Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Image of God - Pacifist Lamentations Part 1

I haven’t written about this for a while but I was recently challenged by a friend to clarify and explain my position. This is going to take a while and require more than one post so I’ve decided to start series that I’m calling Pacifist Lamentations.  Maybe there are other bloggers out there who want to join the conversation.  Comment below or write your own post with the hashtag #pacifistlaments and maybe we can start a healthy conversation about this important issue.
The first thing everyone needs to know about living life as a pacifist is that it is a very difficult path to walk. I came to this position through years of struggle and holding onto it is a constant exercise is submission to what I believe to be the overarching will of God. It’s that point, in part that gives a lot of people fits. Many of the people I have discussed this idea with vehemently disagree with me that pacifism, even in part, could be God’s will. But before I attempt to explain my point here I need to back up a bit.

I was raised in a Mennonite church in Southern Ontario. Mennonites are perhaps the most visible minority group that publicly identifies as pacifist. As a kid I took that position at face value. It wasn’t until the first Gulf War, when I was just 18 years old that I really started to examine what it meant. My best friend at the time decided to join the army reserves as a summer job and as I started my own job search for the summer I said to my mother that as a Mennonite I didn’t have that option. She challenged me on that comment. She said that sometimes she felt that a lot of Mennonite teenagers hide behind the pacifist banner without ever really examining it, they don’t understand why they are pacifists they just used it as a convenient excuse not to make hard choices about what they stand for.

That stung a bit. It stung because it was coming from one of the most important people in my life. And it stung because it was true.

A few days later I told my mother that the reason pacifism made sense to me was that I believe all human life is sacred. That satisfied my mother and I filed it away as a catch all answer for anyone else who would question me on it.

And that worked for about 20 years.

Back in 2007 I moved and joined a new church. For the first time since I was seven years old I started to attend a church that isn’t connected to the Mennonite denomination. The church I now attend is a part of the Brethren in Christ denomination. If the Mennonites are in the minority within the Christian church, the B.I.C. are an even great (smaller?) minority. And I soon discovered that this particular church at least is even more committed to pacifism than my Mennonite brothers and sisters growing up. Once again I was forced to re-examine my position on the matter.

This time I embarked on a journey through scripture that is still unfolding eight years later. The deeper I go the more convinced I become that God’s will is for his people to remain on the side of pacifism and non-violence.

It all starts in Genesis 1.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. [Genesis 1:27]
Just twenty-seven verses into the word of God it’s that one word “mankind” that brings me up short. It’s inclusive. There is no one, not one person on the face of the earth, in all of history or the future to come who is not, and will not be made in the image of God.

The implications of that realization are infinite.

What does it mean to be made in God’s image?

For one thing it means that you are made in the image of love. “God is Love” [1 John 4:16]. It means you possess within you the potential for infinite love. And it means you are infinitely valuable.

So as a pacifist I lament the loss of this realization in my fellow Christians. We have become isolated from one another and we have forgotten that we are all intended to be family.  The image of God is broken.  War, indeed all violence seeks to dehumanize the “enemy”. But I can’t support that position with scripture.
When I see pictures and videos of men, women and children committing violence to one another my heart breaks, and I am convinced that it breaks the heart of God. When I see images of refugees wandering in the wilderness, hungry and cold, I see God. When I hear my fellow men and women complain that there are too many of “those” people in our neighborhoods and how we need to protect ourselves from anyone who is different, I mourn the loss of community and connectedness.

We are all image bearers of God. We may be broken and distorted images of Him. Many of us may have forgotten our divine connection to another. But we are all made in the image of love and I for one cannot justify violence toward anyone in whom I see the face of God.  And in case you haven't been paying attention, that's everyone.
“To love another person is the see the face of God.” Victor Hugo
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

4 Things to Know for Tonights Webinar

Good day!

Tonight is the night. My first ever live on-line seminar!

I’m about to spend the next few hours putting the finishing touches on the Power-Point that will go out over the internet for all the world to see. It’s exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time. I know this material, and I’ve presented it in small intimate gatherings before. That’s not the issue. I’m just nervous that a) nobody will show up, b) so many people will show up that I will be overwhelmed, c) the technology will somehow fail me, or d) I will be asked a question I can’t answer and the audience will become hostile. Even if some of these fears are unfounded, or worse, all of them come true, I still need to be as prepared as possible so that nothing goes horribly wrong.

If you are planning on joining me, here are a few things you need to know going in.

1 – This is all new to me. 

As I said off the top, I’ve done these seminars before but never on-line. The technology looks relatively simple but if something goes wrong technically please don’t hurt me.

2 – I am genuinely passionate about what I do. 

I hope it’s already obvious but sometimes I get carried away and even a bit emotionally when I’m presenting. Passion can be a good thing when properly channelled, I hope I can do that and remain and effective presenter.

3 – I am licensed to sell investment and financial risk management products in Ontario, Canada only.

The principles I teach are universal but some of the specific products I mention may or may not be available in your jurisdiction. I apologize in advance if that’s the case.  Feel free to contact a locally licensed representative to help you out. If you don’t know anyone I have lots of contacts all over the world, I’d be happy to help you find someone.

4 – At the end I am going to try and sell you something.

I recognize that there will be some people who will want to go deeper and I am available for one-on-one coaching, for a fee. If there are any of the concepts or programs that I mention that you are interested in, and I am able to help you (see 3 above) I will be more than happy to.

So there you have it. If you would like to join me on-line the seminar starts at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Here’s is your log in information....
Use your microphone and speakers (VoIP) - a headset is recommended. Or, call in using your telephone.
United States: +1 (213) 289-0021
Australia: +61 2 8355 1039
Austria: +43 7 2088 2172
Belgium: +32 (0) 42 68 0180
Canada: +1 (647) 497-9379
Denmark: +45 89 88 05 39
Finland: +358 (0) 931 58 4588
France: +33 (0) 170 950 589
Germany: +49 (0) 692 5736 7301
Ireland: +353 (0) 15 360 757
Italy: +39 0 294 75 15 37
Netherlands: +31 (0) 108 080 116
New Zealand: +64 9 801 0294
Norway: +47 21 51 81 86
Spain: +34 911 23 4248
Sweden: +46 (0) 852 500 516
Switzerland: +41 (0) 435 0824 41
United Kingdom: +44 (0) 330 221 0099

Access Code: 959-869-893
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

Meeting Password: October2015
Meeting ID: 959-869-893

Not at your computer? Click the link to join this meeting from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android® or Windows Phone® device via the GoToMeeting app.
See you tonight!

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

3 Lessons from the Hallway - Advisor Summit 2015

I just spent that has 3 days at a conference for Financial Advisors from all across the country. The content taught from the dais during various sessions was great but it paled in comparison to the wisdom gleaned just by rubbing shoulders with men and women who have been in the business for decades. I’m a relative newbie to the whole world of financial planning, just 4 years in but as one fellow newbie put it, “this room is full of legends”. After the first day I decided that attending conference sessions was merely a secondary distraction, something to do between the all important networking that happened in the halls outside.

So I started to approach these legends, introduce myself and ask them one question. “When I get back to the office on Monday morning, what do I need to start doing immediately that will ensure that I am back here not only next year but in 20, 30 or even 50 years from now?”

The following are 3 of my favourite responses.

1 – Know your purpose and demonstrate your value, from 33 years in the business.  

This came from a regional manager who has not only developed a loyal client base but has been involved in training and developing financial advisors for most of his career. I’m a big believer in the importance of mission statements and that closely mirrors the idea of knowing your purpose. But demonstrating value is a bit harder. What that comes down to, according to this legend isn’t about you, it’s about showing your client what you can do for them. Rick Warren, in the first line of the Purpose Driven Life said it best; “It’s not about you.” It’s about what you can do for others.

2 – Ask good questions and let the answers lead you where the client needs to go, from 53 years in the business.

The man who told me this started in the financial services business at 34 and is still working today at the age of 87! Oh how I would love to be as vibrant, healthy and engaging as he is at that age. His response came after he asked me a series of increasingly personal questions. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? What did you do before you started in this business? Are your parents still living? What did your Dad do? Finally leading me to a discussion of what kind of insurance I currently hold and why I bought it. He then got a sly smile on his face and asked me why I had answered all of those personal questions that under normal circumstances would seem a bit off putting?  I laughed and said I see what you're doing, you seem genuinely interested and sincere, and he was, oh that’s GOLD!

3 – Do What’s Right for the Client, from 31 years in the business.

After making one of his first sales over 30 years ago this person’s manager noticed that as he drove away from the client’s home he was very quiet and appeared to be working something out in his mind. The Manager looked at him as said, “stop doing that.” Doing what? “You’re mentally calculating how much commission you just made aren’t you?” This goes back to the first one, it’s not about you.  If you concentrate on doing the things that are solely in the best interest of the client the commission will take care of itself, even if you don't say anything, clients can tell when your in it for yourself and no them.  Stay focused on the client and you will develop loyalty for life.

After 23 years in business myself, the last 4 in this capacity, I know all of these lessons to be true. I’ve seen them play out time and time again across all lines of business.  It’s about humility, respect and genuine honesty. Those are the traits that make great salespeople and business leaders. You don’t have to be an extrovert or an introvert you just have to be true to your purpose, ask great questions and do what’s right.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chill, It's a God Thing

I am a person with big vision a strong sense of purpose and almost boundless energy. In my mind The Meekonomics Project is a part of a multi-national ministry teaching people the core principles of Godly living, debt elimination, wealth building and legacy planning. It’s not just about money either, it goes way beyond that and is about how we live as disciples and ambassadors of Christ.
That’s a big vision! And I strongly believe it to be God breathed and Holy Spirit directed. But being a man of vision sometimes causes me to run ahead of God and when things don’t go as planned I get depressed.

It was in one of those recent bouts of depression that I happened to read Ephesians 4.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. [Ephesians 4:1]
Right from the opening verse Paul had my attention. I realize that Paul was literally in prison when he wrote these words but sometimes I feel trapped and imprisoned by my calling. I don’t know how to do anything else.   I’m a spiritual entrepreneur.   God blessed me with a mind to see mighty oak trees in acorns. Once seen I can no more look away from the vision than a child who learns to run can stop and crawl; I become, in a way a prisoner of the vision.

Living a life worthy of the calling is in many ways learning to live in submission to it. The vision is bigger than me, bigger than anything I can hope to accomplish on my own, God’s going to have to do it. He gave the acorn to me to plant and water but beyond that what can I do? It takes over a hundred years to grow an oak tree to maturity, how long will my vision take?

In Matthew 13 Jesus gives three examples of planting that require a time of waiting before the final vision is realized. The farmer plants the seed and goes to sleep, and both the mustard seed and the yeast do their work and grow into their final form without any help from anyone, God does it all.

I’ve been listening to the podcast from Willowcreek Community Church in Chicago for the past few weeks. Pastor Bill Hybels has been taking a decade by decade historical look at the growth of their ministry leading up to the 40ths anniversary this weekend. Through all the twists and turns, new challenges and new opportunities one thing has been perfectly clear in Hybel’s teaching over that last few weeks: when God sets out to do something, it’s going to happen.

So even in my depression and frustration I can rejoice and relax. He’s got this.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:4-6] emphasis mine
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