What Is Your Legacy?

What Is Your Legacy?

Every month, I am involved in a Kingdom Advisors Study Group and January’s focus is on legacy.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

J.W. Whitehead from Exploring Stewardship section of The Stewardship Study Bible

Did you know that there are three kinds of legacy!

1. The Legacy We Received

Father’s Day 2006 with my Grandfather, Arch Woodworth

When considering the legacy I received, my thoughts immediately went to my grandfather, Arch Woodworth, who has been described as “a good man.” He was consistent in his work, loved his Lord and maybe without realizing it, was an example to me. I remember as a child seeing him stand in church and quote: “Be not weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not.” He lived that verse; it was part of the fabric of who he was.

As a financial advisor, when I was asked about my family background (particularly when doing business on the Baie Verte peninsula), I would often share who my grandfather was and that he had worked in Advocate mines. When they knew whose grandson I was, it created an immediate connection of trust because of him. That’s part of the legacy I received.

2. The Legacy We Leave

As we age, we think more deeply about the legacy we will leave. What will our children and grandchildren receive from us? A similar word for legacy is inheritance, which is what you receive from another person, usually through a legal document, like a will. We can leave a financial legacy which can be valued by our heirs, but Ron Blue says, it is important to transfer wisdom before you transfer wealth. In his book, Splitting Heirs, Ron warns;

The worst thing you can do is to pass wealth if you haven’t passed wisdom. Good stewardship includes not only providing for your family, but also being sure that every family knows how to manage that provision.

Ron Blue, Splitting Heirs, p.71

3. The Legacy We Live

This may be the most challenging, but because you are reading this today, it means that you still have an opportunity to live out your legacy. One activity we did with our adult children was to ask them to think of 5 words that would describe our values as a family. This provided a significant opportunity for conversation and helped reveal what we have lived as parents. Words such as compassion, respect, delight, authenticity, and fun-loving were some of the values shared.

Surprisingly, all of the kids chose one word in common and that was “generosity.” You may have heard the phrase, “sometimes things are more often caught than taught.” That was the case here because even though mine and Cathy’s lists did not include that word, our children had seen it lived out. That’s when your values actually become virtues.

We may hold generosity as a value, but the virtue is behaving generously. Alignment occurs when we transform our values into virtues. Simply identifying our primary values is not sufficient. The next step is to define more precisely how we intend to embody the values in our daily lives – regardless of external pressures.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, The Power of Full Engagement

Take the time to ponder the questions in these four areas of legacy as you pass on the wisdom you have acquired in life.

1. Personal Legacy Question:

What will you be remembered for? You will leave a legacy whether it is by design or by default.

2. Family Legacy Questions:

Are you intentional to build into, or live out the values that represent your family? Have you discussed your family values and codified your family vision/mission statement?

3. Financial Legacy Questions:

Considering your financial legacy, what do you hope your inheritance will accomplish in the lives of your heirs? How prepared are your children to receive an inheritance?

4. Charitable Legacy Questions:

What are your current giving practices? If you are leaving money to charity, are your children the ones to give it away and are they trained and prepared for such a task?

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 NLT

Happy New Year – A Choice or a Greeting

As we enter a new year, we tend to greet each other with the term, “Happy New Year” but I have been wondering if these words are better suited as a choice rather than a greeting. After all, we cannot control what will happen in the coming year.

The sad reality is that we may face difficult circumstances in 2022 that will bring grief rather than happiness. One Kingdom Advisor in NB shared with me during the holiday season that his wife’s cancer has returned; the news from the doctor is anything but positive and he is afraid he may lose the love of his life at some point this year.

Another advisor in AB suffered a brain bleed and was rushed to hospital just before Christmas. She posted this on Christmas Eve:

“I have a new joy. I have life. Dec 13th about 9:15, I had a headache like I have never experienced.

I knew I was in trouble almost immediately. As I crawled the hallway, the prompting, tell the 911 operator the door code. They can get you. Just rest now. I felt the Angels with me. They kept me safe and my heart at peace.

Since then, I have been told I am of the most unlikely to have survived this. Only 25% survive. 1 in 5 have no known cause and that is me.

I am so ready to count my blessings, treasure my loved ones and many dear friends, and to help those I have been entrusted to work with after a little time to fully heal.

Beyond blessed, beyond grateful, and weeping again.

On Boxing Day she posted some “post event observations” …

“In life there will be times we disagree with each other. Sadly this often leaves a broken relationship even amongst people that dearly loved one another. One of the many blessings to come of this medical event is healing in some of these breaks. It’s made it worth going through! It’s been a life changing time but for the better.

It seems that the events of our lives, no matter how challenging, are really meant to be opportunities, even though it may be difficult to see it that way at the time.

When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

James 1:2-4 (NLT)

Jesus himself gave us the ultimate example of endurance: “in view of the joy lying before Him endured the cross …” (Hebrews 12:2 Berean Literal Bible). We have to determine our difficulties to be an opportunity for joy. Therefore, “Happy New Year” is not merely a greeting, but a choice we make in life.

Make 2022 your best year ever. Life is so very worth the living.

A Child is Born!

A Child is Born!

Christmas Day, December 25th has become a day focused on gift-giving and receiving. On Christmas Day 2019, our granddaughter, Eleanor was born which has changed Christmas Day for our family into her birthday celebration.

Queen Elizabeth said it well in her Christmas message:

In the birth of a child there is a new dawn with endless potential.

Queen Elizabeth, Dec. 25, 2021

When a child (or grandchild) is born, it brings about significant change in the family dynamic. You become more centred on someone new rather than on yourself. Before children (35 years ago), we were newly-weds and the focus was on each other as a young married couple. We were transformed into parents and the years since brought further transformation – We became grand-parents! Christmas Day 2021 was delayed until Boxing Day because our focus intentionally shifted.

Photo taken on Dec. 27, 2019

The process of transformation often involves painful experiences. Here is how the Apostle Paul described it:

I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.

Galatians 4:19 (NLT)

While we celebrate Christ being born on a specific day, we have continued the celebrations from a single day to a full season. Paul said he was experiencing labour pains which “will continue until Christ is fully developed.” It is not just the experience of Christ being made alive in our hearts but also that He continues to develop in our lives. Children grow and parents grow with them so each can be brought to maturity and that is the journey of life.

When I think about Christmas, it’s about a child being born but also about that child becoming “fully developed in our lives.” What this means is the focus of life and yes, even our business, is changed forever so that Christ becomes the centre.

There is much in our world that draws our attention away from what is truly important. Often the influences that impact our daily decisions are so subtle that we are completely unaware of them. Make no mistake the goal is to shift our focus away from what is essential. The context of Paul’s statement about labour pains is that there are competing voices that are “zealous to win you over” with the ultimate goal of distraction so that we “would pursue them” (Gal. 4:17).

There is always a competing voice – one that is louder than the whisper of truth! The truth is that we are on this earth to complete the work that was prepared for us and to bring glory to God. The louder voice calls us to focus on other things in our business like products and sales targets. While these are a necessary elements for our success in business, the focal point is to bring glory to God by completing the work given to us.

For every industry, there are “best practices” to follow to be successful. When Christ is fully developed in us, the “best practices” will naturally flow through us into our lives and businesses.

It’s quite interesting that “the glory of God” is something we have all fallen short of (Rom. 3:23) whether in life personally or in business. We have all missed opportunities but the object of our hope is the glory of God (Rom. 5:2).

So as we wrap up another Christmas and journey into 2022,

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion!!

Philippians 1:6 ESV

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

Following the US Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday comes “Black Friday” where consumers shop for great deals which is a great lead-up to the frantic shopping Christmas season. I’m sure you have received and have maybe even taken advantage of some of these deals.

The shopping frenzy typically goes through the weekend and even extends into “Cyber Monday” – more deals.

In response to all this spending comes “Giving Tuesday” which highlights the importance of not just spending our resources on ourselves or the people we love, but also on giving to those we may or may not even know.

We have to set our priorities because all of these uses for our money are calling to us everyday! Honestly, I wish “Giving Tuesday” was a week earlier, before the big sales weekend.

The sequence of these days speaks to what is priority for most. There are typically only five places that money is directed:

  1. Lifestyle – typically the top priority / when we get a raise or bonus we tend to increase our standard of living.
  2. Owe – when we are not able to pay immediately for large purchases (house or vehicle), we often borrow for it, so in essence, debt is an extension of our lifestyle.
  3. Owe – let’s not forget what else we owe – tax. Amounts for tax are deducted from our pay so the taxman makes tax our top priority since this deduction happens as we receive our pay.
  4. Grow – “Pay yourself first” is a tag line used by many financial advisors to motivate you to save for your financial future.
  5. Give – sadly, giving is often the lowest on the priority list.

Maybe it’s time we adjust our financial priorities: instead of focusing on our lifestyle first and giving out of what’s left, maybe we should adjust our priorities:

  1. Give – Let this become our top priority / When we get a raise or bonus let’s increase our standard of giving (instead of our standard of living).
  2. Owe – The bank and CRA sets this as a high priority for us anyway.
  3. Grow – The wise save for the future while the fool spends whatever is received.
  4. Live – Our lifestyle can be based on what remains which will mean some adjusting.
Rev. Billy Graham

When we set the right priorities, our spending habits and our attitude toward money will change. Billy Graham believed that our thinking toward money has a profound impact on the areas of our life.

I didn’t realize Billy Graham shared so much wisdom about how to use money:

“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.”

We would do well to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35 ESV).

During this weekend, remember your priorities! Will you give on Tuesday based on what’s left after Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Or is Giving Tuesday more of a priority?

Is Your Olympics Over?

Is Your Olympics Over?

It’s been quite interesting to watch some of the Olympics this summer and now the paralympics begin. The display of talent in the closing ceremonies and the endurance and strength in the athletes is something that comes through discipline and training. What human beings are able to accomplish is astounding.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Psalm 139:14 NLT

I am certain that not every athlete may consider a higher power when they are competing. I do find it interesting to see a photo of Canadian Andre De Grass after winning the gold in the men’s 200m; he is on one knee, looking and pointing up. It reminded me of a blog I wrote about olympic medalist, Eric Liddell.

Eric Liddell was a devout Christian and missionary to China, who felt it a priority to run in the Olympic games. His sister felt that his training for the 1924 Olympics deterred him from returning to China. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We usually would not class running or involvement in a sporting activity as spiritual, or God-honouring, but more a physical activity. For Liddell, running wasn’t just a fun activity but a God-honouring one.

Word4Now Blog – June 2017

The Bible describes our bodies as temples and indicates that there is a greater purpose in everything we do, maybe even greater than we realize.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Paul, 1 Cor. 6:20 ESV

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord, and not for men.

Paul, Col. 3:23 HCSB

The Apostle Paul made many references to sport like “running in a race” with the goal to “get the prize” and also referenced boxing and wrestling in his writings. This got me to wondering if he might have attended the Olympics. In my search I found this article titled: The Historical Background of Paul’s Athletic Allusions by Jerry M Hullinger which states:

The chief athletic contest in Greece was the Olympic games. Founded in 776 B.C., these games were held every four years.

Many other athletic contests were spawned from the Olympics and there was one held in Corinth. The Isthmian Games form the backdrop for 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Paul probably was in Corinth when the games of A.D. 49 or 51 were held. A further reason that lends weight to the idea that Paul attended these games is his profession as a tentmaker. At such occasions, large numbers of tents would be needed to provide shelter for the crowds of visitors …

Even if Paul were not, technically speaking, a tentmaker but rather a leatherworker, this would not have precluded his making or repairing tents or shelters.

It’s quite fascinating to think that Paul’s writings were influenced by these competitions because he was likely an eyewitness to many of these events.

24Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Paul, 1 Cor. 9:24-27 NLT

Some lessons Paul shared from these games:

  • Bring glory to God by using one’s strength and talent, not only in sport, but also in life’s work.
  • Apply the same sort of discipline and training in life as those in sport in order to obtain a crown (earned in the ancient games) or a medal in our modern day Olympics
  • To know your purpose you need to look up (beyond the sun).

Sometimes it’s easy to think that what we do on this earth lacks meaning and purpose and finding fulfilment can be exasperating. There is even a book in the Bible dedicated to “the Futility of All Endeavour” (Ecclesiates).

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Solomon, Eccl. 1:14 NIV

It is natural to only look “under the sun” to discover our purpose. I recently read that the way to discover meaning is to look beyond the sun, into the heavenliness. That’s why Paul encouraged us “to work for the Lord” (rather than men) and this is to “win a prize that will not fade away.” Through the games, Paul was reminding us that our focus can so easily be on the wrong prize.

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 9:25 that the reason he exerted him­self in his ministry was so that he would obtain an incorruptible crown (στέφανος; cf. 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8).

Jerry M Hullinger, The Historical Background of Paul’s Athletic Allusions.

Paul’s references to the believer’s prize seem to be related to conflict in the spiritual life, a prize that can be won only if one throws himself and his resources entirely into the struggle.

Ethelbert Stauffer, “βραβεύω? in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
vol. 1 (1964), 638; and Smith, “Games,” 2:1173.

What a powerful statement: the prize can only be won by a complete investment of oneself and the resources that have been entrusted to our care. Are we putting all our energy and resources into what we have been called to do? Are we looking beyond the sun daily in order to walk in the work that God has prepared (in advance) for us to do (see Eph 2:10)?

Possessing this crown signified spiritual, emotional, financial, and social benefits. Yet as Paul wrote, as grand as this earthly attainment was, it paled in significance when compared to the heavenly reward for the faithful believer (1 Cor. 9:25).

Jerry M Hullinger, The Historical Background of Paul’s Athletic Allusions.

Any recognition or reward for our efforts and accomplishments in the industry that we work in or sport in which we compete, will pale in comparison to the reward we can look forward to. This happens when we invest our lives with a perspective that’s beyond this world.

Just as a side note: My son, David completed some research and did a project using Legos to explore the history of the Olympics in a 7 minute video for one of his classes in university. Thought you might find it interesting.

Not Just a 100 km Ride

Not Just a 100 km Ride

July 24th was special in 2021, not because I went on a 100 kilometre bike ride, but because of “why” I did that bike ride. It was a “Ride to Thrive” in order to raise funds for International Missions. For my ride, I was so thankful to have friends and family who donated from BC, AB, ON, QC & NL.

On the Quebec side with Parliament Hill in the background

It helped me realize that there are all sorts of ways to give. The riders all gave their time and energy to ride for almost 4 hours. Volunteers gave their time to meet us at the halfway point and provide us with drinks to fuel us for the last half of the ride. They also volunteered to do a BBQ for us hungry riders at the end. Then there are others, like some reading this post, who chose to support financially. We all contributed to a great cause.

I have been cycling now for 15 years and I have learned a few things when riding:

1) It’s easier to ride when you have someone directly in front of you and

2) Stay as close as possible to the back wheel of those riders.

There’s a great life lesson here: stay close and ride with someone on this journey of life.

This reminded me of when I did the cycling portion of the Iron Man triathlon in Corner Brook back in July 2008. (My average speed for that race was 29.8 kph). The difference in that race and this ride is that the triathlon was an individual race. You had to keep your distance from the rider in front of you or pass that rider; you could not ride in another’s slip stream. That was not the case in our Ride to Thrive journey. It was a joy to be able to take advantage of someone else’s strength, even when your own strength is wavering.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25 ESV

The cycling journey exemplifies this truth. The energy you gain by being close to someone else is more valuable than you realize. You can go at a faster pace for a longer time than you can on your own. “In step with the Spirit” means you get the advantage of the Spirit’s activity in your life and you can go further and accomplish more than you ever can on your own. If however, you are out of step, the effort becomes more of your own and you end up accomplishing a whole lot less than you might desire.

Notice the distance gap between the front 3 riders

Ottawa is friendly to cyclists and the McDonald Parkway is closed to traffic on Saturday’s and Sunday’s during the summer to give bikers the road. On the ride back, I watched two of the stronger riders in our group begin to accelerate and I realized quickly that I needed to get on the wheel of the second rider or I would be gapped and left behind. The speed began to increase from 32 kph to 36, to 40, then 42 until we had to slow for a stop light. It felt good to exert that energy and keep pace with those riders (believe me, I was not always able to do that).

If you are not attentive on a ride, these gaps can form and you can be distanced. That happened at one point with Murray Cornelius, the Executive Director for Missions with the PAOC and ride organizer. He shared with me after that he was able to catch us, but was not able to maintain the speed because he had exerted so much energy to reach us. He did keep up with us for the rest of the ride but for that short time, he ended up being gapped.

I’m reminded of this verse:

I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running (cycling) and struggling to take hold of the prize.

Philippians 3:12 Contemporary English Version

Keeping attentive to the working of the Spirit will ensure that we are not gapped. Even Christ Himself, while on this earth, kept a-tune to the will of His Father. We can know how the Spirit is directing us day-by-day and feel the strength of being in His slip-stream.

Just like in 2008, I finished the course completing the 100 km ride. Thanks again for all those who donated.

Recorded July 24, 2021 – Gloucester, Ontario

A Pastor’s Legacy

A Pastor’s Legacy

It’s been a month now since the tragic accident and loss of Ralph Benson. Today, June 10th is Ralph’s birthday. Despite not being that close, I have thought of him, the church he pastored and his family every day since receiving the shocking news of his sudden passing. I’ve been considering the legacy he has left his congregation and family.

Some of his own words that were shared at his funeral made me realize just how significant an impact he had. What he told his grandchildren is deeply insightful: “Poppy is never going to die.” What a counter-cultural thing to say. Thousands watched his funeral while his family and church had to come to grips with the immense loss. There seems to be a clear contradiction here between what he told his grandchildren and what happened on May 9, 2021. We all need to understand this more clearly.

Do you Really Believe John 3:16?

The most recognized verse in the Bible reveals significant truth that is so easy to overlook.

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 NLT

Will not perish” – that’s the truth Ralph told his grandchildren, but the fact of his death has been established. So how are we to reconcile the fact of death and the truth that he would “not perish?” Many believers understand that you have to die (this life must end) and then your eternal life begins. Or is life a continuation and we simply transition from life on earth to life in eternity? The real question is when do we receive eternal life – when we believe on Christ, or when we die physically? Our perspective is more important than we might realize. It is pretty clear from Ralph’s words to his grandchildren that he had already received eternal life and death was not part of his future. Ralph lived most of his life based on a biblical worldview and had received eternal life in his twenties.

June 10, 2020

Think about birth for a moment. You had life in the womb months before your date of birth and after your birth, life continued in a different realm outside the womb. I believe Ralph understood that his death would be similar in some fashion to his birth – death was not the end of his life but rather, like another birth into a different realm. Ralph revealed his eternal perspective when he said “Poppy is never going to die.” Let’s face it, most Christians don’t speak with an eternal perspective like he did. Most would say something like, “Poppy is going to die, but then he is going to heaven.” This statement is a half-truth and has some sense of eternity but contradicts the words of John 3:16 (shall not perish). We have eternal life now and we are not going to die – we are simply being birthed into a new realm.

Is your Tombstone Accurate?

Think about it for a moment: a tombstone records the date of your birth into this world and your exit from this world (for Ralph Benson June10, 1955 – May 9, 2021). The truth is that you existed before your date of birth and your belief in Christ means you continue to exist after your date of death (based on John 3:16). Having an eternal perspective matters and how we communicate this is more significant than we realize. Ralph communicated an eternal perspective to his grandchildren because he was a steward of eternal truth. We are all called to be stewards of truth!

We are called to live as citizens of heaven!

Here’s what Jesus said in the parable he told about the unrighteous steward:

The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

Luke 16:8-9 NLT

If you read the complete parable, this manager is being fired because he did not steward well what was given to him to manage. Since he is losing his job as steward (like when our life on earth comes to a close), with his time remaining, he quickly decides to use the relationships that he has for his own interest by making deals that favour the people owing the master. He reduces the amount each of them owe which serves to secure his own future. They would treat him favourably by “welcoming him into their homes.” The shock of the parable is the master praises this steward even when he comes to understand that he will now receive less from these people. Why?

It is important to note that “the actions of the steward are not upheld as models in the parable.” He acted with his own self-interest in mind and is still referred to as “the unrighteous manager” yet he is “more shrewd than the children of light.” This explains why he was praised: he acted according to his worldview. We are citizens of heaven and therefore, should live with an eternal perspective in view, but we often communicate only as citizens of the earth. Ralph communicated a biblical worldview by telling his grandchildren he would not die. At this point, it seems very confusing but he communicated the truth of John 3:16 in a way that many Christians fail to understand: Ralph Benson did not perish.

The Legacy

The legacy Ralph left is the challenge we face daily: to live as stewards of biblical truth and treat others according to this worldview! The message of this parable is encouraging us to align our speaking and our management of relationships and resources with the interest of the owner in mind. This is the task of the children of light.

The unrighteousness manager’s actions were consistent with his worldview more than the actions of most followers of Jesus are consistent with their worldview. The instruction of Jesus is “store up treasures for yourselves in heaven” and we can do this in our present day by the way we use our “worldly resources.” Let’s not limit the stewarding of our worldly resources to our finances only, but understand that how we communicate with others on a daily basis will result in praise from the Master (or not).

How are we doing at managing and communicating our biblical worldview? Have we, as children of light,” become more shrewd in the use of our worldly resources to benefit others? Are we living and communicating based on an eternal perspective?

I Remember Ralph

I Remember Ralph

The last few weeks have been very difficult for Cathy and I; we have gotten a glimpse of the “valley of the shadow of death.” Yes, death touches us all, but the closer it comes to us, the more challenging it can be. Maintaining an eternal perspective is the key when walking through these times.

First, our friend and former neighbour, Marlene Baker, lost her physical battle with cancer. When we last visited home (Newfoundland), we spent some time with Gerald and Marlene and they were actually the last two we saw because we have not been able to return due to the pandemic. It was difficult to lose such a good friend.

Speaking of the pandemic, two days after Marlene’s passing, Cathy’s first cousin, Mitch Ball, only 48, took his last breath after being on a ventilator for two weeks. I had never met Mitch but it’s a shock when someone younger than yourself loses his life without really having the ability to say good-bye to his parents, wife or children.

A week later, Cathy’s Aunt Flo, who was 88, had a heart attack but thankfully, was able to say good-bye to her family. When our kids were younger, we would visit during the summer and we have so many fond memories of her over the years.

One day after Aunt Flo’s passing, the tragic accident of our friend Ralph Benson occurred. I graduated from Bible college with Ralph in 1985 but we were more classmates than friends. Almost 10 years older than me, he was a married student living off-campus. We both went into pastoral ministry, had seen each other through the years and most recently, enjoyed a few deep conversations. I respected Ralph because I saw in him a heart after God, truly caring for people.

Ralph & Paulette at Ministry to Missionaries in 2016

Honestly, in his death, I gained more respect for my friend and his ministry. At the funeral, his son, Adam, told how his own three-year-old son asked the question, “Why did Poppy have to go to heaven?” The response provides such an eternal perspective: “Poppy’s work for God on earth is done, now Poppy’s work continues in heaven” (my paraphrase).

I appreciated hearing from Ralph’s children and in-laws. One described him by saying despite his being a pastor, “he was not a subscriber of religion.” That explains to me why he was able to accept this son-in-law into the family, who had fathered a child before meeting and marrying Ralph’s daughter. He displayed not only a father’s heart but also a pastor’s heart by welcoming not only a new son, but also a grandson. That is more of a challenge when a pastor is subscribed to religion. How many relationships have been severed or hindered because of religion?

One of the things shared at the funeral was how he accepted people even when they messed up. The words shared by Evangel’s Administrative Assistant was, “He helped me understand grace.” Ralph demonstrated the love of Christ, shared the truth of the good news, but he led with grace in order to infuse life-changing truth. Generally, the church is more known for “preaching the truth” and if you don’t line up with that truth, you are an outsider and remain that way until your behaviour lines up with that truth. When a pastor leads with grace, the church learns to accept people as they are, with all their failures and mistakes. Grace provides the time needed for the truth to penetrate lives providing the opportunity to change.

Thank you Mike Freake for sharing your heart at the celebration of Ralph’s life. He said Ralph “was stubborn about people – he gave people a chance and God did the work.” In that regard, he refused to institute policy because situations were so different. Mike, you revealed so much about his heart as he pastored Evangel in Gander for the past 19 years especially that he preached grace for the first 6-7 years!

“He wanted to rebrand the church – A heart for people.” Ralph clearly understood that the church was not meant to be only a place that believers gather to worship. “He wanted this building to be constructed not for a congregation, but he wanted this building constructed for a community.” The church building is a place of worship but this was never meant to be the limit of its work. Its energy, focus and resources are to be on meeting needs in the community: a furniture warehouse, a place to meet socially, to exercise, even to provide housing for many who may have financial difficulty. It was refreshing to hear that while believers may be gathered for worship, others are also in the building for different reasons. “Everyday of the week there are classes happening, sports, community exercise groups, people of all faiths and no faith in the building.” How cool is that? This is not a typical Sunday morning in a church building, because the church is clearly not subscribing to religion either.

Let the church be the church! If church buildings are only being used for religious activities like Sunday gatherings and mid-week prayer, are we really being the church? Our buildings should function for the community as much or more than it functions for its members.

I have to be honest, I felt a profound heaviness over Ralph’s passing; it was certainly a most unexpected death, but after watching his home-going service, my spirit was truly lifted, especially when I saw what became his favourite t-shirt – “65 and fully alive!” He explained to his grandchildren that he was never going to die! The accident on May 9th shifted Ralph from the land of the dying to the land of the living. He is now truly alive! We may feel that his work on earth is complete but I get the sense that it will continue on through countless others who have been well equipped with the same spirit that Ralph Benson possessed.

I Call Her “Mother”

I Call Her “Mother”

Everyone seems to have a special and unique attachment to their mother. I don’t typically call my parents “Mom & Dad” anymore, but when I do, it happens in that order. Since the early 80’s I began calling them, “Skipper & Mother” in that order, although I’m not certain why the order is reversed; just a fun fact.

The Coupons

When I think of “Mother,” a few things come to mind: the first being coupons. She is the coupon queen! She has always been very frugal with money and in many cases, it was out of necessity. I grew up as a PK (Pastor’s kid) and didn’t realize that we did not have much in the way of financial resources during those times, but we did have our needs met. We have often joked that she would not purchase any grocery items without a coupon to get a discount.

The Year – 1970

5th Birthday – Dec. 31, 1969
5 lifesavers on my cake!

The second thing that comes to mind is her testifying about my healing that happened when I was five years old. They pastored at Brighton, which in 1970 was a small island. One particular Sunday in April, I was very sick with what they assumed was the flu, so they went to church that night (as usual) and we three kids were at home with a baby-sitter (Lily Rice Ledrew / I like to think this experience influenced her career choice).

When they got home, I was worse and my head was all drawn back, so they realized this was more serious than they thought. It was the spring of the year when the ice was becoming dangerous to cross but there was no choice – we had to get to a doctor. I remember my parents sharing about seeing the pain on my face as the komatik (sled) went over the bumps on the snowmobile trail.

Summer of 1970 with my Aunts!

The hospital staff quickly determined that I was suffering from meningitis and immediately took action to medicate me. My parents were told the grim news, that if I survived, I would “be like a vegetable (a person with a dull or inactive life), likely not knowing them and unable to communicate.” It would take a few days for the medication to take effect, so they were advised that there was no point in returning for at least two days.

I recall how she shared about Dad going to the corner of the room and crying out to God and saying something like, “I was on that island preaching for You, declaring a message of healing – if you take my son, I can do that no longer!” As a father now, I can only imagine the anguish in the hearts of my mom and dad in those hours.

Despite the instruction from the doctor, my parents returned the next day inquiring about me. They were told that I was awake and so active that they had to strap me into the bed. (I’m guessing it was difficult to keep a 5 year old from pulling out the IV and any other monitoring devices).

Mom said when they came into the room they asked if I knew who they were and I responded, “Yes.” They gave me my Kindergarten “reader” and asked me to read. I responded with, “Run Dick, run. See Dick run.” (I still remember those Dick and Jane books). I recall none of this, but hearing Mom testify about it was such a powerful memory.

The Boat

Brother Roger (7) & me (5)

Just a few months later, I was chasing my uncle and older brother to the wharf to get aboard our parents boat. My uncle jumped onto the boat, my older brother jumped onto the boat, so I jumped too. However, with movement of the waters, the boat had moved away from the wharf at that moment, so I slipped into the water and was about to drown when someone pulled me to safety. I remember thinking as a teen that God must surely have a purpose for my life, otherwise, I would have died one of those times.

The Bible

Ten years later (1980-81), I remember standing in the front of the church sensing God’s presence so wondrously that there are no words to really express it. I recall looking under the pew that was on the platform (where Mother usually sat during the service) and there was her Bible. All I could think was “Preach the Word – in season and out of season.” That’s when I felt God’s call. During my first year of Bible College (1982), my own Bible sat open on my desk often to that passage. The words, “do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” really stood out to me.

The Preacher

Mother was quite an anointed preacher. One sermon I recall her preaching was when she compared the facts with the truth and she made a great distinction between them. She has often told the story of my healing, and I can tell you that her speaking infused faith into my heart and the hearts of the people.

Mother Preaching in 1994

She would say it something like this: “The fact is Lorne was very sick, the fact is the doctors gave no hope of a complete recovery, but the truth of God’s Word can have an impact on the facts. The facts of your situation do not change the truth of God’s Word. The truth is very different than the facts. The circumstances of your life (present facts) can change, particularly if you stand on the truth.” Wow, I have never forgotten the power of those words or the anointing on her ministry.

In a recent survey, Shaunti Feldhahn asked, “What do YOU like most about being a Mom?” Fifty-six percent responded: “Watching my children grow and the journey to becoming their own person, with their own unique, God-given personality.”

Mothers have immense influence and thanks “Mother” for the lasting impact you have had on my life!

10% or 90% – What Concerns God Most?

10% or 90% – What Concerns God Most?

In most cases when you hear a sermon on the topic of money, the message is about giving, which which tends to focus on the 10%. The tithe (10%) was part of the law in the OT, and there is even a reference to it before the law.

Probably the most quoted portion of scripture for this topic is from Malachi 3:7-10 where the instruction is clear: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse …(vs.10)” A closer examination of what comes before and after this verse reveals more than I had previously considered.

7Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.“

But you ask, ‘How can we return when we have never gone away?’

8“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “

But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.

Malachi 3:7-8 NLT

9You are suffering under a curse, yet you — the whole nation — are still robbing me. 

10Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the Lord of Armies. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure. 

11I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your land and your vine in your field will not fail to produce fruit,” says the Lord of Armies. 

12“Then all the nations will consider you fortunate, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of Armies.

Malachi 3:9-12 CSB

What Comes Before:

The context of this verse is about drifting away from God without even recognizing that we have done so. The “drift away” is demonstrated in finances. The question is posed: “Will a man rob God?” and immediately answered: “Yet you have cheated me!” Then a more specific question follows: “How have you robbed me?” We know God owns everything so if we believe this to be true, how exactly can we rob God? The answer seems clear enough: “By not making the payments of the tenth and the contributions” (Mal. 3:8 CSB). However, we need to consider more fully what is being robbed from God.

What Comes After:

What follows the return and “bringing the tithe” is the promise of

  • Heaven being opened
  • The rebuke of the devourer
  • Your fields will not fail to produce
  • Every nation will talk about how God has blessed you and about your wonderful land.

Why would these things happen? The results are directly connected to our returning to God and more importantly, His return to us. It seems our drifting away, as evidenced by our lack of giving, keeps God from returning to us. This reminds me of the parable Jesus shared about the prodigal son. The father was waiting for the son’s return and was unable to bless the son until he returned.

How We Rob God

God is describing how he desires to bless his people and is saying that his people are robbing him of that opportunity. We put the emphasis of these verses on the giving of 10% (we rob God by withholding the 10%). In fact, the robbery is actually more about the 90% (or better still, the blessing of 100%). When we give we are learning to trust God, so these verses are about the whole of our financial well-being.

Another word for rob is to defraud which means “to take something illegally from a person or to prevent someone from having something that is legally theirs by deceiving them.” Is it possible that our financial decisions are legally preventing God from opening heaven? Without the 10%, God and heaven are being hindered from acting on our behalf and therefore, God is robbed. The robbery then, is not only of the finances that we may choose to keep for ourselves (10%) but of how God might be prevented to “pour out a blessing for you without measure.”

Where Jesus focused – How did Jesus talk about money?

Jesus seems to confirm the importance of the 10% but clearly rebukes the religious leaders because they have neglected some of the more important matters of this life.

23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. 

Jesus – Matthew 23:23 CSB

Considering the matter of faithfulness and finances, it is required that a steward be found faithful in their management of all.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Paul – 2 Corinthians 4:2 NIV

Two Parables About Money

Jesus told many parables and at least a third of them involved money. Money played a significant role in the story of the prodigal son, but not 10% only. The parable that follows (in Luke 16) is the about the dishonest manager who is being fired for his mismanagement of the owner’s assets, not 10% only, but 100% of what he managed. The word “squander” is used in both these parables. The son wanted ownership so he could make his own decisions. The manager did not have ownership but was empowered to make financial decisions. Upon the shock of being fired, the realization hits the manager that the financial books are now going to be audited and he is losing his respectable job.

Maybe the foundational principle to understand is simply that we are “managers or stewards” rather than owners. We must treat everything that we receive as a sacred trust, but the sad reality is that it is far too easy to “squander” what comes into our hands (as both parables illustrate). When it comes to our finances, the starting point for the Christ-follower should be this: God owns it all.

It’s easy to focus on the 10% as an obligation, feeling guilt if we do not give to that level, rather than seeing giving as an opportunity to act in the interest of the owner of the 100% that has been entrusted to us. When we act in the interest of the owner, the owner is then positioned to act in the interest of the steward.

Here is the lesson for our lives: one day our management of the resources entrusted to us will come to an end and the books will be audited. What we do with the 10% is important but when the books are audited, it is the 100% that will be reviewed. Will we hear this statement?Well Done …

Eternal Perspective Ministries with Randy Alcorn