As Caesar traveled through the land of the Gauls, he noticed an unusual custom observed by these warrior peoples. After battles, the Gauls gather the spoils of war into the local village and pile them in sacred heaps in public places. As the inhabitants go about their normal duties, they pass by the glittering mounds of gold and silver objects with no thought of taking them secretly. Day after day, the morning sun reflects off the treasures reminding citizens of the victory in battle, fanning a pride in accomplishment. And in the evening’s moon glow, as people return from the fields, these spoils of war usher them home, breeding quiet confidence in the army’s power.
Should anyone break these rules and pilfer from the treasure pile secretly, woe to them. If discovered, they are dragged from their home and tortured grievously for the offense.
Achan could have profited by this custom of honesty. It was Achan who stole from his town’s sacred pile of war loot, dreaming night after night of a beautiful mantel from Shinar. He took the mantle and stole 200 shekels of silver and a heavy bar of gold, hurrying home to bury them in the ground beneath his family tent. When Joshua discovered this breach of trust, the retaliation was brutal and swift (Joshua 7).
Jesus offers valuable spiritual advice about treasure: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21).
The army stood, stumped, at the deep ravine, unable to go on in pursuit of the Bithynian army. “It can’t be passed,” said general Sophaenetus, staring at the crevasse before them. “It’s too deep and risky. Let’s turn back.” While the soldiers grumbled, Xenophon rode up in a frenzy, asking why the army had stopped moving. “It’s the ravine, sir,” barked Sophaenetus, the oldest general.
“Nonsense!” said Xenophon, who, after a brief pep talk to the hesitant force, led the men step by step down into the treacherous deep. When they gathered victorious on the other side, Xenophon ordered his men into battle formation and said this one notable thing: “Listen, men. The enemy is just beyond that ridge. So as we march on, call the names of those marching beside you. Inspire them. And remember to do something ennobling today, something memorable, so that no matter what happens in combat, people will whisper your name in awe for generations to come.”
Then, marching with purpose rapidly, they pursued the Bithynians. Suddenly, the trumpet sounded, they struck up the paean, raised the battle-cry, couched their spears, and sent the enemy running for the hills. ————————————————————————–
Ravines often bring out the worst in us, forcing us to turn away from a destination or goal in frustration. But they can be a turning point, a rare chance to say or do something ennobling.
Paul said to Titus, “In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame…” (Titus 2:7-8). —————————————————–
Strike up the paean! Do something ennobling today. —————————— “Make each day your masterpiece.” John Wooden
Turning Points Acts 11:1-18—May 19, 2019–David R. Denny PhD
Drummondtown Baptist Church–Accomac Virginia
Introduction:Where were you on Christmas Day, December 25th, 1776? If you can’t remember, then let me refresh your memory and remind you what happened on that fateful day in American history. (I do this because the theme of my sermon today is Turning Points so I will begin by taking you to this turning point in American history).
Turning Point #1—An example from American History.
This was the day Washington and his Continental troops decided to take a huge risk and cross the Delaware River. Then they attacked the British at Trenton NJ. Morale had been perilously low for the American forces. They had lost N Y C and they had been chased like rabbits all over the place. Troops were deserting or their enlistments were up. Just before the daring battle plan to attack with only 2400 troops, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called The American Crisis. Here is what he wrote: READ—-Within one day of its publication and just before the attack, Washington read this pamphlet to his troops. It instantly became a turning point. Morale shot up and the troops were ready to fight.
Turning point #2—Salvation comes to the Gentiles (Acts 11)
Now let’s go back further in time to a breathtaking turning point that took place in a coastal town on the shores of the Mediterranean not far from Mt Zion that we studied Wednesday night. Caesarea is the location of our story today. It was the capital of Palestine after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. It was built by Herod and became the region’s most beautiful city. Herod spent 12 years building a harbor that spilled out beneath his great palace. He also built a hippodrome that stat seated 20,000 spectators to watch chariot races. And there was a huge aqueduct that brought water to the city from Mt. Carmel from the north and a grand amphitheater still used today for modern outdoor events. And in excavations of the 1950s, a plaque with Pilate’s name on it was found proving his existence.
It was in this grand city that Peter, directed by a vision, came to meet with Cornelius, a Roman centurion who though not a Jew still worshipped God with great piety. Peter came to his home nervous about this breach of protocol. Jewish men were not allowed to enter a Gentile’s home or eat with them. And yet Peter did these things because of a vision directing him to this place. And as he spoke to the Gentiles gathered in the soldier’s home an amazing thing happened that stunned Peter and the Jerusalem church to the core. It was so powerful a turning point that the Christians in Jerusalem didn’t believe it and argued with Peter about later when he arrived there In Acts 11.
So what was this amazing turning point event? It happened as Peter told the soldier’s family the gospel story about the death and resurrection of Jesus. While he was speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44). These non-Jewish men and women began to speak with tongues just as the Jewish brethren had done on Mt. Zion in the upper room. And when the Jerusalem brethren heard the story they finally realized a profound truth that we know today: God Loves Everyone. Not just a select few from a certain city or location, but everyone.
Today we know and accept this truth as almost commonplace. We know that we here in our church on Front Street aren’t the only ones whom God loves. Everyone is invited to our services and everyone is invited to believe in Christ and find salvation. BUT—back in time, back in the ancient city called Caesarea, this was not the case. Then only a select few were considered the chosen ones. Until this eventful day when Peter preached to a soldier’s family along the coast of the sea and the love of God enveloped them all. It was a Turning Point.
Turning Points that come in our lives as a result of this miracle of the past:
Now let’s think about lives today. How does this miracle at Caesarea affect us today? It does every day in countless small and great turning points that make up our lives. Because we know God loves us and we are not excluded from heaven’s blessing, we live so differently. All the decisions in our lives are sparked by this first miracle by the sea.
Your life today would be so different if Peter had not gone to Caesarea. Your life would not be the same one you live today if the Spirit of God had not fallen upon the soldier and his family and friends. Every step you take today is forever linked to this first turning point.
When you chose to marry, what did you do? You prayed for guidance from the God who loves you. (The first turning point now affects this turning point). And the result is that God led you to your husband or wife.
*This was the case with Isaac of old. When he was nearing 40 years of age, he prayed for a wife. It is one of the most beautiful stories of the OT. It is told in Genesis 24. Abraham, very old, sends his servant Eliezer to find a bride. And when he sees Rebekah at the well he thinks this is the one. The story concludes on such a touching scene In Gen. 24:62). Isaac is in the field one evening meditating when he sees camels coming in the distance. He begins to walk toward them for he knows that this might be the woman God has chosen for him. And as he walks ever faster toward the camels, Rebekah also sees the shape of a man approaching and wonders who it is. “That is my master,” said Eliezer. And when they got closer she discreetly covers her face with a veil. Isaac does the smart thing and immediately takes her to his mother’s tent for Sarah’s approval. And then the romance unfurls and they are married and the Bible says Isaac loved her with all his heart.—
It was a turning point. It was linked to the core truth—God loves me. The same truth Cornelius came to know. The same truth you and I know. And now all turning points are forever linked to God as we move day by day through this life.
Have you accepted the first truth—that God loves you? Have you opened your life to the Lord and yielded yourself and your future into His hands? If not make this moment a turning point and trust Him to be our Savior.
My Mother’s Cake (Mother’s day) 2 Timothy 1:5–May 12, 2019. Dr. David R. Denny
Timothy’s mother’s name was Eunice and I’m sure she made a chocolate cake for him when he was a little boy. Timothy and Paul often reminisced about Eunice and Lois, her mother, in the evenings when time slows down and memories begin to chatter. I have searched my Greek NT for Eunice’s chocolate cake recipe but for some reason, I am coming up blank. So I thought I would tell you about my mother’s cake since I was there—an active eye witness to this pleasant part of my childhood.
Every time I meditate on my mother’s cake adventure I grow to appreciate many qualities that mothers share.
First of all, I have to begin by stating unequivocally that my mother could not cook worth a lick. (If she were sitting in the front row here, after throwing a coffee cup at me, she would grudgingly agree). Dinner time for me as a boy was often about survival. My mother tried her best to cook spinach and cauliflower and other exotic vegetables which nearly killed me. But I will say that through it all she emerged the victor on three items which I gladly ate without complaint:
I’ll start with the dessert entre first—forget the Triple-cheese Cheesecake with Amaretti Crust or the Hazelnut-and-Chocolate Meringue Cake. No—she gave up on those long ago. But somehow she perfected chocolate pudding. So I always had a dessert. —And then for the main course after a hundred burnt beef tips and meatloaves, she learned how to put on my plate—are you ready?—spaghetti. Not the sauce—Just the spaghetti. She would cook it in an old tin pot and when it was finished she would hover over me at the table and pour it out in one big mound. When I saw it, I felt safe. She never mangled spaghetti. And then for the beverage ( I call it the first course), she would set before me in a purple or orange Five and Dime plastic glass some southern tea with a twist of lemon. She was really good at that.
So there you have it—three courses that made me what I am today—tea—plain spaghetti and chocolate pudding!
Mothers gather.Everything I ever needed to know about mothers I learned from watching her bake my first chocolate cake. And so when I saw her standing all excited in the kitchen one bright morning in Sumpter SC near Shaw Air Force Base, I knew something was up. I sat down on the floor and watched her gathering all the supplies. She had a recipe book, the pages wrinkled with exasperated tears from many a failure, and a big green bowl and whisk and some eggs, etc.
Mothers are good at gathering what their kids need to be successful. They gather activities, Bible Schools, opportunities, birthday parties, and anything that will help us blossom as people.
* Once when I was just beginning to learn to read, she sat down on the sofa in our little house off base after gathering up the morning newspaper. She patted the sofa with a smile and I joined her. “Let’s look for all the THE words,” she said smiling. She slid her index finger along the first line and stopped at a THE. I looked at the three letters and then asked excitedly if I could try. “Sure,” she said. And off we went GATHERING…
Not only did she gather the paper for me and all the THES. She gathered the opportunity to be with me and make me feel important. I learned this quality of motherhood from watching her bake my first chocolate cake. She had gathered all her supplies to be successful.
Mothers Sift.She had poured out the flour from the mix into a bowl. Then she put a cupful into a sifter to get out the lumps and to make the flour softer. By now she was humming softly and enjoying herself. I just sat there with my chin propped up spellbound. It was later in life that I realized that mothers are skillful at sifting the good and bad elements of life for their children. It’s a daily chore all mothers master because this is a challenging world and kids are mischievous by nature.
*When I was in kindergarten, I remember practicing some new words in class. These were unusual words that all seemed to have four letters. They rolled off my tongue so deliciously, but my teacher didn’t like them at all and she dragged me into the bathroom and washed my tongue with soap. Then she gave me a note to take home. When I gave it to my mother, she began sitting at once. It was instinct. She lugged me to the bathroom and did the same thing—soaping up my mouth—sifting good from evil. I’m far from perfect today, but when I tend to stray, I remember her sifting the chocolate cake flour and her sifting out my bad words.
Mothers Pray. When she had finished all her tasks and was ready to slide the cake into the oven, she did something I will always remember—She stopped and said a little prayer. It wasn’t much. Very simple something like “Father, bless this cake.” Then she slid it into the oven and closed the door. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just the cake that was baking. It was the prayer baking too.
I came to understand as I grew older that good mothers know the meaning of thoughtful prayer. She prayed for me each day when I rode my bike off to school at the Yokohama Air Force Base in Japan. She prayed for me just before she turned off the lights at night in my bedroom. If it wasn’t for a million prayers of mothers all around the globe, the world as we know it would be no more.
*John tells us in Revelation 5:8that all of these humble prayers of mothers are gathered carefully into sacred golden bowls and given to the Lamb of God who stands beside the great throne of God. A mother’s prayer never dies. It lives on in heaven forever. I learned all of this by watching my mother bake a chocolate cake for me one morning long ago.
Mothers Wait Expectantly.Once the oven door closed, I wondered what was next. That’s when my mother said, “Now we wait. It’s going to be a wonderful cake.” And that‘s when I realized that every mother spends her life waiting expectantly for good things to happen in her family.
Mothers are like everyone. They are prone to discouragement and despair. They know hardships and heartaches. But beneath it all, mothers believe in their children and their families. They wait expecting the cloud to lift and the good days that will come. And so it was that day when she slid the cake into the oven. She settled back with a happy expectancy believing in her cake.
*I have a photo of my mother standing beside Alice and me outside the graduation chapel at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It had taken me many years to get this day. And through all of those, even though I had left home years earlier, she was still waiting expectantly. In the photo, she stands beside me as if the oven door had just opened and the beautiful cake was done. It’s what mothers do. They wait and believe.
Mothers Celebrate(in Good Times and Bad). She told me that when I hear the bell ring that means to come running, the cake is done and ready for icing. And so I remember pacing around the living room counting my steps over and over to pass the time when all of a sudden the bell started jumping and hollering. We both hurried to the oven door. She opened it and took out the cake. It smelled divine and when we finally saw it we stared for a few seconds, taking it all in. I wasn’t sure what to say. I looked at her face. She studied the cake for a few seconds, her brow wrinkling softly, and then smiled and so I smiled. She set it down on the special platter she had on the dining room table. The entire cake leaned to the left like the Tower of Pisa. In the center, there was a large sunken crater.
She ignored all the deficiencies and began to celebrate by icing the cake with great cheer. She spread the icing generously making little waves here and there and letting me lick the knife. And when it was done I learned the final truth: mothers know how to celebrate in good times and bad—and I realized that the real icing in a mother’s cake is not the chocolate—but the love.
Directions to the Resurrection by David R. Denny Ph.D. April 21,2019. Drummondtown Baptist Church, Accomac Virginia
Introduction: This morning I’m going to do something that men are not good at: I’m going to give directions. I’m so used to getting lost when I drive places that I don’t even worry about it anymore. I just enjoy wherever I end up.
*Joke—I heard of a tired hunter out in the wilds stumbled into a camp. “Am I glad to see you,” he said. “I’ve been lost for three days.” “Don’t get too excited, friend,” the other hunter replied. “I’ve been lost for three weeks.”
This morning I’m going to give us all directions to the resurrection. The directions come from the Scriptures so I feel pretty safe about them. And I hope that when it is all said and done all of us will gather there together and marvel at the wonder of Easter.
Turn Left at the Via Dolorosa. Let us begin our journey to the Resurrection by turning left on the Via Dolorosa, the street of Sorrows and Sighs. This ancient thoroughfare runs 2000 ft east to west beginning at the Fortress of Antonia near the Dome of the Rock. Here Pilate condemned the Savior and cast Him aside as so much rubbish. Once out upon the street, the cross was placed upon his shoulders and the death march began. The crown of thorns tore into his scalp and sent rivulets of blood into his eyes and down his sacred cheeks. He stumbled blindly forward gasping for air, his legs trembling beneath the weight. He only lasted several hundred yards before he collapsed at the third station of the cross.
If you want to find the resurrection you must walk with Jesus along the stations of the cross and study his features as he carries the sins of the world—your sins and mine. Tradition says He fell three times on this memorable road before he reached Golgotha.
At station 4, he pauses and says farewell to his mother. How sorrowful this moment must have been. How does a mother say goodbye like this? It is a moment beyond words. Perhaps they spoke only with their eyes. And then, prodded by the soldiers, he continued until He could go no further. Luke tells us (Luke 23:26) that the soldiers forced a man from the country named Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.
Perhaps you say at this moment that you will skip the stations of the cross and run straight for the empty tomb. But I say you will never find it unless you first turn left at the Via Dolorosa and live the sorrow and pain of the long walk of shame.
Turn right at Golgotha.But it is not enough to merely walk beside Him on the Via Dolorosa. As I study my map I see clearly that you must turn at Golgotha if you intend to find the Resurrection. Come with me. Let us stay on track for we don’t’ want to get lost. Let us stop beneath the cross and pay our respects to the only one who loved you and me fully. You cannot find the resurrection without first finding the cross.
As we take the graphic scene in we notice the coarse behavior of the soldiers who gamble for the garments of the Savior. Listen to the crackle of the dice as it tumbles from the cup upon the ground. Hear the raucous laughter of the one who won the cloak and the good-natured ribbing of the losers who lost a day’s pay.
Listen to the sneers of the religious scribes who wonder out loud why this man can’t save himself like he did so many others. The sarcasm cuts through the wails of those who are devastated.
Hear the hollow challenge of the criminal to his side. ‘If you’re a King, save yourself! You’re no king. You can’t do it. You’re just a criminal like us’.
If you would find the resurrection you must turn left at Golgotha. It is here you hear the golden words of the dying savior—“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
It is here at the cross that we hear the final words the Savior uttered as a man—“It is finished!” If you would find the resurrection, you must hear these last whispered gasps. It is the only way to the resurrection.
*I looked up the value of decibels in everyday life. Heavy street traffic is 90 decibels—The cabin of a jet cruising is 80 db.—Average conversation at three feet away is 60 db.—quiet auditorium is 40 db.—a recording studio is 30—db.—and rustling leaves are 20 db.
*And so it is at 25 dbs.—the muffled sounds of fading leaves in a fall orchard that we hear the final words of Jesus—It is finished. Miss these words and you will likely get lost on your journey to the Resurrection.
Head straight ahead to Garden Street.We now are at our final directional point. We have turned left on the Via Dolorosa and experienced the sorrow of the lasts step of Jesus. We turned right at Golgotha and stood like penitents beneath the cross.
Now we must study the map and go straight ahead to Garden street for it here that we hear the sound of a woman weeping. She is distraught and continues to stoop down and look within an empty tomb where Jesus once lay. And as I observe her pain I know she is near the resurrection but has not found it yet. She followed all the previous directions: She walked the street of sorrows following Jesus as he struggled under the cross. She stood at Golgotha mesmerized by His sacrifice. And now she stands in the garden beside the tomb but she has not found the resurrection yet.
It is only when she turns to the gardener that dramatic changes occur. The gardener asks why she is crying. She explains her story and begs him to take her to the body if he knows the way (John 20:15). Just tell me where you have laid him, she asks in words laden with tears. She has not found it yet. She is near just like you may be near but she had not found it yet. She is so close. She is only four letters from the resurrection. And when you are this close you see its contours and your whole body begins to tremble. And then He says “Mary!” And she found it.
Treasure Hunting—Proverbs 2:1-5—Drummondtown Baptist Church—November 4, 2018, Dr. David R. Denny PhD
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 29:12-13—Then 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.”
*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 hunting. The 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.
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 to Street Thugs. Proverbs 1:8-19. DBC. October 28, 2018. Dr. Denny
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—
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.
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.
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.”
So let’s sum up Solomon’s Straight Talk to Street Thugs and the rest of us.
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.
Listen to and value your parents. They know a lot more than you think.
Learn how to have personal courage. Just say no when temptation strikes.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
She 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
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).
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.
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.
TheDream Teamwill 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.
The Drummondtown Baptist Church Candlelight Service will be held December 23 at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome.
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.
Pausanias, our tour guide to the mysteries of ancient Greece, stands upon the Sounion promontory at the edge of the world, so it seems. This tip of land rises high above the Aegean Sea about 43 miles south of Athens. Upon it rests the slender ivory pillars of the Temple of Poseidon where Lord Byron once etched his name into the base of one of the columns and wrote these memorable words:
“Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep, where nothing, save the waves and I, may hear our mutual murmurs sweep…”
Pausanias, standing in the shadow of the glorious temple atop the promontory, points to the harbor ahead and then bids us glance at the ancient town of Laurium. He mentions in a passing breath that this was where the Athenians once exploited silver mines. It was from these mines that untold scores of unfortunate slaves toiled night and day, scraping out the precious silver to make Athenian coins. There were as many as 20,000 pitiful slaves, many of them children, who worked in deplorable conditions and died forgotten in these ghastly silver-sprayed shafts of the deep.
For Pausanias, the mines were a mere novelty and he didn’t linger more than a few seconds before leading us on to grander themes. But I wonder—
Are you forgotten? Do you call Laurium home? Isaiah reminds us of a golden truth:
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15).
Don’t let the mines crush you. God has not forgotten you.
“We sometimes think we want to disappear, but all we really want is to be found.” Anonymous
A fierce, wintery wind whipped the beaten soldiers as they trudged through the Pontic Mountains toward the Black Sea. Artaxerxes had chased them for weeks, and the Greek army was exhausted. One by one, they fell, frostbitten, and defeated by winter’s merciless breath…
Paul said it best: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ…And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not(Gal. 6:2/9).
Put the shovel down! Don’t let weariness win.
“I know not age, nor weariness nor defeat.” Rose Kennedy
Turning Corners by David R. Denny Walk long enough on a straight path, and you will, of course, fall off the earth. That’s why we have corners. They entice us gently to change our course, to explore something yet unseen, to visit some vista just beyond sight.
One morning on a stroll through Onancock, I spotted a corner just up the way. Everything curved around a light post and roamed off somewhere beyond my sight. I paused to consider several options: I could turn back and step on the familiar cracks of a sidewalk already visited or say a prayer and venture forward. I opted to embrace the curve like Marco Polo, who always cut his anchors and sailed boldly ahead.
Corners can be a little frightening at times. They chide those who don’t like to change, mocking with polite chuckles all timid souls who simply refuse to step out of their ruts.
I swallowed hard, hailed Marco, and opted for a new adventure. My reward was almost instantaneous. I had barely entered the windblown curve when the sweet savor of honeybuns and chocolate eclairs wafted through a screen door.
I was never so glad for turning a corner in my life. What about you?
In all honesty, her features were less than pristine; some would even say, rather dull. Perhaps it was the prominent forehead that seemed almost to resemble the bow of a great ocean vessel or maybe it was the sheer bulk of the girl—her squared shoulders, lack of a waistline, rounded feet that made any shoe seem ill-fitted, etc. She certainly did not seem like debutante ball material.
The whisperings around town plagued her whenever she ventured out on some innocent errand. She preferred the sideroads and back paths when possible but all too many times there were none and she was forced to face her public. These were the moments that tried her soul. Her heavy heart wondered how she could ever mingle with bankers’ daughters or other elites on the night of the festivities.
It was with glee that she stood one fine morning in front of Sherry’s Clothing store starring in the window. The dress was perfect, gleaming in rare, Ox-blood red, known as rare chic on the streets of Paris but unheard of in this small town. Standing alone before the slim mannequin, lost in a storybook fantasy, she wondered what people would say. She knew it broke all the rules of debutante white, but still, hers had not been a preferred path in life and now was not a time to make changes….
The evening unfolded with feathers and veils. The chosen ones, girls with pedigrees, strolled under lights into the ballroom, their headdresses glowing with stardust. Accompanied by black vested dates, the ladies smiled and curtsied in the custom of grand traditions.
And then a hush fell as a single beam alighted upon the door frame beneath which stood our heroine, swaddled in scarlet, smiling beneath the blessings of heaven’s panoply.
David R. Denny
I drove recently to the earth’s end, paid the toll, and then reluctantly launched off across a great sea. No one witnessed this exodus but a stray gull or two who paused in flight questioningly squawking to one another “why, why?” I made no reply and traveled on.
The sea rolled beneath me with little white caps that frowned on my endeavor while a gentle breeze whispered, “hurry. Hurry back!”
Time seemed almost suspended as I drifted interminably forward and soon my mind began to spin as if I had crossed some foreign time zone into a land of sighs. I shook off the darkness by repeating the mantra, “soon, soon I will return.”
Before long I was a swirl in a kaleidoscope of turmoil and noise, my heart racing, my knuckles white. I persevered gulping thin air beneath a greying sky until mercifully some mysterious magnet pointed north, pulling me toward white sand and salty air.
I floated atop the great sea, white caps smiling warmly, past the two gulls, and back beneath blue skies and open fields waving like old friends relieved to see me.
I was home again on the Eastern Shore.
(Pastor’s Pointin the Sunday bulletin)