Desert Storm

Desert Storm—Luke 4:1-13/Ps 91. DBC. March 10—Dr. Denny

Introduction:
        What were you doing on January 1991?  What was America doing on January 1991?  Let me jog your memory.  This was the year that we entered into a 60 billion dollar war.  That’s what it cost to conquer Saddam Hussein.  35 nations followed George Bush and the USA into battle to save Kuwait and conquer Iraq.  The war took 5 weeks.  There were 262 coalition casualties.  It was called Desert Storm.

Background:
         Now let’s step into another desert storm, the one mentioned with such gravitas in the book of Luke.  Here we find the Savior still dripping with the baptismal waters of the Jordan being led by the Spirit into the wilderness of Judeato face trials and temptations of the Devil.  And as we step onto the hot sands of the desert, we realize a truth all too common to people of all ages.  We are all prone to trials, testing, and temptations in our lives.  We must be prepared and we must guard ourselves against the certain attacks of the enemy.
Wilderness Judea.jpg

The wilderness of Judea into which Jesus walked is a place of majestic, silent beauty.  It begins near the city of Jerusalem and tumbles thousands of feet down to the Dead Sea. Moses stared humbly at this wilderness from the mountains of Moabto the east of the Dead Sea.  God, however, would not allow him to enter. But Jesus did venture into the wilderness, led by the Spirit and you and I must also enter daily for the life of a Christian is not void of trials.  We, like the Savior, must expect the devil to attack us daily, seeking our weaknesses, exploiting our frailties, striving to weaken our resolve to follow Jesus to the end.

The Judean wilderness where Jesus walked for 40 days is the home of one of the world’s oldest monasteries—Mar Saba.  If you could look down from the air you would see it perched precariously on the edge of the Kidron Valley midway between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.  Built in the year 483 it houses today about 20 monks and is considered to be one of the world’s oldest monasteries.  It still maintains many of its ancient traditions. Mar Saba.jpg

It was into this rugged wilderness, the desert of Mar Saba, that Jesus wandered without food or water for 40 days fending off attacks by the Devil.  He studied the Savior and searched for weaknesses.

According to Luke, the devil knew Jesus was hungry and so he challenged him to turn the rocks into bread.  But Jesus said no.  Then the devil tempted him with power and fame.  ‘I will give you all the kingdoms of the world.’  But Jesus said no.  Then the devil tempted him to leap off the temple wall knowing the angels would come to his rescue.  But Jesus said no.

And so we too must learn to say NO! to the daily temptations that come our way.  And we can do this God’s help.

  *When was your last big test?  How did you handle it?  Did you fall apart?  Did you find your way through to success?

*The biggest test of my life did not come at my doctoral defense even though my best friend Phil Walker had gone into the room where the professors waited to grill all candidates for the doctor’s degree. And when he came out he was in tears. They had flunked his dissertation.  After many years of seminary work, he left without a degree. And as he passed me in shaking his head in utter disbelief, the door swung open and a boney hand from the lead professor summoned me in next.

No, the biggest trial of my life came at a much earlier time in my life.  I was just entering the second grade.  I had left Ms. White, my first-grade teacher behind in Sumpter South Carolina where I used to live in peace and tranquility.  And now I was in Japan and this was my first day in second grade with anew teacher I did not know or trust.  Her name was Ms. Mud and I think it was an appropriate name.

I sat near the back. I did not know anybody. I had no friends.  And then Ms. Mud made a declaration.  “All right, Class get out a sheet of paper.  We’re going to have a test.  I looked at her with my eyes blinking.  Ms. White didn’t give tests.  What is a test?  I squirmed uneasily.  “Number you page from 1-20.  I sighed with relief.  I did know my numbers.  I could probably count to 30.  I had this.

But then she started with something I did not understand.  She called out a word.  She said “our first word today is tree.  I noticed all the kids writing but I didn’t know what to write.  What did she want to know about trees?  I did like trees.  I had fallen out of one once.  I panicked. I didn’t know what to do.  So I just wrote YES!because I knew I did like trees.  But she kept going.  Our next word is DOG.  Everybody began writing.  I did like dogs.  I had a dog named Fluffy.  “YES! Our next word is GIRL.  By now I had it down.  Of course, I had no use for girls.  That was easy.  I wrote boldly the word NO.

When I was all down with the 20 words I turned in my test paper and waited for the verdict. Finally, she curled her finger at me like my doctoral professors and summoned me forward.  I came with high hopes. She stared at me hard with dark eyes and then scribbled a huge E on the paper.  I looked at the verdict and then smiled with such pride.  An Excellent on my fist test.  (It wasn’t until I got home that realized that than an E was a flunking grade).

Conclusion:
Tests and temptations come in all shapes and sizes.  None of us are immune to life’s trials.  Even Jesus faced them as we see so clearly in His Judean Wilderness experience.

Let’s close with the wondrous words of Ps 91, a Psalm for those under attack from the devil, for those of us in the midst of a desert storm.

In this amazing Psalm, we learn that God is our refuge and fortress in times of testing and temptation.  He builds an impenetrable wall about us.  He protects us.  He shelters us with His wings.   And he sends his angels to guard us in times of duress of temptation.

Each of these thoughts is a sermon in itself. God is our fortress—He shelters us with His wings—He sends His angels to watch over us.  Such powerful truths to help you and me through our wilderness wanderings, when we are under attack.

 

The Necessity of Daily Ascents

The Necessity of Daily Ascents—Luke 9:28-36- March 3, 2019—DBC—Dr. Denny

Introduction:  This morning we are going to take an exhilarating hike up one of the most iconic mountains in Palestine.  It will be a sacred ascent in the tradition of Jesus our Savior who made this very trek before us.  And in this journey, we will see the value of daily ascents.  I believe every Christian should make a daily ascent, a daily spiritual journey. Spiritual ascents help us to rediscover our purpose in life and they also recharge our spirits as we absorb the power and grace of the Savior.

Anyone who has the physical strength and mental determination can walk the Appalachian Trail in our country created in 1921. It runs 2200 miles and passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

However, if you go to Israel they too have such a trail—TheIsrael National Trail–that runs across the entire country of Israel from the north to the south—636 miles.  It takes about 60 days to walk the entire trail.  It is listed in National Geographic’s 20 most “epic trails.”  It is said, “to delve into the grade scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of the modern Israeli.”

This trail passes by our mountain this morning—Mt. Tabor—located in the world that Jesus knew just 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.  It rises nearly 2000 ft out of the Jezreel Valley. It is a strange place because it is not a part of a mountain chain.  It is an island all to itself, a majestic respite from the lowlands around it.

Our Ascent up Mt. Tabor

As we follow the Savior up the mountain we will remember that 8 days before this trek up Mt. Tabor, Jesus fed the 5000 down by the Sea of Galilee.  And now Jesus needs to find some quiet time with God.  And so he gathers his closest disciples—Peter, James, and John- and invites them to join him in prayer on the Mt. Tabor.  (The mountain’s name is not mentioned in the Bible, but Origin, a luminary of the ancient church fathers of the 3rdcentury tells us that he believes Mt. Tabor to be the mountain).

The climb to the top is a beautiful one.  Mt. Tabor is covered with vegetation including oak trees and over 400 varieties of plants including the large yellow crocuses, the Persian lily that stands several feet tall dressed in royal purple flowers and black-eyes red tulips that take your breath.

Mt. Tabor.png

Chromolithographic card 1870-1880 by Helga Von Cramm

 

As Peter, James, and John followed Jesus up the long trail to the summit, they felt the presence of God in the beauty of the mountainside.  Finally, they all stopped at the top and each found a place to kneel and pray. But it wasn’t long before all of the disciples were fast asleep and Jesus was left alone to reflect on His life—its purpose and plan, just as we must do daily in our ascents, our moments alone with God.

But then a most remarkable thing happened, missed entirely by the sleeping disciples—Jesus was transformed.  The Greek text tells us his face changed much like that of Moses when he too climbed ancient Mt Horeb and received the law. Moses’ face glowed so brightly with the presence of the divine upon it that he had to cover it with a veil when he descended to talk with the people below.

And here the same thing happened-  Jesus’ face brimmed with a heavenly light and his garments sparkled with the dazzling brightness of lightning (a Greek word used only one time n the NT-ἐξαστράπτων).  If only we had not fallen asleep!  The disciples missed this at first.  Can you imagine?  But that was not all they missed.  For as Jesus prayed two men joined Him.  Moses and Elijah appeared upon the mountain and they all conversed.  This was predicted in the final verses of the OT. If you turn to the last page of the OT you will read in Malachi 4:5-6 that Moses and Elijah would come in the final days and this prediction is now happening on Mt Tabor while the disciples sleep.

Could we pause here and just gaze at the wonder of it all?  It is a heavenly scene like none other.  Thomas Aquinas called this the greatest of all Jesus’ miracles.  It is here that we get a glimpse behind the veil of time.  Here we see what one day we will all experience. Heavenly beings shining like lightning, speaking of heavenly things.

Would you like to know what they spoke of specifically?  We know what the conversation was about because Luke records it just as the disciples told him later.  What did they talk about?—They talked about the Cross and the impending departure of Jesus after the resurrection (Luke 9:31).

But now comes the part of the story I love.  Peter awakens and steps into a living dream.  Only it’s not really a dream.  For heaven is not a dream.  He witnessed the realities of heaven and could scarcely speak.  When his voice did come to him he could only stutter something silly like let me set up a tent for each of you so you can stay awhile.  The Bible tells us that he didn’t even know what he was saying!

Why do we need daily ascents?

  1. First of because they clarify our purpose for living.

When we pause in each day and step aside from our busy lives and venture up the mountain with Jesus we begin to rethink our purpose in life.  Why are we here?  What has God called us to do with our lives?  We need this time of reflection for without it we merely get lost in the world of endless activities.

  1. Secondly, we need to recharge our spirits. We need our faces to glow again.  We need to absorb the power and glory of God into our lives.  We need this daily and thus we need ascents daily.

Conclusion:

Last year one of the most amazing physical feats anyone has every accomplished happened in Yosemite National Park.  Alex Honnold, 33- climbed El Capitan, a 3000 vertical cliff face without any ropes or assistance. He planned this climb for 10 years and when he finally decided it was time to climb, on June 3, 2017, he had flutters in his stomach looking up at the peak in the clouds.  And then he took the first step up and for four hours he climbed straight up a cliff that all the experts said was impossible to conquer. When he finally scrambled up on the top, he posed for a selfie holding all of his gear: shoes and a bag of chalk.

As amazing as this was, it pales in comparison with the transfigured Jesus on little Mt. Tabor.  Maybe you can’t solo up El Capitan, but you can climb Mt. Tabor with Jesus and renew your purpose in life and recharge your spirit with the presence of God.

The Power of New Beginnings

The Power of New BeginningsIsaiah 6:1-8. –DBC– February 10, 2019—David Denny

Introduction:  This morning I’m going to take you on a roller coaster ride plunging from the heights of amazing accomplishment to the depths of despair and then back up with a spectacular new beginning.  This dramatic circuit often parallels our own lives of boom and bust.  Sometimes we’re riding high and then at other times were on the edge of disaster.  But through it all, God is there and He can infuse the life and inspiration you need to undertake a new beginning.

*Grapes of Wrath—One of the great novels of the world shows us the power of new beginnings.  Written in 1939 in the midst of the great depression, this uniquely American adventure tells the story of one family that hit bottom and decided to start anew by going west.  The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published in 1939 and won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and led to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.
Grapes of Wrath.jpg

Tom Joad had just been released from prison for killing a man.  When he got home, he found his farm abandoned.  The dust bowl and swallowed up the farm and the crops and the banks had foreclosed and all the family knew to do was start over. They would go west and live the American Dream in California…

  1. Uzziah’s Descent. Let’s step into the text now and discover another tale of woe than inspires our young prophet Isaiah to launch into a dynamic new beginning.  But first, we must follow the sad path of Uzziah who started off in life so well and then plummeted into despair.  He was 16 years old when he joined his father—Amaziah- in ruling the  Kingdom of Judah.

He did so well at the beginning.  He was a brilliant leader with so much talent.  He invented some powerful weapons that made the city of Jerusalem invincible.  He crafted some ingenious machines that would fire off arrows from the towers on the wall. And he invented a machine that would hurl massive stones over the wall at the enemy. —But he also loved simple things like farming and gardening.  He served the Lord and his reputation spread through the world. Tragedy struck in his thirties—His father was murdered which left Uzziah as the sole king/ruler.  At first, things continued on well but Uzziah began to change.  Dressing in the robes of the king swelled his sense of pride and before long he walked with a swagger and saw himself as all-powerful.
Uzziah.jpg

Then one day he did something so horrible he never recovered from it. He decided one day that he would stroll down to the temple and enter the holy place and burn incense on the altar.  This was a sacred ritual assigned by God to the priests, the sons of Aaron.  No one else could it.  But Uzziah didn’t care.  And so he prepared the incense and marched off to the temple.  The high priest discovered the plot and gathered 80 of the temple’s priests to stand as a barrier to the holy place.  Uzziah shoved his way into the temple and faced off with the priest Azariah backed by his army of priests.  2 Chronicles 2618 tells us what the high priest said to him.   “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated burn incense.  Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.”

The Bible tells us that Uzziah was enraged.  He was king. How dare they attempt to stop him. And then what happened next was truly incredible!  The Bible says that while he stood enraged and shouting abusively to the priests his face began to change before their eyes.  The text says specifically that the changes were first visible on his forehead. And then it spread, a bubbling, boiling putrid series of scabs and sores erupted on his face.  God Himself struck the king with leprously.  And when he read the faces of the priest who surrounded him and saw their stares of disbelief, he ran his hands over the scabby eruptions and dropped the incense tray and ran out of the temple screaming. From this time on he was banned from the city and forced to live in a small hut away from the people he ruled.

*Now 800 years later Josephus, the first-century historian tells us more details. He said in his histories that at the very moment of brazen assault on the holy place violent earthquake struck the city and as the walls of the temple cracked a brilliant ray of sunshine fell upon the king’s face and then leprosy struck.

*Modern geologists think they have discovered proof of this earthquake that had a magnitude of 8.2.  Masonry walls and debris from six of the Judean cities show clear signs of this earthquake and the date of the fallen rocks and walls date to this middle of the 8thcentury BC, the exact time of Uzziah’s reign.

And so Uzziah’s world crumbled into ashes as he lived out his life in horrible isolation locked away in a tiny house on the outskirts of the city and buried in a lonely tomb.

  1. Isaiah’s Vision and New Beginnings. But now let’s pick up the inspiring trail of Isaiah’s call to serve. Out text begins with these haunting words:  “In the year of King Uzziah’s death…”.   What does this mean?  Now we understand it all so much more clearly.  In the year of King Uzziah’s death—Now we know the tale of woe this suggests and now we see the big picture.  The city is overwhelmed with sadness and fear.  For the Assyrians have just conquered the region and now the people of Judah and Jerusalem must pay annual taxes and tribute to a foreign power.

And in the midst of these dark clouds that now hang over the city, a young man named Isaiah makes his way to the temple to pray and prepare for his day. And as he worshipped silently seeing the sacred smoke from the morning’s incense rising in the air and hearing the chants of the priests, his mind began to drift toward heavenly things.  And he saw in his mind a most wonderful vision of God Himself as He hovered over the mercy seat in the holy of holies.  (Read Isaiah 6:1-4).
Isaiah's vision.jpg

Paul had a similar experience.  IN the book of Acts (22:17) Paul says that he went into the temple and began to meditate and pray and there against the backdrop of the sights and sounds of the temple, he fell into a trance.

And here in our Isaiah text, we see the young prophet, a man in his twenties, living in the worst of times searching for hope and meaning. And then He sees God hovering over the mercy seat with the seraphim hovering about. Him.  And God speaks to him and asks the question of questions—“Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?”  And then Isaiah rises up with the hope a new beginning for his life and shouts out, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Conclusion:

When your life hits its nadir, when your life plummets to some unknown despair, remember Uzziah and remember Isaiah.  One abandoned the Lord and one surrendered to the Lord. One lost his way while the other found a new beginning.

 

 

Living with Confidence

Living with Confidence– (Overcoming Life’s Fears)–Jeremiah 1:4-10—DBC—February 3, 2019– David R.Denny. Ph.D.

  Introduction:  What are you most afraid of in life?  (Men, don’t say your wife).  Living with fear and being unable to overcome a steady stream of challenges that are destined to confront you in life can lead to a form of paralysis.  Fear can actually keep you from advancing and living well.
One typical fear that can cripple the average person is the fear of public speaking.

*Mark Twain said, “There are two types of speakers in the world:  1.  The nervous and 2. Liars.”

public speaking.jpeg        *A Braintracey.com researcher said that “the average person ranks the fear of public speaking (also known as glossophobia) higher than the fear of death.
        *At Forbes.com a lady who owns an apparel brand said she had to give talks to business groups and she was terrified until she learned to picture everyone in the front wearing fruit baskets on their head.

*When I lived in Japan my dad wanted to rise in the ranks.  He was an Air-Force text sergeant and he longed for a promotion.  So he decided to overcome his fear and live with confidence. He decided to learn how to do public speaking.  He joined Toastmasters and every week he would leave our little base apartment and head off to face his fears and deliver some speech.  At first, he would come home dejected because he hadn’t done well. But he didn’t quit.  In time, it was common to hear him burst through the door at home shouting out a victory chant and displaying his new trophy.

 

  1. The Life of Jeremiah—Jeremiah was a young man laden with fears. He was a stay behind the scenes type of guy. The quiet type.  But one day God tapped him on the shoulder and said that he was to become a prophet to the nations.  And when he said this Jeremiah’s fears kicked in big time.  He knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t do it.  And it is in this response that I can relate so well to him.  He was afraid. He lacked confidence.  He is so like so many of us in our daily lives.

    A. The political times.—Jeremiah lived in a time of raging politics.   Babylon was the emerging power while Assyrian and Egypt were waning in strength. When Jeremiah, born in 655 BC) was a young teenager, Josiah became king of Judah.  He was only 8 years old!  His father had been murdered and he took the throne.  He was one of history’s best kings.  Jerusalem in his reign was mired in paganism.  Horrible and disgusting rituals of human sacrifice took place then.  The holy temple had images of pagan gods and the people had turned totally away from the God of Moses and Abraham.—But it was Josiah who ordered the temple to be cleansed.  And in the cleaning of the temple, the priests found the sacred books that had been long ago abandoned.   This led to a revival in the land and Jeremiah was in the middle of it all.  

    the-death-of-king-josiah-at-megiddo-c-608-bce-kingdom-of-judah-was-ERFYBD.jpg

    The death of King Josiah at Megiddo 608 BC

         B.  Jeremiah’s Resistance—Into this maelstrom, God ordered the shy and uncertain Jeremiah to go.  He was in his twenties still learning how to be a quiet and humble man.  Jeremiah lacked confidence.  He refused to obey God.  He had all his reasons lined up in his debate with God.  (We do the same thing when we are faced with tough  challenges).

  2. The Excuses of Jeremiah

 I can’t do public speaking (Jer. 1:6)
so, therefore, I cannot be a prophet.

    *There was a time when I couldn’t speak before people. Right after my dad was transferred back to the states we settled in Jacksonville Ark.  I was in the 5thgrade.  And one day my teacher handed me a book and said read it and give a report in front of the class in a week.  (I read this week that our brains record every experience we have in life.  There is an impression in the brain for every event. If you were to crack open my head right now you would see a huge X on the spot where I had to give that report).  I have never experienced so much fear in my life before or after.  I remember sitting in the back of the class waiting for the summons forward.  And when I came I could barely walk to the podium. Sweat poured off my brow and plashed upon my handwritten speech.  My legs wobbled like Elvis when he gyrated on stage and words were stuck in thick molasses.

Jeremiah said Lord, I can’t speak.  God grabbed him by the collar, pulled him up real close and touched his mouth (Jer. 1:9). And then he grabbed a handful of words and stuffed them down his throat.  “Now you’re ready,” he said.  “I’ve put my words into your mouth.”

I’m too young (Jer. 1:6).

    Still, Jeremiah wasn’t ready.  So he said, ”I can’t go, Lord, I’m too young” (Jer. 1:6).  That’s funny because Josiah was only 8 when he became King, and Jeremiah was only a few years older than him.  And said to Jeremiah, “I don’t want to hear about your age.  Wherever I send you I will go with you”(Jer. 1:8).

I am afraid (Jer. 1:8).

But still, Jeremiah wasn’t convinced.  He said to God, But I am afraid.  And God looked at him and said  “Well you have no need to be afraid.  Don’t be afraid.  I’ will deliver you in every circumstance”.
*One of our readings today was Luke 4:30.  “But passing through their midst, He went His way.”  This took incredible confidence but this was how Jesus lived His life. And you too can live with confidence and overcome your fears.

A Final Promise from God

Each time Jeremiah whined, God stepped in with reassurance.  But Jeremiah still needed more.  So God said to him, Let me give you a visual—a promise you can see and hold onto as you go forth:    I promise—to make you like a fortified city (Jer. 1:18-19). Your walls will be of bronze so nothing can pierce or burn them.  And the pillars of your city will be of iron. Nothing will be able to break them.  And when people fight you they will not prevail. You are a fortified city!

Conclusion—You can learn to overcome your fears and live with confidence like Jeremiah.  God has a plan for your life.  He has called you to a task.  He will see you through to the end.

 

The Power of Meditation

The Power of MeditationPs 19:14, Drummondtown Baptist Church, Dr. Denny, January 27, 2019

Review:
Last week we discovered the Fountain of Life (Ps 36) mentioned by David.  God’s wants you to drink from Him, to commune with Him daily.  And in this constant spiritual dialogue, He will infuse you with love and joy and a purpose for living.

Introduction:
Today we will take another step in our relationship with the divine.  We will learn the power of meditation. When you first hear this phrase, the power of meditation, you might conjure up images of crazy people sitting high on a mountain communing with nature.  But let’s not be alarmed by meditation.  David himself valued it and took daily time to calm himself and connect himself to God.

*The University of Rochester Medical Center in NY has an informative article on the Power of Meditation https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=1&contentid=2509

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The staff at the school reminds us that our modern lives are already very stressful.  And as we focus daily on our worries and anxieties, the stress level in our lives often rises to the breaking point.  (We all can see this especially in the federal workers who have been furloughed).  Lingering on life’s problems can affect your health and your mental well-being and the medical staff urges everyone to cultivate the art of healthful mediation.  One quote from the article says, “Meditation allows you to become more awake and more purposeful about your actions.  It teaches you how to respond, rather than react, to situations in your life.”

             **I watched a short video from another source on the basics of mediation.  Here is what the instructor said to do:

—Sit on the floor with legs folded or in a chair if needed.  —-Place your hands before you—Spine erect—breathing from the abdomen in slow breaths—Avoid distractions—Let them pass by and merely witness them—don’t linger on them.  Start with only a 1 minute and work up to 10-20 minutes a day.  The effects will linger long after the session is over.

  1. David’s Troubled Life:

Today we take our inspiration from King David who mediated daily and wrote the Psalms that came from his that flooded his heart during these quiet times with God. But we must remember that David had a troubled life.  His family was in disarray most of the time.  He had multiple wives as was the custom of the day.  His children fought with one another.  One son,  Amnon, raped his half-sister Tamar.  The infuriated another son named Absalom who managed to get revenge by killing the brother. Absalom ran away home to avoid the wrath of the king.  David wouldn’t speak to his son for years. Etc..  An yet—still David found time to meditate and through these quiet times, he always found hope and forgiveness and direction.

  1. David’s Meditation: Let’s step quietly into David’s palace that looked out over the Kidron Valley below the great temple mount.  https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/did-i-find-king-davids-palace/Davids Palace.png

*Archaeologists think they may have found David’s palace in this location according to an article written 2017 by Eilat Mazar.  The remains of a massive structure date to the times of David.  Let’s imagine we are setting on edge of the great palace looking out toward the valley and the hills beyond.  There David settles himself in the morning breeze and begins to quiet his soul.

He calms his breathing and discards the anxieties that roil his soul.  He begins by contemplating the majestic movement of the sun as it rises slowly across the horizon (Ps 19:1-6).  He images god sending out the sun like a bridegroom stepping out of his chamber.

Next, he finds immense pleasure in thinking of the majesty of the commandments and law of God (7-12).  These words of God are sweeter than honey and in his meditation, he tastes the honeycomb and finds peace in God’s guiding words to him.

Conclusion:
Then after a certain time, he closes his meditation with a short prayer:  (v14):  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

David R.Denny Ph.D.
Visions501@gmail.com

 

 

The Fountain of Life

The Fountain of Life.
Psalm 36:1-12; Isaiah 62:1-5–Drummondtown Baptist Church. Jan. 20, 2019
David R. Denny. Ph.D

 

Introduction:  Our four texts today shine with unusual brilliance. On this second week past Epiphany, the Lord moves among us with sensitivity and love.  He wants nothing more than to restore your life, to lift you from any difficulties and to shower you with love. These are the themes of today’s readings and I have reveled in them all week.

The four readings flow with such grace and passion:

Isaiah (Isa 62:1-5) takes us back to the return of the captives from Babylonian captivity.  So dejected and worn they scarcely know how to live anew in their old city.  But God tells them their restoration will be like a glorious wedding with God as the groom.
David (Psalm 36) tells us over and over in his beautiful Psalm that God loves us in a thousand ways and leads us to the Fountain of Life.
John (John 2:1-11) in our NT readings describes a marvelous wedding in which the Savior turns water to wine and lifts the spirits of a wedding turning sour.
Paul  (1 Cor. 12:1-11) and in the Corinthian letter shows us all how we too can lift those around us with unique gifts of the Spirit that He bestows upon us all.

Let’s turn our focus on the Psalms this morning and the Fountain of Life that God gives to His children.

*Elixir of Life—Just a few years ago, construction on a brand new 22 story glassy hotel began.  But before anything could start, archeologists were called in to dig through the ground.  And what they found was fascinating.  On this parcel of land, they found a history of drinking, easting and lodging and potions for good health.
One such find was a small 200-year-old bottle that fits into the palm of the hand.  Scrolling around the length of the bottle in embossed glass lettering were these words: ELIXER OF LONG LIFE.   Anyone who drank the contents of this bottle would surely live forever with the greatest of health.  The company overseeing the excavation project traced the contents of the bottle back to Germany and found it in an old medical guide.

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           I’m going to reveal to you the very ingredients in this potent at the end of the service today so you too can run out to the pharmacy and have this very life-altering potion ground up for you.

  1.  God’s Love Overcomes Evil: Ps 36:1-4. The theme David presents to us this morning is such a hopeful one.  He tells us in v.9 that God is our Fountain of Life.  He is the Elixir that everyone is searching for in this world.  But before he unfolds this dramatic statement before us, he steps back and sees the world as it really.

The world he tells us is filled with evil.  His portrait of evil is chilling and reads like the evening broadcasts that are so filled with horror and pain.  David tells us that before I bring you to the Fountain of Life I want you to know that I too live in a dark world.  I see misery every day.  I see those who have no fear of God.  I hear them bark and spew wicked words against God.  I know people who lay upon their beds each night planning the next crime spree.  I live in a dark and troubled world just like you do.  I want to say this before I lead you to the Fountain so you will know I am not some flake living in a false utopia.  I know the pain of the real world.  And so God’s people experienced this pain in the captivity of Babylon.  And so you too today here this morning might find your life surrounded by anguish and hurt.

  1. God’s Love Reaches out to us all, all the time even with a backdrop of the darkest strokes. This is what David really wants to talk about this morning.  First, he paints the canvass with black and gray.  He understands the world as it is.  But now he moves on to the joyful side of life. God’s love is real and it reaches from the highest places to the lowest.

The poetry of verses 5-6 is so spectacular!  READ TEXT—God love reaches to the heavens and then to the skies below them and then to the mountains below them and then to the great deep.  Do you see how God’s love and oversight of our lives encompasses all there is about us?  From the heavens beyond our view, to the skies that drift, heavy with clouds and bright with sunshine above us, to the mountains that dot the landscape where we live, and then even to the deepest places upon the earth—From the highest to the lowest God’s love is there.

*Several years ago Russian scientists found life buried in the permafrost of Siberia back when the Mammoths lived.  They discovered little living bacteria on Mammoth Mountain, some in the permafrost and some in the brains of a frozen mammoth.  They found that when they inserted these organisms into mice or small rodents that were quite old and lethargic that they began to dance and skip about.  The hope is that one day we might all get a little dose of these creatures and we too will soon be dancing and singing again.  But David reminds us that God’s love reaches from the heavens to the deepest deep of the ancient permafrost.

 

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The bacteria were originally found on Mamontova Gora – Mammoth Mountain – in Siberia’s Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, in 2009. Pictures: Sergei Goltsov

 

  1. God’s Love is the Fountain of Life. Psalm 36:9. For with You (God) is the Fountain of Life.”  What does this mean?  It means that God gives life meaning and purpose and that God knows how to give us life forever. Our favorite verse of the Bible tells us this:  John 3:16. For God so loved the world that He gave us His son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have—EVERLASTING LIFE.

*People have tried through the ages to stay young forever.  Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt bathed every day in a donkey milk bath to her skin milky white and free of again.  She kept a stable of 700 donkeys so she could maintain her daily routine.  Nero’s wife too followed this regimen as well as Napoleon’s sister.

But David tells us that the truest fountain of Life is found in our relationship with God.  Bathe in his love, David tells us and you will find a youthful secret that many miss out upon.

*Tuck Everlasting—children’s novel.  Rated in the. Top 100 of all time. I taught this to my si graders one year. A young man named Jessie Tuck drinks from a secret fountain in a place called Tree Gap Tennessee  He never ages….

Conclusion:  This morning God is calling you.  He wants to give you life everlasting.  Just trust him with your life and watch yourself grow younger each day.


Elixir ingredients found in the old bottle:  Aloe, which is anti-inflammatory, gentian root, which aids digestion, as well as rhubarb, zedoary, and Spanish saffron.

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.