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.

 

 

The Call of the Harvest

 

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

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

Chillcoot Pass

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

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

The Call of the Harvest

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

Background to Malachi:

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

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

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

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

Three Calls of the Harvest

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

  1. The Call of our Wealth

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

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

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

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

  1. The Call of a Hundred Dreams.

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Call of Talent

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

We must answer three calls:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

Straight Talk for Street Thugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s sum up Solomon’s Straight Talk—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

The Search for Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application:

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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