Bunyan’s Mercy said, ‘I did laugh and laugh.’ We can, too.
MARCH 22, 2023
Bunyan’s Mercy said, I did laugh and laugh. And we can too. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
Key Life is a radio program for struggling believers, sick of phony religion and pious clichés. Our host and teacher is seminary professor Steve Brown. He teaches that radical freedom leads to infectious joy and surprising faithfulness.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, I talked about the importance of being honest about the pain, that’s what lament is all about. I referenced, and I bet you sang it too, when you were a kid, if you grew up in the church. I’ve got joy, joy, joy down in my heart. I love to hear kids singing that, but it’s not true. Sometimes you don’t have joy, joy, joy down in your heart. I’ve suggested in this book and on this broadcast often, that we need a place in our churches where people can cry. We sing songs of praise and joy, and we ought to do that, but there ought to be some time when a pastor says to the congregation, some of you have a broken heart, some of you have lost those that you love, some of you have sinned big, and you think God is through with you, some of you have gotten a diagnosis from the doctor that wasn’t very positive, some of you are dealing with a mountain of hurt and we’re going to stop and give you a chance to be still and to cry and to be honest. Sometimes you don’t have joy, joy, joy down in your heart until you face the reality of the pain, the lament of the sorrow. My friend Michael Graham wrote a wonderful book about the life and work of another friend of mine, the late Jack Miller. That biography came from a gigantic Doctoral dissertation that Michael wrote about Jack Miller. And then from that dissertation, he garnered a wonderful biography. As I mentioned earlier, Jack was the man who said.
That the Christian faith could be summed up in two sentences. First, cheer up, you’re a lot worse than you think you are. And secondly, cheer up God’s grace is a lot bigger than you think it was.
Jack was a professor at Westminster Seminary, founder of Surge, formerly World Harvest Mission, and a creator of Sonship, a Biblical and freeing way to experience the Christian faith. Jack was also one of the fathers of the Grace movement, which has so changed the church in our time. Graham’s biography, by the way, is called Cheer Up!: The Life and the Ministry of Jack Miller. And it’s a wonderful book. It is taken, as I mentioned from Michael’s PhD dissertation. Graham references Jack’s final and difficult days.
The more Jack turned his thoughts from his own
and this is a quote
from his own health problems to God’s love in the gift of his Son, the more joy replaced the tears of helplessness.
John, Jack’s pastor described visiting Jack in chemotherapy during this time, he wrote.
We would laugh and laugh together about how God was going to have to use weak people if he was going to use us. Jack was a man who had a lot of mirth in his life. Martin Luther had said. You have as much laughter as you have faith. God used Jack to bring the mirth of heaven into the lives of those alongside him in the cancer ward, among healthcare professionals caring for the sick, and those who came to visit him and their loved ones in the hospital. Huh? Laughter in a cancer ward. What in the world is with that?
As I speak this, and as I wrote this in the book, we were in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic. Didn’t you hate that time? Man, I did because of the lockdowns, several sports events had to be canceled or postponed. And sports television networks had been forced to rebroadcast, quote, classic unquote, sports events of the past. There is nothing worse than watching a football or basketball game that was already played and the outcome settled long ago. Unless, of course, we get to see our favorite team beat up on our least favorite team. And do it again and again and again. That’s the gift Christians have been given in the darkness. It’s the knowing, the rest of the story, the outcome, and the backstory of history. Just came to my mind about the lady who called the law office and said, could I speak to Mr. Smith. And the receptionist said, I am so sorry, but Mr. Smith passed away last week. The next day she got a call from the same lady and she said, I would like to speak to Mr. Smith. And the receptionist said, he is deceased. The third day she called and asked the same question, could I speak to Mr. Smith? And the receptionist said, I told you he was deceased. And the caller said, I know, I just like to hear it. The Christian hears it’s going to be all right and laughs. You think about that. Amen.
We need a place in our churches where we can cry. Hey, no argument with that. That was Steve Brown continuing to guide us through the Biblical truth that led to the writing of his latest book Laughter and Lament. More good stuff tomorrow. Will you join us for that? Well, believe it or not, Easter is almost here, and to help prepare our hearts, I want to tell you about a sermon Steve gave a while back called Why Jesus had to Die. In this talk, Steve addresses some really big questions about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Take a listen to part of that sermon, then I’ll be back to tell you about a special free offer. Here’s Steve.
When you are old, you forget names, but you remember the tears and the pain. I was a young pastor, it was three o’clock in the morning when I got the call. And I rushed to the home of a family that I loved, and the flames were coming out of the roof. They all escaped except the father. I remember the teenage girl, as she saw me coming, ran into my arms and wept. And I remember what she said. She said, pastor, why did my father have to die? It was years later in Boston. I probably was saved, I just didn’t know Jesus, when another teenage girl in my study said, Mr. Brown, I don’t understand, why did Jesus have to die? You know what I did? I gave her a book cause I wasn’t exactly sure. But I never saw those teenage girls. I don’t remember their names. I keep thinking that maybe they’re grown now with their children and they’ll be in some conference where I’m teaching, maybe in a church service like this one cause I found some answers and I would like to share them with them. I was invited back to that first church for their hundredth anniversary and always wanted to go there cause I found some things that I didn’t know when I was serving as their pastor. It was a little church and you visited a hospital, there was never more than one there, and then you could fish and play golf the rest of the time. All they wanted you to do was talk for 15 minutes and I’ve always been able to do that. So, I’d stand in a pulpit talk for 15 minutes, and then Jesus came and screwed it up. He’s been doing that with my life, but I always said, Lord, let me go back and tell them the truth. I got to go back and I said, I know what I taught you and I know what I said. And, but listen carefully cause I’ve got some corrections to make. But let me tell you, there were a thousand crosses. Jesus wasn’t the only, there are people who died with more pain and suffering than Jesus ever experienced. That’s not the issue, it wasn’t the length of the pain, it was the person who faced the pain. It wasn’t a little Jewish rabbi hanging spread eagle on cross beams on the town garbage heap, it was God entering time and space. And you go, ohhh, I can’t believe that I, God did that for me. You’re going to die, most of you, it’s going to be a quiet slipping away. Some of you’re going to struggle and if it’s commensurate with sins, I’m going to die in great pain because I, cause I’m going home and it’ll be over, but a lot of people die. We all die, big deal. But when the eternal omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God of the Universe enters time and space and hangs spread eagle on cross beams between two thieves, that is something else. He did the cross, why? Why did he have to die? Couldn’t he have done it another way? It seems to me reasonable. I think that teenager had it right. He could have lived longer and loved us more and taught us more profoundly. I mean, we could have understood the answers to our questions if he just stayed around. How come he died so soon? We got four little books and that’s all, we ought to have volumes and volumes as John said. Why did he have to die? Well, I got four or five reasons I’m going to share with you very quickly.
Such a classic sermon from Steve and here’s the best part. We are prepared to mail you that entire sermon on CD, for free. No, don’t, nope, don’t thank us. We were glad to help. Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also drop an e-mail to [email protected] to ask for that CD. And if you’d like to mail your request, go to key life.org/contact to find our mailing addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Just ask for the free CD called Why Jesus Had To Die. Oh, and if you’d like to partner in the ministry of Key Life through your giving, it’s easy. Simply charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or now you can give safely and securely through text. Just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.