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

Love in the Death Zone

They call it the death zone.

Since Edmund Hillary summitted Mt Everest in the 1950s, over 280 people have died climbing Mt Everest.  They breathed their last in the death zone where there is not enough oxygen available for humans to survive.  Some of their bodies still lie contorted on that frozen landscape.

In May 2006, the Australian Lincoln Hall lay dying in the death zone.  He had summitted Everest and was descending with his fellow expeditioners when he became delirious, a sign of fluid on the brain.  Fellow climbers ascending and descending felt he was a lost cause and left him to die.  His wife and teenage sons were relayed the message that he was dead.

There he lay all night at 8,700 meters. But that next day something truly inspiring and God-like would happen in the death zone.

A Canadian climber and Calgary teacher, Andrew Brash, was making his second attempt at reaching the top of the world’s tallest peak.  He was just 200 meters from the summit when he came upon the frozen Lincoln Hall.

And then, near the top of Mt Everest, an astounding act of love played out.

What is love?  An erotic feeling?  A maudlin sentiment?  A deep emotion?  Here’s what the Bible tells us about real love…

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering   and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2

 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…” Ephesians 2:4

 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love.” Ephesians 5:1-2

 Love sees our neighbor, the one in need; and motivated by compassionate concern for their well-being, sacrifices private interests in search of the well-being of others.

This is real love as far as God is concerned.  This is how he loved…giving himself, sacrificing for you and for me.  Our Lord Jesus “made himself nothing” and took on “the form of a servant.”  (Philippians 2:7)

When Andrew Brash rounded that rock and encountered the frozen body of Lincoln Hall, he had a choice.  To turn away and keep climbing, to realize his private expedition dream; or to turn back, and motivated by compassionate concern sacrificially serve someone in need.

It was the same choice that 40 other mountaineers had that same year when they encountered the Englishman, David Sharp, as he began to succumb in the death zone.  They choose not to assist David.  It made no difference if they were ascending or descending.  They all passed by.  And David died alone on Mt Everest.

(Does this remind you of the passers-by in Good Samaritan story of Luke 10:33?)

But Andrew Sharp did not pass by.  Amazingly, he turned his back on the Summit.  He sacrificed his life-long goal.  He gave up everything he had trained for, to sacrificially serve another human being.

With limited oxygen left, he stopped, he stooped down and began to save Andrew Hall.  Tea was warmed.  Limbs were massaged.  Other mountaineers joined in.  Somehow, Andrew miraculously revived and was carried down to safety.  The summit receded…but Andrew was saved!

It is not likely that any of us as Corpath members will find ourselves climbing in the death zone of Mt Everest and come across someone in desperate need.

But God knows each of us will encounter moments ahead when the needs of a community neighbour on our street, a struggling family member, a hurting employee, a marginalized city resident, a needy fellow traveller on the journey of life, will suddenly appear and their presence will interrogate our private interests.

And like Andrew Brash, we will have a choice.  Something will win the day; private interests or the needs of others.  Our own personal peace, pleasure, affluence, and well-being, or the call to be a servant.

I hope it will be said of Corpath members that we voted with Andrew Brash, that we voted with God.  For as the Apostle John so clearly reminds us,

“Dear children.  Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth…”  1 John 3:19

 Thank you, Jesus, that by your great love you rescued us from our spiritual death zone.  Help each one of us to imitate you and live a life of love.

Blessings for a good week ahead,

Gord

Cutting A Hole…

I love this story.

Inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Dublin, Ireland, there’s a door that tells a five-century-old tale.  In 1492 two families, the Butlers and the FitzGeralds began fighting over a high-level position in the region.  The fight escalated, and the Butlers took refuge in the cathedral.  When the FitzGeralds came to ask for a truce, the Butlers were afraid to open the door.  So, the FitzGeralds cut a hole in it, and their leader offered his hand in peace. The two families then reconciled, and adversaries became friends.

This is reconciliation at its finest.  Cutting a hole through barriers that separate, in order to seek peace and harmony.

This is what reconciliation does…it’s all about one person, one family, one nation, choosing to do the hard work of reaching out to the other who is estranged from us…to the one who has offended, to those we feel don’t deserve mercy, or forgiveness.  And in so doing, a profound act of reconciliation leads to the soul-satisfying comfort of shalom.

I love that word, “shalom.”  It encapsulates the life that we all long for, and the essence of the life that Jesus promised to give when he said,

I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

When we pursue shalom,

… we choose to move from adversary to friend…from conflict to peace.

… we intentionally choose to replace fracture with wholeness.

… we choose to overcome the barriers of discord and bring about harmony.

And when we choose to become people of “Shalom,” we chose to become like God.

God is the great reconciler, the great Shalom-seeker.  And not surprisingly, this is our calling as Christ-followers.  Frankly, it’s impossible to serve Christ and not choose to do the hard work of reconciliation.  Consider the heart of God:

“For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things.”  (Colossians 1:19)

 If God’s loving heart is inclined to do the hard work of reconciliation towards all humanity by giving up his Son Christ on the cross, and if we take seriously the Biblical call for us to, “Imitate God, and live a life of love,” then the natural bent of our Christ-infused heart will be to seek the shalom of others through reconciliation.

Reconciliation never is easy work.  It’s not about pretending that things are other than they are.  It’s not about turning a blind eye to the wrong.  Reconciliation actually exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the hurt.

It wasn’t easy for Hutu and Tutsi Christians in Rwanda to reconcile with one another after the genocide.  It wasn’t easy for Amish Christians to forgive the school-house killer of their children and show mercy to his wife.

Reconciliation requires a big dose of risk-taking, of humility, of honesty.

But if we fail to work for peace, to make amends when we are at fault, to seek reconciliation with those estranged from us…it’s like we continue to go through life stuck behind a big yellow school bus, sucking up its noxious exhaust fumes that forever pollute our lives…the very opposite of shalom.

Jesus took this reconciliation stuff pretty seriously.  He said, get your priorities straight…if your brother has something against you,

“First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

 As Corpath members pursuing excellence in spirit, let us choose to continually walk down reconciliation road, humbly seeking forgiveness when we are at fault; graciously offering peace to those who have offended us…seeking shalom as the integrating principle of our lives through the power of Christ at work within us.

This week, is there a door in which we need to cut a hole and extend our hand in restitution, in peace, in forgiveness, in shalom?

Nothing brings more joy to the heart of God then when his children imitate him.

Blessings for a week of shalom.

Gord

The Importance of a Leader’s Heart

by Michael Hyatt

Several years ago, I was in New York City on business. I was having a relaxing dinner with one of my colleagues. Suddenly, as we were finishing our meal, I started to have chest pains. Initially, I tried to ignore them. But then I began to quietly panic. I felt that the room was closing in on me.

Embarrassed, I blurted out, “I think I may be having a heart attack.”

David immediately took control. He paid our bill, hailed a cab, and got me to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which happened to be the one closest to our restaurant.

After some preliminary tests, the doctor said, “All of your vitals look fine. But, just to be safe, we’d like to keep you overnight.” They then strapped me to a biometric bed and let me rest. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much.

The next morning, the doctor came in and said, “I’m not sure what happened last night, but your heart is fine. I suggest that you go to your primary care physician when you get back to Nashville and follow-up on this.”

My regular doctor didn’t find any problems either. Nevertheless, I ended up in the hospital twice more over the next year, thinking each time that I was having a heart attack. No one could find anything. I even saw a counselor, wondering if perhaps I was experiencing stressed-induced panic attacks.

Finally, in desperation—and thinking I might be going crazy—I made an appointment with a renowned cardiologist here in Nashville. He had saved the life of one of our authors, who couldn’t stop raving about him.

The cardiologist ran me through a battery of tests and then called me back into his office. “Mike, your heart is fine. In fact, it is in great shape. Your problem is two-fold: acid reflux, probably as a result of a small hiatal hernia, and stress.”

He continued, “about 30% of my patients who think they are having heart problems have an acid reflux problem. The symptoms are very similar. Fortunately, it is easy to treat.”

He then warned, “Stress is also something you need to address, primarily through rest and exercise. If you don’t make this a priority, you could be back in here with a real heart problem.”

The heart is incredibly important. When I thought mine wasn’t working properly, it had an enormous impact on my life, my routine, and my sense of well-being. I worried about it constantly. I couldn’t sleep. I literally was afraid I might die.

But it’s not just our physical heart that is important. Especially as leaders, our spiritual heart is equally important. It is just as important to the life of our organizations as our physical heart is to the life of our body. When it doesn’t function well, it, too, has an impact.

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

As leaders, we often believe it is our experience, our knowledge, or our skills that are the most important component of our leadership. Not so. In admonishing his son, Solomon says that the heart above all is the most important. It should be our first priority. Why? Because it is “the wellspring of life.” Everything else flows out of it.

But what is the heart to which Solomon refers? The Bible uses the word almost one thousand times. For example, just in the Gospel of Matthew we find these words:

“Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:23).

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matt 12:35).

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matt 15:18).

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” (Matt 22:37).

Based on these and numerous other verses, we can see that the heart is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is that part of you that makes you, you. It is your inner being where your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people.

It is also the most important leadership tool you have.

Physically, your heart is what keeps your body alive. It pumps blood through almost 100,000 miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries. It brings life-giving nutrients to every cell and fiber of your being. Your body can survive without many important organs. Many of these are important but not essential. However, it cannot survive without a heart. When it stops functioning, you die.

Spiritually, your heart is what keeps your organization alive. As a leader, you pump possibility into every person and every project. Possibility is what keeps the organization alive. Your organization can survive without your experience, your knowledge, or your skills. They, too, are important but not essential. However, your organization cannot survive without your heart. When it stops functioning, your organization begins to die.

The most important thing you can do as a leader is to keep your heart open. What do I mean? Think of it this way. When your heart is closed:

  • You are distant and aloof.
  • You don’t connect to people.
  • Communication shuts down.
  • You leave people to fend for themselves.
  • You focus on what people are doing wrong.
  • You are critical and demanding.
  • People feel oppressed.
  • The result? Possibility dries up and the organization begins to die.

Conversely, when your heart is open:

  • You are fully present and accessible.
  • You connect to people.
  • Communication is wide open.
  • You are a resource to your people.
  • You may focus on what is missing, but not on who is wrong.
  • You are affirming and encouraging.
  • People feel free.
  • The result? Possibility flows through the organization and the organization grows and develops.

The bottom line is this: it matters if your heart is open or closed. It will have a tangible impact on your organization. The good news is that you can open your heart. This is the leader’s most important work. It is foundational to building a healthy organization.

The key is two-fold: awareness and discipline. With regard to the first, you must learn to discern the condition of your own heart. Is it open? Is it closed? Is it somewhere in between? I find that I have to check-in with myself several times a day. I call this a “heart check.”

I ask, Where is my focus—right now? Is it in the past, where I am grieving over some loss or regretting the way I handled some situation? Or is it in the future, where I am worried about something that hasn’t happened yet? Either way, I am not present to what is happening now.

If I sense that my heart is closed, I have a choice. I can either leave it that way or open it up. This is where discipline comes into play. I literally make a decision to open my heart up, and I mentally visualize doing so. I force myself to think about what is possible. I choose to see this situation—these people—from the lens of possibility. As a result, I am fully present, available to the potential that exists in any given situation or relationship.

Maintaining an open heart—pumping possibility through your organization—is the most important thing you can do as a leader. There are other tasks, of course, but this is foundational.

An Uncommon Prayer

Today is Monday, October 21, 2019, in the year of our Lord.

As God has promised, on this day the sun will rise, and the seasonal changes will continue unabated.

On this day the world’s 7.7 billion people will go about their business.  And virtually all of them will spend this day oblivious to what is transpiring north of the 49th parallel.

But God will be watching because there will be something unique and special about this day in the annals of human history.

Across Canada’s six time zones millions of electors will enter a polling station and collectively participate in a great act of democracy as we elect people to represent us in a new Parliament.

And that’s why it’s a day which is on God’s radar screen.

Because in 2 Chronicles we read,

“The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth…”  (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Job says,

“For he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.”  (Job 28:24)

 And King David reminds us that,

“He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.”  (Psalm 11:4)

Clearly the affairs of Canadians on this election day are on God’s radar screen.

And we know that this great act of Canadian democracy is vitally important to God because he uses the ballot box to accomplish his purposes here on earth.  The Apostle Paul reminds us,

“…there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  (Romans 12:1)

The truth is, God uses the ballot box to accomplish his sovereign affairs among humankind, and that’s why October 21, 2019, is a day that you and I as committed Christians should be very interested in.

Our interest in the affairs of this day and its outcomes should extend beyond the earthly perspective of politics and voting, to the divine perspective.

And that should include praying what these days is a very uncommon prayer.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority; that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

In our 21st century Canadian context this would mean praying for our Prime Minister, our Premier, our Mayor and those who serve with them in government office.

But when was the last time you heard anyone praying publicly for those God has sovereignly ordained to be our authorities?

More personally, when was the last time you spent a few minutes mentioning the names of our elected leaders to God and asking for his sovereign purposes to be accomplished through them?

This is no small matter.

For, ideas have consequences and people make a difference.  Those who are elected today are driven by ideas of the common good and public service.  Some of those ideas will be for better, and some for worse.  Many of them, if enacted, will profoundly impact Canadian society.

And so, what better day than election day could there be to pray the uncommon prayer of those who acknowledge God’s sovereignty in the affairs of humankind?

What better day than today to ask God to work out his good pleasure in the governing affairs of our land?

What better day than October 21, 2019, to ask God to bless, prosper and protect those who will form our national government in a few hours?

Let us pray this uncommon prayer.  Today.

Blessings for a good week.

Gord

Simple…Really Simple

 

Thankfully, this business of following Jesus, or in Corpath terms…pursuing excellence in spirit, is simple…really simple.

And I like it like that.  It refreshes my soul.

Because you know how we Christians are prone to complicate things… with our theological debates, our eschatological timelines, our competing denominational statements of faith, our liturgical rules, our church conventions.

And we sure can get tied up in knots!

Should I tithe on the gross or the net?  Where should I stand on evolution?  Am I sinning if I buy lottery tickets?  Am I offending God if I don’t buy carbon offsets?  Should I go to court to settle this dispute?  What if I get remarried after divorce?

And more recently…what if I actually agree with gay marriage, or with global warming, or choose to be vegan?

Yes, life can just be too complicated most days.  Our hearts can become a sea of restless waves.  The world seems full of discordant noises.  And we don’t know which way to go.

What does Jesus think about all this stuff anyway?

May I humbly suggest there are four simple truths that can bring comfort and clarity on our earthly pilgrimage.

First, it’s clear our Lord doesn’t want us to beat ourselves up.  He knows our hearts.  He knows we are frail.  He knows we are not perfect.  That’s why his Word says,

 “Cast all your anxiety upon me because I care for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7)

Anxiety of soul steals our joy.  What is the antidote?  Augustine prayed, “Let my soul take refuge from the crowding turmoil of worldly thoughts beneath the shadow of your wings.”

We find consolation and solace when we, in simple child-like faith, climb up into the lap of our heavenly father, casing our cares on him, and resting in his presence.

Second, nothing can twist us into spiritual pretzels more than the comparison game.  But the Lord knows how destructive such thinking can be.  He doesn’t want us to compare ourselves to others and be overly concerned with their impressions of us on our life’s journey.

The Apostle Paul was living a profound, but simple truth when he said,

“I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court…it is the Lord who judges.” 
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.”  (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)

And then Jesus wants us to remember that our Christian lives are not about rules and performance measures.  God is not running around with a cosmic video camera, shouting “Gotcha” every time we step out of line.

Instead, we should remind ourselves each day that we are loved by our heavenly father, and he is at peace with us.  Consider these comforting words,

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him; and through him to reconcile to himself all things…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 
(Colossians 1:19)

Finally, our Lord calls us to one, simple over-riding virtue…the command to love.

This is the summit of Christian living.  This is the totality of his expectation for us.  The beauty of the gospel is the simplicity of the call to love.

“Love one another as I have loved you.”  (John 13:34)
“Live a life of love.”  (Ephesians 5:2)
In the week ahead, life will come at us with a vengeance.  In the midst of these restless waves that threaten to capsize us, and the turmoil of worldly thoughts that overwhelm, how good is it to know that,
“I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

Thank you, Lord, that following you can be simple.  Our souls can rest comfortably.  Our hearts can be at peace.  We can live free and easy.  We can live a life of love.

May the simplicity of the gospel bless you this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gord

Three-Legged Dogs

Sometimes God speaks to us in rather unconventional ways.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about three-legged dogs.  We’ve all seen a disfigured canine. Usually, it is missing a back leg, but that doesn’t stop Fido from chasing rabbits, fetching balls, or soiling the neighbor’s lawn!

Recently I saw a video of a little dog missing both its rear appendages.  It was happily strolling down the sidewalk, thanks to its owner who had ingeniously manufactured a wagon with only two back wheels into which the happy dog was strapped.  And away it joyously ran with its two front legs tearing up the path!

“Lego” is the name of my son’s three-legged rescue dog.

She lost a leg as a young puppy in Iran when a donkey stepped on its right hind leg.  Just a stub is left.  But you wouldn’t believe how incredibly muscular Lego’s remaining rear leg is.

Here’s a link for you to catch a glimpse of Lego, the three-legged, part Russian Wolf Hound enjoying a gentle run at the dog park – ‘Lego the three-legged rescue

Lego spent a delightful week with us this summer.  She is a powerful animal, and during our late night walks we could hardly restrain her from breaking free and doing what every dog wants to do – chase down the neighbourhood rabbit.

So what’s a three-legged dog have to do with a Corpath moment of spiritual reflection?

Do you remember the insightful quote from C. S. Lewis,

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.”

In an unexpected way, Lego has become God’s powerful megaphone for me.  When I see her run, she becomes a living metaphor reminding me of how God rescues, redeems and delights in me, and in each one of us, even though our lives have been disfigured by the universal scourge of sin.

Once, Lego was destined for the ash-heap of history, actually for the depths of a cold river, as her original owner had no use for a disfigured three-legged beast and planned to drown the young pup.

But then a true lover of dogs intervened and persuaded Lego’s owner to let her rescue this wounded, three-legged creature.

Motivated by compassion she nursed and raised Lego.  And when she could no longer look after Lego, our son and daughter-in-law partnered with an international dog rescue organization who arranged for an international flight to bring Lego to her new home in Vancouver.

This living dog metaphor powerfully reminds me of how Christ, the lover of our wounded souls, has rescued and nurtured us to spiritual health and happiness.

The Apostle Paul talks about how Christ has,

            “…rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the    Son he loves.”  (Colossians 1:13) 

And in the kingdom of Christ not only have we been rescued from the penalty and power of sin, but we are daily nurtured and sustained by his indwelling Spirit, his favourable grace, his empowering Word, and his community of the saints, including Corpath.

It can get uncomfortable for Lego to bend over and eat food while standing on one hind leg.  And so her carpenter neighbours built Lego a beautiful eating bench, and now Lego can enjoy her daily meals in comfort.

God is like that…building into our lives all that sustains us for abundant life and joyful service to him.

Lego will always be marred by her painful moment years ago.  And like her, we too in this life will bear the ongoing scars of hurts and wounds that may never leave us.

But, “God who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) never gives up on us.

He’s in the rescue business.  He’s in the restoration business.

He’s making “Lego’s” out of all of us.

Smile, and enjoy the week.

 

Gord