Wednesday, February 20, 2013

OnFire #296 Loaded for Bear

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #296 Loaded for Bear

Paddling quietly, we rounded the corner of the creek in our canoe and I spotted what we had come for. It had not been a productive day of duck hunting and so the sight of something on the bank was exciting. My heart raced as I lifted the 12 gauge shotgun and drew a bead on the dark shape.

It was a good shot, dead center. Imagine my surprise when it didn’t fall over. My “duck” was really a mass of dark roots at the base of an old stump. In the poor lighting of the shade at that corner, I blasted the wrong target.

“What were you shooting at?” my hunting partner asked. We paddled back and I showed him what I saw. The mass had the shape of a duck standing to stretch, head up. In my eagerness for the hunt, it was easy to see something that was not there.

One of the very real risks of carrying a loaded gun is that we might fire at the wrong target. So it is with hunter and non-hunter alike. Jealousy, bitterness, infighting, gossip, slander and arrogance are like shells in the magazine of life, ammunition in the chamber of anger. (2 Cor 12:20; Eph 4:31). As if that wasn’t dangerous enough, contributing factors like stress, hurt, and fatigue cloud our judgment.

Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin.” (Eph 5:26). If there was a redneck translation of this verse, it might read, “When you’re angry, don’t go blasting the wrong things.”

“Loaded for bear” is an expression which means we are angry and looking for a confrontation. We can’t wait to express our displeasure. In this condition we must be very careful since it is so easy to hear or see the wrong thing and blast away.

Anger is going to happen. No one doubts this. Character is about how we handle this emotion. Self-awareness is critical. When we know we are angry, we can take steps to be careful, exercise additional patience, and avoid making snap decisions we might regret later.

My hunting day ended well, with no harm done. May the same be said of us, even when we face stress and frustration, tension and anger.

I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Feb 20, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

OnFire #295 Just Average? Part 2

OnFire Encouragement Letter

OnFire #295 Just Average? Part 2

Hey Folks:

In my last letter, I told the parable of a drill who wondered if he was “Just Average” because there were other drills who seemed to be so much better, flashier, and feature-filled. It came from my own recent experience of dealing with an attack of self-doubt and insignificance. Last time we saw that God uses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. Scripture is filled with examples of ordinary people.

And now, to continue...

...Second, we need to remember that our measures of success are not the same as God’s. Our ideas of success are based on what we see, and they change according to the age in which we live. God’s measure of success is not the same as ours.

Take David as an example. The prophet Samuel went to David’s father, knowing that the new king would come from the family. David was not the one Samuel would have chosen, but God sees things differently.

"Do not consider his appearance or his height,... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Sam 16:7)

We tend to judge on the appearance of things - how good someone looks. How much money they have. We find a number and compare. How big? How successful? How attractive? We even do this in Christian circles. How big is the church? How large is the ministry? How much is in the offering?

This is a dangerous game, for a couple reasons. First, our measure of success is constantly changing. Have you ever seen a picture of a winning boxer from the 1800's? A winning hockey or football team from the 20's? We wouldn’t look at these people twice if we saw them today.

Second, and more importantly, if we don’t have the numbers for success then we wonder if “just average” is good enough. We end up feeling small and insignificant, and we question our value.

1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God’s measures of success are not the same as ours. God judges based on the condition of the heart, not on something we measure like money or beauty, or size, or how smart we are.

I don’t know about you, but I find this encouraging because it levels the field. The world we live in favours the rich, the beautiful, the powerful, the outstanding. What if we don’t have these advantages? Do we get left behind? God measures on a different scale, and it doesn’t matter if we’re rich or powerful or beautiful. We all have a chance for spiritual success.

Paul reminds us of this also. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1:27)

Third, we need to ask the right question. After about a week of arguing with myself about these things, it occurred to me that I was asking the wrong question. When I reframed the question, I began to feel better. My outlook changed as I stopped asking if I was “just average?” and ask start asking, “Am I faithful?”

Am I faithful to the teaching of scripture, obedient to its commands? Or, do I dabble in disobedience? Am I a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Is my commitment solid, or only when it suits me?

“`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Do I faithfully model Jesus in my character?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Am I faithful in exercising my spiritual gifts?

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8)

The question we need to be asking, the only one which really matters, is, “Am I faithful?”

Fourth, there was one verse which especially prodded me.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand. (Is 64:8)

The context of this verse probes the issue very uncomfortably. If God is the potter, who are we to suggest He didn’t do a good job in making us as we are?

Finally, one last thing. These thoughts of self doubt may lead us to do stupid things, all out of panic and insecurity. A ministry colleague passed it along some years ago and it has been helpful to me in ministry and to others outside of ministry. Here it is - Never resign on a Monday or in February. There are times and seasons which seem to affect our outlook on life, and it is wise not to make major, life-changing decisions while under the influence of these cycles.

My attack seems to have passed and even February doesn’t look so bad. I hope this helps. Be on fire.


OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Feb 5, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generation and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. Scripture taken from New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email Archives are located at Blog located at