Monday, April 14, 2014

OnFire 314 Palm Sunday and the Unexpected

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #314 Palm Sunday and the Unexpected
Hi Folks:

Yesterday in most churches we celebrated Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is named after the palm branches that people waved as Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time. Miracles such as the healing of Bartimaeus from his blindness (Mark 10), and  especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11), attracted large crowds who wished to pay tribute to Jesus as he travelled into the city.  Shouting “Hoasanna,” they waved the branches and laid them on the road along with their cloaks. 

What followed was a week of unexpected turns. Who would have expected that the Messiah might ride on a humble donkey? Or overturn the tables in the temple? Curse a fig tree? To be betrayed, arrested, and executed?

Thankfully there was one more unexpected turn on Sunday morning. Who would have expected the resurrection? Thank God, literally, that He is a God of the unexpected, working in ways we would not predict, and bringing unexpected good from situations  in ways we could never anticipate.

We should. This is God’s nature and we see it in the Bible time and time again.  It is also the promise of scripture. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28)*

I think this is one of the lessons of Easter week, that we need to be open to the fact that God might do something we don’t expect. This is where we need to be careful when we nod our heads in agreement. Of course we are open, aren’t we?

But are we? Really? Truthfully, we aren’t always very comfortable with the unexpected. We like predictable. We like knowing how things will unfold, and often become quite anxious about the future. This happens both personally and corporately. We worry over the details of our lives, and in our churches we dig in our heals to avoid change.  From one side of our mouth we say we want a new work of God in our midst. And from the other side we resist doing something different.

Its part of our fallen human nature. I struggle with this as much as anyone. Years ago I passed up a chance to play in a band. Some friends wanted to clean up a barn and hold youth events. I couldn’t imagine how this would work, and so I missed the chance to be in on “The Loft,” which was based on something Amy Grant started. I am told it was very successful. That’s just one example.

This is to say that I understand the tension and difficulty over change. Nonetheless, the truth remains that if I want to see God work in new and unexpected ways, I need to be open to God working in, well, new and unexpected ways. I can’t change and yet remain the same, just like I can’t stay and go.

I’m thinking a lot about the unexpected during this Easter season.  Not quite a year ago, I began to perceive that God might be calling me toward military chaplaincy. This was definitely unexpected since I never dreamed of this when I was younger.  I thought it was crazy, and thought Jan would think it was crazy. The idea wouldn’t go away, and Jan didn’t think I was nuts. We talked with friends in chaplaincy and prayed a lot. In September I started the recruiting process. In February I went to Ottawa for interviews. Since then I have been accepted as a potential chaplain and I expect a job offer and posting in late April or early May.

Once my letter arrives from the military things will change very quickly. We expect to be posted as early as July. My senior pastor and our deacons have known for some time and are making succession plans. Last week I informed the congregation of these changes. People have generally reacted in two ways: Sadness to see us go, and affirmation that this as a good fit for me. 

There are lots of days I still think this is a little crazy.  I’m 46 years old and I have to do basic training.  But we can see God’s hand in this in so many ways. Two years ago I felt compelled to get in better shape, and now we know why.  Furthermore, the timing is good. Mark finishes high school and Ian will be working. And so, we trust that God will continue to equip. 

One message of Easter resurrection is that God often does the unexpected. I don’t know in what unexpected ways God might be leading you. All I can say is, be open to God’s unexpected.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Apr 14 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com


Monday, March 31, 2014

OnFire #313 Not Everything Goes Back

OnFire Encouragement Letter
Onfire #313 Not Everything Goes Back

As I mentioned last time, we have finished our kitchen and we really enjoy it.  Our nook area is particularly enjoyable and all of us eat there at different points in the morning. We like it.

It has been interesting to plan where everything goes back. The kitchen is a different configuration, so everything needed to move. The spices are in a different place, as are most things. Some things are generally in the same area, but everything changed. 

Not only is the kitchen a different configuration; we also decided to store things differently. We wanted to reduce visible clutter, so everything goes into a cabinet, whereas before, we had rice and flour stored in large containers in plain view. It was as it needed to be at one time, but that was then and this is now. We took the opportunity to make the change and we have been very pleased with how clean and bright things look.

As we made these changes, It became apparent that not everything was going to fit back into the kitchen. We had too much stuff to fit into the available space, and so Jan started weeding and thinning – utensils, cookbooks, recipe books, large garbage containers, cookie sheets ,roasters…. It could not all go back, so we had to choose what stayed and what did not.

It was a good opportunity to make some needed changes. Likewise, there are times in our lives when we have an opportunity to pick and choose what will go back. If I may make the suggestion – not everything needs to go back.

While we look at major changes in our lives with something less than enthusiasm and usually just hope to endure long enough to get through them, we should not miss the opportunities they often create. Whether it is moving, changing jobs, depression, a health crisis, change in life stage, or some other disruption, change has a way of forcing us to make decisions about what is really important -- but only if we take advantage of it. We can coast along, accept the status quo, and slip back into old ways of doing things, or we can reorder and reorganize in ways that move us toward new or forgotten goals.

Not everything needs to go back.

How do we know what should go back? This is where I think Jesus’ simple instruction in Matthew 6:33*  is helpful: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus tells us that if we make room for the big things, the little things take care of themselves. The biggest, of course, is honouring God first. Here are some of the big things:

-Actions chosen to honour God and put Him first.
-Responsibilities simplified and limited to one’s most effective areas
-Decisions reflecting a sense of calling from God

We learned a lot of lessons from redoing our kitchen. This is one of them – not everything goes back, nor does it need to. I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Mar 31, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 13, 2014

OnFire #312 More Stressful than I Thought

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #312 More Stressful than I Thought

I wrote a couple weeks ago about our kitchen renovation. It is almost finished. The flooring guy comes Friday, and the parts to install our dishwasher should come any day, so we are almost finished. From start to finish, we have moved a heating pipe into a wall, upgraded our kitchen electrical circuits and moved the stove plug, repaired wall board, fixed damaged ceiling, primed and painted, and installed cabinets, counter, and over-stove microwave.

Our place is slowly getting back to normal. For a while I couldn’t tell if we were living through a renovation, or an episode of “Hoarders.” We had stuff everywhere.

We had help from a friend. It was great that Dan could come and we had a great visit as well.

Something I don’t understand after the whole experience. This was way more stressful than I thought it would be. I don’t even know why it was so stressful. It went along relatively smoothly with few surprises, good help,  etc.  But it was.

I know some of the factors. We only had our friend’s help for just so long. Little things held us up at times, like moving outlets, and that was frustrating.  Our space and routines were disturbed. We could hardly move around the house without stepping over, around, or on something. The tension of making decisions, which I knew would delay the project, but had to be done anyway. On and on.  I suppose if you’ve been through this before, there is no surprise here.  I’ve worked on other people’s renovations before, but this was my own, and it was different. Much more stressful than I thought it would be.

Well, it’s almost over, and most things are put away. Looking back, I see some actions and attitudes which helped, and some others which probably added to the stress. Let me share these things with you, as I think you’ll agree there are broader lessons for the rest of life.

This won’t last forever.
As these things go, it was a short reno;  they can last weeks and months, so I don’t want to whine too much. Even still, I found this thought a source of comfort.  Indeed, most situations don’t last forever. It won’t always be this way is another way to express this thought.

Getting snippy doesn’t help.
Apparently I get more directive under stress, and I forget my please and thank you’s. That’s the kinder version of  what Jan told me, at least. Backing off, waiting to answer, exercising patience – all these things help make stressful situations go a lot better. Its one thing to have stress, but I don’t need to be a carrier.

Pray for God’s peace.
Ironically, on the Sunday before most of the work, I preached from Philippians 4:6 -7 on God’s peace:  

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”*

I found myself reminded about my own words many times during the week, and prayed about my own stress (anxiety).  I would have been much worse without prayer.

Its probably not as big as you think.
Every reno brings problems, issues and decisions, and ours was no exception.  Taken together, they seemed huge. But  one by one, and with a little time to think about them, they were more manageable and less intimidating.  Most problems appear larger than they really are.

It’s time to call in some help.
We originally planned to put down the vinyl floor on our own. I have done some basic floors, and I thought between me and Dan we could figure it out. But when Dan wasn’t so sure, I took another look, and realized it was beyond our abilities.  That’s when we decided we needed an expert.  This was a good decision. There are times when we would do better to admit we don’t know.

There is no going back.
A few times I found myself thinking, “Maybe we could have salvaged the old cabinets.”  That wasn’t realistic. Plus, once we started the demolition, it was impossible to restore the kitchen. The only way to finish successfully was to keep going on. In the mess of things, it is easy to glorify the past, as if going back was an option. God’s best for us is in the future, not behind us.

It will be worth it in the end.
There was no way to install a new kitchen without creating a mess. But it was worth it, and thankfully we understood this from the beginning. It helped. By keeping the goal in mind, it was easier to press on.

These are some thoughts that helped us over the past few weeks. There are certainly more pressing issues in life than our temporary renovation, but perhaps you’ll agree that there are parallels to some of life’s other troubles.

Blessings, and hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Mar 13, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com



Monday, February 24, 2014

OnFire #311 Testing the Ice

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #311 Testing the Ice

Hi Folks:

We’ve started a kitchen renovation. We’ll put in new floor, cabinets, sinks, upgrade the wiring, build in the dishwasher, etc. It is exciting to finally be able to do this. We’ve replaced the roof and redid the bathroom. Now the kitchen. I’ve already thought of some lessons for OnFire. You’ll probably hear more about this. We hope to finish by the end of next week, with the help of friends.

Ian’s forestry and wildlife class did the aerial moose survey in Fundy Park last week. In addition, they set up wildlife cameras at predator bait stations. Here is a link to the CBC article http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/ID/2439113235/

I’ve got a head cold, but I’m still moving forward. Blessings for your week.

Troy


Not long ago, I was standing on the ice of a frozen lake, amazed at how clear it was, and how thick. Weather had been cold for a while and the ice had built up. Kneeling down, I could see frozen air bubbles going down for quite a distance. I’d hate to try to guess how thick it was, but I’m confident it was well over a foot thick, judging by how far down into the blackness I could see frozen bubbles.

In that case the ice had no snow on it, and it was very clear, so it was easy to judge. Over Christmas I was snowshoeing with a man from our church and we hiked down a brook to return to his truck.  Recent snow had covered the ice in drifts, making it hard to judge, but since the brook didn’t have a lot of water, there was little risk.

I was the first to go through. A drift covered a faster moving section and my snowshoe plunged into the water.  I recovered and we went on, but about 15 minutes later my friend put a snowshoe through at a different spot.  Again, no harm done. If there had been more at risk, we would not have travelled on that ice.  Indeed, there were some sections we felt were not strong so we left the brook to climb through the branches on land because we could tell the ice was bad.

Ice takes a long time to form, under proper conditions. Even then, we have to ask, “strong enough for what?” Just because it is strong at one spot, does not mean it is strong everywhere since unseen currents may prevent solid freezing.  Since looks may be deceiving, we always want to test it before relying on it, and look for signs of areas which need careful attention.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the parallels with character. Solid character doesn’t just happen. It takes time and proper conditions to develop.  Yet, we are impatient, we want a short cut. We don’t always want to put in the tough work of prayer, scripture reading, and reflection. We resist the uncomfortable conviction of the Holy Spirit illuminating areas which need attention.

Just as ice forms under uncomfortable conditions, difficulties can shape and form our character.  “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

And then we need to ask, strong enough for what? Just as there is a difference between walking on ice and trusting our brand new pickup to it, we need to understand our own limits. Our desires and ambitions often lead us to overlook or minimize weakness, ours or someone else’s. But we ignore them to our peril.

We resist testing and accountability. But then we’re surprised when a leader falls dramatically because of unseen undercurrents.

The ice made me think about my own character. I want to be solid, solid in my beliefs, actions and thoughts. Some important scripture comes to mind.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

I hope this helps us as we judge our own character and the character of others. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Feb 24, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com.


Monday, January 27, 2014

OnFire #310 Discerning God's Will

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #310 Discerning God’s Will

Hi Folks:

I’ve got some neat news. On Feb 17, one of my devotionals appears in the Upper Room. The Upper Room is the largest publication daily devotional in the world, so I think that’s pretty cool. On Feb 17, my devotional is in both the print and online editions. If you visit the online version, you can also access my follow-up blog post.

Here is the link to the Upper Room. http://devotional.upperroom.org/

Twitter users will be pleased to know I’m now on Twitter. Follow me @DTroyDennis

Ian has started interviewing for jobs. He will graduate from his forestry and wildlife program in May, so this is important. We appreciate your prayers for him in this.

OnFire is perhaps a little different this time, more teaching oriented. However, these are some of the principles that we have used to discern God’s direction and will for us. I pass them along hoping they are helpful.  There is always more to clarify or add. Feel free to email.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Changing jobs, moving, a major purchase or sale such as a car or house, education choice, career direction, time commitments, and change in marriage status are all examples of major life decisions about which we ought to be concerned for God’s direction in our lives.  You may have your own concerns and life decisions to fill out my list of examples.

I’ve put together some of the principles we use to help us discern God’s will.  I’m not going to claim to have some kind of perfect handle on this. As always, we need to move forward in faith and humility.

This is a Process
When I say process, I’m thinking a few things. It is not linear, and there is no way to predict how long it will take. “Do these five steps in order, bake at 350 for 10 minutes, and Ding! You have a decision.” Please read mild sarcasm in this. We’re not making muffins. We’re making major life decisions. 

Seek Holiness
Holiness is fast-becoming an old-fashioned term, but comes from passages like 1 Peter 1:15, “just as he who called you is holy, be holy.…” Sin creates spiritual noise and complication which makes it hard to hear God.  As the Spirit convicts, confess and repent (1 John 1:9).

Slow the boat
When a friend and I first began running rapids in a local river, we got stuck on almost every rock. After a while we realized if we slowed the canoe it gave us time to form a plan and line up the boat for the best angle of attack.

The same principle works in life. We often feel anxious about the future and we just want to make a decision so we can get on with life and get rid of our worry. Most situations, however, do not need an answer right now, and in fact, would benefit from slowing down the process. Resist the pressure to decide right now.

Pray
We sometimes take this part of the process too lightly. We toss God a quick prayer and then wonder why He doesn’t send a plane to write it in the sky.

Prayer is both talking, and listening. Depending on the nature of the decision, we may consider fasting as well. We have to allow God time to speak to us, in particular about our motivation. Is this only about what we want, or is it truly what God may want for us?

Even though I list prayer here, it needs to be part of the entire process.

Ask: Does it go against God’s revealed will?
God is not going to lead us in a direction that goes against what He has already told us in the Bible. We would call this God’s general will.  God’s specific will for us will be consistent with God’s general will. I once talked with a man, a former deacon from another church who told me God led him to leave his wife and take up with his secretary. God was not leading that man. Sadly, many people aren’t willing to listen and it causes a lot of pain.

Find wise and trusted people for advice.
These must be people not afraid to give their opinion, even if they don’t agree with us. I rely on my wife, mother, some friends, and pastor. 

Depending on the nature of the decision and direction, I may expand the circles to get specialized advice such as financial or legal.

Seek God’s timing
The WHEN of God’s will is as important as the WHAT. Sometimes we push too hard and fast for a resolution. It is a hard lesson when we think, “If only I had waited…”

Take One Step at a Time
God has rarely revealed the whole picture to me.  I sense a direction, but don’t always know where it is leading. It is easy to worry about the upcoming steps. We don’t need to understand everything, however.  I compare it to driving on a foggy road. It is only as we keep moving ahead that we see the next section of road.

Misconceptions about God’s Will
I’ve compiled a list of misconceptions and misunderstandings about discerning God’s will. Here they are, with some basic explanations.

“If it is not God’s will, He will stop me… “
I’ve heard this one a bunch of times over the years, often as justification for risky or sinful behavior. The fact is, God allows us to make our own decisions, and if we ignore good advice, our conscience, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God may allow us to make bad decisions.

“It feels right, so it must be God’s will…”
Put simply, feelings can be wrong, influenced by faulty perceptions and selfish motivations. We can’t make major life decisions based on a feeling. God gave us a brain for a reason, and we need to use it. 

“If everything is going against you, you must be in the wrong lane.”
Difficulties may be signs of going in the wrong direction, but they may also just be signs of the spiritual battle we face.  Do we really expect Satan to sit on his hands while we make spiritual progress? Perseverance is important if we are to seek God’s will.

“But I prayed about it.” OR, “God told me.”
These lines have been used on us a number of times by people trying to manipulate situations to their advantage. Don’t get sucked into this. Prayer is no guarantee against being wrong. 

“If I mess up I’ve blown it forever with God.”
A bad decision is not the beginning of the end.
1 John 1:9 reminds us that if we sin, we can have forgiveness from God.
Romans 8:28 tells us that God is a redeeming God, able to bring good even in the worst of circumstances.
God is a redeeming God. We find this in scripture, and it is the testimony of  countless Christians through the ages.

“There is no safer place than in the center of God’s will.”
People normally mean that being in God’s will protects us from the needless consequences of sinful behavior. True. But, this does not mean we will never face difficulty, hardship, or  danger.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Jan 27, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at  www.onfireletter.com, but I’m a little behind in updating things. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Friday, January 3, 2014

OnFire #309 Cold Hands and Perseverance


OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #309 Cold Hands and Perseverance

Its been that kind of winter that we get once in a bunch of years, and its only early in the winter. On the positive side, we’ve had lots of opportunity to get some exercise outdoors. We returned from our trip to Florida in the middle of a snow storm, and for days I shoveled and ran the snow blower every day. As I write, our friends in Nova Scotia are being pounded by the snow once again. It looks like we’ll get off easy with only 5-10 cm.

Its been cold, too, well into the minus 20's Celsius here in Moncton. The cold brings its own difficulties with staying warm and comfortable, but when you combine the cold and snow, the difficulties multiply. Machinery doesn’t like to work in the cold, and neither do we. On an interesting side note, I put my window down to go through the drive-through yesterday and it wouldn’t go back up. Finally, it started nudging up at about a half inch at a time, every minute or two. It took 25 minutes to put the window back up, but it did go up, thankfully.

We were shoveling snow the other day at the church after the last storm. After a little while my hands were cold and stiff, quite painful really. But there was more snow to move, and some memories of cold hands in the past kicked in. I learned while lobster fishing on Grand Manan that my hands may hurt for a little while, but then it will feel like they’re warming up. It is not comfortable, but it is endurable.

The first time I learned my hands could handle the cold, it was kind of serendipitous, a joyful discovery. The second time I began to see the pattern. After that, I had a strategy. This is a lesson I relearn every winter, and that thought kept me going until we finished clearing the snow.

It reminded me of perseverance in the Christian life. By the power of God, we can handle more than we think we can. And through experience, we learn to handle more.

“... we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5*)

As we go through difficulty and hardship, we also experience the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit, which builds up our character and endurance because we realize we will get through. At some point we feel we just cannot make it, but, through prayer, if we press on just a little while longer we break through. I think this applies to both hardship and temptation. But we cannot give up quickly, as we are sometimes prone to do.

Something else I realized the other day. Sometimes I do things which make the situation worse. My gloves were a poor choice of cold-weather strategy. The pain of the day moved me to try a different set to shovel off my carport last night. Yesterday was actually colder, but my hands were much better and, in fact, did not get cold at all.

As in gloves, so also in life.  It is an uncomfortable thought to realize something I did made the situation worse in the past, but I can learn and change, and I believe this is part of the character development Paul talks about in Romans.

I hope this helps. Stay warm and dry. And stay on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Jan 3, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at  www.onfireletter.com, but I’m a little behind in updating things. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com

Monday, December 2, 2013

OnFire #308 Non Destructive Testing


OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #308 Non Destructive Testing

Had the Lord not called me into ministry, I think I might have chosen engineering as a profession. Then again, a lot of things are fun if you don’t have to make a living doing them, like cutting wood, for instance. Even still, I love to know how things work and as a child I took a lot of things apart. Sometimes I even got them to work again. Even now, I love to watch shows on how things are made or built.

I remember watching a show on how they test metals for how strong they are. This was on things like bridges and airplanes and pipelines, where they can’t destroy it by testing it. That’s one way, to stress it until it breaks and measure it. But some things you can’t test by breaking them, so they have to develop ways to test them. One way is to do an x-ray. That’s how they test the welds on pipelines. They wrap a piece of film around the pipe, and then use x-ray, an extended and larger version of the way they do our teeth.

And then there is another way where they sprinkle  iron filings across the piece of metal and then use a magnet. If the metal is good and there are no cracks, then the iron filings line up, but if there are cracks, even tiny microscopic ones, then the filings don’t line up properly. It can look good, but unseen cracks threaten the strength of the structure.

Engineers test materials because they want to know the fundamental nature and character of the metal. What is it really like? Will it stand up to the test of daily use and abuse? I’m grateful for this work because when I fly, I want to know that the landing gear of the plane is strong, and that the wings won’t fall off.

There are a lot of parallels to human character. How do we know what someone is like? What they are really like? This is important in hiring, marrying, or appointing leaders to programs, boards, and committees.

But this is not only about evaluating others. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to evaluate our own character and behavour. There are lots of passages which help us, but lately I came across 1Thessalonians 1:3 in my own reading:  “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul was thankful for three fundamental characteristics: Their faith, love and hope. The evidence of these traits was seen in the results they produced - works, labour and endurance.

As I read this passage one day, it hit me that I was working hard, but that’s all it was, just hard work. I was lacking the faith that told me the work was for something larger and bigger than I am. And I was doing it just because that’s what I do. I work hard and there is always something to do, but I was lacking love as a motivation. Not that I hated what I was doing. Rather, it startled me that I forgot I was doing so much of what I do to help people. I got caught in a list of tasks. This passage reminded me that there are people on the other end of what I do, and it changed the way I looked at my work.

The line that got me was this one: “Your labour prompted by love.” It was the spiritual x-ray that revealed little cracks in my character. I don’t believe I was far off, and no one, perhaps, would have detected it. But I had lost sight of the people I was serving, and that was a character issue which needed to be addressed. I thanked God for the insight and almost immediately the work became easier, more pleasant and enjoyable. That was a confirmation of the verse and a further reminder to remember my love for these people.

As at other times, I pass along this along because I figure if I have trouble with these things, and I’m the “professional religious guy,” then perhaps others face the same things. I hope this helps. Be on fire.

Troy

OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Dec 2, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email onfireletter@gmail.com. Archives are located at  www.onfireletter.com, but I’m a little behind in updating things. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com