Monday, February 24, 2014

OnFire #311 Testing the Ice

OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #311 Testing the Ice

Hi Folks:

We’ve started a kitchen renovation. We’ll put in new floor, cabinets, sinks, upgrade the wiring, build in the dishwasher, etc. It is exciting to finally be able to do this. We’ve replaced the roof and redid the bathroom. Now the kitchen. I’ve already thought of some lessons for OnFire. You’ll probably hear more about this. We hope to finish by the end of next week, with the help of friends.

Ian’s forestry and wildlife class did the aerial moose survey in Fundy Park last week. In addition, they set up wildlife cameras at predator bait stations. Here is a link to the CBC article

I’ve got a head cold, but I’m still moving forward. Blessings for your week.


Not long ago, I was standing on the ice of a frozen lake, amazed at how clear it was, and how thick. Weather had been cold for a while and the ice had built up. Kneeling down, I could see frozen air bubbles going down for quite a distance. I’d hate to try to guess how thick it was, but I’m confident it was well over a foot thick, judging by how far down into the blackness I could see frozen bubbles.

In that case the ice had no snow on it, and it was very clear, so it was easy to judge. Over Christmas I was snowshoeing with a man from our church and we hiked down a brook to return to his truck.  Recent snow had covered the ice in drifts, making it hard to judge, but since the brook didn’t have a lot of water, there was little risk.

I was the first to go through. A drift covered a faster moving section and my snowshoe plunged into the water.  I recovered and we went on, but about 15 minutes later my friend put a snowshoe through at a different spot.  Again, no harm done. If there had been more at risk, we would not have travelled on that ice.  Indeed, there were some sections we felt were not strong so we left the brook to climb through the branches on land because we could tell the ice was bad.

Ice takes a long time to form, under proper conditions. Even then, we have to ask, “strong enough for what?” Just because it is strong at one spot, does not mean it is strong everywhere since unseen currents may prevent solid freezing.  Since looks may be deceiving, we always want to test it before relying on it, and look for signs of areas which need careful attention.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the parallels with character. Solid character doesn’t just happen. It takes time and proper conditions to develop.  Yet, we are impatient, we want a short cut. We don’t always want to put in the tough work of prayer, scripture reading, and reflection. We resist the uncomfortable conviction of the Holy Spirit illuminating areas which need attention.

Just as ice forms under uncomfortable conditions, difficulties can shape and form our character.  “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

And then we need to ask, strong enough for what? Just as there is a difference between walking on ice and trusting our brand new pickup to it, we need to understand our own limits. Our desires and ambitions often lead us to overlook or minimize weakness, ours or someone else’s. But we ignore them to our peril.

We resist testing and accountability. But then we’re surprised when a leader falls dramatically because of unseen undercurrents.

The ice made me think about my own character. I want to be solid, solid in my beliefs, actions and thoughts. Some important scripture comes to mind.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

I hope this helps us as we judge our own character and the character of others. Be on fire.


OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Feb 24, 2014. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. *New International Version, 1984. To subscribe or reply, email