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."


My 2019 Writing Goals

I share all my writing goals below so you understand how I structure my goals and work to be fruitful and productive; what can you add to help our readers set their own goals and be more fruitful? WritingPIc

  1. New Year's morning, the first thing I did was edit my daily devotional (today from my book A Daily Taste of Proverbs); then I copied and pasted it to Facebook; then I posted it to LinkedIn and Twitter; I do that Monday through Friday and draw material from five of my daily devotionals. It helps me to jump start my writing day and keeps me in touch with my followers all over the world.
  2. On New Year's Eve, I set up my manuscript for my Corinthians commentary (written and 115k words); I will edit that in January and have it ready to publish in March (It would be February, but I am going to Kenya in February).
  3. On New Year's, I began editing my next book (my 'Go and' series from the Monday Memo) titled 'Go and Obey'; my goal is to have it finished in January for publication in March/April.
  4. This week, I will sketch out my revisions for my 2009 book "Changing the Way We Do Church" I will start to edit and write new material in January, but most probably won't get much into that until late Feb/early March.
  5. After I finish Corinthians, I have three more volumes of my New Testament commentaries (written but need to be edited), which will be done, with God's help, by Dec 31, 2019; here is the link for the commentaries that are complete (Romans is done but in final stages of publishing).
  6. Someone gave me the idea this past week for a book I will title "Put Me in, Coach!" That is on the horizon for 2019.

What are your goals this year that will enable you to activate, stimulate, and rejuvenate your creativity?


A Spirit of Fear

If you are like me, you know 2 Timothy 1:7 by heart: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (NKJV). I use this verse often when I coach people to find purpose or to be creative, and I have felt free to use this truth in many other areas of life and ministry, including my own. Therefore I was surprised this week when I looked at this verse in the context where it is found, and discovered that I should not be as free to use this verse as I have been, for it seems to be  specific and focused in one and not all areas of life.

In the verse before seven, Paul wrote these words: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God FanIntoFlamePicwhich is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Paul was urging Timothy to recognize the gift he had and instructed him to fan the gift into flames. When our homes had a fireplace, I would often have to employ this tactic. If I could get a small flame going, I would gently blow on it, giving it more oxygen so that it would spread. That is what Paul was telling Timothy to do: Take the smallest spark of his gift and do what he had to do to make it burn hotter and brighter.

So the context for not having a spirit of fear is not applied to all areas of life, but to the expression of our purpose and gifts. Paul would not tell us not to be afraid where our gift is concerned unless it was a common tendency for it to happen. We shrink back in fear when we have a chance to express who we are instead of taking every opportunity to do so and to learn how to do it more effectively.

Where are you afraid to express your gift? In fact, do you know what your gift is? Have others laid hands on you to confirm or release the gift? What can you do to fan it into flames, giving it the oxygen it needs to flourish and prosper. I have been on a search and destroy mission the last few years of my life to find and eradicate fear, and it's been a large task. I suspect this will continue for the rest of my life.

What are you doing to confront and neutralize the fear where your gift is concerned? I encourage you to read these verses and the others in 2 Timothy 1 and do what Paul was advising Timothy to do, which was to stop hiding behind his fears but to step out into the light of self-expression, which is the only way to honor God for making you who He made you to be.


The Foundation of the Old

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many" -- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14.

Yesterday, we looked at Jesus' words that teachers of the Law will do creative things when they enter the Kingdom of God. Paul is a perfect example of what Jesus was talking about. The first half of many of Paul's epistles contains many important theological truths; the second half is full of practical steps of how to carry out the great theological truths. Paul's letters and theology, while inspired by the Holy Spirit, are also a product of Paul's creativity, for the Spirit was able to use Paul's background, experience, and unique insight to mold and shape the new doctrine of the church that was based on Paul's Old Testament foundation. While Peter had the keys to the Kingdom, only Paul had the creativity that could receive, conceptualize, and explain the Spirit's vision for the Church. Do you see that your preparation determines how much of your creativity God can use for His purpose? Do you also see that your ability to visualize and create the new emanates from how well you have mastered the basics in your field of creativity and innovation? Are you willing to pay the price to become proficient enough to do something new?

Lord, I have placed all the emphasis on revelation and creativity like Paul exhibited on the work of the Spirit, but today I see that the Spirit used someone who was prepared and primed to do the "new thing" that You were announcing. I want to be like Paul, but first I need to prepare like Paul so I can have older things in my storehouse of wisdom to join with the new things You will bring my way.


True Creativity

"He said to them, 'Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old'” -- Matthew 13:52.

Jesus was instructing His disciples that anyone entering the Kingdom who had been a teacher of the Law was in a unique position. That person would have a rich heritage of tradition, yet would also encounter and see new things that would enable them to creatively combine old principles with new concepts. Let's apply this truth to creativity in general. Most people believe creativity is doing, thinking, or making something that no one in the history of the world has ever done, thought, or made. Most times, that is not the case. Instead, creativity is taking something old, like water, combining it with something else, like a plastic bottle, and meeting a new need (portable water available anywhere) to create something new but not unheard of. Do you have the ability to see how old things can be used in new ways? Do you see that as a function of your creativity?

Lord, I have misinterpreted creativity, and therefore I have not recognized it when it appears in my life. Yes, I have the ability to see new uses for existing things, and now I understand that is part of my God-given creativity. Consequently, I am free to be creative since it doesn't mean I have to invent or be creative like Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs to do so.


A Creative Confrontation

"The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, 'There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

'Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.'

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, 'As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity'" -- 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

Nathan the prophet had the unenviable task of confronting King David about his sin with Bathsheba, which the king had covered over for a year. Nathan knew if he was going to get the king's attention, he had to be creative and tread carefully, or else forfeit his own life. What did Nathan do? He drew on his creativity and told a story to David that caused David to react and pass judgment on David's own behavior, without realizing what he had done. Then when Nathan identified David as the rich man in the story, David had no choice but to confess and own up to his sin. Are you facing a tough problem that requires confronting someone, perhaps even your superior? Have you considered an indirect, creative approach that may soften the sting and open the door to real dialogue and even repentance? Pray and ask God for help!

Lord, this story is a beautiful example of creativity in action to address a difficult human problem. I need that kind of creative wisdom as I parent, lead, follow, minister, and counsel. I ask You to grant me the ability to confront with the skill and care that Nathan showed in this story.


A Creative Plan

"And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine" -- Genesis 41:33-36.

His brothers' creative lie took Joseph to Egypt where he served for 13 years, some of the time as an imprisoned slave. Then one day, he went from the jailhouse to the White House, so to speak, when he was summoned to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Not only did he interpret them, he also created an on-the-spot plan to respond to the message of those dreams, which was seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed with his creativity, spontaneity, wisdom, and poise that he promoted him on the spot to the position of vice-president. Joseph was probably surprised at what had happened, for his response to Pharaoh's dreams was very matter-of-fact, giving the impression that this creativity was so normal for Joseph, he did not think it anything special. Do you have creativity that you don't think is very special? Do you see that your creativity can be the source for your promotion and success? Why then, are you holding back on expressing it?

Lord, I sometimes speak with creative wisdom, and people seek me out for my response, just like Pharaoh did Joseph. Help me to get past the "oh, that was nothing" mentality to seeing and accepting that my creativity is an important part of who I am and will help take me where You want me to be in Your will.


A Creative Lie

"Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, 'We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.' He recognized it and said, 'It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces'" -- Genesis 37:31-33.

After Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, they concocted a story to tell their father of what happened to Joseph. They took the coat their father had given to Joseph, dipped it in blood, and allowed Jacob to come to the wrong conclusion. That's not the worst part. They then allowed their father to live in that lie for 22 years, so long that the brothers believed it themselves, which is why they could not recognize Joseph when they saw him in Egypt because they believed he was dead. How often did these brothers have to creatively pretend like they missed their brother? How often did they have to creatively lie and embellish the story of Joseph's disappearance, covering the truth with a lie that turned into a huge deception? You can use your creativity for good as a means to serve God and others, or you can and will use it for other self-serving purposes. The choice is yours.

Lord, I choose to use my creativity not to build a fantasy world that I eventually believe, but to use it as You intended: to creatively serve Your kingdom and the people in it. Deliver me from all creative falsehoods that include excuses, denials of the truth, and facades that cover the truth in my heart.


Not Gender Specific

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him" – Genesis 37:3.

Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons because of what Joseph represented: the love of Joseph's mother, Rachel (who died in childbirth while delivering Joseph's brother), and God's faithfulness to Jacob in his old age. Therefore, Jacob made his son a special coat for Joseph to show his special affection, which of course drove the other brothers crazy to the point of conspiracy to murder. The point is, however, that Jacob had to have some creative skills to sew and do fashion design, which are skills usually associated with a woman and not a man. Specific creative skills, however, are not gender specific, and God can distribute those gifts to whomever He wishes, male or female. Do you have creativity that you think would be better suited to someone of the other gender? Are you a man but like to sew, a woman but like to design buildings, a man who likes to care for children, a woman who enjoys leading a company? Are you ready to accept the fact that this is who God made you to be, and stop giving in to church or societal pressures that say otherwise?

Lord, I admit that I have hidden some of my creativity so that others would not think I am strange just because my gift is usually associated with the opposite sex. No longer will I second-guess how you made me, but instead I will move forward to express my love for others through the creative gifts you gave meall of them.


A Creative Offering

"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" -- John 12:3.

No place in the Old Testament does it describe any kind of offering similar to what Mary did for Jesus. While she was anointing Him for his pending death, she still applied her creativity to come up with this scenario that was unique and undoubtedly shocked the men who were present with Jesus. Yet Jesus endorsed what Mary did, commending her for her creativity and her lavish expression of love and devotion. How creative are you in your offerings to God? Do you give your gifts, time, and talent in such a way that it takes God's breath away and fills the room with a sweet aroma like Mary did? How lavish are you in your devotion to God and how do you express it that is an expression of your individual creativity?

Lord, I love You, but I admit that I have been a bit traditional and stale in my expressions of love for You, limiting them to some words in church or quick prayers throughout the day. Today, I am going to do something different, like bake you a cake and give it to the poor or write you a poem or compose a song, just for You. I want to be like Mary and do something out of the ordinary for You as an expression of my appreciation and devotion.