Blog

Inside Out: the significance of sadness

I am a huge fan of Pixar (We all gave them a pass on Cars 2). Is it because I love cartoons? No. If that was the case I would have blogged about that aliens one that Dreamworks did that I can’t even remember the name of. I like cartoons but I love stories. Pixar is a company that tells stories and they so happen to use cartoons to do that. One of my favorite movies cartoon or not is UP. So my excitement for Inside Out was palpable. I loved it. It lived up to the hype I had created for it in my mind, ironically enough. There were so many deep themes that made you think, that made you laugh and yes made you fight back tears.

I could relate to being the new kid in class. I was always the new kid. Going to 10 different schools in your school career makes you the “new kid” far more often than any kid would wish for. So I could identify with Riley. As a parent of four kids I could identify with the parents in the movie. Pixar more than most movie production companies does an amazing job of making you feel what they want you to feel. There are many themes I could blog about but the one that was most interesting to me was the theme of Joy and Sadness.

We live in a culture obsessed with happiness. We have turned the pursuit of happiness into the constitutional right of happiness. We legislate happiness. We rate our lives based on how happy we feel at the moment. We have smart phones that capture with deceptive accuracy how happy our lives are. The problem is that in our desire/fear of sadness we have forgotten what sadness does. The worst part of the cult of happiness we have created is that it has slipped into our theology. We have whole movements in the evangelical church that preach weekly that Jesus came to give you a good life now. To make you happy. The problem with happiness is that it is elusive. We do everything we can to buy, pray, work our way into a constant state of happiness that fades faster than we can make it to church.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
    And the day you die is better than the day you are born.
Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
    After all, everyone dies—
    so the living should take this to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for sadness has a refining influence on us.
A wise person thinks a lot about death,
    while a fool thinks only about having a good time.

Solomon learned something we all need to take to heart. Sadness refines us.

In the movie Joy, the main emotion in young Riley’s head, spent much of her time trying to keep sadness at bay. To keep her from spoiling every memory. I won’t go further because I don’t want to ruin the movie for you. But there was a moment where Joy in her desire to put things back they way they were realized that Sadness had a purpose. It was in the moments where Riley was sad that people knew she needed them. It was in the moments when she didn’t know what to do because her heart was broken that she was most positioned to receive help from someone outside of herself. In our desire to paint Christianity as a happy pill that takes away our problems we have taken away our ability to see through the sadness of the moment and see Christ.

Does this mean we look forward to sad things? Not at all. With my kids I pray that every day is better than the one before but at the same time equip them for the inevitable difficulties of navigating a broken sin stained world. It means that we understand what the bible says that in our weakness He is strong. It means our spirituality is not measured by the type of watch we wear or the car we drive. But rather how deep we dive when life falls apart. Because of the triumph of the gospel we can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10).  We are sorrowful because there are truly sad things that happen in life. Pretending to be happy doesn’t fix them. But the Apostle Paul says that in our sorrow we rejoice because we have hope through the gospel in a God that will one day fix the broken parts of our world and wipe every tear from our eyes. Paul Burnett in his commentary on 2 Corinthians says it this way.

Although the Jesus whom he proclaims is the glorified heavenly Lord (4:5–6) who ‘lives by God’s power’, the Jesus who legitimizes Paul’s ministry as genuine is the one who was ‘crucified in weakness’ (13:4). It is therefore not power, but weakness, the weakness of the one who ‘died for all’, as reproduced in the lifestyle of the minister, which authenticates it as a true Christian ministry.

As I sat in the theater I saw in my life at the same time Joy saw in Riley’s life that it was in the most broken moments of my life that the Gospel was revealed most clearly to me, through the word, through friends, and through family.

Sadness matters because it refines us and biblical sorrow matters because it defines us. Christian don’t preach a gospel of happiness, preach a gospel that is sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

Gospel? What do you mean?

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at Living Hope in Aloha, Oregon. It was great to be back in my old stomping grounds of Portland where I have so many fond memories.

Interestingly, the pastor asked me to speak on the subject of the gospel. Asking for me to speak on the gospel is not interesting, but his reason for asking me is interesting. In his words, everyone is using this term gospel-centered and everyone has a different meaning. His comments are an honest expression and brilliant assessment of the term being tossed around in so many circles. I myself have often wondered the same thing- as when I have asked in my own circles what the term means the most common answer i get is that of  “evangelism” & “Discipleship.” While I’m not certain if I’m correct, I’m concerned the gospel is turned into a technique to achieve the American idol of a mega church or “growing church”. I put growing in quotes because I believe in evangelism and discipleship. I even believe in church growth. I just don’t believe the Gospel is a means to my ends- if that makes sense.

Anyways, this blog is not an explanation of the gospel although that might be a good discussion later.  I wanted to post this quote from J.I. Packer’s book Affirming The Apostles Creed in my blog. It’s from his introduction. The quote actually gives the reason why there is such fuzziness when it comes to gospel articulation. I highly recommend the book as he answered the question of how the Apostle’s Creed proclaims the Gospel. His comments show how far I myself have to go in understanding the Gospel. Well, without any further a do here it is:

In North America, ever since the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, a general idea of what constituted Christian belief had been warp and woof in North American culture. Just as sugar stirred into coffee is present in solution, so Christianity was continuously present in solution in North American culture right up to the twentieth century. Then, for a number of reasons, Christianity and the Bible were eliminated from public schools and universities, family prayer and Bible reading at home closed down almost everywhere, a consciously post-Christian and indeed anti-Christian outlook established itself among thought leaders, and the gospel message had to fight for entry into the minds of white people under fifty, just as it had to do in the face of the paganism of the Roman Empire in the apostolic and post-apostolic age. In such a milieu, a truncated version of the gospel message, presenting Christ the Redeemer apart from God the Creator, and remission of sins apart from personal regeneration, and individual salvation apart from life and worship in the church, and the hope of heaven apart from the pilgrim path of holiness— which is what in practice the ABC approach does—becomes a misrepresentation, one that sows the seed of many pastoral problems down the road. Against a background of general acquaintance with, and acceptance of, the Christian outlook, periodic highlighting of a few truths to galvanize response might not in itself be a bad idea; but when we reach the point where the Creed no longer looks or sounds to Christian people like a declaration of the gospel, there is need, I believe, for some whistle-blowing and reassessment of what goes on.

 

Blow the whistle Dr. Packer So we can see the glorious Gospel in all it’s beauty.

A word about prophecy…

I have the privilege this year of guiding our interns through Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Though I may respectfully disagree with some of Grudem’s thoughts, I do, however, love his openness to spiritual gifts – especially his openness to the gift of prophecy. My roots are in a Charismatic/Pentecostal environment where I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to the gift of prophecy from a young age. In my heritage in particular, I am thankful for the men & women who stewarded this gift so faithfully. The more cross-pollination among different streams of Christianity I experience to contrast/compare with my own the last few years has only made me more thankful for my stream I was raised in. The weirdness that’s out there in the “prophetic” is mind boggling at times and makes me realize why scriptures such as 1 Thessalonians 5:20 are necessary. “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

This season of my life has me becoming more acquainted with my spiritual roots that go further back than the last 100 years. I want to share two amazing stories of prophecy that I came across in my reading that I found interesting in light of my spiritual heritage and tradition. Both stories show the gift of prophecy operating in its amazing power.

The first is the story is a prophecy given by John Huss at his martyrdom. If you want a little background on John Huss, you can read it here. John was influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe which in turn prompted him to write about six errors he observed in the church of his day. He posted them to the wall of Bethlehem Chapel in Bohemia. John was burned to death as a heretic by the Catholic Church in 1415 after refusing to recant his teaching. He is said to have told his accusers he’d repent of his teachings if they could show him from scripture how he was wrong. Though accounts vary, it is said that as he stood tied to a stake buried up to his neck in kindling wood he spoke these words: “Today you all bake a goose, but there comes a swan which you won’t be able to cook or boil…in a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed.” 102 years later in 1517, Martin Luther would post the 95 thesis on the church door of Wittenberg. Interesting also is the fact that Huss means goose and the family crest of Martin Luther included a swan.

Luther himself referred to this prophecy in his writings:

However, I, Dr. Martinus, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.

Another point of interest is the dream of Fredrick of Saxony the night before Martin Luther’s historical moment. Here’s how the site Lutheranpress.com tells it:

The evening before October 31, 1517, the Elector Frederick of Saxony had a dream which was recorded by his brother, Duke John. The dream, in short, is about a monk who wrote on the church door of Wittenberg with a pen so large that it reached to Rome. The more those in authority tried to break the pen, the stronger it became. When asked how the pen got so strong, the monk replied “The pen belonged to an old goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old.” The Elector was unsure exactly what the dream meant, but believed he had an interpretation which he thought may be accurate. The very morning he shared his dream, Martin Luther was posting his theses.

What an amazing story from church history!

A second amazing story regarding the prophetic is about someone I have become quite fond of in the last few years – Charles Spurgeon. I’ve been enjoying but still working through Tom Nettles’ book on Spurgeon as I have time. I was pleasantly surprised to read about a prophecy given to Charles when he was 10 years old by a traveling minister whose name was Richard Knill. Richard prophesied in detail about Spurgeon’s ministry and also spoke in specifics about a certain event that would later come to pass exactly as described. He said Spurgeon would preach to thousands and would eventually speak at one of the largest churches in England – a church Knill actually mentioned by name.

Here’s Spurgeon himself talking about this prophetic word:

The Mission sermons were preached in the old Puritan meeting-house, and the man of God was called to go to the next halting-place in his tour as a deputation from the Society, but he did not leave till he had uttered a most remarkable prophecy. After even more earnest prayer alone with his little protégé, he appeared to have a burden on his mind; and he could not go till he had eased himself of it. In after years he was heard to say that he felt a singular interest in me, and an earnest expectation for which he could not account. Calling the family together, he took me on his knee, and I distinctly remember his saying, “I do not know how it is, but I feel a solemn presentiment that this child will preach the gospel to thousands, and God will bless him to many souls. So sure am I of this, that when my little man preaches in Rowland Hill’s Chapel, as he will do one day, I should like him to promise me that he will give out the hymn beginning,

“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.”

This promise was of course made and was followed by another, that at his express desire I would learn the hymn in question and think of what he had said. The prophetic declaration was fulfilled, and the hymn was sung, both in Surrey Chapel and in Wooton-under-Edge in redemption of my pledge, when I had the pleasure of preaching the Word of life in Mr. Hill’s former pulpit. Did the words of Mr. Knill help to bring about their own fulfillment? I think so.”

Rowland Hill’s chapel was the largest “dissenting” (that’s another story) church at the time the prophecy was given. Knill’s prophecy would be like someone coming and prophesying over my eldest daughter who is now 10, telling her that she will have a ministry to thousands, and as a confirmation of the word she would then be asked to preach at the largest church in America. In finality, seeing it all happen before she was 18. Simply amazing.

I can only imagine what Spurgeon felt as he stepped into Richard Hill’s pulpit and asked for that hymn to be sung. In fact, I know it was impactful for Spurgeon because he talked about it often as one of God’s great gifts of grace to him.

Just thought you’d be interested in these stories from church history.

600 Year Anniversary of Jan Hus’ Martyrdom

 

Today marks the 600 year anniversary of Jan Hus. Most Christians today have never heard of Hus. He along with John Wycliffe were the original reformers of the church, and for that we have much to be grateful for. A full 100 years before the protestant reformation of salvation by grace through faith in Christ took place the stage for that was set by Wycliffe and Hus. Hus was a catholic who was committed to the scriptures. He was committed to do what it said at the cost of his own life. He had tremendous courage and conviction as he stood against the only church that existed at the time the Roman Catholic church. He saw many practices of the church that were contrary to the teaching of scripture.

What was amazing about Hus was that his life was submitted to God and completely committed to scripture. Hus was not a revolutionary by nature but was unable to stand by because of his deep love for the church and for God’s word. [Tweet “Hus was not a revolutionary but was unable to stand by because of his deep love for the church and for God’s word.”] When asked to recant he would not and it cost him his life. He gave his life and was ultimately burned at the stake because he wanted the bible to be in hands of the laity.

The historical account of his death is amazing.

Then Hus sang in verse, with an elated voice, like the psalmist in the thirty-first psalm, reading from a paper in his hands: “In thee, O Lord, I put my trust, bow down thine ear to me.” With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him into a shirt drenched with pitch. At that moment, one of the electors, Prince Ludwig of the Palatinate, rode up and pleaded with Hus to recant, so that he might be spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a lean goose, but hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.” Full of pity and filled with much admiration, the Prince turned away.

Amazing how he foretold of the protestant reformation. When Hus spoke of a Goose he was referring to himself because “Hus” is actually Czech for Goose. The swan was in reference to Luther whose families coat of arms contained a swan and who began the reformation nearly 100 years from the death of Hus.

What our kids need to know and what we need to remember is that our bible came to us at great cost to the lives of many. That the truth inside God’s word compelled and strengthen many to stand in the midst of extreme adversity. From Hus’ life we learn that we can have a revolution without being revolutionaries. [Tweet “From Hus’ life we learn that we can have a revolution without being revolutionaries”]The power of God’s word is what compels us to stand for truth in love. Our kids need to know about lives like Hus that were willing given so we could have the scriptures in our own language. So that we could hear God speak to us through them and compel us to live a life of love founded in ultimate truth.

Below is an interview our pastor did for our church this past Sunday with Dr. Gordan Issacs professor of church history at Gordan Cromwell Seminary. It this video they discuss the impact of the life of Jan Hus on us as protestants and in History. It’s 29 minutes but well worth the watch.

Interview with Dr. Gordon Isaac about Jan Hus from redeemer.tv on Vimeo.