The Difference in a Decade

The Difference in a Decade

Facebook has a way of reminding you of what you were doing 10 years ago and of course, encourages you to share those memories.

Do you remember what was happening 10 years ago? Two things are pretty significant because it would affect so many Canadians:

PM Harper at Deer Lake1. There was a federal election in Canada,

2. The stock market was dropping and could not seem to find a bottom.

For me, those times included some of the most dramatic events that led to a major life change. I ran as a Conservative candidate in the 40th Canadian General Election. Whenever people find out about my election run they ask, “How did you do?” My reply usually starts with, “Do you remember Danny Williams, the Premier of Newfoundland Labrador? Remember his ABC campaign (Anybody But Conservative)?” The result: no Conservative was elected in the province in that election, not even those who were favoured!

After the election, I returned to my financial planning practice (10 years ago on this very day, October 15th).  My clients, like others around the world, were seeing their portfolios declining by thousands, especially in the weeks I was campaigning in an election that I had no chance of winning. They were still on an emotional roller coaster wondering if they would ever regain what was lost.

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 10.38.02 AMThis led me to a very dark place, what my wife often refers to as my mid-life crisis. I struggled with the fact that I was not there for my clients when they needed me most; that was a fail. I put my name forward to run in a federal election and felt very much alone, especially after the devastating election night. I felt defeated (in more ways than just the election) and questioned my purpose. If you look at the chart and the shaded area of yellow, the stock market decline seemed to parallel my life at this time. What was my life all about anyway? It was one of my lowest, darkest times.

I needed a change, a new direction, maybe a new career. I needed something to get me out of this dark place. I searched the web every evening after work for opportunities that I felt suited for but came up empty. Or did I? I prayed but those results didn’t appear any better. I did, however, find a new role with a different Credit Union. This did not seem to make much sense though because it meant I would be managing less than 20% of the assets I was managing where I was. That decision just didn’t seem to make sense but I just knew I had to make a change.

What is interesting is that in my job search, I also found a membership organization for Christian financial professionals known as Advisors with Purpose (now known as Kingdom Advisors). I joined as a member and started to participate in the monthly coaching calls. I also did the KA Core Training which helped me understand what it meant to be called to the role of financial planning. I never really felt called to be a financial planner; it was more like just a job for me, but my perspective began to change. As time progressed, I realized more and more that I was “called” to do what I was doing. It was not just a job, but my interaction with clients was indeed an answer to the calling I felt in life for many years.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013 when I am asked to become the National Director of Kingdom Advisors in Canada. This would mean helping other Christian financial professionals understand their own calling; that excited me. It also meant leaving my practice and clients and leaving “the rock” (Newfoundland), where I had lived all my life; that scared me.

In 2015, I left my book of business behind and my wife and I moved to Ontario, just on the outskirts of Ottawa. I ended up in the Ottawa region anyway, not because I was elected as a Member of Parliament, but to fulfill a completely different purpose. Life has taken a very different path than I thought. I can truly say it is a journey of faith that is not without dark moments.

I am reminded of this scripture in Isaiah 45:3 (NIV):

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel (& Canada), who summons (or calls) you by name.

Have you ever felt like your life is like a chart of the stock market? Has it often resembled that sort of roller coaster ride? Look for the treasures that may be hidden in the dark place, invest your life at that point where opportunity presents itself because the return on the investment of your life can be significant and have eternal rewards!

Have You Discovered Your Why?

Have You Discovered Your Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Truck By Accident

A Truck By Accident

Three years ago, we left Newfoundland and moved to Ontario. Now in 2018, it was time to rent another Uhaul to move our son, his wife along with our grandson from Toronto, Ontario to Gatineau, Quebec. That’s where this story gets interesting.

I go to pick up the rental truck, only to be told the 15 foot truck my daughter-in-law Amanda had ordered was in an accident and had to be inspected and was no longer available for us to rent. He said, “I have another truck for you though, it’s a little bigger, would that be OK?”

I replied by explaining how they had moved from Toronto a month ago in a 15 foot truck, stored everything in my garage and since that time they purchased an oak table with 6 chairs plus two night tables for their bedroom, so an extra 5 feet would not go astray.

Here is how Amanda explained her day (before moving day) on her Facebook post:

Well, today was eventful. I lost my keys, then found them under the seat of my car. We went to pick up our truck for tomorrow’s move, but it was in an accident. So we picked up a 20′ truck at 5 for the same price as the 15′ truck. Then I got a call that our fridge/stove order was cancelled, and wouldn’t be delivered tomorrow but we’d have to wait a week or two for it to arrive. So we went to Home Depot and got the same fridge and almost the same stove for $800 cheaper than our original order. We’re picking them up with our Uhaul tomorrow morning.

The one thing she didn’t really explain was that the Home Depot in Carleton Place could not deliver to Quebec, so the fridge and stove would need to be  transported rather than be delivered. I quickly realized the 20′ truck was not just a replacement for the smaller truck but actually needed to make the move in one trip.

It was like someone knew and even arranged a larger truck for us to make the move. When I picked it up, I understood Home Depot was delivering the fridge to their Gatineau home the following day. I certainly had no idea we would need the extra space in the truck, nor did the guy at Uhaul.

Many people would say that all of this is simply things falling into place, but I can’t help but think about the words of Jesus:

Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? (Matt. 6:26)

Many would probably say that God is not involved in our lives like that but here is the answer  I would respond with:

Just as you don’t know the path of the wind, or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so also you don’t know the work of God (see Eccl. 11:5).

You can choose to say these events are just coincidence and has nothing to do with God’s activity. I choose instead to give God glory for caring for us similar to how He cares for the birds of the sky or the grass of the field. If God feeds the birds and cares for the grass, I believe He can arrange the right size of Uhaul we need, even if we ordered a smaller one.

Have you ever had good things happen that are almost too good to be true? Do you thing God has any part of this or is it just coincidence?

Reckless Love & The Cop Who Didn’t Shoot

Reckless Love & The Cop Who Didn’t Shoot

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 7.26.58 AM

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

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

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

Gilmore concludes his article this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is God’s Love Reckless? Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

After watching the funeral of Billy Graham this week, I discovered his final column where Billy states: “By the time you read this, I will be in heaven.” I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that Billy Graham is in heaven. Why are we all agreed that he is in heaven? We might answer, with all the good he has done through his preaching to millions, you know he is going to be in heaven. After all he was “America’s Pastor” and the world’s best known evangelist, so he is a obviously in heaven.

F82EB9F9-DBF9-4EBC-9A4A-C6ADF24A9A53What’s interesting is the reason Billy Graham gives for his entrance into heaven. He states, “But I won’t be in heaven because I preached to the crowds or because I have tried to live a good life.” It is only his faith in Jesus Christ that gave him the  confidence of heaven. If Billy Graham will “be in heaven for one reason,” our hope of going to heaven is because of  the very same reason.

Randy Alcorn says this:

Many mistakenly believe that heaven is our reward for doing good things. This is absolutely not the case. Our presence in heaven is in no sense a reward for our works, but a gift freely given by God in response to faith.

Well, what about the millions that Billy Graham preached to and the lives who came to Christ because of his preaching? Doesn’t that account for anything? The answer can be found in Eph. 2:9, which Billy clearly understood: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (NLT). In other words, what you believe is the key to entering heaven, not what you do.  That is a good thing because if it is based on our efforts then most of us would have a difficult challenge ahead, especially if we compare ourselves to the accomplishments of someone like Graham.

However, we can’t stop reading there because immediately after saying salvation is “not by works,” the next verse clarifies that our works matter a great deal.

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

Even though salvation is not through our works, we are actually created to do good works. A lifetime of good works was actually prepared in advance by God for us to do. A few years ago I did a study using a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “A Life God Rewards” which explained how Jesus taught the promise of reward in heaven.

“He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27)

“You will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

“You will be blessed … for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14).

This certainly suggests that God is keeping track of what we do for Him every day. Wilkinson speaks of two keys: The first is belief that unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where we spend eternity. The second is our behaviour which unlocks the door to reward and determines how we will spend eternity.

The reality is we have the same hope of heaven that Billy Graham had because it is simply through faith that we enter heaven, which is really the foundation. At the end of Wilkinson’s book, there are several quotes from well-known theologians and preachers, of which is Billy Graham.

“The believer has his foundation in Jesus Christ. Now we are to build upon this foundation, and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; the final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.” –  Billy Graham

Are we living and working everyday with an eternal perspective? Will our good deeds, acts of kindness (works) pass the ultimate test?

 

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: