Corpath Friends

The June 15, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail carried a very compelling article by Dave McGinn on the benefits of friendship.  As I read this article I couldn’t help but think of Corpath and the value of deep friendships forged in our Corpath forums over the years.

Here are some of McGinn’s more salient points:

“Having strong social relationships was nearly twice as beneficial as physical activity when it came to decreasing your odds of dying young.  In short, suffering from loneliness was as bad for your health as being an alcoholic or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  The benefits only increase as we age.” 

“People who valued friendships were always happier than those who didn’t.  It wasn’t until mid-life that the effects kept getting stronger and stronger.”

“Friendship quality predicted whether or not you have things like heart attacks or strokes over time.  Men overall all are a lonelier bunch – and thus at greater risk.  The biggest reason friendship is important for men’s health comes down to stress management.  Friendships for men reduce stress and that’s associated with better health over time.  Friendships exist to make us better.”

“Doing stuff together is quite different from bonding.  Close friendships require disclosure and reciprocity.  One of the issues preventing men from getting close to  other men is the cultural norms about vulnerability, which is at the root of disclosure.”

“Men in Canada are three times more likely to die from suicide than women.  Social isolation is a well-established risk factor for suicide and suicidal behaviour.”

“The quality of our friendships – what we feel comfortable sharing with our friends, and what we feel we have to keep to ourselves – has a tremendous effect not just on men’s well-being, but also on society’s.”

“Being a good friend requires vulnerability, but also empathy, curiosity, trust, a willingness to put someone else’s interests ahead of yours, to be there for someone in crisis to listen, to care.”

These secular insights into the benefits of friendship speak to the essence and value of Corpath.  As people of Christian faith we know God made us for relationship…with Him, and with one another.  That’s why our Corpath mission “to pursue excellence in business, in life and in spirit” resonates with God’s purposes for us.

Pursuing excellence in our personal lives surely means fostering deep, supportive friendships, a goal that is at the centre of the Corpath experience.

And Jesus modelled the way for us when it comes to deep friendships.  Consider these core aspects of His deep friendships.

1.       Proximity…Jesus always wanted to be with His friends – Jesus invited his friends to do life with Him.  Eat together.  Pursue God’s mission together.  Pray with them.  Tell them they were His friends.   He knew distance was the enemy of friendship.  He knew He had to regularly be with His friends Peter, James and John, and the other disciples and the women in His life.  He showed us why our Corpath relationships need to be nurtured through regular forum meetings and retreats.

2.      Parties…Jesus loved going to parties with His friends – Jesus had a very active social life.  He enjoyed times alone with his Father, but He balanced those private moments with intimate times of fellowship with His friends, and joyous social occasions.  His example reminds us that the Corpath experience is not just about deep sharing in our forum groups, but times of socializing on retreats, at education events and social evenings, enjoying good conversation, food and libations, just like Jesus did.

3.      Self-Disclosure…Jesus verbally shared His inner life with his friends – Jesus told His friends what was going on inside Him, what He was about, why He had come, and what He longed for concerning their lives.  In other words, Jesus got real personal with His friends.  He held nothing back.  He authentically self-disclosed His stuff with His friends.  He shared His sorrows, His joys and His deep experiences with His heavenly Father.  He modelled the way for our Corpath forums update times when we honestly share what’s happening in our personal, family and business worlds.

4.      Prayer…Jesus prayed for his friends – We know Jesus friends were really important to Him because He prayed for them.  He prayed for Peter.  He prayed for Peter, James and John.  He prayed for his disciples.  He knew that deep friendship without prayer was a big contradiction.  Because He cared deeply for His friends He prayed for them.  We often say that at Corpath “Christ is at the table.”  And because He is at the table and modelled the way for us, we pray for our Corpath friends during forum meetings, and hopefully between meetings.

A life well-lived, a life which honours God, is a life that pursues excellence in our personal world.  It is a life where we not only pursue an intimate friendship with God, but also an authentic, caring, reciprocal friendship with others who have linked arms with us on the journey of life.

This is true friendship. This is Corpath. This is the abundant life Jesus wants for us.

May your Corpath friendships be blessed by the one who makes good friendships possible.

Gord

Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Practicing the Existence of God

God has a lot to say about fake spirituality.  So did Soren Kierkegaard.

In his book, Rumors of Another World, Philip Yancey recounts Kierkegaard’s 19th-Century parody styled after the book of Ecclesiastes:

“I saw that the meaning of life was to secure a livelihood and that its goal was
to attain a high position; that love’s rich dream was marriage with an heiress;
that friendship’s blessing was help in financial difficulties; that wisdom was what
the majority assumed it to be; that enthusiasm consisted in making a speech;
that it was courage to risk the loss of ten dollars; that kindness consisted in saying,
“You are welcome,” at the dinner table; that piety consisted in going to communion
once a year.  This I saw and laughed.

Kierkegard’s critique of what he perceived to be modern Christianized culture is cutting.  His words still powerfully resonate.  They not so subtly point towards an empty shell of putrid, self-centered living combined with a lifeless Christian faith, one far removed from the call of Christ to authentically “seek first the Kingdom of God.”  (Matthew 6:33)

When you read the life of Jesus you can’t help but notice that he had little time for spiritual fakers.  Over and over his word to them was, “Woe unto you…hypocrites!”  (Matthew 23:13). He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)  He exposed their pretentious living with the simple question,

Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?  (Luke 6:46)

Here at Corpath we are committed to pursuing excellence in business, in life and in spirit, because such excellence honors God and reflects our desire to authentically follow Christ and allow his values to animate all we do.  Hypocrites say one thing but do another.  They proclaim beliefs which their daily actions belie.  Pursuing excellence is the opposite of hypocrisy.

To authentically practice the existence of God and the presence of Christ in our lives is to allow our actions, our words, and our emotions to be truly shaped by the values and priorities of Jesus.  This is what it means to “seek first his kingdom.” (Matthew 6:33)  

When the values and priorities of Christ rule in our lives, then his reign, his kingdom has truly come.  That means our Christian faith cannot be a “fake faith.”  The Apostle James said it this way,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  (James 1:22)

Consider some actions of those whom God says are truly practicing His presence and demonstrating that his kingdom has come in their lives…

  • To love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
  • To love, bless, forgive and pray for our enemies (Matthew 6:45), and return evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
  • To generously share our worldly goods with the needy, without public attention. (Matthew 6:3, 20)
  • To pursue justice. (Luke 11:42)
  • To keep a tight rein on our tongue. (James 1:26)
  • To visit widows and orphans, and to remember those in prison. (James 1;27, Hebrews 13:3)
  • To avoid sexual immorality and learn to control our own body. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
  • To not worry (Matthew 6:25-34) and learn the secret of being content in every circumstance. (Philippians 4:11-13)
  • To not cheat on our taxes (Romans 13:7) and pray for those in authority over us. (1 Timothy 2:2)

As Corpath members we claim loyalty to another world, a world where Jesus reigns and fake spirituality is unknown.

Blessings for the week ahead as you “seek first his kingdom” and demonstrate to a watching world that you are an authentic friend of Jesus.

“You are my friends if you do what I command.” John 15:14

Gord

President (Interim)

Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

The Three Most Important Words

Have you heard of the theory of the “looking-glass self?”  Sociologists have coined this phrase to describe how some people become what the most important person in their life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks they are.

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of his parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying.  Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.”  The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he is very fond of me.”

It’s doubtful that most professing Christians think that God is actually very fond of them.  But here’s the remarkable thing about God, he actually is very fond of his creation, and particularly of his children who have accepted the gift of loving grace offered through his Son, Jesus.

When the renowned theologian Karl Barth visited the University of Chicago, at a press conference he was asked by one of the scholars and students who crowded around him, “Dr. Barth, what is the most profound truth you have learned in your years of study?”

No doubt they were expecting some profound theological and philosophical insight into the mysteries of God and the universe.  Instead, without hesitation, the greatest theologian of the 20th century replied by repeating the simple line from the song that countless children have learned over the years,

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

We should all agree with Dr. Barth.  Now if God is the most important person in our life, and of course he should be.  And if the most important person in our life views us continually through the lens of his divine, unchanging love, which he daily does without qualification, then our looking-glass self should lead us to consciously live our lives each day under the sunshine of God’s love.

At a seminar the renowned speaker and author, Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel) referred to Jesus closest friend on earth, the disciple named John and identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” (John 21:20)  Manning said, “If John were to be asked, “What is your primary identity in life?” he would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,” but rather, “I am the one Jesus loves.”

We all live out of a self-identity.  That’s why one of the healthiest of Christian spiritual disciplines each day upon waking is to insulate ourselves from the chafing grind of the day ahead by turning our spiritual eyes to Christ, thanking him for his unending love, and reminding ourselves that we are each a child of God, that we have a place in our Father’s house, that we are forever loved by him.

By instinct, humanity feels it must do something to be accepted.  And if it doesn’t do the right thing, not only is acceptance withheld, but some form of sanction is coming.  In that regard, I can’t help but think of the young mother who sat in my office and told me her story.

She recounted how she had been an ‘A’ student, an obedient child, and member of her church youth group.  But soon after graduation, she developed a lengthy illicit sexual relationship with her married neighbour.  After time, convicted by her immorality she broke off the relationship.  But some years later she reconnected with the same man and had his child.  When I asked her what she felt about God, I’ll always remember her chilling words.  With her head down she said, “God is just waiting to bring the big hammer down on me.”

I asked her to look at me and told her, “God is not waiting to bring the big hammer down on you.”  And then I spoke to her what I believe are the three most important words we can ever say to anyone, “God loves you.”  A tear trickled down her cheek and then it became a torrent as the loving arms of God wrapped themselves around her and she accepted the gift of Christ’s love.

What difference would it make in our lives if we consistently saw our primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves,” as, “the one he is very fond of?”

If ever we question God’s sentiments towards us, we should just remind ourselves of the rogues gallery in the Bible that God blessed with his love: Jacob the schemer, David the adulterer, Peter the denier, Zacchaeus the tax-collecting thief, Paul the persecutor, Mary the prostitute, and the thief on the cross.

The Bible defines God with three simple words, “God is love.”   After writing thousands of pages in his Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth arrived at this simple definition of God: “The One who loves.” 

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you” – Psalm 63:3

Yes, he is very fond of you and me.

Blessings for the week ahead.

Gord

Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

The Secret

Everyone longs for a happy, fulfilling life.

It makes no difference if they live on the African Savana, or in a high-rise condo.  Everyone in their own way longed for an abundant, flourishing life.  It is our deepest desire.

And the good news is that the soul’s persistent dream of a happy, fulfilling life really is possible…for everyone.

God has a lot to say about a life which flourishes.   Consider the inspiring word picture painted by the psalmist over 3,000 years ago.

But their life is like a tree planted by streams of living water which yields its fruit
 in season.  And whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he or she does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

This vision of an abundant life resonates deep in our souls.

Who wouldn’t want to drink each day from beautiful “streams of living water” that gave us hope and meaning and joy in abundance?

Who wouldn’t want a life where our “leaf does not wither,” where dreams do not die, identities are not crushed, fears don’t win and disappointments never write the last chapter?

Who would not want a life where “whatever you do prospers,” where you consistently overcome failures, live above regrets, and always move forward on the journey of a God-pleasing life?

This is the good and beautiful life.  This is a happy, abundant life.  This can be our life.
In fact, Christ’s highest longing for us is that we will experience just such a life!

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

And He pointed the way to that good and beautiful life when He stood up on the last and greatest day of the Jewish Feast of Passover and said in a loud voice so no one would miss it,

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.  By this he meant the Spirit…” (John 7:37-38)

That phrase “from within Him” points to the secret of a flourishing life.

It is not about wealth, about possessions, about consumption.  It is not about the absence of poverty or freedom from discomfort.  It is not about winning the lottery, climbing the ladder, managing our image, or euphoric pleasures.

In fact, Jesus said that if we didn’t watch out in our search for the abundant life, we could actually lose our souls.

            “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”  (Mark 8:36)

Jesus made it clear the secret to a flourishing life lies within.  It’s all about our interior life, the life of our heart, our soul, and our spirit being nourished by a vital relationship with Him through his indwelling Spirit.  He was pretty emphatic about this.

And King Solomon, underscored the importance of the interior life when He cautioned us to,

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

The good and beautiful life flow from a God-energized interior life.  And if we think that we can skip the interior life on the way to realizing our dream for a happy, fulfilling life, then we are sadly misguided and have lost our way.

What if Jesus were to do an audit of our interior life.  What would He conclude?
If we could open the doors to our interior lives, what would we find there?

Would we find a healthy, restful soul, bursting with faith, hope, and love?
Would we find a life-giving spirit filled with energy to give, to serve, to forgive?
Would we find a singing heart overflowing with joy and peace?

If we could walk through the interior garden of your soul, what kind of soil would we find?

Would it be hard and angry, producing habits of bitterness, resentment, even hate?
Would it be afraid, and cynical, leading to habits of withdrawal, or fear?

At Corpath we are committed to pursuing a life of excellence in business, in life and in spirit.
The harvest of a life of excellence in God’s eyes is a truly flourishing life.  And Jesus says such a life is first and foremost always dependent upon the quality of our interior life…our heart, our soul, our spirit and their connection to Him.

We know God cares more about our interior life than anything else, because didn’t He say,

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Blessings,
Gord

 

Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Leaders and Their False Self

One of the great tragedies of life for any leader is to live out of a “false self” and in so doing miss out on God’s best for our human journey.

We all long to live in a way that leads to happiness.  It is perhaps our deepest human desire.  And so we spend our lives scrambling for our best shot at personal fulfillment.

But not all routes lead to happiness because not all routes are authentic and true to our deepest self.  Unfortunately, many leaders default to strategies for happiness that are grounded in what psychologists and spiritual writers call “the false self.”

The false self is born out of a misguided belief that our deepest happiness will come from living life our way, not God’s way.  Oh sure…we may say that we trust God, that we have surrendered to his will, but deep in the core of our being we live in a way that doubts God will secure our happiness.

And instead, we seek fulfillment through inordinate attachments that preserve an image of ourselves that we think makes us special, to ourselves and to those whose impression of us is super important.  And so over time, we come to live with a mask on.  We learn how to present ourselves in the best possible light to others.

This dark side of pretending then evolves into an identity…it’s the way we really see ourselves.
But it’s an identity based on an illusion we have constructed.  Someone has said the false self is like the air we breathe.  We have become so accustomed to its presence that we are no longer aware of it.

The false self is afraid of being unmasked, so it wraps itself in experiences…of power, pleasure, honor, esteem, security.  And so the false self is a life of excessive attachments.  Maybe we cling to possessions, or accomplishments, memories or friendships, fashions or control of others.

These attachments to external things and experiences falsely anchor us and make us feel good…temporarily.  They help us escape from our feelings of vulnerability, of fear, even of shame.  The false self is like a fig leaf that we hide behind.

But in reality, these attachments, and the illusion of the false self they foster are very hazardous to our spiritual and psychological health.  They make our contentment dependent on their fleeting presence, instead of finding our contentment and peace in God.

It’s interesting that we can often readily see the false self at work in others, but it is never easy to recognize the lies that we tell our self.  The good news is there are clues that can help us throw off our illusions about ourselves.

One of those clues is defensiveness.  We bristle easily when our false way of being is attacked or threatened.  Another clue is to zero in on the pattern of our compulsions.  Compulsions can point to excessive attachments which preserve our false self.

At the core of the false self is a propensity to place my value in what I have, what I can do, and what others think of me.

In Matthew 4:4 the tempter invited Jesus to choose to live out of a false self.  But Jesus rejected all three of his not-so-subtle temptations: to power, to prestige and to finding his identity in possessions.

How about you and me?  Are we living out of a wholesome, life-giving identity that is grounded in the love our heavenly Father has for us?  Are we living out of an identity firmly rooted “in Christ,” in his love, his friendship, his acceptance, and his promises?

Doing so is the only route to experiencing the flourishing life Jesus promised when he said,

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

Or are we living an illusory life?  A life of excessive attachments to things and experiences that we falsely believe are the source of true fulfillment?

Achieving excellence in business, in life, and in spirit means rejecting the false self and coming out from behind our fig leaves.  It means recognizing what makes us feel vulnerable.  It means listening to God’s invitation and allowing him to embrace us just as we are.  It means reflecting on our excessive attachments and trusting God enough to let go of these illusions about our self.

Perhaps King David said it best,

“Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25)

Blessings,
Gord

With acknowledgment to David Benner’s “Unmasking the False Self” in The Gift of Being Yourself.
Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Courage, My Friend

Winston Churchill said courage is the most important virtue because the effective practice of all other virtues depends upon courage.

Virtuous behavior does not come naturally.  And let’s not kid ourselves…it takes inner courage and moral strength to follow Christ and embrace his virtuous life.

When was the last time you wore courage on your sleeve?

  • It takes courage to push back the darkness by seeking peace and thereby imitate God.
  • It takes courage to admit mistakes, make restitution, and seek shalom in our relationships.
  • It takes courage to forgive and love our enemies.
  • It takes courage to confront evil, stand for righteousness and seek justice.
  • It takes courage to live with open hands, sacrificing generously, and trusting God to look after us. 
  • It takes courage to resist the siren call of temptation, and live a counter-cultural life of righteousness.
  • It takes courage to overcome the fear of rejection and ridicule, and not be a people-pleaser.
  • It takes courage to stand firm with integrity when our business is threatened, our reputation assaulted, and our well-being put at risk.
  • It takes courage to leave the safety of the predictable and the security of the known when God prompts us to step forward into the unknown. 
  • It takes courage to speak up…and let the world know we follow Christ.

Courage always requires overcoming fear, disapproval, anxiety, and even pain.

Courageous Christ-followers always put God first.  Consider the courage of Thomas More, Prime Minister to Henry VIII.  When he refused to acknowledge the King as head of the Church of England, More was beheaded for taking his stand and defying the king.  But before he died he spoke these stirring words of courage, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

There are stories of courage that take our breath away.  In his book “Rumours of Another World,” Philip Yancey retells the courage of a black South African mother.  In the era of apartheid, she was forced to watch as her 18-year-old son, and then her husband were murdered and their bodies burned by the Police.  When Truth and Reconciliation came, the perpetrators of such atrocities were given clemency if they willingly faced their accusers and acknowledged their guilt.  When the policeman named van de Broek publicly recounted his crime, this mother was given an opportunity to respond.  She said she wanted de Broek to gather up the dust of her husband’s burned body so he could have a decent burial.  And then the courtroom was shocked when she said,

“My family was taken from me, but I still have a lot of love to give.  Twice a month, I would like for him to come to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can be a mother to him.  And I would like Mr. van de Broek to know that he is forgiven by God and that I forgive him too.  I would like to embrace him so he can know my forgiveness is real.” 

Spontaneously, the courtroom started singing Amazing Grace.  Van de Broek didn’t hear the hymn.  He had fainted, overwhelmed.”

This is courage in action…courage to confront the difficult…courage to forgive the seemingly unforgivable… the courage to love enemy.

The Bible has a lot to say about courage.

God tells Joshua to be very strong and courageous, because “I will be with you.”  (Joshua 1:9)
The presence of God is the source of our courage.

King David said because God had revealed His will to him that he “found the courage to pray to you.”  (1 Chronicle 17:25)   The revelation of God’s will for us through his Word births courage.

The disciples were attacked by fear during the storm, but Christ appeared and said, “Take courage; it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)  The presence of Jesus emboldens us with courage.

And our prayers help others to be courageous.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and said, “For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  And I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage…”  (Philippians 1:19-20)

Sometime this week, this month, this year, the moment of testing will be upon us.  Fear will rise up in the throat.  And when it does… in the words of Jesus, “Take courage.”

Success is not final, failure is not fatal.
It is the courage to continue that counts.


Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Overcoming the Dark Side

Quick now…can you think of a politician, a business paragon, a church leader or a cultural celebrity, whose life cratered with shards of self-destruction flying off in all directions?

Sadly, the litany of discredited leadership in our lifetime is a perversely long one.  We all know of church leaders whose moral failure destroyed their marriage and shocked their congregation; of priests who wantonly abused susceptible children; of business elites now languishing in prison; of politicians who succumbed to graft and corruption; of celebrities whose secret lives are nothing short of repulsive and shocking.

What explains this ever-present tendency to “march on the dark side?”  How can we as Corpath leaders preserve and protect our integrity, our reputations, our conscience before God, and our leadership legacy in the face of dark-side temptations?  What steps can we take to ensure we do not become more road kill on the wrong side of the leadership highway?

Here is a humble suggestion.  Every Corpath member should read Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by McIntosh and Rima.  It’s one of my five top recommended books on leadership.  Consider these nuggets:

Simply put, the first human leadership failure was the result of unrestrained pride and selfishness, with a healthy dose of self-deception.

We are capable of transforming even the most selfishly motivated action into an act of sacrificial altruism in our own minds, in keeping with Jeremiah who tells us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” (17:9)

Every leader possesses within him or her the raw material necessary for the manufacture of the dark side.  None of us is immune.

Though we may be only subconsciously aware of our dark side, there are signals that point to it: a drive to succeed, desire to be accepted, irrational fear, a need to be in control, perfectionism or various compulsions.  Our dark side is inclined to be an overcompensation for needs that have not been met in our lives.

Truth be told, the dark side infects us all as leaders.  It derives from our fallen nature and feeds off the early experiences of our lives which in some way left us wounded, threatened, fearful or angry.  And consequently, we have an existential debt from the past that we are unwittingly driven to repay through our dark side behaviors.   There is a certain twistedness in each of us, and in our more candid moments of self-reflection, we know this is true.

Consider the following dark-side behaviors and examples from the Bible:

The COMPULSIVE leader – Moses

…controller, workaholic, status-conscious, judgemental

The NARCISSISTIC leader – Solomon

…image is everything, feelings of inferiority, restless ambition

The PARANOID leader – Saul

…suspicious of others, insecure, coerce loyalty

The CODEPENDENT leader – Samson

…keep the peace, fail to confront, ease pain, burnout

The PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE leader – Jonah

…impulsive, impatient, complaining, procrastinate

We live in a fallen world.   And if we are not careful there are trip-wires everywhere that will exploit the dark-side potential of our fallen nature and sabotage our Corpath mission to achieve excellence in business, in life, and in spirit.  In my more candid moments, I admit to having walked on the dark side of leadership.   It was never pretty; it was never life-giving; it never honored God.  It only bred more dysfunction, more compulsion, more dark-side outcomes.

But the great truth is that Christ appeared to set us free from our dark side and live consistently in the light as he did.  In every situation, he was a life-giving leader, a moral force for good.  Christ is the divine, life-rescuing antidote to every dark-side poison.   Didn’t he say, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10)  Didn’t he also say, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

Life-giving leaders are those who acknowledge their dark side and overcome its compulsions through the redemptive, freedom-giving power of Christ.  Leaders who have been liberated from their dark-side dysfunctions are a rare gift to their family, their church, their friends and their business.

As Corpath leaders we can,

“…choose to acknowledge our dark side, practice a life of transparency before God,     and let down our guard, knowing he will begin his refining and empowering work in us; or we can choose to live in denial and even masquerade before God, fueling the ongoing development of our dark side.  The course we choose determines the nature of our leadership journey and the condition in which we arrive at our final destination.  (Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, p. 158)

Blessings for a journey of life-giving leadership ahead,

Gord

The Master’s Master Principle

Every time I read the account of this conversation it is quite jarring.  It’s not what you would expect from those who have been following Jesus for almost three years.  Consider the scene.  Jesus’ death is looming.  He has just celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples where He told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” He speaks of His body “given for you,” and of His blood “poured out for you.”  Clearly, He is consumed with a passion for others.  He longs to give His life away.

But then we are startled, for the next sentence is a shocker.

“Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.”  (Luke 22:24)

This juxtaposition is almost inconceivable.  Jesus has just been speaking of sacrifice, of suffering, of service, of dying.  And His disciples launch off into a big-headed discussion about which one of them was the greatest.

Talk about conceit, egoism, and self-seeking presumption.

Jesus will have none of it.  Here’s how He rebukes His disciples’ desire for self-glory.

“Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The greatest curse in spiritual life is conceit.”  Twisted pride in oneself always leads to a longing for self-elevation, to be noticed, to be esteemed, to be acknowledged, to achieve beyond others, to make the big splash.

Pride has traditionally been viewed as the first, worst and deadliest of the seven deadly sins.  It is a temptation endemic to all humanity, but especially to leaders…people who are driven to achieve, to succeed, to influence, to control, to be the best in class, to leave a mark.

Here in Corpath, as Christian leaders, we are all about pursuing excellence in business, in life, in spirit.  In Jesus’ thinking that excellence is impossible without a disposition to serve.  If He was among us as “one who serves,” then as His followers we too must be among our families, our employees, our cohorts, our clients, our shareholders, our communities “as one who serves.”

The theme of leadership is prominent in the Bible, but the word “leader” is not.  Instead, a different term is most commonly used to refer to godly leadership.  The highest accolade for the Christian leader should be for Christ to view us the way God saw Moses.  He did not say, “Look at Moses, my leader.”  Instead, God says, “Moses, my servant.” (Numbers 12;1-8)

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had encountered the spirit of egoism when two of His inner circle, James and John, asked for preeminent positions in His kingdom to come.  When the ten other disciples heard this they were indignant.  Jesus called them all together and unequivocally declared the Master’s Master Principle when He said,  …whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:42-45)  The disposition of Jesus’ heart was to serve.  In His view greatness only comes by way of servanthood.  And for Him it was not first about acts of service; instead, it was “the spirit of servanthood” that mattered first.

This was the Master’s Master Principle of leadership.  And it should be ours.

I am among you as one who serves.”  (Luke 22:27)

Blessings for good days of servant leadership ahead.


Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Followers of “The Way”

Labelling people has always been a short-hand way of describing and understanding our world.  Christians have always been fond of using tags to self-identify, to mark our camps.  Charismatic, progressive, fundamentalist, Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, “red-letter,” contemplative, sacramental …and the list goes on and on.  Frankly, and maybe at the risk of offending, I have very little use for such labels.  They tend to elevate differences, build up fences, create unfriendly boundaries, chase away strangers, and often militate against unity in the Christian family.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there is little value in Christian traditions.  My Mennonite heritage has bequeathed me a rich legacy of Christian thought and practice.

But there is one over-arching label that we should all embrace as Christian leaders.  It’s the label that stuck to the first community of Christians.  In the Book of Acts, we learn disciples of Jesus were first called “Christians” at Antioch.  This label is not surprising.  It was an easy handle with which to identify people who believed Jesus was “the Christ,” the Messiah.  And no doubt for some it was also a term of derision.  (Wasn’t Caesar “Lord” and not this crucified, itinerant, peasant preacher?)

However, it’s not the label “Christian” that gets my attention.  Before Christ-followers were tagged as “Christians,” they were called something else.  And it’s that something else which is profoundly attractive.

We read about this striking label for the first time in Acts 9.  “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples…and asked him (the High priest) for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”

Six times we find this phrase “the Way” in the book of Acts. In Ephesus, we read that people, “maligned the Way” (19:9).  After becoming a believer Paul said he had “persecuted the followers of the Way to their death.” (22:4).

Whether they lived in Damascus, in Ephesus, in Jerusalem, or in Rome…whether they were rich or poor, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female…there was something remarkably distinguishing and radical about these people who self-identified as “followers of the Way.” What was it about this “Way of Living” that marked them as different?  What was their defining reality?

You can’t miss it when you read the Book of Acts.  If we could have observed these followers-of-the-Way meeting in their house-churches and living their day-to-day lives in their homes and at work, here’s what we would have noticed:

  • Joyful worship replaced stifling religious rules as they declared Jesus was Lord (not Caesar.)
  • Forgiveness and non-retaliation replaced animosity, grudges and revenge.
  • Humility and respect outshone pride; generosity overtook greed and avarice.
  • Compassion replaced judgementalism and gossip; self-sacrifice replaced fear.
  • Sexual purity won out over immorality; truth-telling shattered deception.
  • The open doors of hospitality replaced the closed doors of ethnic, racial, religious, gender and economic discrimination.
  • Jesus is alive!” became their daily mantra.“

A new ethic of love had been birthed!  It was a stunning new way to live…and what a fragrant life it was.  No wonder it says in the Book of Acts, “…they enjoyed the favor of all the people.” (2:47)

With those early Christians, could you…would you say, “I am a follower of the Way.”  Is that your prime mode of self-identification?

Here at Corpath we’re all about pursuing excellence in spirit, in life, and in business.  I think another way to say that might be that Corpath members are striving to be “followers of the Way.”

 

Gordon Dirks, President (Interim)

Corpath Business Forums – www.corpath.ca

Eight Words

When do you pray?  What do you pray about?  Whom do you pray for?  Do you pray at all?

When it comes to prayer, Jesus set the pace for us.  He prayed before picking His team of co-workers (that would be his 12 disciples.)  He prayed when people needed a miracle (remember the five loaves and two fish).  He prayed with Peter, James, and John before His transfiguration.  He told parables about persisting in prayer and not giving up.  He prayed for Simon Peter.  He prayed when He ate the last supper with His disciples.  He prayed in the face of His biggest test (before His arrest at the mount of Olives).  He prayed when He was dying.  He kept on praying after His resurrection (at the meal with two disciples from Emmaus).

His disciples were so moved by His transparent and powerful praying they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11)  And in response, He taught them to pray to their Father in Heaven (Matt. 6), and one line from what we know as The Lord’s Prayer surely got their attention, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” 

If you think deeply about this sentence, it will soon strike you that we should never fall into the trap of bifurcating our lives into the spiritual and the secular, into church and business.  God has told us that He made all, He rules all, He owns all.  That would be everything.

The former President of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, succinctly said it like this,

“There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign overall all, does not cry out, Mine!”

If our Lord Jesus owns all, is sovereign over all, and wants His will to be done and His kingdom to come here on earth, then surely every aspect of our business, family and personal life falls into the realm of His interests.

And that means everything.  Every moment is therefore pregnant with possibilities for prayer.

  • Need to hire a new employee?  God is interested.  Pray.
  • Need to make some big financial decisions about the disposition of your wealth?  Pray.
  • Facing a tough decision?  God has called us to ask for wisdom.  Pray.
  • Feeling the tug of an especially nasty temptation? The Bible says, “Watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation.”

And particularly pray when that mountain-sized problem walks through the front door.

I’m always inspired by the account of Nehemiah as he is working his way through a strategy to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  He fasts and prays.  He knows the success of his strategy is contingent upon the king granting his request for a travel permit.  He asks God for favour in the presence of the king.  Then, when the moment comes, and the king says, “What is it that you want?” we read these eight simple words that changed the course of Jewish history.  Nehemiah tells us,

“Then I prayed to the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4)

I’m sure it was a very short prayer, breathed quickly in his mind to God, and was likely over in just a few seconds.  But that prayer altered things forever.  Maybe he prayed, “O God, help me now.”  Or perhaps, “Give me success, Lord.”  Or maybe, “I’m in your hands, God.”  History tells us God moved the heart of the king and the Jerusalem project became a resounding success.

I think God wants all of us to be Nehemiahs.  Because Christ rules over all and is therefore interested in all, and because God’s Word tells us to “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17), and “on all occasions” (Eph. 6:18), there is never a moment that is not a candidate for prayer.

Our Corpath mantra goes like this: pursuing excellence in business, in life, in spirit.  God’s plan all along has been to assist us in this pursuit of excellence.  And that means there is no problem, there is no opportunity, there is no possibility for which God does not want us to ask for His wisdom, His provision, His intervention, His favour, His kingdom come.

Can you say with Nehemiah, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven?”

Gordon Dirks, President (Interim)