Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OnFire #274 Living between the Red Lines

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #274 Living between the Red Lines

Last weekend the saga of the snowblower came to an end. After restarting the motor to finish the driveway, it revved way too fast and then there was a loud “pop.” The pushrod, broken and no longer bound to the crankshaft, smashed the thin walls of the engine. Judging from the pieces sprayed across my driveway, the motor will never start again.

I really enjoyed that little snowblower. I learned a lot about tuning the engine and I took a certain amount of pride in keeping it going. It was a nice mental break from what I normally do.

There are times I feel like that little machine, times when I wonder if life will rev to the point when something comes apart. I can’t be the only one who sometimes wonders how much more can be piled on and added before things suddenly go pop. That’s not a comfortable thought. Life doesn’t come with a red line to tell us where our limits are.

Now here’s a funny thought. I was at the gym the other day. Exhausted. Not really feeling like I wanted to be there, but knowing it was important to get some exercise, I hopped on the first machine to get some cardio. I wasn’t expecting good results. Just finish the workout, I thought, and go home for nap. A few minutes in, I felt my body respond to the challenge and the numbers on the electronic screen said I was working as hard as I normally do. I finished the weights and machines at full form. It made me wonder if it was mind over matter, that I was capable of more than I felt I was.

Some limits are real and some are imagined. If I go into the danger zone of the cardio monitor, I need to back off because my heart is at risk. Other times I need to push through because my limit is actually beyond where I think it is.

Reality is probably between these two lines, between where we think the limits are and where things go pop. It takes faith to work beyond our imagined limits, and discernment to know the real ones.

Paul knew something about living close to the limits, for real. “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope.” ( 2 Corinthians 1:9-10)

Discovering new limits means finding new trust in God. First, we have to hang in there to trust him more. And second, we discover new ways in which God is faithful. In both these ways we find new trust in God. Only when we run out of our strength do we discover God’s, and its a good thing, for at that point we don’t have what it takes. Paul writes, “On him we have set our hope.”

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 Feb 15, 2012. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

OnFire #273 The Snowblower Saga

OnFire Encouragment Letter

OnFire #273 The Snowblower Saga

Hi Folks:

Thank you to so many for your encouragement over the last week. About 180 people went to my new blog for associate pastors in two-pastor churches, Pastor of Everything Else ( Comments were positive and encouraging.


As I write this morning, we have a snowfall warning for 15-20 cm. It makes me kind of excited because we were given a snow blower last summer and I want to try it out. We had less than 10cm a few days ago, and it seemed to work well, but I’d like to try it out with a little more snow.

Some of you will remember that we’ve had a little trouble with the snowblower. It was a saga, really. The first snowfall we had I couldn’t start it. Then I thought it was working, but it wouldn’t handle much snow. Then it wouldn’t stay running. And finally, it wouldn’t throw the snow. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever work, or that, heaven forbid (read sarcasm here) I would need to take it to the shop!

In the middle of all of this was my schedule and a cold snap. When I was free to work on it, it was too cold to work barehanded outside, and when it was warm enough, I was stuck in meetings and appointments. Finally I had some free time last week on a mild day. I discovered some really useful tuneup videos on YouTube and I set out to advance the saga to another scene.

To avoid making this story any longer than it needs to be, after I adjusted the carburetor, lubed the auger gearbox, and tightened the idler pulley it worked beautifully.

It took me quite a while to work out all these issues, trying different things to see if they worked. Sometimes possible solutions showed promise only to let me down later. There was more than one problem, which complicated things. And to top it all off, these issues were all new to me. Sounds like a lot of problems we deal with.

It was tempting just to give up on it, list it on the internet “as is,” but I wouldn’t have gotten it to work if I had done that. If these last steps hadn’t worked, my next plan was to check with my neighbour to see if he could help. And if not, then to take it to the shop. It was becoming a matter of pride – I wasn’t going to let this thing beat me.

Dealing with a snowblower is a minor thing when we consider all the issues and problems of life, but it illustrates a greater principle. Perseverance is steady persistence, to pursue a goal even when things take longer or are more difficult than we imagined. Not to give up when we get frustrated. To ask for help from people who know more than we do.

James writes, “We consider blessed those who have persevered.” (James 5:11) We musn’t give up. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (1:4).

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 Feb 1, 2012. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at