Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OnFire #199 Fallen Fruit from the Family Tree

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #199 Fallen Fruit from the Family Tree

Hi Folks:

This is a good news and sad news kind of week. Good news - Jan is feeling a little better and thinks the medication for her stomach is helping. Good news - men from our church reshingled our house this weekend.. This was a spiritual experience for me. I couldn’t go on the roof, and as I watched them do for me what I could not do for myself, I became aware of God’s grace for me in a new and very powerful way.

Sad news - we said goodbye to a dear friend this week. Our friend Dwayne passed away quietly with a brain tumour. His funeral was a real celebration of the hope we have in Jesus, but let’s just say that the water level behind the eyes was running high.... Please keep his family in your prayers.

Let’s sandwich the sad news with some more good - my mother has a birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Mom!!! She is a faithful reader, and prints off the letters each week to put in a kind of scrapbook. She is indeed a proud Mom.

I am constantly amazed by my boys. The two of them are so different, but I can see myself in both of them. Mark’s body type and temperament are like mine, while Ian has picked up my liking for the outdoors and anything that is shiny, sharp, creates fire, makes a loud noise, or does all of the above at the same time.

"The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree." That’s an expression we use to describe children who strongly exhibit the traits of one of their parents. I’ve been told that I remind people of my grandfather on my mother’s side, down to the way I talk and walk. I consider that a high compliment. He was a godly and wise man whom I try to emulate.

I can see myself in both boys, for better, and for worse. Mark has the same type of slow-burn temper that I have. He can be very patient, but he’ll only go so long and then he’ll blow. It has taken me a lot of years to learn to release pressure in smaller, safer amounts.

I wonder sometimes what bad habits I’m passing along to my boys. I’m going to take Ian hunting with me this year and in the process I’ll teach him a few things. I’ll want to get this right since bad habits in the woods can be deadly.

Bad hunting habits are one thing but bad character traits are an even more serious matter. What sorts of bad character traits are they learning through me? I’m not sure I know, since we have a hard time seeing our own shortcomings. I hope and pray I am leading them well and wisely.
"And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers." (Genesis 25:18*) This simple statement about Ishamel’s offspring is all about character traits passed along to children. They reflect the first words we read about the man. Even before he was born, it was said that he would be "a wild donkey of a man" who would live in "hostility toward all his brothers." (Genesis 16:12)

To be sure, Ishmael had his positive traits. In fact, God blessed him to become the "father of twelve rulers," and a "great nation." (Genesis 17:20) Even still, Ishmael is remembered for his hostility and for passing it along to his sons.

This is helpful for us as we examine the sources of conflict. If we live in conflict and hostility, we are at risk of passing it along to our children. "Like father like son" can be good if we are cultivating good character habits, or bad if we allow conflict and hostility constantly to be part of our lives.

Paul reminds us in Romans, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (12:17-18) It takes two to fight, but we don’t have to keep it going. When we do, we not only disturb the peace, but we teach those coming behind us to do the same.

I hope someday that people will point to my boys and say, "Like father, like son," and that will indeed be a good thing. I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Sept 23, 2009. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

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