Wednesday, June 22, 2011

OnFire #262 Father's Day Talk

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #262 Father’s Day Talk

OnFire is different this week. I have adapted a talk I gave to the men of our church on Sunday.

A Few Years Ago...
You will recall that I have two boys, now 17 and 15. Five or six years ago, when the oldest was 10 or 11, I began to feel some unease about raising them. It felt like I was leaving the side of one map but I didn’t have the next map. I was moving into new territory and I wasn’t sure the kinds of things we would face. More to the point, I wasn’t confident about my own ability to lead and parent them.

I tie this feeling to my parents’ s divorce when I was about that age. In these really formative years I didn’t have an active role model in the home about how to be a dad. Thankfully this sense of unease faded and I learned some important things about God and being a father. Understand, this was not a grand revelation, but came as the result of a process over many months. I hope this will help other dads and encourage the rest of men, whether grandparents, uncles, teachers, youth group leaders, friends and neighbours. We can help each other in this important task of raising children.

The Fatherhood of God
During this time I developed a new sense of the Fatherhood of God. John 1:12 began to have more meaning to me:

John 1:12 - Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God*

I realized once again that I have a perfect Father in Heaven and this eased my worries. Other passages lifted off the page and taught me both about the fatherhood of God and about what being a good father is all about.

Luke 11:11-13
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

2 Corinthians 1:3ff.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,...

Ephesians 1:17
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

These passages and others were comforting, encouraging, and they taught me about what it means to be a good father.

I Found People Who Were Good Examples
I’ve always been a conscientious parent, but it became even more important to me to find people who were good, strong, positive role models. Thankfully I didn’t have to look far. My grandfather and uncle were especially important. After my parents’ separation I spent a lot of weekends and summers with them and they were good examples of men who lived out faith in Jesus Christ. I had these memories to fall back on, and in addition there were friends and other men in our churches I could look to. They provided examples of godliness, character and diligence which helped a lot.

I Paid Attention to What Works
When I find a good example, especially of someone whose children actively live out their faith in Jesus, I pay special attention to the parenting style, attitudes, actions, home life, discipline and correction, and anything else I can get insight into. Likewise, I also pay attention to what doesn’t work. Generally speaking, several things were affirmed to me.

Our faith has to be genuine. Where I saw sincere faith in parents, children were tons more likely to be engaged in faith.

We can’t live a double life. Where I see an attitude of “do as I say and not as I do,” the children tend to disappear from church life at a young age. At about the same time, I was talking to lots of men who grew up in homes where this happened, and they were deeply cynical about religion of any kind. I became very aware that my children were paying attention to what I taught at church, and if I was not the same person at home as I was on the platform, it was a sure recipe for parental disaster.

Character Counts
I am amazed to hear my boys express opinions which sound a lot like me, even when I don’t remember talking about that topic. They are so impressionable. I was reminded during that time that I need continually to work on my own character because my actions, attitudes and words come from deep within me. Character counts and I was reminded to model godly Christian character for my boys.

Apologize and Make Things Right
I became very aware of the times I blew it. Our children see us at our best, and our worst, and they know when we’ve blown it, so there is no sense denying it or covering our tracks. I broke something belonging to Ian out of anger one night. Ironically, it was a stop sign he had made. What a horrible feeling. I apologized after, and we made a new sign together which still hangs on his door.

I learned something about God’s grace during this time. In His grace, we have a chance to redeem a situation by saying “I’m sorry.” Not that it makes it right - of course not. But we have a chance to model how to handle things when we get it wrong. We show by our example how to apologize and make things right. Thank God for redemption.

Time is Love
At about that time, I realized how busy I was, and would probably always be. And, I also noticed how different from each other my two boys were. I needed a way to get them on their own regularly so that I could pay proper attention to them individually.

At that time I started a weekly appointment with them where I take each one out for breakfast on alternating weeks. This is non-negotiable and the only time we don’t go for breakfast is when I’m out of town. On the rare occasion I need to attend a meeting at that time, I reschedule breakfast for another morning that week. I wanted them to know that for those 30 or 45 minutes, they have my undivided attention.

Its interesting - neither boy talks about these times, but both could tell you whose turn it is. These times have become very important for us.

Not Done Yet
I shared these things on Father’s Day, not because I thought I was the model, but because I hoped it would help. Our boys have a long way to go yet, and so this is stil a work in progress. However, if I felt that kind of unease and fear about parenting my children, then others probably do and maybe something that helped me might help others. I also wanted other men to know that they have an important role, even if they do not have children at home. Just as I found encouragement and wisdom by following the example of those around me, they could be an encouragement and example to the rest of the men and to the children in their lives.

I hope this help. 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 June 21, 2011. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Saturday, June 18, 2011

OnFire #261 Flick the Switch

OnFire Enouragement Letter

OnFire #261 Flick the Switch

“Don’t forget to turn it on,” a friend reminded me as he showed me how to start the chain saw.

I couldn’t imagine why he would tell me such a thing. After all, it seemed obvious that to begin I should flick the switch from its off position. And yet, since then I have forgotten (many times) and wondered why the machine wouldn’t start after at least 20 pulls.

Sometimes the instruction or advice we receive sounds so obvious we wonder, “Why would anyone need to say that?” Like the line in the chain saw manual operator’s manual which says, “Do not stop chain with hand.” But, I can tell you that there have been times after hitting a rock or nail when I thought about reaching down to check the chain, even though it was running at the time. Sometimes we forget the obvious.

After Paul was stoned and left for dead, he and Barnabas returned to some of the cities where they had preached in order to strengthen the believers and appoint elders. In Acts 14:22, Luke tells us they were “reinforcing the hearts of the believers, calling them to remain in the faith,” and saying that “through many troubles it is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.”

He had to tell them this? Wasn’t it obvious that life was full of hardship? And, how was this supposed to encourage and strengthen them?

This was the piece of advice that reminded me of my chain saw. We sometimes forget the obvious, that life brings troubles. There is something in us that makes us think our hardships should at least fade if we are faithful, but we should not be surprised when we face trials and difficulties.

How was this encouraging? Paul and Barnabas strengthened them by reminding them of their goal - to enter the kingdom of God. There would be much difficulty, but if they remained faithful through the trouble, they would enter the kingdom of God.

A friend once cleared some land but left some trees in the middle of a bog. “Take what you want,” he offered. I needed firewood, so I took him up on the offer. It was tough work, hauling and dragging it out by hand since I couldn’t get a truck in there and I didn’t have a four-wheeler. But the goal was a warm fireplace to relax in front of. I kept reminding myself it would be worth it in the end, and it was.

That difficulty was over in a day or two. Life’s trials often last longer, but Paul reminds us that it will be worth it in the end.

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 June 10, 2011. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at . Blog located at

Friday, June 3, 2011

OnFire #260 To Be Bold, or Not to Be?

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #260 To Be Bold, or Not to Be?

Hi Folks:

OnFire has been shortlisted for a writing award by the Word Guild in the category, Article: Blog Series. For Word Guild see  For the full list of finalists see of Finalists


There is a time to be bold, and a time to back off, and there are times when I wish that it was more clear to me which was which.

When Paul and Barnabas went out to preach about Jesus, they were bold. We see this in Acts 14 as the two went to Iconium, where they spoke boldly and spent considerable time there (14:3). When a plot developed against them, however, they decided it was time to leave (14:5-6). Clearly, some situations call for boldness, while others call for wisdom to back off.

When we took our youth group to a baseball game in Boston one time we found people in a few of the seats assigned to our group. Not wanting a confrontation in a strange city, I rationalized that it was OK since our seating section wasn’t full and we all had seats, even though our group was now split in two. It was one of my leaders who took it upon herself to get our seats back. It was a time to be bold.

Fear is not a helpful guide. Fear may help us recognize danger, but it cannot tell us whether we need to be bold or back off. Sometimes the very thing we need to do is to stand even when it is not safe.

Paul and Barnabas did not back off just because they were threatened. After leaving Iconium, they went to Lystra where they healed a man. People were so astonished that they thought Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes, 2 Greek gods. To prevent the group from offering sacrifices to them they waded into the crowd, which actually brought them closer to death. A group from Iconium was there and persuaded the mob to stone them. Paul was left for dead and dragged out of the city (14:8-20).

For Paul and Barnabas, it was not about their safety. Sometimes we face stones of opposition because we are doing the right thing. We shouldn’t forget that most of the apostles were martyred.

Be bold? Or back off? I have found some things that help. I pray for wisdom since God promises wisdom when we ask (James 1:5). I try to learn from the mistakes I have made in the past. I look for advice from people who are wise in these matters. And I try not to let fear rule the day. Easier said than done, I know.

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 June 3, 2011. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at