Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Right Foot

Some people are said to have two left feet. I suppose that means that maybe they can't dance or are clumsy or maybe it means something I haven't yet figured out.

I can't dance. I have a clumsy heart and myopic vision of life so much of the time. There is so much I haven't yet figured out. However, I do know this: I have a right foot,... but it's not on my body, at least not literally. So you have two left feet Mike? No, I have one left foot AND a right foot that is integral to my walking through life,... but resides at a different address in Lincoln. What? You're not making any sense. I know. I don't much of the time... but keep reading. 

My right foot is my good friend for whom I have given endless thanks in my prayers this morning: Dr. Brad Riddle who is a trained counselor here in Lincoln, but for a long time before that he was an Assemblies of God pastor and continues to be ordained and licensed as an AG pastor. Brad and I have a friendship that began through a local pastors' prayer group a number of years ago when he was in the pastorate and our friendship continues to deepen and grow.

Now, what some of you may find odd is that I am a "noncharismatic" PCA pastor whose doctrinal standard the Westminster Confession of Faith comes right out and says in chapter 1 that "the former ways" of God revealing himself (through his prophets and writers of Scripture) have now "ceased." In fact, I remember a story that was told a number of years ago at a PCA church-planting conference by Joseph "Skip" Ryan (someone I admire a lot by the way): when Skip was younger, he told his mentor Dr. Kennedy Smartt (one of the founding fathers of the PCA) that he had met a few people who might be interested in helping him plant a church (long before the rigorous tools and blessings of personality inventories and church-planting assessment centers had been established in the PCA). Well, Dr. Smartt had one question for Skip, "son, are there any 'charismats' in your group?" Skip responded, "no Dr. Smartt, there are not." Dr. Smartt responded by saying, "Well, then, go to it boy!"

So PCA folks have always tended to an uneasy relationship with charismatic folks, to say the least (and probably vice versa as I would imagine). Yet, God in His infinite mercy and grace has given to me a trusted friend and co-laborer in the Kingdom: Brad. Brad is my right foot. I think you'll get what I am clumsily saying as I quote some from Richard Lovelace and his classic 1979 work, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal:

"The interrelationship between reformation of doctrine and structures and spiritual revitalization in the church is important and complex. While these two factors can at times occur separately, they are alternate moves like the footsteps of a walking man. Reformation grows out of awakened spiritual interest, and spiritual renewal seldom persists long without continuing reformation. This suggests that God has chosen to bless his church with the fulness of the Holy Spirit on the condition of its moving towards certain vital norms of health and witness" (Lovelace, p. 52).

"We need a 'unified field theory' which conserves and consolidates all the values in the different groups and parties while avoiding their errors and imbalances, which enables the pentecostal and nonpentecostal to affirm one another as Spirit-filled Christians with valid but differing spiritual gifts and which unites socially concerned Christians with those burdened for the destinies of individuals on a common basis in the redemptive work of Christ" (Lovelace, pp. 58-59).

Brad is my good friend who sometimes visits us on Sunday mornings, almost always with his dear wife Judy. Brad always "endures and receives" from my long-winded sermons, often about the vital importance of a Calvinistic understanding of the Scriptures- this is much of what he receives from me. So if this is my "gift" to Brad, what do I receive from him? Well, "mainly" wisdom and encouragement in the Lord. I give him doctrine; he gives me wisdom- not exactly a fair trade, huh? Following my sermons, there's almost always the e-mail a day or two later along these lines, "good job pastor, was truly blessed, thanks for the time of worship, etc." And then whenever I am with him, Brad usually opens a story of the Bible in a way I had not thought about but needed greatly in that moment. 

I'm pretty sure my right foot slows down to keep pace with the clumsy left foot, but as they move together in harmony, there seems to open the marvelous hope of a pathway to genuine reformation, renewal and revival in the church and world.

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