Wednesday, May 25, 2011

OnFire #259 Hey Goody Goody

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #259 Hey Goody Goody

Hi Folks:

I’m back form the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. I attended classes on devotional writing, voice, and digital media, and learned a lot about the business side of writing. We had the chance to meet with agents, editors and publishers, and while this was nerve-wracking, it was also encouraging.

Last week Jan and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. Always hard to believe it has been this long. One day at a time really adds up. We went out to eat and went to the musical “King and I” put on by a local high school.

Blessings for your week.

“Hey Goody Goody - what wrong?”

We were in library class at Athena Intermediate School and things weren’t going well for the teacher. Some of my classmates were less than kind and actively resisted her attempts to gain control. More than once that semester she steamed off to bring back the principal.

Things weren’t going so well for me, either. Not everyone was going along with the crowd, but it seemed that way and I felt the pressure to join in as they dropped books behind her back, mocked her, and ignored her instructions. “Goody Goody” was their name for those who didn’t help. I didn’t like the attention and it stung like a slap in the face. There was a veiled threat of “join us or you’re the next target.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I became a Christian the summer before and I was sure that my life was going to get better. Rather than improve, however, it seemed that some things actually got worse. It didn’t seem fair that being a Christian put me in a tight spot between the crowd and God.

I obviously survived this crisis of faith since I am writing about it now, but it was tough and I can remember the sights, sounds, and even smells of that library experience like it was yesterday. For me it has come to represent how being a Christian can actually make some things about life harder, not easier.

When Barnabas and Paul began to travel to tell people about Jesus, they experienced some tough things. Time and again after Acts 13, we read that they went to a new place, spoke boldly, some people responded by following Jesus, and others responded by trying to kill them, literally. We have to think that, after a while, they began to wonder - isn’t there an easier way? Wouldn’t it just be easier to give up?

But this is not what we see. After one early incident where Paul and Barnabas were forcefully expelled from the region, they continued on their way and “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52*) This seems to be the way they reacted each time. Rather than discourage them, their troubles empowered them to go on.

There is promise in this for us. Even though it would be easier sometimes just to go along with what others are doing, there is a joy that only comes from obedience. There is a sense of God’s presence that only comes when we stand against the test. Going along with the boss’s crooked scheme may save a job, but it will not bring joy. Gossiping in the lunchroom makes us feel like we fit in, but won’t bring peace. Standing up for what is right may not win us friends, but God blesses with joy and the Holy Spirit.

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 May 25, 2011. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

OnFire #258 “But God Told Me”

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #258 “But God Told Me”

Hi Folks:

First, a correction from last week. Mark had fourth place finishes with Team Canada at the World Sport Stacking Championships. I confused my colours. Bronze is not fourth place.

Jan had her stitches taken out from her carpal tunnel surgery. Get this - she needs to soak her hand in warm, soapy water four times a day. Doing the dishes is actually good for her hand.

Ian turned 17. It still amazes me that I have a child this old. I was 17 when I went to college. I hope I was more mature, but something tells me not to ask a question I don’t want to hear the answer to...

Next week I go the Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. This is THE Christian writer’s conference. I’m excited, but also a little nervous.

Blessings for your week.

A friend of mine has worked in Christian radio for many years and he tells me that they sometimes receive music recordings which are really bad, often accompanied by scribbled notes saying that God had revealed to them that they should be on the radio.

Often these recordings are bad on several levels. To begin, the recording itself is of poor quality, using old tape technology, a cheap microphone and a department store keyboard, with people singing and strumming in the background. The musicianship may also be poor, with off-tune singing and out-of-tune instruments.

How do you argue with God? Did the letter not say that God spoke? Their approach was simple. “When God tells us the same thing, then we’ll put you on the radio.”

After returning to Antioch from their mission to deliver relief money, Barnabas and Paul were appointed to travel in order to spread the news about Jesus Christ. The way this happened is fascinating. Acts 13:1-3 tells us they were with a group of other prophets and teachers, worshipping and fasting, when the Holy Spirit revealed that the two should be set apart for this work.

The issue of discerning God’s voice can be tough. We once got caught in the middle of a tiff between two sets of friends over an apartment. It was promised to one couple, but the other couple kept saying, “But God told us we should have it.” We need to be careful about playing the “God card.” In the end it went to the couple to whom it was originally promised.

There are some important principles we see in these three verses. First, they were prophets and teachers, well-respected, trusted and time-tested leaders with level heads and maturity. Only after they had proved themselves faithful in smaller matters did God lead them in something bigger.

They were worshipping and fasting together. When it comes to church matters, it is hard to take people seriously if they don’t worship regularly with God’s people. That they were fasting highlights their involvement. Their spiritual practices came at a personal cost. They weren’t dabbling, playing around at the edges.

There was a group involved. One or two might easily confuse their own desires with the voice of God, but a group has more credibility.

They sought confirmation in ever-widening circles. We see five prophets and teachers listed as part of the church at Antioch, but it is evident that there is a larger body which confirmed God’s leading. Someone had the original direction, the five agreed, but it was the larger group which agreed to send them out.

There was a process of spiritual discernment that involved the larger body. They needed time to confirm God’s leading and they needed the rest of the body to be involved. It was only after fasting and praying that they laid hands on them to confirm this was, indeed, from the Holy Spirit.

In my experience, people are often 1) not willing to test the direction, or 2) impatient with confirming God’s leading in ever-widening circles.

First, the words, “God told me that...” are serious. We will either be right... or wrong. If we’re wrong, we’d better figure it out. Second, a sense of God’s leading does not entitle us to run roughshod over people or to question the depth of their spirituality if they suggest we test the matter.

Third, God does not lead contrary to his already revealed will. It is not God’s voice which suggests someone ought to steal, cheat, or have an affair, for instance. As a pastor, I have heard all these things.

Fourth, a sense of urgency should not blind us to the need of confirming God’s leading in ever widening circles. Again, what do we have to lose? If we’re wrong, we need to know, but if we’re right it will be confirmed. Generally speaking, the bigger the idea, and the more people involved, the wider the circles need to be.

And finally, we haven’t talked about the issue of timing. Even if the direction is from God, this does not mean that we should act immediately. Obedience sometimes means waiting for the right time to act.

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 May 4, 2011. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at