Saturday, October 29, 2011

OnFire 267 Mini Beetles Cereal

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #267 Mini Beetles Cereal

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple? Half a worm.

I thought about this lame old joke as I cleaned out some cereal. It had been in our cupboard for a while, but not finding it stale I dumped it into my bowl. A few moments later, I glanced down and noticed some dark pieces floating in the milk. My first thought was that they were bits of cereal, but a hunch told me I should investigate further. Unless I accidentally picked up a box of “Mini Beetles” instead of our usual variety, there were insects in my food.

It only takes a little bit of something to affect the whole lot. A little salt makes soup tasty. A little catalyst makes epoxy harden. And a few bugs ruin breakfast.

In Matthew 16, Jesus uses the analogy of yeast to convey the idea that a little teaching can completely change us, for better or for worse. In case we need reminding, bakers add yeast to bread dough so that it rises. It doesn’t take much, but once it mixes thoroughly it affects the whole batch.

That was the point, actually. Not long after Jesus fed thousands of people by multiplying the lunches of a couple of boys, the Pharisees and Sadducees challenged Jesus to produce a sign to prove he was legit. We often paint these spiritual teachers as mean ogres, but we must remember that they were very popular and highly respected. These revered religious leaders held a lot of sway among the crowd, including the disciples. Jesus saw this and warned them about the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (16:6)

The disciples thought Jesus was trying to protect them from cheap bread, but he had something else in mind. “You of little faith... do you still not understand?” (16:8-9) In Mark 6 we see the same story from a slightly different perspective: “...Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (6:17-18)

The disciples were not firm in their faith about Jesus, and the constant questioning and pressures from the Pharisees and Sadducees produced conflicting thoughts. The disciples ought to be able to see for themselves that Jesus was the real deal, but the doubts and teachings of these popular spiritual leaders were attractive and it was hard to resist the pressure. It was easier, perhaps, to follow the crowd even though it would be a denial of all they had witnessed.

“You of little faith.” These are tough words. No one wants to be seen as small or little. Jesus challenged them to commit. Had they not seen? Had they not heard? In just a little while, Jesus would ask them, “Who do you say I am?” Could they see for themselves that Jesus was the One? (Matt 16:15)

This is an important word for our day and age. Never before have we had such a wide array of views available to us so easily. And, what is more, never have there been so many people questioning who Jesus is. Sorting through all these opinions can be difficult, especially when some of these people are popular speakers and writers.

It is always important to remember what Jesus has done for us. We have the proof of who Jesus is by what he has done in our lives. Has he made us kinder and more compassionate? Has he healed relationships? Has he changed us to make us better people? Do we feel more peace and security? Has he provided in difficult situations? Does he give us hope for the future? These are as much a sign to us as the miracles in Jesus’ day.

There will always be people who doubt, but let us not forget what Jesus has done for us so that our commitment may be strong.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a bi-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 Oct 29, 2011. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OnFire #266 Sway Bars for Christians

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #266 Sway Bars for Christians

An important part of a car’s suspension system is the sway bar. This device is designed to limit the amount of side to side roll - called sway - during turns. It doesn’t look like much, usually a long piece of round steel formed into a kind of U shape, but its job is important because it improves handling and comfort. Those of us who live in New Brunswick can be proud. Wikipedia tells us that a man from Fredericton was the first to patent the bar in 1919.

We humans could use an anti-sway device. When things are smooth and straight the decisions of life are easy, but when we experience twists and turns we begin to sway. We know what we ought to do, but the complications of life make it hard to believe that we can do it.

This is the nature of doubt. We go back and forth in our minds. We get caught between two opposing ideas and don’t know which one we can trust. Often, we know what is true, but we can’t make up our minds what to do about it.

“I know, but...” is the mantra of doubt. We could fill in the blanks for lots of things. I know yoghurt has less calories and saturated fat, but ice cream is what I really want. I know I should read more, but.... I know I need to lose weight, but....

Let’s bring this around to the topic of faith. “I know I should trust God more, but...”

The books of Matthew, Mark, and John include the account of Jesus walking on the water, but only Matthew tells us that Peter also walked on water that night. In Matthew 14:22-32 we learn that the disciples were rowing across the lake on a windy night when Jesus walked on the water to meet them. The disciples thought he was a ghost and were afraid, but Peter suggested a test. If it was Jesus, he should command Peter to walk across the water also.

Peter did walk on the water, but v.30 says he began to sink when he became afraid of the wind. Jesus saved him from drowning, and then asked him, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?”

It wasn’t that Peter had no faith. As crazy as it seems, he climbed down out of the boat onto the water and started walking. He had enough faith to start, but then the wind and waves scared him. The problem was that he began to sway, to waiver in his conviction and commitment even though he was doing it.

Sometimes we set out in a direction for the Lord, and we’re doing it, perhaps even experiencing some success. But then we become afraid, and we second guess whether it’s the right thing to do. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Galatians 5:7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” It is natural to experience doubt, but we do not have to give in. Rather, faith and faithfulness (the two cannot be separated) mean that we will trust God to continue despite our doubts.

We don’t talk much about doubt. Maybe we hope it will just go away. Maybe it’s our way to avoid those whom we fear will rebuke and shame us for such thoughts. I love the words, however, of Jude 1:22 “Be merciful to those who doubt.” Sometimes we need the comfort of someone who comes alongside to say, “You can do this. In fact, you ARE doing this, just keep going.” And sometimes we need to say the words to someone else. In this way little faith becomes bigger faith.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a bi-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 Oct 13, 2011. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at . Blog located at