More More

Last week, I wrote an entry titled No More More that discussed our cultural obsession with more—more things, more variety, more experiences, more of just about everything. God has hit the pause button on all that and is about to reboot the world's economies, and the shake out and shake up will be significant. Yet there is a more that God does want and I thought I would discuss that this week under the title Screen Shot 2020-05-15 at 7.43.48 PM"More More." My thoughts on this began when I read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 this morning:

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more . . .

There is a more that God is interested in but it isn't the abundance of possessions; it is more love practically expressed first to the household of God and then to the world. In our pursuit of the wrong more, we suddenly did not have much time for the more more that God desired and that more is service to others in the power of our purpose and with the flare of our creativity.

My study of more didn't stop there, for then I did a search of the word more in the gospels and I came across a promise that Jesus made: "Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them" (Matthew 13:12). This more is in the area of knowledge concerning the things of God, and it is interesting that this concept is mentioned in the three synoptic gospels—but is not limited to knowledge. Not to be left out, John describes his concept of more in John 15:1-2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." Define fruit however you wish, but however you do, be sure that God wants more of it.

I have counseled and talked with many people who are quite satisfied with no more. They are content with where they are, and are diligent to protect their privacy and way of life. God would have to break into their world with a spiritual crowbar before they would consider doing more for missions, being more creative, or being more involved. Yet notice the promises in Matthew and John. Jesus promised that those who have will get more; they have no choice in the matter. If they are fruitful, God will prune them so they will produce more fruit. You get the idea that God wants more more from you, for you, and through you, and there is no discussion about it. That's His will and plan.

When I have taught on the concept of organization, I have taught that we must organize our lives to handle more more. That isn't about stuff, for if anything we need to have less of that kind of more. Yet how can you organize your life and world to produce the more more that God intends for you? I have organized my life, my office, my schedule, my connections, and my entire world to produce more: more books, more insight, more service. When I had mastered the art of writing books, I started a publishing company. Why? To make more money? Hardly! It was to structure my life so I could produce more. I had a say in that, but my only say was yes or no. When I said yes, then I had to invest my finances, and position my life to receive and support the more more. 

What are your thoughts on more more? Do you think it's God's will for you? Do you think this season may have come to help you have less of the wrong more focus and more on the more more? I was so taken with this topic today that I decided that my next book after Proverbs 31 Men is done is going to be titled The Gospel of More, and it won't be about possessions. It will be about the right kind of more more. The sooner we can settle in our minds and hearts that God wants more and that more more is not an option, the sooner we can get about preparing and then realizing more. And if that is the result of this pandemic, it will have a redemptive harvest that was fertilized by the pain and suffering of people the world over as they embrace no more more and accept the fact that God wants more of the right kind of more.


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."


Life Matter: A Spacious Place

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
 he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
 from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
 but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
 he rescued me because he delighted in me" - Psalm 18:16-19.

Time and again in the book of Psalms, the writer wrote and sang about his trouble and how the Lord had rescued and delivered him. In today's passage, the psalmist stated that the Lord brought him into a 'spacious place.' What does a spacious place represent for you? A bigger house? A new business? More ministry opportunities? A role where you can be who God made you to be, surrounded by people who appreciate and don't envy or limit you? In your journal, take a few minutes to write about what an ideal 'spacious place' would look like for you. Then trust the Lord for such a place!

Today's Reading: Psalms 16-20


W50D4 - Productivity

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" - John 14:12.

Leaders of faith have as much right to claim and pursue the promises of God as anyone else, regardless of what field of endeavor they work, for the "the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1). Therefore, they should look not simply to maintain what they do, but expand, broadcast, publish, multiply, innovate, create, or change it for God's purpose and glory as He reveals it to, in, and through them. Today's verse promises that those who know the Lord, even in business, education, industry, ministry, or social work, will actually do greater things than Jesus did because it is God's will for them to do so in order to validate and extend the message and impact of God's kingdom.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to reflect on the greater things that Jesus would want you to do in your current position and leadership role. Once you stop fighting against or talking yourself out of those things, it will be time to face your fears and misgivings, and allow the truth to set you free so you can lead, grow and develop your department, team, company, or ministry. Then set goals for next year and beyond to help lead your people to do those greater things.


W45D4 - Productivity

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my
commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the
ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. Your
threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape
harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the
food you want and live in safety in your land" - Leviticus 26:3-5.

In this passage, the Lord promised to take care of the things His people had no power to control - like weather, growing conditions, crop yield - if His people would take of the things that were in their control - obedience to His commands and decrees. This was commonly known as a covenant in Old Testament times in which both parties outlined mutual responsibilities with the benefits and punishments for keeping or breaking the covenant clearly defined. Leaders must humble themselves and realize that, while they work hard and usually have tremendous skills and expertise, they are still dependent on God's help in what they do, for there is much out of their control. Consequently, they should recognize their dependence on Him and thank Him for their ability to lead and be productive.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to examine your productivity to recognize God's role in your accomplishments. Can you see God's hand in your work? When you do, thank Him for His protection and empowerment. Also acknowledge also that He had a hand in the things that you do well, for He equipped you with the gifts and skills to get the job done. If your productivity has slipped, however, is it due to faulty obedience to God's commands?


W40D4 - Productivity

“I will look on you with favor and make you
fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will
keep my covenant with you" - Leviticus 26:9.

God is not intimidated by increase and His motto is not 'small is better.' In fact God expects His followers to take what they have and make it 'more,' whether it be a church, a business, an idea, a family, a righteous behavior or attitude, generosity, hospitality, an opportunity, good deeds or excellence of service. This means that leaders must equip themselves to think more, to handle more, to organize more, to produce more, to reach more, to touch more, to envision more, to build more, to speak more, to think more, to talk more, to lead more, to write more, or to handle more in general. Leaders who work to shrink their world down to the size with which they are comfortable are not always doing what God wants but what they prefer and with what they are more comfortable.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to examine your attitude toward increase and see if it allows you to make more happen, or if your attitude is one of fear that causes you to keep things manageable. If it is the latter, why are you afraid of more? Do you see that God is desirous of more? What do you need to do to grow your ability to handle more? Your 'more' theology must align itself with God's plans and His desire throughout the Bible seems to endorse 'more.'


W35D4 - Productivity

"All hard work brings a profit,
    but mere talk leads only to poverty" - Proverbs 14:23.

While it is important that leaders help set the vision for an organization and then communicate that vision far and wide, the leaders must do more than talk. They must help direct the organization and its people to activities that will most probably produce the vision they have designed. Leaders in particular must determine what they can do that few others (if any) can do to help bring about the desired results for which the organization exists. Then leaders help rally followers to a better future by continuing to keep the vision fresh and vibrant, all the while working and contributing, being careful not to become idle because others are doing much of the work.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today's Step is to evaluate your own productivity as a leader or follower. First of all, do some work to define your gifts and strengths - what it is that you bring to the team that others cannot bring. Second, reflect on how you can express those strengths more often. Third, think about how you can keep the vision uppermost in your mind and the minds of your colleagues. Finally, determine how you will measure your productivity for the sake of accountability.


W30D4 - Productivity

"Where there are no oxen, the manger
is empty, but from the strength of an
ox come abundant harvests- Proverbs 14:4.

An ox is a big animal capable of working hard and moving heavy objects. While a valuable asset to have, the ox creates its own problems because it has to be fed and then creates a lot of manure. This verse is not about care for oxen, but rather teaches that leadership is sometimes a messy process. Leaders cannot always play it safe, keeping their world simple and their manger clean from all mess. At times, they must work with people and processes that, while complex or creating certain own problems, bring tremendous opportunities for growth and innovation. And fear of risk or change can keep a company and its people stuck in a rut that can lead to serious problems down the road.

LEADERSHIP STEP: How prone are you to risk? Do you realize that deciding to do nothing, thus keeping your manger clean, is actually a decision that has serious implications? Your Step today is to ponder whether your aversion to risk is costing your organization future opportunities and growth. You can do this by listening to others who are less fearful of risk and carefully considering what they say, and not just focusing on what can go wrong, but also what can go right.


W25D4 - Productivity

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" - 1 Timothy 4:15-16.

Leaders are role models which means what they do and who they are both significant teaching behaviors that others tend to emulate. Thus, leaders are the standard bearers for the organization and set the tone for ethics, attitude, and work habits. In today's passage, Paul urged Timothy to make progress by giving himself wholly to the work at hand and to do so publicly so everyone around him would see his progress. Leaders must also model humility, but must do it in a public kind of way so followers will know what that humility looks like in action while viewing leaders as they respond to the pressures and distractions of daily work.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to open up your life for the benefit of others. While everything in you might want to hide your growth, productivity, and decision-making process, you have a responsibility to work in a glass office so others can see into it. How can you do this? A few examples would be teaching at your staff meetings, holding special teaching sessions via video or in person, having regular times of questions and answers, writing a book, starting a blog, or being more transparent with those you coach or mentor.


W20D4 - Productivity

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control. Against such things
there is no law" - Galatians 5:22.

There is no asterisk after this verse starting that leaders are exempt from producing, or allowing the Spirit to produce, the examples of character fruit mentioned in this verse. It does not say here, "Leaders are permitted to be impatient, angry, unkind, unpredictable and undisciplined because they have important work to do, and have to get it done by being tough." In other words, leaders are expected to allow God's work in their lives and discover ways to lead while being an example of God's man or woman in their role at work, in ministry or at home.

LEADERSHIP STEP: As you have done with other Steps, today you will do a self-evaluation. Write each of the examples of fruit in this verse on a sheet in your journal, and then evaluate yourself in each by assigning a number from 1 (missing in action) to 5 (almost always present in my life) for work and home. If you have the courage, have someone else do it also and compare their results to yours. Then pray and allow the Spirit access to your heart to develop that area.