Reform

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.

Christmas Reality

I came back to the office this morning and and opened a Christmas card and letter which had come during my time away.  The second sentence from my friend said, “I pray that you had a good Christmas.”  We haven’t spoken since I sent a letter to him before Christmas, so he had no idea how I spent the time in between.  Many who are familiar with the events of my Christmas would say there is no way anyone could consider it “good”.  You see, my mother passed away on Christmas day.  She was only 73, had been in good health, and was serving the poor of a local community when she had the stroke that eventually took her life.  She left behind a lonely, heartbroken husband of 52 years.  Would I consider that a good Christmas?  Would I consider it a good Christmas day when my father, brother, and I had to make that excruciating decision to stop life support for my mother?  Would I consider it a good Christmas day as I stood by her bed and watched her breathing get slower and slower until she breathed no more?  My answer to all of these questions is YES!  In fact, this may have been the first time I ever really celebrated what is called “Christmas”.  Christmas was no holiday for me this year, no “season”, no tradition.  I was not allowed to get lost in parties and dramas and cantatas and candies and decorations.  As I watched my mother drift off Sunday afternoon I couldn’t have been any more focused and any happier that God the Son set aside the form of God and took on the form of man, was born of a virgin, to live and die as the righteous Substitute for sinners!  The incarnation of Christ was my rock, my confidence, my peace, and my joy this year like never before.  My mother is face to face with her Savior because that Savior was born to live and die for her some 2000 years ago.  I pray that all of you had as good of a Christmas as I did this year!