Take a Deep Breath

Take a Deep Breath—(2 Timothy 3:16—October 20, 2019–Dr. DennyDrummondtown Baptist Church).Breath.jpg

Introduction:  If you’re able to do it, take a deep breath.  That’s good.  One more time.  My sermon this morning is about breath.  Harvard Medical School put out an article recently with the same title as my sermon.  “Take a Deep Breath!”  Here is what they said:  The ability to breathe deeply and powerfully is not limited to a select few. This skill is inborn but often lies dormant. Reawakening it allows you to tap one of your body’s strongest self-healing mechanisms.

   When you practice deep breathing on a daily basis, your blood pressure will lower and your stress will lessen.  10 -20 minutes a day is all it takes.  You can do it anywhere.

Background.  Paul believed in deep breathing.  But Paul does the most amazing thing in our text this morning.  He turns his attention away from his breath and looks toward heaven where if you listen carefully you can hear heavy breathing.  And it is this divine exhalation that I want to focus upon this morning.

         *Whenever I go to the doctor, he or she often puts a cold stethoscope on my chest and asks me to breathe deeply.  The doctor moves it around to different spots listening closely to the movement of air in my lungs. frog.jpg

         Paul tells us in our text that God breathes.  In fact, he uses a rare Greek word that many commentators think Paul made up.  Can you imagine that?  A made-up word.  *I used to ask my 8th graders once in a while to try to make up a word.  A word that no one has ever heard before.  It’s not as easy as you think.  If you can think up one, write it down in your bulletin.  I have a line for it. __________________

         Paul’s made-up word is θεόπνευστος (God-breathed).  The traditional translation we often see is “All Scripture is inspired by God…”. But that kind of loses the punch of the word Paul invented.  The better translation would be:  “All Scripture is God-breathed.”  Just one word—one imaginative word formed in Paul’s mind as he wrote this letter to Timothy.    And this brings us to the image that I can see in my mind:  God doing deep breathing as He sits on the throne.  And with every breath out, we see the Bible forming.  For the Bible is the breath of God.

         *If you take your Bible and flip the pages quickly near your face, you will feel a slight wind.  That wind is the breath of God still lingering on his pages of Scripture.  For make no mistake about it, this Bible of ours is more than paper and ink—it is God-breathed—the very breath of God.

Outline:  Now that we understand the source of Scripture better, how can we use it in our lives every day for practical gain?  The Bible is not an irrelevant book on a dusty shelf.  It is practical.  And here is how it  helps us daily:

  1. Scripture teaches us ( 1 Tim. 3:16). We all need a teacher.  We started our lives with teachers and if you are to continue to progress, you still need one today.  *Now, I’m going to ask you to go back in time.  Dig deep into your past and try to remember your favorite teacher.  Can you see her or him?  What made this teacher so memorable?

         *My favorite teacher was Mr. Cochran, who taught 6th grade when I lived in Jacksonville Arkansas.  He was a bonafide cowboy who raced quarter-horses.  He was slim, well-groomed, polite and insightful.  cowboy.jpgHe was good with kids.  He taught the smallest things that I still use today.  For example, he taught me how to use a dictionary.  Of all things!  So insignificant, but he considered a valuable skill and he taught us.  He said when you want to find a word, look at the first letter and then when you open the dictionary, think where that first letter would be and open the dictionary there.  That saves time.  And when you find the closest page to your word, use your finger to slide down the words until you find it.

         Paul tells that Scripture does this very thing.  It teaches us daily on endless subjects.  It is a practical guide for living.  Each day, pick a text, a verse, and welcome it into your day.  Let it teach you something.

  1. Scripture corrects us—(3:16). The second thing the Bible does is correct us. Everyday temptations will spring up to take us down.  Every day, moods will attempt to lead us down dark paths.  Every day, some voice will tell you how worthless you are.  And this is where Scripture steps in to make corrections to our faulty outlook on life.  It corrects us. It is patient and offers us direction and hope.

         *Mr. Cothran was like that.  One day I was misbehaving in class.  I don’t remember what I was doing, but I do remember Mr. Cochran stopping his lesson and with his finger directed me to the door.  He didn’t yell at me in front of the kids.  Instead, he took me outside the room and there in the hall he looked down at me with those cowboy eyes that had calmed a thousand stallions and corrected me.  cowboyeyes.jpgIt was like a spanking without a switch.  He just corrected me with a soft voice, a masterful gaze that went right through me.  And when I went back in I wanted to be a better boy.

  1. Scripture trains usTeaching gives you concepts while training uses repetition to instill them into your lives and habits.

*When I  wanted my Irish setter to fetch something I began by sitting him down on the lawn and we had school.  I explained it all to him in perfect boy English using hand motions and other teaching tools.  But then—I began the training.  I took him to the field and threw a ball.  And with positive repetition, he learned to get it and bring it back.

*How many of you remember Training Union?  It has faded out of Baptist life today but when I was a kid it was big.  It was always done on Sunday night.  We would learn to read our parts out of the book, we did Bible drills (sword drills), a little public speaking if it was your turn to stand and read. Etc.  Sunday school taught us—Training Union trained us.

Conclusion:

         Paul says we must be equipped (2 Tim 3:17)  and it is the Bible that does that.  It is God deep breathing.  The Bible is more than just a book.  It is the breath of God.  Let it breathe on you this week.

 

Living Youthfully

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answers to Prayer

Meditations from the Classics

Answers to Prayer
Virgil, Aeneid 6:42-76 (29 B.C.)
Luke 11:1-13

Cumae_Cave_of_the_Sibyl_AvL

Entrance to the Cave of the Sibyl (photo by Alexander Van Loon)

The Sibyl, that woman of prediction and prophecy, lived in a huge cave hollowed out from the flank of Cumae’s hill in southern Italy. The Sibyl was a woman with connections. She could see into the future. The voice of the gods spoke through her.

 The cave where her divine utterances could be heard had a hundred wide approaches:
         “a hundred mouths from which there issue a hundred voices, the Sibyl’s answers.”1

Many people would approach the cave hoping to get guidance or answers to their prayers as Aeneas did seeking guidance for his voyage to Italy.  But the doors were closed.  Answers could not be had unless the Sibyl was particularly moved by the gods.  If a seeker happened to be slow, for example, to pay certain vows or offer sacrifices, the doors would stay closed.

Occasionally, however, the spirits would fall upon the Sibyl.  She would turn wild as she struggled with the god. The deity would often shake her and ride her until she fell exhausted to the cave floor.

Or as Virgil phrases it, the god would torment her until he “mastered her wild heart, breaking her in with a firm hand.”

And then, when the god had broken the wild woman, the answer would come.  The hundred immense doors of the place would fly open of their own accord and her inspired responses would shriek forth from the manifold mouths of the sacred cave.


The prayer process is so different for the believer:

We face no cave with a hundred shut doors.
We don’t plead before a wild-eyed Sibyl.
We don’t toss coins or offer sacrifices on bloodied altars.

No, we just come simply and humbly to the one door of our heavenly Father.  We knock with quiet confidence.  And with kind assurances, He opens the door, greets us with love and answers our prayers.

“And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

David R. Denny Ph.D.
1 Translation by C. Day Lewis.  Original Latin text: “quo lati ducunt aditus centum, ostia centum” (www.perseus.tufts.edu).

Apostate

Meditations from the Classics

Apostate
Xenophon, Anabasis (370 B.C.)  Book 1:4
1 John 2:18
Anabasis
The mark of an apostate was flight.  John warned his church against those who would not sustain fellowship with the saints.  Their untimely exodus was proof of their apostasy, he said:

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

Those who scorn the communal meal, the Christian kiss, the hand of fellowship, the joy of worship are none other than last day anti-Christs, according to John. They left, said the apostle because they never were one of us.

Xenophon told a similar tale of desertion in his history of the Persian Expedition:

“Cyrus had gathered a large army and was marching to take the Persian throne.  When his troops arrived at Myriandus, a city on the sea near Damascus, he camped for seven days.  During the night two of his captains, Xenias and Pasion, fled.  They got on board a ship, stowed away their most valuable property and sailed off.”

The soldiers wondered what Cyrus would do.  Rumors were spreading. Cyrus called his troops together and told them that he was well aware of the betrayal, but he saw no profit in pursuing them.

“No, let them go, with the knowledge that they have betrayed worse to us than we have to them”

And so in both cases, the camp of Cyrus and John’s church, those with no kindred heart left the family. And so it is today. AWOL captains on midnight schooners to safety are too abundant. John’s advice is succinct and practical. Remain in the fellowship. Be faithful disciples. Apostasy doesn’t pay.

David R. Denny Ph.D.

Effort

Waywords

EffortZachariah 7  (6/5th century B.C.)
Matthew 22:37

daniel-9

James Tissot’s painting “The Flight of the Prisoners” illustrates Judah’s exile from Jerusalem.

The people of Bethel were tired.   For seventy years they had been in prison.  They served their time.  They were model prisoners.  They didn’t complain.  They stayed out of trouble.

 

While in prison (Babylon) they grew very ceremonious.  They thought it best to impress God with a visible religiousness.  Perhaps, then, He would have mercy on them and let them go home.

So they decided the thing to do was to establish a somber fast day on the fifth month to remember the day the Temple burnt to the ground in Jerusalem.  And so they turned joy to sorrow and fasted on the fifth month.

Soon, however, they wondered if it was enough.  To play it safe they decided to create another fast day in the seventh month.  Better to play it safe, right?  And so they fasted on the seventh month as well, remembering the awful carnage, two months after the downfall of Jerusalem when Gedaliah rebelled.

Soon,  however, they wondered if it was enough.  Was God satisfied with just two fasts?  They didn’t know.  Better to be safe.  So they started a tenth month fast which was a sad reminder of the day the siege of Jerusalem began.  (It lasted two long years).  They put on sackcloth and ashes and moaned and cried so God would be impressed.

Soon, however, they wondered if it was enough.  Was God satisfied with just three fasts?  Better to be safe.  So they initiated a fourth-month one.  This was a reminder to them of the terrible day the leaders in Jerusalem fled the city leaving it defenseless before the enemy.  (All these fasts are mentioned in Jeremiah).

Finally, the happy day came.  They were released from prison.  They went home to Bethel.  But they were tired of being religious.  So they sent a delegation to Jerusalem and they asked God if they could quit all those fasts now.

And God told them He didn’t know what they were talking about!  “…was it actually for Me that you fasted?” (Zach 7:5).

Learn a lesson.  God is not impressed by religious activity.  What He wants is all your love (Matthew 2:37), not more–

Effort.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.

Girded

Meditations from the Classics

Girded
Plautus, Captives 4:1 (200 B.C.)
Ephesians 6:14

british-roman-costume-men-marb

Roman fashion

 Bible readers often hear the phrase “girding the loins.”  An example of this is found in Ephesians 6:14 where saints are urged to stand firm in faith:

“Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth (περιζωσάμενοι  τὴν  ὀσφὺν  ὑμῶν  ἐν  ἀληθείᾳ), and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.”

The Romans practiced this custom of gathering up the pallium (the Roman cloak they wore).  We see this in one of Plautus’ plays entitled Captives.  Although known for his comedies, in the instance the play has some somber moments.  The father in the story, Hegio, longs to reunite with his son Philipolemus, who has been captured in Elis. He decides he can stand it no longer and so he initiates a swap.  He sends one of his slaves to find Philipolemus hoping the captors will send him home.

Then not long after, an incredible thing happens.  A local slave saw Philipolemus getting off a boat in the harbor.  It must have worked!  The slave who saw this marvels that he is the one blessed with news and decides to rush to Hegio’s house to inform the old man.  It’s at this point that we see the custom.  The slave girds himself and races on his way.

“Now will I wend my way to this old gentleman Hegio, to whom I am carrying blessings as great as he himself prays for from the Gods, and even greater. Now, this is my determination, in the same fashion that the slaves of Comedy3 are wont, so will I throw my cloak around my neck, that from me, the first of all, he may learn this matter.”1

A girded servant usually meant that person was on an urgent mission.  Hegio, for example, when he saw the slave hustling toward him, noticed this:

“Surely he has got his cloak gathered up.  What, I wonder, is he going to do?”

So now we understand the practice a little better.  A girded Christian then is one visibly doing a task, visibly running an errand for the Master.  Are you girded?

David R. Denny  Ph.D.


1. Latin text: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0096%3Aact%3D4%3Ascene%3D1
2.  Roman fashion: http://www.fashion-era.com/ancient_costume/roman-costume-history-toga.htm

Chariot Duo

Meditations from the Classics

Chariot Duo
Homer: Iliad 5:839 (762 B.C.)
Matthew 28:20

141224_CBOX_HomersIliad.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

A chariot in the Iliad.

In a tense scene outside the battle-scarred walls of old Troy, Diomedes (a young Greek commander), was chastised by Athene, the goddess with the flashing eyes.

“Why aren’t you fighting?” she asked the idle soldier wounded from an arrow.

Diomedes replied, “it’s because Ares the War-god is fighting against us and you told me not to fight against the gods.”

“My dearest Diomedes,” cried Athene, “I understand; but with me at your back, you need have no fear, either of Ares or any other god. Quick now and get at him! Drive up, and do not stop to think ‘this is the redoubtable War-god’, but let him have it at short range.”

As she spoke, she reached out, dragged Sthenelus ( a captain in the army) back, and hustled him out of the chariot. “The eager goddess took her place in the car beside the noble Diomedes, and the beech-wood axle groaned aloud at the weight it had to carry, a formidable goddess and a mighty man of arms.”


It’s that last line that gets me. ” … a formidable goddess and a mighty man of arms.” δεινὴν γὰρ ἄγεν θεὸν ἄνδρά τ᾽ ἄριστον.⌉

What a team! A god and a man. An unbeatable combination.

I see this duo often in the Bible:
There’s little David running down the valley toward the giant with nothing but a sling and a stone-oh, and God.
There’s Daniel standing in the furnace, the flames hot and menacing. Oh, and God was with him.
There’s Jonah in the belly of a voracious whale all alone except, well except for God.

God and a man. Now that’s an unbeatable combination. It’s a duo you can count on if you are a disciple. It was the last thing Jesus promised before his ascension:

 “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

So remember.
It’s you and God in the chariot together.
There’s nothing you two can’t handle.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.


⌉The Greek text: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0133%3Abook%3D5%3Acard%3D835
Chariot artwork: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2014/12/homer…