New Year’s Day – 2019


Who stands firm?  Only the one whose ultimate standard is not his reason, his principles, conscience, freedom, or virtue; only the one who is prepared to sacrifice all of these when, in faith and in relationship to God alone, he is called to obedient and responsible action.  Such a person is the responsible one, whose life is to be nothing but a response to God’s question and call.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Back in 2015 I published a book on ethics, you can check it out [here].  My previous book had been on finance so in the summary I wrote for the book jacket I said;

Here, I go beyond questions of personal finance and economics and dare to ask an utterly different question: “What is the will of God?”  Meekoethics is not an attempt at finding a definitive answer.  Rather it is an honest exploration of the questions behind the question and a call to all Christ-followers to sit in submission to the answers they find, get comfortable with discomfort and let God be God. 

The Marlboro Man – who wouldn’t want to be that guy?

Giving control over to God is exceedingly difficult.  We live in a society that prizes individuality and champions the rugged individualist.  For decades the epidemy of manhood was the Marlboro Man, the strong loner who rode his horse, smoked his cigarettes and presumably didn’t give a care about what you thought of him. 

Today the ads may have changed, we no longer prize cigarette smoking as a sign of individuality, but the message remains the same.  Follow your own path, be your own person and the world will respect you for it.  But is that really who we are meant to be?

I’m an introvert but I’m also very social, that’s what the S in ISFJ stands for.  Being a social introvert requires a level of submission to a greater sense of community than most people are willing to attempt.  It is through social interaction that I can observe and listen for the will of God. 

Ultimately it is by listening for and hearing God’s call in my life that I remain focused on the things that truly matter.  Aligning yourself to God’s call often requires releasing things that we hold close, aspects of our personality and worldview that we have developed over years of personal reflection and practice. 

It also means releasing things that we once thought where part of God’s will for us.  That’s the hard part.  Maybe it was God’s will for us to think and behave a certain way, for a time, but no more.  The only way we are going to know that is by listening to God, through social interaction and community, and being willing to let go of things that are no longer working. 

It’s January 1, 2019 and people all over the world are making New Year’s Resolutions.  We are resolving to do new things, stop doing old things and become all around better people.  Most of us will fail in a matter of days, falling back into old habits and old patterns. 

Why?  I’m not qualified to answer that, but I believe that part of it is the fact that we lack proper motivation and accountability.    Before you make a New Year’s Resolution, ask yourself why, what do you hope to get out of this change in behaviour?  Next, pray and make sure that your desire for change is in line with God’s will for your life.  Finally, look for confirmation and an accountability partner, someone who can confirm the voice of God and walk the path with you helping to you stay motivated.    

 Happy New Year – Time to heed the call.

The Kingdom


 

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 4 – The Kingdom

Your kingdom come

Your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven. [Matthew 6:10]

When we speak of God’s Kingdom it’s important to first remove ourselves from our present understanding of government and place ourselves in the context of the first century Jesus followers.

There are very few true monarchies left in the world.  Even Great Britain with it’s royal house of Windsor is no longer a kingdom in the historical sense.  Queen Elizabeth II has no real power, except as a tourist attraction.

But even thinking of monarchies in the European context as we in the west are tempted to do is inaccurate.  When Jesus speaks of a kingdom the concentration of power that would have entailed to his followers is unprecedented in modern history.  While the monarchies of Europe, had counsels of nobleman and commoners, which could influence the king, the Roman monarchy in Jesus day and the Babylonians before them, were ruled by a very tight circle wielding supreme power over every aspect of human life.  And no one was more powerful than the king.

At the time when Jesus first introduced the concept of God’s Kingdom to his followers, executive power was so heavily concentrated in the will of one person that the Babylonian Emperor was considered a god in his own right.  He even had priests administering sacrifices to him.  The Romans were only slightly less arrogant when they bestowed upon Caesar the title “Son of the gods”.  Clearly kingship in Jesus day was a far bigger deal than even the kings of the middles ages enjoyed.

When Jesus instructed his followers to pray for God’s kingdom to come it would have brought them all the way back to the first commandment.  “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me.” [Exodus 20:2].

Who has supreme power?  Not Caesar, God.  Who’s will should you seek after?  God’s.  And most importantly, where is God’s kingdom?

Many Christians over the ages have gotten caught up on that last point.  While Jesus appears to be saying that God’s kingdom is in heaven, i.e. somewhere else, what he is really doing is telling his followers to ask God to bring His kingdom to earth, here and know.  Elsewhere Jesus is asked by some of his followers to show them the kingdom so that they may go and get it, his response was that the kingdom is not something to be attained rather it is “within your midst”.  [Luke 17:21].

Therefore, the Kingdom of God is best understood as an interactive community of believers working together to bring about God’s will on earth, here and now. When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” etc, we are really praying that the community of believers comes together and works to bring the kingdom, God’s domain, into our immediate context.

So it is at this point in the prayer we pause again and ask God to bring us all together and bless our work in his name.  We pray specifically for the work and mission of our churches, and our ministries.  We pray that we can impact the lives of our neighbors, that we can serve the poor, protect the weak and influence the decisions made by our political leaders.  We pray for the victims of war and natural disasters and we pray that God would raise up and send out workers to complete the real world and mundane tasks that are entailed.

That last point is critical.  It’s not enough to pray that the work gets done.  We must also be willing to be part of God’s holy work force.  Otherwise we are just providing lip service and adding hypocrisy to an already desperate situation.  Richard Sterns, president of World Vision USA once said that his prayer was to become the hands and feet of God, to go were he was needed and complete the work that was set out before him.

“Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Pause now and ask God to bless our work, bring about change in the world, help the victims of war, poverty and natural disasters and show us the work he has for us to do to make it all happen.

 

Cultivating Conscious Contact


Three Steps to Discerning the Will of God

When I first start working with clients, either one on one or in a group setting, one of the first questions I receive is something along the lines of, “How, exactly, does one discern the will of God?”

This is an understandable question given that my mission is to “teach people to live life to the fullest in complete submission to the will of God”.

I usually answer by asking how they would go about figuring out what anyone wants?  Apart from the obvious, simply asking, you would begin by cultivating a relationship with them.  You would spend time with them and get to know them.  Over time you would gradually begin to understand them on a level that would give you a reasonably accurate sense of the things they like.  It’s no different with God.

The mindfulness movement has been championing what some meditation experts have coined “cultivating conscious contact with the divine.”  While that’s not exactly the way I would describe it, I do believe that one of the best ways to begin a relationship with God is through meditation.

When you first begin to meditate for the purposes of developing a relationship with God there are three things you need to do.

1 – Become Still

God tends to speak in a gentle whisper.

In 1 Kings 19, God appears to the prophet Elijah.  Elijah is meditating in a cave in the mountains.  First a great and powerful wind rips through the rocks.  Then an earthquake shakes the mountain.  After that a fire starts among some brush and burns out of control.  Finally, after all that noise and violence had passed Elijah heard God speaking softly to him from outside the cave.

Elijah never would have heard God had he gone out and fought back against the natural world’s violence.  He remained quite and when things calmed down he could finally hear God.  No matter what is happening around us, the way to hear God is to remain still and allow the violence of the world to wash over us and past us.  Some meditation experts say we must become like water to the world.  Then and only then will we hear God’s gentle whisper.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. [1 Kings 19:12,13]

 

2 – Trust Your Instincts

In Psalm 46 God commands us to be still and know that he is God.

That kind of knowledge is instinctual and is achieved by trusting that God is who he says he is.  Again, Elijah never would have heard God if he hadn’t known what to listen for.  You cannot establish a relationship if you are constantly doubting what you are hearing.  It starts by simply acknowledging that God is God.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” [Psalm 46:10]

 

3 – Double Check

Once you start to hear God speak it’s vitally important that you test what he is saying against what he has said to others.  God will never go against his nature and nor will he ever encourage anyone to do so.

Read the scriptures, get to know the God of Moses, Elijah and Jesus.  God’s essence is love.  And love is expressed in a community of like minded believers.  Begin to tell others what God is saying to you and listen for their feedback, if you have misunderstood him he will speak to you again directly and through the words of a trusted friend.

In 1 John 4 we learn that God draws us into community and relationship both with himself and others for the express purpose of speaking to us all.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. [1 John 4:12]

It is by following these three steps for cultivating a relationship with God, that you can begin to learn and understand his will in every situation.

Has God ever spoken to you?  What were you doing when you heard his voice?  How did you know it was Him?  Tell me about it in the comments below…

 

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 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.  

Tapping into The Mastermind


The concept of Masterminding is drawn from the 1930s classic “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  The idea is that when you bring people together from a diverse set of backgrounds to talk about their common interests and challenges they learn from one another and each come away with valuable insights that they can apply to their own situations.  The resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts, a kind of two plus two equals five, if you will.

The typical mastermind group consists of 4-6 people, all working at about the same level (CEOs with CEOs, middle managers with middle managers, salespeople with other salespeople etc.), but in a diverse set of industries.  That way they have to work at finding commonality in their businesses.  When they meet, each member of the group is given the opportunity to express a concern or challenge they are facing and then the rest of the group brainstorms solutions.  Some of the greatest business minds of all time have been members of mastermind groups.  It has been argued that the assembly line system developed by Henry Ford may never have made it out of the Ford Motor Company had it not been for the fact that Ford met on a regular basis with Andrew Carnegie and Harvey Firestone.

Some, including Hill and many of his modern day disciples like Jack Canfield and Rhonda Byrne, made famous by her bestselling book “The Secret”, say that masterminding and the fact that the resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts is somehow evidence of God.   To back up that claim they site passages like this one;

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. [Matthew 18:20]

Jack Canfield quotes this passage in “The Success Principles” when discussing masterminding.  But when I read that my spidey senses when crazy, something just didn’t seem right about it so I looked it up.

As a practising Christ-Follower I am pretty sceptical when I see scripture quoted in a decidedly secular book.   While the overall concept of masterminding is fairly powerful and there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it, I even take part through a bi-weekly breakfast meeting with a group of small business owners,  I knew immediately that Canfield was quoting Jesus out of context and bending the word of God to fit his agenda.

This sentence comes at the end of a passage in which Jesus is giving instruction on how to deal with sin in the church.    He begins by saying this;

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. [Matthew 18:15-16]

You see, “where two are three are gathered” is not about getting together and talk about our personal agendas, it’s about addressing sin and furthering the Kingdom.  That’s not to say that God doesn’t bless us when we follow his commands but this passage just isn’t about that.

When I was first introduced to the law of attraction my immediate reaction was that it sounded a lot like good old fashioned prayer, with one exception, with prayer the goal is not to always get your own way.  When you pray you can ask for what you want or what you think you need but in the end it’s God who decides.  Regardless of what you want, you get what’s best.  That’s why Jesus taught use to ask “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10].

So while masterminding isn’t a sin Jesus wants us to remember that discerning the will of God is really what masterminding should be all about.  It’s not about trying to influence God’s will in anyway and no amout of “group think” is going to change that.

The Success Principle You Won’t Find on the Best Seller List…


As most of you know I read about a book a week.  I’m a firm believer in the famous line that says:

“Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”

That was spoken by the motivational speaker and author Charlie “Tremendous” Jones and its truth is fairly profound.  As an introvert I find it a lot easier to read a book than to meet people so I guess by reading so much I’m making up for that fact, even when I read books about how to get better at talking to people.

I tend to read mostly in 5 broad categories that help me with the over arching mission of The Meekonomics Project, those are books on Theology, Economics, Politics, Sales Theory and Self-Help.  So this past week I picked up a copy of “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield.  Canfield is best known as the co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series that has grown into over 40 individual releases and sold well in excess of 500 million copies world-wide.   By all accounts he’s a pretty successful guy so he should know what he’s talking about.

I’m only about a third of the way through but something I read the other day struck me and I wanted to write about now before I forgot and my mind moved on to something else.  In a nutshell I’m a bit concerned about the way Canfield, and other motivational self-help authors focus on personal empowerment over mutual submission, team work and servant leadership.

You see, the first several “principles” Canfield lays out have to do with taking personal responsibility and getting clear on what it is you want.  They have titles like “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life”, “Be Clear Why You’re Here” and “Believe It’s Possible”.  All good things to be sure but Canfield (and he’s not alone in this, most self-help authors follow a similar formula) makes it seem as though you already have all of the ingredients you will need to be super successful.  In my experience that’s just not true.

Now I don’t want to pretend I know anything about Canfield’s personal life but it appears as though he is to some degree at least a spiritual person.  He has also spoken with and interviewed several religious leaders, many of whom have contributed to the “Chicken Soup” series and are quoted through this book.  But there seems to be a serious spiritual disconnect between saying I am 100% responsible for my own life and then turning around and praying the way Jesus taught us in Matthew 6.

The Lord’s Prayer contains the phrase, “your will be done”, (Matthew 6:10) but if you are totally in tune with the party line amongst self-help authors that’s a big no-no.  It means you are giving up a part of your personal empowerment to something outside of yourself.  Even though that is exactly what is taught in scripture most self-help authors, including those who profess some form or Christianity like Canfield will gloss over that fact.  Telling people to surrender their will to God just doesn’t sell as many books as letting them think they are in complete control of their destiny.

Self Help books are all about personal empowerment, they provide a valuable service to those who need a little kick in the pants to get moving toward their dreams in life.  But before you start moving in any direction you first need to stop and make sure your dreams are in line with the God who put you here.  God has a will, or as some have said a purpose, for you.  If you’re dreams are not in line with His no amount of self-help or empowerment lectures are going to make you successful.

As A.W. Tozer, the American theologian and author of “The Knowledge of the Holy” and “The Pursuit of God” put it:

To set our will against the will of God is to dethrone God and make ourselves supreme in the little kingdom of Mansoul.  This is sin at its evil root.

The kingdom of Mansoul, as opposed to the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is where most people and most self-help authors want to live.  That is where you and you alone are in complete control.  But Jesus calls us to a different kind of kingdom.  He calls us to the Kingdom of Heaven, where God is in control and his will is written on our hearts for all time.

Meekonomics is not a self-help or personal empowerment movement.  If anything it is more about personal depowerment, if that’s even a word.  It’s not until you release your hold on your dreams and surrender them to God at the foot of the cross that you will be able to move forward.  But don’t mourn the loss of those dreams because once you surrender your will to him he will write a new dream on your heart that is even more powerful and more fulfilling than anything you could have thought of on your own.

Once that dream is firmly embedded in your soul then all of the self-help and personal empowerment writings from people like Jack Canfield take on a whole new meaning.  We are then able to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and run the race set out for us in a whole new way. (Hebrews 12:2).

Remember, “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” really means that if you surrender your will to God he will give you everything!  There is no better success principle than that.