We Never Know …

What is the value of a conversation?

Some of our chatty moments are water-cooler mundane…weather-related, insipid gossip, holiday reminisces.  Forgotten words with no lasting impact.

Other conversations are freighted with “forever” moments that have divine potential to shape destinies.

I call them eternal trajectory conversations.

Have you had one recently?

What started out as a short stay at a Windsor, ON Airbnb became so much more for Leah and John Smitthes.  This Christian couple rented out a room to married immigrants, Hamid Kokab, a student, and Samira Bashiri, a veterinarian.

Leah herself had been an immigrant to Canada and she knew that her renters were lonely in a new country.  She told them not to worry; her home would be their “home away from home.”

As time went by Leah and her husband had conversations with their Muslim renters about Jesus.  Hamid and Samira wanted to know why Jesus had died on a cross, and how he could live again.

They talked about how the Koran referred to Jesus as a prophet, but Leah said this Jesus could do miracles and her renters were fascinated.

Samira was desperate to get a job here in Canada.  She said to Leah, “I have a poor resume.  Can you pray in the name of this Jesus so that I will get a job?”

Leah told her that since Jesus was the God of miracles, she would pray and that she believed God would land a job for Samira.

A month later Samira was employed!

And then a stunning tragedy struck that rocked Canada and the world.

Hamid and Samira died when missile fragments exploded and destroyed the Ukraine passenger shortly after it took off from the airport in Tehran.

A while later Leah was talking to a friend from another church about Hamid and Samira.  Her friend said that she had been doing evangelism and had met with Hamid and Samira who told her they knew Jesus and believed in him.

Who would have expected?

An Airbnb conversation had turned into an “eternal trajectory” moment.

(You can hear this remarkable story by checking out Lorna Dueck, at Context TV, and listen to her interview with Leah.)

Could it be that in 2020 the circumstances of our Corpath lives will bring someone across our path whom God has ordained to have an “eternal trajectory” conversation with us?

This likely is what Paul had in mind as he wrote to the Colossians and said,

“Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  (Colossians 4:6)

And sometimes those conversations just might happen at a water cooler.

Like Jesus…stopping, weary and thirsty at midday by Jacob’s well (sort of the first century equivalent of the water cooler) and having a divine conversation with a woman whose eternal trajectory, and that of her community, would be forever changed.  (John 4)

I’m praying that 2020 will be replete with eternal trajectory conversation moments for each of us…in our offices, at the family table, across the back fence.

Who knows if someone we talk to just might soon be getting onto an airplane?

Blessings for fruitful, God-ordained conversations this week and throughout 2020.

Blessings,
Gord 

Five and Two Value

Some human interest stories are unforgettable.  But when you add the miraculous, the story becomes pregnant with spiritual truth.

This story must have burned deep into the memory of Jesus’ disciples because it’s covered in all four Gospels.  It’s a story about Jesus and his disciples, an arena-sized crowd and a boy 15 kilometers from home with a little lunch in his pockets.

I love this story.  It begins with a mega-sized problem that turns into a stunning success story.

It’s a story about whenever thing looks hopeless, with Christ on the scene, they’re not!

It’s a story about what you have, not what you don’t have.

It’s a story about giving and serving, not keeping and hoarding.

It’s a story about Christ’s power and the test of faith, not human ability.

It’s a story about God’s extravagant generosity is a response to sacrificial obedience.

You likely know how this incredible story unfolds.

Jesus is ministering to a crowd of thousands.  It’s getting late.  Dusk falls.  There are no fast-food joints around the corner.  The disciples are starting to wring their hands.  “Send them away to buy food.”  Jesus shocks them, “They don’t need to go away.  You give them something.  How many loaves do you have?”  (Jesus knows…he’s in test mode with his disciples.)

Andrew speaks up, “Here’s a kid with 5 loaves and 2 small fish.  But how far will that go.”He sees the enormity of the problem…the impossibility of the task.

Then Jesus speaks those life-changing words, “Bring them here to me.”  And the little boy gave the little he had.  And Jesus lifted the meagre offering to heaven, sanctified it with prayer and began creating bread and fish like no one had dreamed possible.

Pause and reflect on this story.  Here’s my takeaway.

With Christ on the scene, it’s never about the problems…it’s always about the possibilities.

The same Christ who sanctified the loaves and fish on the hillside has taken up residence in you and me by his Spirit.  Nothing was impossible for him then.  Nothing is impossible for him now!

And that’s why we should never underestimate the value of what we can bring to God.  He is in the business of taking the weak, the small, the insignificant and turning it into something that none of us could have ever dreamed of.  “Bring it here to me,” he says.  “I just want to get my hands on it!”

Who would have ever dreamed that when four businessmen befriended a homeless teen-ager in a Calgary plus 15 walkway, and bought him a meal, launching him in the direction of Christ, that one day that teenager, Pat Nixon, would one day go on to found one of North America’s greatest street ministries.

Five loaves and two fish…so insignificant.  A small lunch for a homeless teenager in a Plus 15.  So insignificant.  But if we don’t bring what we have to Jesus, nothing happens.  You see, one of the insights from this story is that God wants partners.  In fact, he has ordained that his work will only go forward when people step forward!  It’s called the Doctrine of Human Responsibility.

In my church, there is a small group of ladies with the gift of quilting.  Now, what could be smaller in the eyes of the world than a simple quilt.  But these ladies heard Jesus say, “Bring them here to me.”  They said, “Yes.” And they brought their quilting gifts to him.

Now they make beautiful quilts that they give in Jesus’ name to people who are suffering from cancer and receiving chemotherapy.  Their bodies are warmed, and so are their souls as they receive the gift of God’s love, and hearts are turning to him.

As we begin 2020, I wonder if God is scanning our Corpath membership list, and he is asking, “What do these Corpath members have that I need to get my hands on?  When I do, amazing things will happen for God’s glory, for my Kingdom, and for their faith.”

I suspect that one of the reasons why many Christians drag themselves through life and don’t see God do anything of substance in them and through them is because Jesus is not much more than a paper Saviour for them.  On paper, in the Bible, he died and rose again.  But their eyes of faith are closed to the greatest reality of all, that the living, all-powerful Christ in no longer on some Galilean hillside in some Bible story.

He is here, now.  Active and alive.  Resident in his people.  Wanting to occupy our minds and hearts and lives so that like Paul we too can say,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

 God is still using lunches!

Blessings,

Gord

Ankle-Turning Faith

Sometimes you come across a passage of Scripture that momentarily arrests you, brings a smile to your face, and sends you on your way with renewed faith, hope and encouragement for the journey ahead.

Psalm 18:36 stopped me in my tracks this morning.  I read it over and over and decided this will be my guiding verse for 2020.

Here’s the context.  In this wonderful Psalm, David extols the virtues of God who has delivered him from the hand of his enemies and from his nemesis, King Saul.

He calls God his rock, his fortress, and deliverer, his shield and stronghold.  He paints this startling picture of how “The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.”

David goes on to talk about how the Lord heard his cry, “drew me out of deep waters” and “brought me into a spacious place.”

He speaks directly to God and says, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning.”  (Now there’s an inspiring word picture of God’s sustaining grace!)

And then in mid-psalm, we encounter this marvellous pithy passage:

“You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.” (v. 36)

Nobody likes a turned ankle.

When I was a young school principal playing soccer on the playground one noon hour, I aggressively kicked the soccer ball and topped it.  My right foot came down forcefully in full flight and the toe of my shoe caught the uneven turf.  By late afternoon my foot was so painfully swelled it was almost impossible to keep my shoe on.  It took months for the torn ligaments to heal.

David had his share of “turned ankles,” of life’s troubles, of heartaches, and some of them were clearly self-inflicted.

But through his ups and downs, he never gave up his confidence that he would see, “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 26:13) 

David’s unwavering faith stance reminds us that God has only good and kind intentions towards his children.   Circumstances may turn dark, friends and associates may betray, family members may alienate themselves, and our hearts might even trip us up in moral failure, as David’s did.

But through it all, even when despair has got him by the throat, David holds fast to his core belief that “You are good, and what you do is good!”  (Psalm 119:68) 

Deep down David never faltered in his faith that God is an intervening God and we can count on him!

As I reflected on David’s “ankle-turning” faith that God would watch over him, I was drawn back to two foundational Bible passages that have kept my faith alive over the years and steeled me when times got tough, whether because of sickness, job loss or family turmoil.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us that God is in the business of guiding our steps as we rely in trust upon him,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

And Paul encourages us that

“…my God will supply all your need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)

In the year ahead every Corpath member will undoubtedly experience some rough passages.

We may be in the middle of one right now.

And so, as we launch into 2020, let’s do so with steely faith in God’s goodness, and with optimistic hope that God will “broaden our path and keep our ankles from turning,” because he has promised,

 “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5)

 Blessings for a wonderful new year ahead.

Gord

No Small People

Finally, the book closes on 2019.

We ended it with a flurry of big-ticket items.  A US President was impeached.  The USMCA trade agreement was signed after two years of sound and fury.  The recent Canadian election birthed another minority Parliament.  Construction finally started on the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

As the calendar turns and time marches relentlessly on, what big-ticket items will make the marquee in 2020?

Do you sometimes wonder how God views the affairs of humankind?  What is his take on things?  What are his dreams for the year ahead…his priorities for the new decade?  Where should he invest his divine energies?  How should he allocate his resources?  Which nation should he humble?  Which king should he elevate?  Which black hole should he reveal?

There’s a lot on his plate.  He has a vast universe to keep spinning.  He has a world of eight billion persons to caretake.  He has a multi-national church of over three billion adherents to guide forward into eternity.  (Imagine the tens of thousands of saints who are dying each day and being welcomed into their eternal home!)

No question.  God is a big God, with a big creation and a big to-do list.  It’s no wonder that sometimes in this grand scheme of things you and I can feel awfully small…very insignificant…even irrelevant.  No doubt, King David felt such emotions,

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars   which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,   and the son of man that you care for him?”  (Psalm 8:3-4)

In the face of an infinite God, a vast universe and the innumerable hordes of humanity, how easy it is for each of us to crawl into our small corner, convinced that on balance our lives are of little consequence; that God has more pressing things to do than concern himself with what concerns me today.

Be careful.  Such thoughts are a deep affront to God.  For you are neither invisible, or irrelevant, or inconsequential to him.

For he sees you.  “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord.  (Jeremiah 23:24) 

And not only does he see, he knows us…intimately!  “You know when I sit and when I rise…you are familiar with all my ways.”  (Psalm 139:2-3)

And not only does he see and know, he plans our existence!  “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:16) 

And because he sees, and knows and plans our ways, he cares deeply for us and intervenes on our behalf.  “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there    your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  (Psalm 139:9-10)

 There’s a wonderful story in the Old Testament that speaks volumes about God’s heart-felt interest in the affairs of persons.  Meet Hagar, a slave uprooted from Egypt.  She has no control over her life and is appointed servant to Sarah who cannot conceive a child.  And so, at Sarah’s suggestion, Hagar is commandeered by Sarah’s husband, Abraham, who impregnates her.

This is not a happy picture.  Tensions mount between Sarah and Hagar who is forced to escape with her child into the wilderness.  And there she is, unloved, unwanted, a single mother, starving, absolutely alone.  She puts her boy down under one of the bushes, saying, “I cannot watch the boy die.”  She collapses nearby and begins to sob.  The pathos is overwhelming.

And how does God respond?  As he twirls the universe, guides the planets on their course, and superintends the affairs of humanity…does he see this grieving mother and her child?  Does he care?  Never doubt it for a minute!

“…God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.  Lift the boy up and take him   by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  (Genesis 21:17-18)

 It stuns me to think that the God of Hagar and her son, is the God of each Corpath member.   This is the God who sees, and knows and loves each of us personally, intimately, daily.

To him, we are not small, insignificant or irrelevant!  And so, when the skies go dark, and fears abound, and the complexities of life overwhelm in the new year ahead, let’s remember – God sees, God knows, God is on our side, for he has said,

“If God is for us, who can be against us?  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”  (Romans 8: 31, 37-39)

 May God’s presence, purpose, and plans bring you much joy in 2020!

Blessings,

Gord

Christmas – Spiritual D-Day

Did you know Christmas is all about the great Cosmic Battle?

And you say, now wait a minute, I don’t remember reading about a battle in the Christmas story.  Well, I don’t mean to offend you.  But if your view of Christmas doesn’t go beyond the sentimental stuff: you know, baby Jesus, meek and mild, Christmas trees, lights, presents, eggnog, and The Nutcracker Suite, you are sadly mistaken about Christmas.

You have no idea how much the real Christmas story contradicts this sentimental stuff.  For you see, there’s a dark, warring side to Christmas.   We begin to catch a glimpse of it when Matthew tells us of an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

“Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matt. 2:13) 

Matthew goes on to tell us that Herod:

“…gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years and under.”  (Matt. 2:16) 

What’s up with Herod anyway? Why this murderous slaughter of the innocents?  There’s some deep, mysterious evil at play here.  This episode of post-Christmas infanticide is the first public signal that a great cosmic battle has now been joined.

For Christmas is actually the opening move in a galactic battle between God and the devil.  And this Jesus who enters the world, born of a virgin, we soon discover, is God’s special agent, God’s protagonist in this great cosmic battle.

The Bible tells us that motivated by his great love for you and me, Jesus, God’s Son, left heaven and came to earth as God’s warrior prince.  And his mission was none other than to destroy the enemy of our souls.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (that’s Christmas), so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil. (Heb. 2:14)

You see, if you really understand Christmas, then you know the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem is God’s big move in a great cosmic battle against the devil, a battle which will end 33 years later with the death and resurrection of Prince Jesus for you and me.

But you say, “Come on, Gord. This is the 21st century. Thinking people don’t believe in the devil.”  Well, I’m afraid you would lose that debate with Jesus.

And if you don’t believe in the devil, then you will never understand the essential reason for Christmas. You’ll never be able to answer the question, “What’s the big deal about Christmas?”  The Apostle John knew the answer to that question, for he said,

The reason the Son of God appeared (that’s Christmas) was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John. 3:8) 

The reason the baby Jesus, the Son of God, was incarnated at Bethlehem was so he could nullify the satanic horrors of evil, the malignancy of human sin, and the fear of death.   The Bible contains many accounts of the skirmishes Jesus had with the devil during his three years of ministry. Luke said it this way,

“Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.” (Acts 10:38)

Rest assured, the Christmas Day parade, and the advertising gurus, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and the myriad of other cultural trappings around Christmas, they don’t talk about this headline cosmic battle that is at the heart of Christmas.

The Christmas event is really a great spiritual invasion from heaven.  A spiritual D-Day. Here in the western world much of modern humanity is oblivious to such spiritual realities.  They think spiritual means getting in touch with our inner self, becoming one with the cosmos, watching Oprah and Dr. Phil, and reading books like Eat, Pray, Love

But real spirituality is what Christmas is all about. It’s about God demonstrating his love for us by sending his glorious Son, Jesus Christ.  It’s about the liberating Prince from heaven invading earth and setting up his kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy.

This is why we sing,

Joy to the world, the Lord has come…Let heaven and earth rejoice!

Blessings for a joyous Christmas,

Gord

Scandalous!

There’s something quite scandalous about the Christmas event, isn’t there.

No, I’m not talking about the shocking pregnancy of an unmarried Jewish virgin, as scandalous as Mary’s baby bump will have been in Nazareth’s Jewish community.

Rather, it’s the scandal that offended and continues to offend the human mind that does not want to believe that “God came close” in a Bethlehem stable.  That God would put on skin.  That holiness would dwell in a human womb.  That Mary would nurse divinity in human flesh.  Scandalous thoughts indeed.

Scandalous to the Greek and Roman mind of the first century whose gods were little interested in human affairs.  Scandalous to the devout Hebrew for whom it was inconceivable that the “Holy Other” would enter a sinful world and then die a criminal’s death.

And scandalous to the post-modern mind for whom all morality is relative, sin is non-sensical, and the claim of “salvation only through Christ” offends modern sensibilities – isn’t everyone free to create their own truth and find their separate way to God?

The cold fact is Christianity has always been a scandalous faith for many.  Down through the centuries, Christian theologians have called this,

The Scandal of Particularity

 For Luke Chapter 2 makes clear that the second person of the Trinity did not become humanity in general, but at a unique juncture in history, in a unique place, he became a unique human person.

It was at a particular moment in time, during the reign of Caesar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  It was at a particular place, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to an inn with no room.  It was then he became a particular person with skin on:

“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son…and placed him in a manger.”  (Luke 2:6)

 Mark Heim has underscored the particularity of Jesus with his well-suited expression,

“If God were to be as human as we are, Jesus must have a fingerprint as unique as each one of ours.” 

 You see, Jesus did not look down from heaven and dispense timeless truths with no application to our human condition.  You can’t love abstract thoughts or concepts or principles.  That’s why he left his home in heaven, to become human, to love and be loved.  For the Bible says,

“This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”  (1 John 4:9)

 Nesting at the very centre of Christian faith is this timeless truth – at a particular point in time, the Son of God was born into a Semitic family as a real male.  His humanness was concrete.  You could hug him!

And because Jesus was and is a particular human being, his life of sacrifice and message of love has relevance for all humanity, for every man and woman.

And because he displayed divinity, unlike any other human, his sacrificial death on a slivered cross for you and me was a unique death, unlike any other.  The Bible simply says it this way,

“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteousness.”  (1 Peter 3:18)

 No one else has done that.  That’s why he confidently declared,

“No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

“By his death and resurrection” – this is the bone of contention.  It is not only God becoming flesh that is scandalous.  It is the cross that offends.  It is an empty grave that is scandalous…for together they point to Christ’s divinity, to his Lordship, to his unmerited gift of eternal life.

So, let’s have the courage to get it straight.  As Christ-followers we are not general theists who hedge our bets on Jesus’ particularity.  We don’t edit out from the historical record the uniqueness of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.  We don’t revise the Biblical canon to erase the scandal of God “sharing in their humanity” (Hebrews 2:14).   We don’t make ourselves acceptable to post-modern critics why decry the miraculous

On the contrary, we joyously embrace the scandal of Jesus’ particularity.  The aged Apostle John said it like this,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his Glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

 The scandal of particularity.  This Christmas, thank you, God, for coming close.

Blessings,

Gord

What’s the Big Deal?

Perspective is everything.

If you were to ask the average Canadian, “What’s your perspective on this holiday we call Christmas?” we would likely hear them tell about family fun, and Christmas baking, coloured lights and the office party, brightly wrapped presents, Santa Claus at the local mall, their holiday ski vacation, and of course the annual Nutcracker ballet.

Oh sure, some may have a superficial memory of the Mary and Joseph story, and the baby Jesus, and maybe the wise men, angels and shepherds.  But truth be told, I suspect the average person has little acquaintance with the really big story of Christmas.

So, what is the big deal about Christmas anyway?  Why was it that the angel surprised those stunned shepherds on that Galilean hillside over 2,000 years ago?

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people,” (Luke 2:10)

What was the angel declaring?  Here it is…that angelic announcement was really all about:

The Great Cosmic Romance

For the Bible tells us that, “God is love,” (1 John 4:16), and when we truly understand this, then we will discern that Christmas is in fact all about God’s big move in a great cosmic love story.  It’s an incredible story of a divine lover who is madly in love with his creation.

The Apostle John wrote about Christmas when he said,

“How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us.” (1 John 3:1)

 And here’s the Apostle Paul’s take on Christmas,

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:4)

B. Phillips has written a wonderful Christmas fantasy story about this amazing cosmic romance to help us escape our superficial, earthbound view of Christmas. In his version, a senior angel is showing a very young angel around the splendours of the universe with its billions of stars. He writes:

As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning slowly on its axis.  It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel whose mind was filled with the glories of what he had just seen.

“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel.  “Well it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel.  “What’s so special about that one?”

To the little angel, earth did not seem very impressive.

 And so, he listened in stunned disbelief as the Senior angel told him that this planet, small and not over clean, was the renowned Visited Planet.  “Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince went down in person to this fifth-rate little ball?  Why would he do such a thing?”

The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust.  “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that he stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures on that floating ball?”

“I do, and I don’t think he would like you to call them creeping, crawling creatures in that tone of voice.  For strange as it may seem to us, he loves them.  He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like him.”

The little angel looked blank.  Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.”

When, God’s Son, our Saviour was born, a huge choir of angels appeared and sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”  (Luke 2:14)

It’s as if God can’t help himself, and he shouts into the microphone of the universe, “Hey, I love you guys.  I love you all.  I’ve just sent my Son into your neighbourhood to show how much I love you.  He’s going to be the Saviour of the world!”

“So, come.  Look at my love child.”  And the shepherds ran to see Jesus.  “Come. Adore my love child.”  And Matthew tells us the wise men laid their gifts down.  “Come.  Follow my love child.”  And 30 years later Peter, James and John, and the disciples left everything and followed Jesus.

What’s the big deal about Christmas?  It’s all about this stunning, cosmic love story.  God is head over heels in love with you and me.  As Max Lucado says,

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.”

 Blessings for a joyous Christmas season ahead,

Gord

The Crucible

I recently enjoyed breakfast with a long-time Corpath friend.  As we ate, he extolled the virtues of his Corpath Forum.  And we all know the richness of that Corpath experience.

But then he said something very insightful.  After all the input from his Forum members…the feedback, the reflective questioning, the suggestions, the prayers for his situation…when all was said and done, he said the decision he now faced was his, and his alone.

He could no longer put it off.  He couldn’t delegate it to a subordinate.  It was his alone.

Yes, leadership can be a lonely enterprise.  Really lonely.  Sometimes, excruciatingly lonely…because the stakes are high.

Much rides on your shoulders.  Finite resources.  High stress.  Thoughts, emotions, burdens, insights we aren’t always able to share.  We can feel pummelled by vulnerability.  Overwhelmed, when no one understands.

Moses knew the crushing burden of leadership.

“What am I to do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”  (Exodus 17:4)

Joshua must have felt the uncertainty of leadership.  When God called him out, he told Joshua,

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified.  Do not be discouraged.” (Joshua 1:9)

 David was overwhelmed as a leader.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me…destructive forces are at work in the city.”  (Psalm 55:4, 11)

 When called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah certainly knew loneliness at the top.

“I set out during the night…there were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.  The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing…”  (Nehemiah 2:12, 16)

The Apostle Paul felt the crucible of intense pressure acting on his human vulnerability.  After listing an incredible litany of persecutions, he says,

“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak and I do not feel weak?”  (2 Corinthians: 11:28)

 As Corpath members and leaders, who of us does not feel weak?  Who of us does not face pressure?  Who of us at times do not struggle to maintain our leadership equilibrium?

Who of us in our more candid moments would not say, “I don’t know what to do?”

But then, in that moment of anxious uncertainty, maybe even of debilitating fear, a remarkable thing can happen to us as leaders who fervently follow Christ.

Paul wrote about it to Timothy when he said,

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me.  May it not be held against them.  But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…”  (2 Timothy 2:17)

 There it is!  What greater leadership resource could there be when the pressure is on when the leadership crucible is burning hot, when fears debilitate, and uncertainty confounds…then to know the powerful presence of the resurrected Christ at our side giving us strength!

Paul knew all about this divine source of strength when he declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

And he made it abundantly clear that he was not the only one who enjoyed this indwelling divine presence, for he wrote to the Colossians saying, “Christ in you…” (Colossians 1:27)

For Corpath leaders our Christian faith can never be a sterile, intellectual life exercise.  If it is, we will have missed the most important dynamic threaded throughout the pages of Scripture,

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)

In the week ahead, each of us will again experience the pressures of leadership.  Some of those pressures we will be able to handle by dint of experience and force of personality.  Others will threaten our confidence, expose our vulnerability, and may even shake our very foundations.

When they do, let’s remember,

“The Lord is near.”  (Philippians 4:5)

 Blessings,

Gord

The Story of the Small Screen

It’s a remarkable story…one small voice helping to start a revolution.

In 2004, Victor Yushchenio stood for President in the Ukraine election, even though he almost lost his life when mysteriously poisoned.

On the day of the election, he was comfortably in the lead when the ruling party tampered with voting results.  And state-run television announced, “…Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.”

As the fake news was being announced, in the lower corner of the TV news screen stood a lady translating election results for the deaf.  As the official broadcaster regurgitated the regime’s election lies, this courageous lady, Natalia Dmitruk, refused to translate them.  Instead, she signed these stirring words to her deaf audience,

“I am addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine.  They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies.  Yushchenko is our president.”

Those words inspired defiant journalists to likewise tell the truth to the Ukrainian people, and over the weeks that followed the “Orange Revolution” took root.  A new election was forced, and Victor Yushchenko won the presidency.

Sometimes a single act of courageous integrity can change a nation!

Mark Twain said, “Always do right.  This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Here’s what former US President, John Kennedy, once said about integrity.

“When at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state (and we could add to our family, our business, our church), our success or failure in whatever office we may hold will be measured by the answers to four questions:  were we men of courage, were we men of judgment, were we men of dedication, were we men of integrity?”  

Kennedy’s question undoubtedly resonates with God, because the word “integrity” has a special place on His marquee of virtues.

For in Proverbs we read,

“The integrity of the upright guides them,” and “righteousness guards the man of integrity.”  Proverbs 10:9, 13:6)

 Of Job, it was said,

“There is no one like him.  He walks blameless…He maintains his integrity.” (Job 2:3)

 King David prayed,

“I know, O God, that you test the heart, and are pleased with integrity,” (1 Chronicles 29:17).

 Here’s how Scripture described David who,

“…shepherded them with integrity of heart (Psalm 78:72)

And the Apostle Paul counsels Titus to,

“In your teaching show integrity.”  (Titus 2:7)

I have yet to meet someone in business who has not experienced an integrity test.  Sometimes these tests can almost overwhelm us as they assault our conscience and disrupt our serenity.

James Doty had one of those days.  He had developed and brought to market the wildly successful Cyberknife technology.  Flying high with a new net worth of $75 million, he pledged stock worth $30 million to charity.

But in the dot.com crash, he lost almost everything.  His lawyers advised him he could get out of his charity pledge.  But Doty decided to follow through on his pledge and give away what remained of his fortune.  He kept his commitment.

This is what integrity does.  It follows through.  It keeps commitments.  It stands up for the truth.  It plays honestly.  It puts others first.  It chooses to swim upstream.

Sometime, perhaps sooner than later, another integrity battle will shatter the tranquillity of our lives.  And when it does, let’s remember the courageous Ukrainian translator in the lower corner of the TV screen.

Blessings,

Gord

“A good name is to be more desired than great riches.”

Two Powerful Prayers

In Christian history, Lectio Divina (literally ‘divine reading’) is a traditional spiritual practise of scripture reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation intended to promote deeper communion with God and growth in knowing, loving and serving Christ.

Writing to Timothy, his young protégé, the aging Apostle Paul underscored the importance of regularly leaning into Scripture as an essential act of spiritual discipline with these words,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  (2 Timothy 3:16)

 The following two prayers from Paul’s letter to the young church in Ephesus contain a remarkable smorgasbord of divinely inspired truth that can introduce us as Christ-followers to new and exciting spiritual vistas.

As we begin this week, take a few moments to practise Lectio Divina by first slowly reading through, then meditating on and praying about, and finally contemplating what God might be saying to you from these two prayers.

Is there a new truth that the Spirit might want to emphasize for you?  Do we need a divine rebuke, or correction?  How might these prayers prompt spiritual growth that can move us from a Bachelor to a Masters’ level of “training in righteousness?”

Ephesians 1:17-21

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

 That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

 Ephesians 3:14-21

 For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.

When you read these remarkable prayers, the discerning heart can’t help but notice some deeply comforting and powerful realities – about God our glorious heavenly Father, about the Holy Spirit who lives within us, and about the power and love active for us through Christ’s  resurrection from the dead and his abiding presence with us.

God wants us to know him better.  He longs that we grow in true spiritual enlightenment. He wants us to understand and experience him as a power-sharing God.  He sets before us this stupendous goal – that we would be established in love to the extent that we are filled to the measure of the fullness of God, and then he makes this glorious vision possible by sharing his Spirit with us.

Throughout the week ahead, let’s return to these two prayers.  May they marinate in our souls for God’s glory, that his kingdom would come and his good purposes be done in us as Corpath members and in his world.

Blessings,

Gord