Can You Be Thankful for Tough Times?

Can You Be Thankful for Tough Times?

A common question during Thanksgiving is, “What are you thankful for today?” I would have to say I am thankful for the people who have come into my life, even for a brief time, to say something significant to me. It is so good to be able to revisit those monumental moments. I am, of course, grateful for the family and friends who have walked with me through many difficult, life-building experiences. In fact, I have come to realize that I am even thankful for those who have been a source of pain in my life and may have helped create some of those difficult experiences. All of them have shaped me into the person that I am today.

I remember one challenging season during my Bible College years (1982-1986) when I was desperate, ready to quit and do something else, rather than do what my heart truly desired. Thankfully, a pastor prayed with me and said I would be a “David and a Gideon.” It’s quite interesting that both of these men felt pretty insignificant (both were considered the least in their families). In May 2019, I was fortunate enough to meet that pastor again and thanked him for his words to me so many years earlier; those significant words that continued to resonate with me through some of the toughest times in my life.

As a young pastor just starting out in my career, I felt rejected by the denomination that I grew up in and where I had trained to be a minister. I was filled with questions and no answers, disappointed because life was not supposed to be this way. That’s when the Lord provided an opportunity for me to enter the financial services industry (1991). I felt this was just a temporary move until the Lord would open another door of ministry for me; after all, God had called me to “preach the word.” I am thankful for the tough times and for those who have rejected me, because without them, I would have never made the decisions I did.

I’m grateful for my wife who documented our journey together these past 34 years (on Oct. 25th this year). She wrote these words that another pastor shared on Sept. 20, 1992, “An open door is coming for Lorne, but he’s not yet ready for it. There will be some frustrating and trying times but we are to look at it as preparation time. We are to cleave to one another and look back at this night.”

Nine years later, I heard these words (Nov. 25, 2001): “Lorne will travel Canada and his ministry will be endorsed so strongly that people won’t be able to question it.” I’m grateful for closed doors because only God knows when and which doors should open. Trusting that God will do this is most difficult in your dark times.

One of my darkest periods was in 2008 after I had run in the Federal Election (and lost), plus the stock market had crashed. I was striving to open doors and get away from this pressure but despite my knocking, the only door that opened meant continuing in the financial services industry. I recall speaking with a counsellor during this period and she said, “You are suffering from rejection.”

I concealed my pain as much as possible but I was hurting in a way I felt no one else could comprehend. I’m grateful that Cathy was so understanding and allowed me to process, yet, pray me through this period. It was during this time that I began studying the topic of biblical financial stewardship in a book by Randy Alcorn, called “Money, Possessions and Eternity.” I am so thankful for men like Randy, Larry Burkett and Ron Blue whose writings have helped transformed my life and have given me much more of an eternal perspective in so many areas.

I’m so thankful that God’s ways are higher than my ways. What I thought was a temporary career in financial planning has turned out to be the work He had prepared in advance for me to do (see Eph. 2:10). I am grateful for the years I spent creating strong relationships with amazing clients who shared things with me that they would never share with a pastor. I was able to guide them financially and personally. Those years actually prepared me to become the National Director of Kingdom Advisors, a ministry to financial professionals to whom I can easily relate because of my own experience in the industry. It’s ironic that when I was asked to consider this role in 2013, my immediate response (without even thinking) was, “I feel like David out in the field shepherding the sheep (my clients), while so many others are more qualified.” It wasn’t until further reflection that I realized those words that the pastor shared with me in college were very true 35 years later.

The fact is when things don’t go according to our plans, we need to be thankful and willing to trust that things are going according to His plan for us. God can use any circumstance or people! It can appear to be anything but good at the time. Even if meant for evil, God works for our good and conforms us to His image (See Genesis 50:20). Are you facing tough circumstances and/or difficult people? Be assured that behind the scenes, God is using these situations and people to help transform you.

Wisdom for Financial Advisors

Wisdom for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors have a special call and what the Apostle Paul shared with Timothy in 1 Tim 6:17-19 is totally relevant for advisors in our current times as they instruct the rich: Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others, (NLT) storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life. (CSB)

The rich are not told to take a vow of poverty. They are told to take a vow of generosity.

Randy Alcorn, Money Possessions & Eternity, p. 291

The ultimate achievement of a financial planner is not just putting together a financial plan, but helping clients take hold of what is truly life.

Every advisor and every client has a plan or purpose in life that needs to be discovered. Often this is hidden and can be difficult to discover. This verse is majorly important: A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out (Prov. 20:5 NASB). The financial advisor must be “an advisor of understanding” who will have deeper conversations that probe beyond “the numbers” such as rates of returns, etc.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36 ESV – Remember the purpose of all we do is to bring God glory. It is something we all fall short of (Rom. 3:23) personally and professionally but our goal is to hear: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matt. 25:23 ESV)

As I consider one advisor leaving the financial services industry (semi-retiring or retiring) and passing his/her business along to a younger advisor, I cannot help but think of Elijah and Elisha. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2 Kings 2:9 ESV) If there is a secret to a successful transition, it is to have the younger advisor receive “the spirit” of the senior advisor because that is truly what has created this business in the first place.

Often, money is viewed as something we can trust, particularly the more money, the easier it is to have confidence in wealth. The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety (Prov. 18:11 NLT).

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23,24 CSB). This verse is challenging because Certified Financial Planners understand based on their Code of Ethics and particularly Principle # 1: Duty of Loyalty to the Client. “The duty to act in the client’s interest by placing the client’s interests first.” If we truly see our work as being done for the Lord, this is a higher standard and one that ensures we will have placed the client’s interest ahead of our own and all other interests.

Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Ps. 90:17 ESV) This prayer asks the Lord to make our efforts on earth permanent, meaning the advice we provide will have an eternal impact.

May this be the prayer of every Christian financial advisor.

(Mis-)Understanding God’s Call

(Mis-)Understanding God’s Call

This summer I listened to a very moving and appropriately titled audio book called Fire Road. It is the story of Kim Phuc Phan Thi which is written as A Memoir of Hope. The book cover shows the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken on June 8, 1972 in South Vietnam. The nine-year-old child is running from low flying planes to escape the napalm bombs dropped that day.

Her story is one of physical pain from the burns and multiple surgeries over the years that followed. The book also describes how the government used her story as propaganda for their own benefit, in essence “putting their own words into her mouth” through interpreters. The “Napalm Girl,” as she became known, journeyed through the horrors of war which has given her a platform to share her journey of faith, forgiveness and peace. Her suffering and pain was intense and brought tears to my eyes as I listened. The impact of her life and faith will only be measured in light of eternity. I was struck by the thought of how God could take the horror of her experience and use it to bring redemption to so many.

She was born the year before I was and that day in June shaped her future in a way that she could not have imagined. I honestly have no idea what I was doing on June 8, 1972 but I believe God also allowed things to come my way that were not pleasant. We all face events that determine who we become and what we do in life.

I can recall when I was 15 years old standing in a church that my Mom and Dad pastored. I had an indescribable holy experience in God’s presence. I stared at my mother’s Bible and I could not escape the instructions of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word … do the work of an evangelist and fulfill your ministry.” That time was so impactful that when I was asked about my goal in life for my graduation yearbook, I said “to be an evangelist.”

It was obvious to me that I should study the Bible and enter full time ministry. Little did I know that after less than 4 years into “full-time ministry,” my life would take an unforeseen twist and I would enter the financial services industry. The Napalm Girl can look back at a specific day that changed her life, and I look back at this period of time because it was like a course correction that I could not fully understand. How could selling insurance and investment products help me “do the work of an evangelist?”

God must smile when we ask these sorts of questions. Fast forward 25 years when I am asked if I would consider leaving my financial planning practice to become “a pastor to financial professionals across Canada.” Now that’s something I did not see coming! In the past 5 years (since making this transition), I have met hundreds of Christian financial professionals who desire to better share biblical financial wisdom with their clients (because it works).

Here’s my point: as a 15-year-old sensing God’s call to “preach the word” and “do the work of an evangelist,” all I could visualize was Billy Graham, and possibly doing something like that. I think God was saying, “Maybe not.” It is so easy to misunderstand what God is calling us to do and accomplish in life because we have our own ideas of what life is supposed to look like.

What I know is this: God can use a napalm bomb for ultimate good. Or He can use a job loss that no one could have predicted to bring us to a destiny that we could never envision. His ways are simply beyond our ways. We can trust God even when things seem to be going opposite to our plans.

A very wise man offered this advice that I have paraphrased: With all that is in you, trust in the Lord. Do not rely on what you can understand. In all your ways know him, and he will show you which path to take.

It seems to me that trusting is more important than understanding. Where do you place your trust? Your own abilities? Or God’s ability to position you where you are supposed to be? Do you spend more time trying to understand or learning to trust?

Five Years Free!

Five Years Free!

As I awoke this morning, I thought about where I was 5 years ago on this day, Friday, July 24, 2015. Looking back, I realize that was a year of significant change. I had just stepped away from a 24-year career as a financial planner and was about to leave the province where I was born and had lived in for half a century! What would this next chapter look like?

What most people did not know at this time is that I had a lump on my left shoulder that just would not go away. After a few visits to the doctor, a biopsy, an MRI and CAT scan, I was simply told, “This has to be removed.” I quickly realized I would never be able to pronounce or even remember the term for Cathy, so I asked my doctor if I could take a picture of it. Once home, I explained that I needed surgery and Cathy googled the term: dermatofibrosacoma protuberans –  a rare type of skin cancer!

SURGERY
When the bandage was removed just days after surgery, this is what we saw.

How could this be? Just at a time of leaving my place of security at my work and now this. On this day 5 years ago, I found myself lying face down on an operating table with nurses all around me when the surgeon entered the operating room. I had seen him just a few minutes earlier when he had described the procedure and drew marks on my shoulder where he was going to cut me open. He said, “This is called a ‘Keystone flap‘.” For those who wish to see how this is done, watch the surgery  to get a better understanding (including the drawing that I was obviously unable to see at the time). Thankfully, no chemo or radiation was necessary.  The medical professionals who have looked at my shoulder since then have always commented on the admirable job by my surgeon in Newfoundland.  It helps me wear my scar proudly!

Interesting side note: the church that I co-pastored for 14 years was called Keystone Assembly of God (the years when I also started in my career as a financial advisor). Those years were not easy but now, I have a Keystone carved into my shoulder. It’s almost like the Lord was saying, “Those years were foundational in building your character and preparing you for the future; I’m placing this permanently on your back but at the same time something is being removed.  I’m stretching you so you will trust me more.”

In the past 5 years, my faith in God has definitely been stretched and growing. I never dreamed that regular visits to the Ottawa Cancer Centre and other hospitals would become part of my yearly routine, without “costing me an arm and a leg.” (pun intended) I also never dreamed I would become connected with hundreds of financial professionals, many of whose lives are being transformed through the ministry I’m involved with. The journey has been well worth it, my friends, and I’m happy to be CANCER-FREE today for five years!!

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

When I woke up yesterday morning, on Father’s Day 2020, I reflected back on a message that I had shared a few years ago. I wrote a blog about it at that time and I really wanted to do a “Father’s Day Reversal” – I wanted to send a very special message to my kids instead of them just wishing me “Happy Father’s Day.”

How can we ever live up to the greatest example of fatherhood? As Dads, we need to express to our children that we are pleased with them. Here’s what I understand from the baptism of Jesus: the Father being pleased with the Son was not based upon what Jesus had accomplished in his life. Yes, Jesus was a great carpenter and was skilled in relationships but I believe that God was pleased simply because Jesus was on the earth. He existed as a man and was positioned to accomplish the Father’s will for His life.

Let’s face it, we tend to be pleased with our children when they accomplish something: they get good grades, they land a great job or get a promotion. That’s when we express our praise, when we have reason to be proud of them. It’s interesting the Father’s expression that He was pleased didn’t come when Jesus had healed the sick, fed the hungry, or turned the water into wine. It came before Jesus had accomplished any of these things.

Father's Day June 15, 97
Father’s Day 1997 No Accomplishment Required!

I have realized as a Dad that there are times when it is important to just tell our children that we are pleased with them simply because they are on the earth. When we base our “being pleased” on behaviour or accomplishments, we are placing conditions on the acceptance of our children.

Yesterday, I shared this with my kids: “I’m pleased with you, not based on what you have accomplished in life, but simply because you are on this earth.” What I realized is that this statement was very freeing for my children because they know they are accepted by me and do not have to earn that acceptance in any way. This is also a process for me as a Dad. I have had to let go of my expectations and what I desire for my children and simply rest in the fact that God is able to direct each of their lives in ways that I can never do. They are free to walk into their futures without sensing the need to gain my approval.

The fact is I don’t always agree with my kids; they have their own opinions that do not align with mine, but in spite of this, our relationship as a family is stronger than ever. I do not need to agree with my children to be happy or satisfied with them! My children are far from perfect, as am I, but thankfully, that’s not what is required to be a strong family. What is required is simply accepting our children … because they are our children.

My prayer today is that more Dads will not only tell their children that they are pleased with them but will also tell them why. Are you satisfied with your children? Have you told your son or daughter that you are pleased with them simply because they are your son or daughter? Isn’t that reason enough?

 

Don’t Waste This Crisis

Don’t Waste This Crisis

In his weekly commentary released on March 23, 2020, Senior Portfolio Manager, Chief Equity Strategist, Bob Doll states:

We think stocks remain in a bottoming process. Bottoming is a process, not an event, meaning this could take some time.

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blog.afraidto trade.com

As a financial advisor in 2008, I, too, experienced the painful process of the market bottoming out. It seemed like the drop in the market was also reflective of my life. In the months (even years) leading up to 2008, I was struggling to understand my purpose and God’s call on my life. That fall, I was asked to put my name forward in the Federal General Election and despite my slim odds of winning, I became a candidate. (The steepest drop on the chart highlighted in yellow represents the bail-out vote failure and also the time period that I was campaigning). My political career was short! After the loss on election night, I was back to facing the reality of significant financial loss in clients’ portfolios and the stress of a more difficult work situation. My emotions paralleled the chart of the stock market crash at that time.

 

This time of crisis caused me to question everything. Through a deep time of soul searching, I began to see what was previously hidden to me. I had imagined my work only to be God’s provision when in fact, it was God’s providence in a much deeper way than I had realized. He had always been part of my life but I had not made Him part of my practice. Through this process of bottoming, my practice became more than just a job; this was a mission, a fulfillment of God’s purpose for me. I was walking with clients through some of the most difficult times in their lives.  I was able to bring focus and provide a perspective that they needed in this financial storm. My life wasn’t to be a search to find God’s call but rather a living out of that call where God had already placed me – in a financial planning career!

There is a spiritual purpose when crisis happens.  I had to run to God, and nowhere else, as a refuge during my ‘perfect storm” of 2008.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are protected. The wealth of the rich is his fortified city; in his imagination it is like a high wall (Proverbs 18:10-11 CSB).

This proverb reveals that the greatest risk of wealth is “spiritual risk.” Most believe the greatest risk is the potential loss in value from our investment choices; that’s investment risk. However, the spiritual risk of trusting the security of money rather than seeing the Lord as our strong fortress is dangerous. We can begin to trust it more than God. Oftentimes, we imagine money to provide more security than is possible. Crisis has a way of refocusing us like nothing else.

Coronavirus is invisible, yet, we see the effects of it in our world today. What if the purpose of this crisis is to cause us to spiritually see the invisible? Dr. Tony Evans said, “If all you see is what you see, you do not see all there is to be seen.”

Maybe a pandemic and economic crisis is meant to open our eyes to the invisible.  Wisdom teaches that instead of imagining money and even our jobs, as our security, we should run to the only true refuge; the name of the Lord.  We must allow the invisible to affect us, especially in crisis. Don’t let this crisis go to waste. If we come through this and are able to see what was previously hidden, then this crisis has an eye-opening, spiritual purpose.

How are you feeling in the midst of this storm? How will you use this crisis ?

Try Trusting

Try Trusting

We are in unprecedented times and honestly, it is very disheartening to listen to the news, yet, we are compelled to do so in order to keep up with things that are changing so quickly. We are told we must self-isolate in order to protect ourselves and the people we love. Governments are having emergency meetings in order to deal with not only the health pandemic but also to provide sufficient stimulus to stabilize stock markets yet, recession seems inevitable. 

There seems to be no easy solutions and we are constantly being bombarded with bad news. Our measure of peace and contentment ultimately depends on what we are trusting in. If our sense of peace comes from the money that’s been accumulated, then it is understandable that you have less peace today than a month ago (because if your investments are connected to the stock market, you have less money than a month ago).

The wisdom of Proverbs (18:11) says,

“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defence; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety.”

This reveals the greatest risk around money – when we accumulate it, we begin to trust it & when we lose it we lose our peace.

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”  Proverbs 23:5

I wonder if it says it “flies toward the heavens” because that is where the wealth came from in the first place? After all, God gives us the power to make wealth (Deut. 8:18).  It’s interesting that the Bible also says, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). Maybe a situation like Covid-19 is meant to redirect us back to the true source of our health and even our wealth – heaven! 

Portfolio loss creates fear naturally. We do not want to see loss and it causes anxiety, but consider this – what if the money is not actually ours in the first place? What if it is just entrusted to us to manage? We may feel like we are not doing a great job in our management roles in the midst of this, but we must understand that what is happening right now is beyond our control. We need to realize that God owns it all and He desires that we be invested (particularly our lives, but also our money). We cannot control what’s happening in our world and we must focus on what we can control, which is how we respond to all that is happening.

Many ask, “Where is God in all this; doesn’t He care?” Interesting that most places of worship are now closed and forced to go online in this crisis. That allowed me to hear a message this past Sunday that I would have otherwise not heard. What was shared was a most familiar story from the Bible when Jesus was asleep in the boat and a vicious storm arose, seemingly out of nowhere. There was a sense of panic in the disciples, likely very similar to what many are feeling during these days. The disciples felt helpless and completely powerless to deal with this situation (after all it was out of their control). Our situation now is beyond our control in a similar manner.

In this story, Jesus is sleeping and the disciples are full of fear. The disciples wake Him up and his response to them is to address their level of fear and speak to the storm to calm it. Let me quote this pastor friend of mine: “We are in unprecedented times and it may be unprecedented for you to even consider calling on Jesus, but we need to wake Him in our lives.” The Bible says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psm. 121:1), but it may seem that He is asleep and not caring for us at times like these.  In many cases, the storm may rage around us but we can have a peace in the midst of that storm. The calm that comes within us allows us to face the storm that is around us.

Realize this: God is someone you can trust, especially in the storm, so look to the heavens. Your faith can sustain you through this pandemic.

 

Have You Hit Bottom Yet?

Have You Hit Bottom Yet?

It is hard to believe what is happening in our world these past few weeks. Conferences, major international sporting events, schools are cancelled and even our country’s borders are being restricted. Provinces have declared states of emergency while most people are now working from home where possible. Many businesses are shut down to guard against infection of Coronavirus which is wreaking havoc on the economy.

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 3.37.57 PMThe end of February saw the sharpest 7- day decline in the history of the stock market. Markets go through downturns, corrections and even crashes for many different reasons. In 2008, it was the housing crisis, prior to that, we had the technology bubble and 9-11, so a 30% loss is not really anything new. Ron Blue, the founder of Kingdom Advisors says, “Fear is a normal human response to economic uncertainty.” I have heard it said that “It’s different this time and what we are experiencing now is unprecedented,” but the fact is, “Economic uncertainty is certain.” The reasons for the uncertainty are always different, but the response is the same every time: fear and panic.

The Bible instructs us to “Be anxious for nothing” yet, fear and panic is the typical and natural response. It was even this way in the time of Jesus. Think of the disciples in their boat in the midst of the storm – they were in panic mode, “But Jesus was sleeping!” (Matt. 8:24b). Jesus was in a different place, yet, he was in the same boat as the disciples who were fearful. He was emotionally and spiritually secure, resting despite being tossed by the wind and waves just like the disciples. Jesus said they had “little faith.”

Back to the markets for a minute: Bob Doll, Chief Economic Strategist, said on March 16 in his commentary, “We think stocks are bottoming, but that process will take some time.” I recently heard him say the market making a bottom is not an event, it’s a process. I expect the same is true for us; when we are in the midst of fear and panic, the move from there (place of fear) to faith and confidence is a process, not an event. 

Phil. 4:6-7 instructs us to “bring everything through prayer & petition, with thanksgiving.” I believe this is the process that moves us from being anxious about everything to the peace which surpasses all understanding, where our hearts and minds are guarded and we can sleep in the storm.  Part of that process is thanksgiving. How are we thankful today? If you have suffered a paper loss on your investments in recent days, you may not be happy about it, but you can certainly be thankful that you have those investments (many have no investments and would love to have your losses because it means they at least have investments).

It is easy to quote a Bible verse and feel we get it, but in reality, getting to that place of rest and peace is a process, a journey. Being thankful is part of that process and it seems that crisis is often part of that journey, at least from my experience. 

Please look at this graph below. Where would you graph yourself today?

Screen Shot 2020-03-19 at 4.34.40 PM

Now go back to early February 2020, when things were much more stable, markets were making new highs and there were just whispers of Coronavirus. Would you graph yourself differently?  Our circumstances tend to shift us from faith into fear, then we tend to bottom out and the process of making a bottom (like in the markets) begins. That typically means we bounce from “mostly fearful” to “some fear,” maybe back to “mostly fearful” until some truth enters our hearts and we move to “neutral.” Then more toward “some faith,” maybe back to “neutral” but the more truth enters, the more “faith-filled” we become. That process in the market is very much like the process of shifting us away from “mostly fearful” and closer to that place where “the peace of God which surpasses our understanding will guard our hearts & minds.”

If you are a financial advisor, you have the opportunity to walk with your clients through this process. In the midst of self-isolation, pray for opportunities to strengthen and encourage others to move away from the fear that so easily fills our hearts. Once you get to that place of faith, circumstances tend to have less and less of an impact and we can remain strong. This is what it means to “walk by faith and not by sight,” (or the circumstances around us). Getting to that place is a process!

Where are you in the process? Closer to “mostly fearful” or “faith-filled?”

 

 

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Last weekend was a little frustrating at our house since the kitchen sink would not drain. My first instinct was there must be something clogging the pipes directly below the sink. I purchased a 15-foot long snake or auger that I could put into the 1 1/2 inch line. I was feeling confident that this would solve the issue. After using the auger, we ran the water and there was absolutely no change; the sink still did not drain. I plunged the sink several times but with no success. With the pipe being more than 25 feet long,  I reluctantly decided to cut the line, use the 15-foot auger in either direction which would, no doubt, reach the blockage. A joiner could be used to reconnect the line.

I knew this was going to be messy! I cleared the area, put down plastic and had a few buckets on hand. I began the cut knowing the line was filled with water that was bound to spill from where I was cutting. I’m sure a plumber would have been able to do this more efficiently but I was determined to solve this problem myself.  As I cut the line, the water began to squirt out and as the cut went deeper the smell and food particles coming out was absolutely gross.

Sure enough, as I put the auger into the line, I could feel the resistance; the line was clogged right at the very end. The line had a very gradual slope over the last 14 feet which would easily cause debris to build up. Time to rejoin the line and hope for the best! Run the water; how could this be? It still was not draining! After a few plunges and to my great relief, the line opened up and the water began to flow freely.  What a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

That got me to thinking about the purpose of that pipe; it was to have the water from the sink drain flow through it. The clogged line defeated the purpose of the pipe! We are all meant to be like a pipe or conduit where things flow through. In other words, what comes to us like gifts and talents, wealth and resources are meant to flow through rather than be stored up. The more we hold things and keep them for ourselves, the more there is an opportunity to have our pipes become clogged. Just this week, there was a financial need that we became aware of and I thought about that pipe; we could choose to keep the money in our account or we could help someone else by giving.

Think about the Dead Sea and compare it to the Sea of Galilee (which is just North of the Dead Sea).

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea receive their water from the river Jordan. And yet, they are very, very different. Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is pretty, resplendent with rich, colourful marine life. There are lots of plants.  And fish too. In fact, the sea of Galilee is home to over twenty different types of fish.

The river Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee but the Dead Sea has no outlet!

The Dead Sea takes the same water from river Jordan as the Sea of Galilee; and just holds it. It does not give; and hence, there is no life there at all.

The moral… Life is not just about receiving. It is about receiving and giving.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Money Possessions & Eternity describes the purpose of the church this way:

Whereas the Old Testament temple was a storehouse, the New Testament church was a clearinghouse, a conduit of gifts to help the needy and reach the lost.

It is so easy to focus only on ourselves and think that what comes into our hands is meant only for ourselves (for vacations, pleasure or retirement) and not for others. As I reflect on my clogged pipe, I do not want my life to become clogged where nothing is flowing through.

Money is a blessing, but it is also a burden when we’re given more than we need. Giving produced freedom 100 percent of the time – freedom to be a conduit of blessing to others.

Why did my pipe get clogged? I suspect because there is not a sufficient slope for that length of pipe and the water is not flowing as well as it should.  Compare that to money flowing to us, the question becomes, “How much is flowing through us?”

Canada Helps did a study of giving levels from 2006 to 2016 and determined that higher income earning families saw the sharpest declines in giving (in these 11 years).  It seems that the higher the income, the less the money flows through or there is more likely to be a clog in the line. Here’s what I found interesting from the study:

The lower income families that do make donations have increased the amount of their income spent on donations from 3.3% to 5.5% in the past 11 years. In the meantime, families making $250K or more has consistently given around 2% of their income over the past 11 years.

One of our goals is to increase the percentage of giving each year going forward. The reason, as I reflect on the clogged drain, is to avoid that clog from happening in our personal financial affairs. Author John Piper put it this way:

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace.

May I suggest that as your income increases, consider increasing your standard of giving instead of your standard of living.  As Randy Alcorn so aptly put it,  “Giving is the safety valve that releases the excess pressure of wealth.” Are you releasing the build-up that wealth brings?