Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OnFire 289 Hunting, Large Arms and the Bible

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #289 Hunting, Large Arms, and the Bible

Two thoughts, from entirely different and unexpected directions, came together this week.

Monday was the start of deer season and it will come as no surprise that I was out hunting. I’m sad to report I didn’t see a thing all day, although I know there are people who will be quite happy about that.

When we moved here a few years ago, a man from our church set me up in some areas he has been hunting since he was young. The inside of his hunting camp is a testament to his success as a hunter. More than a dozen mounted trophies illustrate his skill with the gun and bow. A bulletin board is covered with photos of him and others with their prizes. I added my own picture a few years ago.

To see him at his camp is to see his passion and commitment to hunting. Over the years he has invested countless time, energy and money, and it shows. He often sees deer on his hunts, and while he rarely shoots one now, it is not for lack of opportunity. He enjoys taking people like me and probably loves it more when we have success than when he does.

When he gives me some advice about hunting, I take it seriously because he knows what he is talking about. He has credibility.

Thought number two. I’ve been going to the gym to exercise since January. My goal is to do a combination of cardio and weight training at least twice a week in order to increase my fitness level and provide an outlet for stress. It has been working. I’ve lost about 10 lbs, my clothes fit more loosely and I can jog comfortably now.

I’ve noticed some interesting things in those hundred or so visits to the gym. There are a variety of people interested in fitness, everyone from teens to seniors. And there is a wide spectrum of commitment. I saw two young ladies on the bicycles one evening, barely moving the peddles, despite the easy settings they used. It didn’t seem to be hard for them. Rather, they appeared to be distracted as they changed the channels on their TV's (a lot of the machines have TV's – it really helps to prevent boredom), flipped pages in their magazines, texted, and chatted back and forth. I wonder if they ever say things like, “I go to the gym all the time, but it’s not doing anything.”

By contrast, I spotted a guy last night I hadn’t seen before, with the largest set of arms I have ever seen in person. Although I’m no weakling, I’ve long since gotten used to feeling a little small in comparison to some of the guys in the gym. But I have to say I felt downright puny working out next to him. He was using three times the amount of weight I was. Three times! He had clearly put in his time, with impressive results. At different points friends came over to see how he was doing. They talked about the gym and workout routines. Credibility.

People have credibility because knowledge and action come together in experience. There is a proven track record to show that they know what they are talking about. They are believable because the evidence is plain for all to see. A hunter has a trophy on the wall and meat in the freezer. A man in the gym has arms to show he can build his body.

Christians develop credibility when our actions, attitudes, lifestyle, behavior, habits, character and conduct illustrate that we follow Jesus. Do we have to be perfect? Of course not. We gain credibility when people see effort and consistency. We lose credibility when our effort is inconsistent or at odds with what we believe.

The apostle James talked about credibility:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.... But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”* James 3:13-17

Hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Oct 24, 2012. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

OnFire #288 Things that Go Boom

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #288 Things that Go Boom

A few weeks ago, our son Ian and I went duck hunting with a man from our church. Duck hunting is pretty exciting as it combines accuracy with speed and a little cunning. To lure the ducks into our area, we set out about a half dozen plastic duck decoys. As I understand it, ducks like company and it takes a crowd to make a crowd. They are more likely to land where others are already feeding, so we hoped the decoys would entice some birds to land in front of our blind.

A word about blinds. They hide hunters. Like most wild animals, ducks are always on the lookout for danger, and nothing says trouble like a few guys sitting behind a tree with guns. So, it is important that the blind break up the outline and pattern of the people sitting in it. Burlap, camouflage, and branches are popular and work well. From our cozy spot on a point of land beside a river we had already claimed two birds that morning, and hoped to get a few more before the wind picked up.

We had just settled into the blind after retrieving our ducks when we saw a boat approach from downriver. It was a bass boat, fast, with two men aboard, and it appeared to us that they were looking for something. We guessed they were duck hunting, like we were, and perhaps hoped to “jump” or surprise some ducks which might flush from the marsh. As they neared our point of land, the boat slowed and drifted to a stop in front of our decoys.

Did I say that decoys look like real ducks? If they didn’t realize these were fakes, we were now in the line of fire if they were hunters.

All at once, we stood up in the blind to show ourselves, but they didn’t see us. One man reached to pull something from a locker on deck while the other dropped the trolling moter at the front of the boat. And then both picked up fishing rods and cast into the river.

We were more than a little relieved to know that they weren’t going to shoot in our direction, but now we had another situation. As long as these guys were fishing from their boat, nothing was going to fly in our direction, and, in fact, we couldn’t shoot if they did because they were now in our line of fire.

We looked at each other and wondered what to do. How do we get their attention? Wait for them to notice? Yell? Fire a shot into the air? We could hardly believe the situation in front of us. I was already thinking of the story we could tell later, and pulled out the camera. You can see the picture on my website at

All of this unfolded in less than sixty seconds. Looking for a new place to cast, one of the men spotted us standing in the blind and called out. “Sorry boys.... Good hiding spot.” At this they pulled up the trolling motor and left.

We did the right thing by waiting. We would have called out if they hadn’t noticed us in a few more moments. It was tempting to fire a shot into the air, but anytime a firearm is discharged it is potentially dangerous, and that sort of thing tends to tick people off. While it was an option, it was not a wise one.

This situation left me thinking about a lot of the tricky situations I have been in. Patience and tact are not always what I think to do first. Sometimes I’d like to go off with a big boom. Let people know how upset I am, how serious I think the situation is. Especially if the situation has a history. The more history there is, the harder it is to be patient. But going off with a big boom rarely accomplishes anything good. We make a lot of noise, some get scared, and some get ticked off or come back with something even bigger.

Proverbs 14:29 says, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”*

I hope this helps. Be on fire.

OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Oct 17, 2012. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email . Archives are located at . Blog located at .