Making the List

Making the List—2 Timothy 2:8-15. DBC. October 13, 2019. Dr. Denny

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Introduction:   It was morning in southern Poland and Auschwitz was just waking up.  Elie Wiesel was only 15, one of the youngest prisoners in the concentration camp.  His mother, father, and siblings had been rounded up from a little town in Hungary by the Nazis in 1944 and hauled off in a packed cattle car to the prison camp known for the billowing black smoke pouring from the extermination ovens that burned human sacrifices day and night.

One morning Elie woke up trembling with fear.  This could be the day he would be sent to the ovens.  Everyone in his barracks was ordered to line up outside.  Then one by one, when a name was called, the prisoner stepped forward for inspection.  Those deemed weak and useless for manual labor were ordered to the left.  Those who could work were sent to the right.  The left was the ovens. The right was 18 hours of hard labor. Elie recounts in his book Night that he stepped forward when called and then spontaneously began running back and forth in front of the inspector.  He ran for his life hopping and jumping, proving his worth, demonstrating his strength and praying to a God he no longer believed in for help.

Background:  When we turn to 2 Timothy in the NT we feel as if we are reading Night by Elie Wiesel.  Paul, like Elie and his father, is imprisoned in Rome’s worst nightmare, the Mamertine jail (recently restored by archaeologists and open for tourists).  Paul now bears the label of “criminal” κακοῦργος. The word was popular in the time of Nero who burnt the city down and blamed the Roman Christians.  Rome burning.jpgPaul is now in that category of miscreants who destroyed 70% of the city of Rome in the fire.  He is bound to the walls of the prison in chains. He is condemned to death and he says “the time of my departure has come.”

And then comes the statement in our text today (2 Tim 2:15) that sends shivers up my spine.  Paul says to timothy and to us today, Prepare to step forward and prove yourself to be a fit and ready workman ready to toil for the gospel.  Make sure you get on the List.  Don’t let them discard you to the ovens. 

Paul gives us three insights into the heart and soul of an approved workman.  See you think like Paul as I present them:

  1. See the Big PictureDon’t get caught up on the details of your life. Look beyond your present troubles and see the big picture—see how your life fits into the overall plan of God.  Paul could have focused on his chains.  He could have spent the hours in the day pulling on the chains tethered to the dungeon wall, feeling his loss of freedom, feeling defeated and abandoned.

*It would like a man summoned to a rich man’s palace and given the commission to create a landscaped paradise on the 200 acres that rolled out before the castle.  I want waterfalls, and orchards of white blossomed trees, and acres of lavender orchids.  Now get started.  And the man wanders into the field and pauses to smell a single dwarfed lily forgetting the vast undertaking before him.  He can’t see the big picture.  Just the lily.

Paul says I know I’m in jail, chained to this wall but I look beyond my immediate pain.  After all, he says in verse 9—I might be chained to the wall but the Word of God is not chained.  There it is!  There’s the big picture forming in his mind.  Now he’s looking to something bigger—to God’s guiding hand in the midst of the dungeon’s darkness.  An approved workman sees the big picture.

  1. Build up your endurance. You’ve got to have. Endurance, Paul says, to be an approved workman.  Otherwise, you will falter when the first storm comes.  And in Elie Wiesel’s case, anyone who faltered in the work fields was shot on the spot.  Endurance is essential for survival.

*I looked up to see how a boxer toughens his body for the grueling 125 rounds of a boxing match.  He has to have endurance.  One way was to work his abs in training.  So now I’m going to tell you all a secret to those six-pack abs you all dream about every night.  And don’t say you never get anything practical in my sermons.  Here it is.  How to get DBC six-pack abs!  The technique boxers use is simple and effective.  Here is what you need:  An Amazon Basics Medicine Ball–$33 bucks and free shipping.  Or any medicine ball.  They range from 1 to 50 pounds.  2.  A partner.   You need someone who has room for improvement on the waistline.  Now you and your partner stand about 3-5 five feet from each other.  One of you takes the ball, grip it solidly and then toss it with power to your friend’s stomach.  Now the secret is for the one receiving the ball to let it smack your stomach first then catch it.  Do this a hundred time s a day for 20 years and you too can have the dream abs that will likely get you into the movies.

Paul tells us that an approved workman has a certain toughness, a measure of endurance to weather the storms that come in life.

  1. Avoid distractions: The final element in making the List of approved workmen is to avoid distractions.  Paul remembers so many meetings he held over the years where people got into senseless meaningless arguments, “wrangling over words” was how he put in in verse 14.  It’s just a waste of time, he said.  Silly distractions just lead to ruin.

In Elie’s case, distractions on the work line would have resulted in a fierce whipping or worse.  And Paul is telling us that we have work to do for the Lord and we don’t want to drift away into a world of distractions.

*When I had just gotten my little Irish Setter, Reverend, years ago, I began training him.  I used to walk him along some country roads teaching him to heel.  It took a while but he eventually got it down pretty good.  Irish setter.jpgHis main flaw in the training was that as we walked along with me shouting Heel!  He would often smell the most delicious daffodils on the side of the road and they would distract him.  He was a connoisseur of smells and anything would do.  But daffodils were one of his favorites.  I would yell heel land he would stroll over and take a long smell of the sweet fragrance and then look at me with indifference.

Conclusion:

Every month I get a little booklet in the mail that I don’t use.  But it comes anyway.  It’s called Angie’s List.  It’s a magazine filled with approved workmen.  It has their history, their services, their star rating and if you choose one there might be a discount.  Everyone is approved.  They’ve all made the list.

Angie’s list might have its. Purpose but I would like to recommend Paul’s List.  To get on it you must learn to see the big picture when life squeezes you hard—you need to have endurance and you must be capable of focusing on the lesson at hand—avoiding distractions.  Do this and you will Make the List.”

 

3-2-1-Ignition

3-2-1-Ignition—2 Timothy 1:1-14—Dr. Denny—DBC—October 6, 2019220px-Ham_Launch_-_GPN-2000-001007_(cropped).jpg

Introduction:  On the morning of May 5, 1961, a Mercury-Redstone rocket, 82 feet tall rose from the launch pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  Sitting inside the cramped Mercury capsule was astronaut Alan Shepard who was about to kick start America’s future as a spacefaring nation.

It was a critical time in our country because just two weeks before this date the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space orbiting the Earth for 108 minutes.  The American spirit for space travel had been faltering up to this point.  Bu Alan Shepard changed the equation to one of confidence and victory.

The launch happened at 9:34 am EST.  The Chief Test Conductor Bob Moser said this about this launch:  “It was an intense countdown.  Everybody had their job.  There was no joking around.  But we enjoyed it, and it worked….”  And then the countdown concluded with “3-2-1-Ignition.” 

Background:  Now let’s slip back into our text in 2 Timothy where Paul uses a NASA rocket term ἀναζωπυρεῖν  (1 time only) that means to ignite.  It’s an explosive word, literally, and it’s directed first at Timothy and ultimately at us who sit here in the DBC pews.  If I could paraphrase the Greek it would: “3-2-1-Ignition.”  But before we see just what that means to us, Paul wants Timothy to remember something.

  1. Something to Remember: (2 Tim. 1:6).  There was a unique event that happened in timothy’s life that Paul could not forget.  Whenever he replayed this moment in his mind, he always saw the tears;  not his tears, but Timothy’s.   And it was critical from Paul’s perspective that Timothy remember this event always.

                       Memory plays an important part in our lives and without it, we lose our identity and begin to drift away like a fall leaf on a swift-moving creek.

*I went for an annual Wellness checkup Friday at the Rural Health.  The lady took me back into a cramped room with filing cabinets and a small desk shoved against the wall.  I sat down, our knees almost touching and she began her interrogation keeping accurate notes of everything I said.  “The government wants you to stay healthy so they won’t have to spend any money on you,” she said with a little smirk.  Then after a flurry of questions, she said, “Now it’s time for your memory test.”  I shuddered at this statement and my blood pressure shot up.  “I’m going to give you three words to remember and then a little later I will ask you for those three words.  Okay?”   I was going to bolt for the door right then but I figured the government wouldn’t like it so I stayed put and said, “Okay.”  She smiled like she had me cornered and then continued:  “Your three words are RIVER—FINGER—NATION.  Got it?”  “I think so,” I said.  Then she began a campaign of misdirection.  “Now draw me a clock with the numbers on it.” I did that.  “Okay now put the clock fingers at 10 after 11.”  I did that.

Then with her eyes narrowing a bit she looked at me said, “What are the three words.”    (ASK AUDIENCE FOR THE WORDS).

Paul said to Timothy there is something I want you always to remember.  It was just a few years back when I was here with you that I summoned the church together.  We gathered around you.  Your grandmother Lois was there and your mother Eunice who taught your spiritual ABCs from your earliest days.  And now we see that same faith growing within you.  And it was then that I laid my hands upon you and launched your public ministry.  Do you remember that Timothy?  Do you remember how brightly the flame of faith burned within your heart?  Do you remember how you began preaching in the church with zeal and enthusiasm?

And this is the question Paul sets before each of us here this morning.  I want you to remember something, he tells us.  Go back to that time when your faith was new and the call of Christ was ringing in y our ears.  Go back to that time when you trusted Christ and remember how it was.  It’s a memory you must never forget.

  1. Something to Re-Ignite (2 Tim. 1:6)And now we come back to the Mercury capsule quivering on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. Those huge engines had been test-started many times but now as they lay silent and cold it was time to re-ignite them.  And this is what Paul says to timothy.  It’s time for you to re-ignite that first event when I laid my hands upon you.  It’s time to stir up the embers and get the fire going again.  (READ v6.  KINDLE AFRESH the gift of God which is in you…”.

             *There’s a little wood frog that illustrates Paul’s principle of ignition of our faith.  This wood frog lives in the arctic circle in Alaska.  As the winter slowly descends upon the tundra, this little frog settles down in the water and freezes solid with the water around him.  Slowly he stops breathing and his heart stops beating.  If effect, he is dead.  But when the spring thaw settles in again he slowly comes back to life, re-igniting his body temperature.

*It’s so provocative to hear Paul use this “ignition” word considering where he is.  Many think 2 Timothy is his last letter.  He is in custody at Rome’s worst prison—The Mamertine Prison which had two levels, the lowest level a small confined space in utter darkness.  He senses that his life is nearly over.  He writes in chapter 4:6 “the time of my departure has come.”  There is no tomorrow for the aging apostle.  And yet, in his last days, he remembers the thrill of laying his hands on the young Timothy and lighting a fire that still needs to be ignited every so often.

Conclusion
      How many times had Alan Shepard sat in the tiny space capsule and touched the controls before this launch date?  How many times had he imagined the power of the explosive ignition beneath him as the rocket prepared to burst into the heavens?  And then when the day actually came and clicked his seat belt on for the final time, once again he reignited his imagination and waited for the countdown:  3-2-1-Ignition.

Paul wants us to count down every so often and relive our first days of faith and launch off into new adventures as saints on another grand mission.

 

The Path to Citizenship

The Path to Citizenship–Phil. 3:17-4:1. DBC—March 15, 2017—David R Denny
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Introduction:  We live in a political world and as you know politics is a messy road.  But our text today drives us right into the fray and we can’t avoid it.  In fact, Paul uses a Greek word from which we derive our word for politics.  His word is politeuma.     πολίτευμα, ατος, τό.       It means CITIZENSHIP. I don’t think Paul liked politics too much since this is the only recorded time he ever used this word. But he did use it and so we will follow him this morning.

*Citizenship Test:  If you go to the web site: U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services you can get the 10 test questions an immigrant must know to become a citizen. I thought I would give you this test this morning.  I think we have time.  This is an oral test administered by an immigration officer.  He can ask any 10 of the 100 questions.  You must answer 6 out of the 10 correctly.  So if you have a pen right down your answers and then we will grade them.  —

1. What is the supreme law of the land? (Constitution).
2.  What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution? (the Bill of Rights).                   3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.  What are these three words?  (We the People).

Textual study: In our text, Paul says that if you are a believer then you have a unique citizenship.  It is different than the citizenship of the USA. A Christian is a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20.  “For our citizenship is in heaven…”.  This thought sent chills down Paul’s spine.  He knew there was more to life than this world’s pains or sorrows or meaningless daily routines.  There was another word and that was where his citizenship was.  And so for us as well.  Our home is Heaven and it is for that home that we eagerly await.

*Mutiny at the Hyphasis.  One of the greatest stories in all of ancient history is when Alexander the Great’s troops mutinied against him.  For over a decade his Macedonian brothers had followed him all over the known world fighting his battles, claiming more and more territory. They conquered Europe and Palestine and Egypt and Babylon and Persia and now Alexander wanted to conquer India. But it was here on the banks of the Hyphasis River that the men said no.  No more.  The year was 326 and the men were weary of battle.

 

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Mutiny at the Hyphasis–Alexander the Great

They were already filthy rich from the spoils of war.  They missed home.  They missed their wives and children who had grown up without them.  They wanted to go home. Their citizenship was not here on the edge of the world.  Their home was Macedonia.   When they told him no, he couldn’t believe it.  He was so upset he stormed off into his tent and didn’t come out for three days. But the soldiers held firm.  And so suddenly Alexander saw that it was over. And he told them perhaps it was time to go home after all.  When he said this, the soldiers shouted for joy and wept. They all called for blessings on Alexander who though undefeated in all his battles had let himself be defeated by the.

 

What is it they wanted?  They wanted to go home.  It is the same thing Paul wanted and it is our supreme goal as well.  We have citizenship in America for which we give thanks daily.  But it is not our home.  —

*I’ve been a tumbleweed all my life.  My dad moved every two years in the military and so I’ve moved and lived everywhere. But I feel like the Eastern Shore will be my last port of call.  This is it for me.  No more wandering. BUT IT IS NOT MY HOME.  For my citizenship—my home—is in heaven.

* Green, green grass of homegrass of home.jpgThere is a song I hear every once in a while on the radio.  When it starts to play, I usually stop what I am doing and just listen.  It’s a sad song about home.——Read lyrics.

 

Textual thought:  Paul too became very emotional when he spoke of home.  In Phil. 3:18. He said that although he wished everyone was walking with him to his heavenly home, he knew that many were not with him.  There were those he said who cared more about this world. “Their minds are set on earthly things”. He said.  And when he thought of these things the text says he wept. (3:18).

*This reminds me of the Prodigal son.  He left home and his loving family preferring the baubles of this world.  And every day the father wept just as Paul did for those he knew that had sold out.            But what a happy day it was when the son came home again.

Conclusion:   Where is your citizenship?  The path to citizenship comes through the cross.  When you place your faith in Christ and call upon him to be your Savior, then you too will be handed the keys to home.  Heaven will be yours.