Treasure Hunting–Proverbs 2:1-5. David R. Denny PhD

Treasure Hunting—Proverbs 2:1-5—Drummondtown Baptist Church—November 4, 2018, Dr. David R. Denny PhD

Golden-diadem

Introduction:
Today we’re going to do some treasure hunting.  It’s not going to be easy.  Expect some hardships.  It is Solomon himself who dares us to undertake this challenge.  He tells us clearly that there are hidden treasures waiting for those willing to search (v4).

            *I would like to take you back to a treasure found almost by accident by a wealthy German businessman named Heinrich Schliemann.  He began the adventure of a lifetime by setting out to find ancient Troy.  Homer wrote about this battle of Troy and Schliemann knew Homer almost by heart. This ancient tale by Homer so captured his imagination that he set out one day in 1871 to prove Troy existed. After several years of poking around in a place called Hissarlik —-western Turkey—where he thought Troy to be, he indeed did find the old city just as Homer had described.  —-But this was not enough for Schliemann.  He wanted to find the Treasures of Priam, the king of Troy.  He reasoned that the king must have buried his treasure in the ground somewhere in the city so the invading Greek soldiers would not find it.

         One day as he was propping up a trench on the southeastern side of the city, he saw a glimpse of gold starring at him from beneath the crumbling dirt.  It turned out to be the spectacular hidden treasure.   One of the many items was a golden headdress worn by his queen that dribbled down over her head in hundreds of delicate golden strands.

         As we begin our own adventure this morning searching for hidden treasure, we will follow the guidelines of Solomon himself. And if you do so you will be richly rewarded beyond your expectation.  You too will find a treasure of value far greater than the gold of Troy.  Solomon wants us all to find the most dramatic and valuable of all treasures—God Himself.  He wants to lead us first to Wisdom, Discernment, and Understanding and when we have found these early traces of gold they will take us directly to God Himself.  (READ vs 4-5—“If you seek her…you will discover the knowledge of God.”

So, how do we go about finding this “hidden treasure”?…

 1. We must awaken our spiritual senses. (v2—“your ear…your heart”).  You will not find God—whom Solomon considers to be the greatest treasure that exists—without awakening your spiritual senses. You can see he focuses our attention on our ears and our heart.  Solomon wants us to learn how to listen for the still small voice of God who often lingers behind the noise of the modern world.  And we must tune our hearts to hear a different melody than plays on the radio stations. Our ears and our hearts must be conditioned to seek wisdom. —— I think he is telling us something profound here about how we live and go about our daily activities. It is possible for people to go galloping through an entire day without once listening for God’s voice.  We must change that, Solomon says.  We must step out of our doors in the morning and search for the divine.  God is there, but we must seek him.

             *It was Jeremiah who said to a dispirited nation of Israel held in captivity in Babylon that even though their daily lives were difficult in captivity, they could still find hidden treasure in their misery.  Jeremiah 29:12-13Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

    Sistine        *Michelangelo was only 33 when he was summoned by Pope Julius 11 in 1508 to paint frescoes on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.  He was known as a sculptor, not a painter.  He was working at this very time on the astonishing 17 foot high “David” in Florence. It was then that the pope summoned him and gave him the plum commission to paint the ceiling.  Nobody believed he could do it.  But of course, we know better.  When you walk quietly into the chapel today and stare in silent awe at the great masterpiece, you feel all of your inner senses scrambling to attention.  This is what Solomon wants for you as you search for divine treasure.  He wants your ears to hear the quiet voice of God in your daily walks and your heart to open in your valiant quest for God.

2.  We must awaken our voices.  Solomon wants us to invoke more than our ears and our hearts.  He wants us to lift our voices in this quest for treasure.  (2:3: “… cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding”).  There is a rising intensity here as our search for treasure continues.  We are now progressing from the silent search with our ears and hearts to a more boisterous calling out for God.  “Cry out for discernment,” says Solomon and “lift your voice for understanding.” 

            *When I was little I ran away from home.  I was living on the Yokohama Air Force base and I was in the 3rd grade.  My mom had ticked me off somehow. I can’t remember what happened, but I remember very clearly running away.  I had made it all the way to my school, and I was determined to never ever go home again. I would live like Huckleberry Finn using my wits to survive. I was just about to begin this new life when I heard my mother calling out for me way off in the distance. It was a sound I will never forget. It was not just a call.  It was more like a sorrowful wailing. There was a desperate tone in her voice I had never heard before.  As she came closer and closer, the voice grew louder, more pressing and poignant. I hid behind the corner of the building.  My heart began to slowly melt as I felt her anguish.  I finally stepped out surrendering so she wouldn’t cry anymore, and she took home lovingly.

            There is something about calling out, about lifting our voices to a cause.  And Solomon tells us to do this very thing as we search for God.

            Jesus once said the most amazing thing as He walked triumphantly toward the city of Jerusalem inLuke 19:40.  The people who lined the road toward Bethany were tossing their coats on the road before Him praising in a loud voice.  The Pharisees didn’t like it all.  They told Jesus to order the mob to be silent.  “But Jesus answered,  ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out’).  And so, as you move through your day, find time to cry out to the Lord.

3.  Solomon Promises us Success.  As we conclude our quest for hidden treasure Solomon is quick to tell us the most important fact of treasure huntingThe Treasure is meant to be found. v5:  “you will discover the knowledge of God.”  For God is never so distant or so reclusive or hidden that we cannot find Him.  He wants to be found.  Again we turn to Jeremiah where He records the voice of God telling us that God will be found if we search for Him with all our heart.  I’m so happy to hear that.  It would be discouraging to be always be looking for something and never to find it.

            When we had our Easter egg hunt last year,  I remember it was a beautiful day outside. We had about 90 or so folks crammed inside the fellowship hall while Diane and her elves began hiding the eggs. I’m not sure how many eggs she hid, but I know it was hundreds and hundreds.  Scores of little treasures all tucked away in the yard beneath bushes and flowers.  And when the kids were released to find them, I think they were all plucked from their hiding places in less than five minutes!  Those treasures were hidden but in such a way that anybody who searched for them could find them.

Conclusion:

            Our search for hidden treasure is now coming to an end for this morning. But let’s always remember Solomon’s wise words. Begin your daily search for God with your ears and your heart opening like a rose beneath the sun.  Then open your voices in prayer and call out for God.  And when you do these things you will find hidden treasure for God wants you to find Him.

Straight Talk for Street Thugs

Straight Talk to Street Thugs.
Proverbs 1:8-19. DBC. October 28, 2018. Dr. Denny

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This morning we’re going to let Solomon give us all some good advice.  The title of the sermon is Straight Talk to Street Thugs.  You might be thinking to yourself, well this doesn’t apply to me.  I’m not a thug.  But we know from St. Paul that we are all sinners and so I think we should shed our self-righteousness and realize that if we hadn’t had wonderful parents and some good breaks we too could be running wild in some gang somewhere.

Solomon, a man of great wisdom, could have started his book with any of a thousand wonderful themes such as joy or happiness or love. But instead, he begins with the dirty subject of rebellion, and hopelessness, and abandonment.  Mix these ingredients into the life of any young person and you end up with a thug running wild without guidance or a future.

*I read the story of just one such person in the newspaper called The Guardian.  The very title of the piece seems outrageous.  The title of the article is: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed:  the rise of America’s white gangs.”  In this provocative story, the writer follows the life of a poor street kid namedBenny Ivey from Mississippi.  When Ivey was 12, he began sniffing Scotchguard. He soon followed his adoptive parents and two uncles,—all school dropouts—into addiction.  His dad made $20 an hour as a carpenter, but most of it paid for their habits…..

If only Benny had listened to Solomon.  He said in verse10—“My son if sinners entice you, do not consent…”.’vs 15 also…  But Benny didn’t know Solomon and the only adults in his life were all addicts and lost in the creases of criminal activity.  This is a long story with a happy ending because after years and years of reform schools, jail time and big-time gang violence, he met a nice woman and found God and actually got involved in Sunday school…

Solomon’s message is for all of us today no matter our age or background.  Live your life with the fear of the Lord.   Listen to your parents and have the courage to resist the dark side of life. These aren’t just words for street thugs; this is advice from a wise man who had seen it all.  His own dad was a powerful man who had committed murder and adultery but who had confessed his crimes to the Almighty and found for forgiveness.  Solomon urges all of us to put God first in our lives and to turn away from the evil that tempts us every day.

**I admire Merle Haggard.  He had such a rough start in life.  He was born in a converted boxcar in California. His father died of a brain hemorrhage when he was young and his life seemed to spiral downward for years and years.  Arrested and jailed many times over, it wasn’t until he was about 23, after a week in solitary confinement in San Quentin prison and then watching one of his buddies namedRabbit die on death row that he decided to change his life.  He learned to sing and play the guitar and he listened to Johnny Cash play at San Quentin, he began a recording career.  He never forgot his upbringing.  One of his early hits began this way:  I turned twenty-one in prison doing life without parole. No one could steer me right but Mama tried…That seems to come right out of Proverbs 1 where Solomon said that you should listen to your mother and if you don’t you’ll simply end up ambushing your own life! (v18). 

I was impressed by how Merle Haggard turned his life around and I invited him to join us today and to sing his song that so embodies the words of Solomon. …

(I played this tune in church)–Merle Haggard singing Mama Tried released in 1968…

Let’s sum up Solomon’s Straight Talk—

  1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.  (v7).  It seems so simple and basic.  Just find the Lord early in your life and set your heart on pleasing Him. **There is no better place than SS to make this happen.  My whole life was changed by simply attending SS.  It was there that I played with other kids, sat in little classes taught by loving adults.  It was in SS that I learned to do Bible drills,find and memorize verses, do arts and crafts that pointed me to the Lord.  It was in SS that I was challenged to be the youth preacher when I was in high school—a job nobody else would take.  I did it and I loved it.  It was in SS that got little pins for attendance and it was in SS that I learned the basic truths of the Gospel.

Solomon would have loved  SS because that is where you learn the fear of the Lord and love of Christ and joy of the church.  And it was in SS that the street thug Benny Ives from Mississippi finally found his freedom.

  1. Honor and learn from your parents—your father and mother (vs 8-9). Benny Ives had no real parents. The closest thing he had were adoptive adults who were all addicts.  Parenting is such an important skill.     *I could always tell in my class of 8th graders at school who came from a good family.  Those parents always came to the open house and wanted me the teacher to know them. Kids from families with good parents usually behaved better and took their education more seriously.

Parents are like guiding lights that keep us on the right path. When the temptations of the dark world ensnare us, and social pressures summon us to do wrong, parents step in and show the way.  If you had good parents, remember to thank God for them.  Not everybody is this fortunate.

**When I was in my 20s I remember going with Alice deep inside ofLuray Caverns.  Down and around we went further into the labyrinth of narrow winding paths. Finally, after about 20 minutes of starring atstalagmitesand listening to the gurgles of water in the distance, the guide stopped and did something that nearly killed me—literally.  He turned off his flashlight and plunged us all into the pitch black that only a cave can deliver.  In an instant, my heart began to race, and perspiration bubbled up on my arms and forehead.  I began hyper ventilating, unable to breathe.  Panic overwhelmed me, and I wanted to run, but I couldn’t see any escape.

This is the effect of living in a world without parents who know the way forward and who are guiding lights.  Parents guide.  It was what they do and kids need that.  They even need it when they become adults. We still get calls from our grown kids when they seem lost or perplexed or in some type of danger.

Solomon reminds us that parents are invaluable and they are the key to avoiding endless troubles in life.

  1. And finally, Solomon tells to have the courage at any age to learn to say NO to temptations that we know will lead us astray.  He tells us in v 15—“My son, do not walk in the way with them.  Keep your feet from their path.” Solomon’s advice is simple.  Just say no like Jesus did in the wilderness where He wandered for 40 days.  Every time the Devil dangled some tempting offer before him, Jesus resisted.  It’s a basic skill but its an essential one.  It takes courage to say no when others are doing wrong.  But Solomon had an unusual take on what was really going on.  He said inverse 18—These people who rush toward trouble are really  ”ambushing their own lives.”

*It was Nancy Reaganwho had the famous slogan “Just Say No!” to drugs.  Much of the media and the world laughed at her naivety for creating such a silly slogan.  Kids can’t do that the experts said.  And maybe that was true, but Solomon seems to be saying the same thing.  I could paraphrase verse ten by saying, “My son, if sinners entice you, ”Just say no.”

Conclusion:

So let’s sum up Solomon’s Straight Talk to Street Thugs and the rest of us.

  1. Put God in the center of your life.  It might be old fashioned, but there is something powerful about living a life that is centered around the divine.
  2. Listen to and value your parents. They know a lot more than you think.
  3. Learn how to have personal courage. Just say no when temptation strikes.

Vanity

She was pretty. I’ll be the first to say it.

Her mascara was a bit heavy for such a delicate face, but I’m not criticizing. I think it’s a matter of taste.

Her lips were prominent. They made a provocative statement suggesting inner strength and independence. I think the thick watermelon lipstick was overdone, but when I stepped back and took it all in–saw the whole person–she was impressive.

But why the vanity?

Every day for a week I watched her staring into a small mirror. She posed with such gusto, swiveling her head at odd angles as if she were preparing for an essential role in a Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, she’s not the first to preen before a mirror. Tutankhamun’s 3000-year-old personal hand mirror made of polished metal with a golden handle tells us otherwise.

But why the vanity?

I decided to approach her discreetly and offer a little counsel. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful but not to confuse beauty with virtue. I wanted to warn of time’s inevitable weight and the wrinkles that would one day crowd the mirror. But alas she would not allow it. For whenever she caught my shadow drawing near, she flitted away showing little interest in temperance.

I decided to accept her as she was. After all, who am I to make judgments? Now, whenever I see her from my porch clapping her feathered hands with glee at her image in my car mirror, I smile and turn to the swallows dipping and diving above the lawn.

They don’t show any interest in mirrors.

David R. Denny  PhD
Observations
www.BlaktiePress.com

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The Nightingale’s Song

The little pine coffin, simple in design, elegant in austerity, gaped with the tiny prisoner held in eternal abeyance within its wooden jaws. She was just a common song sparrow. No noticeable markings. No medallions lapped about her fragile neck. Her fame did not lie in public accomplishments celebrated by the press. There was no mass acclaim. She was not a celebrity.Nightingale.jpg3.png

She was just a common song sparrow who once brightened the neighborhood where she lived. She called to her many friends every morning with encouraging melodies that lifted the spirits of all who rose for the day’s toil ahead. While others cooked daybreak grits and fired up coffeepots, she sang. There was no coercion. She sang with spontaneous delight.

The effect of her lifeless body upon the gathered mourners was immense. The sparrow’s Spartan lifestyle reminded all that the essence of the gospel life is elegant simplicity, austere joy. She summoned spiritual strength from servanthood. She lived for others, not herself. Her life was her song. She sang tirelessly spinning out melodies directed at the homeliest of hearts, at the despondent souls that inhabited the byways and sultry nights of her working class neighborhood.

Now she lay in state, her little limbs stiff and cold, the melodies hushed. The mourners, hundreds of friends from the streets about her home, sat numbly wondering who would sing for them now. Who would coax them from their beds on dreary midweek days when the sun was clouded over? Who? Who would flutter from window box to window box smiling at them as they sipped morning coffee? Who? Already they missed her. Yes. Already they missed her.

As the funeral progressed, the minister read his favorite texts promising a bright tomorrow. He reminded the sorrowful of the bliss of heaven and did his best to revive the song. He tried. But everyone knew she would warble no more. The songster was gone. The silence was too heavy for the sermon.

Nightingale2.jpg.pngThe minister heaved a cold sigh, closed the Bible and sat down on his stiff-backed pulpit chair covered in golden fabric. He sat down and dabbed at his misty eyes. He too wondered who would replace the song. Who?

The whole congregation was entombed in grief. No one moved. The Minister checked his watch and realized it was nearly time to depart. He had failed his people. Inspiration eluded him. Dismissal was all that remained. He dreaded to rise and dismiss. All was not properly settled.

Then, suddenly interrupting his limping reverie was a quiet melody so pure, so sincere, striding buoyantly with hope. It rose from the back of the sanctuary like angel’s breath from the recessed choir loft high and removed. Sweeter than taps, the heaven scented Aria fell over the congregation like mist on a cracked desert.

The effect was immediate. The desert began to bloom. Eyes red with grief brightened. Brows tight with death furrows softened.

The crowd immediately turned to stare up at the mysterious voice in the loft. What they saw was not an angel. They saw no apparitions or ghosts from paradise. No. What they saw was a humble nightingale whose own heart was broken over the loss of her friend in the casket.

Nightingale.jpg.pngShe was not on the program. No one had officially recognized her. She did not mean to sing. But as she listened to the Scripture and reflected on the sparrow’s life, singing seemed her natural contribution. She sang with her eyes closed spilling her heart upon the listeners and offering an inspired carol to God, who always appreciates genuine prayer.

The nightingale’s solo continued for a spellbinding period. The notes cascaded down upon parched attendants until without any warning or notice she stopped. She just stopped, wiped her eyes, blew her little nose with a delicate yellow hanky and then quietly flew off.

The minister, stunned over the unexpected performance, rose with renewed joy. He motioned for all to stand. “Go in peace,” he said, his face beaming. “Go in peace and remember the nightingale’s song,” he told them.

And they did.
“I was like one who comforts mourners” (Job 29:25).
Parakeets in the Choir
David R. Denny

 

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

I befriended a lady this week.

I am fully aware of the complications that can arise from such an act of kindness. You know how people talk. But still, she had stumbled into my Sea Breeze driveway, and I felt an uncontrollable urgency to act.

I knew at once that she was high born for she wore a sophisticated tea rose orange gown cut with impeccable taste, custom fitted to her petite form. Perhaps, I wondered, the black smudges that freckled the dress were the result of some unknown trauma encountered on the highway. It must have been those bad kids down the road throwing mud at her I thought, anger rising within me.

I knelt down and checked for signs of life. Not hearing any breathing, I was about to engage in CPR when she moved. It was just a faint fluttering of her gown, but I took it as a positive sign. I bent low and whispered words of comfort and inquiry.

She seemed startled and made an attempt to rise and flee.

I stopped her. “You’re not ready,” I said softly.

She paused realizing flight was an impossibility at the moment.

“Let me help you,” I said.

She would have none of it, searching frantically for an escape.

I lifted her from the ground. She made no resistance. A slight morning breeze drifted in across the ocean marsh ruffling her begonia gown, summoning.

I knew she would leave, and I would never see her again. I knew.

Still, I tossed her gently into the wind, and she was gone.

(But as we all know, real friends never really leave us).

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

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Whistling in the Dark

Version 2

Whistling in the Dark

It was close to midnight on the front porch, and the darkness clung to the unseen horizon muffling the ocean murmurs. The only sounds I heard were a few distant geese and some of the nuthatches that flitter in the cedars behind my house. The silence was haunting, almost frightening as I contemplated the mysteries lurking in the darkness beyond the Cedar Island shoreline.

I’m not sure what prompted me to whistle. Perhaps it was nothing more than an instinctive summons from nature; I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I just whistled and waited. The few lone chirps and distant squawks hushed, and all that remained was my solitary porch note gliding along the black corridors of the Point. I noticed at once that my brief melody lingered a while echoing off some distant pine tree before it slipped under night’s cover and was gone forever.

That simple whistle brought me such sudden joy I couldn’t wait to launch another. This time I added a little trill to the melody wondering if perhaps I might a get a response. But there was no answer; just a ponderous silence that tried to interpret my meaning. I knew I had an audience now for the night sounds had grown still, and I just knew that a thousand little-unseen eyes were looking this way.

Smiling, I whistled for a few more minutes sampling a variety of orchestral tempos from adagissimo to affrettando (very slow to hurrying). Each spontaneous stanza meandered over the dark marsh beyond and then sank slowly into the ocean.

It was something akin to praying, I thought. Little pieces of the soul flung out toward the heavens, waiting, hoping, expecting. Yes. It was little like praying.
David R.Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Sunrise

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Sunrise at Henry’s Point, Sea Breeze Drive
(Photo by Dr. Denny)

I paused on my morning walk recently as the sun stretched regally over the Cedar Island marsh that rolls out like a velvet carpet to the shore.  The horizon seemed almost to be on fire as I stood and stared in wonderment at the painting before me.
And then this deer quietly slipped out of the dark forest brush on full alert fully aware of my intrusion into his morning ritual.  It was one of those mystical moments that I knew would vanish within minutes.  I wanted so badly to freeze it, to command it to linger longer, but, alas within a few dolorous winks of a faint morning breeze, it was but a delicious memory.
        In some ways, this sunrise fantasy reminds me of the year just past.  It rose with promise balancing on the precipice of time and then quickly vanished into December’s mist.  Gone.  Within a blink or two twelve months slipped into the sea and left me realizing how fragile time really is, how fleeting the gift of life can be.
I stood a few minutes longer beneath the golden haze lost in lazy thoughts wondering what the deer was thinking and if he sensed the divine like I did.  I wanted to ask him, but before I could the sun bade farewell, the day began, and he was gone.


Christmas Shoe Boxes

We had another successful shoe box campaign this year.  Everyone gathered on a Wednesday night, including the girl scouts who helped this time.  Shirley Deeds spearheaded the event and close to 80 packed boxes were stacked in the sanctuary  ready for delivery to the needy around the world.

 

 


Hanging of the greens

The kids are practicing for the Hanging of the Greens service in December.  Jo Coniglio, the church organist, teaches them the songs for the service.  Megan Campbell watches from the front seat.
During the service on Sunday morning, these kids were such a delight to all the congregation.  They sang several songs and then bustled off stage to gather in ornaments which they paraded down the center aisle of the church in an endless stream dropping off their ornaments and looping into the back to gather more.  Thanks, kids, for your participation.


 Dale Parks and Linda Young pose beneath the pulpit in front of the poinsettias.  All the members of the Flower Committee (Alice Rew, Ted Lewis, Amy Kay Hines, and Shelly Mize) did an exceptional job of decorating the church.  This is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries on the Shore.  Be sure to stop and enjoy it before the holidays slip away.


The Dream Team will have its first meeting on January 20th at 10:30 at the Crossroads Coffee House in Onley.  Anyone is welcome to participate.  Currently there are eleven volunteers.  Our mission is a simple but complex one:  DREAM!  What can we do to make our church better, more effective, more interesting to absentee members and outsiders.  Our goal will be to dream of ways to spur growth and inspire many in the surrounding area to become a part of our church family.


Candlelight Service

  The Drummondtown Baptist Church Candlelight Service will be held December 23 at 7:30 pm.    Everyone is welcome.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s not forget the miraculous offering on Harvest Home Day, November 19, 2017.   On this hallowed day, the church gave from free and thankful hearts over $21,000.00!
The pastor will be out of the pulpit for two weeks– December 31, 2017 and January 7, 2018.

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

Singing Thankfulness

Singing Thankfulness. Col 3:16—Drummondtown Baptist Church– Nov 25, 2018.
Dr. David R. Denny

Introduction:
*Can anybody whistle?  (Ask to hear).
*I was a little bored the other day and so I did what we all do when we’re listless and in need of inspiration—I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In the scene I watched, Snow White was faced with a chore that many men have faced:—a dirty kitchen that your wife told you to clean up.  In this scene, Snow White showed us how to do it. “Just whistle while you work,” she told the squirrels and chipmunks and birds who helped her.

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Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace
And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom
Is someone that you love and soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune
When hearts are high the time will fly so whistle while you work


Colossians 3:16 is our text today and it stands high and lifted up beside John3:16 as one of the most powerful texts in the Bible.  If I was to translate it from the Greek it would go something like this:  JUST WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK.

What makes this so impressive is that Paul was in prison while he wrote this. And it is this context that he reminds us that thankfulness is possible no matter what our life situation. My sermon outline is simple this morning:  1.  Sing thankfulness (or whistle) when times are good. 2. Sing thankfulness (or whistle) when times are bad.

1. Sing thankfulness (or whistle) when times are good.

        This is what David did in Psalms 9, the text I used here at DBC on Thanksgiving morning.  David gave thanks when times were good.  His battles behind him, peace had settled in on the people of Israel and in this tranquility, David sang his thankfulness.  READ TEXT…I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

*This is what the pilgrims did on the first Thanksgiving in Massachusetts.  Just ten months after their arrival in the new world, they had already built seven houses, a common meeting place, and three storehouses. And so they joined with their Wampanoag Indian friends and gave thanks.

But it is often the case that when times are good and we are blessed and contented that we often forget to sing our thankfulness to the Lord.  We become complacent and take our blessings for granted.

*Such was the case in Malachi’s day.  He tells us in this sad treatise on the frailties of the human heart.  Everything was good in Malachi’s day.  The people had come home from captivity Babylon.  They had rebuilt the city walls under Nehemiah’s leadership, and the temple was also repaired and ready for use.  Everyone had it pretty good.  But they forgot God in their abundance.  They no longer sang thankfulness. They gave God only the leftovers.  The priests brought God the weak and maimed animals for sacrifice and the people only put pennies in the offering plate.

*One of the books I taught my 8thgraders was written by Elie Wiesel entitled, Night. He starts the book with a strange character named Moishe the Beadle.  Moishe was a loner, almost clownlike.  Nobody took him seriously.  He was a quiet somber person who spent most of his time in prayer and reading of the Scripture.  He lived in Transylvania a region of Romania.

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He warned everyone to flee because the Nazis were coming but no one believed him.  He was just a clown. But one day they did come and the foreign Jews in the town were herded into cattle cars and taken off to their deaths.  Everyone on the cars had been ordered to walk into a near forest many miles from their town.  They were all shot with machine guns.  Moshe played dead lying under dead bodies.  When the Nazis left, he went back to town and warned the rest to flee.  But nobody believed him.  They were so complacent.  They were like the people in Malachi’s day—sated and full and giving God only an occasional wink.  But then not long after they all of the Jews of Transylvania were ordered into cars and taken off to their deaths.

All of this brings us back to our main point.  Sing thankfulness when times are good. They won’t always be good so develop the habit of giving thanks now while your life is blessed with abundance.  Don’t be complacent.  Don’t give the God the leftovers. Give Him exuberant thankfulness each day.

2. Sing thankfulness (or whistle) when times are bad.

It was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who reminded us all that hard times are likely to fall upon everyone sooner or later.

The Rainy Day
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life, some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

It is simply a fact of life that hard times will befall all of us sooner or later.  Is it possible to give thanks in the dark days?  It defies all logic.  I know it is a task that must seem impossible.

*Peter understands that difficult may befall any of us at any time.  He reminds us in 1 Peter 5 that Satan is a roaring lion who seeks to devour us.    But he also tells us that suffering has its limits and “after a little while the God of all grace…will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you,” 1 Peter 5:9-10).

*It was St Paul and Silas who sang praises to God in the dark jail cell in Philippi.  (Acts 16:23…).

Conclusion:

As Thanksgiving gives way to the Christmas season, let’s all sing our way forward with songs of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. Let’s give thanks for the smallest of blessings that come our way.  Let’s give thanks in good times and in bad trusting that our lives in God’s hands.

 

 

The Call of the Harvest

 

The Call of the Harvest.  Proverbs 3:9-10/ Malachi 3:8-10—DBC. Dr. Denny. November 18,2018

Introduction:
They were called Stampeders.  These were mostly men, a few women, who left their comfortable homes in the states and rushed to the Klondike to prospect for gold in 1897.  The stampeders numbered about 100,000 dreamers who just knew they would strike it rich in the Klondike.  Few ever achieved that goal.  To get to the Klondike they had to drag a ton of supplies up and over the steep Chilkoot Pass that led to the Klondike.  I have an old photo that shows a string of men in single file struggling to climb this treacherous and narrow path up the mountain.

Chillcoot Pass

It was in the midst of this gold frenzy that a young man from San Francisco named Jack London decided to join this mob.  He was 21 and his life up to this point had been a struggle.  He hoboed around the country doing any odd job he could find. He tried to go to college, but he just didn’t have enough money to make it there.

London said once, “it was in the Klondike I found myself.”  He got sick in the mountains though and had to go home.  But when he got back to California he wrote one of the world’s most famous novels, “The Call of the Wild.”  This story drew from his experiences in the Yukon Gold Rush.  He wrote about a powerful dog named Buck who had been stolen from a wealthy family in California and sold to prospectors in the gold rush.  Buck eventually turned wild, the call of the wild too powerful to hold him back.

The Call of the Harvest

            It was this title of the novel that intrigued me as I considered our gathering today. Harvest Home is one of the high points of our church life here at the DBC.  And harvest Home has its own call as well and it is in Malachi that I hear these sacred calls the clearest.

Background to Malachi:

Malachi was written after the exiles returned from captivity in Babylon (538 BC).  Nehemiah had just rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and life returned to normal finally.  But as time passed the exiles did the unexplainable—they once again strayed from God, neglecting Him in worship and life.  (Why do we always do this?  Why do we forsake the only One who ever loved us enough to give His life for us)?

The priests began to grow weary of the constant daily summons to the temple and the sacrifices.  They did a horrible thing:  they began to bring the worst of their animals to the altar.  Only the diseased, or blind or worthless animals were selected for God.

And the people also began to neglect the Lord by stealing money from the Lord.  They only brought a small portion of the tithe required by God.  They kept most of their wealth and gave God only the meager leftovers.

Solomon reminds us today that we must hear the Call of the Harvest and bring our wealth to the Lord. Then, he said, would dour barns be filled to overflowing.  And Malachi reminds us that God deserves more than our leftovers.

Three Calls of the Harvest

Let me briefly give you three calls of the harvest for us to consider this morning at Harvest Home.

  1. The Call of our Wealth

Each year we come to this event planning on honoring God with our offering.  We come because love our church, we love our Savior.  This is an ancient tradition.  Solomon taught us to do this.  Malachi taught us to do this.  Jesus likewise taught us to give to the Lord.

*Mathew 2:21.  “Give to Caesar the money that is due Caesar.  And give to God that which is due to Him.

Our goal this year was $15,000.  Your goal might be small but sacrificial for you. Perhaps you brought $5 or $10 or more. Only you will know if your gift honored God.  Only you will know if you stole from God.

*My attempted robbery in Athens.  I was on an Athens bus.  It was crowded and I stood holding on to the ceiling strap.  A Greek man stood in front of me with a newspaper. We swayed back and forth as the bus rounded various corners.  When the bus finally stopped, the man began to pull away from and when he did so, my wallet fell from his folded newspaper to the floor.  That was I knew I had been robbed.  I was so angry.  Perhaps this is how God felt in our Malachi text.  Let us answer the call of the Harvest today and not rob God of our tithe.

  1. The Call of a Hundred Dreams.

For our church to truly prosper, we need more than money.  We also need to bring our Dreams.  I believe when a church stops dreaming, it starts dying.

*The BGAV meeting this week in Richmond hummed with countless dreams.  I could scarcely take it all in.  Every speaker talked of a dream his or her church had for ministry. Let me share just one that the BGAV has been promoting for five years.

*More than Nets is a mission project between Virginia Baptists and Ghana.  It focuses on the crisis of malaria in Yendi, a region in Northeast Ghana.  Every year scores of people die malaria.  The solution is a simple net.  A net costs about $10.  The goal is to deliver 100,000 nets in five years.  At the BGAV meeting, the moderator announced that 85,000 nets have been delivered so far.  An offering was taken. The goal is almost completed.

What is your dream for DBC?  Perhaps you haven’t thought of this for a while.  but the Call of Harvest is more than money.  It is dreams.  What can we do?  What will we do here on our mission field?

*One of my dreams before I ever arrived was to start a program to help teachers in the nearest local school.  That dream is now underway.  Once a month a number of you join me in bringing refreshments and a smile to the local teachers of the Accawmacke Elementary School. Already I see an impact at the school. The teachers are so appreciative of our gifts to them.  Many of them share personal problems and concerns as they take an apple or banana in the morning.  What are your dreams for our church?

  1. The Call of Talent

The final call of Harvest Home is the call of talent.  What good are money and dreams without talent?  As you bring your tithe and your dreams, you must also bring your unique talent.  What can you do?  Everybody has a talent or a gift.  Paul made that clear when he spoke to the Corinthian church.

*Last week we issued a call to help staff the nursery.  Immediately many of you stepped forward and now I understand that we have a good foundation for rotation of workers in the nursery.

*Rustburg BC.  At the BGAV meeting, I learned of a small church in Rustburg VA who has a wood ministry. Men in the congregation chop and deliver wood to 28 poor families who would freeze in the mountains without it.

Conclusion:

We heard at the beginning of this sermon Jack London’s Call of the Wild.  And from that illustration, we have considered the Call of the Harvest.

We must answer three calls:

  1. The Call to Give
  2. The Call to Dream
  3. The Call to Act

 

The Search for Happiness

The Search for Happiness. 1 Timothy 4:12-16. DBC—October 21, 2018. David R Denny PhD
Happiness

Introduction:  On a scale of 1-10 rate yourself right now on personal happiness.  Tuck that number away.  No one has to see it except you.   *There is an article in Psychology Today entitled Ten Simple Ways to Find Happiness.   One of them applies to our text today.  #6 on the list is Find Purpose.  The writer says this:  “Those who believe they are contributing to the well-being of humanity tend to feel better about their lives.  Most people want to be part of something greater than they are, simply because it’s fulfilling.”        

            Our text today is all about finding that purpose in your life.  Finding what it is that makes you happy.  Everybody has some gift within them that they excel at, something they are uniquely qualified to do that benefits the world and makes you happy in the process.  What is that thing in your life?  That is something we want to find out this morning.

            I have a feeling after reading our text today that Timothy, the young pastor of the church in Ephesus is a little unhappy. He has lost his way.  He has forgotten his gift.  And this troubles Paul greatly.  We know that some elders in the congregation were looking down on Timothy because he was so much younger than they were.  I think this was having an impact on Timothy who was doing his very best to lead the church forward.

            But there is another hint about Timothy’s well-being tucked away in the Greek text of verse 14.  *My little red Greek book.  I remembered a very important Greek lesson that my old professor Dr. John Burns taught us at the seminary.  I even marked it in my little red Greek book.  I noticed in the front cover of this book that I had stamped my address on it.  5900 Rhonda Road, Terrace Apt., Lynchburg Va.I had just gotten married and we lived in a tiny apartment in the basement of a large house in a quaint neighborhood near the school.  The Greek lesson that my professor taught us this day in class was that sometimes an imperative verb has to be translated with the word STOP.  And 1 Timothy 4:14 is one of these places.  The best way to translate verse 14 is this:  “Timothy, stop neglecting the gift that is within you.”

            I find this statement so troubling and sad. Paul had found young Timothy on his missionary journeys years earlier and was immediately impressed by the young man. He was so fond of him he led him to Christ and then invited him to follow along on the missionary journeys ahead. Paul became very attached to him. He had so much promise.  He was a natural leader and teacher.  This gift had come to Timothy directly from God and through the laying on of hands by the influential men who supported Paul’s ministry (v.14).   It was the gift that made Timothy happy.  But recently he had stopped using it.  When he spoke in the church his face betrayed a tinge of depression and his sermons dragged. He had a gift for these things, but he had laid his gift aside and now he merely went through the motions.  And this is what is sad.  Timothy was no longer happy!  His gift had withered away.  And this is what prompted Paul to say “Timothy, STOP neglecting your gift.”

     *This summer I had a beautiful pot of cornflowers only my back deck.   I loved looking at them.  They were bright and cheerful.  I was a little haphazard about watering though.  I would give them a sip of water every once in a while.  I didn’t have time for watering.  But I sure enjoyed the effervescent blooms.  One day I went out to sit beside the flower pot and I noticed they were dead.  The blush of life was gone.  I had done the very thing Timothy had done.  I had neglected them.  That is the meaning of the Greek word here in verse 14.  And it is Paul who saw it at once when he returned to the church from his travels.  And it was Paul who commanded the Timothy to STOP DOING THIS!  “Stop neglecting your gift, Timothy.”  You’re a natural at preaching and exhorting others to love life. So get back to it.

But wait.  It was not enough to just urge Timothy to find his gift again.  He said another fascinating thing in the opening words of verse 15.  He said to Timothy.  “I want you to pour yourself into your old gifts.  Get yourself all lathered up and excited about it” ( 15 ταῦτα μελέτα ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι). This is the very word that is used in Psalm 2.  “Why are the nations in an uproar and the people so excited in their hatred of God?”  And it was this very Ps 2 text that was repeated in Acts 4 after Peter and John had been released from jail for healing the lame man at the temple.  The saw how worked up all of the people of Jerusalem were against Jesus and the work of the Spirit.——“Timothy, I want you to be like this, frenzied almost about your gift.”

        *I still remember to this very day how worked up my old high school basketball coach used to get at halftime if we were losing. He would come storming into the locker room, slam the door and stare at us without a word for a few seconds. Then he would kick a chair across the room, and when that didn’t seem to rouse us enough he would slam his fist into a locker.

       This is the urgency Paul is commanding Timothy to have.  Timothy, revive your gift.  Put your heart and soul in it.  It is the very thing was made you so happy before.  Stop neglecting it.

Application:

      Now let’s shift our attention away from Timothy and back to us.  What is the one thing you love to do?  Are you still doing it?  If you neglect your talent, you will lose it.  —*I loved to play the cornet in high school.  I played all the time.  But at some point in the past, I laid it down and now I can’t even find my old horn.

            Paul said something very important to one of his other congregations.  He said to the Corinthian church, “All of you have a gift.  You need to find it and pull it out.  Dust it off and use it again. It will bring you happiness and purpose.  And then Paul did something very creative to get his message across.  He created a little play and all of the actors were body parts.  Yes.  That sound strange but look at 1 Corinthians 12 and you will see this playful side of Paul. —-Mr. Foot comes out first and looking very gloomy says “I am not much use to anybody.  I am not a hand.  Everybody knows how valuable a hand is.  It can do everything.  But I’m just a foot.”

            And then Ms. Ear comes out on the stage.  “Man, I know how you feel.  I’m just a big old ear.  I’m nothing like an eye.  Eyes are so useful.  They can see everything, and you can put makeup on them etc. But what good is an ear.”

            Paul closes the play by stepping up to the mike and saying loud and clear—Ears and feet are just as important hands and eyes.  Everybody has a gift.  Timothy has a gift but he neglected it.  You have a gift.  Stir it up. Bring it back to life.

            This is so important in the church.  We all have a place here and everyone can do something for the greater good.

Conclusion:

      What was your happiness number this morning when you rated yourself?  True happiness comes from serving others and using your unique talents for good in the church and in your community.  Dust off your gift and then put it to use again.  And let’s all go down to Timothy’s church and listen to him now that he’s back on track and using his talents.

Living Youthfully

Living Youthfully—1 Timothy 4:12—Drummontown Baptist Church—Accomac Va 23301 October 14, 2018—David R. Denny PhD

How many of you would like to look 10-20 years younger?  Well, this is your lucky day.  All you have to for this to happen is to listen carefully to my sermon and take mental notes.  It always pays to go to church.  There is no charge for this secret to youthfulness.  It is a gift from me to you.

*I don’t think I’ve ever watched the Shark Tank.  This is a tv show where 5 rich entrepreneurs listen to a business proposal from some rookie who hopes to strike it rich.  If they like it, they will invest and help to launch the dream. I read a recent news story about this show.  Two young women had an idea for a facial cream.  Rub this cream on your face daily and it will literally remove wrinkles and restore a baby’s complexion to your weary face.  When they finished their presentation, all five members of the Star Tank bought in—instantly!  All of the movie stars are now using it.  (For a small fee I will happy to give you the name —Livali—of this product).

*I searched online for secrets to staying young.  Someone interviewed several centenarians in Okinawa, Japan.  All were over 100 years old and still quite youthful. One of their secrets is just so down to earth.  When they eat, they always stop when they 80% full. They never eat to capacity.  They also ate more plants than meat, got the belly fat off, and used their brains.


In our text today, Timothy had just the opposite problem.  He wasn’t old and wanting to be young.  He was too young as the pastor of the church in Ephesus and so many of the older men were looking down on him. READ TEXT—4:12—“Don’t let anyone ‘despise’καταφρονείτω.your youthfulness.  This unique word means literally to “think down”.  Its a cruel way of sizing up someone you don’t like and trying to demean them.   This is actually just plain bullying.  (I was glad to see that Melania Trump is involved in an anti-bullying campaign saying she knows what it feels like to be bullied herself).

Paul is very upset at this. I can tell by reading his words.  He commands Timothy, using the imperative mode, to never let anyone do this to him.  Rise above it Timothy, he says to the young pastor.  —-And then Paul creates a fascinating ingredients list for positive youthful living.  And so let’s look quickly at the five ingredients in Paul’s forever young secret cream.  Each day this week, get up and immerse yourself in Paul’s secret for youthful living and observe the effect upon your life.

 

  1. Be positive and helpful in what you say to others.ἐνλόγῳ, The old playground taunt went this way:  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.  A writer on workplace culture rephrased it this way:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can break my heart.”

*On a customer service blog, there were 25 top words that resonated with customers. The top three were: Definitely—I will definitely make sure that it gets done 2.  Absolutely—I absolutely agree with you.  3.  Certainly—I can certainly help you etc.  etc..

Paul says to Timothy—Don’t worry about your critics.  Just let your words be gold and you will see them take effect over a long time.

  1. Live your words. Let your behavior prove your character.  The word here for behavior ἐν ἀναστροφῇ, is Peter’s favorite word.  (“Up—Turn”). Peter uses it 8 times in his two short letters. Why?  Because behavior tells the world who you really are.

*I watched a guy doing some basic Yoga moves the other day. On one Yoga exercise, he started low and swung his arms up high very slowly breathing carefully.  This word means a new inward change charges through you and results in positive, spiritual behavior.

Paul says to Timothy.  Just live your beliefs.  Let the world around you and these old critics in the church see that are you serious about serving God.  You’re not just a charlatan or a pretender.—Do this and your youthfulness will shine through to the world about you.

  1. Love more, hate less. ἐν  ἀγάπῃ,    Frowning can cause wrinkles!  And anger can make you age faster.  In the British Medical Journal Thorax, scientists found that anger and hostility are associated with a host of long-term health problems.

Paul’s advice to young Timothy was simple.  Just love more, Timothy.  Put aside your anger toward those who are against you.  When people resist you, just determine in your heart to retaliate with love.

* My tuna sub at Was Mart.  I waited for five minutes while the lady counted her change 10 times the register.  Finally, another lady showed up and with a smirk just stared at me at the preparation area.  No greeting. No pleasantries.  Now words period.  Just staring waiting for me to make a tuna move.—I didn’t say anything.  I didn’t show much love but I didn’t get mad.

But Paul goes further with Timothy—Return Love when you’re mistreated. Not easy but it leads to youthfulness.   Love more—hate less.

  1. Practice having more faith.   ἐν πίστει,  What was the one thing that upset Jesus more than others?  It was when His disciples or followers demonstrated little faith.  Jesus found it so hard to understand this.  Faith just came naturally to Him.  (Matt 8:26). “He said to them, Why are you afraid, you men of little faith”?      

          Living by faith runs contrary to the modern mind.  We want to be able to explain everything.  We prefer logic and facts.  But Jesus preferred faith.  And he passed that lesson on to Paul who now passed it on to Timothy.  “Timothy, he said, when the critics say it can’t be done or it won’t work, just smile and believe in your heart.  Have faith.

It’s a simple yet profound truth.  Living by faith means we walk hand in hand with God trusting that He can lead the way through this difficult world.  It’s a secret to youthfulness.  It’s daring and bold, and refreshing.  Practice living by faith each day, trusting in God’s care for your life and believing in miracles.

  1. Live a life of Purity. ἐν  ἁγνείᾳ.  This is a rare word but it should not be a rare trait in your life. Purity means casting out the dark and negative influences that abound in this modern world.

*In the OT times there was a unique pledge of purity that individuals often used when they wanted to draw nearer to God. It was called the Nazarite Vow. From the Hebrew word Nazir—separated ones.  Numbers chapter 6 explains this ritual.  If you chose to draw near to God or needed His help, you could take the Nazarite Vow.  You would not drink any alcohol during the vow time. You would never go near a dead body and you would not cut your hair.

Men and women could take the vow.  It was always voluntary and set numbers were created so it didn’t go on forever. Hannah took such a vow in 1 Samuel and Samson did so in Judge 13:5.  Samson was known for his long uncut hair.  This was part of the Nazarite Vow.

We don’t have to take a vow.  But living a dedicated life to God, a pure and chaste life, is one of the commands to young Timothy.

Conclusion: So here you have the secrets to youthful living:

  1. Be positive and helpful in what you say.
  2. Live your words—Behavior
  3. Love more, hate less
  4. Practice living by faith
  5. Live a life of Purity.

Do these things and join ranks with youthful Timothy.  Do these things and watch the wrinkles fall off your soul.

Anticipation

They aren’t flying.

They are just sitting at the end of the driveway in a little forlorn huddle, about ten of them.

No more darting and diving in front of the porch. No more shameless displays of acrobatic somersaults.  Ten swallows just sitting in deep contemplation at the end of my driveway staring at the sky.

Anticipation.

Will they leave today? Will they linger a little while longer?

I sat motionless on the porch and hoped they would stay. These little friends have brought me such joy every morning. If I ever woke with night burdens still pulsing it only took a visit to the morning porch to reassure me. They always greeted me with chirps and drive by wing salutes to awaken my heart to the possibilities of a new day.

It hurts to see them motionless at the road’s edge as if somehow childhood was slipping away and the long flight to somewhere haunted them.

Couldn’t they stay a little longer carefree and young? Does it have to change?

There is sadness in the air today, an anxious anticipation of a farewell that I don’t think I can avoid.  Still, they linger in the distance staring off into the mystery.

But wait.

They’re up.
They’re circling.
They’re coming this way slipping happily under the porch to their mud huts. I hear singing again!

The morning sun is now above the distant marsh pines, and I am happy.

I always hated goodbyes.

David R. Denny 2018

Hungry-swallows.jpg

https://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/wildlife_photography/photographing-swallows-60356