The End of Self

The end of self is the true beginning of self. What am I talking about? Is that a riddle? Double-talk? Let me explain. Screen Shot 2022-03-07 at 6.52.25 PM

Most people are familiar with Jesus' words that pertain to picking up a cross and following Him. The cross isn't the end of your personality; it's where it begins. The cross enables you to come into contact with so you can develop your personality as God intended it to be. The problem is that we are so steeped in the self-willed self life that it's almost impossible to let go. This is highlighted by Paul's words in Philippians 2:19-23 when he described his assistant Timothy:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.

Can you imagine? Of all the great men with whom Paul traveled, he had no one like Timothy. Timothy had reached an end of self to such an extent that he could be genuinely interested in the welfare of others and not his own. If Paul only saw one such man in his life, how many will you and I see? Perhaps the better question is: Can you become the one Timothy that other people encounter? More on that later.

I've been thinking this past week on the examples I can offer of people who haven't come to the end of self and self-will because they haven't truly picked up their cross. Here are some thoughts:

  1. If you have no experience in an area, but offer your uneducated opinion, and then are offended when people don't follow or listen to you, you haven't come to an end of self.
  2. If you can't accept advice, and insist on doing things yourself in your own way, even when you don't have the expertise, you haven't come to an end of self.
  3. If you refuse to change your habits, like how or where you work, or stubbornly resist adopting new technology or work habits, you haven't come to an end of self.
  4. If you've consistently had no results in an area of life, work, or ministry, but cling to the ways you've always done it (and get upset when someone speaks into your dysfunction), you haven't come to an end of self.
  5. If you believe you're entitled to your opinion (which you are), but that your opinion is special simply because it's yours, you haven't come to an end of self.
  6. If you ignore the input of someone who has walked a path before you, especially when that person has no vested interest except to see you succeed, you haven't come to an end of self.
  7. If you've failed in an area, but still want to be the one to give advice or direction instead of listening and learning, you haven't come to an end of self.

Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting your surrender your life's direction to anyone but the Lord. However, I regularly see these dynamics and tendencies mentioned above at work in my consulting and teaching and it keeps people from bearing fruit and transforming into the people God wants them to be.

What's more, I've seen them all operate in my own life, past and present, and I'm always confronting where I'm more interested in serving my own image of who I want to be (or seem to be) as opposed to who others and God need me to be. To the extent that I've come to an end of self, I have been able to embrace my true self and it has been liberating. I invite you to join me, so that together we can form an army of people like Timothy who can selflessly serve others through our true selves.


I have mentioned during some broadcasts during the pandemic (and before) that I have at times Screen Shot 2020-07-17 at 6.36.07 PMexperienced a strange sensation that is difficult to explain. John Wesley described a spiritual encounter he had once when his heart was "strangely warmed." That would begin to describe what I am writing about. This sense is an overwhelming peace and confidence that I am doing what God wants me to do, where He wants me to do it, in a way that pleases Himand His pleasure overflows into my being. It may be similar to what Eric Lyddell, the Olympic runner said in the movie, Chariots of Fire, "But God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

I have been reflecting on this experience more and more, mostly because it happens to me more and more. It made me think of stories I read about certain saints who were known as mystics because they had strange, mysterious encounters with the Lord that were labeled "ecstasy." The picture with this post is one of St. Theresa who was famous for her ecstatic encounters with the Lord. Of course, the artist's version of her experience is replete with angels and a beatific look on St. Theresa's face. I am not convinced that the ecstasy I am referring to is that supernatural or bizarre.

I found a description online of this ecstatic experience I am trying to describe: 

Total involvement with an object of interest is not an ordinary experience because of being aware of other objects, thus ecstasy is an example of an altered state of consciousness characterized by diminished awareness of other objects or the total lack of the awareness of surroundings and everything around the object.
I can't say my consciousness is altered, but it is definitely enhanced to the extent that I lose track of time and could lose myself in what I am doing for any amount of hours. Why am I telling you this?
I tell you this because I have come to the conclusion that this is actually to be a normal incident for anyone involved in purposeful activity. Since purpose is motivated by joy, then joy can so flood our beings that we, like Jesus, say we have "food to eat that others know not of." And what's more, isn't this extreme joy or ecstatic experience what many seek through things other than God, things like sex, drugs, work, leisure, or other "things"? Is it so unusual since God created us to have intense emotional expressions and events? And could this ecstasy actually be a foretaste of eternity where we will "enjoy" God's presence forever?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but I will tell you this: I am not about to renounce or avoid or rationalize my random joyful tsunamis, for they are about as close to pure worship as I have ever had. If nothing else, they serve as fuel for my work, which has taken on new meaning during this world crisis. I invite you to pursue your own purpose to the extent that you too can be aware of God's approval as you express it, perhaps in overwhelming portions. And if you don't know or aren't sure about what I have just written, then just pray for me that I won't drown in a sea of my own ecstatic, purposeful work. 

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.

Pandemic Pondering

It has been six weeks since we were directed to stay home and shelter in place due to the COVID-19 Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 8.11.52 PMpandemic. These have been busy days for me since I took on a few new projects like a Facebook Live half hour session three times a week and an hour-long blog radio show Monday through Friday. That is on top of the coaching, publishing, and fundraising that has emerged as people have had more time to think, do some self-analysis, and create. The fundraising is for our partners in Kenya, who are going through their own pain as they stay indoors and trust the Lord for food and health.

Every morning when I get up (earlier than ever these days), I post my daily devotional on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Then I wait before the Lord and start to post short sayings meant to challenge the readers to be more purposeful, creative, and productive--and also less fearful. Those sayings have created a lot of "buzz" on social media, and the blog radio has been averaging 35 downloads every day (that's pretty good for the size of my audience and reach). 

I launched my free ministry mobile app for PurposeQuest International a few weeks ago. If you have not downloaded it, please do so now. It will help us stay connected and give you notices when I post or publish new resources. I have also updated my website and continued my weekly Purpose Study Bible Studies and the weekly Monday Memo.

My work in my publishing company is busier than ever. I counted 19 projects in various stages of development from the conceptualization phase to final proofing before publishing. Those are in addition to the three projects of my own I am working on. I also just finished teaching a class in the Gospels for Ottawa University in Kansas and posted the grades this past week. 

Why an I telling you all this? It is because I want to encourage and challenge you at the same time. Jesus told a parable in Luke 19 in which the master gave each servant one mina to work with until the master returned: "So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back'" (Luke 19:13). One servant earned ten minas, one five, but one did not increase at all. The master told the one who showed no increase,

“His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?" (Luke 19:22-23).

The lesson of the parable was and is that God expects increase from His Kingdom citizens. The absolute increase is not what's more important; it's just that God invests in us and wants to see a return on His investment. You don't have to write books or do anything like I do or in the quantities I do them, but you do have to take who you are and what you can do and see how you work them so you bear much fruit for His glory.

Where do you think your greatest opportunity for increase is? That is where you should put your emphasis, especially as we look to enter into a new normal as the world emerges from the pandemic. If I can help you discover those areas of strength and potential growth, please contact me. You know where I will be: sitting at my home desk broadcasting, writing, and helping others to create as I feel God wants me to do. 

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.

W51D4 - Spirituality

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no
grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and
the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep
in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice
in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior" - Habakkuk 3:17-18.

Every business, church, family, and organization will go through hard times from time to time. Life happens and when it does, it often brings with it the unexpected downturn, setback, loss, or failure. The role of leadership in those times is not to allow the down time to define the future by helping keep it in perspective, keeping hope alive and helping to address any proactive steps the entity can take to lessen or soften the hard time. In times of difficulty, leaders must be purveyors of hope, keeping the vision alive and reminding people of the good times past and the good times yet to come - and to keep their own eyes on the Lord who will sustain them.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to examine your spiritual resolve when tough times come. Do you panic or do you keep your hope and faith alive by reminding yourself that this is not permanent, that God is up to and after something? Do you keep an optimistic outlook when talking with others? Do you keep everyone involved informed of the current reality without hiding the facts? Do you pray more and with a listening ear? Do you seek the Lord for wisdom?

W46D4: Spiritual Growth

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go" - Joshua 1:7.

Joshua was about to lead the people into the Promised Land, completing a journey that Moses had begun but could not finish due to his temper when he misrepresented the Lord (see Numbers 20:9-13). God gave Joshua five directives as he prepared to lead the people in: 1) be strong; 2) have courage; 3) be careful; 4) be obedient; and 5) walk in all the Law's commandments. Those five warnings are relevant for all leaders to heed, for there are times when their spirituality must translate into practical acts that calls for courageous obedience. Courage is never the absence of fear, but rather learning to function and act in the midst of or in spite of fear, as Joshua was to discover time and again as they crossed the Jordan to enter God's inheritance.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to reflect on whether or not fear is hindering your walk with the Lord and your obedience to His commands as you lead. The challenge is that fear seldom identifies itself, but appears to be rational and reasonable. "We don't have the finances" can really mean "I am afraid we don't have them or won't have them on time" or "I don't have time" is "I'm afraid I don't have time." Where is fear holding you back your journey into God's Promised Land for you?

W41D4 - Spiritual Growth

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him"' - Hebrews 11:6.

If it is true that without faith it is impossible to please God, then it is also true that with faith it is possible to please Him. Faith is the currency with which transactions with God are made. Believers spend faith, receive the object of their faith, and the Lord fills their pockets with more faith, thus creating a faith cycle and lifestyle of which God approves. While leaders are required to take a rational approach to life and business, they must also look for ways to express faithfaith that people can do the work, faith that risk and hard work will be rewarded, faith that people can change, faith that God is watching their efforts and will bless the work of their hands. Faith is not to be an event, but rather a lifestyle, even for leaders who are working in non-faith-based organizations.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to examine the role of faith in your work and leadership style. On a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), rate your faith in the following areas: 1) delegating work to other people; 2) stepping out of your comfort zone to learn new things; 3) taking calculated risks; 4) investing money in people and new ventures; 5) hiring new people or promoting others; 6) allowing people to make and learn from mistakes; and 7) a succession plan for your role.

W36D4 - Spiritual Growth

"You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life. Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me" - Lamentations 3:58-60.

In this passage, the prophet Jeremiah was pleading his case to the Lord because of how his contemporaries had treated him. He was leading Judah as their prophet, but the people would not listen to him, even persecuting him for telling them the truth. It is only a matter of time before leaders encounter enemies, who for various reasonsjealousy, ambition, ignorance, or greed, just to name a fewoppose, criticize, undermine, or even rebel against their leadership decisions or position. When this happens, godly leaders must learn to look to God for help and wisdom and not seek revenge, give in to bitterness, or carry a grudge.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today's Step is to prepare for the day when your enemies come after you, just like they did Jeremiah and Jesus. First, don't be surprised when it happensit is part of man's fallen nature to rebel and be ambitious and self-centered. Second, don't be naive, for it may be someone close to you. Third, be open  that God may use your enemies to reposition you or teach you more about trusting Him. Finally, be prepared to use prayer as your primary means of defense.

W31D4 - Spiritual Growth

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

Leaders must seize every opportunity to do good, no matter what business they are in. This includes not only their personal lives, but also in their business or community presence as well. What's more, Paul encouraged his readers to endure in doing good, for there is always a season when it seems like the doing of good deeds receives no notice or has no reward. It may seem like God doesn't notice, but He has a big book and a sharp pencil, so to speak, and He never forgets or allows good deeds to go unrewarded. Therefore, you must continue to sow good if you eventually want to reap it.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Have you grown weary in doing good? Does it seem like your good deeds go unnoticed or unrequited? Your Step today is to encourage yourself and your organization (or your family) in your benevolent strategies. First of all, make sure your strategy is clear. Then, identify the causes to which you are committed to give time and resources. Finally, communicate your work not to trumpet your good deeds but to benefit your cause(s) even further. Then thank God for your coming harvest according to His word.