OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #215 Lenses for Life
Some exciting news this week. I have been published in a book. Arrow Leadership produced a Lent booklet for their supporters in which graduates were asked to contribute. They have made these available to others as a pdf file. Email if you want one of these, but be aware that they are large files (7 mb, 84 pages). I am not able to make this available on my website.
I spent the first part of the week away at a conference with my senior pastor. It was a quick trip, but I saw some good friends and had the chance to slow down and reflect. I don’t often have these times and they are golden. Refreshment in the middle of life’s regular hectic pace.
I have been asking what changes people have seen in church and what still needs to change. Next week I’ll have these answers put together.
Have a good weekend and week ahead.
At about the age of eleven, people started to ask me if I had trouble seeing things. I didn’t think I had a problem because if I squinted my eyes hard enough, I could see. Plus, I didn’t know what I couldn’t see because I couldn’t see it to know I couldn’t see it.
Finally a teacher suggested to my mother that I should have my eyes tested. On the appointed day the doctor revealed a whole new world to me as he dialled and turned the little lenses of his machine. Ever since then I have worn glasses and am glad for them.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as easy, that when the future became cloudy or uncertain all we had to do was go to the life doctor to have the prescription for the outlook of our future changed. All would become clear and we could live with perfect clarity and certainty.
There have been times of my life when direction was strong and clear, like the time when I conducted four funerals in eight days. Life was about bringing comfort and aid for that 10 day period and while it was draining, it was exciting to live with that kind of clarity. I feel this way about writing and about being involved in ministry, even if some days I don’t know what it ought to mean practically.
But there are also times when life is not so clear, when direction is vague and hazy, the same way the highway looks when I take off my glasses to clean them while I drive. I can keep on going for a little while if I know the road is straight, if I don’t need to make any turns, and if I have a wide median to keep me on my side of the road.
Nehemiah was absolutely clear as he spoke to the emperor: "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it." (Nehemiah 2:4-5)
This clarity was no accident. We sometimes think that clarity is only for those random gifted individuals whom God touches, but there are some signs that it was no divine lottery draw.
In verse 4 we see that he wept over the news of Jerusalem’s broken state. He allowed himself to be moved. He cared and was passionate about something. He did not ignore or shove aside these feelings. They moved him to do something.
In verse 6 we see him confess sin. He took sin personally, not as a concept, not as something other people do, but as something personal. Confession softens our hearts and makes us more receptive to God’s voice. We can’t have stiff necks and soft hearts.
In verse 8 we see him quote scripture, which tells us that he had made it such a part of his life that it came back to him naturally and frequently.
Nehemiah was patient. At least three months passed between chapter 1 and 2. We often get in trouble because we want the answer right now and we think that doing something is better than doing nothing. The problem is, we’re wrong. We are not doing nothing, because we are waiting. We are waiting on God, for His decision, His direction, His timing. (Of course, we do need to make sure we are not doing nothing) Sometimes God guides quickly. Sometimes we wait a lot longer.
We can take a lot of cues from Nehemiah. I just came back from some lectures at our seminary. They were OK, good reminders about some important things. But it was more valuable to have the time away to think, pray, read the Bible, centre on God, talk with my senior pastor.
Time away is good, and it is good to plan time away. I’m going on a prayer retreat in a few weeks which I’m really looking forward to. But there are simple things which help me every day. Life always feels out of focus when I neglect a daily routine of prayer and Bible reading. And I can pray specifically for clarity and direction. I know it sounds funny, but when I pray about these things, God answers. And I find writing out my prayers in a journal helps also.
Nehemiah’s clarity was no accident, and we can have clarity also if we are willing to follow his example. I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on authentic faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Feb 12, 2010. Scripture references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com