Sunday, January 17, 2010

OnFire #212 This Week's Theme

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #212 This Week’s Theme

Some weeks develop themes. This week’s theme for us seems to be saying goodbye.

On Monday we held the funeral service for Jan’s grandfather. He was a good and kind man who gave his heart to Jesus in his later years, so we have hope in the resurrection. As Paul reminds us, we do not grieve like those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Jan sang and did the euology. The boys read scripture and were pallbearers. It was somehow strange and yet right to see our boys dressed in their suits as young men.

At the funeral I also spoke and used some of the tools he had given me when he downsized. He was a carpenter and gave me a level, hand saw, and some clamps. I used these as reminders of our faith. Just as the bubble on the level ensures that walls and floors are true and level, we will never be quite right until the bubble of our lives is centred on Jesus. The Bible is able to penetrate deeply into our hearts and lives just as the handsaw cuts sharply and quickly through wood. And finally, we need to remain clamped to Jesus during times of trouble and trials.

Today, Thursday, also fits the theme of saying goodbyes, although thankfully a funeral is not involved. We just came back from the airport where we said goodbye to our Japanese student. He has lived as part of our family for the last 51 weeks. In that time we have eaten many meals, laughed and argued, travelled and loafed together, and so it is not surprising that the water level behind our eyes was a little high as we waved from opposite ends of the security area. We pray for him and hope he will do well in life and keep in contact with us.

Tonight we’ll take it easy and get used to being on our own again. We have a week before our next student arrives and we’ll enjoy this time together.

A few days ago I came across this passage while I read through 1 Samuel again and it seems to fit. "Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. (1Samuel 23:16*)

David’s situation was dire. Afraid for his life, he hid in the dessert with a faithful band of men around him. But it was a good friend who came alongside to give him that extra encouragement he needed. We would like to think that we are strong, independent, capable, able to stand alone. But the reality is that we need the help of others at our side to find strength, comfort and encouragement, not only in ourselves, but in God also. Our faith in God is closely tied to our relationship with others. We need each other.

It was good to spend time with Jan and her family. We are family together, and prop each other up when needed. And it will be good to stay close tonight. This is good, and the way God intended, to give strength to each other and bolster our faith.

I write these things because it helps me to write. But also, I’m one of those people who likes to stand tall on my own. I like being independent and able. Somewhere along the way, however, I have understood that it is good to let people come alongside for strength and support. In fact, I need it. I would hate to see someone miss out on the blessing of strength and comfort by holding others at arms length.

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 Jan 14, 2010. Scripture references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at  

Monday, January 4, 2010

OnFire #211 Voices of Faith

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #211 Voices of Faith

Happy New Year!!!

We enjoyed Christmas very much. We didn’t go anywhere since we are usually wiped by the time Christmas arrives. That, plus Christmas was on Friday, making it hard to be back for Sunday. Taka, our Japanese student, seemed to enjoy Christmas. It was interesting for us to hear of the differences between cultures. We hope that he understands something about our faith in Jesus.

What did we do over the holiday? We worshipped, talked with relatives, ate, slept, watched old episodes of CHIPS, and ate some more. As I write, Jan and the boys are painting upstairs. Jan started this project a while ago and thought it would be good for them to help. They are doing a good job under Jan’s instruction. For part of a day, Ian and I went hunting and he finally got to fire the 12-guage shotgun. Fun stuff!

Finally, I have a new Introduction to Romans on my website. Check it out, along with other intros and an article on Basic Bible Reading Tips.

Blessings for your new year.

Jan and I were engaged while I was in seminary. One day while we were hanging out in the student lounge, a classmate commented that her husband would soon be home from his 28-day shift at sea with the Coast Guard.

"28 days at sea. 28 days home. Yup, it’ll take me half of that to make him fit to live with."

There was something about the way that she said it that depressed us. We were happily engaged and she made marriage sound as if it was a bother and a big disappointment. Was this what we were getting into?

We called up a set of friends who, while married a dozen years, were so obviously in love with each other that it made us feel good to be around them. "We’re feeling kind of depressed. Can we come over?" They were great for us to be around.

This memory came to mind this week as I recalled the Nephilim in Numbers 13:33 (see also OnFire #47). Having returned from spying out the promised land, the 12 tribe leaders gave their reports. All agreed the land was good and they even had a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry as proof.

The problem was that they saw descendants of Anak there. Anak himself was a descendant of another group of legendary people, the Nephilim. We don’t know a lot about them, but they were large and fierce. 10 of the spies spread a report that they could not go into the land because of the Nephilim.

Two of the spies, however, saw things differently. Joshua and Caleb knew that God would provide the victory and so they saw no reason to fear the Nephilim.

As I pondered these things this week, some new insights jumped out from Numbers 13 & 14.
First, we can’t go and stay. We often want things both ways. We want to change, but we want to stay the same. We want the new without changing the old. I call this "Wishing for the Divine 649." We have a national lottery in Canada called 649, which often runs into the tens of millions of dollars. Wouldn’t it be great to have a pile of money dumped into our laps without having to work, scrimp, or save? Change without change. The truth, however, is that sooner or later we have to face the "Nephilim" in our lives if we want to change.

Next, if we do not go, we stay. This is not as obvious as it sounds because we think that our good intentions let us hover between going and staying. "Someday I’ll get around to it." We think that if we say it this way, we are not deciding to stay, but we’re just fooling ourselves. If we don’t decide to go, we stay. If we want change to happen, we need to change. This means, of course, facing the Nephilim in our lives.

We need to find voices of faith and encouragement. Joshua and Caleb correctly believed God would give the victory. "If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD." (Numbers 14:8-9*) Unfortunately, the people did not listen and eventually died without going into the promised land.

Our problem is similar to the one in Joshua’s day. There were more who believed the Nephilim could not be defeated than those who believed God is bigger than our problems. We need to seek out the Joshua and Calebs so that we will be encouraged to trust God more.

As we stand just inside the borders of this new year land, may we encourage and strengthen each other so that our faith becomes stronger everyday. 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 Jan 4, 2010. Scripture references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at