God is God

Sometimes we need reminders of the obvious. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve forgotten the obvious until we’re reminded of it. I share the following quote because it reminded me of the obvious, in a profound way. Elizabeth Elliot endured more loss in one day than I have in 47 years, yet ( or as a result ) she has a perspective on God’s sovereignty that I wish I had at all times.

God is God. If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to… There is always the urge to oversimplify, to weigh in at once with interpretations that cannot possibly cover all the data or stand up to close inspection. We know, for example, that time and again in the history of the Christian church, the blood of martyrs has been its seed. We are tempted to assume a simple equation here. Five men died. This will mean x-number of Waorani Christians. Perhaps so. Perhaps not. Cause and effect are in God’s hands. Is it not part of faith simply to let them rest there? God is God.”

Amen. And thanks, Mrs. Elliot.

Known by Grace

Our church is known by many labels, some I would rather not hear, but some we wear proudly. Most Christians describe us as “Calvinists” due to our agreement with John Calvin on the doctrine of salvation. But unfortunately, many Christians think that doctrine was developed by John Calvin. It wasn’t. John Calvin, and we, hold to the doctrine of salvation laid out in Scripture, taught by Christ to His apostles, whom He sent out to teach the same in His churches. I prefer to call what we believe “the doctrines of grace”, because that’s exactly what it is – the various aspects of God’s free, undeserved, unearned, unconditional gift of salvation to men.

Reading Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitfield ( one of the greatest evangelists England and America has ever seen ), I came across a quote from Whitfield on his view of the doctrines of grace. I can only say Amen to his words. I hope you do as well.

“The doctrines of our election, and free justification in Christ Jesus are daily more and more pressed upon my heart. They fill my soul with a holy fire and afford me great confidence in God my Savior. I hope we shall catch fire from each other, and that there will be a holy emulation amongst us, who shall most debase man and exalt the Lord Jesus. Nothing but the doctrines of ( grace ) can do this. All others leave free will in man and make him, in part at least, a Savior to himself. My soul, come not thou near the secret of those who teach such things…I know Christ is all in all. Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. Oh, the excellency of the doctrine of election and of the saints’ final perseverance! I am persuaded, till a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself, but when convinced of these, and assured of their application to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed! Was there any fitness foreseen in us, except a fitness for damnation? I believe not. No, God chose us from eternity, he called us in time, and I am persuaded will keep us from falling finally, till time shall be no more. Consider the gospel in this view, and it appears a consistent theme.”

Heart of Worship

I picked up a short book to read over our Christmas travels – “What the Bible Teaches About Worship”, by Robert Dickie, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Grand Blanc, MI. Impatience got the best of me and I started reading today. Now, I don’t approve of impatience, but I’m glad I didn’t wait. I’ll share two quotes to get you thinking about your worship, the first from the author, the second from Dr. R.A. Torrey.

“Biblical and spiritual worship is the soul’s longing to see the glory and the beauty of Christ…Worship is at its fullest and richest point when our souls are lost in the wonder of the glory and majesty of God…If we are to worship biblically, we must make certain that our worship on earth reflects the example and direction of heavenly worship.”

“There is no higher, no deeper, no purer joy than that which springs from the adoring contemplation of God. I have walked miles, and climbed through underbrush and briers and over crags and precipice, just to get some beautiful view, and as I have looked out upon it, and feasted upon the never-to-be-forgotten vision of mountain and valley, forest and river, village and hamlet, cloud and sunshine, I have felt well repaid for the trial and suffering and weariness. I have sat by the hour before a great painting in joyous beholding of its beauty. Earth has fewer purer joys than these, but they are nothing (compared) to the profound and holy joy that fills the soul as we bow before God in worship, asking nothing, seeking nothing from Him, occupied with and satisfied with Himself.”

It would be heaven on earth to worship on earth as they do in heaven! “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” ( Ps. 37:4 ).

Driven by the Gospel

How does the gospel of Jesus Christ impact your life? By “gospel” I mean the incredible news that God the Son came in flesh, lived, died, and rose from the dead to free you and many others from your sins. I’m not asking about that day years ago when you first understood that truth and responded with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. I’m asking what it does to your thoughts, feelings, desires, plans, and actions every day.

John Paton left Scotland as a missionary to the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific in 1858. Previous missionaries to the same people had been killed and eaten by cannibals. Within seven months of his arrival he had buried his wife and newborn baby, both of whom died of fever; he dug their graves with his own hands. He was sick almost to death at least fourteen times himself. Always under threat of attack by the natives, he often slept in his clothes to be able to run quickly in the night. Once he was called to the bedside of a dying man and when John leaned over him to pray the man pulled a knife and held it to his throat. And if the hardship wasn’t bad enough on the field, Christian friends and family in Scotland criticized him relentlessly for his foolish decision to leave a fruitful ministry there for the certain failure of this mission.

Yet near the end of his life John explained his attitude through it all. “Let me record my immovable conviction that this is the noblest service in which any human being can spend or be spent; and that, if God gave me back my life to be lived over again, I would without one quiver of hesitation lay it on the altar to Christ, that He might use it as before in similar ministries of love, especially amongst those who have never yet heard the name of Jesus. Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble – on the contrary, I deeply rejoice – when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the mission field and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His gospel in to the heart of the heathen world.”

I’m not saying every Christian must go as a missionary to unreached people to prove his or her commitment to the gospel. But I am saying if that gospel is truly the “great news” we say it is then it should motivate a constant, active gratitude to the One who came, lived, died, and rose again to free us from our sins. Our devotion to His service and His glory should be just as strong as Paton’s, no matter where and how we live it out.

So how is the gospel impacting you?

Good for All

My fellow-pastor and I are reading Charles Bridges’ book “The Christian Ministry”. One section of the book deals with particular personal struggles pastors deal with which can cause their ministry to be inefficient. One of those struggles is not just a pastoral struggle, but a Christian struggle, maybe your struggle – lack of faith. I share Bridges’ conclusion without commentary for those who struggle with me in this area of sin.

“Our Blessed Master will make us sensible of our weakness; but He will not suffer us to faint under it. Our store of sufficiency is treasured up in His inexhaustible fulness; while our insufficiency is covered up in His compassionate acceptance. He engages to supply not only rules and directions, but ability and grace, for our momentous work. And if He enables us with a dependent spirit, a single eye, and a single heart, to make an unreserved surrender of ourselves and our talents to His service, He will overcome for us every apprehended difficulty, and we shall ‘go on our way rejoicing’ in our work. But the power of unbelief will be a matter of daily conflict to the end. We shall probably find it our chief hindrance. It will induce a faintness under (lack) of success, or self-confidence under apparent usefulness; in either case inverting the Scripture order of life and comfort, and leading us to walk by sight, not by faith…”

A Thanksgiving Thought

A portion of one of David’s psalms caught my attention recently ( Ps. 69:29-34 ). David has been living under the reproach and persecution of enemies, and even his family has turned against him. Yet he is trusting in God to save him, and he is promising to praise God with music and magnify Him with thanksgiving for that salvation, something that will please the Lord better than an ox or bull. That is a remarkable thing for a Jew to say, someone who lives under a system of worship, designed by God, commanding people to approach Him with animal sacrifices. So not only is David going against the system God created, but he says God will enjoy it more. Why? Because God knows the heart, and He knows that David could bring hundreds of bulls without praise and thanksgiving in the heart.

Then David talks about the impact his offering will have on others – the humble will see it and be glad. Why? Well, what if David had brought oxen and bulls to express his worship to God? Then the humble/poor might think that is the only way to worship God, and be discouraged because they can’t do the same as David. If that’s what it takes to say thank you to God, we’re doomed! But seeing God more pleased with praise and thanksgiving gives them hope and encouragement to worship God with what they do have.

And that’s the point – God doesn’t need us to give Him anything, He wants us to be thankful for all that He has given us. If David had brought a thousand bulls it would not have improved God one bit. What God wants most, we can give Him; in fact, we have as much as David to give to Him. And He has given us a salvation much better than David’s in this scene. He has saved us from the consequences of our sin: His wrath and justice, the penalty of His law, eternal death. He has saved us from our fear of death, from our slavery to sin, from Satan’s domination of us, from our empty lives lived for temporal pleasures, from our spiritual blindness, and on and on.

We have much to praise and thank God for, not just on “Thanksgiving” Thursday, but every day, and we have the promise and thrill of knowing God is more pleased with it than with a one hundred dollar “seed”, and just as pleased with it from the pauper as from the king! So, humble people, magnify Him with thanksgiving and be glad, because He is glad!

Thoughts on Preaching

Reading Ian Murray’s biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I was struck with Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ illustration of right preaching.  His firm belief was that “conviction of sin is the essential prelude to salvation”, and it is not enough to tell a man he is a sinner, we must prove it to him, point it out, make him look at it in himself.  He lamented the lack of that kind of preaching and the disastrous results in Wales in his day. Drawing from his experience as a medical doctor, he used this illustration.  I hope it helps you if you are a preacher, or if you listen to preaching:

“If a man goes to a doctor with a bad liver as the result of constant drinking of alcoholic beverages and the doctor says to him, ‘Well, of course, you are an ill man, that is to say, you are not well.  I will give you some medicine and then perhaps you will be as well as Mr. Davies round the corner’, is the man likely to get well?  Of course not, because he has not been told the cause of his trouble.   He thinks the alcohol is the one thing that keeps him going, especially when he feels faint.  The only thing to do with such a man is to tell him plainly that his troubles are all due to the drink and that if he persists in drinking there is no hope for him.  Keep on telling him until you make him think, then he will realize the truth and mend his ways.  Of course the patient will go home and say, ‘The doctor is not a sport.’ He may not be a sport but he is certainly a good doctor, an honest doctor, a doctor who does not merely wish to please his patient at the time, but to save him, whatever the patient may think of him.”

Oh that all of us preachers would stop worrying about what men think of us and start worrying about their eternal souls!

Taking Inventory

I’m reading Francis Chan’s best-selling book “Crazy Love” with a few guys from our congregation.  The author’s point is that God is so great and we are so small and sinful, which makes it crazy, incomprehensible, even shocking that God would love us and how He loves us.  The obvious application ( at least to me ) is what Paul told the Corinthians – “the love of Christ compels us”, and what John wrote in his first epistle – “we love Him because He first loved us”.

Now, this blog is not meant to be a review or critique of the book.  I only want to share one of his statements with the hope that it will impact you as it did me.  The statement was made within a section which listed characteristics of lukewarm people.  His specific point was that lukewarm people do not live by faith.  To further explain what he meant he said this – “their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God.”  Up until then I had been breezing through that chapter, not paying much attention, not really expecting to see anything “new”.  But for some reason that statement stopped me in my tracks, and it was almost like someone asked me out loud, “would your life look much different if you suddenly stopped believing in God?”  The knee-jerk, defensive reaction of every professing Christian would be, “Well, sure it would!”  But would it really?

Think about it.  How much does your belief in God really impact your daily life: how you do your job, how you spend your non-work time, what you watch on TV, how you spend your money, how you interact with your neighbors and strangers and the poor, what your conversations sound like, what you get excited about, how you raise your kids, what you do for vacation, how you treat your spouse, even how you spend the Lord’s Day?  For many professing Christians, if they stopped believing in God today, the only thing that would really change about their lives is where they are for a couple of hours on Sunday mornings.  Most areas of their lives would not change at all. Honestly, we do most of what we do for reasons other than God.  We work hard because that’s how we were raised, or to get a raise.  We treat our wife well because “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, and if we scratch her back she’ll scratch ours.  Our greatest goals for our kids are for them to stay out of trouble and get good grades. We help those who deserve our help, and only out of our “extra”.  You see, most of the things we do and why we do them could be done by atheists in the same ways and for the same reasons.

But shouldn’t the opposite be true?  Shouldn’t our belief in and appreciation for God radically impact every facet of our lives?  Shouldn’t our belief in God cause us to work as hard as we can at all times, never stealing time, doing even what we’re not required to do, helping co-workers to do their jobs well, having a gracious/grateful attitude toward our employers?  Shouldn’t our belief in God drive us to use our spare time to learn more about Christ and to serve others?  Shouldn’t our belief in God dictate what we do with our money, supporting the local church, sending out missionaries, meeting the needs of the poor, rescuing orphans and widows in need, even sacrificing to do it?  Shouldn’t our belief in God flavor all of our conversations, not just eliminating all cursing, but speaking what is true, pure, righteous, edifying, and Christ-centered?  Shouldn’t our belief in God produce the desire to hear as much biblical teaching as possible and be with the body of Christ as much as possible on the Lords’ Day?  If our belief in God was impacting our lives in these ways, we would look radically different if we stopped believing in Him today.

So let’s turn the question around to make it clearer.  How does your belief in God shape your life?  What impact does your belief in God really have on where you work, how you do your job, how you spend your money, how you use your spare time, how you treat your wife, how you raise your children, how you speak to people, how you treat strangers, what you do for the poor, what you watch on TV, what you find funny, what you do on the rest of the Lord’s Day, how you deal with sickness, how you choose your friends, etc…Does the evidence convict you of being lukewarm or cold or hot concerning the God you claim to love?  The facts don’t lie.  Take inventory and respond accordingly.


When people find out that I’m a pastor one of their first questions is what kind of a church I pastor.  On some of my more sarcastic days I’m tempted to say, “Rosemont Baptist Church…Did you not hear the Baptist?”  But that would be a corrupt way to speak, and it would also be a vague way to describe our congregation.  “Baptist”, like Presbyterian, or Methodist, or Evangelical, can mean many things.   So I usually describe Rosemont as a “reforming” Baptist Church.  We are traditionally baptistic in most of our doctrine and practice, but we are constantly comparing and adjusting our doctrine and practices to the Word of God, not Baptist tradition.   This is known in most reformed circles as Sola Scriptura, a latin phrase meaning Scripture is our sole rule for faith and practice.

In many places it’s no more than that – a phrase.  At Rosemont, it’s a commitment.  We are trying, individually and corporately, to make the Word of God our blueprint for everything we believe and everything we do.  It is changing individuals, couples, families, and our congregation.  It is changing how we lead and who leads, it is changing our music, it is changing how we spend our money and use our resources, it is changing how we deal with sin, how we do “missions”, how we train our children, etc…

And let me tell you, you never know how much needs to be reformed until you start reforming!  So much of what we do personally and corporately has no biblical foundation.  We do it from tradition, or out of pragmatism ( it gets the results we want ), or for fleshly comfort and pleasure, or for material benefits, or for acceptance and recognition in the world, or to avoid persecution from the church.  That’s why reform meets such resistance sometimes – because people and congregations don’t like to give these things up, even when they see that they are not biblical.  But the joy of doing all things Jesus commanded His apostles, and the blessing which comes from denying self, taking up our cross, and following Him is real.  I recommend it to every Christian and to every church.

Come visit and see how Christ is reforming this group of sinners!

Worship Music

We enjoy finding and singing new songs around here.  We do enjoy the sound of the music, but we’re more interested in the lyrics.  Are they biblically accurate?  Are they Christ-centered?  Do they really serve as a channel for us to think about and declare the worth of God?

Words from three songs we sang this past Sunday are still sticking in my mind today.  One song is familiar to most – “And Can It Be?”, by Charles Wesley.  The first verse expresses the amazement, shock, humility we should have as we consider the grace of God to us – Can it be, is it possible, can it really be true that I should benefit from the Savior’s death which I caused with my sin?!  “Amazing love!  How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Another song is “Sing His Bleeding Love“, by Isaac Watts.  Here is the final verse and chorus – “My soul looks back to see the burdens Thou didst bear hanging on the cursed tree and trusts her guilt was there.  Believing we rejoice to see the curse removed.  O praise the Lamb with cheerful voice and sing His bleeding love.”  How much does He love us?  Enough to bleed for us, to take the curse for us, to remove our guilt from us.

The last song is “Deeper and Deeper” by Oswald J. Smith.  The verses express our desire to go deeper and deeper into an experiential knowledge of the heart, will, cross, joy, and love of Jesus.  The second verse says “Into the will of Jesus deeper and deeper I go, praying for grace to follow, seeking His way to know; bowing in full surrender, low at His blessed feet, bidding Him take, break me and make, till I am molded, complete.”  That’s a dangerous verse to sing, but an accurate one from someone who truly worships Christ.

I hope these music samples help you to worship as they helped me.