In Everything…

In this traditional season of Thanksgiving, when a second wave of the Corona pandemic is knocking at our door.  When troubles multiply and anxieties pervade…let us take heart from these words of notorious hope from the Prophet Habakkuk.  And then be inspired with a Thanksgiving poem by Corrie Walker

“Though the fig tree does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.”
– Habakkuk 3:17-18 –

___________________________________________________________________

 

THE REASON TO GIVE THANKS

In everything give thanks
It’s what the Bible says to do.
I thought, “Well that sounds easy,”
‘Til I wondered what I’d do.
If all the lights were darkened,
All our energy was lost,
There were no more heaters running
And I was stuck out in the frost.

I imagined myself freezing
Even left out in the rain,
And thought, “What if there was no more shelter
To hide me from this pain?”
And then how hard it would be
To find some food somewhere,
My empty tummy crying out
It would be more than I could bear.

But even in this gloomy
And pitiful imagination
I realized I had not left out
My friends from this equation.
So then, of course, I pictured.

All of this again
With loneliness, no family,
Not even just one friend.
I asked myself how I’d give thanks
If all these things were true,
And hope became an empty thing
Until I thought of You.  Of what Your Word has promised,
What Your Bible says is true.

You said:I’ll never leave or forsake you.
And though the mountains be removed
And the earth falls into the sea
I am still with you. My love is everlasting.
I am your shield and great reward.  I have chosen you and kept you.
I have given you a sword.
I pour water on the thirsty.
I bind up the broken-hearted.
Though you turned your face against Me,
I have loved you from the start.
I have given you the garment of salvation for your clothes.
Every tear you’ve ever cried,
And all your pain My soul knows well.
And I have made a way to keep you.
No one plucks you from my hand.
I cannot lie.
I can’t deceive you, for I am not a man.”

It is with these words the Lord had spoken
That I finally understood.
All I’ll ever need in this life is only in His hand.
It’s true, most of us don’t comprehend real need
We are truly blessed.
But when’s the last time we asked ourselves,
“If all is gone, what is left?”
So even if this life brings pain
And all possessions tank
In everything or nothing,
He’s the reason to give thanks.

     …by Corrie Walker

___________________________________________________________________

May your fall days ahead be filled with a deep sense of thanksgiving and joy.

Blessings,


Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Believe Me!

In A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P Job writes the following devotional which reminds us that like Zechariah, we are filled with questions that test our beliefs.  How should we respond to times of unsettlement in our lives?  What is the antidote to fears arising? Read on.

“Consider Zachariah, a deeply religious man, a man full of years and full of experience.  He was a leader in the religious life of his community, and he was filled with a question that would not go away.

Even an angelic visit did not calm his fears or answer his questions.  In response to the heavenly message that his prayer had been heard and his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son, he replied, “How can I know that God’s promise is true for me?”  (Luke 1:18)

It is easy for us to make light of Zechariah’s struggle, thinking it would be different for us.  If an angel visited us, we would believe.  If we had received such a direct promise from God, we would trust and rejoice.

But the truth is we have received a much greater and more direct promise.  We have the life, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus to confirm the promise of God’s love and provision.

We have the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to assure us the companionship of God and the power of God in everyday life.

We have two thousand years of experience to remind us and assure us that God can be trusted, and that God will provide.

But the questions are not easily put to rest.  What if I am wrong and give my life to the focus of my wishful thinking and not to the living God?  What if I am listening to my own desire and not the voice of God as I seek direction for my life?  What if God leads me astray and into a life that is too much for me?

Zechariah is not the only one who hears the nagging questions.  We hear them too.  How will I know God is guiding me?  How will I know God will forgive me?  How will I know God will provide for me?  How do I know God loves me as an individual?

How will I know?  How will I know, God?

These are the nagging questions that lurk close in many of our lives, and to deny them is to give them power they do not have.

To face the questions honestly and directly is to see them for what they are – a response of fear to our lack of faith.

So, what shall we do?  Continue our life as Zechariah did – praying, serving, listening.  And as we continue our disciplined listening for the voice of God, we will be called to remember that God does care for us and provide for us in wonderful ways, even when we are unaware of that provision.

After living with the questions, the apostle Paul said,

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

The assurance that we are enfolded in the loving arms of God can still the nagging questions, and grant us the grace, peace and serenity to life all of life fully and faithfully every day.

May God grant us this blessed assurance today and always.”

Blessings for a good week ahead,

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Grounded

Where does the courage come from to relinquish our ego when we are confronted with the perilous choice to protect our personal safety, security, and pleasure, or die to ourselves in service to God and his glory?

The great test of authentic spirituality confronted Jesus when Pilate said, “Don’t you realize that I have the power either to free you or to crucify you.” (John 19:10)

Jesus passed the test because he was grounded in convictions that were rooted in his love for his heavenly Father, his desire to please his heavenly Father, and his unswerving belief that his heavenly Father’s love for him would bring him safely home, even if it meant denying himself to the point of an agonizing crucifixion.

The Bible is full of compelling stories of faith heroes whose lives were grounded in convictions that could not be swayed, regardless of the peril that was around the corner.

Consider Stephen who bravely stands the test and declares the gospel to the Sanhedrin who painfully crush his body to death with stones. (Acts 7:54)

Esther gathers up her courage and enters into supreme danger to save the Jewish nation from an impending holocaust. (Esther 4:15)

Daniel goes to his knees, praying for God’s wisdom three times a day, in full view of the disdainful bureaucrats who manipulate the king to have Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:10)

And there is Moses, standing bravely at the shore of the Red Sea, defying Pharaoh, and shouting out, “Stand still and wait to see what God will do!” (Exodus 14:13)

The Apostle Paul declares his convictions in his final address to the Ephesians.

“I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me.” (Act 19:23-24) 

Where do such people come from?

These are people who had encountered God at the deep soul level.  Their spiritual convictions were birthed in moments of encounter with the true and living Lord.

And they knew thereafter there was “no turning back.”  Their desire to know, love and serve God superseded all else, regardless of what it meant for their personal peace, pleasure or affluence.

In her book, Wisdom from the Daily, Joan Chittester tells the compelling story of a time when a great army invaded a country and left a path of destruction everywhere, reserving their intense wrath for people of faith that they found, particularly the monks.

Chittester writes:

When the invaders arrived in one of the villages…the leader of the village reported to the commander, “All the monks hearing of your approach, fled to the mountains.” 

The commander smiled a broad, cold smile, for he was proud of having a reputation for being a very fearsome person.

But then the leader added, “All, that is, but one.” 

The commander became enraged.  He marched to the monastery and kicked in the gate.  There in the courtyard stood the one remaining monastic. 

The commander glowered at the figure.  “Do you not know who I am?” the commander demanded.  “I am he who can run you through with a sword without batting an eyelash.” 

And the monastic fixed the commander with a serene and patient look and said, “And do you know who I am?  I am one who can let you run me through with a sword without batting an eyelash.” 

And what about us as Corpath members?

Pursuing excellence in business, in life and in spirit as disciples of Jesus means we too must be able to stand for God’s glory and his kingdom “without batting an eyelash,” regardless of the outcome.

We know such a stance is never easy.  It may mean the loss of a customer, the rejection of a colleague, the disdain of a relative, the mockery of a neighbour, the alienation of a child.  But Jesus has gone before us.  He set the pace.  

“For the joy set before him, he endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) 

Now it’s our turn. 

Blessings for a week grounded in unshakeable convictions.

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Identity Papers

God’s first words to humankind are the most consequential ever authored.  They reset our spiritual gyroscope, help us understand our place and purpose in the universe, and show us “how we then should live.”

They have outsize implications for our sense of self-worth, our marriage loves, our business dealings with customers and employees; our embrace of refugees, our love of neighbour, and our love of enemy.  God’s first script to us goes like this:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Inspired words which should fill us with awe, humility, and with profound joy.

For humankind’s irrepressible search for meaning and longing for purpose, our hunger for equality and cry for dignity, and our innate curiosity about God all find their source and their fulfilment in these divinely scripted words.

They tell us that we are here, and the universe and everything that exists is here, because God exists, and created us – contrary to the empty myth that we are nothing but impersonal, molecular-chance accidents, with no ultimate meaning or destiny.

For as the Psalmist David correctly says,

“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

The soul is comforted to know that we are not alone; that we live in a universe freighted with God’s divine personality.  For as Paul declared to the Athenian debaters,

“In him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

We are not drifting senselessly in an impersonal, meaningless void, fearful of our candle being extinguished forever.  Rather, we live in the warm presence of a personal God who freely and purposefully created us.

And then God’s first script reveals something very startling, what Mary Oliver calls, “God’s identity papers.”   For we read, “Let us make man,” words that speak volumes, telling us of a God who is personal, volitional, relational, living in a divine, triune community, which the Bible reveals as, “God is love.” (1 John:4-8)

It is this plurality of divine persons, living in perpetual loving community, who chose to create you and me.  For the Bible says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God…Through him all things were made.” (John 1:1-3)

And then, we are stunned by the rest of the script when we read, “Let us make man in our image.”  This relational, personal Trinity of being, freely chooses to create us to be his icons, to be image-bearers of the divine.  It is a stunning thought.

Now we understand who we really are.  We too have identity papers.  For we are image-bearers of this relational, personal God who dwells forever in a divine community of mutual, self-giving love. (John 17:23)

And now we get it.  This is why we too are relational, social beings, forever drawn to search for, to create, and to live in love and community with others, because this is the way God is, and he has created us “in his image.” This is why we live with a longing to love and to be loved.  The implications are momentous.

We are to live in love and create communities of love like God is, and like he desires.  (“Live a life of love, as Christ loved us.” (Ephesians 5:2) And in his trinity of love, there are no hierarchies of importance among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, no distinctions of greater value, no comparisons of importance…just pure love.

And because we are created “in his image,” our lives too can never be about distinctions, comparisons, hierarchies of value or worthiness.  There can never be any self-serving dominance of another human being.  To live such twisted thoughts of superiority is to violate God’s created order and mar the divine image in each one of us.

Travelling the Corpath way (the way of God’s heart) means aligning ourselves with God’s first script about ourselves.  Created by God, we all have equal worth.  Created in his image, we all have equal dignity, the dignity of God’s glory, God’s image in us.

Everyone carries this glory.  Our neighbour…our employee…our spouse…our client, even our enemy.  The special needs person, the LGBTQ colleague, the recent immigrant, they all carry the weight of glory, the glory of being created “in his image.”

And God said, “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26)

Is it any wonder we are noticed by God?

Blessings for a good week,


Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Pressing On

I wandered into my local bookstore and came across “The History of the Church,” a translation of the seminal work by Eusebius of Caesarea, written in the 300’s.

The early arc of church history chronicled by Eusebius is a tour de force of early Christian perseverance in their allegiance to Christ while facing a barrage of brutal persecution and destructive heresies.

But Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) What powerfully struck me as I read Eusebius’ account was the truth that Jesus builds his church through his persevering saints.

The Christian faith is all about “pressing on.”  No perseverance yesterday.  No church today.  No gospel witness tomorrow.  No future Christian leaders.  Even no Corpath.

So, imagine that you are one of a small group of persecuted Christians in 201, witnessing this incident during the reign of Roman emperor Severus.  Eusebius records:

“When Severus set in motion a persecution against the churches, the athletes competing on behalf of piety offered brilliant martyrdoms in every location but were especially abundant in Alexandria.  God’s athletes were sent there from throughout Egypt and the whole Thebaid, as to a great stadium, and through their patient endurance of various kinds of torture and death, came to wear the crowns of victory that are given by God.  Among them was Leonidas, the man said to be the father of Origen, who was beheaded, leaving behind his child who was very young.  How intense was Origen’s resolve for the Divine Logos (Christ) after this.”

Leonidas could have disavowed Christ.  He could have saved his skin and repudiated the truth that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord; and thereafter enjoying a long life with his son and family.

But he chose to persevere, to “patiently endure,” in full devotion to Christ.  Leonidas chose to press on, come what may.  And so, must we.

One of the hallmarks of mature Christian discipleship is the power to endure the “slings and arrows” that mark our pathway on the journey home…whether persecution, illness, financial reversal, abandonment, unexpected tragedy, or reputational wrongs.

Failure to persevere, to not give up, to not press on to the end is not in the DNA of any dedicated Christ-follower.  Persevering to the end is what it means for Corpath members to “pursue excellence,” not just in business and in life, but “in spirit.”

Pressing on is about continuing to live a life of goodness, day in and day out.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  (Galatians 6:9)

Persevering is about not being side-tracked by the siren call of worldly pleasures, or pressures or accolades, and letting our ministry commitments go, as Paul’s colleague sadly did.

“But Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:10)

Enduring means guarding intimacy with our heavenly Father through daily prayer.

“Then Jesus told them a parable that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)

Let’s be frank…it’s not easy to press on in devotion to Christ and service to others when the gods and values of this world are increasingly hostile to Christian life and witness.

Of course, Jesus knew this.  That why he reminded his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.”  (John 15:20)

That is why he has given us his Holy Spirit, because, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.” (Romans 8:26) 

And that is why each one of us can, “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

Martha Reid is one of my 21st century heroic examples of a Christ-follower who ran the race with perseverance.

In her 9th decade, although disfigured by rheumatoid arthritis, she did not stop doing good.  She did not give up.  Her love of Christ compelled her to carry on.  And so, weighing less than 90 pounds, unable to feed and care for herself, bent over in a  wheelchair and wracked with persistent pain, she led a Bible study in her seniors’ home, each week slowly turning the Bible pages with her misshapen finger…pressing on!

What would you like your life epitaph to read?  Why not, “perseverance finished its work?” (James 1:4)

But this one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead, I press on. (Philippians 3:13)

Blessings for a good week of faithfully pressing on, with Leonidas and Martha.

Blessings for a good week,


Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Heroes…and Rewards

You never know what discovery awaits when you start turning the pages of a book written by a gifted Christian author.

It’s inevitable you will come across a turn of phrase, or a lengthy quotation, that captures your heart, troubles your comfortable status quo, and has the potential to catapult you onto a higher pathway of living…if you let it.

On a recent vacation I took up, “All Things New,” by John Eldredge, a stimulating look at “Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of All Things,” recently commended to me by a Corpath friend. I was particularly moved by Eldredge’s bold statement that “Reward is a kingdom mind-set.”  He goes on,

Reward, reward, reward – it fills the pages of both testaments.  Saint Paul expected to be rewarded for his service to Christ, as have the saints down through the ages.  Patrick, that mighty missionary to the Irish, prayed daily, ‘In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward…so that there may come to me an abundance of reward.’  C. S. Lewis used the phrase, ‘the unblushing promises of reward.’  Unblushing means boldfaced, unashamed; it means brazen, outlandish and thoroughly unapologetic.  Did you know the promises of reward offered to you in Scripture are bold, unashamed, brazen?  Did you even know that reward is a central theme in the teaching of Jesus and in the Bible as a whole?

But it was a quote by Philip Yancey in Rumors of Another World, that really stopped me cold.  And I found myself saying that you really need to pay attention to this, let it sink deep into your soul.  Here is what Yancey wrote:

Jesus was the first world leader to inaugurate a kingdom with a heroic role for losers.

I’m a sucker for heroes…the valiant, winning type.  Russell Crowe playing Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.  Tom Hanks as Navy Commander Ernest Krause in the recently released World War Two thriller, Greyhound.    

These modern, heroic narratives play on our homing instinct to see justice done, to see evil banished, to see victory won.

But when you read Jesus, you discover that his definition of hero, the people he honoured, and promised to reward, have little value or recognition in the visible world.

In fact, they are the very opposite of the heroic type.  They are not the influential, the worldly-wise, the wealthy, the noble-born, the stunning achievers.

Instead, they were…the poor and the meek, the persecuted, those who mourn, social rejects, the hungry and the thirsty, the powerless, refugees and aliens.

The stories Jesus told almost always featured the “wrong” people as his heroes:

  • The penitent prodigal kneeling before his Father. Not the obedient son.
  • The good Samaritan who broke religious codes to show mercy. Not the good Jew fixated on keeping all the religious rules.
  • Poor Lazarus. Not the well-dressed who lived in luxury.
  • The despised tax collector. Not the respectable Pharisee.
  • The widow with her two mites. Not the wealthy establishment.
  • The prostitute pouring her perfume. Not the self-righteousness religious rulers.

The Apostle Paul well understood God’s inverted “Kingdom-Calculus,” and so he wrote:

Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast for him. (1 Corinthians 1:28-29)

Because humanity’s home is the visible world, secular society values appearances above all else.  Impressive wealth, sexual prowess, youthful vitality, military success.  But in the end these heroes of superficiality all fade away.

What kind of hero are you?  Jesus’ vision of hero-living does not make sense in our visible world…because he came from another world.  He came to establish a community centered on the “upside-down” values of an invisible, eternal world – humility, sacrifice, brokenness, forgiveness, compassion, peace-making.

Jesus is looking for heroic losers.  Followers who are so enamored with the Christ of selfless service, that like him we see beyond the passing illusion of temporary externals.  We seek to imitate him as our guiding light, our true, heroic loser, who “for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Philippians 3:2) 

Remembering always that those “unblushing promises of reward” await his heroes!

Blessings for a good week,

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Unforced Rhythms

The first time I heard someone quote Matthew 11:27-28 from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, it stopped me dead in my tracks.

I’m continually drawn to this passage because of the refreshing language it uses to remind us that following Jesus is all about friendship and relationship, and soul rest and renewal, about living lightly without any burdens of religious performance, and about enjoying the gift and model of Christ’s unforced rhythms of grace.

Here is how the passage reads as Jesus speaks to his followers.

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Does that not sound like the good life!  Did you catch the themes?

Soul rest and renewal

Tired.  Worn out.  Burned out.  Turned off from religion?
Then take a real rest!

Friendship and Relationship

Come to me.  Get away with me.  Walk with me.
Keep company with me.

Live lightly without the burden of performance.

Work with me.  Recover your life.  Live freely and lightly.  Watch me.
Learn from me the unforced rhythms of grace.

This is all good news…really good news!

With these words, Jesus lays down a marker for all time.  Real living with Jesus is the polar opposite of dry, institutional religion; of enforced external duty, of living under the burden of guilt, of having to rely on my own spiritual strength, or being driven to earn brownie points with a judging God.

Real living is about a life-giving relationship and deep friendship with the Lord of life that leads to a profound and lasting rest for our souls, knowing that we are secure and loved by the Lord of heaven and earth.

And real living is all about finding an identity that is birthed in grace and which walks lightly through life, free from the temptation to perform, to impress, to achieve.  This is a life characterized by emulating Jesus’ unforced rhythms of grace.

It has taken years, in fact, decades, for me to grow into a fulsome understanding of how utterly non-judgmental and welcoming Jesus is.  I wish it had been clear from the beginning.

Consider these remarkable words from Jesus. “For the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”  (John 12:47).

You can’t read the Gospels without being impressed by Jesus’ unforced rhythms of grace which welcomed everyone and graciously responded to the needs of the moment, right in front of him.

Spying Zacchaeus up in the tree, he says, “Come down, I have to stay at your house.”

To the women caught in adultery he says, “Women, where are they.  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you.” 
(John 8:11) 

When the little kids disrupted his teaching and climbed all over him, he said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” (Luke 18:16)

Friendship with Jesus, leading to rest for our souls and a life free from crushing burdens, and then allowing his life to produce that beautiful soul-satisfying, unforced rhythm of grace in us each day…this is the life Christ offers.

This is the life to which we are called.  It’s the good and beautiful life Jesus promised when he said,

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“Lord, help us to get away with you, experience real soul rest and begin to recover our lives.  Help us to walk with you and learn your beautiful unforced rhythms of grace.  Lead us to keep company with you and discover what it means to live freely and lightly…to really live!”

Blessings,

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Those Moravians!

We need more of what those Moravians had.

The worldwide influence of 18th century Moravian missionaries was extraordinary.  One notable example is the impact they had on John Wesley, leading directly to the beginning of his vital relationship with Christ.

Wesley kept a journal, and his entries covering the years 1736-1738 are replete with comments of his observations and encounters with the Moravians (whom he often called “the Germans”).  In early 1736 Wesley was ship-bound for America and in the midst of a life-threatening storm he observed the Moravians on board with him.

There was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the spirit of fear…In the midst of the psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.

A terrible screaming began among the English.  The Germans calmly sang on.  I asked one of them afterward, “Was not you afraid?”  He answered, “I thank God, no.”  I asked, “But were not your women and children afraid?”  “No; our women and children are not afraid to die.”

From them, I went to their crying, trembling neighbours, and pointed out to them the difference in the hour of trial between him that feareth God, and him that feareth him not.”

One of the great litmus tests for the condition of our leader soul and the vitality of our faith in Christ our Lord is how we behave in times of personal crisis when the storms of life invade and fear has got us by the throat…whether natural disaster, illness, financial loss, the death of a loved one, or the threats of a pandemic.

What did the English passengers do in their moment of panic?  Wesley tells us they screamed, cried, and trembled.

What did the Moravians do when the crisis raged?  Fearlessly, they “sang on” and worshipped God through the perilous storm.

Reminds me of Paul and Silas.  Flogged and chained to stocks in the dark recesses of the Philippian prison for preaching the gospel, what do they do?

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them.”  (Acts 16:25)

Singing, worshipping, quoting scripture, praying…these are the disciplines of Christ-followers who in times of crisis know three things:

First, Jesus told his disciples on numerous occasions when they were overcome with fear to not be afraid.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14;1) David said it this way, “I trust in you, O Lord.”  I say, “You are my God.  My times are in your hands.”  (Psalm 31:15) This truth is the ground of our settled peace in times of crisis.

Second, the experiential truth that the Lord is always with us in times of crisis fortifies the soul when waves of anxiety and doubt attack.  Paul said, “Everyone deserted me, but the Lord stood beside me and gave me strength.”  (2 Timothy 4;16-17)

Third, James reminds us that the Christian response to tribulation is the remarkable discipline of “consider it pure joy,” (James 1:2) because these trial moments are “faith-testers” that grow our confidence in the presence of God and in his promises to see us through.

One of the most inspiring examples of a worshiping faith stance in times of crisis was demonstrated by Judah’s King Jehoshaphat when enemy armies were at his city’s gate.  After telling God, “Our eyes are on you,” he challenged the men of Judah, “do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

And then he did something remarkable.  It says, “He appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21)  As a demonstration of robust faith, the worshippers took precedence over the soldiers!

When the crisis was red hot…singing, worshipping, praying, this is what Jehoshaphat and his army did.  This is what Paul and Silas did.  This is what the Moravians did.

Sometime, perhaps sooner than later, our next personal, family, or leadership crisis will arrive.  If John Wesley were watching (and maybe he is!), what would he record in his journal about you and me?

May God grant each Corpath member the grace to live fearlessly, just like Jehoshaphat and his choir of worshippers, just like Paul and Silas…and just like those Moravians!

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”

Blessings,

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

Simplicity

Richard Rohr, a well-known author and founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation, offers us important food for thought this summer in this recent devotional.

Despite many differing views of Jesus’ life and teaching, we can say confidently that Jesus was a poor man who fully embraced life with those on the margins of society. Francis of Assisi certainly did the same, and it became his litmus test for all orthodoxy and ongoing transformation into God. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) wanted to imitate Francis in this and I acknowledge that she and her sisters, the Poor Clares, have kept the vow of poverty much better than we Franciscan friars have done. Today, Bridget Mary Meehan helps us understand how radical simplicity helped Clare and her sisters come to a singleness of focus and heart.

Clare understood that love and poverty [or what I would call simplicity] are connected. She taught that poverty frees one from the bondage of material things and from all the things that clutter the human heart and soul.

Gospel poverty was at the heart of Clare’s rule. The Poor Ladies owned nothing; they lived simply without property, endowments, or any kind of material possessions. For Clare, doing without things led to deep communion with God. Her way of life was characterized by a deep trust in God to provide for the needs of the community. Whatever the Poor Ladies received was sufficient. Openness and receptivity reflected Clare’s attitudes toward people and things. For her, everything was a gift. She and her “ladies” lived the gospel passionately according to the Franciscan ideal.

Through the centuries Clare has continued to be a beacon of light to women and men who long to love Christ with an undivided heart, to serve others generously, and to live simply in a world that glorifies material possessions. If we have too many clothes in our closets, too much money in the bank, too many things cluttering our lives, Clare can help us find the one thing necessary—God who will liberate and fill our emptiness with divine love. Our conversion process may take time—sometimes years—but we will experience freedom and joy when we live with a loose grasp on material things when we are willing to share our possessions as well as our time and energy with those in need. . . .

How often do we take a deep breath and appreciate—really appreciate—the air we breathe? How often do we savor the food we taste and smell the flowers along our path? When was the last time we listened to our child, laughed with a friend, embraced our spouse? It is true that the best things in life are free, but we are often too distracted or too busy to see the simple treasures of life right in front of us.

Blessings for a summer of soul liberation from life’s clutter and enjoyment of simple pleasures!

Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath

The Coach…and the Playbook

Somebody is writing your playbook.

Everyone follows, imitates, and ultimately bows their knee to someone. No one is the master of their own fate; no one is the captain of their own soul.  This is mythology.

And unless we choose the right coach with the right playbook, we will drift unsuspectingly through life…without the benefit of an eternal compass, or of a divine guide to take our hand in the storms of life.

We just might wake up one day with poet Ed Sissman’s haunting words ringing in our ears,

“Men past forty,
Get up nights,
Look up at city lights
And wonder
Where they made the wrong turn
And why life is so long.”

Bob Dylan understood we all follow someone.  His powerful song, “You Gotta Serve Somebody,” which he sang at an Oscar award ceremony, undoubtedly made some in the celebrity audience quite uncomfortable.

“You may be an ambassador to England or France

You might like to gamble, you might like to dance
You might be the heavyweight champion of the world
You might be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re going to have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed, you’re going to have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re going to have to serve somebody.

Serving somebody means submission, a dirty word for many in our contemporary world.
But the truth is submission and imitation are in our spiritual genes.  Dallas Willard asks the probing question in his thoughtful work, The Divine Conspiracy,

“Who teaches you?  Whose disciple are you?  Honestly.  One thing is sure. 
You are somebody’s disciple.  You learned how to live from somebody else.” 

How can we discern which playbook we should follow?  Which coach to obey?  Which teacher to learn from?  The self-help and spirituality shelves at our local bookstore are replete with intriguing playbooks for life.

But God’s Word is crystal clear.  For the Christ-follower, there is no equivocating, no uncertainty.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that:

“For if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

The early Christians understood what was at stake.  They remembered the words of Jesus, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”  (Luke 6:46)

There was a reason these first believers were called, “followers of the Way,” for their eternal Coach said, “I am the Way.” (John 14:6)

When most of Jesus’ disciples left him, he asked the remaining few, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know you are the holy one of God.” (John 7:67-69)

One God, one Lord, one Saviour, one divine Coach, one eternal playbook for life.

Here is a simple rule to help us determine if we are following his playbook.  Ask yourself,

“Who am I really trying to please?”

When I played basketball, it was my role as guard to set up plays: the give and go, the post-up, the screenshot.  I lived by the coach’s playbook.  And often when I ran down the sidelines, I would sneak a glance over at the bench to see if Coach was pleased with my playmaking.

We were made to live to please God.  Paul instructs us, “Find out what pleases the Lord.”  (Ephesians 5:10) He alone deserves our full-on allegiance, our unswerving obedience, our joyful submission, our exuberant worship.

And in return, because of his great love, he offers us an incredible, abundant, fulfilling life – now and forever – as we tune in and live by his playbook.  (John 10:10)

In this life, there is no shortage of coaches.  Pick one…maybe a business coach, or a personal coach, a financial coach, a marriage coach, a fitness coach.  But in the final analysis there really is only one Coach and one Playbook for Corpath members.

May our divine Coach grant us grace to live by his playbook this summer, and always.

Blessings,


Gordon Dirks

President, Corpath