I Lost My Watch

I Lost My Watch

In April 2015, I transitioned from 24 years as a financial planner and became the National Director for Kingdom Advisors where I now connect with Christian financial professionals across Canada. At that time, I was given a Hugo Boss watch from a fund company which meant a lot to me because it was a symbol of an important time of transition in my life.

Fast forward to August 2017 – my wife and I flew back to our home province for a few weeks. We were blessed to have friends who offered us their car to use while we were there. Let me interject a little about my friends, Keith and Alma: we have spent sufficient time together to be completely comfortable with them and they really understand that “The Lord owns it all.” To illustrate our relationship, I sent this text to them when we were about to fly back home: “So thankful for the use of the BMW the Lord blessed you with. Note: I avoided saying ‘your vehicle’ because I know you understand that what you have is the Lord’s. You are such a blessing!!”

After we arrived home from our trip, I searched through every piece of luggage and pockets of my jacket but could not find my watch. We called back to my in-laws, where I thought I had likely left it; they searched the room where we stayed. No watch. We called Alma and asked her to look in the car, but the result was the same – no watch found. We called the airport thinking I may have left my watch in the tray when I went through security.  Again, my watch was not found.

Where was my watch? It was lost and I learned today (May 22, 2018) that it actually had been in Alma’s car for all these months, completely hidden under the front seat.  The car had been cleaned several times since August without discovering the watch. In April, when the car was driven over a bumpy road, Alma’s sun glasses fell on the floor underneath the seat and when she reached for them, she pulled out the watch!

The problem was she had completely forgotten that I had even borrowed their car and her immediate action was to send  messages to those she knew who had recently used her car.  The response every time was “I didn’t lose a watch.” When the watch was found, the battery was dead so they thought that it may have been there for a long time, maybe even before they purchased the vehicle.  Could it belong to the original owner?

Here’s the amazing part of this story: Alma’s husband, Keith didn’t even know I had lost my watch on my visit. He took the watch, replaced the battery and began wearing it on occasion. For me, any hope of finding the watch was long gone, even when they texted and said they were coming for a visit. They arrived at our house and we enjoyed catching up in conversation over a delicious meal. I had no thought about the watch until I saw it on Keith’s arm. I felt a little awkward at first and did not want to interrupt the flow of conversation. How could I ask about the watch or where and when he had found it? Maybe I should just ask, “Where did you get such a nice watch?” Our conversation continued and out of nowhere, Keith lifted his arm to look at the watch and then said, “I have to change the subject: Lorne this watch is yours!”

Seriously! We were all shocked at the quick change in conversation and I realized how the Lord cares about the little details that concern us, especially regarding something that was lost. Keith said, “I just felt the Lord say, ‘This is Lorne’s watch.’” I realized that the Lord was using this circumstance to give Keith more confidence to follow the Lord when prompted. It confirmed to him that he could trust the still small voice of the Lord.

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Many times Keith doesn’t even wear a watch. He could have easily worn a different watch when he visited, or no watch at all. Was it just coincidence that he chose to wear the Boss watch for his visit to my house?

Here is what I realized from this whole thing: the Lord is interested in using every day situations to help us be more sensitive to His promptings.
What is most amazing about this story? It’s not as much about my lost watch being found as it is about a man being sensitive to know when the Lord is speaking to him and having a willingness to act on it. Do you have the confidence to follow the inner promptings from the Lord?

Giving: The Sad Reality

Giving: The Sad Reality

It seems quite natural to ask a young child what they are getting for Christmas and it is obviously quite natural for kids to be excited about opening gifts on Christmas morning. Yet we all know that Christmas is more about giving than it is about getting.

A quick look into the origin of Santa Claus will reveal a heart of giving. It begins in the third century with Nicholas. His wealthy parents raised him to be a devout Christian, but died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young.

Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

Here is the statement that stands out to me: “Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy …” Let’s face it, this is the time of year we think much about giving, but our emphasis tends to be towards those who are closest to us (family and friends), not necessarily those in need.

By asking “what are you getting for Christmas,” I wonder if we are putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Obviously, in order for some to receive, someone has to give, so maybe we ought to change the question to: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

However, the focus of one of the articles in the Toronto Sun this week, presents a not so bright picture in Canada, especially when it comes to giving. I couldn’t help taking a screen shot of the online article:

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It’s interesting how this article is about being “Scrooge-like” when it comes to charity while there are ads surrounding the headline to entice us to spend our money on costly things. Without some sort of ad blocker, we are constantly bombarded with these ads which actually helps “program” us to want more. Let’s face it, whether younger or older, we are programmed “to get” but not programmed “to give.”

I was disappointed as I read the article as it described how little we are actually giving in Canada. It quotes a new Fraser Institute study stating that Canadians have reached a new ten-year low when it comes to donating to charities.

Here are some of the surprising takeaways from the most recent trackable year, 2015:

*One in five Canadian tax-filers claimed charitable donations on their tax return — compared to almost one in four Americans

*The total amount donated by Canadians — just 0.56% of income — is the lowest amount in a decade and down from a 10-year peak of 0.78 % in 2006.

*The average dollar amount, in local currencies, claimed in Canada was $1,699 – compared to $6,058 in the U.S.

Why are we giving less than 1% of our income to charity?

1. Maybe we think we are more generous than we are. We buy someone a coffee or a meal, we give a few dollars when we are asked at the ckeckout and add it to our bill, or we drop $5 or $10 in the Salvation Army Kettle during the Christmas season … and we feel good when we walk away.

2. Many of the comments after that article said the government takes too much in taxes, so it limits a person’s ability to give.

3. Maybe we support a cause with our time and we feel that’s sufficient. In some cases, by just liking or sharing something online, we have a sense that we are giving enough.

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4. Maybe we simply don’t see the value in giving. When we give a gift to children or grandchildren, we have the satisification of seeing the joy of the gift being received. When we give to a charity, we often don’t get to see that same impact. Even beyond that, we tend to completely miss the eternal impact and therefore, fail to see our giving as an investment.

In todays society, it is natural to be self-centred so we must determine to give. Otherwise, we will give less and only when we see a need. So just as you set a savings goal for a purchase, education or retirement and set aside funds for that goal, maybe it’s worth establishing a giving goal. If you are working with a financial planner, this ought to be part of your overall strategy and a topic of discussion in your annual review.

Take a look at your overall income. Have you ever calculated where it’s all going? It’s pretty sad to see that just 20% of Canadians are giving and the overall average of the gift is only 0.56% of income (obviously because 80% are not reporting a charitable receipt). On the other hand,  65% of Canadians are saving 4.6% of income. These stats reveal that we are less interested in giving to others and more focused on saving for our future needs or wants.

Obviously we must use wisdom and save, but we ought to make giving more of a priority in life. Let’s re-program ourselves: Instead of “what are you getting for Christmas” let’s ask: “What are you giving for Christmas?”

What percentage of your income will you save next year? What percentage of your income will you give or invest in the lives of others?

Merry Christmas!

 

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.

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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!

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

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

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

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

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

1. Purpose & Calling

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

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

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

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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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.

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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!