Wednesday, February 25, 2009

OnFire #178 Digging Out After the Storm

OnFire Encouragement Letter

Hi Folks:

I’m away this week at meetings of a board I serve on, but before leaving I had some thoughts for OnFire and was able to pull them together on some down time. My apologies if the text appears different or is not the regular size. I'm using my webmail and the options are not the same.

Mark is home sick with a sore throat and fever. We hope he’ll be feel better soon. On the weekend we had a supper with other international students and their families. This group is proving to be a real blessing to us as we get to know others outside of our church family. There are some neat people in the group.

Blessings for your week.

If you’re from Atlantic Canada, you know I spent a good part of Monday cleaning up after the latest snowstorm. It took three of us almost 2 hours to shovel our driveway, which is not long, but there are two lanes of roadway in front of our house. And so the end is always a lot deeper than the middle.

We watched the snow blowers go by and I could see the wishful look in my boys’ eyes. Hey, I thought different times about calling one of them in, but that would be to admit defeat.

Besides, I believe there is value in good, honest, old-fashioned hard work. I want my boys to be healthy and strong, and shovelling is great exercise. It is also character building. It takes stamina and perseverance to get the job done. Frustration and discouragement must be defeated. I want my boys to know that even a big job can be finished in due course if they just keep at it and not give up.

These are the sorts of things I was telling myself as we all watched our neighbour’s driveway being blown out. The powerful tractor hardly even strained through the heaviest and deepest of the snow. I think I was trying to convince myself more than anything. There is value in hard work... There is value in hard work...

This is the message of the opening words of the book of James. We’re no longer talking about shovelling snow, but we are talking about defeating discouragement and practising perseverance. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12*)

There are things we can accomplish only by hard work and there are lessons we can learn only by difficulty. This is not to say that God brings them so that we will learn them. That’s like saying I wish for snowstorms so my boys will be strong. No no. That is not God’s nature. Rather, God turns trouble over by making it worthwhile for us to endure. The snowstorms of life may dump on us, but He rewards the hard work of the soul.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on 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 25, 2009. *Bible reference taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Monday, February 16, 2009

OnFire #177 Wisdom and Dishwashers

OnFire Encouragement Letter

Hi Folks:

Two items to note about OnFire. Last week I added two more introductions to the website. One in on Esther and the other is on Acts. Go to and follow the link to "Bible Reading Tips Page." You’ll also find intros for other books: Psalms, Proverbs, Galatians, 1,2,3 John. You’ll also find an intro to Bible reading which is my most viewed article.

This week I created a blogsite for those who want to comment more publicly about OnFire. Until now, people commented directly to me, which is always encouraging but did not normally allow others to see the comments. Go to to view the letter as a blog.

Taka continues to fit in well. He is very tired lately, but this may be a result of continued adjustments and the energy it takes to work in a foreign language. His appetite is great. Tonight we barbequed some steak and he ate more than the rest of us. We have found a friend in Moncton who married a Japanese woman and we’re planning to get together so that we can continue to make sure he is doing well and he has what he needs.

Blessings for your week.


Our portable dishwsher wasn’t working properly. After running a load there was still water in the bottom. But it didn’t do it all the time, so that made the problem particularly annoying.
I took the racks out and examined the strainer at the bottom. Nothing seemed to be caught there. I was at a loss to explain what was going on.

At times like this I often call my friend Nancy, who works at an appliance repair shop. She has talked me through problems in the past and has saved us quite a lot of money.

Jan came to me earlier today with the bad news again. There was water in the bottom of the dishwasher, and in addition, the water running out of the dishwasher into the sink was dribbling instead of spraying. Clearly there was a blockage.

I was just about to pick up the phone to call Nancy when I thought to check the hoses coming from the back of the machine. I pulled them all the way out and tried again. A steady stream of water told me the blockage was clear. Apparently the hoses kink when not pulled out fully.

It is good to know that I have some friends to call when I need help. And it is especially good to know that there are friends I can call who will help get me out of trouble even when I caused it for myself. About five years ago I mixed the gas wrong for my chain saw and it quit. My friend Norm fixed it for me and has never hinted or teased that I might mix the gas wrong again.
James 1:5* says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

Wisdom in the Bible is different from the way we often think of it. We get this idea that wisdom is removed from everyday life. The guy with a white beard sitting on the mountain giving advice which sounds profound but no one understands. I might as well ask my dishwasher. That is not the wisdom we see in the Bible.

Wisdom in the Bible is knowledge which is put into use. The person who is wise not only knows the right answer, but does it. That is what wisdom is all about in the Bible.

This helps us understand what James tells us about God in this verse. Take a look at what we learn about God’s character and nature. God is wise, he wants us to be wise, he is generous, and he wants us to give us his wisdom. Not so that we can say profound things no one understands. Rather, so that we can know the right thing to do. The wisdom God gives is very practical because he does want what is best for us.

This is a fundamental promise we can count on about God’s nature. God will give us wisdom when we ask. Frankly, I’m glad. There is hardly a day when I don’t face some sort of problem bigger than I know what to do with.

Notice one more thing. God gives wisdom generously "without finding fault." He doesn’t say, "I told you so." He doesn’t tell us to dig ourselves out of the mess we made for ourselves. Nor does he stand around reminding us how many times he bailed us out.

God gives wisdom. We just need to ask. Hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on 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 16, 2009. *Bible reference taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

OnFire #176 Puppies, Pain and Gain

OnFire Encouragement Letter

#176 Puppies, Pain and Gain

When I was a “wee lad,” an older child on the playground told me that he had puppies at home and he was selling them for a quarter each. I thought it was quite a deal. It didn’t matter that we already had a dog, or that I hadn’t asked my parents. I happened to have a quarter and he had a puppy, and so we completed the transaction. I handed over my quarter and went home to tell my mother that I was getting a puppy.

She wasn’t as impressed as I was and she asked all sorts of questions. Who sold me the puppy? Whose puppy was it? Did his parents say it was OK? The answers made her more than a little suspicious and she said I would have to go back and try to get my money back.

The boy announced a deal was a deal and that was final. I was heartbroken. I had paid my quarter and there was nothing to show for it.

This, I think, is the great fear we have when we go through troubles and trials - that after going through all manner of difficulties we will have gained nothing, that we have paid the price in vain.

As James opens his letter, he writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete...” (James 1:2-4*)
The people James wrote to had their share of trials, including financial troubles (1:9), social injustice and persecution (2:6), and illness (5:14). These are not so different from some of the troubles we face at times, and it would be easy to add others.

A bad day once in a while is one thing, but as our troubles continue the thought nags us that nothing productive will come from it. And since life seems hardly free from trouble, what is there to hope for? We rarely voice these thoughts as Christians because something tells us we shouldn’t, but inwardly we wonder...

James tells us that troubles are not in vain for the believer. Rather, we develop a highly valued character trait as we endure trials. Perseverance is a quality which comes as we face these difficulties, and we need perseverance if we want to be rounded, mature Christians.

And so, James tells us, we need to look at our problems differently. Consider it “all joy,” he tells us literally. I can tell you I’m not fully there yet. There are times I can see that there might be possibilities for good in a situation. This represents growth for me. But I know I don’t look at all my problems as opportunities for growth in perseverance and maturity. If I did I could report that my trials are all joyous.

I wish I had better news. It seems there are some things we can only learn through difficulties. I wish it weren’t so.

But, thankfully, there is hope in these verses. Our problems are not wasted time and energy. If we are willing to let God work in us to transform our character and nature, these trials will change us and improve our character. We will become stronger and more mature believers. The pain is not in vain.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a weekly letter on 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 9, 2009. *Bible reference taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at