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.

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!

Can I Please God In How I Use Money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do we acquire faith? Here are the steps:

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

2. Hearing creates thoughts and an understanding in our minds

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

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

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

Think about these five biblical financial principles:

1. Spend less than you earn

2. Avoid the use of debt

3. Build liquidity

4. Set long term goals

5. Give Generously

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

Truth for the Troubled

Truth for the Troubled

When I went to school, I naively thought the idea was simply to memorize many facts for exam time. Little did I realize that an isolated fact is like a stray piece of a puzzle. It’s an object, an article, a fragment of information, a bit of trivia. Truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning. To put it another way, discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts.

Facts are obviously an important part of education and learning, but may lack meaning. Truth is more about the application of those facts. Our goal as parents is to have our children love learning and discover truth that will help them navigate life with purpose.

The fact is this: truth has been more impactful in my life than the facts I learned in school. Truth has guided me in a way that facts never could.

Photo by Terry Grimes (Divine Design)

As a professional, I desire the people I work with to discover principles that can guide them in their careers. In most fields of work today, “continuing education” is required because we are not designed to stop learning. Facts can change but truth is constant and becomes the foundation for our lives.

Life can be very difficult at times when we examine the fact of a particular situation that is facing us. We need truth to guide us through these times. I was reminded this past week about how challenging it can be for a person to find direction in life; it can truly be a struggle. Here is some wisdom and advice that has helped me:

  • Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. (Advice from Proverbs 4:25-25 HCSB)
  • God is capable of “making my footsteps firm” (Psalms 40:2) giving us a sense of security for the way forward.
  • God is able to establish us (Psm. 37:23) and keep our feet from slipping (Psm. 66:9).
  • When we find ourselves in a dark place, in the midst of despair, God can rescue us if we cry for help (Psm. 30: 2,3).
  • Sometimes God doesn’t seem to hear us or speak to us and we “become like those who go down to the pit” (Psm. 28:1 NASB). We need communication with God or we can shift to a dark place (down to the pit). There is a sense of despair among this group because they see themselves “as good as dead and completely helpless” (Psm. 88:4 CEV). We are not actually without strength but are made to feel like we have no strength, then we begin to believe we have no strength.
  • We need to pray: “Answer me quickly … or I will become like those who go down” into that dark place (Psm. 143:7 NASB).
  • When it seems there is no one who can help us out of the pit (a dark place), we can still pray: “Don’t stay far off when I am in trouble with no one to help me” (Psm. 22:11 CEV).
  • Remember, “he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help” (Psm. 72:12 NIV).

When we isolate and focus only on the burdensome facts surrounding a situation in life it can lead us to a place of despair. The truth is we have a God who cares even when there seems to be nothing but darkness. The truth of God’s Word gives hope that light can shine in the midst of any darkness and deliver even when no one else can!

Have you ever or are you now in a dark place? Have you ever felt disconnected from God, like He is not hearing your prayers and you are not hearing his voice?

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!