An Honest Cry

An Honest Cry: Sermons from the Psalms in Honor of Prentice A. Meador Jr., will be available January 31 from Leafwood publishers. http://tinyurl.com/yjs7a8h

I envisioned this collection more than a year ago when I repeatedly heard from ministers who had been so powerfully impacted by Prentice. Model, friend, mentor, teacher and more, Prentice touched, and helped to shape, the ministries of so many. The preachers who have contributed to this volume represent a far greater number of partners in ministry who would have gladly accepted the opportunity to honor Prentice.

An Honest Cry is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend, who has reached the goal of his life. The title captures both the heart of his preaching style and the emotion of the book of Psalms.

Prentice had a broad range of interests. But his love for preaching was always at the top. This is why a book of sermons is such a fitting tribute. The idea became clear to me on the day that hundreds of his family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. So many ministers were sharing how Prentice had impacted their preaching that a collection of sermons from some of them seemed to be an appropriate way to honor his life. Psalms was always close to the heart of this man of God. In fact, it was one of the last classes he taught in his role as professor at Lipscomb University.

Providentially, Prentice joins the list of contributors with a sermon he wrote on Psalm 150 that I discovered while this volume was being produced.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Foreword: Randy Lowry
Introduction: Bob Chisholm
Preaching from the Psalms: Dave Bland

A Man of God
God’s Change Agent – Mark Meador
Hallelujah – Word of Praise (Psalm 150) – Prentice A. Meador Jr.
From One Generation to Another (Psalm 71) – Royce Money

Psalms in Context
Living at the Seams (Psalm 89) – Jack Reese
Singing About the Lord’s Ways (Psalm 138) – Gary Holloway

Psalms of God’s Presence
Who Is My God? (Psalm 27) – Landon Saunders
Full of God or Running on Empty? (Psalm 115) – Bob Chisholm

Psalms of Distress and Hardship
Entrusting God With Our Hatreds (Psalm 137) – Mike Cope
The ‘Piñata’ Syndrome (Psalm 17) – Chris Seidman
How Long, O Lord? (Psalm 13) – David Rubio
When All You Can Say Is “Why?” (Psalm 22) – Scott Sager

Psalms of Sorrow and Change
Create in Me a Pure Heart (Psalm 51) – Tom A. Jones
A Song for Sinners (Psalm 32) – Collin Packer

Psalms of Human Frailty
Lord, Give My Life Meaning (Psalm 90) – Harold Hazelip
What’s the Use? (Psalm 73) – Jim Martin

Psalms of Trust and Unity
The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) – Lynn Anderson
Worth the Trip (Psalm 133) – Rick Atchley
How to Handle Bad News (Psalm 112) – Jennings Davis

Psalms of Joy and Peace
Coming Home, Laughing (Psalm 126) – Ken Durham
God’s Divine Care (Psalm 34) – John York
All Is Calm (Psalm 122) – Tim Spivey

Never Beyond Hope

Each week I teach a Searchers Class for people who are exploring faith. Last week I began a discussion that touches all of us … and every relationship we have …

What is the distance
between Hope and Hopelessness?

Never Beyond Hope Handout

Everyone wonders what’s on the other side of the door. It’s barely cracked open, just enough to see the brightness. Hope is looking forward, wanting the good to continue, dreaming of happy things to come, expecting the best. Some might say, “It sounds naive.” Before you give it up, consider a few great minds, like C.S. Lewis …

Those who have done the most for the present world are those who have thought the most about the next world.

Or, Norvell Young …

No one knows enough to a cynic

Or, Aristotle …

Hope is a waking dream.

Or, Albert Camus …

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

Or, Emily Dickenson …

“Hope” is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.

Or, Vaclav Havel …

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

Besides, what’s our alternative? Hopelessness.

Hopelessness is giving up, expecting the worst, becoming cynical and pessimistic. It grows when optimism is broken by personal failure, damaging relationships, or even our constant diet of bad news. It can be our own bad news or that of people and lands 10,000 miles away.

I remember a time when my son was young and sitting on my lap while I watched the evening news. During the broadcast, it became very clear to me that the news was scaring David. After discussing it with my wife Pam, she observed that if we applied the same principles to the news that we used for the rest of David’s television viewing, he wouldn’t watch the news!  His hope was new and fresh. The nightly news was hopeless and never ending.

But while our problems seem to grow, and our awareness of them is instant,  the battle between hope and hopelessness is not new.

At the close of 7th century BC, the prophet Habakkuk asked about hope and hopelessness. We know very little about Habakkuk except that he asked questions and got answers.

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
— Habakkuk 2:1 —

1st, the prophet looked at his circumstances

How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (1:2-4)

2nd, he waited on God

How I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. (3:18-19)

G. Campbell Morgan wrote, that when Habakkuk looked at his circumstances, he was confused, but when he learned to wait and listen for God, he sang.

God is in control. He is working out his own purpose, in his own time. And Habakkuk learned that he is Never Beyond Hope.

What Are You Against? …… What Are You For?

images-1Some time ago I was privileged to hear Art Linkletter speak.  Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, he is currently 97 years old. I remember as a child that I had enjoyed his fun, positive personality, and especially the stories he would tell on his television program, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”  But I had never heard him in person.

In his presentation he told us the story of his daughter’s drug-related death, and his subsequent personal involvement in the anti-drug movement of the late 1960’s.  As I listened to him I was impressed with his speaking ability, even as a man in his 90’s. It was easy to see how, in the 1960’s, he quickly became an “in demand” speaker, traveling the country telling his story.

What Are you Against?

As he told us his story, he explained how he was completely convinced of his cause and how he passionately pursued his purpose.  And so, he was surprised to notice that his energy was beginning to wane.  His enthusiasm was dissipating.  He had trouble sleeping.  His drive was fading.

All medical tests showed that he was fine, but still he felt terrible.  And then one day, as he walked to the podium to once again make his anti-drug speech, it all became clear to him.  His life had lost its energy because it was all devoted to something he was against.  He had not even addressed his most important question – what was he living for?  He explained to us, how at that very moment, he changed what we was going to say, and never gave the other speech again.

What Are you For?

We really have no choice. We all give our lives for something.  But for what will it be?  What beliefs do you live with?  What vision do you live for?  What cause is worth your very best?

As Paul reveals his own heart, we see the balance in his vision …

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.”

Colossians 2:1-2

As God’s representatives in our cities, towns, and schools, we are against the things that hurt people and relationships. Things like sin, selfishness, immorality, greed, arrogance, injustice, and cruelty, just to name a few.  But we must also be for the things that help people and relationships. Things like forgiveness, joy, reconciliation, love, obedience, worship, generosity, commitment, and service, just to begin the list.

And so, let’s admit it. We find it easy to think of what we are against.  But look at the second list.  What would you add?  What are you for? What is worthy of your most passionate devotion? The second list is where we offer an alternative.  The second list is where we begin to change our world.

The Love Exercise

heart8xlIf you were to ask a follower of Jesus for the clearest, most complete description of love, you would probably be directed to 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter.” It has found a place in wedding ceremonies, inside Valentine Day cards, and on counter-cross-stitch pillows. And while I am sure it is not best understood lifted out of its painful, real life setting, it is a powerful chapter all by itself.

Verses 4-8 describe love in terms of what it does, feels, plans, and desires. In fact, the description almost sounds like a living being.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Here are 16 direct statements about what love is and isn’t.  But does love really have to be thought of as an “It?” Is love inert, non-living, and inanimate? Does it make sense to say that love has no capacity for emotion? Could love be a living being?

Twice in 1 John 4 the text says, “God is love” (vs. 4, 16). And so, take a few minutes and go through this little exercise.

First, if God is love, then it is appropriate to exchange terms, so that the description in 1 Corinthians now reads, “God is patient, God is kind … God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, etc.”

Second, John 3:16 says that God loves the whole world. But his love is specific to each of us. He knows the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7). He knows the status of each bird (Matthew 6:26) but says that I am much more valuable. And so, since his love is so entirely specific to each of us, add your name to the end of each description so that it reads, “God is patient with Bob, God is kind to Bob … God is not easily angered by Bob, etc.”

And please don’t allow this exercise make you feel childish. Be honest with yourself. For most of us, it’s not difficult to picture an abstract concept of love. It’s easy to conceive of “It” with these glowing terms. “It” is patient and kind. For some of us, it’s more difficult to picture God in this way. We have to personalize the concepts. But, the life of Jesus, makes this much easier (John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). But for many of us, it’s very difficult to put our own name down as the recipient of God’s love.

And so, third, make an honest note of the phrases that are the most difficult for you to believe or accept. You may find it easier to believe that “God is patient with you” than to believe that “God is not easily angered by you.” Do you believe that “God keeps no record of wrongs on you and that God always trusts you?” You see, our ability to accept a dimension of God’s love will affect our ability to extend it on to others.

Frederich Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, has written,

“Of all powers, love is the most powerful and the most powerless. It is the most powerful because it alone can conquer that final and most impregnable stronghold which is the human heart. It is the most powerless because it can do nothing except by consent.” (53-54)

Do we believe that God loves us?  Until we give our consent, and open our hearts to his love, the deepest power of love will continue to elude us.

5 Moments

In his book, Peaceful living in a Stressful World, Ron Hutchcraft describes five moments scattered throughout our day. Some are exciting. Some are restful. Some are stressful while others are rather dull. But all of them present us with a choice. Who will rule that moment?

Five moments:

1waking

Psalm 119:18 — “When I awake, I am still with you.”

2running

Proverbs 3:6 — “In all you ways acknowledge him.”

3surprising

Ecclesiastes 9:12 — “Men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”

4Nothing

Matthew 14:23 — “He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”

5fadingPsalm 63:6 — “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”

And right now … I am “fading” — Goodnight.