Archive for the ‘Thank God for Southern Baptists’ category

A Tale of Two Robertsons

September 17, 2011

Sheep and Goats

This is a story of two men who preach a message.

One of them, in the trenchant words of  Russel Moore, really does  “repudiate the Gospel”.   According to Webster’s, to repudiate is to “reject as having no authority or binding force.”  Spurgeon said, “The very substance of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, Himself—His Person, His work, His glorious offices.”

One, a  prosperity preacher named Pat, declares to be dead a spouse who is  weakened by illness,  a wife who speaks hurtful things and is difficult to be around.  He says one can’t be faulted for wanting companionship–if you’re not blessed by the relationship,  end it.

Another Robertson, surnamed McQuilken, resigned the presidency of a prestigious Christian college to care for his wife who was diagnosed with Alzheimers.  It was  startlingly  counterculteral, because as one doctor who works with the dying  said, “Almost all women stand by their men; very few men stand by their women.” And he stood by her for 25 years, and he observed,

Love is said to evaporate if the relationship is not mutual, if it’s not physical, if the other person doesn’t communicate, or if one party doesn’t carry his or her share of the load. When I hear the litany of essentials for a happy marriage, I count off what my beloved can no longer contribute, and I contemplate how truly mysterious love is.

Which Robertson says the work of Christ has no binding authority on him?  Which one adorns the doctrines of Christ?  Which Robertson  really has really believed in the grace of God which has appeared, bringing salvation, that trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions ” (Titus 2:11) It is not legalism to be faithful to a vow, it is not the law that teaches us to renounce worldliness,  it is love and grace!

Which Robertson really exalts Christ here, who really reveals Christ to His people and makes Him great in their thoughts?  And who preaches a Prosperity gospel that has more in common with an Asherah pole than a cross?  That was Russel Moore’s  astute observation of  Pat  Robertson’s teaching.

Moore writes,

Somewhere out there right now, a man is wiping the drool from an 85 year-old woman who flinches because she think he’s a stranger. No television cameras are around. No politicians are seeking a meeting with them.

But the gospel is there. Jesus is there.

So which Robertson preaches Christ? Who repudiates Him? There are those who will ask, ‘And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

There will be an awful sorting of sheep from goats at the end of time.
It seems that Jesus considers that when we ignore the needs of the weakest, we have rejected His authority– and we have repudiated the Gospel.  Some will be on his right and some on the left.  Some will depart from him, forever.

Building Bridges

February 20, 2011

Under a bridge of the Nymphenburg Channel in M...

As a Charismatic disgusted with the False Prophetic and seeking the truth, I struggled (and still struggle) so much with my prejudices about those in Reformed Circles:  I saw them talking  much about What Jesus Said, and did not see them as those who have come from sitting at His feet with words that He has just said to them. And a person who has been with Jesus  is filled with Spring, one wonders,  What is all this juice and all this joy? ”  and you want to be around someone like that.

The gulf between our two worlds kept me from such a person–I describe him here: I think it is the best thing I ever wrote. And not because of the writing, but because of the man.

It is such a grief to me that all the years  when I attended a church growing in idolatry, there was the loveliest little Baptist church down the street. We never thought of entering it, until we were out of every other option, because the water is so wide between our worlds. And we can convince very few friends  similarly disenchanted by Charismania to join us in worship there. It is such a shame, because the moment I entered First Baptist, I cried. The Spirit was so present there, and the worship was so clean and God exalting, and I had so missed that kind of worship,  the kind that is in Spirit and in Truth.

But I wonder, Reformed pastors: Is your church a place that makes a heartsick former Charismatic weep with joy during your worship? Phil was on the platform, leading the parade, giving his people permission to really exult. It was humbly done, and lovely to see, and I really miss that man.

Another question: Would those  with whom you vehemently disagree  theologically give an eulogy at your funeral? Many of the pastors who prayed regularly with Phil disagreed with him about lots of things.  But they interceded together  for this sin-saturated city at the prayer meetings Phil had initiated, and this meeting  included my former pastor.   He spoke movingly about him, recalling the day when Phil led his parishioners in another kind of parade, streaming down the sidewalks to the newly-opened charismatic church down the street, in a  funny sort of welcome wagon to the newcomers on the block.  I remember that day. They came in at the end of our service, and I thought they all looked a little nervous–I never guessed what Phil was risking.  But we weren’t that weird then.  My pastor wasn’t running with the crowd he runs with now, and we weren’t aligned with Bethel Redding.  Things were done decently.  Pretty orderly.

And would you call your opponents your friends? Phil did, when I told him about leaving that church, and why–because of Lakeland, and Bill Johnson.  His face became very grave. “He is my friend” Phil said. “We pray together for this city.” He wasn’t going to let me talk smack about his friend.  I said I hate the False Prophetic but I love the man. Phil reassured me that he knew of Lakeland, and its falseness, and was in dialogue with his friend.  Go figure what that means.  But I know Phil had a love of the truth.

Some would argue that he went too far in his spanning of  divides.  But the men he prayed with, and the men who joined his wife in that hospital room to pray for him in those last moments, that God would stay his hand, were men who loved the Lord and preached the Gospel.  They were like all of us in our various confusing stages of sanctification. Oh, how we all prayed for Phil.  But he died. As we grieved together at his funeral, I said to my former pastor and  his friend,  and my friend, “oh, my father, my father!  The chariots and horsemen of San Francisco.” He knew exactly what I meant.  He had torn his clothes, too.

Kevin DeYoung asks these questions best, and I finish this interrogation with him  because you will hear him better than me. I think it is the essence of my concern:

“Do we possess deep and pervasive piety? I know that pietism is a bad word in some circles. It conjures up notions of anti-intellectual sentimentality. But we got pietism because Protestant scholasticism had gotten dry (or at least many of the churches of the time had). If we want to be more than intellectual people who happen to be into theology, we need to cultivate deep affections and deeper sanctification. As Reformed Christians (assuming many of you are), let’s lead the way, not only in theolgocial integrity, but also in meditation, Scripture memory, intercession, and earnest worship. What our families, friends, and churches need most from us is our own personal holiness.” And I would only add that those outside the church, and those orphaned by the destructive cults that are your unpaid bills, need it too.

I desperately needed that winsome holiness Phil displayed.  But he was not a perfect man, he had but a breath in his nostrils, just like me.  Lest any think I am constructing a hagiography of a defenseless man, I am not.  I was fully ware of some theological weaknessess, and they were enough of a concern that my husband and I were preparing ourselves to talk to him.  But then he died, and so I have no idea how he would have responded, and so I will bury those concerns, and thank God I never had to deal with them at all. Only God does, now.  And I imagine that from Heaven Phil is chuckling and fully agreeing with me.

All I know is Phil finished well.  Would that our own hospital rooms become a sanctuary,  and we leave our people with the most important words that can be said, and we meet our Savior with the songs of praise that are the custom of our lips. And that we could prophetically speak a blessing from our deathbed, as Phil did.

He said that the sufferings in his body were for the healing of God’s Body.  And First Baptist suffered terribly, and almost died.  But look what God has done! A courageous young man from Arkansas, who understands fully the challenges ahead, and with humility and boldness in one necessary move, just took us through a week of prayer and fasting for revival at FBC, and for the city .  Such deep affection I have now, not just for him, but for all the saints in this church, and I have greater faith, that the people of God can at last be a bridge to this city that is a proverb for sin-sickness. In the abounding grace of God, He hears the cry of His people for help, and He will always provide for Himself a remnant.   He is so good.

In My Little Hall of Fame: Dr. Al Mohler

October 4, 2010

Image by james.thompson via Flickr

This question that haunted Dr. Al Mohler is one that has deeply troubled me. “In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge? I  was troubled as well that no Christian voice was speaking out about Tyler Clementi’s terrible end.   His reasoned, compassionate response is one of the major reasons I am overcoming my fear of the SBC, and agreeing with my husband that it is time to commit to our local congregation, despite its overfondness for “Robert’s Rules of Order”.

And  they did a wonderful job in selecting our new pastor.

So thank you, Dr. Mohler.  You continue to speak with great wisdom on those issues that raise blood pressures  because they reveal our hearts.   You consider well those “borderline” questions which resist easy answers, quoting Thielcke, who once argued that we learn more about ourselves and our most fundamental convictions by considering these issues,  such as birth control and IVF, and yoga,  and the hypocrisy of divorce in the church, and so your in-box is filled with the insults of your critics. But I admire you even more for the civility and courage with which you address the things of first importance, those Gospel issues, as when you denounced those who would seek to synergize Genesis  with Science, and dilute it of the reason for the second Adam’s death on the Cross.  With your Christlike demeanor and well-reasoned answers for the hope you have within, you continue to allay my Baptistphobia, and nervously we are  preparing to sign on the dotted line.

Do, in Remembrance: Phillip Busbee, June 27, 2009

July 3, 2009

Image by pastorbuhro via Flickr

“…they visited Phillip… and said, “We would see Jesus” ( John 12:20)

I think the best thing you can say about any Christ-follower is that being done with visiting him, you just want to see Jesus.  That is the way of the very best teachers of the Word: they make you hungry for more of Him, you want to go apart yourself, and get out your Bible again. You want to see Jesus. That was how Pastor Phil made you feel. There was no boasting with him, his loveliness was all of the Lord.  You could clearly see how he had been with Jesus.  He died peacefully last Saturday.

But  he died  in pieces.  The infection  fiercely took hold, and was relentless. It took his legs first, and when I heard that, I said to the Lord, “Just leave the rest of him. Please spare his life and leave his fine mind and great heart.  Go ahead and take his legs if you must, leave an even more broken vessel, oh, but leave the rest of him here, oh have mercy on your people oh God.”

The Lord paid no heed to my pleas, to my abandonment issues surfacing  yet again; He ignored my cries for stability and security, saying tenderly to me “hold lightly to the things you can see, and tightly to the things you can’t'”, as He took Phil to be with Himself.  To be with Him in glory, laughing and leaping and praising God face to face, eating the  leaves of the trees there that  are so much better than insulin.

The tender mercies of the Lord are different than mine. I felt the Lord speak to me the other day that He did leave Phil’s heart and mind.  They are impressed upon my own, preserved in the notes I keep of every sermon he preached,  that I do look at again and again, tucked in the pages of my Bible.  Especially the last sermon he preached four days before they amputated his legs.  “Who Do They Say He Is?”,  on John 19.  Like a man  who knew his time was short, he opened with the most important issue of all, the one forever forced on the sin-sick soul in Communion.  The bread and the wine were presented, and he reminded us that it is not a table spread before us, but a trial we come to.  The question the terrified Pilate asked– “Who are you?”–   must be answered by us over and over  again. Phil said, “We come to the cross, we smell again, see again, feel the pain again and say,  Jesus, don’t let me forget! Who You ARE!  You made your way to the Father’s will, you ask us to do the same.”

So will we do these things to remember Him.

I feel the anguish now in those words I quickly scrawled that I did not feel then, but I knew even then a drama was taking place.  I have never before taken notes on a communion  preamble.  I cannot think, as I read those words now, that Phillip Busbee was not unaware of what the Father was asking of Him.   He had left the hospital to deliver his message. He was in a wheelchair again.  He was weakening again. He captured so movingly the turmoil and chaos of the trial  of the Son of Man because I think he knew the verdict of the Father on his own life, and Phil  was used to yielding to Him. He was a man who so often was with Jesus, and had learned through the trials of his life to say “yes” to Him. That is why the Son of Man’s Word shone so clearly through him.

So I will follow Phil, the way he  followed Christ.   The way he led us to Jesus. The way he said, and like his Master, it cost him everything he had to say it, “Not my will, Father,  but Your will  be done.”

And here is a beautiful song. Worship your King, as Phil does now in glory, and serve Him wholly, as Phil did on earth.