“Where Was God?”

“Where Was God?”

8090B62D-A050-4801-AF8D-A6311B72E04F“Why did this happen? Where was God?” These are the two major questions that were posed by the team pastor at the Humboldt Broncos vigil.

Humboldt Broncos vigil: Team pastor delivers tearful and powerful address

The beautiful part of his answer is that He is with us, that He is with the broken hearted. The more challenging part of his answer is when he said, “God is on the throne.” The thought that immediately follows is that if God is on the throne, He is, therefore, in control. As these thoughts were being expressed, the camera was on a tearful young lady who was shaking her head as if to say “No.”

Rejection of this kind of thinking at a time like this is understandable. “How can a loving God allow such a tragedy to happen?” If you look closer at the Scriptures, you will find that God is more accurately pictured as sovereign, which is actually different than being “in control.” As a matter of fact, the Scripture says, “that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Can I suggest that this tragedy had  more to do with the “evil one” than the God who is sovereign? Why did this happen? The evil one is said to have a purpose of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10). Why not bring the evil one a little more into focus for the responsibility of these types of circumstances or even just human failure?

Read a previous blog to help answer the question: Is God Really in Control?

In this blog, I use the example of the Queen, who is considered the Sovereign over Canada, but she does not control the decisions or even influence the government of Canada. Interestingly, the Queen sent a message of condolence which is definitely a positive thing. My concern is more about the message the Sovereign God is trying to send.

The fact is, we experience hardship in this life and the primary reason is that satan and sin are still at large in this broken world. During times like these, we certainly shake our heads “no” and may be tempted to think that God is not there and is not sovereign or reigning. He is, however, very much interested in your brokenness and can somehow bring good from the evil that has happened. That can be very difficult to comprehend at a time like this. In fact, He can take these awful events that satan intends for evil and turn them around, and bring eternal good out of them.

Maybe instead of asking, “Where was God” we should ask, “Where is God now?” God’s promise is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Pastors may not have all the answers during such difficult times, but we can all have the confidence that, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can all have the assurance that God is with us in life’s darkest valley.

“Our Season Was Painful” #humboldtbroncos

There is much sadness in Canada today whether you are a hockey fan or not, due to the bus tragedy in Saskatchewan. I just happened to turn on SportsCentre this morning and the main story of course, is about the Humboldt Broncos hockey team with 15 dead and others critically injured.

Many coaches, players, politicians and even those who really have not had much connection are heart broken over this loss. One comment made by Glen Gulutzan, coach of the Calgary Flames was particularly striking. Here are his exact words:

I said in Winnipeg, our season was painful, and I would like to take that back … I can’t imagine what Mom’s and Dad’s are going through.

That provides perspective! Sometimes our experiences in a particular season (of life) can be so challenging, often because it may represent a loss of some sort. Obviously, a season of loss and failure to make the playoffs is not loss at all in comparison to this.

It is pretty clear that the pain of this tradegy has impacted the hearts of so many.  Thus far more than 40,000 people have donated 3 million dollars through the gofundme.com/funds-forHumboldt-Broncos.

What will be the legacy of this Humboldt Broncos team? Legacy may prove to be the greatest consolation for these families.

In law, a legacy is something acquired by inheritance, or by a will. In historical terms, a legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. Often it means something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor.

Humboldt players range in age from 16 – 21, which is not a significantly long period of time. My prayer is that the short period of time lived, will enable a legacy that is meaningful enough to provide some consolation for those families who are now feeling the pain of loss.

I am not sure anyone can find the right words at a time like this. I searched google and found this quote below about a power that is able to make a way out of no way and can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.

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My Prayer for 2018?

My Prayer for 2018?

This is definitely the time of year where we have family and friends coming to visit with us. As I have reflected on the Christmas story from Luke 1, it is filled with visits, some even from angels. Particularly, think about Gabriel who first visits Zachariah, then Mary.  These meetings have much in common: (a) the immediate response in both cases is fear with the instruction to “Fear not”; (b) then to each was an announcement of a miraculous birth in circumstances that were humanly impossible; (c) they both respond with a question but it is here that the differences begin to be magnified.

1. The Angel Gabriel visits Zechariah

Here are the facts of their story: (a) He and his wife were too old to have children (b) God heard their prayer for a child (c) He was told they would have a son and to name him John (d) He questioned: “How can I know this?”

2. The Angel Gabriel visits Mary

The facts of this visit are: (a) Mary was unmarried; (b) Mary was too young to have a child (in other words a virgin); (c) She was told she would have a son and to name Him Jesus; (d) She questioned: “But how can this happen?”

Despite the similarities of these visits, there is one significant difference: Zechariah questioned because he did not believe while Mary questioned because she did believe. Mary was interested in how this was going to happen, while Zechariah considered the obstacles and failed to recognize the presence of the Divine. He was then unable to speak until John was born. His focus was more on the limits of their age, rather than seeing how the ageless one could fulfill a promise through them. Many times our present reality can keep us from seeing all that God has purposed for us and desires to accomplish through us.

3. Mary Visits Elizabeth

(a) Mary greeted Elizabeth; (b) the baby kicked; (c) Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; (d) She told Mary she was blessed for believing.

good newsThe speaking of words seems to be important enough that Elizabeth was prevented from hearing the words of unbelief that would have undoubtedly been spoken by Zechariah, and was instead greeted by Mary. Both Mary and Zechariah were visited by an angel. Zechariah didn’t believe despite having prayed for a child. Mary believed without having prayed for a child (at least I suspect that to be the case at this time in her life).

So what’s most important?  The believing, the praying or the saying? Zachariah didn’t believe, yet John was born. Mary didn’t pray to have a baby, yet Jesus was born. Also noteworthy is how Elizabeth declared Mary blessed because she believed. Mary’s belief is evidenced in the words she spoke, exactly as it is with all of us. We speak out of what fills our heart and belief is a function of the heart. Zechariah was unable to align his speaking with his prayer or the message spoken by the angel.

In many cases, the words we speak are based more upon our circumstances rather than on what we have prayed concerning that circumstance. We would do so much better if we speak according to the promises that God has given to us. The reality is the words we verbalize not only impact ourselves but also others who hear.

Here is an interesting statement in scripture: “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”  We greet people all the time and we should consider what can happen within others when we speak to them. When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.

Mary’s words created joy, which is an example of how powerful our words can be. We can stir emotions and cause others to believe as we speak with them. Despite a divine encounter with two special individuals, one, who would regularly interact with his spouse, was prevented from speaking to Elizabeth, while the other, who believed, was moved to visit and inspire her.

Christmas Greetings are meant to be good news of great joy! If you are sensitive you will be moved to speak with many people in the year ahead. What will be the results of those meetings and interactions?

My prayer for 2018 is:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

The Impact of a Gift

The Impact of a Gift

In 2012, my wife and I visited our youngest daughter in Calgary. We attended Centre Street Church (where she is now on staff) and then browsed the book store where I found a Stewardship Bible. I decided to purchase this item because I had just completed training for financial professionals and the notes contained in this Bible supported the course so well. When I went to the cashier, she said, “That is yours.”

I said, “Yes, I am here to pay for it.”

“No,” she responded. “A lady donated this to us with the instructions that whoever was interested in it, please give it to them.” This is the first and only time I ever went into a book store and walked out with a book in hand that was given to me.

This was one of those moments where there was a sense that something divine was at work. It was like the Lord was sending me a message that it was important for me to more fully understand the message of stewardship. I do not know who donated that Bible to the bookstore, and that person, therefore, cannot know the significance this kind gesture had on my life. It was one of those “little things” that led me to change my 24-year career as a financial advisor to actually becoming a director of a national ministry working with financial professionals.

With our limited perspective, it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend the impact we can have on others with the gifts we can give. Maybe that is exactly the reason for this statement in 1 Cor. 4:2: “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”

We have all been “put in charge of things” to manage in this life and it is a good idea to consider the potential impact we could have with those things. Consider your time. Can you impact others with how you use time? In 2012, I read the book, “Money, Possessions & Eternity” which helped change my perspective on money. This means the investment of time by the author to write this book was impactful on my life. Until I met the author, Randy Alcorn in 2017, he could not have known that impact. In the same way, our use of time can influence people beyond what we typically realize.

Ken Boa speaks of stewardship this way:

In every stewardship relationship there are two parties involved: the master who hands out the resources and will one day ask for an accounting; and the steward who is entrusted with the resources and must eventually answer for how they were invested. God is the master; he distributes gifts at his discretion. We are stewards, accountable to him for all that we do with all that we have.

December is a time of giving for most, but we should see it more as an opportunity to invest in the lives of others. I have wondered if that Stewardship Bible just sat on a shelf and the thought was, “This Bible would be of better use if it was given to or invested in someone else.”

The reality is: “to whom much is given, much is required.” We must understand we have a responsibility to be faithful with all that has been entrusted to us.  The steward is not actually accountable for the results, but called to be faithful with the resources. It is easy to look for the results rather than focus on our stewardship responsibilities. When we focus on the results and they are not clearly evident, we can easily ask “Why should I continue?” The fact is we are not always aware of the results, nor are we responsible for the results. That is why our calling is to be faithful.

Faithfulness with our resources is vitally important because of the future accounting. This is exactly why we ought to expand our thinking to view our giving as an investment in others.  Investors look for opportunities to get a good return on that investment, which is actually the perspective of a steward.

If you think about all you have received in this life, how are you managing it? It is important to have a focus beyond yourself.

today-is-a-gift

We all have an ability to give something:

  1. Maybe it’s time, which we all have in equal measure
  2. Or opportunity to use your talent, which is unique to you
  3. Or perhaps it is giving from your treasure, which varies by each person.

When considering all that we have and all that we do, it is important to see opportunities, not only to give but also to invest in others. When we give of our time or talent or make a financial donation, do we see it as giving or investing?  Is it just semantics? When making donations most millennials want to feel like they’re making an investment, which is really a steward’s perspective on giving.

During this Christmas season:

How can you use time to impact others? Are there opportunities for your unique gifting to bring joy? Can you make an investment financially through your resources that can have reverberations beyond what you can imagine?

May you experience the Joy of giving this Christmas season!

Did You Chase The Ace?

Did You Chase The Ace?

One of the headlines in the news, especially in Newfoundland, but also nationally is:

Newfoundland couple wins $2.6-million Chase the Ace jackpot in final night of lottery

Chase

According to one blogger, Chase the Ace is a phenomenon in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2014, just two lottery licenses for the game were issued; for 2017 alone, at least 283 have been granted to churches and community groups across the province in order to raise funds. I find it interesting that he also referred to this phenomenon as “a new religion.”

When I read this statement, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt, maybe a little uncomfortable. I decided to seek a definition and without even leaving my laptop, google told me: religion is a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,

It seems the word “religion” accurately represents the Chase the Ace phenomena because hundreds of people would line up for hours with funds to purchase tickets. What was the motivation? While it was ultimately about raising money for the church, the primary motivator of the participants was the desire for profit, not about giving (even though the cause was a good one). Right below that definition of religion, it states that “consumerism is the new religion.” While this lottery is a successful means of fundraising, what created the enthusiasm among the people was the desire for wealth, which is driven by consumerism.

Here is the structure of the Chase the Ace lottery: the consolation prize was 20% of the day’s ticket sales, while 30% accumulated into the jackpot that was awarded if a ticket-winner drew the Ace of Spades from a diminishing deck of cards. The other 50% went to the parish (charity). Interestingly, there is little focus in the media on the amount raised for the church except that: Organizers say they will know how much money the lottery raised in a couple of days.  There is no doubt this fund-raising was a huge success and much more was raised this way than by passing an offering plate around on Sunday.

Here is my point: most people weren’t focused at all on giving, yet 50% was being given away. They were “tricked,” for lack of a better term, into giving half of their money away. What was everyone focusing on? Maybe partially on giving. The primary focus though, was on receiving, or winning the prize. There was a building of excitement each week as the Ace was not drawn and the jackpot (30% of ticket sales) continued to grow.  Even the 20% (consolation prize) created great anticipation.

Interestingly, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial motto is an admonishment from Jesus Christ: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” The promise is that when we do this, tomorrow will take care of itself; but it seems like we no longer place any confidence in these words. One of the ways to put God’s kingdom first is to give, and trust Him for our provision. Instead, giving is disguised as a lottery and we trust in our own abilities for tomorrow’s provision, even if it comes from a lottery.

Churchill

The fact is most of us have simply lost the focus and excitement of giving, because we would much rather receive. Obviously, the vast majority of those who bought tickets did not win anything, so their only consolation is that they gave 50%, but most of these probably feel they lost the entire value of their ticket. I think the truth is that most had little thought for the amount they were actually giving to charity. Isn’t it still true though, that it is more blessed to give than to receive?”

 

Profit From Your Giving Account?

In my last blog post I asked the question: What are you getting in exchange for money? How we spend our money is usually determined by the value we receive in exchange for our money. Let’s face it, if we do not feel we are getting good value, then we decide not to spend money in this way.

When it comes to giving money away, we need someone to help us gain the right perspective.  As an example, when we make a donation to charity, do we consider it giving money away or investing it? In Phil 4:10-20 the Apostle Paul expressed his appreciation to the Philippians for their financial support by telling them they were the only church who gave during this time.  Paul was not simply thanking them, but helping them gain an important perspective about the benefits of giving. Here are a few reasons we usually give:

  1. There is an expressed need
  2. We are moved (with compassion) to give
  3. Maybe we have been taught to give 10% of our income
  4. Our income is higher, so we could use the tax break

The new perspective Paul brings contains another benefit of giving that we often overlook: “the profit that is increasing to your account.” Paul actually downplayed the benefit of the gift to himself (or his ministry), in order to emphasize what these people were receiving in exchange for the gifts (money) they gave.  It is difficult for us to even comprehend an eternal account, or that we can make deposits into it with our giving, but that is actually what Paul was excited about. He was really saying, “When you give what is temporal, you multiply what is eternal.” The true value received was an increase in their kingdom account, which incidentally, yields dividends in this life as well.

Accountability_ProfitIn the next verse, Paul notes that he received the gift, but also that it was “well pleasing to God.” So the gift that was given to Paul’s ministry was actually credited to the kingdom account of these people; treasure was being “stored up” in their account in heaven. It was a gift on earth, but an investment in a heavenly account.

Typically, having an account is essential to receive services at any financial institution today. It is interesting to note that the verse that most Christians quote about God supplying our needs, follows this reference to “the profit that is increasing to your account.” It seems the promise of supply (from heaven) is connected with having an account (by giving on earth). The promise of God meeting our needs “according to His riches” is connected to the account that Paul referenced, namely, the one that is accumulating there through giving here on earth. Our giving actually “opens” an eternal account.  However, if you think about what Phil. 4:19 says, the supply we receive for our needs is not actually from our deposits (or gifts given to charitable work) but “according to His riches.” This is a little much to comphrend … we make deposits into our kingdom account by giving and the promise of our needs being met is not even withdrawal from that account, but comes “out of His wealth.” So when we give, we can truly have confidence in two important things:

  1. Our kingdom account is receiving deposits that will profit (eternal rewards)
  2. Our needs are promised to be met while we are on earth

I think that is a great return on investment! 

The Value of Community

As the National Director of Kingdom Advisors in Canada, one of my goals is to bring Christian financial professionals into membership. With this drive for memberships before the end of the year, I have been talking much about the benefits. These include new study group content monthly, regular teleconferences, Core training to equip advisors with biblical financial advice and wisdom in practice management.

Last week, I had a conversation with a long time friend, Melvin, about his membership renewal and he talked at length about his 2-year-old granddaughter Isla. She was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, had recently been doing well after lengthy chemo treatment, but last week took a turn for the worse.

islaAfter more testing and scans, it was discovered she had two tumours on her brain. This past Thursday, just as Melvin was arriving home, his son Michael (also his partner in his practice) called saying,“Isla may not make it through the night.” Michael asked his Dad if he could call as many as possible to prayer. Within an hour, more than 100 had gathered to pray at the church. Isla did make it through the night, is now back on chemotherapy, and Melvin told me, the tumours are shrinking. This has been a roller coaster ride for them.

Back to his membership, Melvin said,“I just do not have the time right now to be engaged with Kingdom Advisors, but I would like to continue membership because I want to be connected to people who pray.” So the value Melvin feels he has received is through prayer support, not the tools and resources I was promoting, at least not right now.

It has made me realize that one of the greater values of Kingdom Advisors, or any organization for that matter, is Community. We can support one another, not just with great ideas, but also by simply being supportive of one another. Prayer is a means of connecting with a higher source and having at least two or three agree is truly important.

There are likely other members of Kingdom Advisors and other persons that we are presently in community with that are facing a similar challenge this Christmas. Let us pray one for another. I would like to take this time to wish everyone a blessed Christmas season. May the peace that passes all understanding be yours!