“Where Was God?”

“Where Was God?”

8090B62D-A050-4801-AF8D-A6311B72E04F“Why did this happen? Where was God?” These are the two major questions that were posed by the team pastor at the Humboldt Broncos vigil.

Humboldt Broncos vigil: Team pastor delivers tearful and powerful address

The beautiful part of his answer is that He is with us, that He is with the broken hearted. The more challenging part of his answer is when he said, “God is on the throne.” The thought that immediately follows is that if God is on the throne, He is, therefore, in control. As these thoughts were being expressed, the camera was on a tearful young lady who was shaking her head as if to say “No.”

Rejection of this kind of thinking at a time like this is understandable. “How can a loving God allow such a tragedy to happen?” If you look closer at the Scriptures, you will find that God is more accurately pictured as sovereign, which is actually different than being “in control.” As a matter of fact, the Scripture says, “that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Can I suggest that this tragedy had  more to do with the “evil one” than the God who is sovereign? Why did this happen? The evil one is said to have a purpose of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10). Why not bring the evil one a little more into focus for the responsibility of these types of circumstances or even just human failure?

Read a previous blog to help answer the question: Is God Really in Control?

In this blog, I use the example of the Queen, who is considered the Sovereign over Canada, but she does not control the decisions or even influence the government of Canada. Interestingly, the Queen sent a message of condolence which is definitely a positive thing. My concern is more about the message the Sovereign God is trying to send.

The fact is, we experience hardship in this life and the primary reason is that satan and sin are still at large in this broken world. During times like these, we certainly shake our heads “no” and may be tempted to think that God is not there and is not sovereign or reigning. He is, however, very much interested in your brokenness and can somehow bring good from the evil that has happened. That can be very difficult to comprehend at a time like this. In fact, He can take these awful events that satan intends for evil and turn them around, and bring eternal good out of them.

Maybe instead of asking, “Where was God” we should ask, “Where is God now?” God’s promise is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Pastors may not have all the answers during such difficult times, but we can all have the confidence that, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can all have the assurance that God is with us in life’s darkest valley.

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?

Is Believing Enough?

Is Believing Enough?

Recently, I heard the amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, which illustrates how we can be challenged. 

Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

wheelbarrow

He also went across pushing a wheelbarrow and then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!” How many volunteers do you think stepped forward? There were none, but the reason is the most interesting: They only observed and believed.

DDblondin1As the story is told only his manager was willing to take the step beyond belief and have sufficient faith in Blondin, to be carried across the tightrope on Blondin’s back.

Standing on the ground, it was easy to believe based on what the crowd was witnessing. However, when asked to risk their own life, it required more than simply believing. There is obviously an entirely different level that takes us beyond belief.

In June 1990, Petra release an album featuring a song written by Bob Hartman entitled: “Beyond Belief” which was based on Heb. 6:1a, Phil. 1:6 Rom. 1:17. Here is the chorus:

There’s a higher place to go, beyond belief, beyond belief
Where we reach the next plateau, beyond belief, beyond belief
And from faith to faith we grow
Towards the center of the flow
Where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief

The song did not actually name on that place that is beyond belief, but I would call it trust. What Bondin was asking of the crowd is very similar to what “believers” are called to do, not just believe but trust. Trust is much difficult and beyond belief.

In my search to highlight the difference between belief and trust I read a blog that quoted Peter Enns and he provides a great illustration.  Jesus tells a famous story about why those who follow him need not worry about anything. Don’t fret about how much you have, what you wear, or what you will eat. Don’t worry. Trust. (Matthew 6:25-34).

Jesus illustrates the point in what at first blush seems rather off topic–at best marginally helpful. He tells us to consider the grass of the field and the birds of the sky. Look at them, Jesus says. They’re doing just fine and they don’t worry for a second.

Of course they don’t worry, Jesus, because they are–if I’m not mistaken–grass and birds. Grass doesn’t have a brain and birds are skittish little things that fly into windows. These things aren’t really relevant, Jesus, because, you see, by definition, Jesus, these things are incapable of worry.

And when you put it that way, you can see the profound point–and challenge–of what Jesus is saying: worry should be as impossible for us as it is for grass and birds. His followers–if they get it–should be as incapable of worry as insentient grass and bird-brained birds.

“Believing in God” doesn’t get you to that place Jesus is describing here. Belief leaves room for worry. Trust explodes it.

The question I would leave you with is this: Are you one who can step further than the crowd of believers, beyond belief, and move to trust, where you are incapable of worry?

The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice

We live in a world filled with voices and depending on the voice that is loudest, that is what we will hear. Oftentimes, the voice we hear most will actually begin to shape us. One of the ideas expressed by Mark Batterson in his book entitled, Whisper, is that a whisper speaks of intimacy.  In other words, you have to get close in order to hear what is being said and if you don’t get close, you will likely miss it.

My google search resulted in this definition of whisper: speak very softly using one’s breath without one’s vocal cords, especially for the sake of privacy.

In order to hear a whisper, we must be in a quiet place, or lean in towards the whisperer.  During our busy days, we are most often in the midst of many voices and actually have to make a choice as to which voice we will tune our ears to.

Some voices are in our head, previously shaped by what we have already heard or been thinking about and will compete with a current voice we hear with our ears. In the Christmas story, Zacharias heard the voice of Gabriel say he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to call him John. Unfortunately, that was not the loudest voice in his life at the time. The loudest voice was actually more about his age and how his wife was unable to have a child. Interesting that he was then silenced until his son was born and he only received his ability to speak again once he wrote, “His name shall be John.” It seems it was only after these months of silence that he was finally able to align his thinking and speaking with the voice of the angel he had heard months earlier. In the time of his silence, I am sure he thought a great deal about what he had heard the angel say.

What a relief it must have been for Zacharias to finally to be able “to give voice” fulfilling what he was actually called to do. Here is what I find most interesting: the origin of the word for “calling” comes from the Latin word “vocare” or “to give voice.” The big question as we embark upon another year is, “What are we giving voice to in our lives, our work, our relationships?”

Think about your work-life for a moment: Are you called to do what you do everyday?

Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

– A job can be defined as something you do for money (often temporary and one you can and will change in your life.) My first job was “pumping gas” which is pretty rare to see now-a-days with mostly self-serve stations and options to pay at the pump.

– A career comes from the Latin word “cart” and the French word for “racetrack.” I did move on to a career, or actually changed careers a couple of times.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.55.38 PM– I have discovered that you can actually fulfill your “calling” in a job or a career but the key is to fulfill your calling, no matter what your hand finds to do. I guess you can say, it’s finding that sweet spot and I think many times that simply means following the voice that is within.

For me, that sweet spot is the overlap of my gifts and passions that enable me to fulfill a kingdom need. That means I am able to help others find and fulfill their individual calling.

You can be in a job and you just desire to get another, a better higher paying job. You may be in a career and feel like you are circling the racetrack, going around in circles and feeling like you are accomplishing so little.  Sounds like a frustrated life, but in the midst of that, you may need to simply quiet yourself and listen because there is a still small voice that desires to move you toward what you were purposed to accomplish in your life. This may not mean a new job, a change in career or retirement. It may simply mean a new perspective because you tuned out the many voices around you and listened to the One voice that really matters.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!  (Psalm 37:4)

 

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 10.31.44 AM

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?

Remember Canada is Free

Remember Canada is Free

Nov 11th is a day to honour those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy in Canada. Reading a few headlines recently causes me to wonder where we find are as a nation.

1. Rex Murphy: Governor General appoints herself umpire of questions of faith and science

In the National Post headline, Rex Murphy posed an important question in response to the new Governor General’s recent speech: In this wonderfully diverse Canada that Ms. Payette now represents, was it her intent to ridicule the religious beliefs of so very many faiths? 

There are many people in Canada who hold a biblical worldview and many who obviously are of a different opinion. I always understood that we have a freedom in Canada not just to hold those beliefs, but also to have leaders (particularly appointed leaders) in our country who respect those rights and freedoms, not ridicule them. It seems to me that our Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada, has in fact, misrepresented our Queen, who herself has referenced God many times in her speeches. I found the GG’s comments divisive while the emphasis of the Queen is unity. In 2011, our Queen said, “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities.” The GG would benefit from reading some of the Queen’s speeches.

2. A post by CBC News in regards to Alberta’s Home Education Association who has invited Ken Ham, a top US creationist, to be the keynote speaker at their upcoming conference in April 2018. The article quoted Calgarian Paul Ens who criticized this decision and stated, “It (the invitation) signals to me that this homeschool group is not serious about following provincial curriculum or proper science education for their children.”

Based on the speech by the GG and the statement from Ens in this article, it seems that science and a biblical worldview are completely opposed to one another. However, read closer as Rex Murphy clarifies how these views are not necessarily in conflict; “… the observations on the origins of life and the religious understandings of that most profound of subjects are not in contestas evidently she (GG) thinks they are, with scientific understandings. They can, and in fact often do, co-exist. There is physics, and there is also metaphysics; facts are indeed truth, but truth is very often more than just facts.”

Truth is meant to bring us to a higher place, where we can co-exist with others who may have different beliefs and opinions. The message from the Queen is one of reconciliation in the midst of differences. Let’s remember that in Canada we are free to co-exist. Determining if what you believe is actually truth can be a challenge.

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you … Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”  C.S. Lewis

A common saying used in academic circles is, “The truth will set you free” and is often used to promote academic freedom and the power of learning. A recent visit to the Museum of the Bible helped me realize the impact of the Bible on education.  Many universities have this statement emblazoned on a sign near the entrance of a building. But “the truth will set you free” did not originate in academia; Jesus said it first. His statement has nothing to do with classroom learning. In fact, John 8:32 speaks of a higher form of knowledge than is capable of being learned in a classroom.

Canada is Free

It seems that the best selling book of all time (the Bible) is something that many are afraid of.  Maybe it is seen as dangerous, especially when it comes to education. In his blog, Jerry Bower asked that very question: Is the Bible Dangerous?

“If the Bible is the truth, then ignoring it is ignoring the truth. Contempt for it is contempt for the truth. Hostility to it is hostility to the truth. And there is nothing more dangerous to a person than to build a life on hostility to the truth”

As a parent, I want my children to be free and live according to truth and certainly not be hostile to it. It can be a struggle to discover truth but the goal is an eventual embracing of truth which creates principles we can live by.  I always felt responsible as a parent to train my children, which is a step above following any provincial curriculum.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this of education:

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.

Is Canada as free as it once was? Have you felt your freedom in Canada threatened by recent happenings?

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?