Tag Archives: Clarity

Managing Misinterpreted Motives

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.
1 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV)

Some time ago I was invited into a meeting with the executive leader of an organization which I served. What quickly became clear in the meeting was that my motives had been called into question by certain individuals. My colleague simply desired to clarify my desires and wants as it related to my service and position within the organization. I quickly answered the questions posed to me and clearly stated my motives for serving and leading. The meeting quickly ended.

In yesterday’s post I discussed my need to continually and personally define my own motivations for the things I do and say. Along my life journey I’ve found this to be a critical step in understanding myself and making healthy decisions about my time, task list, resources, and relationships. But there’s a corollary importance to understanding my motivations, and that’s the reality that others are watching my actions, listening to my words, observing my relationships, and weighing my decisions. Others will question and make their own conclusions about my motives.

Paul spent the introduction of his letter to the believers in Thessalonica complimenting the pure motives of their accomplishments, toil, and perseverance in the faith. In today’s chapter Paul shifts focus to shine the spotlight on his own motivations in relationship to the believers with whom he’d had little time to spend.

One of the constant threats to the small communities of early believers was outside voices who could distract and even destroy their faith. There were angry Jewish zealots branding Paul as a crazy heretic, and demanding that followers of Jesus must obey all Jewish customs. There were traveling charlatans claiming to be preachers of the faith, but who quickly demanded that the local believers pay them for their service and provide for all their personal needs. Then there were local tradesman and trade unions whose livelihoods were centered in casting likenesses of all the pagan idols and deities. They saw Paul and his anti-pagan message as a threat to their pocketbooks and attempted to protect their livelihoods by accusing Paul and his companions of being a threat to Rome itself.

I thought that today’s chapter read like a resume as Paul attempts to make his personal motivations perfectly clear to his friends. He’s preemptively providing the believers with reminders they will need as others will most certainly try to cast doubts into their minds regarding Paul and his motives:

  • We proclaimed the Message despite persecutions and threats to our own lives. (vs. 2)
  • We weren’t trying to trick you, our motives were pure. (vs. 3)
  • We weren’t flattering you like salesmen or covering up some secret motivation of greed to get money or resources from you. (vs. 5). In fact, I used my tent making skills to provide for myself so that you wouldn’t have to provide for me. (vs. 9)
  • We treated you like a loving father (vs. 11) caring for you, and as a nursing mother cares for her baby. (vs. 7)
  • We didn’t abandon you and move on for any other reason than we were forced to do so. We desperately want to come back and see you but have been prevented from doing so. (vss. 17-18)

This morning I’m reminded that I can’t control what other people think or say. I do, however, control what I do and say. Sometimes it’s important to be mindful of how my motives might be misinterpreted. It’s wise, at times, to anticipate how misconceptions regarding my own motives might thwart the good I am trying to do. Paul’s example has me thinking about the fact that it is sometimes judicious to make motives clear and head off the misconceptions that experience teaches me may arise.

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend, my friend. The first snowflakes of winter fell on us yesterday. Stay warm.

“I Do Not Run Aimlessly”

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly….”
1 Corinthians 9:26 (NIV)

As Wendy and I journeyed back from the lake this past Friday, we had some good conversations about our own life journey. The past 10 days have been a bit of a hiatus for me, as those who follow my blog regularly may have noticed. I worked remotely last week, but the focus for Wendy and me was on getting our summer place cleaned up, supplied, and organized for the season. I was out of my normal routine, and that’s sometimes good for the soul. Getting out of routine can often lead to new perspectives.

The conversations on the ride home centered a lot around where we find ourselves on life’s road and where we see ourselves going. We cannot predict the future, but we can certainly plan our steps. It was good for me to step back, look forward, and get my bearings. I’m getting back into my routine this morning with greater clarity regarding my aim.

In today’s chapter Paul continues to illustrate his point from the previous chapter: though he has a right to certain things, he chooses not to exercise those rights for the good of the whole community of believers. While he had a right to expect the fledgling community of Jesus’ followers to help provide for his material needs as payment for his spiritual leadership, he chose not to exercise that right. Paul had made this decision because he had a clear aim. He did not want issues of finances and material support to be a distraction or obstacle to his spiritual purposes.

This morning I exit a holiday weekend and enter a new week and a new month. I don’t want to slip aimlessly back into routine, but apply the clarity of aim that my hiatus has afforded me.

Embrace the Mystery of the Moment

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
John 13:7 (NRSV)

There was a lot that Jesus’ followers did not understand. It is a subtle, but recurring theme in John’s biography of Jesus:

  • Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
  • They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father.
  • Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.
  • Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
  • His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

Along my life journey I’ve discovered that I almost always desire clarity and understanding, but it quite regularly eludes me in the moment and in my immediate circumstances. It is only when I reach a waypoint down the road that I look back and perceive with clarity and understanding how God was at work around me, in me, and through me. I have come to accept that there are some things that will continue to elude me until my journey is over and I am safe at home.

At least I’m not alone. I take heart today in the realization that Jesus’ best friends and closest followers on this earth were perplexed in the moment, too. Being physically present with Jesus and hearing His every word, they still didn’t get it until further on down the road. Maybe it’s time for me to cut myself a little slack.

I’m reminded that this life journey is, for me, a faith journey. I will rarely have clarity and understanding in the moment. I am, however, assured of the hope that God will complete His good work in me. Having looked back at how He has brought me to this point, and all that He has faithfully accomplished thus far, it is evident that I can trust that my present circumstances are part of the plan.

You do not know now what I am doing,” Jesus says to His followers, “but later you will understand.”

Indeed.

So, go with it. Trust. Have faith.

Embrace the mystery of the moment.

chapter a day banner 2015

featured image by odreamer via Flickr

Articulating the “One Thing”

Preparing my Next Sermon
(Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 1 Timothy 1:5 (NLT)

Whenever I prepare to deliver a message, whether it is in a classroom, stage, boardroom, or sanctuary, I always start by identifying and articulating the one thing I want to communicate. If I can nail that, then the rest of the message become much easier to prepare. If an idea, explanation or illustration does not serve to lead the hearers to the articulated purpose of my message, then I’m wasting my time and theirs. Without a clear purpose, a message will become lost as it meanders in different directions.

In today’s chapter, Paul is instructing his young protege Timothy whom he left behind in the city of Ephesus to teach the followers of Jesus there. Paul clearly articulates the purpose of his instruction: Love from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith. As I read this I thought of all the messages I have heard through the years that seemingly had little or no clear purpose. I thought of many messages I’ve heard in which the purpose seemed to be judgement, condemnation, and shame.

I’m taking Paul’s purpose with me into my day as I think about all that I think, and say, and do. Is my purpose today an increasing measure of love in my own heart, love that flows from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith in Jesus, the One whom I follow?