Daily Bread


The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.

Chapter 5: Sustenance

Give us today, our daily bread [Matthew 6:11]

In the beginning mankind had access to everything we needed in abundance.  No one went hungry or needed to work for anything.  It was all there in the garden for the taking whenever and whatever our hearts desired.

That all changed at the so-called fall of man.  Theologians have debated the meaning and cause of the fall for centuries, but I believe that at it’s core it was about doubt, pride and arrogance.

Adam and Eve doubted God.  They doubted his love for them and his desire for their well-being. They took maters into their own hands and as a result they were forced to leave the garden and begin to work for their survival.

When God turned Adam and Eve out of the garden he told them what awaited them out in the world.

Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food [Genesis 3:17-19]

But because this toil for survival was not part of God’s original design and because God’s love for his people is go great, we can see time and time again how he intervenes against nature itself and provides for our needs.

The most obvious example of this comes in Exodus 16 where God provides literal bread from heaven to feed his people in the desert.  Elsewhere, the prophet Elijah, while on the run from the evil king Ahab, received bread and meat delivered to him by ravens (1 Kings 17).   And who can forget the feeding of the 5000, (John 6:1-15) where a young boy offers Jesus his meager lunch and it miraculously turns into enough food to feed upwards of 10,000 people.  (Remember, in Jesus day only the men would have been counted so by the time you add in women in children the crowd could have been easily double that number).

These and numerous other examples show how God cares enough about us to make sure we have what we need to survive.  Therefore; when we pray for our daily bread we are reaching back through history and reminding ourselves that God is our great provider.

The words themselves should conjure up all of theses stories from scripture as well as instances from our own lives where God stepped into the narrative and circumvented the natural order of things so that we could go on living.  If God had not stepped in and dropped bread from heaven on the Israelites they would have died, plain and simple.  While not quite as dramatic, there are instances from my own past that can only be explained as a supernatural intervention made a just the right time to insure my survival.  Contracts that got signed and money that got transferred the very day a large expense came due or just in time to prevent an eviction notice or disconnection of utility services.  These things have happened to me and similar things happen to God’s people every day.  They’ve maybe even happened to you.  These Godly interventions are the manna of our modern times.

Don’t ignore the fact also that this is daily bread.

God’s sustenance is never meant to be hoarded.  There is always, plenty to go around and there is plenty more coming tomorrow, and the next day.  The Israelites learned that lesson quickly.  They could not keep manna, it spoiled within 24 hours of being gathered.  This is because, when God steps in and transcends the natural order of things he does so firstly to provide for and show his love to each of us individually, but he also does it to glorify himself.  You cannot hoard God’s glory, it MUST be shared.  Failure to acknowledge and share God’s glory with the world will result in the spoilage of the manna and the end of the blessing.

This is what some theologians refer to as the concept of mixed up grace.  God often provides blessings that are not meant for us alone, they are meant to be shared with others.  In this way he brings the community together and spreads his love far and wide.  We are directed by him to share our resources and redistribute his blessings through our relationships with one another.

So, when we pray “Give us today, our daily bread,” we are asking God to provide for our needs yes, but we are also asking him to help us to share our blessings with those around us and spread his grace more evenly throughout the world.  At this point, pause and make specific requests for the provisioning of your needs and the needs you see around you.  Thank him for the blessings he has already provided and ask him to direct you in the redistribution of his grace to others in need.

 

 

 

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Saturday Night Live vs Donald Trump


When Humor Isn’t Meant to be Funny

alecbaldwintrumpEver since Alec Baldwin created his Saturday Night Live caricature of Donald Trump and even a bit before that, the late night comedy shows have had a field day making satire out of the political landscape. Of course late night comedy has always gotten laughs through satirical commentary so why should things be any different now? I vaguely remember Dana Carvey’s caricatures of George Bush in the early 90s which rumor has it President Bush himself made it a point to watch so that he could take a moment to laugh at himself.

There is something honestly refreshing about our ability to look at serious issues with a bit of humour. It’s healthy too. Dr. Avner Ziv, chair of the educational sciences department at Tel Aviv University has written extensively on the psychology of humor as an aid to education. His 1984 book “Personality and a Sense of Humor” is his most cited scholarly work on the subject and contains a large section on the purpose of humor in public discourse.

Less serious and self-involved people have held that things might be changed by a less tedious approach – that is, by means of humor. Humor exposes ugly human phenomena (those that render the world almost unbearable) to mockery, in the hope of thereby eliminating them. Man makes a mockery of man. In his efforts at changing and improving mankind, man turns matters he thinks grave into absurdities. He does this sometimes with delicate casualness, sometimes with disrespect, and sometimes with ferocity. The laughter that derives from the perception of absurdity reforms the world. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

For this type of humor to work it must be delivered as broadly as possible. Originally theatre was the means to deliver humorous political commentary today we have the late night comedy show.

thatresatireThe English playwright, Ben Jonson described comedy as an educational instrument its goal is not to make us laugh but to arouse in us a form of moral outrage that leads us to improvement. The French novelist Stendhal concluded that the main aim of comedy is to expose people to mockery. The person who is the object of ridicule may be able to accept a reasoned rebuke without making significant changes, “thanks for the input but that’s just your opinion”, they may say. But that same person may not bear to be laughed at. Just before he died Charlie Chaplin said in an interview that the function of comedy is to sharpen our sensitivities to the perversion of justice.

We are entering a time when politicians seem hyper sensitive to this type of humor. Why, in contrast to former president Bush does Donald Trump refer to Saturday Night Live as “over-rated”, “unfair” and “biased”? Why did a prominent Texas republican senator who once likened president Obama to a Nazi recently say that we need to show more respect to the new president?

Why indeed?

Mockery and satire are the final frontier of political debate. As government becomes more totalitarian descent must become more direct and mean spirited.

Comedy is generally received in a friendly spirit. Satire is not. Its victims fear it as a threat to their power and position. Thus in totalitarian countries satire directed against the ruling powers is banned, and any manifestation of satire earns harsh punishment. [Avner Ziv – Personality and a Sense of Humor]

freespeachWhile most western democracies are a long way from a curtailing freedom of speech it is clear that there is a large contingent of politicians and citizens across the political spectrum who either feel that their only recourse is mockery or that they are being unfairly attacked. As we stand on the threshold of the Trump administration we would all do well to remember that governments do themselves a disservice by prevent or complaining about humor against themselves. Laughter is a safety value for the release of tension and one that should point the ruling party toward what the masses are really thinking. When they ignore it, seek to oppress it or complain too loudly about it they do so at their own peril.

I’m not laughing at any of this political satire anymore. I don’t find it funny in that way, it is very serious and the reaction that Mr. Trump has had to it is downright horrifying. Satire is not meant to illicit laughs it is meant to spark debate in a society where reasoned discourse has been oppressed.  When president Trump consistently complains that his detractors are “over-rated” and “sad” he is doing nothing to advance his agenda or enhance his image, he is fanning the flame. By attempting to discredit his detractors in this way the feelings of hostility will likely continue to increase. As these feelings build up they will create a kind of “pressure cooker” which will explode in time. Without satire and the laughter it invokes this hostility might be demonstrated in far more violent ways.

During the Obama administration we saw the advent of the Occupy Movement, a largely peaceful protest directed at the banks and other large institutional elites. Obama met the concerns of the masses with reasoned discourse and eventually helped temper their fears through the democratic process. I fear that unless the politicians start listening to each other again and learn to laugh at the satirists rather than seek to oppress and discredit them, the next time won’t be so peaceful.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

Quote of the Day – 1/6/2017


Nothing is more important to human beings than an ecologically functioning, life sustaining biosphere on the Earth. It is the only habitable place we know in a forbidding universe. – Joseph Guth; Director, Science and Environmental Health Network

Blessed Are Those Who Wield Soft Power


softpowerPolitical values like democracy and human rights can be powerful sources of attraction, but it is not enough just to proclaim them. Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

It is not my usual practice to write a review of a book that I have not yet finished. However; the events of the past several weeks and months leading up to the “peaceful” transition of power in the United States have compelled me to break with my self-imposed tradition.

Over the Christmas break I have been reading through Joseph Nye’s “Soft Power” which was originally published in 2004 at the end of the first term of President George W. Bush. I can’t help but notice a stern warning in these pages against the type of world we may be entering into in the next few weeks. We are standing a crossroads in history in which a populist leader threatens to lead his nation, and by extension the entire world, into a dark age of intolerance, unilateralism and regression the likes of which we have never seen before.

The policies of the Trump administration could set America’s social progress back 50 years and all but destroy their international reputation as an open, welcoming, tolerant and democratic society. As a result the world’s only military superpower could find itself losing key international policy debates in such economically significant and security related decisions as environmental protectionism, nuclear proliferation and terrorist financing to the interests of Russia, China, the European Union and non-state actors like ISIL and OPEC.

This simply cannot be allowed to happen.

flagworldThe term “Soft Power” was coined by Joseph Nye in 1990 in his book “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power”. Mr. Nye is the former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs under President Bill Clinton and is currently a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard. His credentials in international affairs are beyond reproach. He actually developed the concept of Soft Power over a long carrier in academics and government which began in the late 1970s but only started using the term extensively after it first appeared in the aforementioned book.

He wrote:

When one country gets other countries to want what it wants this might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.

Ever since its founding the United States has enjoyed a large proportion of what is now known as soft power. The ideals of democracy, liberty and justice that undergird the US Constitution have been beacons of hope for hundreds of millions of people world-wide for nearly 200 years. It is this soft power, more so than its military or economic might that has helped transform the world from a collection of feudal empires into a largely democratic and capitalist one. American soft power, the attractiveness of democracy and an open society, far more so than the threat of nuclear annihilation or economic isolation is what eventually ended the Cold War.

eagleBut the tide is changing and I fear that a Trump administration and other populist movements around the world are only going to serve to accelerate this change, diminish American influence and usher in an era of instability and violence similar to that which caused two World Wars during the first half of the last century.

The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frame issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy); and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies… To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, America will benefit from the trends of this global information age. But there is a danger that the United States may obscure the deeper message of its values through arrogance. – Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

Professor Nye wrote those words in 2004, at a time when America was going it alone in an unpopular war with Iraq. At that time when the world looked at America they saw a country that, while it may have started to betray some its founding values in the name of security against religious extremists it was at least consistent in its application of those values at home. Any damage caused to America’s soft power was limited to its politicians and foreign policy. Today I am afraid that the hypocrisy of the Iraq war pales in comparison to the hypocrisy apparent in Trump’s domestic policy. These policies have the potential to betray the very founding principles of “life, liberty and justice for all.”

Just as the Cold War was won through diplomacy and the effective wielding of soft power, I fear that the next war, cold or hot, will be lost through the ignorance, arrogance and cultural ineptitude of populist movements that have no regard for the soft power of liberalism and pluralism that has served progress so well for so long.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsporject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Quote of the Day – 12/11/2016


For ever so long, each year millions of children painfully died on our planet. Second, and unlike just a century ago, now most of the horror can be readily prevented. But, third, a great deal of what’s so preventable isn’t prevented. Finally, for years to come, this sad situation will continue. So, it may be usefully fair to say that, in our era, at least, this is a perennially rotten world. – Peter Unger; Living High and Letting Die

 

The Blasphemy of Earthly Government


…but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. [1 Samuel 8:7-9]

kingonthroneThe first thing we must recognize is that human government is not part of God’s original design. When the Israelites requested a King, “such that all the other nations have” [1 Samuel 8:5] it greatly grieved God. God’s chosen people were to be set apart from all the other nations, not conformed to their ways. God’s design involved priests and temple attendants but not a king. God was and still is the ultimate ruler. In this way the Israelites were to show submission to His rule and act as stewards of His creation. It is clear to me from a careful reading of 1 Samuel 8 that God granted Israel at King reluctantly and not without issuing a strong warning about what that could potentially mean for their future.

As Christ-followers and “new Kingdom” theists part of our mission is to help establish God’s Kingdom on earth. In many ways that would be a return to his original design where God is the King and we are his subjects. But because we are suspended here in the world of “promised but not yet”, how are we to live under the rule of a worldly government that does things we may not agree with, and how are we to influence the decisions of that government in a way that reflects God’s will for our lives and our society?

That’s the million dollar question, the answer to which I have come to call the “two kingdoms” mindset. We live in one kingdom, the worldly government and society we are a part of while serving another kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus said we cannot server two masters, we have to pick one and we should obviously pick his.

But how do we live that out?  It’s certainly not going to be easy.  Part of how we can start to do it is explained in Roman’s 13.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. [Romans 13:1-5]

tanksI have to admit, this passage has given me more than one sleepless night. Taken out of context it appears as though Paul is saying that no matter what the governing authorities do they are doing so with God’s tacit approval and any type of civil disobedience or protest is sinful. It also appears as though Paul is giving God’s blessing to all sorts of violence and war mongering and oppression as long it is done by the government, they are his servants after all, right? But nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, because I can count, I know that Romans 13 comes after Romans 12. So if we are reading scripture in its own context this passage follows in the heels of this:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Romans 12:9-20]

Did you see it? Romans 12: 19, “leave room for God’s wrath, it is mine to avenge; I will repay.” After concluding his thought on what our role is, to live peacefully with everyone, Paul goes on in Romans 13 to talk about how God can use worldly governments and institutions to punish those who do wrong.

feedinghungrypeopleIn short, according to Romans 12, it is the role of the Christ-follower to sincerely Love one another, serve the Lord, share with those in need, bless those who persecute you, be willing to associate with those of low position, be careful to do what is right, live at peace with everyone, serve even your enemy and over-come evil with good. God’s role is to use whatever human construct he has at his disposal to exact punishment on the evil doer, he can even use worldly governments that do not serve him in any meaningful way.

The danger in reading Romans 13 in isolation is that we may begin to think that it is somehow our job to help God by working for or influencing the government for his purposes. Nowhere in Romans 13 does it say that Christ-followers are to be involved in government and serve the earthly kingdom in any way. On the contrary we are to be submitted to it, no matter how evil, because God may decided to use it for his purposes, but if we are doing what is right, as spelled out in Romans 12, we will have more than enough work to do without being involved in the earthly government and nothing to fear from what any evil or neutral government may do. That’s their business and God’s job.

In the end earthly kingdoms are in a sense blasphemy. Setting anyone or any system up as ruler in place of God is nothing more than blasphemy.

Right from the start, God made it clear to the Israelites that by asking for a king they were rejecting Him as their ruler. The first century Christians knew that in order to bring about the promised Kingdom of Heaven, all earthly kingdoms would one day have to pass away. There is no point in working for a dying institution. If you want to influence the world for God’s purposes and the Kingdom of Heaven, you don’t do it from within the early kingdom, you work to establish a new kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth. That’s what the church, at her best is called to be.  And that’s just one more reason why I believe the only true calling of the Christ-follower is the calling to live a life of pacifism.

 

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Mercy, Mercy Me, (The Ecology) – Pacifist Lamentations Part 2


Woo ah, mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east
Woo mercy, mercy me, mercy father
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no [Marvin Gaye, 1971]

earthonfireWhat is the role of mankind upon the earth?

According to Genesis Chapter one, mankind was made in the image of God. That’s all of us as I wrote about last week in the first installment of this series on why I am a pacifist and why I believe pacifism is the true calling of the Christ-Follower.

Continuing from where I left off in the scriptures we read this:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” [Genesis 1:28]

If we stop there it becomes fairly easy to justify all of the ways in which mankind has been raping and pillaging the earth for the last hundred or so years. This is the mindset that is prevalent among most climate change deniers on the so called “Christian” right and the mindset that has permeated the corporate world, politics and average humans since the 1960s.

When Rachel Carson, an employee of the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, first published her research into the disappearance of certain bird species in the book Silent Spring no one had even heard of Global Warming. That was 1962 but Carson had been studying bird populations in the US Mid-West for over a decade at that point.

The book documented the detrimental effects on the environment, caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation about the safety of their products. Not surprisingly the book drew fierce criticism from corporate America, specifically companies like DOW Chemical and Monsanto. But as a result of Carson’s undaunted pursuit of the truth and meticulous documentation she was eventually credited with starting the debate that resulted in the North America wide banning of DDT and many other similar pesticides.

But the work Rachel Carson started more than 50 years ago is far from done. And the naysayers have been far from silenced.

In 2013 it was widely reported that 97.2 percent of scientists believe that humans are playing a major role in climate change. Another way to say that is that is if you put 100 scientists in a room together, 97 of them would think the remaining 3 are idiots! But if that’s what the experts say then why is it that only 33 percent of people in the general public believe them?

smokestackAs a Christ-follower and a pacifist, I believe that part of the blame lies with our incomplete and misdirected understanding of the creation story from Genesis.  We have been taught that the role of mankind on the earth is to “rule over” and “subdue” our environment. In so doing we have inadvertently and irrevocably changed it. As Marvin Gaye sang so eloquently in 1971, a result of our ruler ship, “things ain’t what they used to be.” And we continually refuse to see the evidence that is right in front of our eyes. We caused this. And if we continue on this path we will continue to cause ever increasingly severe and irrevocable damage to our domain.

But there is another way to look at creation. You don’t even really have to read between the lines or change your interpretation of Genesis 1:28, you just have to keep reading and see what else God says about mankind’s role in creation.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

Do you see it?

“Take care” of it!

Ruler ship from the perspective of a caretaker is very different from ruler ship from the perspective of a master. If mankind is the master of this world then we have no one to answer to but ourselves and there are no consequences for our actions. Many climate change deniers, when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge the evidence will use as a last line of defense some variation of the notion that sure maybe there is something going on that we have caused but it will take so long for the ice caps to melt that we won’t be around to see it and future generations will have time to evolved and adapt.

This is not only rude and callus, it’s just wrong on several fronts!

sewingseedsThe fact is there is a master and He is not us. We are merely caretakers of His creation. Caretakers have to take responsibility for their actions, maintain balance and submit to the authority of the master. They have to do their jobs and then hand over the garden to the next generation in as good or better shape than they found it. It’s not ours we don’t have the authority to alter it irrevocably. We are merely caretakers.

As a Christ-follower and a pacifist my role in all of this is to remain conscious and consciences about how I am altering the environment. And make no mistake; I am altering it, that’s unavoidable. I must be aware of the amounts of carbon and methane that I personally cause to be released into the air and do my part to control and mitigate the damage that I do. If I do my job well I can hand over the reins to my replacement, the next generation, without saddling them with an unmanageable problem that I caused.

God created me to rule over His creation, not as the ultimate master but in submission to His will and His design. God created me to be a caretaker for Him. And that is what I believe is the only proper response of a Christ-follower on questions of environmentalism and climate change.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and my Pacifist Lamentations write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or go to Twitter and follow the hashtag #pacifistlaments.  Stay tuned to this space for the next installment of Pacifist Lamentations where I plan to discuss the problem of evil from the perspective of pacifism.