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.

Can You Be Thankful for Tough Times?

Can You Be Thankful for Tough Times?

A common question during Thanksgiving is, “What are you thankful for today?” I would have to say I am thankful for the people who have come into my life, even for a brief time, to say something significant to me. It is so good to be able to revisit those monumental moments. I am, of course, grateful for the family and friends who have walked with me through many difficult, life-building experiences. In fact, I have come to realize that I am even thankful for those who have been a source of pain in my life and may have helped create some of those difficult experiences. All of them have shaped me into the person that I am today.

I remember one challenging season during my Bible College years (1982-1986) when I was desperate, ready to quit and do something else, rather than do what my heart truly desired. Thankfully, a pastor prayed with me and said I would be a “David and a Gideon.” It’s quite interesting that both of these men felt pretty insignificant (both were considered the least in their families). In May 2019, I was fortunate enough to meet that pastor again and thanked him for his words to me so many years earlier; those significant words that continued to resonate with me through some of the toughest times in my life.

As a young pastor just starting out in my career, I felt rejected by the denomination that I grew up in and where I had trained to be a minister. I was filled with questions and no answers, disappointed because life was not supposed to be this way. That’s when the Lord provided an opportunity for me to enter the financial services industry (1991). I felt this was just a temporary move until the Lord would open another door of ministry for me; after all, God had called me to “preach the word.” I am thankful for the tough times and for those who have rejected me, because without them, I would have never made the decisions I did.

I’m grateful for my wife who documented our journey together these past 34 years (on Oct. 25th this year). She wrote these words that another pastor shared on Sept. 20, 1992, “An open door is coming for Lorne, but he’s not yet ready for it. There will be some frustrating and trying times but we are to look at it as preparation time. We are to cleave to one another and look back at this night.”

Nine years later, I heard these words (Nov. 25, 2001): “Lorne will travel Canada and his ministry will be endorsed so strongly that people won’t be able to question it.” I’m grateful for closed doors because only God knows when and which doors should open. Trusting that God will do this is most difficult in your dark times.

One of my darkest periods was in 2008 after I had run in the Federal Election (and lost), plus the stock market had crashed. I was striving to open doors and get away from this pressure but despite my knocking, the only door that opened meant continuing in the financial services industry. I recall speaking with a counsellor during this period and she said, “You are suffering from rejection.”

I concealed my pain as much as possible but I was hurting in a way I felt no one else could comprehend. I’m grateful that Cathy was so understanding and allowed me to process, yet, pray me through this period. It was during this time that I began studying the topic of biblical financial stewardship in a book by Randy Alcorn, called “Money, Possessions and Eternity.” I am so thankful for men like Randy, Larry Burkett and Ron Blue whose writings have helped transformed my life and have given me much more of an eternal perspective in so many areas.

I’m so thankful that God’s ways are higher than my ways. What I thought was a temporary career in financial planning has turned out to be the work He had prepared in advance for me to do (see Eph. 2:10). I am grateful for the years I spent creating strong relationships with amazing clients who shared things with me that they would never share with a pastor. I was able to guide them financially and personally. Those years actually prepared me to become the National Director of Kingdom Advisors, a ministry to financial professionals to whom I can easily relate because of my own experience in the industry. It’s ironic that when I was asked to consider this role in 2013, my immediate response (without even thinking) was, “I feel like David out in the field shepherding the sheep (my clients), while so many others are more qualified.” It wasn’t until further reflection that I realized those words that the pastor shared with me in college were very true 35 years later.

The fact is when things don’t go according to our plans, we need to be thankful and willing to trust that things are going according to His plan for us. God can use any circumstance or people! It can appear to be anything but good at the time. Even if meant for evil, God works for our good and conforms us to His image (See Genesis 50:20). Are you facing tough circumstances and/or difficult people? Be assured that behind the scenes, God is using these situations and people to help transform you.

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

… In Whom I Am Well Pleased

When I woke up yesterday morning, on Father’s Day 2020, I reflected back on a message that I had shared a few years ago. I wrote a blog about it at that time and I really wanted to do a “Father’s Day Reversal” – I wanted to send a very special message to my kids instead of them just wishing me “Happy Father’s Day.”

How can we ever live up to the greatest example of fatherhood? As Dads, we need to express to our children that we are pleased with them. Here’s what I understand from the baptism of Jesus: the Father being pleased with the Son was not based upon what Jesus had accomplished in his life. Yes, Jesus was a great carpenter and was skilled in relationships but I believe that God was pleased simply because Jesus was on the earth. He existed as a man and was positioned to accomplish the Father’s will for His life.

Let’s face it, we tend to be pleased with our children when they accomplish something: they get good grades, they land a great job or get a promotion. That’s when we express our praise, when we have reason to be proud of them. It’s interesting the Father’s expression that He was pleased didn’t come when Jesus had healed the sick, fed the hungry, or turned the water into wine. It came before Jesus had accomplished any of these things.

Father's Day June 15, 97
Father’s Day 1997 No Accomplishment Required!

I have realized as a Dad that there are times when it is important to just tell our children that we are pleased with them simply because they are on the earth. When we base our “being pleased” on behaviour or accomplishments, we are placing conditions on the acceptance of our children.

Yesterday, I shared this with my kids: “I’m pleased with you, not based on what you have accomplished in life, but simply because you are on this earth.” What I realized is that this statement was very freeing for my children because they know they are accepted by me and do not have to earn that acceptance in any way. This is also a process for me as a Dad. I have had to let go of my expectations and what I desire for my children and simply rest in the fact that God is able to direct each of their lives in ways that I can never do. They are free to walk into their futures without sensing the need to gain my approval.

The fact is I don’t always agree with my kids; they have their own opinions that do not align with mine, but in spite of this, our relationship as a family is stronger than ever. I do not need to agree with my children to be happy or satisfied with them! My children are far from perfect, as am I, but thankfully, that’s not what is required to be a strong family. What is required is simply accepting our children … because they are our children.

My prayer today is that more Dads will not only tell their children that they are pleased with them but will also tell them why. Are you satisfied with your children? Have you told your son or daughter that you are pleased with them simply because they are your son or daughter? Isn’t that reason enough?

 

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!

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!

Have You Discovered Your Why?

Have You Discovered Your Why?

Last week was one of those special weeks where I was privileged to interact with some amazing influencers in the Christian financial services industry. More than ninety financial professionals from 7 of the 10 provinces in Canada came together in Toronto for the Kingdom Advisors Canada Conference.

BradThe majority of these advisors have figured out why they do what they do and surprisingly, it’s not just for the career, the money or the position. It’s because they feel called and that calling is usually defined by some life experience. After the conference, I was intrigued to read an article about one of our speakers, Brad Smith.

Photo taken from an article published by Wealth Professional Canada, written by Leo Almazora.

The article describes how Brad always saw protecting his clients’ wealth as his primary role. I believe this to be true for most financial advisors but that all changed for Brad after an incident with one of his very first clients.

“Henry was a factory worker, and he had done everything right,” he said. “He’d put his kids through school; by the time he retired, he was financially set to achieve everything we’d planned for. He couldn’t wait to leave the factory behind.”

No one could have imagined what would happen next: not long after his retirement, the man who’d done everything right tried to take his life. After finding out what happened from Henry’s wife, Smith visited him at the hospital and asked what drove him to it.

“Henry said ‘Nobody needs me. Nobody at work needs me, my kids don’t need me,’” he recalled. “’I went to my doctor because I was losing sleep, and he just gave me pills. I took them home, asked myself what it all meant, and downed all of them.’”

Genuinely concerned, Smith and a few of Henry’s loved ones brainstormed to help him find a purpose; he was passionate about hockey, so he decided to coach minor-league hockey teams and ultimately got out of his funk.

The whole affair marked a turning point for Smith. “I realized that if I succeed only in taking care of my client’s money — making sure it’s used well and ensuring a good return on investment — I have failed as an advisor,” he said. “I didn’t want another Henry.”

It seems this is when Brad began to find out his “why” and purpose in his profession as a financial advisor. The typical thinking is that dealing with a financial advisor is about rates of return on an investment portfolio or taking care of a client’s money. No doubt it does include those things, but discovering that his career path was about something far more important had a significant impact on his business and client relationships.

Over time, Smith found a similar pattern with other clients; many who were financially prepared for retirement were actually unprepared in emotional or psychological ways. That prompted them to develop a seven-step program to help clients lead lives of success and significance, a major part of which is to give generously to the benefit of others.

The seven step process  that Brad walks his clients through is the “journey to meaningful  significance.” Every year the Kingdom Advisors conference recognizes someone whose life demonstrates Christian character, unparalleled professional competency, along with the integration of biblical wisdom into their advice and counsel.  Brad journeys with his clients toward a life of significance and in this process has discovered his own life of significance. At the KA Conference in September 2018, Brad became the recipient of the Advisor with Purpose award because he has truly become an advisor with purpose.

Reckless Love & The Cop Who Didn’t Shoot

Reckless Love & The Cop Who Didn’t Shoot

The news is filled with the shocking story of the Toronto van attack where 10 people have been killed. We seem to have become more accustomed to this sort of violence in Europe or America, but not Toronto, so close to home. We have family in Toronto and it is only hours from where we live!

After reading the article published at Maclean’s written by Scott Gilmore entitled: Toronto Van Attack: The Cop Who Didn’t Shoot, I couldn’t help but think of the Christian song: Reckless Love, since I have already written two blogs about this song. No doubt, the actions of the perpetrator were violently reckless but could the actions of the officer, Const. Ken Lam also be considered reckless? We have likely all see the video as he stands about 30 ft from the van with his gun pointed at the driver. Gilmore writes:

What was he thinking at that moment? He knew this was the van that had reportedly just mowed down more than two dozen people. He could see the smashed grill. He could see the man behind the wheel. Did he think it was about to explode? Did he expect the driver to jump out shooting? The cop holds his fire.

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 7.26.58 AM

It is obvious the driver of the van is looking to be shot, because he pretends more than once, to pull a gun from his pocket. Most of us would probably agree that this man deserved to be shot and killed, after his completely reckless behaviour. Ten innocent people are dead and another 15 injured, but the officer didn’t shoot. Another article said: This officer clearly had de-escalation in mind.

I wonder if some police officers think the actions of Const. Lam might have been a little reckless. Did he realize what the consequences of not shooting could be at that precise moment? After all, there wasn’t much time to think this through.  Only thirty-seven seconds elapsed from when the driver emerged from his van, to when he was face-down on the sidewalk. Not one shot was fired!

Const. Lam is rightly being praised because he didn’t shoot. The shooting of the driver was the expected outcome; after all, it is usually how the story ends.

Gilmore concludes his article this way:

We kill each other out of hate, or fear, or ignorance, or duty. Sadly, we understand this instinct well. This is the dark side of humanity. And rightly, we are mesmerized by the horror of it.

But there is light inside us too. We also possess the instinct to keep each other alive. This part of us can be more difficult to understand. But it deserves our devotion much more than the act of killing does. These moments of humanity are not uncommon, but they are precious. It would be good if we could remember that about Toronto, remember the cop who didn’t shoot.

Maybe it was the light inside Const. Ken Lam that made the difference and didn’t take that drivers life, even though we might agree he deserved to die. The driver of the van exhibited completely reckless actions motivated by hate. It can easily be argued the cop may have also acted recklessly, motivated by the light inside him, and in the opposite fashion with such a positive result.

The song Reckless Love says in regards to God’s love:

I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still you give yourself away. Oh the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God.

Many people are not able to wrap their heads around the thought that God can love humanity recklessly despite how depraved our behaviour is at times. Doesn’t God reach out to us to give us what we do not deserve? Didn’t this cop demonstrate “Reckless Love” (mercy) in a most beautiful way?

Is God’s Love Reckless? Part II

After writing my blog in January concerning the powerful song “The Reckless of God,” my wife and I were able to visit a few churches as we travelled during February month. Interestingly, in the first two churches we visited, they sang this song and I was moved to tears on both occasions. Why? It is such a significant expression of God’s love reaching out to those who are distant and away from Him.

This song is definitely controversial simply because it uses the word “reckless” to describe God’s love. One response to my blog asked a couple of very good questions: “How can you separate God from His love? In fact, God is love, so by speaking of His love being reckless, are we not saying that God Himself is reckless?” My question in response is this: Can we limit God’s love by our theology? God is not confined to our way of thinking and as much as we think we understand God, we should never underestimate His ability to reach out to others in the manner He chooses.

In my devotions this week, I have been reading the book of Hosea and could not help but reflect on this song again as I read. Here is how Hosea starts in verse 2 with an unusual instruction to the prophet:

When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him: Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.

Seems like pretty reckless strategy, don’t you think? The command from God was to marry a prostitute, but wasn’t God concerned about the reputation of his servant? Reckless is defined as utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action. That sounds like the attitude of God when choosing a wife for the prophet. The essence of the story is really to illustrate exactly how God loves and pursues His people despite their unfaithfulness to Him. Patiently, God continued to pursue this one-sided relationship by lavishing love and mercy on a nation that rejected Him. The devotional I read all but quoted the lyrics to the Reckless Love song but fell a little short of actually referencing His love as reckless.

Oh, the unstoppable, unmatchable, inextinguishable, everlasting love of God! We don’t deserve it. We can’t fully comprehend it.

The song is based on Luke 15; the lost sheep and the lost son, which can be argued as evidence of “the reckless love of God.” However, if you search the Bible you can easily find multiple examples that can support the truth expressed in this song. Just take a look at the genealogy of Christ, particularly some of the females (who are not normally mentioned at all). I won’t go into the stories in detail but Tamar is the first female (Matt. 1:3) who pretends to be a prostitute and tricks her father-in-law to continue the family tree (Tamar’s story is in Gen. 38). Then there is Rahab (Matt 1:5), who was a prostitute who had no hesitation to lie and deceive her own people to protect herself and her family (Joshua 2). Then one name is not mentioned, but she is referred to as the wife of Uriah (Matt. 1:6). Remember he was the guy David sent to the front lines to make sure he was killed to try and cover the adulterous affair he had with Uriah’s wife (2 Sam. 11).

Why are these stories brought forward and included in the genealogy of Christ? What do these stories have in common? They all include sexual promiscuity. You would think God would be more interested in covering these details, rather than reminding all the readers about the details. Let’s face it, those are the types of things most of us would prefer to cover, not remind everyone that these things are part of the family history. God is obviously not at all concerned about the consequences of using people who have been involved in these sexual sins.

God is interested in redeeming those lives and including them in His story, reckless as that might seem. Maybe as you read this you can relate in some way to some of these people. You are distant from your Creator and feeling hopeless. Be assured of this fact, He is pursuing you with a goal of including you in His great story.

The video below is 12 minutes long but includes Cory Asbury’s story behind the song. Is this song being sung in your church?

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?