Biblical Risk Taking: Leveraging the Temporal for Eternal Gain (Kingdom Advisors 2019)

Listen to Dr. Ken Boa’s super breakout session at the 2019 Kingdom Advisors Conference in Orlando, FL:

Edited Transcript

Good to be with you and we’re going to have a little time together for interaction and Q and A. I want to kind of set the stage because we’re talking about the idea of biblical risk taking, and it’s an intriguing concept for us because essentially we’re looking at the idea of helping people manage their portfolios or just allocations, risk assessments, how comfortable are you with these things? And as we’re teaching people about how to invest, we need to also consider what it means to invest in such a way that our work will last, it will endure, it will continue to be propagated. And indeed, we typically hear about these three: the time, talent, and treasure trilogy. It’s a very common motif that we see, and with our time, we recognize that God’s the One who determines how much time we have in this planet; we do not.

He determines our days and ultimately our times, our days, are in His hands. And a wise person, then, would number their days to have an eternal perspective. As Moses said in the only psalm that he wrote—so it’s the oldest psalm in the Psalter—Psalm 90: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) Because if you want to be wise, you will treat things according to their true value. Many people make the mathematical blunder of essentially looking at the temporal as if it was going to be eternal, and they evaluate the weight of eternity as if it’s just something that’s nebulous, by and by, “So I’ll focus instead on the now.” But the real issue from Scripture is that this is a soul-forming world designed to prepare us for eternity in God’s presence.

So, the way we use our time has a very real bearing on that dynamic, as well as the way we use our various talents. We understand that that’s a stewardship issue, and, as you well know, a steward, then, really doesn’t possess anything. He manages the possessions of another and is an ambassador. He’s not on his own business. He’s about the king’s business. And so, we’ve been given a certain amount of talent, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that you did not receive? Then why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” That, in my mind, is the key verse on the issue of humility. Anytime you’re attempted to brag or boast or suppose that you really are great at something, don’t forget the fact that it’s all gift, it’s all grace, and understand that your abilities are also given to you.

You were not around at some primordial cafeteria choosing the best things; you were given the capacity to do these [things]. “But what about the things that I’ve developed, my talents—I’ve developed that, don’t I have a say in that?” And at the end of the day, it was God who gave the life breath and the capacity and the energy to do those things. Everything you have is gift and grace. And that in my view, is the key to a proper biblical understanding of humility. And treasure—we recognize that we own nothing at all, but we manage the resources of another, and we will be held accountable. So, therefore, “to whom much has been given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). So we understand these things, and we see these as being critical components because we must leverage them for the eternal. Because all of these, as you well know, are going to pass away.

Your amount of time on this earth, your earthbound sojourn is brief. It’s ephemeral. It’s transitory. Indeed, you are a spiritual being who is experiencing an earthbound embodied experience. And essentially, you are an amphibious being who has one foot in heaven, the other on earth. And the reality is, according to many texts, for example, Colossians chapter three, “Set your mind on the things above… where Christ is seated at the right hand of God… If you have been raised up with Christ, then you are seated with him in the heavenly places.” So, in your deepest self, your spirit, you are already in some profound way in His presence seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies, Who has been declared perfect and righteous.

And yet in this earthbound experience, our souls, our bodies, we find that that is in a process of transformation, renewal, and so as we are gradually and steadily being conformed to the image of God and in His Son, Christ Jesus, what’s taking place then, is that we’re becoming more and more in our practice who we already are in our position. And that is our job. You have to become who you are. Strange notion. You are a new being, are you not? If anyone is in Christ, what is he called? “A new creature, a new creation: the old things are passed away; behold, [new] things have come” 2 Corinthians 5:17). If that’s true, then, [why] do I say what I say, do what I do, and think how I think? Romans 7 raises that dilemma. The reality is you are in this world now in a soul-forming process to be shaped for your eternity in the heavenlies, and so we need to have an eternal perspective.

Indeed, along that line there, as you well know, there are only two things in this planet that are going to endure forever, and you know what they are. They are, in fact, truth and relationships. God’s truth, God’s Word, will endure forever. And so, His Word abides. And that truth of His Word, then, goes from generation to generation. And at the same time, relationships. As C.S. Lewis wrote in my favorite sermon, the “Weight of Glory,” “You’ve never met a mere mortal.” The reality is, you’re dealing with eternal beings, and given that truth, then, the understanding that you now are in a context in which these things are passing away—your time, talent, and treasure. Now the question arises, “If these are passing away, is there any way I can leverage them so that the things that are passing away can be leveraged for the good?”

And that brings us to an important text that comes to my mind, and it’s in Luke chapter 16. You all are probably familiar with the parable of the unrighteous steward. It’s a difficult text, and Jesus’ parables are very provocative, and in many ways many people are not ready for them. And at some point, then, they hit you, and then you realize it was much more than you grasped. And so, this is another provocative parable where he actually commends in some manner a measure of treachery. So, he says:

“There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager, this steward, was reported to him as squandering his possessions. And he called them and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you, give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be a manager, a steward.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do since my master was taking the management away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg. What are my options? I know what I’ll do, so that when I am removed from this position that I’ve been given, people will welcome me into their homes.’ So he summoned each of his master’s debtors and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly and write 50.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ ‘Take your bill, write 80.’”

What’s he doing? He’s being shrewd in relation to his kind. “His master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly.” And here’s a critical principle that Jesus concludes: “‘The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.’” I submit to you that a person who does not believe that there will be something beyond this world is often going to be more consistent with trying to get the most while he can because it’s going to be all over.

They’re more consistent with their worldview than often we are with our worldview. So, there’s a shrewdness that Jesus is appealing to, a sense of perspective. Indeed, when we consider it from this manner, we realize we all have various filters. We have cultural filters. So, if indeed we see that these arrows on the top are in fact insights, revelation from the Word.

So, as we read the Scriptures, we get light, but some of that light is occluded by cultural filters where you say, “That can’t be true today or in my life,” or whatever. So as a consequence, some of them are occluded because of those filters that we embrace. And then we also have theological filters, and so “It doesn’t fit my theology. It can’t be true.” So, after a while, those little components eliminate that. Then, third, we all have emotional filters. So when it says we are accepted in Christ Jesus, so then as those who have been called beloved of God, holy and blameless, “That can’t be me, because after all, I don’t sense or feel that I’m holy or blameless or being accepted in Christ Jesus.”

What if a person was raised with conditional based acceptance, performance-based love? It’ll be difficult for them. And often those filters will say, “That might be true of someone else. It’s not true of me.” By the end of the day, many things are lost, and we don’t embrace the full power of the Word and understanding these things. So, it’s a very intriguing notion. In other words, what is your worldview, and do you really cultivate an eternal perspective in this temporal arena? And so, he’s saying he makes an application, and, generally speaking, a parable has one primary point, and when you get the point of the parable, you get the point because it nails you: “Thou art the man” with Nathan, for example (2 Samuel 12:7).

And so you begin to realize, “Wait a minute now, if I were acting consistently with a worldview that claims that this world, this earthbound existence, is brief and ephemeral, and if I truly buy an eternal perspective that says what I do now will last for eternity, then I would actually choose this wisdom that Jesus outlines in His summary and application of this parable.” “I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness” (Luke 16:9). And I think the King James calls this “filthy lucre.” You see, I claim to you that wealth is not neutral. It has a downward gravity, it has a pull. I look at wealth, and it’s like money and power as well—you have this interesting reality here, see if I can find it for you—the idea here is that we have money and the god Plutus or the word mammon [which] deals with wealth and it has a downward pull, indeed, like sex, Aphrodite, Hera, lust, or power, Mars, Kratos, power, authority, clout.

And these, I believe, are always going to be prevalent, and they will be there for us because we are living in this world and kind of—trying to walk up a downward escalator is the metaphor I find myself using of late. Have you ever done that when you were a child? You see an escalator that’s going down and you decide, “I want to go against that. I’m going to go up this down escalator and see how fast I can go.” I know I did that. But here’s the thing. When you stop, there’s no neutrality because you soon as you stop, you’re going down. So, the world would tether it us to its value system. And so, the values of money, sex, and power, wealth, lust, authority, all of these things are not neutral. But I do claim instead that money, sex and power can be leveraged for good.

So, it’s not the thing itself, but what we do with the thing that matters—just as Jesus was tempted in all ways as we were, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16), and yet without sin. It’s not a sin to be tempted or be pulled by that. It is what you do with the temptation. And so at the end, then, you can do a kind of spiritual Jujitsu in which you actually leverage the force of your opponent to your own advantage by using it as a reminder of the reality of who we really are in Christ. That’s not who I am. This is beneath the dignity of the person I was called to be. And we realize, though, that these downward pulls, this gravity of the world, the flesh, and the devil—these things will always in this world be there.

It’s not a sin to be tempted or be pulled by that. It is what you do with the temptation.

But I claim that there is a higher principle, the principle of aerodynamics that overcomes the downward pull of gravity. I think when I was here last year, I mentioned a video, and if you just go to YouTube and just type in “Dubai Eagle,” you’ll see the video, and it’s an image of a Bald Eagle that is actually released from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with a tiny little camera and you see his perspective. And of course he’s not flapping his wings, he’s riding on the thermals and he’s going in circles and his head’s constantly looking because he’s looking for a particularly small green area that you and I cannot see. And as a result, he keeps going around and around—and close to the end of the video, suddenly he sees what we’re not capable of seeing. And he does this one thing, like that, moves his wings down one little bit, and now he’s shooting down at 125 miles an hour. And the next thing you see, he comes in and goes on his trainer’s arm. That’s impressive. He’s riding on the thermals.

I claim that you can ride on the thermals of the spirit of God, even though the world, flesh, and the devil, money, sex, and power, will always exert a downward pull. You can leverage them for your gain and for others’ good. And this is my belief about how we can take our time, our talent, and our treasure, and to leverage that to transmute the currency of that which is passing away into the currency of that which will endure. But there’s a lot of risk involved in this, as we’ll see.

So, going back to our text, then, we recognize, he says, “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails”—when is that? That’s when you die, because you’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse.

The fact is that how much did he leave behind? The answer is always the same. Everything. He left it all behind. And yet the Scriptures say that we can send something ahead, but it’s not going to be material. It’s something beyond that. It has to do with truth. It has to do with relationships. Indeed, Jesus, I believe, is inviting us, then, to take what God has given us in this temporal arena and to leverage it for the eternal so that we take those things which are passing away and use our time, use the resources God has entrusted us with, use our abilities. And we use those to invest in the lives of people by building truth into people. Now that’s a life well lived because those will endure forever. It was Jim Elliot, you’ll know his famous statement, that “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which you can never lose.”

So, it’s a point of view and Jesus goes on then to apply this: so “they’ll receive you into the eternal dwellings.” I believe our lives have ripple impacts that you won’t know in this time, this earthbound sojourn. You’ll get a little feedback here and there, but most of your life you will not know. It reminds me of the ending of one of my favorite novels, Middlemarch, and George Elliot is using Dorothea Brooke as her protagonist, but Dorothy Brooke’s capacities are bounded by circumstances, and in the end it seems, “Was this life? Did I really achieve what I wanted to do?” But it says in the conclusion that “the effect of her being on those who surrounded her was incalculably diffusive.” I want you to hear those words again: “incalculably diffusive.” You can’t quantify the diffusive impact of your life when you’re building truth into people.

In fact, most of your life in this world is hidden impact. You’ll only see that when you’re home. In fact, if we got feedback immediately, you’d live for it. And so, the upshot, then, is that we live with a measure of ambiguity. But we realize, though, as we invest God’s eternal truth into eternal beings, it will last forever. Middlemarch goes on to say, “that things are not so ill with us as they might’ve been, is [half] owing to those who quietly lived a faithful life and rest in unvisited tombs.” I submit to you that the greatest of the saints in the history of the church, many of them will never be recorded in a church history textbook, but God knows.

So, we choose our audience, don’t we? Because it’s impossible to simultaneously seek to impress people and be pleasing to Jesus. You’ve got to choose your audience. Do I live Coram Deo, before the heart of God, and am I playing to an invisible audience of One? As a friend of mine used to put it, “What are you taking under your arm to the ultimate show and tell?” So, there’s a theme that runs throughout. He’s urging us. Therefore he says fidelity, good, and evil both increase at compound interest. “He who is faithful in a very little thing, is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is also unrighteous and much. And if you haven’t been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you haven’t been faithful in the use of that, which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10–12)

And then he talks about your choice. You’ve got only these two options. As Bob Dylan put it, you’ve got to serve somebody. Any of you remember that song? You “Gotta Serve Somebody.” How did it go? “It may be the devil. It may be the Lord, / but you’re going to serve somebody.” Sort of reminds me of Joshua. You have to choose this day, whom you’re going to serve, whether the gods of Egypt or the Amorites, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). You don’t have an option. You will serve somebody, and only the service of Jesus will give you perfect freedom. Everything else will be a bondage. So, he says, you’ve got to choose because you will hate the one or love the other. “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13), or “wealth.” And as you know, mammon refers to wealth of any kind. And so, people are so impressed by those things, but you’re passing away. And I submit to you, it takes a profound degree of risk in order for you to invest in the eternal above that which is the temporal.

Because, as you know, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). So, what does that mean? Biblical faith, then, means this: “hoped for” means you don’t have it yet, and it’s invisible. Would you say it takes a measure of risk to pursue the things that are unseen over the things that are seen, the things that are not yet over the things that are visible? It’s a profound risk. So here, effectively, when we come to know Jesus, he’s inviting us to do something profound, to take all that we are and have, and to push that into the center of the table and say, it’s yours.

And you well know that when we’re told to worship God by giving this offering of ourselves, in Romans chapter 12—you recall the text where Paul says in this critical text, Romans 12:1 when he says, “I urge you by the brethren, by the mercies of God”—in other words, in light of all that we’ve seen in this material, especially Romans one to eight, all the reality of condemnation and then God’s solution of justification and then growth in sanctification and then glorification—in light of all this, “I urge you to present your bodies to him unreservedly as a living sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

One of the rare times it’s used in the New Testament, the word “worship”—and it’s interesting that worship in this context has to do with that radical giving over—because you know this is true. You are a living sacrifice. Therefore, a living sacrifice can crawl off the altar, and so it has to go back on the altar. And one of the things I try to do every morning, then, is to slowly work my way through the Lord’s Prayer because it’s basically the dethronement of self and the enthronement of Christ at the end. Because you realize that he’s saying “our Father in heaven”— what did he say?—“Hallowed be your name.” So consider this idea, then. So, we’re looking at now the name of God, hallowed be your name, not my reputation. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” What happens there? In other words, it’s not about my reputation, about my little fiefdom, my realm of authority, nor is it about my will. But instead, it’s about You.

And if I were to summarize the whole Bible in one sentence, I always say it could be something like this: God is saying to us, “I’m God, and you’re not.” We often forget this. So, each day you need to enthrone Him and “to present your bodies a holy and living sacrifice, which is acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” And that is then why he goes on to add this, this truth that [you] be transformed, don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed; don’t be conformed to this world, but instead be conformed to Christ.

If I were to summarize the whole Bible in one sentence, I always say it could be something like this: God is saying to us, “I’m God, and you’re not.” We often forget this. So, each day you need to enthrone Him.

How are you conformed to Christ? “By being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Because the reality is that your mind will really receive its signals from one source or the other. And the default, as you well know is the world. Do nothing, and the world will tell you what to pursue, what to go for. And often I find that people who are followers of Jesus sort of put a kind of spiritual patina, or veneer, on the world’s agenda to make it somehow acceptable. But at the end we have to decide, “Am I going to let the world define me or am I going to get let the Word define me?” And a phrase I like to use is this: the world will define you by default. Do nothing and it’ll tell you what to go for. But the Word will only define you by discipline.

And thereby it requires that you show up and renew your mind and perspective because you need to have an eternal perspective in this temporal arena. So, when we consider that idea, then, of how we then build truth into people, we’re looking at this idea of eternal perspective. I’ve been working on an eternal perspective trilogy and it relates to this matter of risk taking. And I realized, you know—first of all I wrote a book called Rewriting Your Broken Story. And it was a power of an eternal perspective that came out a couple of years ago and we talked about here. And the whole idea is, how do you fix a broken story? The only way you can do that is to embed your story in the greatest story ever told. Because we live in a divine comedy. It’s comedy because it’s going to end well.

All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things will be well. And given that, then, there will be “no more death, no sorrow, no pain, no suffering; the former things are going to pass away. Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4–5). If that’s true, then, the question then is “How do we build that eternal perspective?” Because there’s a power of having an eternal perspective, and without that, you won’t be able to take these kinds of risks that we’re describing and investing in those things which will endure. So with this power of an eternal perspective—then the second book was Life in the Presence of God. And these were practices for living in light of eternity. And how do you then cultivate, build into yourself these eternal points of view? And it’s not by trying, but by training. It’s not a matter of time, but of intentionality. And it turns out that you are able to put the two worlds together. It’s absolutely remarkable to me that we’re capable of doing so.

That brings to mind one of my favorite poems by my favorite poet, George Herbert, who lived only 39 years and died of tuberculosis—no one knew that he was even writing these poems. Remarkable. And he says, “my thoughts and words do both express this notion.”1 You see Colossians 3:3, “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” That’s what this is about. And he says, “my words and thoughts do both express this notion / that life has with the sun a double motion.” That is to say, a double motion, sometimes it’s visible; sometimes it’s invisible. “The first is straight and our diurnal friend.” That means “daily.” “Our Diurnal friend” means it’s our daily friend, and so it’s this double motion, our diurnal friend.

But then he goes on to say, “the other hid and doth obliquely bend.” What is oblique? It’s like that. It’s at an angle. It’s not immediate. It’s not apparent. It’s not evident at first, and so he says, “one life is wrapped in flesh and tends to earth.” In other words, part of us is this: you are unique. You, unlike the animals, have a spirit. Unlike the angels, you are embodied, and the most marvelous thing is that this Logos, the second person of the divine Trinity who spoke all things into being. “Nothing has come into being the apart from him that has come into being” (John 1:3) And then it tells us the astonishing truth that the one who made matter, energy, space, and time now took on human flesh and became one with us.

So, with undiminished deity, he takes on full humanity. As the God-man, then, he is also an amphibious being. That concept boggles my mind, but he goes on to say, “one winds toward Him.” So, one’s pulled down, and the other looks up. And he says, “whose happy birth”—the new birth—“taught me to live” in this world, in such a manner “that still one eye / should aim and shoot at that which is on high, / quitting with daily Labor, all my [pleasure] / to gain at harvest an eternal treasure. And so “my life is hidden with Christ in God” and it’s there. It’s there, but you can’t quite see it. And here’s what the poem does there. Now you see the trick. You couldn’t see that. And you can see in the poem, “my life is hid in him that is my treasure.” Clever stuff. I love things like that.

The reality is you’re like that. What people see is this. But what God sees is that, and what you need to cultivate is that perspective. Without that perspective, you will not be able to do biblical risk-taking. You will not be able to be a person who can take those risks and to treasure the eternal as it is because, you see, the wisest thing you can do is to treat things according to their true value, and the most foolish thing you can do Jesus talks about in our text, going back to what we were looking at in Luke, going back to Luke chapter 16 again, he draws another interesting application. And what we have here is the rich man and Lazarus and so forth.

But he says, “you are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your heart.”—and this is the key verse; this is so convicting, or it ought to be—“that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). If you want to be wise, you will understand this and grow in this apprehension that the thing that people are giving their lives in exchange for—because you can’t help it, you will give your life in exchange for something—but if you pursue those things that are esteemed by people, then, at the end of the day, it’s detestable in the sight of God. So the risk that we’re involved in is to encourage ourselves and others to invest in those things which will last forever.

So I consider also, then, another risk-taking proposition. I bring you here to Matthew chapter 25, and here we have the parable of the talents. You all know it, but just to remind something to you about risk taking. So you know that he entrusts his possessions: one gets five talents, another two, and another one. And notice it said it “to each according to his ability.” And so, given that, then, he went on a journey immediately. The one who received the five talents went and traded with them and gained five more in the same manner. The one who had received the two gained two more, but he who received the one, what did he do? He said, “I’m going to take a risk avoidance strategy. I’m not going to take any risk in this. I’m just going to bury it,” and he hid his master’s money.

So, after a long time, he gives an account. They have to give an account. The one who received the five talents came up and brought five more. “You entrusted five talents to me. See, I’ve gained five more.” And what does the master say? “Well done, good and faithful servant, or slave. You were faithful with a few things. I’ll put you in charge of many. Enter into the joy of your master.” In my view, those are the greatest words you can ever possibly hear. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” The most awful words are also going to be uttered by Jesus. “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” Everything hinges on this, treasuring things according to their true value. And so the second one, then, he entrusted two; his master said, “Well done. You were faithful in a few. I’ll put you in charge of many; enter into the joy of your master.” It’s a similar thing.

Indeed, the issue of reward is not how much time you have, how much talent you have, and how much treasure you have. It’s not that. The real divine equalizer is what did you do with what you were given. So remember, I said each one according to his ability. So, therefore, God has entrusted us with things, and some of us have been given more time, some more abilities, some more of this world’s possessions. The issue is not how much you have, but as you well know, what do you do? How do you leverage? What do you do with that? And I call that the “divine equalizer” because, effectively, a person, say, who is born in abject poverty in the global south, let’s say, and who lives only a brief life, maybe 20 years or less, and third, who does not have much by way of ability, evident talent. I submit to you that at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ, that person could be rewarded as much as Saint Paul because it’s a question of what he did.

Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven is based upon faithfulness to the responsibility you were given, to the opportunity that you were given. And so, this is to me a very critical notion. But then the one who received the one: “I knew you’d be a hard man, so I was afraid I went and so I hid it.” And Jesus now praises the risk that was involved in multiplying the wealth, and he then repudiates the risk-avoidance in that manner. And I’m submitting to you that the concept here is if you are really pursuing the things that matter, treat the temporal as if it’s temporal, the eternal as if it’s eternal, what would be the wisest thing—take the risk of pursuing that which is unseen and not yet over that which is visible. And the only way I can do that is to grow in intimacy with Christ and to trust him that he again knows what my best interests look like and he is going to reward that which I’ve given to him.

So in that context, then, you see this whole concept of understanding what life is about. Because otherwise people will continually turn to the wrong things to get their needs met. They’ll look for security, and people will let them down and you’ll let them down. They’ll look for significance in their possessions and that will not suffice, never satisfies. They look for satisfaction and position and performance. And again, the only way to find true security is by being, in fact, beloved of the Father as a child of the living God. True significance is found as being a member of the body of Christ, and true satisfaction is being gifted by the Holy Spirit to accomplish something that will last forever. That is what life is about. So, to change our perspective, then, is really our great and high and holy calling.

True significance is found as being a member of the body of Christ, and true satisfaction is being gifted by the Holy Spirit to accomplish something that will last forever.

It comes down to this idea—going back to the book series and I was talking about here. I have a little guide that’s on the table over there and on the resource table and have a little card in case you want any more information and other things for resources right over there—But a Guide to Practicing God’s Presence: I’m a big believer in that, and I’ve told you this last year, those of you who were here with me. And that’s the idea of actually believing that you can actually become aware of His presence in so many ways. It’s not a matter of just studying the Bible in the morning or whatever. What do you do the rest of the day? Aren’t we told to love the Lord our God and our neighbor? That’s not something you just do in the morning or the afternoon. You do it all day long.

It says “rejoice always. Pray without ceasing in everything. Give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). It strikes me as being something ongoing to abide in Christ. You just do that in the afternoon? To “walk by the spirit” (Galatians 5:16). “Keep in step with the spirit” (Galatians 5:25). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

I believe the church has actually hurt itself by buying a false perspective on our role in this world, that he invites us to see that the true norm is that, not the exception. In fact, all the exercises in that book are summarized in a little app that we’ve just created called “presence.” 2 And if you just go search “Walk with God” in the app store, type in “presence” and “walk,” you’ll find it. It has 144 exercises, and you can tell it to remind you and you can work with those exercises and a variety of methods, and you’ll find that some things work, some don’t, that’s fine. But I’m a big believer in helping people discover how they can actually pursue and move into that joy of the master’s life.

The third one’s coming out this October. It’s called Shaped by Suffering. So, the Guide to Practicing God’s Presence is a supplement and it modifies this book here. So, if we see it from that point of view, then, this really modifies that. So the trilogy really is this—and I love the title that IVP came up with. I thought I had a dandy title; they came with a better one—Shaped by Suffering: How Temporary Hardships Prepare Us for Our Eternal Home.

Because the reality is that you are shaped by adversity and that God actually uses these things to develop and forge Christlike character in us in a way that nothing else could possibly really do. So, this whole idea, then, of we being in a soul-forming planet—we are in this world for a brief time, and if we’re wise, if we’re prudent, if we’re discerning, we’ll treat things according to their true value and leverage, take the risk of pursuing.

I find that fascinating, by the way, that Christian foundations, it’s much harder to get them, for example, to support this than it is to get them to do bricks and mortar. Isn’t that interesting? The Great Commission is to not build buildings or to make converts, but to make disciples. But if you have a proposition, a proposal to a foundation, they may give a little bit of money, but the big money goes to education, it goes to church, to big buildings, it goes to institutions. And I’m not against those things, but at the end of the day He didn’t tell us to do those things primarily. They may be ancillary vehicles to get there, but at the end, making disciples is the great command. And you know very well that the three participles: going—because it could be translated “–ing” because it’s a participle, not a command; baptizing; and teaching. They all modify this great command to make disciples, and I find it absolutely fascinating that even Christian foundations aren’t getting it. Because why? I believe we’re wired to count, control, compare, compete, quantify. Because we don’t want to live with ambiguity because it takes some measure of risk to live with ambiguity. Well, I’ll stop there and see what questions you have. I decided to give you a little extra time for questions.

He’s asking what’s the most important book that I’ve written. I would say—I always say—Conformed to His Image but it’s a big, big textbook. I have a smaller version of that, and we have some on the table, but the key to that, it’s like drinking syrup, so just read it slowly. Maybe two pages a day is enough, and look up the Bible passages, so it just becomes like a devotional. Then you can slowly work your way through that. I also have a version of it, a leather-bound version, which is 58% of the content, and that’s accessible, called Handbook to Spiritual Growth. It’s available on the website and I’ll call that to your attention as well.

Rob was mentioning this, that we have this series that we’ve just posted, Biblical Economics and Finance part one, “An Introduction to Wealth,” and then it goes on to do two. And then we go from there, and we have eight articles in this thing. So, part two would be “Finance, God, and Economics.” The one that’s the most fun, you’ll like, is this one here, the eighth article, where we just discuss theories that drive economics—the Keynesian and the classical main schools of economics and so forth. Just what you wanted to know, but I mention that because these resources are there, and you could get the Handbook to Spiritual Growth if you want. I suppose that’s the one. It’s kind of my story. And it looks at the gem of spiritual formation, which has multiple facets, and no one encompasses it all. So, we’re going to be doing a revised edition of that. But I think that’d be the one I’d recommend.

Another question: “What would you say are the greatest risks and challenges to the church today as well as the greatest opportunities?” One of the things that I find fascinating is when we consider this whole idea of what the church is against, it’s the culture, the great challenge of the culture, and few people really grasp and have an understanding of where the culture is. So, against my desire, I’m going to be doing a series on culture. I want to describe it.

How did we get where we are from a Greco Roman world and then it’s being changed and modified by a Judeo-Christian perspective and moving up to the present day and through the process of the so-called Enlightenment? (I always call it that because it was an endarkenment). And then we moved away from a theistic consensus and then we went through that and through a transitional worldview known as deism because it would be too much cognitive dissonance to go from theism to basically atheism. So this is our transitional modality, and now we discover that modernity is actually corroded in the acids of its own assumptions and is utterly unlivable and that leads to post-modernity.

And so, another question that we have in our time is looking at our culture and realizing that we have now in this world a movement to the idea of skepticism, that nobody can know what’s true, good, and beautiful. The transcendentals are effectively lost and no longer is there any external authority. But instead it is the autonomy of the subjective self that defines that. How is that working for you? But they suppose they are the masters of their soul. Think again! Because they pick up their hints from the memes provided by social media and entertainment, and they think they’re being an original. And they’re part of the mooing herd. At the end of the day, it’s not a pretty picture. And I have to explain this well, why it’s moved from being linear to exponential and then where’s it going to go.

So, the issue, I’m afraid to say that, but it’s true, that churches that were formerly really strong in the Word are beginning to get a little loosey-goosey about the authority and inspiration of Scripture. Why is that? Because it goes against the culture. Last time I checked, the Scripture always was countercultural, and so suddenly now they’re caving in to this agenda and at the end of the day they lose their authority and therefore their credibility. So, I want to process what that looks like and so we’re going to be doing, I’m going to do a series on that as well.

Back in 2005, I did a presentation called the “Decline of Nations” where I did 10 points of comparison between Rome before its fall and the United States. And it was depressing. Then I claimed at that point we’ve already gone beyond the tipping point. If that was bad, what do you think it is like now? Because I was looking at metrics, for example, government debt, economics; I was looking at education, entertainment and so forth. Good grief. I don’t want to do this, but I have no choice. Gosh, it was only 9 trillion of government debt in 2005—[now] 20 trillion and going. It’s astonishing! And look at entertainment and morality and education and you begin to realize this is not a pretty picture.

It’s an accelerating process, and then how do I recognize, then, where we truly were in Babylon—You see, you understand you’re not in Jerusalem anymore. There are little pockets here in more conservative communities, but it’s essentially, how do you become a Daniel? How do you become a person who flourishes and is fruitful in Babylon. And how does the church then adapt and become what it ought to have always been—a compelling, attractive, enticing, winsome group, rather than being known by what they hate? They should be known by what they love. And the mistake we often make is trying to avoid what we don’t want rather than pursuing what we do want. So, this has huge implications for culture. So, the culture is the biggest challenge and it’s no surprise there, but it’s accelerating. It’s not linear anymore. It’s exponential. And the implications are quite profound indeed and it would go on and on with that one.

What’s another question? I can’t see the hands very well. Let me see. Right in the middle. Okay, great. Go ahead. “They said that Jesus would have been a socialist.” Socialism essentially is based upon a naïve view of human nature, a naïve anthropology . It supposes that, wouldn’t it be nice if everybody had equal distribution? Try that out for 36 hours. We’re in a game of monopoly, you see? And so, everything goes back in the box and everyone gets back at GO when they have their $1,700, and they’re going to go around again. I would say within maybe 36 hours, maybe even a little bit more, it’ll be pretty close to where it is now again. It’s naïve, hopelessly naïve, the notion that everybody will now share alike and so forth. And how does that work in the countries where people exercise that? Last time I checked, not so well when I think of Russia and when I think of China and other socialist enterprises which led more and more away from freedom.

I think really a true culture needs to be built upon three things. And Os Guinness was right in the Free [People’s] Suicide when he talked about the concept that there needs to be a morality, but the only way you’re going to have a moral virtue, a virtuous understanding, that is to say, is for there to be faith. So, faith produces then virtue and virtue is the basis for a democracy. And as you know, Alexis de Tocqueville said, democracy is an unstable compound and will only last as long as there’s a virtuous culture. And that virtuous culture has long since been lost. And with the loss of that there’s a growing loss of freedom in America; as a consequence of that, religious freedom, which is continually being hammered at; and with the loss of religious freedom, of course, freedom is the basis for virtue. So, it’s not a pretty picture. I don’t wring my hands in despair. Last time I checked, Jesus said that “you should expect this in the days before I come.” I’m a pessimistic optimist.

It’s going to get worse, a lot worse, but it’s going to end well. That’s how I see it. So instead of wringing, wringing my hands in despair, I say, how can we leverage technology? How can we leverage the things that are now available that were never before available? In fact, I’ve just formed a new company called Omnibus Media Ministries and it’s basically discipleship in a digital age. I’m a big believer in leveraging the good things that we have. Oh, it’s not neutral, surely, but you can use it. And leverage it for good. This is my point. So, it’s a huge discussion.

We have just a few more minutes. We can get a couple more. Yes, I see it. Living with an Eternal Perspective. And then the other one is Perspectives on Prayer and you can get those for free downloads on the website. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for that. I’ll pay you later.

This parable of the talents, is not a socialist parable, and indeed when you consider this, there are some who, in fact, did give money away. And remember in the church, in the early days of the church, there was that and you had, then, the violation of that with the whole idea of Ananias and Sapphira and so forth. But yet you realize this notion is not going to work. It’s not really warranted by that. A biblical view of human nature should cause you to realize that people are not going to the idealistic people that that requires. You see, if you’re a humanist, if you are an atheist, if you a naturalist, you still have to believe that people are basically good. Because if you didn’t do that, you’d go into paroxysms of despair. But yet people aren’t basically good.

So if I go to Mark chapter seven, I find it very interesting because he says, “that which proceeds out of the man is what defiles him. From within out of the heart of men proceeds the evil thoughts, fornication, thefts, murders, adulteries.” How are we doing on that? Well, some of these are pretty bad things and we’re not doing that. Hey, I’m not a thief. I’m not a murderer. Oh, you never sold something in your life and you never hated your brother? “Deeds of coveting and wickedness, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” We’re all nailed. And where does it come from? The heart of man. So, the only hope we have is a heart transplant. Otherwise you are hopelessly naïve. When I was a hippie in Berkeley, California in the summer of love, 1967, the one thing I didn’t get into—I was full blown except for this one thing—even then I knew that the politics were hopelessly naive. What if somebody threw a war and nobody came—come on, I couldn’t go to those rallies.

“What is our role in light of this culture?” And some people are plumping for the Benedict Option and that idea, and there are some adaptations of that that could at least be considered because the idea here is that you need to form, in some respects, some kind of an alternative polis, a city, its own community whereby people will then support and thrive in a corporate context, not communism or that, but rather a corporate context in which a person who perhaps loses his or her job because of their convictions, because they don’t sign this thing that goes against their conscience. Well, in that context then, as you well know, we come to faith as individuals, but we grow in community and it requires then the Ecclesia, the church so that being known by what we love, not what we hate, how they’re known, for how they love one another, to me is a critical component. I know it’s a big question and a good one. I can’t do it full justice. I’m going to give you one more question and then we have to quit.

Well, it’s been my pleasure to be with you, and I pray that the Lord would bless you and enrich you and give you a spirit of wisdom and of understanding and of revelation and knowledge of him. My prayer for you is that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened so that you would know what is the hope of his calling. What are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. Amen.

Listen to Ken’s other talk at the 2019 Kingdom Advisors Conference:

“The Theological Framework for Faith-based Investing”


  1. George Herbert, “Colossians 3:3.” There are words hidden in the poem that, when bolded, read “my life is hid in him that is my treasure,” with one word in each line of the poem progressing in a diagonal line.
  2. The name of the app is “Presence: Walk with God.”