(Repost) “I Will This Day Most Joyfully Die”: The Life and Death of Jan Hus

Today is our first Jan Hus Day in Prague. I thought I’d repost the short bio of him I did for Reformation Day 2007 (and which, as all Wiser Time trivia buffs will recall, won me a very handsome Charles Spurgeon caricature).

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Jan Hus was born about 1370 in the village of Hussenitz, in what is now the Czech Republic. In the 1380’s he began studies at Charles University in Prague, where he earned several degrees. He was ordained a priest in 1400, and in 1402 he became rector of the University, which meant he began to preach regularly at Bethlehem Chapel, where the people of the city came to worship.

Hus became an immensely popular figure as he preached regularly at Bethlehem. He preached twice a day on Sundays and feast days, wrote hymns, and introduced congregational singing in Bohemian, the language of the people, where before the only music in worship had been priests singing in Latin. He was known for his solid Bible exposition with lots of practical application. As is often the case in early periods of reformation, God’s people were being fed God’s Word, and it stirred up a desire for reform in the church.

A generation before Hus, John Wycliffe, the “morning star of the Reformation,” had turned England upside down by teaching against the primacy of the Pope, proclaiming the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and translating the Bible into English, making it accessible to the common people. Wycliffe’s ideas had been condemned by the Pope, but when they began to be debated at the University in Prague Hus refused to reject them outright. In fact, the more Hus studied Wycliffe he found himself in substantial agreement with most of his writings, which he also worked to translate into Bohemian.

Keep in mind that Hus lived a century before the Reformation really kicked into gear. But at this point he already taught that Christ, not Peter, is the rock on which the church is built. He preached a simple Christianity based on repentance and faith, and urged moral and theological reform in the Roman Catholic Church. He taught that Scripture (not the rulings of the pope) were the “only infallible norm” for Christian belief, and that salvation was only through true faith in Christ, a faith that works by love and good deeds and endures to the end. He believed that the efficacy of the sacraments comes from God, and offered both the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper to the people. His highest priority was that the church be free to preach the Gospel, which is her most important task. His last letter to a student who took his place at Bethlehem Chapel closed with the words, “Preach the Word of God.”

Hus was charged with heresy for teaching the doctrines of Wycliffe, and his archbishop began to burn Wycliffe’s books whenever he could find them. Hus remarked in a sermon, “Fire does not consume truth. It is always a mark of a little mind to vent anger on inanimate and uninjurious objects.” He was summoned to Rome to stand trial, but refused to go, knowing that there would be no fair trial, only a death sentence. For this he was excommunicated, and the city of Prague was put under papal interdict, meaning there could be no sacraments, no public worship, not even Christian burial for anyone but priests.

In 1411 Pope John XXIII proclaimed a holy war against the king of Naples and granted a full indulgence to all Christians who joined the fight. Hus refused to publish the announcement, arguing that Christ’s kingdom does not advance by the sword. A papal emissary came to ask if he was ready to obey the “apostolical mandate,” and Hus said that he was. When the emissary responded that he was pleased, Hus clarified:

My lord, understand me well. I said I am ready with all my heart to obey the apostolical mandates. But I call apostolical mandates the doctrines of the apostles of Christ; and so far as the papal mandates agree with these, so far will I obey them most willingly. But if I see anything in them at variance with these, I shall not obey, even though the stake were staring me in the face.

The Council of Constance was called in 1414 to deal with various problems in the church, including the “heresies” of Hus and Wycliffe. Hus traveled to Constance, having been promised a chance to debate his theological differences with the authorities of the Church. Instead he was thrown into prison for months and never given the chance to defend himself, but only to recant. When offered a final chance to recant he refused, declaring that to do so would be unfaithful to God, to the people to whom he had preached the Gospel, and to the others who were proclaiming it faithfully. The bishops said, “We commit your soul to the devil!”, to which Hus responded “And I commit it to my most gracious Lord Jesus Christ.”

On the way to his execution his books were burned. Just before the fire was started he addressed the crowd:

What shall I recant, not being conscious of any errors? I call God to witness that I have neither taught nor preached what has falsely been laid to my charge, but that the end of all my preaching and writings was to induce my fellow men to forsake sin. In the truth which I have proclaimed, according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the expositions of holy teachers, I will this day joyfully die.

Hus’ last words were addressed to his executioner: “You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan whom you can neither roast nor boil.” Hus was burned on July 6, 1415. 102 years later, on October 31, 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg. One of Luther’s early influences was the writings of John Hus, a heretic whose work he was surprised to agree with.

We live in a day where truth is negotiable, and theology even more so. This has not always been the case– there have been times when men would “joyfully die” for the truth, especially the truth of God’s Word. The mantle now falls to us. May God be pleased in our day to raise up an army of Husses and Wycliffes and Tyndales– men and women who love God and the Gospel above all else, who “overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and love not their lives even unto death.”

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I live in Prague now.

Things might be sparse over here while we get situated, but feel free to hop over to the family blog for stories about our departure & arrival.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

I missed this because I was on vacation, but Jan 8 was the 54th anniversary of the deaths of the Auca martyrs: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint and Ed McCully. Justin Taylor has some interesting links.

Maybe in glory we will know how many missionaries went to the field– and how many heard of Christ– because of the example of Elliot and his friends. I’m one and I know there are many others.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

“For all the saints, who from their labors rest
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Escalators

You should very much head over to the family blog and read my wife’s post about one of hear fears in moving to Prague.

Thanksgiving as a Pilgrim

Read this Thanksgiving greeting from our Prague team leaders. We can’t wait to be there sojourning with them next Thanksgiving.

A Step Toward Prague

I quit my job.

Support-raising has gone well for us; people have been very generous. The biggest limitation we’ve faced has been time. I’ve had a fulltime job, and with Sam Melissa basically does too. Then support-raising is a part-time job on top of that. So we’ve considered it a great week if we could spend 8-10 hours on support. At that pace, it would take a L  O  N  G  time to raise all the support we need.

But the good news is that we have enough money raised that it’s financially viable for me to start working fulltime on support. So starting Monday, that’ll be my gig. It will help us to be more organized and deliberate, it will free Melissa up not to have to do all the admin work, and we hope that putting in more like 40 hours a week will mean that God provides all the support we need quickly, so that we can get to Prague in early spring (hopefully March).

Please pray for my work– that I’ll be organized and disciplined, and that God will bless our efforts and get us to Prague ASAP.

Dispatches From the Support-Raising Front

Not many people get a glimpse into what life is like as a missionary raising support. Melissa and I were talking about some of our funnier moments, so I thought I’d share some with you, gentle reader.

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Non-Christians, understandably, do not know Christian lingo, and they come up with funny stuff in its place. (Sometimes theirs is better. Who in the world came up with the phrase “quiet time”?) Yesterday I was explaining our Prague plans to a guy I’d just met, and he said, “So, you’re planning to build a church for your religion in Prague.”

That will certainly get worked into 1) our standard support talk and 2) my Facebook status.

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Once in a support meeting, a guy who’s known me my whole life asked, with no context or warning, “So what do you think about the Catholics?”

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Another person was very disappointed to see a picture in some of our material of an event in Prague where a guy was drinking beer. Of course, the real story there would have been if there were an event in Prague where there was no beer. But it was really pretty stupid of me to waltz into the home of a conservative Christian in middle GA and not expect that to happen. The picture has since been scrubbed. (At a later appointment the same day, we had a glass of wine with the potential supporters. You just never know.)

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I do not at all enjoy the formality of going through our presentation and then making an appeal. I would prefer to sit around, have Prague come up, answer questions, casually get everything said that needs to be said, and then have them say “Well, we’d love to support you guys.”

Once we had dinner with some friends for the purpose of talking about support. We’d had the talk, then we drifted to other things, had dessert, and when it was time to start putting kids to bed the guy and his wife exchanged glances and he said “Well, we’re ready for the ask when you guys are.”

I’ve since been much more deliberate and purpose-driven in support meetings.

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We always get asked about ministry to internationals vs. ministry to Czechs– e.g. why is it an English-speaking church, will you try to meet Czechs, etc. In the most formal version of our talk, this comes under a section that Melissa handles. But for the first couple of months, she had a really tough time getting a handle on the summary answer, which is that there’s a “two-pronged approach.” Really, any answer that uses the phrase “two-pronged approach” would do. But early on, Melissa tended to stumble over that point and be less than clear. In one presentation at a church, she basically gave the impression that we could care less about the souls of Czechs and probably wouldn’t walk across the street to share the Gospel with them. She was temporarily relieved of her duties where that question was concerned.

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More to come, I’m sure. Thank goodness it’s God moving through his people, not our mad social skills, that brings in the provision we need!

The Weakened Dollar and Missionaries

When I came back from Prague I meant to write about the drastic effect of the falling dollar on missionaries serving overseas. To give some perspective, the first time we went to Prague (November 2006) the exchange rate was 24 Czech crowns to the dollar. Now it’s about 15, which means the dollar is about 30% weaker than it was 18 months ago, which means everything costs about 30% more if you’re being paid in dollars.

Anyway, I now no longer need to write this because Sunday the Charlotte Observer beat me to it, profiling none other than my future boss Phil Davis, pastor of Faith Community Church in Prague. Read the article, and be sure to look at the pictures— the Davises are a good-looking bunch.

For those of us in the States, a few action items to think about:

  • Pray (regularly!) for the dollar to regain its strength. This is affecting lots of missionaries all over the world, and they’d rather be focusing on ministry than trying to build their support back up.
  • If you have missionaries you regularly support, consider trying to raise your monthly pledge to help with their added costs. Where could you trim from your budget to help them out? Think of it as a move of wartime efficiency to get the troops in the field what they need.
  • If you’re not regularly supporting any missionaries, this would be a great time to start, as nearly all of them are feeling the crunch.

Our God is sovereign over all things, including currency exchange rates. Let’s pray that he will work quickly on behalf of his workers in the fields.

Video from Worship Night

Nothing fancy, but you’ll get the feel.

Worship Night

Monday night Jessica Forbes and I led a night of worship for Faith Community Church. We were joined by Ondra Riegl on fiddle, which was awesome. It was a great, extended time of worship, for us and for the crowd. Set list:

  • I Exalt Thee –> Let us Love and Sing and Wonder
  • Come Fall On Us
  • Forever
  • Praise Awaits You
  • Wonderful Maker
  • I Will Bow
  • How Great is Our God
  • O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus
  • God Be Merciful to Me
  • Poor Sinner, Dejected with Fear
  • Here is Love
  • The Love of God is Greater Far
  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
  • Hungry (Falling On My Knees)
  • It Is Well With My Soul
  • Before the Throne of God Above
  • When I Think About the Lord –> I Exalt Thee