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.

Wisdom for Financial Advisors

Wisdom for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors have a special call and what the Apostle Paul shared with Timothy in 1 Tim 6:17-19 is totally relevant for advisors in our current times as they instruct the rich: Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others, (NLT) storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of what is truly life. (CSB)

The rich are not told to take a vow of poverty. They are told to take a vow of generosity.

Randy Alcorn, Money Possessions & Eternity, p. 291

The ultimate achievement of a financial planner is not just putting together a financial plan, but helping clients take hold of what is truly life.

Every advisor and every client has a plan or purpose in life that needs to be discovered. Often this is hidden and can be difficult to discover. This verse is majorly important: A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out (Prov. 20:5 NASB). The financial advisor must be “an advisor of understanding” who will have deeper conversations that probe beyond “the numbers” such as rates of returns, etc.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36 ESV – Remember the purpose of all we do is to bring God glory. It is something we all fall short of (Rom. 3:23) personally and professionally but our goal is to hear: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matt. 25:23 ESV)

As I consider one advisor leaving the financial services industry (semi-retiring or retiring) and passing his/her business along to a younger advisor, I cannot help but think of Elijah and Elisha. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2 Kings 2:9 ESV) If there is a secret to a successful transition, it is to have the younger advisor receive “the spirit” of the senior advisor because that is truly what has created this business in the first place.

Often, money is viewed as something we can trust, particularly the more money, the easier it is to have confidence in wealth. The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety (Prov. 18:11 NLT).

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23,24 CSB). This verse is challenging because Certified Financial Planners understand based on their Code of Ethics and particularly Principle # 1: Duty of Loyalty to the Client. “The duty to act in the client’s interest by placing the client’s interests first.” If we truly see our work as being done for the Lord, this is a higher standard and one that ensures we will have placed the client’s interest ahead of our own and all other interests.

Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Ps. 90:17 ESV) This prayer asks the Lord to make our efforts on earth permanent, meaning the advice we provide will have an eternal impact.

May this be the prayer of every Christian financial advisor.

(Mis-)Understanding God’s Call

(Mis-)Understanding God’s Call

This summer I listened to a very moving and appropriately titled audio book called Fire Road. It is the story of Kim Phuc Phan Thi which is written as A Memoir of Hope. The book cover shows the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken on June 8, 1972 in South Vietnam. The nine-year-old child is running from low flying planes to escape the napalm bombs dropped that day.

Her story is one of physical pain from the burns and multiple surgeries over the years that followed. The book also describes how the government used her story as propaganda for their own benefit, in essence “putting their own words into her mouth” through interpreters. The “Napalm Girl,” as she became known, journeyed through the horrors of war which has given her a platform to share her journey of faith, forgiveness and peace. Her suffering and pain was intense and brought tears to my eyes as I listened. The impact of her life and faith will only be measured in light of eternity. I was struck by the thought of how God could take the horror of her experience and use it to bring redemption to so many.

She was born the year before I was and that day in June shaped her future in a way that she could not have imagined. I honestly have no idea what I was doing on June 8, 1972 but I believe God also allowed things to come my way that were not pleasant. We all face events that determine who we become and what we do in life.

I can recall when I was 15 years old standing in a church that my Mom and Dad pastored. I had an indescribable holy experience in God’s presence. I stared at my mother’s Bible and I could not escape the instructions of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Preach the word … do the work of an evangelist and fulfill your ministry.” That time was so impactful that when I was asked about my goal in life for my graduation yearbook, I said “to be an evangelist.”

It was obvious to me that I should study the Bible and enter full time ministry. Little did I know that after less than 4 years into “full-time ministry,” my life would take an unforeseen twist and I would enter the financial services industry. The Napalm Girl can look back at a specific day that changed her life, and I look back at this period of time because it was like a course correction that I could not fully understand. How could selling insurance and investment products help me “do the work of an evangelist?”

God must smile when we ask these sorts of questions. Fast forward 25 years when I am asked if I would consider leaving my financial planning practice to become “a pastor to financial professionals across Canada.” Now that’s something I did not see coming! In the past 5 years (since making this transition), I have met hundreds of Christian financial professionals who desire to better share biblical financial wisdom with their clients (because it works).

Here’s my point: as a 15-year-old sensing God’s call to “preach the word” and “do the work of an evangelist,” all I could visualize was Billy Graham, and possibly doing something like that. I think God was saying, “Maybe not.” It is so easy to misunderstand what God is calling us to do and accomplish in life because we have our own ideas of what life is supposed to look like.

What I know is this: God can use a napalm bomb for ultimate good. Or He can use a job loss that no one could have predicted to bring us to a destiny that we could never envision. His ways are simply beyond our ways. We can trust God even when things seem to be going opposite to our plans.

A very wise man offered this advice that I have paraphrased: With all that is in you, trust in the Lord. Do not rely on what you can understand. In all your ways know him, and he will show you which path to take.

It seems to me that trusting is more important than understanding. Where do you place your trust? Your own abilities? Or God’s ability to position you where you are supposed to be? Do you spend more time trying to understand or learning to trust?

Five Years Free!

Five Years Free!

As I awoke this morning, I thought about where I was 5 years ago on this day, Friday, July 24, 2015. Looking back, I realize that was a year of significant change. I had just stepped away from a 24-year career as a financial planner and was about to leave the province where I was born and had lived in for half a century! What would this next chapter look like?

What most people did not know at this time is that I had a lump on my left shoulder that just would not go away. After a few visits to the doctor, a biopsy, an MRI and CAT scan, I was simply told, “This has to be removed.” I quickly realized I would never be able to pronounce or even remember the term for Cathy, so I asked my doctor if I could take a picture of it. Once home, I explained that I needed surgery and Cathy googled the term: dermatofibrosacoma protuberans –  a rare type of skin cancer!

SURGERY
When the bandage was removed just days after surgery, this is what we saw.

How could this be? Just at a time of leaving my place of security at my work and now this. On this day 5 years ago, I found myself lying face down on an operating table with nurses all around me when the surgeon entered the operating room. I had seen him just a few minutes earlier when he had described the procedure and drew marks on my shoulder where he was going to cut me open. He said, “This is called a ‘Keystone flap‘.” For those who wish to see how this is done, watch the surgery  to get a better understanding (including the drawing that I was obviously unable to see at the time). Thankfully, no chemo or radiation was necessary.  The medical professionals who have looked at my shoulder since then have always commented on the admirable job by my surgeon in Newfoundland.  It helps me wear my scar proudly!

Interesting side note: the church that I co-pastored for 14 years was called Keystone Assembly of God (the years when I also started in my career as a financial advisor). Those years were not easy but now, I have a Keystone carved into my shoulder. It’s almost like the Lord was saying, “Those years were foundational in building your character and preparing you for the future; I’m placing this permanently on your back but at the same time something is being removed.  I’m stretching you so you will trust me more.”

In the past 5 years, my faith in God has definitely been stretched and growing. I never dreamed that regular visits to the Ottawa Cancer Centre and other hospitals would become part of my yearly routine, without “costing me an arm and a leg.” (pun intended) I also never dreamed I would become connected with hundreds of financial professionals, many of whose lives are being transformed through the ministry I’m involved with. The journey has been well worth it, my friends, and I’m happy to be CANCER-FREE today for five years!!

… 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?

 

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Generosity and a Clogged Pipe

Last weekend was a little frustrating at our house since the kitchen sink would not drain. My first instinct was there must be something clogging the pipes directly below the sink. I purchased a 15-foot long snake or auger that I could put into the 1 1/2 inch line. I was feeling confident that this would solve the issue. After using the auger, we ran the water and there was absolutely no change; the sink still did not drain. I plunged the sink several times but with no success. With the pipe being more than 25 feet long,  I reluctantly decided to cut the line, use the 15-foot auger in either direction which would, no doubt, reach the blockage. A joiner could be used to reconnect the line.

I knew this was going to be messy! I cleared the area, put down plastic and had a few buckets on hand. I began the cut knowing the line was filled with water that was bound to spill from where I was cutting. I’m sure a plumber would have been able to do this more efficiently but I was determined to solve this problem myself.  As I cut the line, the water began to squirt out and as the cut went deeper the smell and food particles coming out was absolutely gross.

Sure enough, as I put the auger into the line, I could feel the resistance; the line was clogged right at the very end. The line had a very gradual slope over the last 14 feet which would easily cause debris to build up. Time to rejoin the line and hope for the best! Run the water; how could this be? It still was not draining! After a few plunges and to my great relief, the line opened up and the water began to flow freely.  What a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

That got me to thinking about the purpose of that pipe; it was to have the water from the sink drain flow through it. The clogged line defeated the purpose of the pipe! We are all meant to be like a pipe or conduit where things flow through. In other words, what comes to us like gifts and talents, wealth and resources are meant to flow through rather than be stored up. The more we hold things and keep them for ourselves, the more there is an opportunity to have our pipes become clogged. Just this week, there was a financial need that we became aware of and I thought about that pipe; we could choose to keep the money in our account or we could help someone else by giving.

Think about the Dead Sea and compare it to the Sea of Galilee (which is just North of the Dead Sea).

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea receive their water from the river Jordan. And yet, they are very, very different. Unlike the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is pretty, resplendent with rich, colourful marine life. There are lots of plants.  And fish too. In fact, the sea of Galilee is home to over twenty different types of fish.

The river Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee but the Dead Sea has no outlet!

The Dead Sea takes the same water from river Jordan as the Sea of Galilee; and just holds it. It does not give; and hence, there is no life there at all.

The moral… Life is not just about receiving. It is about receiving and giving.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Money Possessions & Eternity describes the purpose of the church this way:

Whereas the Old Testament temple was a storehouse, the New Testament church was a clearinghouse, a conduit of gifts to help the needy and reach the lost.

It is so easy to focus only on ourselves and think that what comes into our hands is meant only for ourselves (for vacations, pleasure or retirement) and not for others. As I reflect on my clogged pipe, I do not want my life to become clogged where nothing is flowing through.

Money is a blessing, but it is also a burden when we’re given more than we need. Giving produced freedom 100 percent of the time – freedom to be a conduit of blessing to others.

Why did my pipe get clogged? I suspect because there is not a sufficient slope for that length of pipe and the water is not flowing as well as it should.  Compare that to money flowing to us, the question becomes, “How much is flowing through us?”

Canada Helps did a study of giving levels from 2006 to 2016 and determined that higher income earning families saw the sharpest declines in giving (in these 11 years).  It seems that the higher the income, the less the money flows through or there is more likely to be a clog in the line. Here’s what I found interesting from the study:

The lower income families that do make donations have increased the amount of their income spent on donations from 3.3% to 5.5% in the past 11 years. In the meantime, families making $250K or more has consistently given around 2% of their income over the past 11 years.

One of our goals is to increase the percentage of giving each year going forward. The reason, as I reflect on the clogged drain, is to avoid that clog from happening in our personal financial affairs. Author John Piper put it this way:

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking that a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace.

May I suggest that as your income increases, consider increasing your standard of giving instead of your standard of living.  As Randy Alcorn so aptly put it,  “Giving is the safety valve that releases the excess pressure of wealth.” Are you releasing the build-up that wealth brings?

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

Entering this Christmas season was probably the most uncertain of any in the past 50 years. The reason: our daughter-in-law was “with child” and due to give birth on Dec 29th, so we were not sure where or when we would have Christmas dinner this year.

Christmas Eve at 1:30 AM (so technically Christmas morning) we received the message that the pains being experienced this time may prove to be labour (not false labour). We got up and made the 50- minute drive to our son’s house to care for our grandson, Ernest.  Eleanor Beatrix was born at 6:55 AM, weighing in at 6 lbs and 15 ounces, on Christmas morning, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Holding that child in my arms gave me such an amazing sense of the miracle of birth. I could feel my little granddaughter breathing as she lay on my chest. She is so tiny and completely dependent on someone else for pretty much everything, except breathing. Lorne w EllieThankfully, she is breathing quite well on her own. As she lay on my shoulder, I could not help but think about Christ who created all things, yet came to the earth as a baby completely dependent on someone else for pretty much everything, much like this baby in my arms. He gave “the breath of life” at creation and is Lord of the earth yet, at Christmas, we celebrate how He came as a baby. The baby Jesus now received the gift of breath that we all take for granted. We breathe without giving it a thought.

In the book, Whisper, Mark Batterson says something very interesting about every breath we take.  Incidentally, a whisper is defined as using one’s breath, rather than one’s vocal chords.

According to Jewish tradition, the name for God, Yahweh, was too sacred to pronounce. But there is another tradition within Judaism, that believes that the name for God, Yahweh without the vowels—Yod, Hei, Vav, Hei—is synonymous with the sound of breathing. So on one hand, the name is too sacred to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s whispered with each and every breath we take. It’s our first word, our last word, and every word in between. We speak the name of God about 23,000 times every day! It’s in Him that we live and move and have our being. He is the breath of life!

What an amazing thought: “We speak the name of God” with every breath we take. Our life has a purpose which is to bring glory to God. My prayer is that my life in 2020 will reflect God’s glory!

My wish for you is that you are grateful for the breath given to you and also that you use it to bring glory to your creator in 2020! Happy New Year!

 

Re-Thinking Retirement

Re-Thinking Retirement

When I consider the many people I know in their retirement years, I can see there are multiple views about retirement. Some who were fortunate enough to have a sufficient pension plan retired at the point of eligibility, while others, despite having enough to retire, have actually continued to work. Even some of those who retired with a pension went back to work, and in many cases, it wasn’t necessarily for the money.  There are many different perspectives about when a person should retire and it is important to consider what shapes that viewpoint.

I recall one conversation with a financial advisor a few years ago now and he spoke to me about how he was challenged in this area. His plan was to retire from work ASAP and after sharing this sentiment a friend asked a significant question, “So you don’t like your work then? (If you want to get away from it ASAP.)”  Let’s face it, our desire to retire is typically determined by our view of our work. If work is stressful, physically challenging or emotionally draining, then retirement obviously looks pretty attractive. However, if one has a sense of fulfillment and pleasure from their work and they have the health and mental capacity to continue, should they retire just because they reach retirement age?

The basic understanding of retirement is ceasing to work. For many, this means retiring as soon as possible and enjoying a life of leisure. I read an article in The Financial Post earlier this month which published the results of a recent survey. Interestingly, the title was “Canadians finding retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be: survey.”

The 2019 Sun Life Barometer, based on an Ipsos online poll, found that many Canadians don’t seem to be financially prepared for retirement, with 23 per cent of retirees describing their lifestyle as a frugal one that involves “following a strict budget and refraining from spending money on non-essential items.”

If that doesn’t sound like much fun, consider the gloomier alternative: almost half of working Canadians (44 per cent) expect they’ll still be employed full-time at age 66. Among the “frugal” retirees still working after the traditional retirement age, 65 per cent say it’s because they need to work for the money rather than because they enjoy it.

The article quoted paints a gloomy picture if you are still working at age 66 but I would like to challenge that paradigm. This perspective assumes that work is burdensome and something you do not enjoy. In my experience, I know many people who are well past age 65 and still working, not because they have to (financially), but because it’s the life they’ve chosen.  If work brings you a significant level of fulfillment then why stop, even if you are past the normal retirement age?

Preparation for something as important as “the rest of your life” (that’s how long retirement typically lasts) must involve more than finances, don’t you think? I turn 55 in a month’s time and I can’t imagine retiring in 2020; I’m just not ready to stop working. To be honest, when I look at some of my peers who are 65+ and are not yet retired, it doesn’t seem to be a gloomy a prospect at all. Continuing to work appeals to me more than ceasing to work because it is an opportunity to fulfill what I see as God’s call on my life.

Culture tells us that retirement should occur at age 65 or earlier, if at all possible. As a follower of Christ, isn’t Scripture meant to be more of a guide than culture? Have we even considered what the Bible teaches about retirement?

The one reference to retirement in the Bible is an instruction from the Lord regarding the Levites who were to serve from age 25, “but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer” (NIV). The next verse clarifies that “After retirement they may assist … but they may not officiate in the service.” (NLT) 

It is difficult to build a case for retirement, especially as culture positions it, based on one verse alone, but you can easily build a case for rest. Strong’s Concordance has a full page of references for the word “rest.” Maybe the biblical approach of rest is a better way to view retirement. In the October 2019 issue of “The Investment Executive,” financial advisor, Sterling Rempel suggested working 24/7, meaning in retirement years, one can work 24 hours per week and 7 months of the year. That’s a neat rhythm of Sabbath rest, don’t you think? If you think about rest, it means resting from something, usually work. I believe incorporating more rest into our work lives may be a better alternative than a complete life of leisure.

This month’s Kingdom Advisors Study Group poses a few questions worth asking when approaching the retirement years of life:

– Do you have a vision for these years? (Without a vision … Prov. 29:18)

– How can your unique skills, talents, or networks be leveraged for greater purpose in these years?

– How can your life experiences benefit others?

Rather than being inherently good, work is often referred to as “a necessary evil” or something we have to do to make ends meet. Maybe we need to view work as an opportunity to fulfill our purpose in life, so that may mean working into what is typically the retirement years. I have been challenged this past month to see work as a means of reflecting the image that I was made in. We all know the creation account of God working and then resting. Maybe we should consider the different seasons of work and rest over a lifetime. Think about that: it means as you age, you will likely work less and rest more but you will continue to find pleasure in both work and leisure.

Are Your Financial Decisions Guided by the Bible?

Are Your Financial Decisions Guided by the Bible?

It seems pretty natural for Christians to desire to be guided by the wisdom found in the Bible. However, as I have worked in the financial services industry for close to 30 years, I have discovered that often what guides many Christians is not significantly different than non-Christians; culture is often a greater influence than scripture.

James 3:15-17 makes it very clear that there is a vast difference between wisdom that is earthly vs. wisdom from above. The basis of all financial decisions should be wisdom from above, but as Ron Blue, the founder of Kingdom Advisors states, “Traditional financial planning is based on earthly wisdom.” Earthly wisdom contains such things as jealousy, selfishness, and an unspiritual focus. The Contemporary English Version clarifies:

Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things.

For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. (Christian Standard Bible)

This passage is often not considered in relation to finances, but the truth is many Christians are financially motivated by selfish ambition and have thoughts of envy when comparing themselves to others. We cannot really escape the truth that what guides many Christians is “earthly wisdom,” and not “the wisdom from above.”

But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.  (James 3:17 Good News Translation)

Lives that are lived based on non-traditional financial planning, “wisdom from above,” or guided by the Bible will produce a harvest of good deeds which comes from being filled with compassion.

Consider your perspective on retirement and what shapes that view. Retirement is often seen as the opportunity to focus more on pleasure and leisure; therefore, the major purpose of financial planning is to get you to a place where you can afford to do exactly that. Our culture has positioned retirement as a time of ceasing from work for a life of leisure; however, this lifestyle will likely be a lot less fulfilling. No doubt, leisure is meant to be part of our lives, but I am not convinced it is to be all-consuming.

Please reflect on “the wisdom from above” around retirement. May I suggest that producing “a harvest of good deeds” should not be limited to our working years but  extend into our retirement years.

Mitch Anthony, in his book “The New Retirementality” shares this wisdom:

For the past 15 to 20 years the institution of retirement has been morphing into something other than what we are familiar with. The idea has been evolving slowly toward something other than a playground for senior citizens. The revolution taking place is that many are seeing this stage of life as just the opposite – the most fertile period of life for meaningful pursuit.

Consider this biblical wisdom: “There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand.” (Eccl. 2:24 CSB) This verse seems a perfect description for retirement, but one thing on the list doesn’t seem to fit … work. Is it possible that culture has developed a distorted view of work?

Culture today positions work as something that defines who we are. When we meet someone for the first time we usually ask, “What do you do?” It is as if our job or position defines us. Work is often referred to as “a necessary evil,” or drudgery and simply a means of earning income. The general thinking is: the harder I work, the greater my income because work is the source of income. If work provides no more meaning than this, it makes perfect sense to work toward retirement and leave our place of employment as soon as we can. Maybe we have allowed culture to shape our thinking around work and retirement more than discovering biblical wisdom on the topic.

It is of vital importance to live our lives intentionally seeking out wisdom (from above) to guide us. Look at Eph 2:10 (CSB):

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

From this verse we learn:

  1. We are a product of God working in our lives, so in essence, He defines us; it is not our work that defines us.
  2. We are created to work (work is normative and expected).
  3. Our work is to be good work (completed with excellence for the good of others having eternal impact).
  4. God has prepared us and equipped us with skills, intelligence experiences, etc. to complete the work He planned for us.
  5. The focus and motivation of our work should not be income. God is the source of our income and uses the work He gave us to do as a means of supply for our needs. Refer to Matt. 6:32-33 (NLT) where unbelievers’ thoughts are dominated by worry for future supply of needs, but those who seek the Kingdom above all else are given all they need (God is their supply). The personal income of believers is linked to trust in God and their focus is not earning that income, but simply doing the work that was prepared for them.

Simply seeing work as something that God has prepared for us to do should shift our thinking. If God has prepared us for this work, how can we retire from it?

Mitch Anthony often says,

“Don’t retire from something, retire to something.”

The point is that you may very well retire from your job or career, but retirement should become an opportunity to continue in your calling, maybe in a different form. You may or may not be paid for this “work” but it will be very meaningful. Anthony stresses the importance of “extracting the most meaning from the means you possess.”

As a Christian, what influences your financial decisions most –  earthly wisdom or wisdom from above?

 

 

 

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.