Monday, November 30, 2009

OnFire #207 Is That It?

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #207 Is That It?

Like so many others this past week in New Brunswick, our family watched the Olympic torch relay as it passed through the area. This flame started in Athens, Greece, and it will wind its way across Canada to light the flame for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC.

We thought it would be good for the boys to see this historic occasion, so we got them up early one morning and lined up along the side of the road. Representatives from major sponsors handed out pennants and pins while we waited.

The flashing lights of police cars announced the arrival of the flame. The crowd cheered as flame touched flame and the torch whooshed into life. Then the torch bearer jogged up the hill and it was over. “Is that it?” I wondered.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I went. If the torch is passing through your area, I encourage you to go. It is inspirational to think that this flame will pass through more than 1000 communities on the way to Vancouver. Whose heart could not stir? The torch logo proclaims, “With glowing hearts,” a play on words with the Canadian national anthem.

But even as we walked back to the car the crowds were thinning. It another 10 minutes it would be hard to know anything extraordinary had happened that morning.

We could be tempted to think the same about Christmas. We make a lot of fuss and then its over. But that’s only if we make it about the wrong things. If we make it about the gifts, glitz, and glamour, we come to the end and think, “Is that it?”

But here is the good news. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” By this he meant spiritual illumination. “No one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (Jn 12:46)*

Christmas comes and goes, but Jesus continues to provide light all year long. If we take this approach, then Christmas becomes more than hustle and bustle. It really does become a celebration of Jesus’ arrival to show us the way.

Here are some ways to help us take this perspective:
• Follow an Advent Bible reading plan with your family this Christmas. There is one on my website,
• Read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 with your family on Christmas day
• Simplify Christmas to take the emphasis off “things.”
• Set an example of following Jesus everyday.
• Decide to follow Jesus if you haven’t.
• Attend worship at Christmas and throughout the year

Hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character by Troy Dennis. This letter published Nov 23, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at *Scripture taken from the New International Version.

Monday, November 23, 2009

OnFire #206 Going Back to School

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #206 Going Back to School

Hi Folks:
What a great day we had yesterday. I baptized one of our young people and that is always exciting.

Deer hunting season is over. I’ve had Ian out a few times and it was nice to spend that time together. Some of you will be pleased to hear that the deer are still safe.

I hope you have a good week.

My high school music teacher stood behind me beating out the rhythm of a piece of music on my head. I’d like to say this was unusual, but we were thick and we didn’t always get it. Plus, being a trumpet player himself, he pushed us a little harder than some of the other sections.

My favourite times were when he grabbed his "horn" and sat beside us to work through difficult parts. It felt so good to play along with him. His presence inspired us to try harder and gave us confidence to play better. Plus, his example showed us how things were supposed to sound.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve gone back to high school this week.

No no. I’ve not gone back for classes. I’m helping the trumpets at Ian’s school as the orchestra prepares for their Christmas musical, "White Christmas." It all started at parent-teacher night when the music teacher found out I play trumpet. I’ve gone to a couple of practices so far.

I sit between two trumpet players. One has played for three years and plays decently well, but has no power. The other has only played a year and struggles to produce good tone. Their teacher tells me that sitting with them gives them confidence. Cool.

Here’s the neat thing. Its not my ability to play the music perfectly that gives them confidence. Far from it, the music is challenging and I’m playing it for the first time. Plus, I sometimes get the "count" wrong and come in at the wrong place. But even though I don’t do it perfectly, I give them confidence. I’m further down the road and it helps them.

This week I met with a pastor friend. Once in a while we get together to chat about how things are going in life and ministry. He’s a little older and more experienced, a little further down the road. I love to listen to his "war stories" and sometimes I ask him questions. It helps me and gives me confidence.

The two stories are not so different. In the first, I was helping, and in the second, someone was helping me. Both are important and I mention them for two reasons.

First, we need the help and wisdom of people who have "been there and done that." At present this is helping me with a dry spell. I need a little help to stay spiritually fresh. But, here’s where I find my problem. There are times my pride makes me think that I can do it on my own. Or, I worry about imposing upon someone. But my options really are limited - stay the way I am, or get help - so I set myself aside and call to ask for time to chat.

Here’s the other reason. We can help others coming down the road behind us. Sometimes we wonder what benefit we could possibly be to someone else. After all, we know our own weaknesses and failures. Here’s the thing - we don’t have to be perfect, just a little further down the road. And, believe it or not, our presence actually helps the people coming behind us to feel more confident.

Paul provides the example: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1*). We all look to Christ, but we also need the example of those ahead of us, and the people behind us need our example, too.

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 Nov 23, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at * Scripture taken from the New International Version. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

OnFire #205 Roll Away the Stone

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #205 Roll Away the Stone

Hi Folks:

Last week’s vacation felt good. I did a little hunting. Ian saw as many deer in two days as I did in several years before, so that was good. I did a few things around the house, and when Jan went to her pastors’ wives retreat, I took the boys to visit my family on PEI. A good week off.

The boys had their parent teacher interviews this week and are doing very well. At church we’re getting ready to host the Three Colors of Spirituality seminar on Monday with Christian Schwartz and we’re looking forward to that. I am told there is room for a few walk-ins.

Blessings for your week.

"What are you doing?" Miss Dover was our grade six teacher and she asked me this question one day in class.

"Nothing," I replied.

"Exactly. Get to work!!"

To my 11-year-old mind this was brilliant. Get me to answer in a way where she can use my words against me. Very clever.

Questions are powerful motivators. Who? What? Where? Why? These are not just the fundamentals of a news article, but may prompt us to think more deeply about our priorities and purpose.

I sat in a meeting this week with a church consultant talking about the results of our latest Natural Church Development survey.* His questions were penetrating. We answered some, but there are others that we will need to ponder because we do not have the answers. We hope in the end to lead our church to better spiritual health and vitality, and so we willingly submit ourselves to this (sometimes uncomfortable) probing process.

This week, also, a number of us from the church fasted and prayed over John 11:39-40. To those not familiar with the story, Jesus was called to the village of Bethany where his good friend Lazarus had recently died. Martha and Mary accompanied him to the tomb where he wept and then startled the women with these words.

"Take away the stone," he said.

This was a strange and troubling request. "But, Lord, this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."**

In their mind (and ours if we had been there) there was no reason to roll away the stone. Lazarus was dead and there was nothing Jesus could do now, was there? Furthermore, the rotting stench of decomposing flesh would drive them out. Why not leave well-enough alone? But this was not the right question...

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

There was only one proper answer to this question. Hidden between the words was a challenge. "If you really believe, roll away the stone."

So they did, and they saw the glory of God in a very powerful way when Jesus called Lazarus into life again. There is a lesson for us. There are times when we have to act against what our reason tells us because faith doesn’t always follow common sense. If we want to see the glory of God, we have to act in faith.

This leads us back to a powerful question. What are the stones we are afraid to roll away? This question is sticking in my mind and so I share it with you today. What is the step of faith we need to take in order to see the glory of God?

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 Nov 13, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at * ** Scripture taken from the New International Version.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OnFire #204 Running to Keep Up

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire # 204 Running to Keep Up

Hi Folks - I realized I forgot to upload my last letter, so two today...
It has happened again.

But before we get into that, let me say that OnFire has always been about my suspicion that, if I have trouble with these things even though I have years of training and I’m a “professional spiritual guy,” then others probably do also. So, here goes.

Its been a crazy fall season which isn’t done yet, and I’m feeling more than a little drained. I feel like I’ve been running just to keep up, and the pack is moving on ahead. It reminds me of those times when I rode in a mountain biking club. Here I was, a novice rider in decent shape, trying to keep up with the Elite athletes with their sponsored clothing and bikes. They stopped once in a while to let us catch up, and as soon as the last rider came along (sometimes me), they would take off again.

Now, here’s the funny thing - I have felt this way before when I was discouraged, but I am not discouraged. It has really and truthfully been a good fall. Programs are going well, attendance is good, there seems to be a good feeling in the church. I feel positive about the church work and about life. The boys and Jan are well. But I’m tired, and my connection with God is starting to feel distant. I’m not feeling spiritually fresh. My creativity is sagging. I’m not paying as much attention to things as I should. I’m feeling a little dry and parched.

Its a good thing I’m on vacation this week. This was well-timed, a God-provided opportunity which He made available a few months ago. It feels good not to set an alarm and to get some things done that I have been neglecting around home. Jan and I have watched a few movies. I’ve taken some naps. And Ian and I will do a little hunting. How quickly the time will go...

But there is another thing which I will be careful to do. I pulled out my journal and blew the dust off. It seems that’s the first thing that gets put aside. And I am setting aside some time to read larger blocks of scripture and to pray.

One of our Arrow Leadership trainers, Bob Biehl, gave us a quotation which has been dropping into my mind a lot lately. “Fatigue, fog, flirtation.” Being tired and drained is a spiritually vulnerable spot, especially when things are going well. We don’t think as clearly as we should or fight temptation as we ought. It is time to be careful, to rest, and to reconnect.

Rest. There are times when the most spiritual thing I do is give my body a rest.

Exercise. Yeeesh. How easy this one goes out the window...

Eat properly. Balanced eating is always the best way.

Take Stock. What is the most important thing I need to do? What can I hand off to others? What do I need to plan for now to avoid pain in the future? What am I going to do? Just as important - What am I not going to do?

Reconnect with God. Its OK to let some things slide to make sure this one stays strong.

In Romans 1, Paul wrote that he longed to see them in order to “impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.” (Romans 1:11-12)

Why am I writing this week? Its about this feeling that I’m not alone in this. If I feel like I’m getting dry, even though we are in a good season, then I wonder who else is? Can I encourage someone that they are not alone in this? Can I call someone back to the basics of connecting with God by sharing my own need?

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 Nov 4, 2009. Scripture is from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

OnFire #203 Blood Sweat and Tears

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #203 Blood Sweat and Tears
I gave blood recently for the first time in about 10 years. For most of that time, we lived in areas where blood clinics were infrequent. Now that we're back in an area where clinics happen often, I see it as a responsibility to give, especially since I think I probably have good blood to give, and it doesn't cost me more than a little fuel and time.

My donation at the blood bank didn't cost me much, but there are times when blood is the symbol of a deep and long lasting investment. "Blood, sweat and tears" is the expression we sometimes use to say that we have put a lot of ourselves into a matter. Because the cost to us cannot be measured on a cash register, we treasure it all the more.

I think that's why the words, "I'm sorry" are so hard. We invest so much of ourselves that we find it hard to turn around. I once took a group of children on a hike at night. I thought the map showed a point where the path would join another one to form a loop back to our camp, but it didn't. By the time we realized we were wrong, we had gone so far down the path it was easier to keep walking and hope the other end was closer.

Our conflicts can be like that. We think we have gone too far to turn around. Solomon was right when he included this Proverb: "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." (Proverbs 18:19*)

We all know people who won't back down. Call it stubbornness or pride or something else, but it seems they wouldn't get past the offense even if someone bled. We may not live in walled cities, but we have seen barred gates.

It is easy to point the finger at other people, but let's be careful because this verse, like all of scripture, is not there to help us identify the faults of others. This verse may actually be for us. Who is the unyielding one? Who has put up the barriers?

"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." (Proverbs 13:10) Pride prevents us from seeing truth, and closes our ears to things which might change our minds. Its the principle of the thing that counts to us, and we're not going to back down.

The theological term for what we are talking about is repentance. We often hear about this word in the context of salvation, but repentance also has a role in everyday life. Repentance means, literally, to change directions. I have been going one way, but I change direction and go the other way. Pride keeps us from repenting - from changing direction. We have invested too much and gone too far to change things now....

As I think about my blood filling those tubes yesterday, a weird thought runs through my mind. If they didn't stop, I would bleed to death. If they didn't pinch off the tube, or pull out the needle, my blood would continue to pour out until my life went with it.

I know, weird thoughts, but true, and not so far from our topic today. When we hold onto our pride and refuse to let offenses go, when we refuse to take advice because it might make us change our minds, our effort is wasted. "Blood, sweat and tears" are good for some things, but not when it gets in the way of changing directions in conflict.

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 Oct 22, 2009. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at