Tag Archives: god

Creating a Spiritual Rule of Life


I’m a creature of habit.  I love my routine.  If I had been born in a different time and place I would have been a monk, or a farmer, or maybe a passenger train conductor – “All Aboard!”

So, when I learned about the spiritual practice of a “Rule of Life” I was immediately intrigued.

According to the CS Lewis Institute

“A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how he has made us. The disciplines which we build into our rhythm of life help us to shed the “old self” and allow our “new self” in Christ to be formed. Spiritual disciplines are means of grace by which God can nourish us. Ultimately a Rule should help you to love God more, so if it becomes a legalistic way of earning points with God or impressing others, it should be scrapped.”

The ancient monks understood the value of creating a Rule of Life.  They lived their lives to a rigid schedule of prayer, worship and work.  It was these monks who erected the first clock towers throughout Europe, many of which are still standing today, as a way to stick to their Rule of Life.

A Rule of Life is not just about prayer.  It is a whole life spiritual experience.  Buddhist and other forms of mysticism refer to “mindfulness” as a form of whole life meditation that encourages the practitioner to focus completely on the things they are doing while they are doing them and to block out extraneous thoughts and “noise”.  In this way it is said that a master of mindfulness is able to be fully present and free of distractions at all times.

While not quite as demanding as mindfulness, a spiritual rule of life helps to focus the mind at certain times of the day and creates space for a fuller experience of all aspects of life.

Over the last few months I have concentrated my personal devotional time on developing a rule of life for myself.  This rule has helped me to live a bit like a monk in my daily routine and deepened my relationship with God.

At the present time my rule consists of four specific activities that I do on a daily basis.  Like the old adage about placing large rocks, small stones and sand in a jar, these four activities are my largest rocks, if I do them consistently my life is in balance and I am able to be more focused and productive in everything else that I do.

Here is my personal Rule of Life

1 – Practice Sabbath

Every Friday night by 7:30, sometimes earlier, my computer, phone, email and social media are turned completely off.  They remain off for at least 24 hours.

During that 24 hour period I do nothing that is tied to my work.  I do not communicate with clients, I do not write articles or parts of my books, I do not develop financial plans and I do not study for any of the continuing educations courses that I need to complete for my licenses and certifications.  Instead I read for pleasure, garden, watch movies and spend time with my family and friends.  God created the sabbath after he had completed all of his work as the first “rock” in Adam’s rule of life and if it was good enough for Adam, it’s good enough for me.

2 – Read a Psalm

I begin each day at 7:00 am in quite contemplation by reading a Psalm.

The book of Psalms is 150 chapters long.  Each one except Psalm 119, can be read in less than 5 minutes.  Reading a Psalm a day you can get through the entire book twice in one year, even if you break 119 up over a few days.  Many of the Psalms follow a similar pattern, they begin with lament, move through a period of acknowledging God’s sovereignty and end in praise.  This pattern helps me to see that God is in control and reminds me that doubt and despair are natural emotions that God understands.

3 – Pray the Lord’s Prayer

After I have read a Psalm I immediately move into a structured walk through of the Lord’s Prayer.  My daily prayer is not a rote recitation of Matthew 6:9-13 or any other memorized version of a prayer.  Rather, I use the Lord’s Prayer as a framework for the things I say to God and for the way I listen for his response.

The way I see it there are eight phases to praying this way.  They are; Preparation, Community, Praise, Partnership, Personal Needs, Confession, Temptation and Worship.  A full explanation of this framework and how it forms my rule of life is beyond the scope of this post.  It is the subject of my current book project, tentatively titled “Prayer School” excerpts of which I have been publishing in this space off and on for the last few months, if you’re interested scroll back through the feed and look for titles related to Prayer School.

4 – Meditate on the Examen at points through the day and especially at the end of each day 

The Examen is a rule of life in and of itself that was first practiced by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the early 16th century.  Saint Ignatius is most famous as the founder of the Jesuit Order and the Examen is still practiced by Jesuits to this day.  The Jesuits are encouraged to pause at regular intervals throughout the day and contemplate one or more questions related to their relationship with God.

Once again, this meditation is not meant to be a recitation of the specific questions but rather a framework for the thoughts I try to conjure up as I take a moment or drift off to sleep at night.

Traditionally the Examen consists of three questions.

“Where am I experiencing feelings of joy and peace?”

“Where am I connected with God?”

“Where am I experiencing sadness, apathy and a sense of disconnection from God?”

I am convinced that God speaks to me in my dreams.  Although I reserve the right to think on these things when ever the spirit moves, by making a conscious effort to contemplate the Examen as I drift off to sleep God has answered me in some powerful ways through my dreams.  I wake up each morning refreshed and ready to start again.

 

So that’s my rule of life.  What’s yours?  Do you have a “rule” that you follow that helps you get closer to God?  I’d love to hear about it, tell me your rule of life in the comments below…

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Praise – Part 1


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.
Prayer School – Part Three

hallowed be your name. [Matthew 6:9b]

Prayer is an act of worship.

The Lord’s Prayer is a praise sandwich.  It begins and ends in worship.

Here in the very first verse of the prayer, after acknowledging God’s position as head of the family we begin with praise.

When we pray we are in conversation with “Ultimate Reality”.  The personal deity that took on flesh and walked among us.  It would be disrespectful for us to begin a conversation with the creator of the universe, the most all powerful, God, Love incarnate without at least acknowledging that fact.

Praise, therefore is an essential part of prayer.

Jesus taught that when we pray we are to begin by addressing God as nothing less than our holy father.  God’s very name is holy and worthy of praise.

Dictionary.com defines holy, among other things as being “entitled to worship or veneration.”

Therefore, when we pray we must remember to praise God. After having worked through the rest of our prayer we will return to praise in chapter 8.  By that point our praise will have taken on deeper meaning and carry additional weight in the context of what we have just prayed but for now our praise is focused on the personal essence of God.

As I have already stated God is Love incarnate.  But this is a concept that I have found a lot of people have trouble articulating at first.  Therefore, to praise God we must work through what this means and how to address him.

Addressing the Person of Love

When you love someone, you want to be with them, you want to spend time with them and you want to converse with them.  Being in the presence of love should never feel awkward or forced.  Conversation among intimate partners is different.  It’s usually slower, quieter and less pointed than conversations with people who are not your partner.

While it may take time to develop this kind of a relationship with God, your prayer language should reflect this loving relationship.  Take your time with it, approach God like you would a loving life partner because in many ways that’s what He is.

Acceptance

God loves you just the way you are.  There is nothing we need to do to gain His approval.  Safe in the knowledge of our eternal acceptance we can approach God in complete security and submission.

Whenever I think of God’s acceptance of me I remember the parable of the Lost Son, [Luke 15;11-32].  God, the loving father, is so overjoyed at the presence of his lost son that he doesn’t even let him speak before showering him with full acceptance and love.

That’s what it means to be accepted by God.  All we have to do is receive it, we can’t add anything to what God has already done for us.  [Luke 12:29-34]

Thanksgiving

It’s human nature though to want to give something back.  In this case, the only thing God wants is your love and thanks in return.  The story of the bible is in many ways a story of mankind’s attempts to set up rules and rituals designed to curry favor from and give back to God.  But God wants none of it, he simply wants your love and your thanks. [Micah 6:8]

When we say, “hallowed by thy name”, we are coming to God in reverence, accepting his love and thanking him for every blessing that He is continually pouring out over us and the entire world.  The only appropriate response to all this blessing is praise and then to get down on our hands and knees and drink it up like a deer at an ever-flowing stream.  [Psalm 42:1]

If God is For Us…


Pacifist Lamentations Volume 4

It’s been a while since I wrote a Pacifist Lament.  This one has been on my mind for a few weeks.  I stems from some bad preaching I heard recently on Romans 8:31.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Taken out of context, as this verse often is, it could seem that Paul is saying that with God on our side we are invincible.  And while that may be true, it leads to a violent interpretation of what we are capable of when God is “for” us.  Sadly, Romans 8:31 has been mis-quoted in this way from the barricades of revolution and war for hundreds of years.

“God is on our side!  Therefore; let us go and slay our enemies!”

But taken in context of the entirety of Romans 8, we begin to form a very different picture of what it means to have God “for” us.

In the first half of Romans 8, Paul lays out a detailed analysis of what happens to us when we believe that Jesus dwells in us and is transforming us from the inside out. Put simply, we have become so deeply like Jesus that we have become children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus himself and co-heirs to the kingdom.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. [Romans 8:16-17]

Provided we suffer with him, not provided we go out and fight for him!  Paul goes on to talk about how all believers will be treated and “glorified” with Christ.  We will suffer in this world, but we can count it all as nothing in comparison to what awaits us.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [Romans 8:18-19]

And then we get to the big question that is so often taken out of context – If God is for us, who can be against us?

God for us is an expression of love.  Deepest, most profound and all-encompassing LOVE.

If God is for us.  If God, who in his very nature is love, expresses that love toward us.  If God has made us part of his family.  Who can do or say anything that will negate or make any negative impact on that?

No one can stand against that!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:37-39]

More than a conqueror!  This is not a violent image.  This is not about dominance.  This is about transcendence.

We can remain above and outside of violence!  Nothing that is done too us can have any impact on our salvation.  We therefore transcend violence and remain passive, continuing to love our enemies and work toward reconciliation even in the face of our own death.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  God is for us!

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

 

The Community


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.

Prayer School – Part Two

This then is how you should pray:

Our father in heaven, [Matthew 6:9a]

The opening line of the Lord’s Prayer makes it crystal clear that prayer is not to be done in a narcissistic manner.  The very first word of the prayer points to and acknowledges the fact that the spiritual life is not a life of isolation but a life that must be lived out in community.

When we pray to God as our father we are simultaneously acknowledging that He is my father, your father and the father of all who call upon His name.    It is at this point, after we have spent time in meditation preparing our hearts for prayer and getting close to God that we begin by recognizing His sovereignty over our lives, the lives of the people in our community and the lives of all those who call Him father.

When we begin our prayer this way there are three phases to these opening moments.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing me.

Around the beginning of this century, as the tech bubble burst, the phrase Ponzi Scheme hit mainstream media and was used to describe the world’s largest energy conglomerate and terrorists flew airplanes into two of the world’s tallest office towers, there was a movement within some religious circles to re-examine an obscure prayer from deep inside the genealogical records of Israel.  The prayer of Jabez, as it is known, appears in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

I first learned of this prayer and this movement at a particularly low point in my life.  By praying specifically for God to bless me, enlarge my territory, (which in modern terms would be to pray for prosperity), for protection and comfort, my mind was also drawn to instances when God was already doing this for me.

It’s okay to pray for your needs.   It’s even okay to pray for the desires of your heart.  God granted Jabez his request because he asked.  Some commentators have also suggested that the last line in the Hebrew suggests that not only will Jabez be free from experiencing pain but also from causing pain to anyone else.  Therefore; God granted his request because it contained some other centeredness.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing them.

The term intercessory prayer is used to describe a prayer meant to intercede in the lives of others.  When you say to someone in your community that you will pray for them what you are really saying is that you will leverage your time in conversation with God to intercede on their behalf.

I always begin this portion of pray by thanking God for bringing certain people into my life and for the blessing that they have been to me.  I then ask specifically for the fulfillment of whatever needs they have, those that they have brought to my attention and those that they have kept private.

Jesus modeled this for us in John 17:6-26 when he prayed for his disciples.  He begins by thanking the father for them.

Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. [John 17:6]

He then goes on to describe the troubles they will experience because of him and requests that God give them protection and strength.

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. [John 17:11b]

By turning my focus outward, to my community I become both thankful for the intimacy of my interpersonal relationships and aware of my role in the lives of others.  I am now ready for the last phase of the opening of my prayer time.

Our father in heaven, thank you for blessing us.

The world-wide community of believers is a family.  God is our spiritual father and through our relationship to Him are all connected.  It is through this familial connection that I can thank God for the blessings in your life and intercede on your behalf, even when I don’t know you personally or have any knowledge of your specific needs.

Jesus modeled this too in John 17 when he prayed:

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, [John 17:20-21a]

This also sets us up for a deeper prayer for God’s heavenly kingdom which comes later.  For now I simply pray thankfully for the world-wide community of believers and ask for blessing and intercession into the lives of my brothers and sisters whom I may never meet.  I pray for their safety, their health, their prosperity and the impact of their ministries on their local communities.

**************************************************************************

So here in the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer we have thanked God for all that he has already given us, requested blessing and provision in our lives, thanked God for the people he has brought into our circle and interceded for their needs and thanked God for the world-wide family of believers and interceded for the needs of those half a world away whom we my never meet but with whom we share a connection few outside the faith will ever comprehend.

 

Preparing Our Hearts for Prayer


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.

Prayer School – Part One

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; [Psalm 46:10a]

God can do anything and the way in which he speaks to us, and hears us, is no exception.  But I have found, in my years of faithfully listening and speaking to God is that he operates best in the quiet and stillness of our minds.  Therefore, it is fitting that at the beginning of our discussion of prayer we begin by calming and quieting our minds.

All throughout scripture we see examples of people encountering God when they are alone with only their thoughts.  Moses was alone on the mountain when he encountered God in a burning bush.  Elijah heard the “still small voice” of God after a loud and violent storm had passed by.  David wrote most of his Psalms while alone and running from his enemies.  And who could forget the example of Jesus himself both at the beginning of his ministry, spending forty days alone in the wilderness, and on the night that he was arrested walking alone through the garden of gethsemane.

Prayer happens best when we are quiet and alone. Jesus even went so far as to command that we pray privately.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. [Matthew 6:6]

In recent years spiritual teachers, self-help gurus and psychologists have popularized the concept of “mindfulness”.  According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment and can be honed through a period of meditation.  “Living in the moment” is then the process of taking that focused period of mediation and expanding it into the way we live our daily lives.

Mindfulness has been proven to be an effective form of therapy for those recovering from addictions, anxiety and trauma.  In my own experience, mindfulness has been very helpful as a form of therapy in dealing with my own life history but is not prayer.

Preparing our hearts for prayer is a bit like mindfulness meditation but instead of focusing our minds on the present moment we focus our minds on God.  As Paul wrote to the church in Colosse;

 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [Colossians 3:2]

So, how do we prepare our hearts for prayer?

I like to start with a bible verse in mind that helps me to focus on God.  A couple of my favorites have already been mentioned, Psalm 46:10, Colossians 3:2 but here are a few others that work just as well and you may have others that work for you. Exodus 20:2-3, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 43:3, Psalm 23:1, Matthew 16:15-16.

It’s helpful if the verse can be broken into a couple of phrases.  Speak, or think, the first phrase as you inhale and the second phrase as you exhale.  Repeat this process as many times as it takes to calm your mind and focus on God.  For me it seems that the optimal number is four but if I am feeling extra stress or am otherwise  distracted it can take a bit longer.

Once you have calmed your mind and focused your attention on God you’re ready to pray and open I dialogue with him.  Speak to him as you would a wise friend and listening to what he says.

 

 

The Other Side of Fear


“There is incredible growth on the other side of fear” – Jeff Walker

Jeff Walker is a blogger, entrepreneur and founder of The Product Launch Formula. 

Last Sunday, in his weekly video blog he talked about getting past our fears about producing content.  This struck a cord with me as I am a firm believer that fear is largely self imposed, self limiting and counter productive.

When we talk about submitting to the will of God there is no room for fear.

The apostle Paul wrote to his friend Timothy to encourage him with these words:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and a sound mind. [2 Timothy 1:7]

I often use that verse to encourage myself and my clients and reiterate to them that if we just slow down long enough to think, the spirit of God will make us braver and smarter than we actually are in the moment.

According to entrepreneur Frank O’Dea, founder of The Second Cup Coffee Co. and author of the book “Do the Next Right Thing”, there are three steps to managing a crisis.

1 – Step Back from the Key-Hole.

When you are in a crisis it’s as if you are looking at the world through a key-hole, you can only see a small portion of what is right in front of you.  It’s not until you step back and open the door that you can see the whole room.

2 – Find peace with your higher power.

O’Dea is a survivor of extreme mental and physical abuse.  As a result, he spent several years as a homeless drug and alcohol addict on the streets of Toronto.  It wasn’t until he made the decision to change through Alcoholics Anonymous and their famed twelve step program that he was able to pull himself out of that self-destructive life style.   In the book he explains the concept of a higher power using the language of AA, that it can be anything greater than yourself, but it is also clear that O’Dea, himself a devout Catholic is referring to God in the traditional sense.

Stepping back and finding peace with God then leads to the final step.

3 – Do the next right thing.

If you’ve done the first two steps adequately you will always know what that is.  It might not be easy, and you might need help, (which  would mean that the next right thing is actually to ask for help), but you will always have an idea of what the next right thing is.

As God would have it, when I first sat down to wright this post I was confronted with my own crisis.  I won’t go in to detail about what that was here, but I had the opportunity, while thinking about writing about them to follow the steps myself.

First, I stepped back from the key-hole and tried to gain a broader understanding of what exactly was going on.  I then meditated and prayed about the situation off and on for the next 12 hours.  Finally, I did the next right thing which in this case was to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone.

It worked.  After the initial shock, I was able to calmly assess what was happening, gain some perspective and after enough time had elapsed I was able to have a calm and rational conversation and get things resolved.

That’s how the will of God works in a crisis. Tell me in the comments below about a time when you had to work through a potentially difficult situation and knew the next right thing to do, even if you didn’t really want to do it.

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.  

The Image of God


This week I returned to an abandoned book project tentatively titled “Broken:  Our Journey to Wholeness Through Anxiety, Pain and Adversity”.  I started this project about six months ago and quickly abandoned it because it was getting way too personal way too quickly and I wasn’t quite ready to share my journey with the world.  This week I started thinking about it again and wrote a few hundred words on what it means to be an image bearer of the divine.  

Here is some of what I wrote – I hope you enjoy it.    

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:26,27]

 

We are God’s image bearers.  That much is clear, but what exactly does that mean?

The Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo 1508-1512

No one has ever seen God so we have no idea if or how we might resemble him in any physical way.  So how can we know that we are His image bearers?

(The image to the left that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel has unfortunately become what most people associate with the image of God but it is complete fantasy and I dare say heretical.)

It might be helpful at this point to remind ourselves that one of the most enduring images that God uses to describe Himself and his relationship with His creation is through the metaphor of family.  Families resemble one another in a myriad of ways, both physically and psychologically.  Physical similarities are the result of DNA, psychological similarities are the result of shared experiences, a shared upbringing and shared values.  When God says that he is the father and that we are his children, He is setting up a powerful image in our minds for what he expects from us and giving us a starting point for how we are to bear his image.

From the very beginning we are given a glimpse of what it means to be an image bearer of God through the creation story itself and these ideas permeate throughout the rest of Judeo-Christian scripture and history.  For our purposes we can narrow it down into 3 main attributes the are key to effective image bearing.

Image bearers of the divine are- creative, autonomous and overflowing with love.  For the rest of this chapter I am going to unpack each of those concepts in kind.  I recognize that this may not be everyone’s experience but remember the title of this book is Broken.  These concepts my not be your reality, but they are the ideal.  We’ll get deeper into why these things are not the case in most of our lives a bit later.  Part two is where I will really start to examine and unpack the depth and causes of our brokenness.

Before we can understand how and why something is broken we first must understand how things are supposed to be. Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, you need to examine the picture on the front of the box so you know what perfection looks like.  Think of these first few chapters are the picture on the front of the box.

From that introduction I intend to develop each attribute more completely with examples and explanations.  Stay tuned for more as I work it through.  Thanks for reading…  Lauren

L C Sheil writes regularly about, spirituality, life and business coaching.  He is the founder and director of The Matthew 5:5 Society (formerly The Meekonomics Project) where he coaches ministry and business leaders to Live Life to the Fullest in Complete Submission to the Will of God. 

Mr. Sheil has authored two books and is available for public speaking and one on one coaching in the areas of work life balance,  finding and living your core values  and financial literacy.  Write to The Matthew 5:5 Society here for more information or follow L C Sheil on twitter and instagram.