We’ve Got To Do Better


I recently took about a week and binged watched the Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”.  I was enthralled by it and ended up averaging 2 episodes a night for a week until I was done.  My schedule wouldn’t allow me to watch any more than that and to be honest I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it anyway, the acting and storytelling are superb but the subject matter is pretty intense and most episodes struck a chord and stayed with me.

“13 Reasons Why” is the story of a teenage girl, Hannah Baker, who after a series of desperate attempts to fit in, becomes a victim of cyber bullying and rape.  In the end she kills herself but not before recording a serious of audio tapes detailing how all the people in her life had a hand in her feeling isolated and worthless to the point of her decision to take her own life.  The program has been both praised and criticized for its portrayal of teenage angst and graphic depictions of rape and suicide.

One psychologist I saw aptly stated that revenge is a supremely bad reason to commit suicide, and expressed concern that the program would give too many depressed teens too much information on how to carry out such a bad plan.  After having watched the show, I can’t say I disagree with him but I still think it is a well produced program with a valuable message to teens and their families.

Norh Middlesex District High School, class of ’91. I’m back row, third from right.

High-school for me was nearly 30 years ago but while watching “13 Reasons Why” memories of how I felt during that time came back intensely.  I knew Hannah Bakers, I knew every one of those kids, and in some ways I was every one of those kids, (except the entitle rich kid who raped Hannah of course).

After watching “13 Reasons Why”, I also took a few days and read the critically acclaimed business and marketing book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.  Sinek’s thesis is that in order to develop an effective following you need to start by communicating a compelling reason behind your “how” and your “what”.  In my business there are literally thousands of other Financial Advisors who do what I do.  There are fewer but still hundreds who do it in a similar way.  So in order to differentiate myself I need to get super clear on why I do it and lead all of my client communication with my unique why.

Why did Hannah Baker kill herself?  I think part of the answer lies in the fact that she felt worthless, somehow “less than”, within her high school culture.  Why do I do the things I do in my financial practice?  Because I firmly believe that every human on earth has infinite value. 

That value each of us has means that you deserve the very best service I can provide.  How I do that is through a customized personal and highly relational approach to what I do – Financial Planning.

In the very last episode of “13 Reasons Why”, Hannah’s friend Clay confronts the high school’s guidance counselor about how he and everyone else had failed to really see Hannah’s struggle to find value in herself.  As he walked out of the guidance counselor’s office he paused and said “It has to get better.  We’ve all got to do better.”

Do you believe you have infinite value?  When you begin to doubt your value check these out and call me… It has to get better.

Genesis 1:27

Act 17:28

Romans 9:22-26

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

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

 

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Don’t You Just Love a Good Symphony?


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

The view from my back deck 0615 this morning

A funny thing has happened to me over the last few days.

Well, not all that funny if you know me well.  You see, I’ve been craving silence.

Sometimes it seems as though I need silence like other people need air.  It feeds me and fills me with a kind of strength and peace that is simply unattainable any other way.  In the silence I hear God.

Don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t speak to me audibly like some other worldly and disembodied voice from upon high.  He doesn’t make bold pronouncements like “build an ark” or “let my people go”.  I’ve often lamented that I wish he would speak to me that way, the way he spoke to Moses through the burning bush or how he woke a young Samuel from a deep sleep.  But then again that would likely be terrifying so I guess I’ll pass.

No, God speaks to me in those thoughts that come in the quiet moments of the day.  He brings to mind people to pray for and reach out to, he plants the seeds of action and progress for my life, ministry and business but more often than not he just says:  “hey there – I’m here with you, I’m on your side, I’ve got this, relax I love you.”

Some days I tend to be a bit of a striver.  I run hard after things, like an athlete going for gold.  I remember the first time I read 1 Corinthians 9:24, I said; “Yup that’s me, I want to be that guy.”

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. [1 Corinthians 9:24, 25]

I work hard, sometimes too hard.

In my business we use a personality matrix to help us understand ourselves better so that we can direct our efforts toward the kind of prospects that respond best to our personal styles.  I’m sure you’ve seen similar things in whatever business you spend your time in.  They’ve been a staple of popular management psychology for at least the last 30 years.  The one we use the most breaks people down into 4 categories; analytical, driver, amiable and expressive.

Through a series of question and response tests you can place yourself on a quadrant diagram in one of the four areas and presto, this is who you are and how you work best.  Problem is that every time I do one of these tests, if I take my time and am honest with myself I land so close to the middle of the diagram that they tell me I must not have been honest.  Apparently nobody can be so balanced in their responses as to be nearly equal in all four traits.  Except me that is, but I digress.

On days when I tend to be a striver, (I prefer the term to driver because to my mind it better depicts a goal that you are reaching for, I’m pretty sure you can be a driver and still lack direction.) I sometimes run off ahead of God.  And when I get ahead of God things start to fall apart, deals fall through, relationships get strained and I start to crave silence so I can stop for a minute and listen to God.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately so I tried for some quite time yesterday.  Saturdays are usually a good day to unplug from the world and sit in silence for a while but there were too many things to do, too many errands to run and too many people to visit.  I started to feel myself getting angry so I calmed myself down by resolving to get up early this morning and sit in the silence.

I began with some deep breathing exercises and an “Our Father.”  And then it happened.  The birds started it.  Not just one or two but a veritable symphony!

I was annoyed, how’s a guy supposed to hear God with all this damn chirping?  But that wasn’t all; a car with a bad muffler started up in the distance, then my neighbor’s air conditioner kicked in, a dog started barking and an airplane took off.  Did I mention I live just a few kilometers from the airport?

But just as I was about to get really upset and give up in frustration I heard it.  God whispering to me through the noise; “Don’t you just love a good symphony?”

I took another deep breath and started over; “Our Father, who art in heaven… listen to the symphony of praise your creation has brought this fine morning!

Hallowed be thy name….”

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

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

 

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New Book Project!


writingI’m writing again!

Okay, well the truth is I never really stopped, as this blog attests.  But I have not been nearly as active as I was in the past and I have not been working on a larger book length project for over a year.  There are a lot of reasons for this that I won’t go into right now.  Some of my reasons may become apparent as I work on this new project anyway.

For now, suffice it to say two things.

1) After I published Meekoethics I was mentally spent.  That book is deeply personal to me and digging into parts of my past that have shaped me into the man I am today took a lot out of me.

2) I ran out of things to say for a while.  It wasn’t so much writers block as it was just a lack of significant incite to add to the conversation.  I tried for a while to write about leadership but that effort felt strained.  I was reaching for something that I have very little personal knowledge of.  The work felt academic, not personal and if there is one thing I have learned its that I write best when I have some experience with the topic, some skin in the game so to speak and something personal to say about it.  I prefer to write as though I am trying to send a message to my former self and I really don’t have much to say to myself on leadership, at least not yet.

What I do have something to say about is mental health and spiritual well-being.  I won’t get into a lot of the details as to why this is my current focus now, hopefully as I work it through my reasons should become obvious.

chapter1As I did with my previous works, each time I complete a chapter I will post excerpts here for your review and comment. The following is the first such excerpt from the introduction.  Enjoy, please comment and join the conversation so that we can make this a bit of a collaborative effort.

 

Broken – Our Journey to wholeness through anxiety, pain and adversity

I met my first rape victim in 1992. At least she was the first person I knew who was open enough about it to say so.

I knew the statistics, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Victims Services Secretariat, 39% of Women over the age of 16 have experienced some form of sexual assault.   1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes.[1]

I knew, on an intellectual level at least what that meant. Even in our small town, three or four of the girls in my high-school graduating class, if it hadn’t happened already, would eventually be victims of sexual assault and although I was far from a Casanova myself at least one of the girls I had dated would eventually become a victim.

That last thought turned my stomach.

depressedgirlThe more I got to know this girl the more I realized that the scars left on her soul would likely never heal. She exhibited behaviour that I had seen before, sexual promiscuity, fierce independence, abuse of alcohol and a general liaise fair attitude in the face of some truly traumatic events in her life. I began to wonder if this behavior could point to the fact that the other girls (and a few boys too) I had seen acting in this way were also victims of sexual assault. Truthfully, I may never know but to this day I still wonder.

Eventually my encounters with this young girl began to wane as our lives moved in different directions. I haven’t seen or even thought about her in over 25 years, that was, until today. I wonder if she ever found healing. I hope so, but somehow I doubt it.

I doubt it because in the intervening years I have spent time with a number of other survivors of trauma, some of it sexual in nature and some of it not. As I’ve branched out from my relatively sheltered up bringing in a small town surrounded by a community full of “salt of the earth” type people I’ve begun to see the world in a different light.

I’ve taken off my rose coloured glasses as it were and begun to see the world as it truly is, a dark, dreary and often times, downright evil place full of fear, sadness, trauma and shame. In short, the world is broken. But it is also a world of unsurpassed beauty, a world of love, grace and healing.

This is not a book about sexual assault, although my hope is that all victims of trauma of any kind may begin to find some form of healing within its pages. This is first and foremost a book about God, His perfect plan for our lives, His deep pain at our losses and His deeper compassion for our health and mental well-being. It is a book about repairing our brokenness, healing our souls and journeying into wholeness, no matter the cause or depth of our traumas.

imageofgodDr. Greg Boyd, teaching pastor at Woodland Hills Community Church in Minneapolis Minnesota[2] during a Sunday sermon once called all humanity “infinitely valuable image bearers of the divine.” I have unashamedly stolen that phrase and use it constantly in my discussions about God’s grace with the people I encounter.

We all carry with us the image of God imprinted on our mind, body and soul. Even when we are broken, when we are sad, afraid, and full of shame, we are first and always God’s image bearers. And not just image bearers but infinitely valuable, infinitely worthy and infinitely loved by our creator.

We all carry the scars of our past, there is very little we can do about that. May the pain subside and the image of God shine through each and every one of our lives.

Welcome to the journey.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [Jesus, John 16:33]

 

[1] Full statistics available from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres www.sexualassualtsupport.ca

[2] For more information on Woodland Hills Community Church and Dr. Greg Boyd visit www.whchurch.org

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and 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 brings to his work a passion to people 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.

 

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On Faith, Democracy and The Kingdom of Heaven


Last year, during the Canadian federal election campaign I started thinking about my place in the grand scheme of politics and democracy. This week, as the final days and hours of the US election campaign began to point to a Trump presidency those questions started creeping into my conscience again. Of course this time around I didn’t get a vote but as the world’s biggest economy the decisions of the US electorate have a significant impact on us all.

The gospel in just three words is “Jesus is Lord”. I don’t know any Christians who would disagree with that statement. In fact it is as close to a universal statement of faith that exists in the Christian church. No matter your denomination, Catholic, Protestant, Conservative Evangelical or Progressive, we can all agree that Jesus is Lord.

But in our hyper individualized culture this whole concept of lordship is problematic. Wikipedia defines lord as an appellation for a person or deity who has authority, control, or power over others acting like a master, a chief, or a ruler.  By making the statement Jesus is Lord, we are simultaneously submitting ourselves to his authority and rejecting all other individuals and institutions that would seek authority over us.

The democratic process is at its core a game of pick your lord. Every four years the American public is given the opportunity to decide who their lord will be but if Jesus is Lord, then your government is not. The question becomes then, what to do when government and social norms do not align with the Lordship of Christ?

Two Kingdoms Doctrine

churchandstate

Martin Luther was one of the first reformers to champion the separation of church and state and so was also one of the first church leaders since Constantine to wrestle with this question. Before Luther the church was the state so any question of lordship was moot. So when faced with difficult questions about how a Christian should behave as a citizen under the lordship of both a secular government and the lordship of Jesus Luther had to make a compromise. Luther’s compromise made it possible for reformers to retain citizenship in their home countries but would eventually prove to be fatal to the true Lordship of Christ.

What Luther said has become known as the doctrine of the two kingdoms. Again, according to Wikipedia the doctrine states that, God rules the worldly or left-hand kingdom through secular government, by means of law [i.e., the sword or compulsion] and in the heavenly or right-hand kingdom through the gospel of grace. The fatal flaw in this argument should be obvious to anyone who has felt the law of the land precludes them from living out their faith. If God rules the world through secular government what happens when that government contradicts your understanding of the Lordship of Christ?

Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms was developed under a feudal government system and worked well for the kings and lords of the middle-ages. They were able to use it to claim divine authority over vast realms of humanity while functioning in ways that directly contradicted gospel teaching. Romans 13 became a favourite passage of the ruling class as a way to remind the peasants of their place in the world and prevented large scale rebellion.

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]

But Romans 13 was not written as an instruction manual for how the faithful should live under a “Christian” government. The entire book of Romans, and most of the New Testament for that matter, was written from a prison cell and directed to a minority people without any political power or authority. The New Testament gives no advice to Christians on how to hold on to political power. The doctrine of the two kingdoms therefore is flawed from the beginning. Any biblical instruction on ruler ship is found in the Old Testament and under the old covenant that has been made obsolete by the reign of Jesus.

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. [Hebrews 8:13]

To say therefore that God holds authority over the worldly, left-hand kingdom through law and compulsion assumes that the rulers are godly and returns the Christian to the authority of the Old Testament. We know that is simply not the case but as if that weren’t enough to discredit the doctrine of the two kingdoms it completely falls apart when it is applied to a democratic society.

The Authority of God

freewill

In His infinite love for humankind God has given us the ability to say no to Him. It’s called free will and it is the bed rock of God’s relationship with us. For love to exist there must be the possibility of rejection. No one knows this better than God. The entire story of humanity is the story of love and rejection.

Democracy hands the power of ruler ship, through the free will of the people, to whomever appeals to the broadest segment of society. God’s will is therefore lovingly submitted to the will of the people and God’s authority over the worldly kingdom is muted. Humans do as they please and God is pushed to the margins of society. How then is God’s sovereignty manifest in the world?

Hans Beck was a Swiss Brethen Anabaptist who wrote in response to Luther, his own version of two kingdoms doctrine in 1541.

There are two different kingdoms on earth—namely, the kingdom of this world and the peaceful kingdom of Christ. These two kingdoms cannot share or have communion with each other.

While Luther tried to develop the two kingdoms doctrine as a way appease the church as the primary governing authority of the day, Beck immediately saw the flaw in Luther’s logic and destroyed it by saying simply that the two kingdoms could never coexist. Beck went on to state:

The people in the kingdom of this world are born of the flesh, are earthly and carnally minded. The people in the kingdom of Christ are reborn of the Holy Spirit, live according to the Spirit, and are spiritually minded. The people in the kingdom of the world are equipped for fighting with carnal weapons—spear, sword, armor, guns and powder. The people in Christ’s kingdom are equipped with spiritual weapons—the armor of God, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit to fight against the devil, the world, and their own flesh, together with all that arises against God and his Word.

According to Beck, the people of the kingdom of Christ stand apart from the kingdoms of the world. While Luther was trying to appease the authorities in order to retain his German citizenship, Beck was renouncing his Swiss citizenship in order to remain loyal to Christ.

Citizens and Ambassadors

citizensSo the question now is where do Christians fit in a democratic society? Is there a moral obligation for the church to seek political power, or at least attempt to influence those in authority for the good of mankind? Or as Beck would have it, do we write civil society off as inherently evil and withdraw completely?

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to a church that was immersed in a wealthy culture of excess. A culture predicated on power, money and sex.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. [2 Corinthians 5:18-20]

Paul appears to be saying that the kingdom of heaven can only be achieved through reconciliation with God and His will that this reconciliation comes through Christ. It is therefore the job of the church to be ambassadors of His kingdom in the world. By using the imagery and terminology of ambassadorship Paul at once implies that our citizenship is not of this world. An ambassador is not a citizen of the country or member of the society in which he resides.

When Christ-followers take on the identity of an ambassador the two kingdoms doctrine takes on a new and more plausible meaning for our modern democratic society. As a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom we reside in the world as ambassadors of a spiritual kingdom. The job of an ambassador is to lobby on behalf of their home country, and to a limited degree even participate in without conforming to the culture in which they are placed. This worldly kingdom is not our home, living here is our job.

Jesus laid out the parameters of our job at the end of his time on earth.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

Ambassadors are not part of the society in which they reside they do not make policy and the do not enforce laws. They lobby and promote the interests of their king. As Christ’s ambassadors we are called to lobby on behalf of Jesus and the things he cares about. He opened His earthly ministry by proclaiming “good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed”. [Luke 4:18].   He preached love for enemies, healed the sick, and gave dignity to foreigners. And then he gave his life in the ultimate act of submission and sacrifice.

Conclusion

On November 8, 2016 the world held its breath while the United States, the world’s largest economy, strongest army and most culturally influential society democratically elected a man and a party whose policies and rhetoric threaten to set social policy back to the 1950s. This man openly opposes immigration, social security, health care, environmental protectionism, and banking regulations aimed at protecting the interests of the working poor. By some accounts four out of five evangelical Christians voted for him. They felt that his stance on certain moral issues like abortion and gay rights was in line enough with their faith that they could look the other way on the ones that clearly aren’t. They felt that to vote for the other candidate would have been to compromise their convictions too much. What they failed to recognize is that as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven their job is not to make decisions in the worldly kingdom but to lobby for change.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have voted, (although that is one option open to ambassadors). The sad fact is that no matter who they voted for they had to make a compromise because as ambassadors we have failed in our duty to lobby on behalf of our king.

Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine fails to translate in a modern democracy. Beck’s version is an isolationist fantasy that only works for the Amish or a survivalist cult. In order to be “in the world but not of the world” [John 17:16] we must become better lobbyists and better ambassadors. We must learn to speak truth to power on behalf of our king. We must influence culture without conforming to it. We cannot be afraid to call our brothers and sisters out on their hypocrisy and their compromise. That is our job as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. If Christ-followers do our job well there is no telling how our influence might grow.

Jesus is Lord!

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The Prayer of Jabez


Buried away in the white pages of your Bible is a perhaps one of the most powerful prayers and testimonies ever recorded. It is an obscure prayer, by an obscure figure which had such a profound impact on the man who prayed it and the people who knew him that in the middle of a long genealogy of the Israelite patriarchs the author saw fit to break in and give a quick testimony and reminder of just who this man was.

bookandcandle1 & 2 Chronicles contain some of the least read passages in the entire Bible. That’s why I call them the white pages. Most people, even those who study the Bible diligently will gloss over large sections of Chronicles because, quite honestly, nothing seems to be happening. So the pages remain white and pristine, there are no dog ears, no scribbled notes in the margins and nothing is highlighted.   The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles consist of list after list of the various families that made up the nation of Israel.

B-O-R-I-N-G!

So it is any wonder why, tucked away in the middle of chapter 4, while the author is listing the sons of Judah, this powerful prayer is so easy to miss? By the time you get to chapter 4 most people have given up and are just skimming the pages waiting for something to happen.

The story and testimony of Jabez is just two verses and then the author is right back to the list of men “begetting” away.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”  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. [1 Chronicles 4:9-10]

That’s it! That’s all we know about Jabez. None of his brothers, forefathers or descendants get more than a mention in the long list of the sons of Judah. Why Jabez? What made the author or Chronicles decide to stop and say in essence, “there is something you need to know about this guy Jabez. He was more honorable than his brothers because he prayed this prayer and God liked it so much He granted everything Jabez asked for, and more.”

This side of heaven we will never know the answer. But in looking at the powerful prayer that Jabez made we can get a glimpse of why God might have looked so favourably upon him and why the author of Chronicles made sure we knew about it.

First off, Jabez had an unfortunate name. In Hebrew it means literally “pain”. He gave his mother great pain in childbirth and rather than try to forget that and take joy in the birth of a son she decided remember that pain every time she called his name. In Hebrew culture names mean something and are considered a part of both your destiny and your legacy so all throughout his life Jabez was a representative of pain. It would have made for a difficult kind of life. People would have treated him according to the connotations of his name. So when Jabez cried out to God it would likely have come from a place of pain and frustration. “Oh God, Bless me, increase my influence, be with me, keep me from harm and away from pain!”

I’ve prayed Jabez prayers before. Usually when my bank account is empty and my faith is stretched but his prayer seems different than mine. While my prayers sound to my own ears like I’m begging God for something I don’t deserve, his prayer is bold yet humble, it is expectant and trusting, submissive and demanding. And most importantly – God loved it! God loved this prayer so much that he granted Jabez everything he asked for, and more.

In studying this prayer I have found that there are four points here that are worth pondering and implementing into your own prayer life if you want to blessed like Jabez.

  • Oh God Bless me. First off Jabez asked God for His blessing. That’s huge. God wants to bless his people, show them favor and give them what they ask for. Jesus tells us to ask and it will be granted, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be open to us. [Matthew 7:7] But it’s important to ask. God won’t necessarily withhold the things we need but the greater blessings must be asked for in part so that we don’t forget where they came from. By asking we are giving the glory back to God. God likes to be asked.
  • Enlarge my territory, or in other translations and more modern language, increase my influence. In the older translations the blessing that Jabez is asking for can be seen solely in monetary terms but really the territory or influence that is being asked for here is not only financial, although financial resources are often required. It can be anything that moves The Kingdom of heaven forward, by remaining humble and submissive in our stance when we make a prayer like this God can move in our lives and the lives around us in many different ways.
  • Let your hand be with me. Don’t run ahead of God. He will often give you a vision as a challenge for you to grow into and then wait for the right time to make it come to pass. When we pray for blessing and increased influence we often receive grand plans and visions that we can’t possibly implement on our own, we need God to stay with us and work through us in order to make them come true. It can be frustrating to receive these visions from God without the resources to implement them. I get that just don’t forget to pray for His hand in all you do.
  • And keep me from harm. We are at war. When you start doing great things for God Satan won’t like it and he will try to oppose you. When you ask God to bless you, increase your influence and help you out in the process, be prepared to have to fight for it too. God will never leave you or forsake you but Satan will do everything he can to make you lose hope and abandon your mission.   The last point of the Jabez prayer is crucial, as your influence grows you will need God’s protection more and more so don’t forget to ask for it and expect God to grant it.

 

And there you have it. Jabez asked for God’s blessing and increased influence, submitted to God’s direction and sought His protection. God liked his prayer so much that he granted everything he asked for and more. So much so that the author of Chronicles took time out of a long list of obscure men and gave us this testimony of a life that God favored. Maybe there is something to this prayer.

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!

A Quick Word About the Nature of Debt


The following is an excerpt from my new book – LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission for Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven. For more information on this book and it’s expected launch date write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [Romans 13: 8-10]

debtbondageBefore I continue I would like to pause here and give a clarification about the first century context for any discussion about debt. Debt in Paul’s world is not simply about money.   Indeed for much of world history, up until the last few centuries debt was a moral concept wrapped up in human relationships, intrinsic value and ultimate reality.

In today’s world we tend to think only in terms of physical capital. Cold hard cash as it where or credit instruments measured in fiat money. But we tend to forget that in ancient times “debt” went further than that and became a concept indistinguishable from relationships and human morality.

Human Capital is best defined as a measure of the skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or population. To carry a debt therefore in a society governed more in terms of human capital than physical capital is to owe your life in exchange for comfort and security. Viewed in terms of human capital, institutions such as indentured servitude and even all out slavery start to take on a little more context and even a hint of moral acceptance. In a world before modern financial instruments, if my debt to society or an individual can be paid only in my skills, knowledge and experience than the only way to pay it back is to work it off rather than simply purchase my freedom with something as impersonal as money.

Don’t get me wrong, slavery in today’s context is wrong. As a society we have evolved and most people, at least in the west understand that human capital is infinite and therefore an inappropriate way of measuring one’s worth. But is the current system of financial debt, whereby a large portion of our earnings are earmarked for repayment even before we earn them any different in actual fact than a life of debt peonage from ancient times?

Often in ancient times people in bondage were abused, ripped from their relational context and held down by corrupt and dishonest systems of accounting but in world without banks and modern account, as a system of morality it does make some sense. Provided the masters were honest and kind to those who were in submission to their care.

So when Paul talks about debts in Romans 13 he is really talking about Human Capital. Just before is words on debt he says this:

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. [Romans 13:7]

love and lawStay out of “debt” so that you can focus you Human Capital on the things that really matter. Love is not only the fulfillment of the law but way in which you balance your Human Capital in the account books of society as a whole.

For more information on the The Meekonomics Project and my upcoming book LeaderSheep:  Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven, write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

The Blasphemy of Earthy Government – Pacifist Lamentations Part 4


Okay, last time I told you there were going to be 5 installments in this series. I was wrong, I missed one. Next time will be about Just War Theory followed by the final week on the big “What About?” questions.

In this installment I will attempt to lay out the pacifist position on the role of government and the Christ-follower’s role within society.

…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.