Brotherhood – a reflection on formation of spiritual family

The following is an excerpt from my current book-length project tentatively titled “Prometheus Rising:  Philanthropy, Altruism and Self-Interest in a Socially Connected World”.  I’m currently working on the first draft of this work and have no projected release date.  In the past book projects have taken about 2 years to complete so stay tuned but expect a release sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.

I never had a brother.  I have two older sisters but no brothers so understanding the nature of brotherhood has been a bit of a journey for me.  And it’s only really been in the last few years that I’ve come to embrace the whole concept of Christian Brotherhood.  My friend Jeff has been a tremendous teacher for me here.

In the fall of 2013 about 18 months after having uprooted my entire life and moved to Ottawa from suburban Toronto so that we could help take care of my wife’s aging family, I was at the end of my rope.

Dealing with aging parents is one thing, doing it while your spouse is going through a major bout of depression and anxiety, your brother-in-law is dealing with the situation through anger and your mother-in-law is just needy and can’t express herself without making demands is quite another.  Add to all that the fact that I was trying to start a new business, I was constantly running on empty.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature.  I want everyone around me to be happy all the time.  I’m also very task oriented so if there is any kind of physical work to be done I am the first person to pick up a mop or offer to drive you to an appointment.  But there was just so much to do and neither my wife nor my brother-in-law seemed capable of putting aside their own anxieties and stepping up to get it done, as a result most of the “heavy lifting” fell to me.

The stress of keeping it all together while my wife fell apart eventually got to be too much to handle.  Oh, and in case you missed it, the sick and aging parents aren’t even mine.

One night, in a fit of anxiety of my own I reached out our church for help.

Two days later I was introduced to Jeff.  Jeff is a few years my junior but in many ways, he is far more mature than myself in dealing with the stresses of being a caregiver to the sick and needy.  Although not a professional psychologist by any stretch Jeff quickly diagnosed my situation as a textbook case of caregiver fatigue.  He was able to do so because he too was a caregiver to an anxious and depressed spouse.  A few years before, his wife had gone through a similar breakdown to the one my wife was experiencing.  As a result he could relate to me in a way no other person could.

Jeff was able to come along side me in my time of need and guide me down a pathway he had traveled himself not so long ago.

I like to describe my relationship with Jeff as similar to two men who find themselves mired in a swamp.  Many people had tried show me the way out of that particular swamp before, but they had flown by in helicopters high above the muck and the mire, or sped by in boats.  These people had pointed in a direction that I should go and then sped off leaving me alone to figure it out for myself.  Jeff on the other hand showed up deep in the muck himself, wearing hip waders and said; “come with me, I know the way.”

The Christian propensity to call each other brother and sister had, until I met Jeff, always seemed hollow and forced.  But in him I found a true brother, someone who demonstrated philia (brotherly love) in a way I had never before experienced.

Over the course of several months we would meet for coffee in a quite downtown shop, slightly off the beaten path and talk about our experience.  As often as not we would sit shoulder to shoulder at the bar, rather than face to face at a table.  Jeff would say that men tend to be more willing to speak honestly when we didn’t have to look directly at each other. He said it had something to do with centuries of evolution working side by side in the forests and the fields rather than face to face in the home that had made it easier for men to forge bonds “shoulder to shoulder”.

Whatever, I didn’t care, all I cared about was that I finally found someone who could not only listen to my struggles but with whom I could share an experience without wondering if he was silently judging me.  What I learned from Jeff and how my wife and I started to put our lives back together while forging a new path isn’t the subject of this book.  But the compassion that I felt while living through some of those darkest days has helped form the basis of my research into philanthropy.

We get the word philanthropy from philia – brotherly love.  It is a recognition of the fact that we are all in is together.  Your burdens are my burdens.  As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians;

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]

I never would have learned that lesson if I hadn’t found a brother in Jeff.



The First Christmas Carol

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:15-20]

The early church didn’t celebrate Christmas.  At least not as a special feast day or as the modern-day retail orgy of capitalistic idolatry that we call Christ’s birthday today.  But the early church did recognize that the event of Christ’s birth was a significant event in human history and they celebrated it regularly with the reverent awe and jubilation that it deserves.

Last week, as I was getting ready to celebrate Christmas I had a chance encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness co-worker of mine.  The office Holiday Luncheon as we call it so as not to offend anyone, was held at the restaurant across the street and after I’d had my fill and stayed a respectful amount of time I decided to return to the office to finish up a bit of work before heading home for the night.  As I came back in I noticed that this individual was sitting at the reception desk.  It’s not unusually to see certain admin staff taking a turn at reception when the regular people are away, and I immediately recognized that she must be covering while most of us were at lunch.  As I walked past I casually asked if she had had a chance to get out and enjoy a bit of time with the rest of us.

“I don’t celebrate Christmas”, was her immediate and matter of fact response.

In this day and age, it is not uncommon to encounter people who do not celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ.  We live in a multi-cultural society.  At the last census only 67.3% Canadians self- identified as Christians with less than half of those attending services more than 3 times per month.  But a large percentage of people who do not identify as Christians still celebrate Christmas in one form or another.  My next-door neighbour is a Hindu, born and raised in India.  His seven-year-old son knows all about Santa Claus and was all too happy to explain to my wife in detail everything he had put into his letter to the North Pole.  Apparently, Santa doesn’t care if you know anything about Jesus, only if you’re good.

Christmas isn’t just for Christians anymore and hasn’t been for quite some time.

So, when my co-worker, who is descended from Irish protestants and married to a man French Roman Catholic origin stated flatly that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas I was a bit taken aback.  But then I remembered why.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other pseudo-Christian groups do not celebrate Christmas on December 25 because there is no historically credible way of pinpointing the exact moment of Christ’s birth.

December 25 was chosen as the date by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D. in part, to combat the pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  Prior to Constantine some Christians had estimated the date to fall any where between December 6 and January 6 (the day many Coptic and Orthodox Christians still recognize today), citing historical records of the Roman census and, the reason why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place.

Still others, notably the Jehovah’s Witness and a few other fringe groups, contend that the day was more likely in the spring or summer since Shepherds would not have been tending flocks out in the fields in the winter.  Personally, I think that argument is weak, winter in the middle east is still warm enough to tend flocks outside even if it might have been rare.

Anyway, the fact is, whether you celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, January 6th or some other time the historical event is still the fulcrum on which history turns.  The earliest Christians knew that and celebrated it just as much as we do today.

Which brings me back to the earliest Christmas Carol.

Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse opens with a poem that could have easily been set to music.  To our modern eyes it might not look much like a poem because when it is translated to English it loses much of it’s poetic feeling, but I assure you was originally a poem and likely a song.

This poem tells us four things about the birth of Jesus.  What it accomplished and how it changes history.

1 – Jesus brings God to us

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [Colossians 1:15]

He is God incarnate!  If you want to see God and understand what he is like look to Jesus.  If you want to follow God and do his will do what Jesus taught.  Everything up to this point, all the laws and the prophets are mere shadows of what has been revealed to us in the person of Jesus.  Put another way, if the Old Testament conflicts with anything Jesus taught, throw it out, Jesus is the true image of God.

Jesus brings us to life

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. [Colossians 1:16]

All things were created through him.  We exist because he made us for himself and all things were created through him.  The law brings death and condemnation.  We have life because of Jesus.

Jesus brings life to us

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [Colossians 1:17]

He sustains us.  He breaths life into us.  There is a popular contemporary Gospel song that I hear on the radio from time to time that repeats the refrain, “It’s your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise to you only.”

Jesus brings us to God

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Colossians 1:19-20]

The ministry of reconciliation brings us back into perfect unity with God.  This unity is a common theme in Paul’s writing.  It comes up again in 2 Corinthians 5 where he says,

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]

Ever since Genesis 3 and the so called, fall of man the path of history is a story of mankind’s failed attempts through rules and regulations to reconcile with God.  It wasn’t until God came in human form and showed us his love for us, a father’s unfailing love, that reconciliation became possible.

It is a Christmas, or when ever you choose to acknowledge the historical reality of Christ’s birth, that we can truly celebrate that Jesus came to bring God to us, bring us to life, bring life to us and to bring us to God.  That is the gospel, and that is what we acknowledge when we celebrate Christmas.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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

He can be reached at or by calling 613-295-4141.



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

He can be reached at or by calling 613-295-4141.



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

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

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

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 or by calling 613-295-4141.






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


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


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.


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!



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.


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 to 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!