Becoming a Shrewd Manager!

Becoming a Shrewd Manager!

Jesus often spoke in parables and fulfilled the prophecy that he would speak things that were hidden (Matt. 13:34, 35). The parable of “The Unjust Steward” or “The Shrewd Manager” in Luke 16:1-13 is possibly one of the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings to understand. Interestingly, it precedes a very familiar and often-quoted verse (13) which says, “You cannot serve two masters…You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” This shrewd manager, despite his unrighteousness, was “praised” by his master which is the shocking part of this parable . There is a powerful truth about eternal perspective revealed in this parable.

The facts are important and need to be clearly understood:

1. The main character has the job of stewarding the assets of "a certain rich man."
2. There is going to be an audit of the books because of the steward’s poor management.
3. The steward’s days in his role are numbered because of the "squandering of his (the owner’s)possessions."
4. The steward uses the relationships that he has developed to re-negotiate the debt that is owed his master.
5. Despite being “unrighteous” or “unjust” he is praised for his “shrewdness” in his handling of the circumstance. 

What principles can we apply to our own management of money and possessions? Here are some of my conclusions:

1. The main thing that we need to understand about this life is that ultimately our role is to be a steward over what is put into our hands.

We are each given talents “depending on each one’s ability” (Matt. 25:15b). My goal is to invest my gifts with the time I have to bring glory to God. We have also been given resources (or treasure) to manage. The Lord also gives us relationships which is often an overlooked element of our stewardship responsibilities. The requirement of a steward is to be found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2).

Understanding that whatever we have in this life belongs to another is a very deep concept. We work and earn money so it is easy to assume it belongs to us. The Israelites had the same thoughts but in Deut. 8:18 it is made clear that it is God who gives us “the power to gain wealth.” This parable teaches that we are called to be faithful in what belongs to someone else (Luke 16:12). Considering what we have been called to manage, it’s definitely a high calling.

2. At some point, the books will be audited. 

As followers of Christ, our lives will be examined or judged by God with the goal of providing a reward. Paul describes how our works will be revealed or become obvious; “the fire will test the quality of each one’s work” (1 Cor. 3:13b). What we do with the resources we have been given may have no eternal consequence (they are burnt up or consumed) or they remain after being tested.

Some of the final recorded words of Jesus are these: “I am coming soon and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). This is likened to a settling of accounts (Matt. 25:19) and the goal is to hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21).

3. We must understand that we have a limited time to accomplish the goal.  

This adds a significant level of urgency to the management of the resources we have been entrusted with. To realize that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” is a very sobering thought. Are we completing that work or are we squandering the opportunities that present themselves during our days? There is a reason for the instruction: “Teach us to number our days” (Psalms 90:12).

For this manager, the loss of his job made him think more deeply about his options. He knew he had a limited time to act, so he called the clients for a final meeting. This is certainly one of the reasons he is considered to be shrewd.

Shrewd” is not necessarily negative – to call a businessman shrewd is generally a compliment, meaning “taking advantage of hidden opportunities”.

Until he was faced with this personal crisis, this opportunity was hidden to him and not a consideration. In a similar fashion, we do not have unlimited time and we all could use more wisdom that comes by numbering our days. Maybe the difficult things we face (like job loss) in life, have the purpose of growing wisdom within us.

4. We need to understand that the relationships that we have with others are truly a gift from God. 

“When you are with people, they are his people, relationships he’s given you, people whom you can serve with eternal values at heart.”

Ken Boa, Rewriting Your Broken Story, p. 15

This may require us to intentionally focus on those relationships strategically in order to accomplish all that God intends for us to produce from that relationship. Consider that God actually has a plan for each of those relationships and he positions us at the right time in that person’s life.

What happens next is most interesting: he calls “his master’s debtors and reduces their debt, thereby engendering their friendship.”

Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions & Eternity, p. 142

From the point of view of the debtors, the steward will have used his last moments in office (though they will only learn later that these are his last moments in office) to show generosity to them on a grand scale. The ancient world ran on the basis of a reciprocity ethic: good turns given and returned. The steward’s move gave him a claim upon his master’s debtors that was much more secure than any contract. Public honor required that they make some appropriate return to their benefactor. The steward had secured his future!

John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, vol. 35B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1993), 796–803.
5. The results that will bring praise from the master is when the impact reaches beyond this temporal life and extends into the eternal.

What the steward is praised for is not his unrighteousness but his “shrewdness” or “prudence.” This is the key that unlocks the parable. He is indeed a “son of this world,” but he is more prudent in planning for the only future he is concerned about than the typical religious person is in planning for his eternal future with God.

James R. Edwards, The Gospel according to Luke, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentar

The “worldly wealth” can be used strategically to invest in relationships with people. Only then can it be transformed into “true riches” (v. 11). The parable ends in verse 8 when the steward accomplishes his goal. What follows is the instruction to use “worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings.” Why was this steward “more shrewd than the children of light?” It might be because he acted according to his worldview (securing his future).

The natural inclination is to view all of the resources as our own (just as the children of this age do). This parable demonstrates the importance of managing prudently the relationships and resources on behalf of the owner or master (the task of the children of light). Instead of squandering the “worldly wealth” we ought to seek out hidden opportunities, likely relationships we already have. We are to become “faithful in the use of that which is another’s …” (v. 12).

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.”

We can accomplish this by our “shrewd” use of “worldly wealth.” To be shrewd means to find hidden opportunities to live according to our worldview, as citizens of heaven. This means we make investments that are long term … really long-term, as in eternal!

How shrewd are we in handling the resources that are placed in our hands? Are we looking for hidden opportunities to use “worldly wealth” to establish “true riches?” (cf. v. 11) Are we living as citizens of heaven, while we are citizens of this earth?

We Are All Discipled By Someone

We Are All Discipled By Someone

Bruxy Cavey, a teacher at The Meeting House recently said, “We are all discipled by someone,” and it really made me consider the truth of that statement, especially as it relates to my work in the financial industry. The sources of media that we subject ourselves to play such a significant role in shaping who we are as individuals and professionals.

Almost 30 years ago, in the Spring of 1991, I entered the financial industry. By the mid 1990’s, it was clear to me that if I was to build a career in this industry, further education would be important and I began the journey toward my Certified Financial Planner® designation. Continuing Education (CE) is a requirement in many professions today, and rightfully so, because things are constantly changing.

In order to maintain my CFP® designation, I have to earn a minimum of 25 CE hours annually. In essence, this means that my profession, or my designation, compels me to keep my knowledge current. The CE hours obtained means I fulfill my annual education requirement but, more importantly, it also means that I am being discipled by someone!

The Kingdom Advisors 2021 Annual Conference offers 18 hours of CE to financial professionals

Thus far in 2021, the instruction in the following verse has been challenging me:

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Colossians 3:2 CSB

The instruction in the previous verse is to “Seek the things above,” yet, we are living on this earth and we must stay current with the industry of which we are a part. We all choose the “someone” who disciples us; the twelve disciples accepted Christ’s offer. Today, as Christ-followers, we must choose who will disciple us.

I am so grateful for Kingdom Advisors because it exposes me to the “Christian Financial Industry” where I can choose to earn my required industry CE in the context of my faith! This helps me “set my mind” based on the “wisdom that comes from above” rather than “earthly wisdom” (James 3:15-17). When it comes to financial planning, much of the wisdom shared by professionals is earthly, even if they happen to be Christian. Earthly wisdom is defined by James as “unspiritual, based on selfish ambition…including envy” (3:15-16). The dictionary defines envy as “a feeling of discontent or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions.” Catering to selfish desires is one of the easiest traps to fall into.

What I am instructed to do as a follower of Christ is to seek the things above and set my mind there. That’s not an easy task and will not happen without intentionality. When I do this, the result is that my advice will be based on the wisdom that comes from above –

“pure, peace-loving, gentle, willing to yield to others, full of mercy and good deeds, showing no favouritism and always sincere.”

James 3:17 NLT

Are you a Christian Financial professional? If so, where are you finding your required industry CE? Does it include wisdom that comes from above? Do you realize that where you obtain your CE actually disciples you?

I will earn 18 hours of industry CE by attending the Kingdom Advisors Annual Conference on Feb. 17-19 and the greatest bonus of these hours is the “wisdom from above.”

Register now for the KA Annual Conference because that wisdom is priceless!

Please use CONF21CANADA discount code when you register for 10% off.

2020 Vision – Do You Have a Clear Eye?

2020 Vision – Do You Have a Clear Eye?

At the beginning of this year, many referenced 2020 using the analogy of 20/20 eyesight – an ability to see clearly. In hindsight, did anyone see what the year would actually bring?

It’s interesting that two people can view the same circumstance yet, have two very different perspectives. Even reflecting on the US election in November, it has shown a nation that is divided by so many issues whether political, racial or religious. Without a mind shift, we are typically unable to see or understand a different perspective. The fact is our vision is often not as clear as we might think.

Jesus made this statement:

The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”

Jesus – Matt. 6:22

The context of this verse is about storing up treasures in heaven, and not storing up treasures on the earth (Matt 6:19-24). The reference to “the eye” (in verses 22 & 23) almost seems to be out of place and off the topic of storing up treasure, whether on the earth or in heaven. If we examine more closely, we will see more clearly.

The word clear can be translated healthy or generous which helps us understand better what Jesus meant. He was really saying that generosity (or lack of generosity) is more impactful than we realize. He was helping us make a connection between what we do with our money here on earth so it can help us store up treasure in heaven. If our eye is generous, we have a longer term perspective.

Jesus described the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 20 by explaining how a landowner hired labourers for his vineyard. He hired them for an agreed amount for the entire day and also hired others throughout the day, meaning they worked less hours than those hired in the morning. The landowner paid all of them a denarius (equivalent of a days wage). Those who were hired first then complained when they discovered that others who worked less hours received the same pay as they did for working the entire day. After hearing the grumbling, the response of the landowner is most interesting:

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”

Jesus – Matt. 20:15

In other words, Jesus was saying your eye is not healthy or generous, but rather jealous. Why did Jesus reference the eye? Take a look at Proverbs 28:22, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth …” which explains what Jesus was referencing when he shared this story. He said they had “an evil eye” or were jealous because of their perceived wage discrepancy. Through this story, Jesus was teaching that having a generous heart is preferred, rather than a heart focused on greed. None of us would be quick to admit we are guilty of greed, but the message of the kingdom of heaven is always toward generosity. “He who is generous (has a good eye) will be blessed …” (Prov. 22:9).

Regarding the phrase in Matthew 6:22, “your whole body will be full of light,” means that if your eye is generous:

“all (your) actions will be influenced by this noble principle;
(your) whole life will be illuminated, guided and governed by it;
(your) mind will be cheerful and pleasant, and
(your) estate and condition will be prosperous and successful.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible

Generosity extends beyond finances.

When considering social media, it is not difficult to find an “evil eye” or lack of generosity when it comes to our words and interactions with one another. I’ve read how one person accused another of being like an ostrich with their head stuck in the sand as it relates to a particular issue. These people have never met, yet, the words are anything but generous toward the other and the exchange does not focus on trying to understand the other person’s perspective.

Back to the story of the landowner; it ends with: “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. In the kingdom of heaven, the focus is on generosity, on putting others ahead of ourselves, the opposite of greed or an evil eye. Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a good eye will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” A bountiful or generous eye is the great differentiator!

I read a post that said, “Our Lord describes the eye as a lamp which lights the entire body. Our eyes are the entrance to our hearts and minds and, as such, they provide a doorway to our very souls.” It goes on to say “The Bible tells us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. That’s his great deception—to make people think they’ve found the light when in fact it’s the darkness of false light (2 Corinthians 11:14). His intention is to blind us to truth and corrupt our minds, and he uses our eyes to gain entrance to our hearts.”

Photo by: Terry Grimes (Reminds me of the star of Bethlehem or the Christmas star)

The goal of Jesus telling this story is to expose the darkness that is often present in our hearts. One of the reasons we celebrate Christmas at this time of the year is because it is literally one of the darkest times of the year (the shortest days of the year are in December). Light is most visible in the darkest of times. We can be a source of light to those around us if there is a light that is within us. We can only share what we possess.

“The lamp of the body is the eye …”

May we display that light when others look into our eyes. When people look into your eyes, do they see light or darkness? When others read your posts on social media, do they see generosity or not? Are we focused on the accumulation of wealth here on earth or riches toward God?

These are very sobering questions and the answers reveal that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

A Prayer for Financial Professionals

A Prayer for Financial Professionals

Did you know that Jesus prayed about you being in the financial services industry? Here’s what Jesus prayed:

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world (industry) … but to keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

John 17:15-17

You have probably heard this phrase before: “In this world, but not of this world …” As a financial advisor, I would state what Jesus meant this way: “In this industry, but not of this industry.” That’s powerful! It means He wants us in this industry for a specific purpose!

I entered the financial services in 1991, but did not realize it was by divine purpose that I was there. It is vital to understand that where we are is by His divine purpose!

Jesus asked the Father “… to keep them from the evil.” What is the evil? Have you ever considered that it might simply be conformity – being like everyone else in the industry. Maybe that’s why we are instructed not to be conformed, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds!

The prayer then is, “Don’t take them out of the industry because I have a divine purpose for them in the industry.” The problem is that it’s too easy to fit in the industry, to think we have to be like every other advisor.

Jesus’ prayer was “Sanctify them by the truth” – the immediate thought when we hear “sanctify” is holiness or purity but the meaning of the word here is to “set apart” or “to consecrate.”

The idea at the root of the word rendered “sanctify,” is not holiness, but separation. It is opposed not to what is impure, but to what is common, and is constantly used in the Old Testament for the consecration of persons and things to the service of God.”

Elliotts Commentary for English Readers

Sanctify or, consecrate: The word expresses God’s destination of them for their work and His endowment of them with the powers necessary for their work. The word is used of God’s consecration of Jeremiah, Moses, and the chosen people.

Cambridge Bible for Schools & Colleges

How are we set apart? How are we different? It’s “by the truth” … the biblical financial wisdom is what makes us different. It is what distinguishes us from others in the industry; it sets us apart.

Jesus would be unique if he were in this industry. Here’s an example from Mark 10:17-22 – the rich young ruler comes along asking about life issues – significant life issues, as in eternal life! We could say he would be the ideal prospect – young, with many possessions and asking important questions. The response of Jesus was unique – He did not focus on managing his wealth, but said, “One thing you lack: go sell all you possess, and give to the poor” and directed him toward generosity, in essence, “treasure in heaven.” Here is what makes you unique in this industry: Focus not on what clients have, but on the one thing they lack.

Advisors “in this industry,” are naturally interested in what people have, their wealth. Advisors who are “in the industry, but not of the industry,” are unique and will direct the client to see the one thing they lack, or are missing. What this rich young prospect was missing was generosity and it seems he did not become a client (or disciple) of Jesus. Scripture says his face fell or “he became gloomy.

Financial professionals in this industry do a great job focusing on the wealth, but as a Christian who is “in, but not of this industry,” the focus goes beyond the numbers to the heart, to the one thing lacking. Is the TRUTH (biblical wisdom) setting you apart in this industry? What client conversations are lacking?

Let me paraphrase John 17:15-17 – It’s truly the prayer of Jesus for financial professionals: Father, do not take them out of the industry, but keep them focused on their unique calling. They are not of the industry, just as I am not of the industry (but I would be unique in the industry). Set them apart, consecrate them in the truth, your word is truth.

Lord help us to focus on the one thing that our clients lack; help us to be fearless in our client conversations! Help us to redefine what success really is – to have Kingdom Impact through our interactions with clients.

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?