A Pastor’s Legacy

A Pastor’s Legacy

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

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

Do you Really Believe John 3:16?

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

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

John 3:16 NLT

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

June 10, 2020

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

Is your Tombstone Accurate?

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

We are called to live as citizens of heaven!

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

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

Luke 16:8-9 NLT

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

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

The Legacy

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

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

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

I Remember Ralph

I Remember Ralph

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph & Paulette at Ministry to Missionaries in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Recalibrate Your Heart!

Recalibrate Your Heart!

Recalibrate is such an interesting word, especially when it comes to a persons life. The Cambridge Dictionary defines the verb this way: to make small changes to an instrument so that it measures accurately. 

Merriam-Webster Dictionary helps clarify the term further by putting it into a sentence:

… these systems gradually drift off course so that the navigator periodically needs a fresh point of reference to recalibrate the navigation system.— Stefi Weisburd 

When it comes to our lives and our hearts, we all need a reference point if we are to recalibrate properly. In a blog posted in 2011, Mark Mallett stated, “The heart is a finely tuned instrument. It is also delicate.” He goes on to say, “… all the bumps along the way can throw the heart out of calibration.” Life has a way of knocking us about and we need recalibration to our point of reference from time to time. Recognizing the proper reference point for our lives is the key to recalibrating our hearts. For me, the reference point is my Creator. “Remember your Creator” (Eccl. 12:1a) is a verse that comes to mind. The idea here is to intentionally  focus or meditate on, which is an inward mental act that leads to external acts. The purpose of remembering is really to align our thoughts, or to recalibrate our hearts so they are properly aligned with our “point of reference.”

This is necessary because we tend to lose our focus. Deut. 8:18 is a prime example where the instruction is to: “Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth …” When we fail to recalibrate regularly, we begin to believe that we have attained this wealth with our own abilities and we even believe that we own any wealth that is accumulated. Recalibration allows us to see that everything we have (wealth & possessions) comes from our Creator (see Col. 1:16) and belongs to Him (Psalms 24:1). When we recalibrate our hearts, we no longer think too highly of ourselves.

It is clear that we all need to be intentional and take the time necessary to recalibrate or “set our hearts.” Here are a few examples of these instructions in Scripture:

If wealth increases, don’t set your heart on it (Psalms 62:10). This becomes an issue because “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, they imagine it a wall too high to scale” (Prov. 18:11). Why is recalibration of our heart so important? Without it our imagination gets the better of us and wealth quickly becomes our false security.

Then there is an example of King Rehoboam who “did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:14).  Failing to recalibrate our hearts allows us to focus on things that only seem to be important. Remember when Jesus rebuked Peter? It was because he did not set his mind (heart) on God’s interest, but man’s (Matt. 16:23). Peter’s focus was on the earthly kingdom that he thought Christ was establishing and potentially his leadership role in that kingdom rather than the the eternal (thus the rebuke and that he was being influenced by satan). In other words, Peter needed to recalibrate, as he had just previously done when it was revealed to him, from heaven, who Christ really was, prior to this rebuke. That demonstrates how much we need to set our minds on things above (Col. 3:1-3) or recalibrate our hearts.

Don’t be alarmed when you realize that you have to recalibrate your heart often, or that you have gone for hours without even thinking of God! Rather, use this as a moment to humble yourself and acknowledge that you are maybe not as in love with God as you thought you were, that you seek your kingdom more than His, and that there is still much conversion left in your life. 

The purpose of recalibrating our hearts is to be able to hear from heaven, to hear from the One who calls us with purpose. We need to have times where we simply re-focus in order to gain the right perspective. Maybe that’s a time in the morning and/or the evening. Maybe it is setting aside a day in a month, or a few days in a quarter, or even a week or weekend in a year that is set aside for this purpose. We all need to have these times where we recalibrate our hearts, otherwise we will gradually and surely drift off course. 

I recently set aside a few days to do this myself and write my thoughts. It helped me realize that my Creator’s thoughts are higher than mine and if I don’t take the time to align my thoughts with His, I will just walk in my own ways and fail to seek His ways (which again are so much higher). Can I challenge you to set aside time to simply reflect in silence, worship and learn, in order to recalibrate your heart?

Can you set aside an hour to make this a priority? Or maybe a day just to slow down and stop to recalibrate? When you do, you will most certainly become more effective.

My Work and Easter

My Work and Easter

For many, the greatest impact of Easter is a few extra days off from work. I have to be honest, until this year (2019), I have never drawn a connection between my work and the resurrection. However, this is absolutely exciting for us all to consider. We tend to limit our thinking around Easter to spiritual matters only because it is a religious event on our calendars. I believe that Easter is meant to impact every part of our lives!

As I started my Good Friday, I read an article entitled: How Easter Changes Everything About Your Work and it was an eye-opener for me. I gained a new perspective and this fresh focus allowed me to see something I had previously missed. Let me explain.

In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul explains that Christ’s resurrection at Easter is the very cornerstone of the gospel. Without it, nothing else matters.

How Easter Changes Everything About Your Work

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Cor. 15:14

You may have heard some of 1 Corinthians 15 read at a funeral, but what does it have to do with our lives today, particularly our work? The gospel is meant to impact every area of our lives, not just the spiritual. The resurrection power is to be effective in our lives now, not just at death. We make a grave (pardon the pun) mistake if we read these verses and limit the application only to the dead being transformed with resurrected bodies to live on the new earth.

At the end of this incredible chapter on the resurrection, what does Paul say? “Since there is a resurrection, look forward to this glorious future?” No. He says something quite different:Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

When we read “the work of the Lord” we tend to immediately think of something spiritual, in the church, but our labour refers to all our work. It could represent our volunteer work or our vocations. Here’s the part in the article that grabbed me. Paul’s encouragement is to remember that what we do in this life is directly connected to our life in eternity. The resurrection is the key! Easter gives new meaning to our work! NT Wright in his book, How Then Shall We Work says,

Everything you do in the present life, in the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, everything that flows out of love and hope and grace and goodness somehow will be part of God’s eventual kingdom.”

The resurrection is the key to all of this. Just as our bodies are changed and we are given new bodies, so too, is our work for the Lord. Everything about us will be changed. It’s part of the mystery but the truth of Paul’s message is that “… your toil is not in vain.” If we read this on its own, we get the message that everything we do for the Lord is important in this present age, so we must do our best. Reading it in context makes this verse so much more powerful. Our work “is not in vain in the Lord” because our labours on earth somehow matter in eternity. Everything about us will be redeemed – not just our bodies, but the work we did through those bodies.

NT Wright ends with this statement:

The resurrection is your new body in which you will be gloriously, truly wonderfully you. The resurrection means everything you’ve done in the present through your body – works of justice and mercy and love and hope – somehow in ways we don’t understand will be part of God’s new creation.

When I think of my life, I truly want to see it as a masterpiece of God (although, on most days I don’t feel anything like that), where I am doing good works. If you read Ephesians 2:10, you will find that these works are what God prepared beforehand, or in advance, for us to do.

Think about it for a moment; God prepared works for us to do before we were born and because we are His workmanship, we walk in them. When that happens, our work is “not in vain, in the Lord,” but becomes part of our future through the resurrection. We live in the present, that is what we know and understand. Paul, however, describes a mystery concerning our future beyond our life on earth. I honestly think we should spend more time meditating on that mystery. God prepared work in advance of our present and the resurrection transforms that work so it can be part of our eternal future. This explains clearly why Paul exhorted us to:

… be stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Psalm 90:17b says, “…confirm (give permanence to) the work of our hands.” Have you considered that the work you do every day is having eternal significance? Will you allow this perspective to bring a new meaning to your work life?

Photo by Terry Grimes (Divine Design)

Can I Please God In How I Use Money?

The Bible has much to say about so many important things in life but it says more about money and possessions than it does about heaven or hell or faith and prayer. John Piper said, Jesus spoke more about money than he did about sex, heaven, and hell. Money is a big deal to Jesus.

Why is the issue of money so important? Maybe because it is the greatest competitor to God … Jesus said there is no middle ground, “You cannot serve God and money.” It’s one or the other.

The fact is none of us set out with a goal to serve money and most would likely prefer to serve God rather than money. We want money to answer our needs and grant our desires and oddly enough, God is interested in doing the same for us. The choice becomes whether we will look to God as our supply or to our finances. The lines are so easily blurred because as we earn money, we begin to see it as our source.

How, then, can we please God with money? Hebrews 11:6 states very clearly: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” To be honest, I have never really connected this verse with how I use money, but we need faith in every aspect of life in order to please God. If you jump back to verse 4, it reads, “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” This verse explains Abel to be “a righteous man, because God approved his gifts.”

The story of Cain and Abel is challenging because they both made an offering to God from the labour of their hands. Cain worked the ground and produced crops while Abel became a shepherd. Cain presented some of the land’s produce and Abel presented some of his flock. Some have said the animal sacrifice was more pleasing because it foreshadowed the Temple sacrificial system as well as Christ’s sacrifice to take away sin. This explanation hardly seems fair though, because they both offered to God from their produce.

Hebrews 11:4 provides the answer: it seems Abel’s offering was “by faith” and Cain’s offering lacked faith and was, therefore, not pleasing to God. If you read the story in Genesis 4, this is actually confirmed. It says of Cain (v.3a), “In the course of time Cain presented …” but regarding Abel it says he presented “some of the firstborn (v. 4). One offering did not require faith because it was offered once there was a sufficient supply. For Cain, there were many crops when he offered; no faith was required because he waited until there was plenty before he offered to God. For Abel, the priority was completely different. He offered to God first, which required faith that more would follow the firstborn. He was trusting God for his provision by offering the first to God. This pleases God.

This is a powerful lesson in financial priorities. What is our top financial priority? Do we give only when we have plenty and can afford to give? The big question is this: Does our giving include faith or does our giving lack faith because we are confident we have enough?

Let’s face it, most of us are not necessarily living by faith because it seems to make more sense to “walk by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). What a journey it is to live and give by faith. It means having sufficient confidence in God that we can set giving as a priority above the other things we can use money for.

How do we acquire faith? Here are the steps:

1. Faith (in regards to money) comes by hearing (biblical principles of finance).

2. Hearing creates thoughts and an understanding in our minds

3. As we mediate on biblical principles, it begins to shape what we believe.

4. Believing leads to a deeper knowing or a conviction (a confident trust).

5. Only then are we able to live by faith, acting and doing based on the convictions that have now been forged within us.

Think about these five biblical financial principles:

1. Spend less than you earn

2. Avoid the use of debt

3. Build liquidity

4. Set long term goals

5. Give Generously

Please watch this video about a kind hearted lady who was saving for a car that she needed. When asked how she was doing with her savings fund, she said she had given it all away. She gave $5000 to a widow that she felt needed the money more than she needed a car. What an amazing story and example of living by faith.

When Time Touches Eternity

When Time Touches Eternity

The US Marines have a saying – “In order to get to heaven, you have to die!”

That statement is interesting indeed, but I would ask the following questions: Is your life over when you die? What comes after death? Do you think of life in two parts – one part that we are living now, which ends when we die, and then a second part, eternal life (or getting to heaven)?

When I have asked those questions, most answer: the afterlife is an entirely different life than our present life, whether you believe in God or not. In order to get to heaven (eternal life), you have to die (so this life ends).

Is this belief biblical? Or is it more like: when you die physically, you actually continue to live on, just in a different place? Maybe you haven’t given this much thought but it is really important to consider.

We typically think about our existence as two entirely separate lives, but Jesus spoke of  one life that continues into eternity because we believe in Him. He said that our life here (on earth) actually impacts our life there (in heaven).

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

In other words, the consequences of our actions while we are here on earth are actually meaningful in eternity, yet most just “live for today” not considering any future return from the investment of our present lives. We often quote “He/she will reap what they sow” and typically are thinking about consequences soon after the action(s) occurs, not in eternity. This, of course, is true in the example of the farmer who sows seed to reap a harvest later in the fall of the year. It is interesting that the next verse following Gal. 6:7 (reaping and sowing) references reaping “eternal life,” connecting our life in the present with our eternal destiny.

Maybe we live our lives with too much of a disconnect from the eternal life that we are promised. I read something interesting from Mark Batterson’s book entitled “If.”

In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis demonstrates that God wants humankind to attend chiefly to two things: “to eternity itself, and to that point in time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.
In light of that truth, Screwtape, the veteran demon, advises a novice named Wormwood with these words: “Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in mind we sometimes tempt a human … to live in the Past.”

Two things grabbed my attention:

1. The Present is the point at which time touches eternity

2. The conversation between demons discussing their business of distracting humans “away from the eternal.”

heavenly mindedOur present lives today are meant to be lived in a manner that touches or impacts eternity. In order for that to happen, we must have an eternal perspective which will impact what we value.  If all we do is live for today, we may be living a distracted life, distracted from what should be our true priority.

C.S. Lewis says it this way:

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world are those who thought most of the next.

This means the idea about being “so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good” is a fallacy.

Do you feel you are only living for today?  Would it be more impactful today if you could gain an eternal perspective?

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

After watching the funeral of Billy Graham this week, I discovered his final column where Billy states: “By the time you read this, I will be in heaven.” I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that Billy Graham is in heaven. Why are we all agreed that he is in heaven? We might answer, with all the good he has done through his preaching to millions, you know he is going to be in heaven. After all he was “America’s Pastor” and the world’s best known evangelist, so he is a obviously in heaven.

F82EB9F9-DBF9-4EBC-9A4A-C6ADF24A9A53What’s interesting is the reason Billy Graham gives for his entrance into heaven. He states, “But I won’t be in heaven because I preached to the crowds or because I have tried to live a good life.” It is only his faith in Jesus Christ that gave him the  confidence of heaven. If Billy Graham will “be in heaven for one reason,” our hope of going to heaven is because of  the very same reason.

Randy Alcorn says this:

Many mistakenly believe that heaven is our reward for doing good things. This is absolutely not the case. Our presence in heaven is in no sense a reward for our works, but a gift freely given by God in response to faith.

Well, what about the millions that Billy Graham preached to and the lives who came to Christ because of his preaching? Doesn’t that account for anything? The answer can be found in Eph. 2:9, which Billy clearly understood: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (NLT). In other words, what you believe is the key to entering heaven, not what you do.  That is a good thing because if it is based on our efforts then most of us would have a difficult challenge ahead, especially if we compare ourselves to the accomplishments of someone like Graham.

However, we can’t stop reading there because immediately after saying salvation is “not by works,” the next verse clarifies that our works matter a great deal.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Even though salvation is not through our works, we are actually created to do good works. A lifetime of good works was actually prepared in advance by God for us to do. A few years ago I did a study using a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “A Life God Rewards” which explained how Jesus taught the promise of reward in heaven.

“He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27)

“You will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

“You will be blessed … for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14).

This certainly suggests that God is keeping track of what we do for Him every day. Wilkinson speaks of two keys: The first is belief that unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where we spend eternity. The second is our behaviour which unlocks the door to reward and determines how we will spend eternity.

The reality is we have the same hope of heaven that Billy Graham had because it is simply through faith that we enter heaven, which is really the foundation. At the end of Wilkinson’s book, there are several quotes from well-known theologians and preachers, of which is Billy Graham.

“The believer has his foundation in Jesus Christ. Now we are to build upon this foundation, and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; the final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.” –  Billy Graham

Are we living and working everyday with an eternal perspective? Will our good deeds, acts of kindness (works) pass the ultimate test?

 

The Value of a Birthday

The Value of a Birthday

lorne6
In Baie Verte, NL (Age 6)

When I awoke this morning, I first checked my messenger app, awaiting a message from my son when in fact, there was a message from an acquaintance that I normally do not communicate with at all. It was a prayer request regarding ISIS who has taken over Quaragosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq. Hundreds of men, women and children are being beheaded. I pray for those caught in the middle of this terrible atrocity.

Then I went to my twitter account and looked at the top story of the year from LifeSiteNews and was intrigued by the headline: He performed 1,200 abortions. In new viral video, he wants you to see what abortion really looks like.

“Well it’s time to shave and get on with the day,” I said to myself. As I looked in the mirror,  I could not help but think of the value of life and reflect on my own life, especially with this being the last day of another year, and another birthday for me. As I removed the stubble from my face, I recall my parents telling the story of my bout with meningitis when I was 5 and the doctor’s warning that if I survived, I would have permanent brain damage. My Dad told how he stood in the corner and prayed todickjane God that he could never preach again a message of healing if I did not survive. After being told it was no point to return to see me for 48 hours due to the medication, they returned the next day anyway and were told by the nurses that there seemed to be a miracle. I had come out of my unconscious state and had to be restrained due to my activeness. I knew my parents and could read all about “Dick and Jane” in my Kindergarten reader.  

I grew up believing my life had meaning and purpose, beyond just getting a job and making money. Life for me was more about impacting others. Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God … for I was sent for this purpose.” Not that I could ever compare my accomplishments to Christ, but all of our lives have significant purpose.

Back to Twitter – Ken Boa tweeted: “As we develop an eternal perspective we treasure the passing opportunities of this life and become more alive to the moment, not less.”

As we enter 2017, may we all realize that we were given days on this earth and opportunities in every day. Here is my prayer: “Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us; and (give permanence to) confirm for us the work of our hands” Psalm 90:17.

How Churchill Advised The Queen

How Churchill Advised The Queen

the-crown-netflixWe recently watched the new series”The Crown” on Netflix. It is a drama series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is quite amazing how the cast resembles the people we have watched for decades in different forms of media.

While we may not know if many of the scenes or words spoken are all exactly true, I found some advice Winston Churchill gave the young Queen to be very interesting. As she was leaving on a flight to tour some countries in the Commonwealth, he instructed, “Never let them see the real Elizabeth Windsor. The cameras, the television; never let them see that carrying the crown is often a burden. Let them look at you but let them see only the eternal.”

Churchill was telling her that although people will look at her, she must determine what she lets them see. In essence, the Queen needed to represent the crown more than herself. Her priority was to put the interest of the crown ahead of her own delight. This entails self-denial, sacrifice and service for the higher purpose of the crown. Churchill instructed the Queen to display the eternal, or higher calling.

We are seen everyday by others but what do we let them see?

While we may not live the life of a Royal, we all have choices to make about how we are seen by others. We all have opportunities to “let them see only the eternal.” We try to be at our best when we have an important meeting, but are we intentional about who we represent? For the Queen, she was called to represent something that existed before she was even born.

The fact is eternity is set within the heart of each of us, even commoners, and whether we recognize it or not, we are all representing something greater than ourselves. That also means there is a grander purpose in the conversations we have than we realize.

At times, I have felt my life lacked meaning and purpose. However, I now know that during those times, I failed to recognize the eternal in my day-to-day life. It is too easy for us to become focused only on the routine of the day and overlook the opportunities to have an impact that is eternal. Consider the words you share and the advice you provide to others. In many cases it has a greater impact than you realize.