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)

Money & Motorcycles: My Financial Advice Journey

Money & Motorcycles: My Financial Advice Journey

I often joke about the first piece of financial advice I gave to my wife after only 6 months of marriage. During her first year of teaching and before we were married, she had been counselled by her Credit Union to start saving in a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Just starting out, we didn’t have many other resources and we, (actually, more like I), desired to have a motorcycle. We did not want to borrow to purchase, so unknowingly, we did live by one Biblical financial principle which is to “avoid the use of debt.”

My financial advice as a brand new husband was to cash in the RRSP so we could enjoy some time together on our motorcycle. I had no idea that there would even be a tax consequence to this redemption, so this was not part of my thinking. The other thing I failed to consider was the time value of money. That original investment (more than 30 years ago), would now be worth 15 to 20 times more than the value at that time. I did not know or understand the biblical financial principles shared in my last blog. As a young couple, building liquidity or setting long term goals were not on our list of priorities.

While this financial decision may not have been the best, it did bring us much enjoyment, which is one of the things money can accomplish. In 1 Timothy 6:17b, we are instructed not to trust in money, but have confidence in God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

The irony is amazing because this same Credit Union that gave good advice to my wife (to invest in an RRSP) later became my employer. As one of their financial planners, naturally, my advice was based on industry standards. As a Christian, I acted with integrity and provided good counsel to clients, but the focus of my advice did not intentionally incorporate biblical financial principles.

A condensed version of my financial advice journey.

If you watch my story that I briefly shared last week at the 2019 Kingdom Advisors Conference, you will learn that I became an advisor out of necessity, not purpose. You will also begin to understand that the level of fulfillment as a financial planner increased tremendously once I realized my work was not just a job but a calling. My role was to educate people in financial wisdom, which in reality, is a means of fulfilling the Great Commission by teaching them.

Once I realized my unique position where I was able to use my competency as a Certified Financial Planner® and incorporate the wisdom gained as a Certified Kingdom Advisor®, my career became my calling. I was finally in the sweet spot and was able to build deeper relationships with clients than ever before.

In my current role, I connect with many advisors across Canada who are very much like I was, enjoying their career and client relationships, yet sensing there is another level of fulfillment that can be reached. My experience is that you can flourish in your work when you realize God has called you to do that work. When you apply wisdom that is timeless (James 3:17) to the advice you share, the results are heavenly and you can enjoy the ride!

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!

A Favourite Christmas Tradition

A Favourite Christmas Tradition

It’s that time of year again when we get to take some time off and make special memories with family. Our family loves to watch movies during the holiday season and one of my favourites is: “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My son messaged me this week and said, “Dad, it looks like you’re in good company with your favourite Christmas movie choice.” 

He was quoting an article from the BBC News website that stated:

It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic festive feel-good film about a man who has devoted his life to helping others.

But when he tries to take his own life a guardian angel stops him and shows him the value of his life.

A wonderful Life

The reason I like this movie so much is because it reminds me, in some ways, of my own life. Simply put life doesn’t always go the way we might have envisioned, but this movie serves as a great reminder that the impact of our life is usually greater than we realize, especially when life is not necessarily pleasant.

In the movie, Clarence, a guardian angel, shows George Bailey the value of his life by having him see what his community and the lives he knew so well would be like if he had not actually lived. If we had not ever lived, the lives of those we love and care about would not be the same at all. In essence, their lives would be the lesser without us. The movie is a reminder that one life enriches and can change the lives of others without realizing it.

It’s interesting that the very thing that was such a burden (his work and its challenges) became the very thing that brought the greatest level of pleasure and fulfillment in the end. Clarence gave him a different perspective which made all the difference for George Bailey. Sometimes all we need is a fresh perspective – one which causes us to see that even when our lives are messy, broken and not how we would like it to be, there is still an element that is actually wonderful. 

Do you realize that your life adds meaning to those around you? Have you ever thought about your family, your co-workers and friends and wondered what their lives would look like if you were not present? 

Merry Christmas! It’s a Wonderful Life!

The Difference in a Decade

The Difference in a Decade

Facebook has a way of reminding you of what you were doing 10 years ago and of course, encourages you to share those memories.

Do you remember what was happening 10 years ago? Two things are pretty significant because it would affect so many Canadians:

PM Harper at Deer Lake1. There was a federal election in Canada,

2. The stock market was dropping and could not seem to find a bottom.

For me, those times included some of the most dramatic events that led to a major life change. I ran as a Conservative candidate in the 40th Canadian General Election. Whenever people find out about my election run they ask, “How did you do?” My reply usually starts with, “Do you remember Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland Labrador? Remember his ABC campaign (Anybody But Conservative)?” The result: no Conservative was elected in the province in that election, not even those who were favoured!

After the election, I returned to my financial planning practice (10 years ago on this very day, October 15th).  My clients, like others around the world, were seeing their portfolios declining by thousands, especially in the weeks I was campaigning in an election that I had no chance of winning. They were still on an emotional roller coaster wondering if they would ever regain what was lost.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.38.02 AMThis led me to a very dark place, what my wife often refers to as my mid-life crisis. I struggled with the fact that I was not there for my clients when they needed me most; that was a fail. I put my name forward to run in a federal election and felt very much alone, especially after the devastating election night. I felt defeated (in more ways than just the election) and questioned my purpose. If you look at the chart and the shaded area of yellow, the stock market decline seemed to parallel my life at this time. What was my life all about anyway? It was one of my lowest, darkest times.

I needed a change, a new direction, maybe a new career. I needed something to get me out of this dark place. I searched the web every evening after work for opportunities that I felt suited for but came up empty. Or did I? I prayed but those results didn’t appear any better. I did, however, find a new role with a different Credit Union. This did not seem to make much sense though because it meant I would be managing less than 20% of the assets I was managing where I was. That decision just didn’t seem to make sense but I just knew I had to make a change.

What is interesting is that in my job search, I also found a membership organization for Christian financial professionals known as Advisors with Purpose (now known as Kingdom Advisors). I joined as a member and started to participate in the monthly coaching calls. I also did the KA Core Training which helped me understand what it meant to be called to the role of financial planning. I never really felt called to be a financial planner; it was more like just a job for me, but my perspective began to change. As time progressed, I realized more and more that I was “called” to do what I was doing. It was not just a job, but my interaction with clients was indeed an answer to the calling I felt in life for many years.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013 when I am asked to become the National Director of Kingdom Advisors in Canada. This would mean helping other Christian financial professionals understand their own calling; that excited me. It also meant leaving my practice and clients and leaving “the rock” (Newfoundland), where I had lived all my life; that scared me.

In 2015, I left my book of business behind and my wife and I moved to Ontario, just on the outskirts of Ottawa. I ended up in the Ottawa region anyway, not because I was elected as a Member of Parliament, but to fulfill a completely different purpose. Life has taken a very different path than I thought. I can truly say it is a journey of faith that is not without dark moments.

I am reminded of this scripture in Isaiah 45:3 (NIV):

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel (& Canada), who summons (or calls) you by name.

Have you ever felt like your life is like a chart of the stock market? Has it often resembled that sort of roller coaster ride? Look for the treasures that may be hidden in the dark place, invest your life at that point where opportunity presents itself because the return on the investment of your life can be significant and have eternal rewards!

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?

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.