October 24, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      What do you do, when you want to relax? What is your fantasy of "the Perfect Vacation?" If you really want to shut it all down, where do you go? What do you plan? Where do you retreat?
      If you're out on business, you want the hotel to drop USA Today and the Journal at your threshold, allowing you to get briefed before you launch your day. If you're out for relief... you may be looking for a place that doesn't even have People in the gift shop. News reports? Come on; who can relax when it takes Terror/Disaster/Bombings/Plane Crash/Earthquake/Tsunami/Mass Murder to make the front page?
      "Well, it's always been like this!" is the standard line. Really? What parallel universe did you grow up in? Do you remember Ozzie & Harriet being interrupted by the "news from the front?" Was Happy Days followed by the uninterrupted coverage of the latest calamity? Is the future really an eroded version of the past, with danger no longer lurking in the shadows... but, rather, confronting us, daily?
      Natural philosophies presume that evolution is delivering people - in every generation - who are a better version of their forebears. Society is - supposedly - sophisticating into the ultimate, advanced level marked by man's highest potential. The politics of progress suffers the interruption of reality every time the next crisis-du-jour strikes. What gives?
      In the old days, men behind pulpits talked about the "End Times." These days, we hear about "Your Best Life Now." The memory of Apocalyptic messages is fading from view. Lawrence Welk was the icon of contemporary music... when folks at church were likely to hear talk of the Second Coming of Jesus. The Rolling Stones and Neil Diamond have come back around; is it so unlikely that the Lord Jesus Christ may be planning a "return to Earth" tour?
      The men who hung with Jesus - during his three year stint - knew he was planning a comeback, in the future. They wanted to make sure it was on their calendars... so they wouldn't miss it. They didn't beat around the bush: they asked him, openly: "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" No confusion about their question; they wanted insider info.
      Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
      "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:3-14, from the NIV)
      Allow me to paraphrase, would you? The frequency of the natural disasters is to be expected, as is the acceleration of human rights violations... targeted toward the people who openly declare their allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. If you hold to the exclusive saving power of the Christian faith, "... you will be hated by all nations because of me" (Jesus). The headlines are getting more somber; you can expect it to get worse!
      What is all of this leading to? "(The) gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." I cheated: I read the last chapters - "the end" - and it turns out really, really good for people who know Jesus, personally...
      What in the world are we supposed to do: retreat? Take a break? Pretend this is "normal?" Here's a radical thought: maybe we could participate in that "preach in the whole world, as a testimony to all nations" agenda... and accelerate the conclusion. I think I'll do that: care to join me?

Bob Shank

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