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.

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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?

 

Is God’s Love Reckless?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

My youngest daughter recently sent me a youtube video of a song called, “Reckless Love,” which is written to describe how God pursues each of us through His love. If you are a parent who has ever quoted the verse, “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it,” then this is a song that you should listen to. It will lift your faith in God because He pursues all who are away from Him to bring them back into relationship.

It is easy for us to focus on the word “reckless” and say that this word cannot possibly describe God in any way. At first glance, the dictionary definition seems to confirm this thinking since “reckless” is not a good descriptive word for God. It is defined as “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action,” providing the example of  “reckless driving” which is clearly a careless act.

God is certainly not “careless” but actually the exact opposite. “He cares for us” so much that He will go to any extreme to reach us, which is the heart of the song, Reckless Love. Verse 1 highlights how God created us and gives us life. Verse 2 focuses on how God redeems us, despite the fact we were His enemies and rebellious in our sinfulness. The chorus focuses on how incredible it is that God loves us and pursues us.

The biblical basis for the song is Luke 15 which contains 3 parables: the lost son (or the prodigal), the lost sheep and the lost coin. Think how “reckless” it was for the father to receive with open arms his son who had squandered his inheritance.  He did not care about the consequences of what other people thought of this act of love. Same thing with the parable of the lost sheep. Why would a shepherd not care about the safety of the 99 to go find the one?  The shepherd was a little reckless … without thinking or caring about the consequences of leaving the flock, he recklessly drove to save the one that was lost.

Is this really any different than the song “Amazing Grace?” The language of that time speaks of “saving a wretch like me” which is picture of reaching out to someone who “once was lost, but now am found.” The message of “Reckless Love” focuses on God reaching to us in much the same way as through Amazing Grace. The important issue here is not how this new song compares to an older song, but rather the biblical support the author was inspired by to write it.

If Luke 15 isn’t sufficient, look at 1 Cor. 1:18 where Paul writes: “The word of the cross seems foolishness to those who are are on the way to destruction; but to us … it is the power of God.” The word “foolishness” is easily comparable to “reckless,” which can be seen as one way to describe how God extends His love to humanity.

Here is an excerpt from what the author of the song, Cory Asbury, says:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

What an interesting perspective. I am not sure you can bankrupt heaven, but I get the point: “God gave his only son.” As a parent, I want the Reckless Love of God to relentlessly pursue my children with the goal of drawing them back to Himself. For that matter, when I myself am distant in my relationship with my Creator, I trust He would “recklessly” leave the ninety-nine to seek after me. This song truly displays the message of redemption, which is the ultimate message of the church. I truly cannot understand how a church would not have this song as part of their worship service.

I will admit that the word “reckless” in reference to God’s love does push the boundaries a little but the whole point of the song is exactly that … His love reaches beyond any barrier. Isn’t that the whole point of John 3:16? Isn’t that a reckless expression of God “coming after me,” as the song says?

Please watch the video:

 

 

Estate Planning vs Legacy Planning

Estate Planning vs Legacy Planning

I have been very intrigued by the content in this month’s Kingdom Advisor’s study group centring around legacy and the importance of having an impact beyond my lifetime. Everyone was challenged with the difference between estate planning and legacy planning. In particular, legacy planning not only represents a change in terminology, but it changes the lens through which we see things. Specifically, estate planning has a one-generational focus (transferring wealth to your heirs) while legacy planning looks to impact 5-7 generations (transferring values to multiple generations). That requires a bigger vision and a broader perspective than advisors or clients typically focus on.

Financial professionals are uniquely positioned to invest in the lives of clients. I know as an advisor my discussions focused more on Estate/Wealth Planning rather than Legacy Planning, so this study stretched me to expand my thinking.

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My parents are presently visiting with us and this past weekend our son and grandson visited, so we had four generations in our home. My Dad shared stories with us about how his faith and relationship with God were developed as a young minister and also the impact his own father had upon that faith. Most of these stories I had heard before but my son and daughter-in-law listened intently while baby Ernest slept through it all. I thought how important this time was and wondered if generations yet unborn would benefit from hearing the same stories. To see how God was active in the lives of my parents and grandparents helps to inspire my faith so I am sure it can impact others.

4generationsThink about the business of family for a moment – isn’t it truly about legacy planning?

I will teach you hidden lessons from our past–stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them–even the children not yet born–and they in turn will teach their own children. Psalm 78:2-6

These verses instruct families specifically to focus on legacy planning which is clearly beyond one generation. I encouraged my Dad to write these things down so the events of his life could be passed on to the children not yet born. That way, his life reaches beyond his years lived on this earth. Many people may feel estate planning is just for those who have wealth, but legacy planning is for everyone.

Ron Blue provides some excellent advice in his book “Splitting Heirs,” when he describes the “Wisdom Principle” which is to “transfer wisdom before wealth. Wealth never creates wisdom. Wisdom may create wealth.” If you think about it “wealth” is the focus of estate planning, while “wisdom” is the focus of legacy planning.

We need to think deeper about the time we are each given. We all have 24 hours per day, and 168 hours per week. On the topic of stewardship Ken Boa says,

“What differentiates people isn’t the amount of time available to them, but the manner in which they exercise their gifts and talents within the available time. We can waste time; we can spend time; or we can invest our time wisely. That’s what stewardship is about: faithfully developing and using our gifts, talents and resources within the amount of time God has allotted to us.”

We have time in an equal measure, but we must be intentional about how we spend it or invest it. The fact is that we often just spend our time when we should be investing it.  Talents are not in equal measure to everyone. We are unique and each has different gifts. Our focus tends to be more about using these gifts to grow wealth and much less  about the growth of our heirs.

Thinking beyond our life can be very challenging because it stretches us outside of our normal pattern of thought. Maybe our perspective needs an adjustment so we consider more the impact we can have upon “the children not yet born.” That takes intentionality and a shift of focus. Our efforts must move toward transferring our values and wisdom  as a guide to govern future generations and less effort on accumulating and transferring wealth. It seems if we get the legacy planning right, the estate planning will be so much easier.

The accumulation and eventual transfer of wealth is a major part of financial planning. If we fail to give proper attention to the legacy planning, we have truly missed the reason that we were entrusted with the wealth in the first place.

Are we spending our time creating something that will only benefit one generation? Can we be more intentional in our investment of time and leave a legacy that extends 5-7 generations?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Just over two years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder and I now visit a specialist every six months. Recently, I had another visit and I usually take my wife with me to help me understand since the doctor has a very strong French accent. Even though he speaks English, it can be very difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. During the appointment, he asked a question, but we just looked at each other bewildered because neither of us understood a word. He repeated it with the same result. He was saying “Ohh-ta-wah” in such a way that when it was placed in a sentence, we just couldn’t understand. After stating it the third time, we both realized he was asking if my surgery had been done here in Ottawa.

Have you ever heard someone but not understood what they said?

yesbymagnet_1Sometimes, language or dialect can be a barrier to understanding. I recall when we had friends from Ontario visit us in Newfoundland and we had a conversation with some locals. Our friends heard us speaking, but did not understand. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked because the very tone of the common phrase, “Yes b’y,” actually changes its meaning.

The effort required to hear a sound compared to the effort required to process it, is exponential. Understanding is logically the step that follows hearing, unless, of course, it involves a politician.

prime-minister-trudeauPoliticians typically only say what they want us to hear and we have to dig deeper if we desire to get the entire meaning; otherwise our perspective remains limited. For example, the Trudeau government often claims it has cut taxes for middle-class Canadian families. A recent article helped me understand that while it did reduce the second lowest federal income tax rate (from 22 to 20.5 per cent), it also eliminated a number of tax credits, thereby increasing income taxes for Canadians who previously claimed such credits. Result: 81% of middle-class Canadian families with children are paying more in personal income taxes.

The Liberals quickly speak of reduced tax rates, but the elimination of tax credits enlightens our understanding of the issue. What we comprehend about any issue or even a person, depends on what we hear (and read).

perspectiveIf you think about it, the perspective from which you see things can be the very obstacle that prevents you from seeing another point of view.  (Doesn’t this graphic resemble a political debate? It totally depends on which side you are on).

The Bible has some interesting things to say regarding understanding:

  1. One instruction is to not depend on your own understanding. Maybe one of the reasons is that our own understanding limits our ability to understand others.
  2. Also, “By understanding He (The LORD) established the heavens.” What did God understand?  Was it an understanding of the power of sound and what is formed from vibrations? Maybe the reason God spoke was to cause vibrations to form the earth. What did He establish? Heaven represents an eternal dwelling place for believers. If God is an example for us then, the purpose of understanding is to establish something that is eternal and meaningful to others.
  3. Mankind has the capacity to understand the deeper things that are buried within a person. The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.  If you think about your work, it may be important to understand others to bring clarity to them. Financial professionals can actually be a key to help clients see their inner purpose, why they have so much, or even why they have faced some troubles in life.
  4. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but actually a higher dimension of understanding. Think about the dreams within a person; they are actually unseen until exposed. If it is a dream of writing a book, it exists only in the mind of the author and only becomes visible when written.

In our work we should:

  1. realize “our own understanding” can be limited and should not always be relied on
  2. know we are called to establish something eternally significant through our lives
  3. understand others to expose the purpose that is often hidden deep within a person
  4. identify that faith can add a higher (or deeper) level of understanding

UnderstandingIn a conversation, an accountant told me he keeps his antennas raised when in discussion with clients. Since mankind is spiritual, our spirits are meant to be active and sensitive, which leads to an understanding of others. It is the spirit in man … that makes him understand. This depth of understanding is the requirement to draw out purpose.

In our efforts to understand others, how often do we simply rely on our own thoughts?  By ignoring our inner person (not having our antennas up), are we missing the greatest opportunities to explore the deep waters (purpose) hidden within others?

 

 

 

A Hidden Truth Re: Dunkirk

My wife and I recently watched the new movie released about the evacuation at Dunkirk during World War II. Even after watching the movie, I did not realize that “Dunkirk is not simply a gripping story; it is also a thought-provoking one because even today the word ‘miracle’ hangs over it.” I was amazed to read this “behind the scenes” account.

I love watching movies that tell a story from history and expose more of the details behind the event. Here is the background that J. John Canon revealed in his blog: “On 10th of May, 1940, Hitler unleashed a military onslaught on France and Belgium. Within days, the British Army – outmanoeuvred and unprepared – along with soldiers of other Allied nations, found themselves (some 400,000) with their backs to the sea and hemmed in by enemies.”

Here is what I did not realize: On 23rd May, King George VI requested that the following Sunday should be observed as a National Day of Prayer. On that Sunday of prayer, the call was made to rescue these stranded men, with about 800 private fishing boats and vessels responding.

Here is the kicker: In a decision that infuriated his generals and still baffles historians, Hitler ordered his army to halt. It is no wonder that Churchill referred to this as the miracle of Dunkirk. How impactful was it that a nation was called to pray? The calming of the winds (so the vessels could rescue those stranded), the ceasing of the attack for this time of calm, sounds like a miracle we would read about in the Bible or hear a pastor reference in a sermon.

Dunkirk

I find the tag line of the movie “the event that shaped our world” to be an interesting one. Many in our society discount God’s involvement or even His existence, but when I see the hidden details of this story, I cannot help but think that He is likely more involved than we realize. Some may argue about war itself and also about those who lost their lives asking, “Where was God for those people?” While I can’t claim to have all the answers, I do know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. This verse (1 John 5:19) has answered many of my questions and helped me realize that the events we often call “acts of god” are in truth, acts of the god of this world, or the evil one, not the acts of a loving God.

However, from time to time we do see a miracle like Dunkirk and it can help restore our confidence and trust in a God who can intervene in the events of this world. When I watched the movie, I saw a rescue, but after learning the hidden details of the story, I see a miracle!