December 19, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      You're running out of time. I know you knew that, but you needed to be reminded. Time is short; you need to get busy...
      For one thing, you're running out of time with your Christmas shopping. In five days, you'll land on Christmas Eve. Don't know when the gifts are passed-out at your place, but sometime next Saturday, you'll hit "game over" on the Christmas gift competition. You're running out of time...
      You may be defined by your holiday schedule this week, but you've got less than eight workin' days 'til end-of-month, end-of-quarter, end-of-year deadlines. If you haven't made your numbers for '05 yet, you'll be on the mad-dash for points on that scoreboard in these waning days of the year.
      The financial press - magazines, websites, you name it - are pressing the end-of-the-tax-year issues, too. They are single-minded in their efforts: they assume that the most important thing you can do in the 288 hours you have left (as of midnight tonight) is to... reduce your '05 tax liabilities.
      Jesus was the eternal God - no beginning, no end - who came to Earth, and - for the first time in history - needed a watch and a Day-Timer. He was timeless in heaven, but time-confined down here. He put it this way: "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Or, as I would paraphrase it: "Get the really important stuff done while you have the time... because you're runnin' out of time."
      Some things are important, but not urgent. Some things are urgent, but not important. Some things are neither important nor urgent; some are both. When time is abundant, your life is jammed-up with all of these things; when you're running out of time... which of the four types of activity should draw your focus?
      If the year was likened to an NFL game, we're now in the "two minute warning" period. The last 12 days are the last two minutes. The actions taken in these concluding moments - with no time-outs left - will determine the outcome of the whole contest. What are the mission-critical issues, alongside the warm-and-fuzzy hearthside moments with family and friends?
Three important - and urgent - considerations before the clock runs out:
      Make Up: Don't head to church for Christmas with unfinished business in your relational world. "If you are offering your gift at the altar and... remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there... First go and be reconciled to your brother..." (Matthew 5:23-24) Start 2006 without the baggage of unresolved conflicts. Make reconciliation your gift... to you.
      Step Up: Often, God lets us know what he expects from us... and we delay our response. Jesus went to a wedding with his mother where they ran out of wine. His first miracle happened because the servants followed Mary's advice: "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5) We often beg for miracles, but aren't willing to do what it takes to trigger the act of God. Delayed obedience is disobedience; if you have an order from God that you have yet to follow, now's the time...
      Pay Up: Often, successful Christians make their giving a year-end obligation. Right now, everyone is focused on reducing taxes. Kingdom citizens need to focus on funding ministry. "Give to Caesar what is is Caesar's; and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22:21) Stewardship is about reducing Caesar's portion, lawfully - and, then, increasing God's portion, joyfully. "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) As Randy Alcorn puts it, "God increases our income, not to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving."
      From the sideline, let me give you some coachly advice: you're running out of time. Two minute warning: how to ensure a win? Make Up. Step Up. Pay Up. You're the quarterback; you need to call the plays. This game - 2005 - will be an important game leading up to the conference finals. Play it like it really matters. Because, you really are runnin' out of time...

Bob Shank


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