Woe #6: Whitewashed Tombs

We are almost finished with our look at the woes that Jesus delivered in Matthew 23. This week, we Screen Shot 2020-04-04 at 5.36.05 PM
look at the next-to-the-last entry, this one found in Matthew 23:27-28:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

In the essay on the fifth woe, we saw how the leaders were more interested in cleaning the outside of the cup, so to speak, while ignoring cleansing the inside, which was more important in God's eyes. This woe continues with that that theme, The problem with this woe is that people were coming into contact with the leaders and there was no benefit. Let me explain.

Jews were not permitted to come into contact with a dead body or else they were rendered ceremonially unclean, which meant they could not participate in Temple worship or sacrifices:

“Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean.  If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them (Numbers 19:11-13).

Anyone in Israel who would whitewash a tomb was putting an outward decoration on something that was anything but beautiful or desirable. Jesus was not insinuating that anyone who "touched" these leaders were unclean according to the Law, but He was saying that those people were not helped because of the leaders' spiritual condition—and that is the exact opposite of what God intended to happen when His shepherds or leaders interacted with His flock. This was always a serious problem for the Lord:

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!”declares the LordTherefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 23:1-4).

Paul was clear as to God's expectations for results from the leader/follower relationship: "This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down" (2 Corinthians 13:10); "If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer" (2 Corinthians 1:6); and 

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

When people had an encounter with Jesus, they usually came away better than when they first arrived. That is how God expects the interaction to be between His people and His leaders. That can only happen when the leaders, while not perfect, are not pretending to be in a better spiritual place than they truly are. That requires transparency and humility, but it makes the leaders able to help others who are on the same spiritual journey to wholeness as the leaders. Then those leaders can feed and tend God's flock just as Paul did—as one encouraging, comforting, and teaching example of a follower of Jesus.


Woe #5: Kiss or Miss

Jesus criticized the leaders of Israel in Matthew 23, pronouncing seven "woes" that summarized His Screen Shot 2020-03-28 at 5.06.47 PMcomplaints against them. Jesus was still reaching out to them through strong words, hoping that they would come to their senses and repent, but alas, they were too far gone to hear what He was saying. We must take His words to heart today in order to avoid the mistakes those leaders made. In His fifth woe, Jesus said, 

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean" (Matthew 23:25-26).

What was the main problem represented in this woe? It seems that it was the problem of emphasis of external appearance as opposed to internal substance. Jesus expanded this problem at other times:

  • “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces" (Luke 11:43).
  • Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person" (Mark 7:15-23).
  • "But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11b-12).

Of course, Jesus modeled the behavior He expected in His leaders, which was the exact opposite of what He was describing in this woe where the leaders of His day were concerned. Isaiah reported this about Jesus: "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). Jesus had no armor bearers, no badge of honor, or no trappings of leadership that the people of His time had come to expect.

In fact, when Judas betrayed Jesus, he was concerned that the guards he was to lead to Jesus would not recognize him because the Romans and Temple guards were used to their leaders standing out by their uniform or some other external distinctive. Judas in essence said, "You had better let me kiss Him or you will miss Him!" The guards would have arrested Peter or John or any other of the disciples because Jesus would not have stood out as the leader.

Jesus' message is clear to His leaders. Don't work on the external trappings of power; work on the heart. He made it clear at the Last Supper how we are to do this: 

"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 22:26-27).

What are you working on to enhance your leadership? Is it the inner person of the heart? Or are you enamored with the outward benefits of leadership—the respect, the special honor, the perks like a corner office or other special benefits? Be careful, for you may begin to think you deserve those things when they are available to you, which can lead to the self-indulgence and greed that Jesus identified in the fifth woe. The only antidote for the negative effects of leadership power is service, and that service requires a humble heart that focuses on the' welfare of other people.


Woe #4: Justice, Mercy, Faithfulness

As we continue looking at the list of "woes" Jesus presented in Matthew 23, we come to Jesus' fourth Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 12.15.11 PMadmonition as found in Matthew 23:23-24:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

These leaders had overextended the Law to apply to irrelevant matters, or as I wrote last week, they were majoring in minors. Their hollow ritualism caused them to be blind to weightier matters that according to Jesus were the concepts of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Before we condemn these men too quickly, do we have any traditions that also major in minors? How about the practice of armor bearers that some leaders deploy? Or how about the attachment to titles like author, apostle, prophet, or deacon? Or corner offices for leaders and cubicles for "lesser lights." Every culture has bestowed certain perks on its leaders, but do those perks contribute to justice, mercy, or faithfulness? If not, then perhaps Jesus is speaking to us as well.

Justice, mercy, and faithfulnessthose words and concepts are subjective and mean something different to everyone. If I mention justice, what does it cause you to envision? For some, it is feeding the poor, for others it is education, and for still others, it may mean environmental sensitivities. How can we come to a definition upon which we all can agree? One way would be to see what Jesus' definition was and submit to that, so let's try and do that by looking at a question someone asked Jesus:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).

So the first part of the definition for justice is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. How should the second part play out in our lives? Jesus answered that in Matthew 7:12: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." The Law and prophets both hang on and are summed up by loving your neighbor as yourself.

Justice and mercy are therefore to be faithfully expressed according to what you would want others to do to and for you. It's not about the church feeding more people; it's about you feeding more people. It's not about the government doing more for children; it's about you doing more for children. Then when you lead an organization or movement, you can influence that group from a position of integrity and faith because you have done not what you are demanding or expecting others to do but what you have already been faithfully doing.

How do you present yourself with justice and mercy through social media? By treating others as you would want to be treated? How do you present yourself with justice and mercy to the church or government? By asking them to help you do what you are already doing to express justice and mercy, and not demanding they do it in your place. 

Do you have any traditions, ways of thinking, or pet peeves that are blinding you to the need for justice, mercy, and faithfulness in your life? Are you majoring in minors? Are you self-righteous like those people Jesus was addressing in Matthew 23? Don't answer too quickly, for you may be blinded to the reality of your own heart, just like the leaders in Jesus' day were. Instead, ask the Lord to show you where you lack justice, mercy, or faithfulness and then seek to correct your own approach to those matters before you try and correct someone else.


Woe #3: Starting Points

This week, let's look at the third woe Jesus listed in his sermon found in Matthew 23, and he had more in the way of explanation for this one than for any of the others: Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 11.48.34 AM

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it" (Matthew 23:16-22).

Jesus attempted to show the leaders that they were majoring in minors by emphasizing and teaching principles that seemed spiritual but were not. What does this tell us about God's expectations for leaders in and out of the church?

  1. God is the source of authoritative teaching on what is right and what is wrong. That source was embodied in Jesus, whom the leaders were contradicting and rejecting.
  2. God holds all leaders everywhere accountable to obey His words and commands. The prophets did not only address Israel but rather all the surrounding nations.
  3. Teachers and leaders must be able to learn principles and then properly apply them to real-life situations that are not specifically addressed by those principles. For example, some aspects of modern life are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. God expects His leaders to address those modern aspects with ancient and timeless guidelines from His Word.
  4. Jesus labeled the leaders blind (three times in this passage) and had said earlier in Matthew's gospel, "Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14). If leaders cannot see where they are going for themselves, they cannot lead others to a good place.

Leaders must constantly study to improve their discernment and gather wisdom, so the Jewish leaders were correct in gathering and studying regularly, but their blindness caused them to study the wrong things and/or come to the wrong conclusions. This points out the importance for all leaders to challenge their "starting points" to ensure they are starting from the right logical point. For example, the Jewish leaders' "starting point" was that God would never heal on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed, they logically concluded from an incorrect starting point that He was not from God and had to be executed. In this third woe, the leaders were doing the same thing: starting at the wrong point and then traveling down the wrong path that led to erroneous conclusions. Their conclusions were logical but were flawed because of their incorrect assumption.

Do you challenge your starting points to ensure you are starting your logic and leadership from the correct place? Are you growing and learning how to apply past experiences and ancient wisdom to daily problems you face? Who do you have in your circle of influence who challenges your thinking, starting points, assumptions, and conclusions? Are you willing and able to change your starting points so that you don't lead people astray?


Woe #2: Misguided Effort

Recently I began a leadership series based on Jesus' message to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 that contained seven warnings all marked by the word "woe." Woe is a term that designates sadness or doom and can be contrasted to the word "blessed" or "happy" that Jesus used when He began His public ministry: "Blessed [happy] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). This week, let's look at the second woe and see what we can learn and apply to our own Screen Shot 2020-03-07 at 10.21.32 AMleadership philosophy:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are" (Matthew 23:15).

Paul himself summarized the problem with the leaders of his people when he wrote, "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge" (Romans 10:2). God expects His leaders to focus on the important things—His priorities—and build His kingdom and not their own. The leaders in Jesus' day were doing the opposite. 

What's more, because they had not achieved any spiritual maturity themselves, they were incapable of leading anyone to a better place in the Lord. Therefore, their converts were actually farther removed from spiritual reality and thus incapable of entering into any kind of healthy spiritual place. 

In modern terms, we would label anyone who travels to recruit followers to a particular belief as an evangelist. Jesus indicated that there were Jewish evangelists who traveled to make converts to Judaism. My personal theory is that Saul was such a man. When someone needed to go to Damascus to hunt for believers (see Acts 9), Saul volunteered to go because he had been there before. No member of the Sanhedrin wanted to go to a Gentile land for fear of becoming unclean, but Saul had no such fear because he knew how to travel and stay undefiled. He had been to Damascus (and other cities) to further Jewish interests but the Lord apprehended him to confront him with the reality of woe number two. Saul was making his converts twice the son of hell that he was, but then became an evangelist who set people free rather than burdening them with useless traditions.

God expects His leaders not to bind up followers under legalistic rituals and rules that limit their creativity and growth. They must teach followers how to apply general principles to the new challenges every generation must face so the Lord is honored and His purpose served and enhanced. This includes denominations and faith-based organizations that delight in having their adherents follow the traditions they have honed over time rather than a life of the Spirit who leads and guides His followers into all the truth. 

What kind of leader are you? Are you setting people free or binding them up? Don't answer too quickly, but instead seek the Lord to help you understand what kind of evangelist you are—one who recruits people to a life of freedom or a life of bondage.


Woe #1: Shutting the Door

Last week, I began a leadership series based on Jesus' message to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 that contained seven warnings all marked by the word "woe." Woe is a term that designates sadness or doom and can be contrasted to the word "blessed" or "happy" that Jesus used when He began His public ministry: "Blessed [happy] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Let's examine the reason for the first woe and see what the leaders were doing that attracted Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 6.38.26 AMGod's anger (so we can learn to avoid the same behavior):

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to" (Matthew 23:13-14).

Here are some thoughts I have. Feel free to add your own to this post:

  1. The leaders were hypocrites who were wearing a mask pretending to be righteous when they were not. This act caused them to deceive themselves that they were righteous when they were not. God requires us to be honest about who we are, seek Him for internal change in the power of the Spirit, and then act accordingly. 
  2. The leaders could not take people to a good place because they had never gone there themselves. Leaders cannot reproduce in the lives of others what they have not partnered with God to produce in themselves.
  3. The goal or destination was the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom of men or religion. If the "rules" of God are not the main focus, leaders will create their own rules and they are always harsher than God's.
  4. Not only were the leaders not in touch with God's kingdom requirements, they were slamming the door in the faces of those who wanted to know God's will for their lives. (It is considered rude to slam the door in someone's face and ungodly leaders are quite often rude people.) This tells us that leaders are to help people know and do God's will for their lives. When leaders don't do that, followers are stymied in their spiritual or professional progress.

This clearly indicates that Jesus expects any leader, in the church or outside it, to assist others to fulfill their purpose in the Lord by taking the things the (the leaders) have learned and helping others learn from those experiences. Leaders are to be accessible and willing to assist others not as experts but rather as fellow seekers and disciples. This process is best summarized by what Peter wrote in his epistle: 

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).

The attitude of leaders must be that they lead 1) willingly; 2) to serve and not to amass wealth; and 3) as role models and not as autocrats. It is obvious that the Pharisees led with the opposing attitudes and behaviors; they served the people grudgingly and with cruelty, did it for money and prestige, and used their positional power to lord their authority over others. 

What kind of a leader are you? Are you a door opener for others or a door slammer? Do you serve or lord? Are you growing or expecting others to grow while you stagnate or regress? We will see clearly from this series that Jesus expects His leaders to hold to a higher standard than the world, and He does not apologize for His expectations, for He modeled them firsthand for us to see and emulate. Let's make sure we adopt the correct standards when we evaluate our leadership or that of others, otherwise we may be walking the valley of woe that is the sentence for any who refuse to adopt God's leadership ways.


The Woes

I have begun a personal study of Jesus's words to the leadership of Israel found in Matthew 23. During his sermon, Jesus pronounced seven woes upon the leaders for their woeful leadership. I have assigned a page to each one of the woes in my journal where I am jotting down notes and insights to aid my own leadership development and thought I would share some of my thoughts with you. As you are aware, I believe there is a leadership crisis in the church (and in society for that matter) so anything we can do to contribute to leadership growth and improvement will go a long way toward addressing the Screen Shot 2020-02-21 at 11.07.48 PM crisis. Let's begin with the preamble to the woes:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:1-12).

Rather than look at the negatives of what the leaders were not doing, let's see if we can determine what they should have been doing so we can adopt those behaviors and attitudes.

  1. Leaders must practice what they preach. We cannot take people where we are not willing to go ourselves, both externally and internally.
  2. Leaders must help people carry their burdens while being careful not to add to what the Lord has placed on each person.
  3. Leaders must do things not to be seen but to make a difference in the lives of others, doing it for the Lord who will reward.
  4. Leaders should do all they can to blend in with the people and not set themselves apart in where they sit, what they wear, or how they are treated and addressed.
  5. Leaders, whether in church or business, are simply members or employees who have a leadership role. This does not make them special or warrant favored treatment. Seeking after titles or allowing people to assign those titles is strictly forbidden.
  6. Humility is the hallmark of a godly leader and that is expressed by service, not by prestige and displays of power or position.

There is much more in those verses and I'm sure you will read them and say in your mind, "Amen!" Yet the practice of amour-bearers, special seating, titles, and lack of service continue to plague the church despite Jesus' teachings and warning. I urge you to examine your own heart where these issues are concerned and not be ready to judge others until you have dealt with these matters in your own life. Don't assume you are a servant or even know how to do serve? Don't criticize others who do things to be noticed until you stop doing so yourself or at least are no longer offended when you are not recognized for your service and good deeds.

I invite you to post your own comments as to what you see in these verses and then follow along in subsequent entries as we examine the woes Jesus described that apply as much to us today as they did to Pharisees in Jesus' day.


Times of Trouble

In case you haven't noticed, the world is full of trouble—big trouble. We now have a global health crisis, the ongoing threat of terrorism, random acts of violence, political distress and upheaval, and a lot of mistrust, hatred even, between people groups. I am in Colombia as I write and I have had more people than usual write to say they are praying for my safety, which I certainly appreciate. How can we navigate and negotiate these troubled times without being overwhelmed with trepidation? Should we stay cooped up on our houses? Hire body guards?

This post is not to prescribe anything like that, but I do want to share what I learned to do when I was in Screen Shot 2020-02-01 at 10.10.55 AMAfghanistan in 2002 right after the war against terrorism started there. I was with a group of believers from all over the world and we met every morning at 7 a.m. for prayer. When we ended our time, we all recited aloud Psalm 91 and it had a soothing effect that framed our day as we left to go out into a society where every building was riddled with bullet holes or pock marks from explosives. Perhaps you want to adopt this habit during these times of trouble. In case you do, here is Psalm 91 in its entirety:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

I believe the promises in Psalm 91. This does not release us to do foolish, reckless things, but it does allow us to walk in comfort and security during turbulent times. I want not just to talk about the promises of God; I also want to live in them as I carry out my purpose. I invite you to join me in doing the same.


Down, But Not Out

As we close out the year, I trust you have had a purposeful and productive year. There is a Christmas gift for you at the very end of this entry. Before you get to all that, however, please enjoy this classic Monday Memo from the archives and apply the purpose lessons to your life this holiday season.

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I love spending time in the city of London. One year while I was there, I went to see Handel’s Messiah Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 6.01.30 PM
at the Royal Albert Music Hall. What a wonderful way to enjoy a timeless masterpiece of music and Scripture in the city where it was composed. That visit sparked one of my Christmas favorites from the Monday Memo archives, which I present to you again this year.

MESSIAH

Messiah is considered by many to be the greatest musical feat in the history of mankind. Commissioned by a charity to produce a benefit concert, Handel wrote the Messiah in only 24 days. A musician once told me that someone trying to copy the Messiah could hardly do so in 24 days—that is the level of inspiration in which Handel operated when he wrote. Handel never left his house for those three weeks. His food trays remained untouched outside his office door.

A friend who visited him as he composed found him sobbing with intense emotions. Later, as Handel groped for words to describe what he had experienced, he quoted St. Paul, saying, “whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not.”

What’s even more impressive is that Handel wrote Messiah under extreme duress. The Church of England strongly criticized and opposed Handel and his previous Scriptural works put to music. At the age of 56, he had no money, often going out only at night so as to avoid his creditors. Handel performed what he considered his farewell concert and went home, fully expecting to end up in debtor’s prison. Yet the first performance of Messiah in Ireland in 1742 raised almost 400 British pounds for charity and freed 142 other men from debtor's prison. Of course, the rest is history as countless millions have enjoyed and marveled at his work for more than 250 years. Handel also went on from there to enjoy tremendous success and popularity in his latter years.

So what does this have to do with you? Perhaps you are a person of purpose but you feel frustrated, even defeated in your PurposeQuest. Maybe you find yourself down and out, discouraged and criticized, forgotten and a failure. Perhaps your finances are in poor shape. If any of those descriptions fit you, read on, for this Memo can restore your hope and faith. If that’s not where you are right now, read on anyway, for that will probably describe you one day as you pursue your purpose.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE DOWN AND OUT

What should you do if you are in a season of “un-use,” disfavor, or inaction? As we close out 2018, I urge you to do three things if you are discouraged, disillusioned, or dismayed. And if you’re not, I urge you to find someone who is—you shouldn’t have to look too hard—and encourage them in their dark time.

  1. Renew your faith in God. Your success and purpose expression don’t depend on your faithfulness; they depends on God’s. Remind yourself that God can do anything, and then rest in Him. Handel went home to retire and perhaps thought it was all over for him. Yet God helped him when a group found and commissioned him, and God can do the same for you.
  2. Keep preparing for your day of success. I don’t think Handel went home to retire and abandon music. Don't you abandon your love either. Keep writing, reading, learning, and practicing. When the phone rings or the mail comes with your opportunity, you will be fresh and prepared, having worked in faith for the day of success.
  3. Be generous. Handel wrote Messiah for charity, even though he was destitute. What can you do for someone else even though you are down and out? It is a good thing to do the unexpected in hard times, and giving something away definitely fits the bill when you are in need yourself. What better way to express your trust in God?

I had some financially hard times in 2019 and had to resort to my own advice, following the three steps I outlined above. I am glad to report that I did not waver in carrying them out, and they brought me through. I’m grateful for God's help as 2019 comes to an end, and I hope you can find reasons to be thankful as well. If it's been a tough year for you, thank God for His faithfulness that kept it from being worse. At least you’re still alive and purpose eligible! Then take this Memo to heart or share it with someone who needs it. I pray that as you do what I recommend above, you will see a purpose breakthrough in 2020. Thank you for allowing me to come into your life every week and thank you for being a fellow PurposeQuest-er. As I close this Memo, I wish you not only a great week, but a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season!

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CHRISTMAS GIFT: Here is an link to my audio message (40 mins) titled "Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas."


Thanksgiving Offering

Here is a report from WEEP, our project that distributes sanitary products to young ladies every WhatsApp Image 2019-11-19 at 7.27.58 AMmonth. Please read the report through to the end and then consider contributing to my ministry's Thanksgiving offering to support WEEP and my other programs for the poor:

With the new scheduling for schools in Kenya, most students are on break for the month of November. With that considered, this month has been a mix of in-person distribution to schoolgirls as well as direct distribution to the schools, allowing the girls who are on break to pick up pads at their convenience. Since school resumes in January, this will be the same method of delivery for the month of December.
 
WhatsApp Image 2019-11-19 at 7.27.57 AM (1)As WEEP moves towards finishing its fourth year of operation, we are pleased to report that we continue to provide pads to well over 500 girls at this time. In January 2016, when operations first began, we had started with one school and slightly more than 100 girls. Our first school continues to maintain an attendance of three times as many (300+) at present and we have maintained our relationship with seven schools overall. The photos attached are part of the November distributions.

I tell the Lord almost every day, "I owe You, Lord. I am grateful for your blessings and am committed to WhatsApp Image 2019-11-19 at 7.27.57 AM
do Your will--no matter where or what it is." In this season in the U.S. when we give thanks, someone has generously offered a $500 matching gift for the work of my ministry. Every dollar you give now becomes $2. Let's give thanks together as we remember my work among the poor. Your gift this Thanksgiving season will help me continue my work In Kenya and in other places. If we are friends on Facebook, you can give through that fundraiser. Otherwise you can give on my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.