling your Kingdom Calling. The odd reality is that this matter isn’t near the top of the subjects that command attention in the church teaching themes everywhere, all the time.

Once holy, what’s next? Great question; to find a great answer, listen in on Jesus’ prayer to His Father as he walked to Gethsemane on His way to the Cross: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

Jesus spent three decades identified as the son of a carpenter and working in the family business, but for His last three years of earthly life, His Calling became His singular focus.

His life was holy; He had honored His Father with his years of preparation… but what He did from His baptism by John to His resurrection by the Spirit brought glory to His Father in even greater ways. If Jesus’ life is the model for our lives this side of Heaven, it means finding the work that the Father has for us to do – our own, unique Kingdom Calling – and completing that work before we die.

The Scripture’s formula for glorifying God: 1) become holy; 2) discover and finish your assignment. We have two more installments on this theme; this may be worthy of your time.

Again: see the link below to our conversation about this critical issue: we’ll go live at 7:00a on Wednesday for 15 minutes, and it will be archived there for later listening after that time.

Do you have anything more pressing in your life for 2021 than this?

Bob Shank

Start here, or you’re finished

point of view

I don’t know what you’re feeling as we begin this second week of the “new” year, but my “virtual” finger on America’s pulse causes me to offer an expert diagnosis, based on five decades of adult engagement: we’re in a funk, not a start  (a state of depression).  There’s no medication that will alleviate the underlying conditions, but there are insights which, if founded on solid reality, can mitigate the symptoms and restore your demeanor in a lasting way. It’s worth a few minutes of your time…

Buckle up: we’re going to explore some foundational truths that are beyond the grasp of most modern American Christians. You’re probably on-board with most of this already; if so, it will be a valuable refresher course. Or, some of this may be new perspective. Though it’s the starting point for everything else in life doesn’t mean that these concepts are universally understood and maximized.

In Englandin the 1600sthere was concern over the lack of understanding within the congregations of the Christian church. Parliament asked for the formation of a Catechism – a summary of the principles that frame the faith, based on Scripture – to ensure that people claiming kinship with God through the Lord Jesus would have a core of concepts upon which they could rely. It was a start.

The Westminster Assembly worked for years on the task; the result was the Larger Westminster Catechism (used principally by the clergy) and the Shorter Westminster Catechism (which fit the bill with the common Christians).

The Shorter version consisted of 107 questions, to be posed by the instructor/pastor, and the student who had been inculcated with the answers would respond. Here is the lead-off question: “What is the chief end of man?” (That’s 1640-era verbiage; our contemporary question would be, “What’s the bottom-line of life?”)

The answer – then, as now – is succinct: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

The biblical basis for that response is masterful in its wise simplicity: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Every moment of every day is included within that: every action taken in any context, must aggregate to result in God being glorified.

If you have time for a four-unit course in a seminary, you could enroll and explore what it means to “glorify God.” At its most basic level, let me try to compress the awesome assignment: it means that, as a result of everything we do, people will be able to get an accurate vision of who God is, and that revelation will make them respond with wonder and worship.

Sounds great. How do we do that? This week – and, for the next three – we’re going to see four steps of progression to enable that awesome process in real-life, in real-time.

Here’s Step #1 in glorifying God: I must make myself worthy of His Calling.

Hear Paul’s challenge: “We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).  How could they bring glory to the Lord Jesus? They had to make themselves worthy so that God could then – and, only then – elevate them into their Kingdom assignment.

In his first letter to these same believers, Paul’s start had made the expectation clear: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The potential for holiness arrived with the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God, at the moment of salvation. But, the realization of holiness requires personal discipline and consistent obedience, resulting in the transformation from what we were before faith to become people whose holiness – the family resemblance to the Father – is now apparent.

There’s Step #1; it’s the starting point. To glorify God requires progress toward holiness.

You might want to join Noah and me on Wednesday morning (see the link) to talk about this further. It might be worth 15 minutes, to be clearer about keeping the bottom-line in view. If you can’t make it at 7:00a (Pacific) when it goes “live,” you can still go to the site and listen later…

More to come!

Bob Shank

What’s your part in history?

point of view

My football career ended at the high school, but I carried lessons from those years that remain powerful for me, today. I was a defensive tackle on a team with regional dominance; our coaches were remarkable. One day, Manny Peñaflor – our defensive line coach – taught me a life lesson on the scrimmage field. He delivered it to me privately, with only 50+ of my teammates listening in.

Manny stopped the action, grabbed my facemask and put his face in front of my nose: “Chawnk! How big is the football field?”  My immediate reaction was technically true: 300’ x 160’. Right on the nose… but he was looking for a different/better answer.

Not your   field!” He released my head, turned his shoe sideways and drew a 10’ x 10’ square around me, in the dirt of the practice field. “That’s your field! If anybody from the other side comes into your field, put ‘em on their ass!”

I was trying to protect 48,000 square feet, but Manny assigned me just 100. The other guys on the defense would do their parts, and – if we all did our portion – we’d win (and, we did).

There aren’t many people more notable – in history – than King David of Israel. Yet, when Paul presented his first archived message – in Pisidian Antioch (in ruins today, in the middle of modern Turkey) – to a Jewish audience in the synagogue there, he mentioned their common historic hero in this way: “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed (Acts 13:36).

In modern culture, there are trendy nuggets of advice that are repeated because they are succinct and credible. Wisdom fit for a fortune cookie: Find your niche. Stay in your lane. Figure out your sweet spot.

Attributed to no one in particular, they are recounted ad nauseum because they ring true. You can’t do everything, so don’t try. Instead, find your one thing and devote yourself to becoming the genius in your narrow category of expertise.

David was the timeless Super Hero of Israel: he was elevated from last-of-eight in his farm family – relegated to tending sheep while his brothers fought Philistines – to ultimately become the King of Israel’s 12 tribes, and progenitor of the family line that would birth the Messiah, Jesus, 1000 years later. How did he do it?

He found his niche. He stayed in his lane. He figured out his sweet spot.

In the beginning, that put him in charge of a herd of sheep. While delivering GrubHub to his brothers on the battlefield, his confidence in his Big God put him up against a Big Philistine (the one he dropped with a well-placed sling-shot rock). He graduated to 300 mighty men (while on the run from Saul); ultimately, he became the dynastic sovereign over the 12-tribe Nation of Israel for 40 years.

Early on, the Kingdom advanced under the influence of Apostles who figured out their part in the Great Commission that Jesus passed to them as He left Earth to return to Heaven.

When Jesus was fulfilling His calling, he restricted himself, intentionally: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Chosen People would be given first access to their Messiah.

Paul’s calling was focused as well, but to a very different population. The day of Saul’s conversion, God revealed His long-term assignment for him: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel…” (Acts 9:15-16).

God has drawn boundaries around your field of play; your assignment – done in concert with other faithful teammates – will serve God’s purposes in this generation. That’s all He wants from you.

As we re-start a New Year, I’ll ask you what Manny asked me: How big is your field?

 

Read this before closing the door on 2020

Did you forget?

In just a couple of days, we’ll be making our way out of the year called 2020. Decades hence, citing this year’s title – 2020 – may invoke a variety of emotions. What has it been for you?

Be careful: the most immediate answer may be the most dangerous. Highly-repetitive headlines may have become stuck in our intellectual gullet. Wujan. Lockdown. Election. Pandemic. Quarantine. Unemployment. Riots. Contested. Canceled. Facemask. Left to the echoes of all-things-media, the insistent voices of contemporary culture turn our hearts to panic and our outlook to fear; stress is the biological indicator that all-systems are in defense modes, with no relief in sight.

Here’s some wise counsel, from history’s greatest human source. What should we do, as we near the end of an unprecedented year like 2020?  “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future” (Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14).

Wisdom makes sense, with few words needed. The summation of Solomon’s savvy: 1) This year happened under God’s sovereign hand and plan; 2) No one could take control away from Him; 3) when things are good, embrace shalom; 4) when times are bad, give up trying to predict the future; and, 5) our best posture – good times or bad – is to focus on God and what He’s doing, and lean into Him.

How is this year ending, for you? Not your state; not your industry; not your company; not your political party; not your friends: how is it ending, for you?

Some of my Point of Viewers have had challenges this year, and these blind-side disruptions weren’t circumstances flowing from bad decisions. Health issues, family issues, financial issues, career issues; some or all may have created havoc for them; maybe, for you. My encouragement: whatever else you’ve lost… you haven’t lost Him. You’re starting 2021 with the promise of His presence.

Many of our PoV constituency are feeling paradoxical. In the most disruptive year in our remembrance, your health has been protected. Your family has remained connected. Your career has continued – interrupted, but not interred – and your income has been stable. Your home has become more valuable; your retirement plans have grown with the recovered market; your investments have done well, and your net worth has gone up, inexplicably. That’s a story that’s tough to share right now.

As you consider your position as 2020 transitions to 2021, be careful: “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant” (Moses, in Deuteronomy 8:17-18).

You’ve got a little time today; no one is expecting rapid responses during New Year’s week. This is a five-minute soul-spa treatment; here’s my friend Tommy Walker with a great suggestion. With headphones or built-in speakers, click here for some high-value therapy.

Remember. You don’t need much urging to recount the dark moments of 2020, and there were many. What may not come to mind as quickly are the unrelenting evidences of His protection and provision. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2). Is 2020 the year that His promise in Psalm 91 was made real, for you? (Click here to see all of Psalm 91.)

May your New Year be filled with Shalom: the Hebrew promise of wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety and prosperity,

Bob Shank

Tommy Walker: We Will Remember and Psalm 91

Psalm 91

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Better late than never…

point of view

The people with the greatest credentials may not be the early adopters… but it’s great when they are able – finally – to get on board and join the party.

Last week, we celebrated the Shepherds. They’re supporting actors in the Christmas pageant, but in Israel, 2000 years ago, they were in the bottom quartile of the Jewish society. No upscale venue would have allowed them entrance, but they were the first outsiders invited to the Birth of Jesus.

You’ve received Christmas cards already showing Wise Men around the Manger, but those are artists’ renderings that are not based on the facts. Here’s the story, as told by Matthew: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”

Magi. Their probable home was Persia – modern Iran/Iraq – and their title linked them to the learned class whose sophistication with science and religious traditions made them and their opinions matter. Likely tied to Zoroastrianism (a religious stew birthed in the 5th Century BC, in the Iranian empires), they had data from nearby faith systems, and their knowledge of the stars and the prophecies of the Jewish Scriptures put them in-the-know about the birth of the Jews’ King.

High-ranking leaders assume that high-ranking leaders will have elevated knowledge of the most important current events: these guys landed in Jerusalem to network with Herod, the puppet-king of Judea who served as the Roman emperor’s local affiliate. Wouldn’t he know about the royal birth?

The King was clueless; he referred the question to “the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” If the promised Messiah had arrived, why weren’t the religious hierarchy seeking him? They knew where to look: “this is what the prophet has written: …Bethlehem…” but they were still in Jerusalem (just seven miles away). Their intel was spot-on, but their interest was at zero.

Herod feigns interest and sends the Magi as unwitting spies; his intent was to kill the competition. The Wise Persian scholars complete their mission – they deliver their worship and their treasures – and then make plans for their next steps. Herod’s orders: come back and turn in the young child (who was in a house with his mother, no longer in a manger in a stable). Heaven’s orders had been delivered in a dream: steer clear of Herod and Jerusalem, and take the long road home.

The Shepherds weren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they arrived first. The Magi had the credentials and had to work through a torturous process to finally get alongside Jesus.

The mission: find Jesus, whatever it takes. What did it take for you to find Him?

Bob Shank

Is this on your list?

Why didn’t you say something?”

We have thousands of men and womenhigh-impact Kingdom influencers, across America and beyond – who receive this weekly challenge. Most open and read it, regularly. A proactive look at 21st Century leadership, through the lens of a biblical worldview.

Point of View is the tip of the iceberg in The Master’s Program. We have myriad outputs and initiatives that are serving Christian leaders in a unique way.

I crossed paths with a significant Kingdom leader this week who is part of our movement community. He asked me if we had any year-end funding challenges. I told him that we were in our normal contribution cycle: the last month of each year is critical to sustain our ministry.

The direct cost of most of the ministry offerings we provide are user-supported, but sustaining our organizational leadership and infrastructure involves contributions by our friends who recognize the value of what we provide to them and the expanding network of high-engagement men and women who connect with us in various ways.

This has been an unusual year.  As Covid changed the ground rules in March, we reinvented our delivery systems and added services to stay in touch with our movement community. We did not pursue a PPP from the government. We’ve incurred unexpected expenses to modify our ministry distribution, but we’ve been frugal wherever possible, and God has carried us. We’re poised to launch an incredible update on our brand going into 2021: TMP 3.0 is going to blow you away…

My friend’s question was direct:  “Do you guys need donations coming up on year-end?” My answer: “Yes, as we do every year. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, we will need to receive about $250,000 to finish the year at break-even.” His response: “Why didn’t you say something?”

Less than 10% of our contacts with you through the course of the year mention the fact that we are a 501(c)3 ministry, and dependent on the contributions of people who believe in and benefit from what we do. The Point of View weekly blog; now, our mid-week Hard Times Heroes vlog: examples of our ministry services, offered at no cost and with no incessant solicitation for contributions.

I hope you’ll hear this as informative, not confrontive: we could sure use your help as we finish our 2020 ministry year and set the stage to offer you even more in the year to come.

The anomaly is intriguing: for most of our constituency, this year has been an emotional strain… but there’s a good chance that your financial status at year-end has not suffered. Has God sustained you through these unprecedented times? Does fear of an uncertain future neutralize your heart for stewardship as you recognize the One who has carried you through?

As you finish-up this once-in-your-lifetime year, why not make this a high-watermark in your expressions of generosity? Start with your church; continue with the ministries that have served you and your family. Invest in the efforts you know are making a difference in a world starved for hope and in need of the Gospel. Let faith be more pronounced than fear as you sort-out your end-of-year posture.

If The Master’s Program is somewhere on that list for you, we’d be grateful for and honored by your decision to include us in your year-end distributions. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8).  That’s His promise… still.

Could you be part of our year-end miracle Click here to go to our secure page to put your gift in motion. Thanks – in advance – for giving this some prayer and consideration!

Merry Christmas!

Bob Shank

How do the losers become the winners?

What’s it going to take, for you?

The relationship between God and people – made possible through the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ – begins, and continues, based on faith. The initiation of that connection was likened to birth – spiritual birth by Jesus, as he described it to the noted Jewish Bible scholar, Nicodemus.

And, the vitality of that relationship will rise and fall with the level of faith that is evident in one’s life: “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-18).

We are saved through faith… and, then, we live by faith. The rise and fall of one’s spiritual experience is the measure of the effective level of sustaining – and, thriving – faith.

Just imagine being at work with your friends – on a cold winter’s night – and having this experience: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” ( Luke 2:18-28).

These guys were not rocket scientists; they were outdoorsmen who lived without cultural acclaim or social encouragement. No parent in 1st Century Israel aspired to see their sons become shepherds; they were at the bottom rung of the success ladder, but they were singled-out by heaven as the most privileged Jews at the moment of Jesus’ miraculous birth.

What does it take to expose and empower faith? It’s not the same for everyone: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).

The shepherds were Jewish and, culturally, they were prone to look for evidence rather than to seek intellectual proofs. Willard Duncan Vandiver was a congressman; in an 1899 speech, he explained: “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

These Jewish shepherds were demonstrating faith when they gave their attention to the Angel – and, then to the angels – and when they dropped everything to head to Bethlehem. When they arrived at the manger, all they saw was a baby… but what they reported broadly was what the angel(s) had told them about who that child was. How did all of that happen? They were acting on faith.

We start with faith; but, once launched, what we do of-note in our spiritual lifetime will be determined by the level of pull-the-trigger faith that we are willing to demonstrate. Stand shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade with the shepherds: who’s taller on the faith meter?

Bob Shank

You’re running out of time…

In three weeks, the window closes…

You’re pretty well-connected. As part of The Master’s Program community – leaders whose LifeStyle is different, because of LifeMastery and LifeMission – you approach the whole of your life with the understanding of stewardship. A subject that swirls with confusion for most Christians is far more clear and compelling for you: the gifts of time, talent, influence and resources are all placed in your hands as a trust – from God – to leverage, in service to His Kingdom.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard about this incredible opportunity already, but it’s better to be exposed twice than to miss the chance to understand it before it goes away. It is – quite literally – the Opportunity of a Lifetime.

Here’s the headline: as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, you can make charitable contributions equal to 100% of your 2020 income for federal tax purposes, and deduct the entire amount. These qualified deductions are deductible up to the full amount of your Adjusted Gross Income. This has never happened before…

The downloadable briefing was produced by our ministry partners at the National Christian Foundation/California. The leaders of this NCF affiliate – Bryan Feller, Bob Fry, Lance Wood – are all TMP graduates and colleagues with us in serving Kingdom leaders like you.

Download and review the Executive Summary of this incredible stewardship strategy. If you need some informed advice and counsel about your personal situation, the folks at NCF – either our California partners, or the leaders of the NCF affiliate near you (check ‘em out: www.ncfgiving.com) – are there to help.

In three weeks, that opportunity will pass away. The investments you could make in Kingdom initiatives will produce results – the Bible calls them “fruit” – that will never pass away. Trading the temporal for the eternal is always a wise move…

Here to serve you as you serve Him,

Bob Shank

Would you die for it?

point of view

P.S. I love you.

It’s been 58 years since Paul McCartney wrote that song for The Beatles to record as one of their earliest hits. The idea behind the song was simple: the contents of the letter would be forgotten long before the heart-hitting postscript that was added, not as an after-thought, but as the bottom-line.

We’ve been looking at the other Paul – not Paul the Beatle, but Paul the Apostle – and his inclination to add his version of a postscript to his epistles. Written to individuals or spiritual gatherings who were the targets of his affections, these letters were loaded with essential insights that would make the belief and practice of the Christian faith more understandable and engaging.

Timothy was Paul’s virtual firstborn – not a son-of-the-flesh, but son-of-the-faith – whose emerging leadership in the church was a matter of focus and pride for Paul. He spoke about him with genuine affection: “For this reason, I have sent you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus…” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul was clearly intent on seeing Timothy’s progress as a respected leader continue.

Point in time: Paul spent over two years in Ephesus, remembered as the city of greatest economic and commercial prominence in the Roman Empire. The church there was exercising influence, and Timothy had been left there to lead that faith community.

Paul’s letters to Timothy were both personal and professional in tone; in the first, his challenge was unmistakable: “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

That’s a PS from Paul that could be memorized and recited, over and over again. Spoken like a father to a son, or a coach to a quarterback, it didn’t erase the important teachings in the prior six chapters… but it put an exclamation point behind the body of truth that had been packed in the missive.

Guard what has been entrusted to your care. Like a watchman with the charge to protect the treasure that would be targeted by thieves anxious to separate great riches from their rightful owner, Timothy had a trust that was among his highest lifetime responsibilities. What was it he was to secure?

First and foremost: the Word of God was his priceless charter. The empty rhetoric of “godless chatter” would be evidence of counterfeit claimants hoping to distract people from the essential truth found in the inspired and infallible Scriptures. “Opposing ideas” would emanate from people whose education was a masquerade used in an attempt to portray their contrary positions as accurate representations of God’s timeless truth.

During Jesus’ ministry, his most avowed critics and opponents were the Bible scholars who had risen to prominence in Israel. These Jewish leaders had academic credentials that they claimed gave them overriding authority, but Jesus confronted that confusion with boldness: “And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:37-40).

Paul’s postscript to Timothy remains an important reminder to us, today: Avoid the educated fools. If one rejects the existence of the Supernatural – and the inspiration of the Scriptures that give us the reliable truth upon which we build and live our faith – their PhD is of no consequence.

The high-ground of divine truthdelivered in the Scriptures – is a hill we will die defending. Sola Scriptura is the flag we’ve planted; care to gear-up and link arms with me there?

Bob Shank

 

 

Maybe it’s time to get serious…

church

Church, is it a free-for-all, or is it free, for all?

Last Thursday, everybody had to swallow more than turkey and dressing.  In a year that has been politically-charged on every level – even moment – it’s likely that an extended family gathering included people whose views about the chaos in the culture and the outcomes of the election ran the gambit of extremes. When a family shares a table – not on an annual holiday, but routinely – you’ve got to set some ground rules.

Paul’s visit to Thessalonica (part of the record, in Acts 17) lasted less than a month, but as he was hustled out of town (to avoid a mob-induced riot), the people who had responded to his message of faith in Jesus became an ongoing faith-family, bonded together by their newfound relationship with Jesus. To use our most familiar designation, they formed a “church.”

Though on to his next stops in his second missionary tour, Paul stayed in touch with his spiritual progeny in Thessalonica. He wrote two letters to them, using correspondence to share what they needed as they figured-out how to function in alignment with Heaven, in the midst of a culture that was out of touch with the one true God.

Was the community of faiththe churchsimply a social club without structure? In concluding his second letter, Paul made some stark statements: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us…” (3:6).

Word had gotten back to Paul about some deadbeats in/around the Thessalonian church who were trying to shame the congregation into underwriting them, to cover for their own slothful sense of entitlement. There was no room for that, in Paul’s view: “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat” (3:11-12).

When the plaque over the entry door says “Whosoever will may come!” the theology captured in the caption can be misrepresented to suggest that everyone gets to bring their own rules – or, lawlessness – with them, with no imposition of expectations established to be a “member in good standing” of the Body of Christ. Nothing could be more out-of-touch with the truth.

Is participation in the family of God free, for all? Absolutely! Is that license to make it a free-for-all, where no behaviors are egregious and no attitudes are confronted? There was no way that confusion would be allowed in a church whose founder was Paul and whose Master was Jesus.

To make sure he left no confusion on this matter, he personalized the instructions clearly before he wrapped-up this brief epistle: “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer” (3:13-15).

A question worth raising in any company, in any congregation – is highlighted in Paul’s closing thoughts: What does it take to get fired around here? Why is no one on probation for disregarding the disciplines defined by the Divine?

An army without discipline is just a mob with uniforms. The church is not a make-it-up-as-you-go community center with free food and free parking. God has big plans for the people whose status as sons and daughters of the Most High God raises their potential to the heavens.

Maybe it’s time to get serious…

Bob Shank

What kind of “different” are you?

bottom line

What’s different? And, does it matter?

Decades ago, Dr. Bill Bright – the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ – compressed the essence of the Gospel into a pocket-sized pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws. It wasn’t wordy, but it was sufficient: everything necessary to embrace saving faith was there. Millions trace their conversion to the Four Laws booklet.

So… accept God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life, with the assurance that He’ll take you the distance; you cannot lose your salvation. Great! But, what now: is it just back to normal?

Paul was speaking for God when he wrote to the Ephesian believers: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:17-24).

What’s supposed to be different, for the followers of Jesus? Everything.

Futility. Darkened. Separated. Ignorant. Hardened. Sensual. Impure. Greedy. Those search-terms expose the tendencies of people who live apart from a saving faith. The alternative is God’s intent for His sons and daughters: be different.

When Paul signed-off with the folks who were in the church he planted in Thessalonica, he compressed their continuing assignments into three critical dimensions (in 1 Thessalonians 5). These represent timeless wisdom for us, as well.

In relationship to the spiritual leaders above us: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (v. 12-13). The modus operandi for unbelievers is to contest and conflict with their overseers; the way of the Kingdom is to regard them with great affection because of their servant leadership.

In relationship to other believers – who, in God’s eyes are, with us, part of His family – we are to: “Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (vs. 13-15). The Community of Faith – what we call the church – has behavioral standards that allow healthy and productive relationships to thrive. The standards are high, but the forgiveness runs deep. It’s the best club to join, this side of Heaven.

And, the disciplines that make us better as people are clearly valuable: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (vs. 16-22). You could put that to-do list on a Post-It note: rinse and repeat every day, for the rest of your life… and you’ll rise to the top of your relational peer group.

Nuff said. How different are we? How different are you?

Bob Shank