Truth for the Troubled

Truth for the Troubled

When I went to school, I naively thought the idea was simply to memorize many facts for exam time. Little did I realize that an isolated fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning. To put it another way, discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts.

Facts are obviously an important part of education and learning, but may lack meaning. Truth is more about the application of those facts. Our goal as parents is to have our children love learning and discover truth that will help them navigate life with purpose.

The fact is this: truth has been more impactful in my life than the facts I learned in school. Truth has guided me in a way that facts never could.

Photo by Terry Grimes (Divine Design)

As a professional, I desire the people I work with to discover principles that can guide them in their careers. In most fields of work today, “continuing education” is required because we are not designed to stop learning. Facts can change but truth is constant and becomes the foundation for our lives.

Life can be very difficult at times when we examine the fact of a particular situation that is facing us. We need truth to guide us through these times. I was reminded this past week about how challenging it can be for a person to find direction in life; it can truly be a struggle. Here is some wisdom and advice that has helped me:

  • Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. (Advice from Proverbs 4:25-25 HCSB)
  • God is capable of “making my footsteps firm” (Psalms 40:2) giving us a sense of security for the way forward.
  • God is able to establish us (Psm. 37:23) and keep our feet from slipping (Psm. 66:9).
  • When we find ourselves in a dark place, in the midst of despair, God can rescue us if we cry for help (Psm. 30: 2,3).
  • Sometimes God doesn’t seem to hear us or speak to us and we “become like those who go down to the pit” (Psm. 28:1 NASB). We need communication with God or we can shift to a dark place (down to the pit). There is a sense of despair among this group because they see themselves “as good as dead and completely helpless” (Psm. 88:4 CEV). We are not actually without strength but are made to feel like we have no strength, then we begin to believe we have no strength.
  • We need to pray: “Answer me quickly … or I will become like those who go down” into that dark place (Psm. 143:7 NASB).
  • When it seems there is no one who can help us out of the pit (a dark place), we can still pray: “Don’t stay far off when I am in trouble with no one to help me” (Psm. 22:11 CEV).
  • Remember, “he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help” (Psm. 72:12 NIV).

When we isolate and focus only on the burdensome facts surrounding a situation in life it can lead us to a place of despair. The truth is we have a God who cares even when there seems to be nothing but darkness. The truth of God’s Word gives hope that light can shine in the midst of any darkness and deliver even when no one else can!

Have you ever or are you now in a dark place? Have you ever felt disconnected from God, like He is not hearing your prayers and you are not hearing his voice?

The Oldest I’ve Ever Been

The Oldest I’ve Ever Been

We are not getting any younger and I feel that especially today since it is my birthday. Have you ever felt that your best years are behind you rather than ahead of you?

New Years Eve four years ago, was especially memorable since I was turning the big 5-0. I was feeling exactly that way, like my youth was in the rear view mirror and I was never able to accomplish what I desired when I was younger. That very year, I attended a session at the Kingdom Advisors Conference that really spoke to me about the way I was feeling.

The speaker, Lloyd Reeb, from HalfTime Institute, helped me realize that my best years were actually ahead of me. Why? He explained the years where you have the most influence, know the most people, have gained the most wisdom and can have the greatest impact are when you are between age 50 – 80.

Fast forward and I now see that this is true. I have met some amazing and influential people since that time (not to diminish in any way those I knew before). A person’s impact in life continues to build so I am believing for an even greater impact in the year ahead.

Thanks to all who sent me greetings on my birthday but I have a wish for you. May the years ahead be much more impactful the the years you have already lived!! Happy New Year!

Father’s Day Reversal

Father’s Day Reversal

Well this Father’s Day will be the most different of any that I can remember. I don’t expect to see any of my children today and my wife is not even with me, because she is with her Dad today, which is pretty special for her.

Since I have been asked to share this morning in a local church I have been thinking, “What is Father’s Day all about anyway?”  Here is the brief history of this special day:

Some credit the first Father’s Day celebration to Sonora Smart Dodd for honouring her father, a veteran of the Civil War, who raised his family as a single Dad when his wife died giving birth to their sixth child. To show her appreciation for her father’s efforts, after listening to a church sermon on Mother’s Day in 1909, Sonora initially suggested that there should be a day to celebrate him and other dads like him in the State in which they lived and farmed. After much campaigning, the first Father’s Day was held in Washington State on June 19, 1910. Although Father’s Day was celebrated throughout the U.S. as an unofficial day for Dads after that date, it was in 1966, Lyndon B. Johnson, through an executive order, designated the third Sunday in June as the official day to celebrate Father’s Day. It wasn’t until 1972, during the Nixon administration, that Father’s Day was officially recognized as a national holiday.

While it’s great to celebrate Dads, I’ve been thinking that I need to celebrate my children. Here is what I mean: if you think about a fathers role, isn’t it about investing your life into your children? I take this lesson from our Heavenly Father. When Jesus was baptized here is what Scripture records in Mark 1:10-11.

As soon as he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You!

Three things to note for Dads:

1. The heavens were opened

Our inspiration needs to come from heaven, that is where the initial example of fatherhood comes from. Heaven was obviously closed but opened up or was “torn open” for a reason. Most of us just think about heaven as a place prepared for us, that we will go to when we die. Isn’t heaven is so much more? Can heaven impact our world today? I believe heaven is what sustains the earth (see Hebrews 1:3) so in that sense sustains everyone on the earth.  That is what makes the Lord’s prayer so powerful, it is asking heaven to open and influence the earth!

DB91925F-CA05-4D14-91C5-9054BAE6788C

2. A voice from heaven (the Father spoke)

When I think about my voice being heard I realize I need to think before I speak. As I reflect on the words I’ve spoken to my children, sometimes in anger and frustration, I must ask for their forgiveness. The words spoken in my wedding vows come to mind: “… always speak words of grace that will build you up.” The word “always” stands out to me. I have never forgotten those words but have often fallen short of them. I cannot claim that my words are always inspired by heaven because they are at time influenced more by the earthly challenges I deal with from day to day. My prayer this morning is: “May I look more to heaven before I speak words to my children.”

3. Words of love and acceptance

The time of baptism is seen as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry so in one sense He hadn’t accomplished too much in life because he was just getting started. However, He was a carpenter so maybe more was accomplished than we may typically think about. Why was the Father pleased? I think the reason is pretty simple: the Son was on the earth and moving toward His purpose. He was an example to us and contributed in His world before His baptism and most certainly after these words were spoken to Him. Did it matter what He had done? The Father was “well pleased” and expressed exactly that to the Son.

Today I want to reverse Father’s Day! Instead of waiting for messages from my children, to celebrate Father’s Day, I want to send them a message:

“I’m very proud of you, not for what you have accomplished or will accomplish in your life, but simply because you are my child! You are on this earth and moving toward your purpose! You are a gift to me and I will always love you. Whatever difficulties you may face in life, I pray you will always feel you can come to me and find a place of acceptance. After all, I am your father!”

Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

 

Is Believing Enough?

Is Believing Enough?

Recently, I heard the amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, which illustrates how we can be challenged. 

Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

wheelbarrow

He also went across pushing a wheelbarrow and then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!” How many volunteers do you think stepped forward? There were none, but the reason is the most interesting: They only observed and believed.

DDblondin1As the story is told only his manager was willing to take the step beyond belief and have sufficient faith in Blondin, to be carried across the tightrope on Blondin’s back.

Standing on the ground, it was easy to believe based on what the crowd was witnessing. However, when asked to risk their own life, it required more than simply believing. There is obviously an entirely different level that takes us beyond belief.

In June 1990, Petra release an album featuring a song written by Bob Hartman entitled: “Beyond Belief” which was based on Heb. 6:1a, Phil. 1:6 Rom. 1:17. Here is the chorus:

There’s a higher place to go, beyond belief, beyond belief
Where we reach the next plateau, beyond belief, beyond belief
And from faith to faith we grow
Towards the center of the flow
Where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief

The song did not actually name on that place that is beyond belief, but I would call it trust. What Bondin was asking of the crowd is very similar to what “believers” are called to do, not just believe but trust. Trust is much difficult and beyond belief.

In my search to highlight the difference between belief and trust I read a blog that quoted Peter Enns and he provides a great illustration.  Jesus tells a famous story about why those who follow him need not worry about anything. Don’t fret about how much you have, what you wear, or what you will eat. Don’t worry. Trust. (Matthew 6:25-34).

Jesus illustrates the point in what at first blush seems rather off topic–at best marginally helpful. He tells us to consider the grass of the field and the birds of the sky. Look at them, Jesus says. They’re doing just fine and they don’t worry for a second.

Of course they don’t worry, Jesus, because they are–if I’m not mistaken–grass and birds. Grass doesn’t have a brain and birds are skittish little things that fly into windows. These things aren’t really relevant, Jesus, because, you see, by definition, Jesus, these things are incapable of worry.

And when you put it that way, you can see the profound point–and challenge–of what Jesus is saying: worry should be as impossible for us as it is for grass and birds. His followers–if they get it–should be as incapable of worry as insentient grass and bird-brained birds.

“Believing in God” doesn’t get you to that place Jesus is describing here. Belief leaves room for worry. Trust explodes it.

The question I would leave you with is this: Are you one who can step further than the crowd of believers, beyond belief, and move to trust, where you are incapable of worry?

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.

walk-byGeneral Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.

Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable.  After reading  an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner

1. Purpose & Calling

Typically, when we speak of  “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.”  Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.

work-is-our-calling-400We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God  through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).

In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.

DGreenThe part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.” 

God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.

If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes).  It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles.  If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us.  Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?

 

 

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Just over two years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder and I now visit a specialist every six months. Recently, I had another visit and I usually take my wife with me to help me understand since the doctor has a very strong French accent. Even though he speaks English, it can be very difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. During the appointment, he asked a question, but we just looked at each other bewildered because neither of us understood a word. He repeated it with the same result. He was saying “Ohh-ta-wah” in such a way that when it was placed in a sentence, we just couldn’t understand. After stating it the third time, we both realized he was asking if my surgery had been done here in Ottawa.

Have you ever heard someone but not understood what they said?

yesbymagnet_1Sometimes, language or dialect can be a barrier to understanding. I recall when we had friends from Ontario visit us in Newfoundland and we had a conversation with some locals. Our friends heard us speaking, but did not understand. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked because the very tone of the common phrase, “Yes b’y,” actually changes its meaning.

The effort required to hear a sound compared to the effort required to process it, is exponential. Understanding is logically the step that follows hearing, unless, of course, it involves a politician.

prime-minister-trudeauPoliticians typically only say what they want us to hear and we have to dig deeper if we desire to get the entire meaning; otherwise our perspective remains limited. For example, the Trudeau government often claims it has cut taxes for middle-class Canadian families. A recent article helped me understand that while it did reduce the second lowest federal income tax rate (from 22 to 20.5 per cent), it also eliminated a number of tax credits, thereby increasing income taxes for Canadians who previously claimed such credits. Result: 81% of middle-class Canadian families with children are paying more in personal income taxes.

The Liberals quickly speak of reduced tax rates, but the elimination of tax credits enlightens our understanding of the issue. What we comprehend about any issue or even a person, depends on what we hear (and read).

perspectiveIf you think about it, the perspective from which you see things can be the very obstacle that prevents you from seeing another point of view.  (Doesn’t this graphic resemble a political debate? It totally depends on which side you are on).

The Bible has some interesting things to say regarding understanding:

  1. One instruction is to not depend on your own understanding. Maybe one of the reasons is that our own understanding limits our ability to understand others.
  2. Also, “By understanding He (The LORD) established the heavens.” What did God understand?  Was it an understanding of the power of sound and what is formed from vibrations? Maybe the reason God spoke was to cause vibrations to form the earth. What did He establish? Heaven represents an eternal dwelling place for believers. If God is an example for us then, the purpose of understanding is to establish something that is eternal and meaningful to others.
  3. Mankind has the capacity to understand the deeper things that are buried within a person. The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.  If you think about your work, it may be important to understand others to bring clarity to them. Financial professionals can actually be a key to help clients see their inner purpose, why they have so much, or even why they have faced some troubles in life.
  4. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but actually a higher dimension of understanding. Think about the dreams within a person; they are actually unseen until exposed. If it is a dream of writing a book, it exists only in the mind of the author and only becomes visible when written.

In our work we should:

  1. realize “our own understanding” can be limited and should not always be relied on
  2. know we are called to establish something eternally significant through our lives
  3. understand others to expose the purpose that is often hidden deep within a person
  4. identify that faith can add a higher (or deeper) level of understanding

UnderstandingIn a conversation, an accountant told me he keeps his antennas raised when in discussion with clients. Since mankind is spiritual, our spirits are meant to be active and sensitive, which leads to an understanding of others. It is the spirit in man … that makes him understand. This depth of understanding is the requirement to draw out purpose.

In our efforts to understand others, how often do we simply rely on our own thoughts?  By ignoring our inner person (not having our antennas up), are we missing the greatest opportunities to explore the deep waters (purpose) hidden within others?

 

 

 

Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

The headline in the National Post read:

‘Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient’: Jimmy Kimmel tearfully calls for gun control

Is America’s national Thoughts and Prayers Strategy (TAPS) no longer working? That is a question raised in an article in Maclean’s magazine making statements which can be disturbing to the Christian community.

Here is one example: Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that TAPS may not be delivering the results we would expect from appealing to an omniscient and all-powerful deity.

In other words, thinking about others and praying to God is simply not effective and the results are not clearly evident. We ought to think more about what is really accomplished through “thoughts and prayers” because it seems to be terribly misunderstood, especially in light of recent incidents of violence.

The power of thinking is impactful on the person having the thoughts and only impactful on others when those thoughts are expressed.  Many have probably quoted the proverb that says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If a person then, is consumed with thoughts of murder and killing, and those thoughts are not taken captive, they will eventually be acted upon and that person can become what was thought about. I would suggest that this is exactly what takes place when murderous acts happen; the thoughts transform the person to become what he is thinking.

The idea expressed in the Maclean’s article is that the thoughts and prayers of US congressman are somehow supposed to alter the behaviour of the American people. Let’s get it right; the thoughts and prayers are to comfort after an event like these incidents  (Las Vegas, USA and Edmonton in Canada) and should not be trivialized.  Maybe it is true that the thinking around gun control needs to change in order to make America a safer place, but please don’t diminish the effectiveness of “thoughts and prayers” for the people impacted by these sorts of incidents.

A most challenging statement for many Christians is this one: This data is very surprising when you consider the power of beseeching God. You would think parting the Red Sea, or smiting the Egyptians with a plague of frogs, would be far more difficult than just reducing gun violence. It is worth noting, however, that most well-known examples of successful celestial intervention in earthly affairs are over two millennia old.

Pray for LVHe goes on to cite the reasons for the non-response from God, which could be denominational, or we are not praying enough, or the wrong people are praying, or praying wrongly (kneeling or not, with eyes open or eyes closed).

When I read these statements it upsets me because in my 50+ years on earth, I have seen God’s intervention. As a matter of fact, without it I would have only been here for 5 years because meningitis would have taken my life. We need to think deeper about the true purpose of prayer.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Soren Kierkegaard

From this quote, we see the focus is really about bringing change within the person who prays. Therefore, the focus of “thoughts and prayers” is actually more about changing the thinker and pray-er rather than those being thought about or prayed for. However, I certainly can testify that both can be transformed by prayer. I wonder if we have really missed the true power of prayer and thereby dismissed its effectiveness. Isn’t prayer about relationship with God, communicating with Him regularly rather than someone we call on only in crisis? Relationship with God through prayer is meant to change us. When prayer changes us, that’s when we can be an influence for change.

Just think for a moment about what God said when he created earth and also man. He said, “Let them (man) rule over the earth.” Mankind has been placed in a position of authority and influence by God, within nations to effect change as it is needed.

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” – Corrie ten Boom

Think about it –  we often use prayer to God as a spare tire. When there is a major incident or crisis, we call out to him. Prayer is meant to be our steering wheel which actually sets our course. It is meant to be part of our lives daily, not just when we have a blow out.

Does God intervene today? Maybe someone like paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, who had her neck broken as a teenager is much better qualified to answer this question:

“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves”

She calls suffering “a splash of hell” but maintains that a “splash of heaven” can be found through intimacy with Christ in the midst of it. And she can say so because she has found it to be true. The first part of that statement is strikingly similar to Jimmy Kimmel’s statement, “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” The problem is most are missing the “splash of heaven” since intimacy with Christ only comes through “thoughts and prayers” on a regular basis, not just at times like this.

What influences your life most? The splash of hell? Or the splash of heaven?