What you can’t sing

Our Good Friday service included three meditations on Christ’s atonement.  Specifically, they addressed expiation, propitiation, and reconciliation.  If you look closely at the hymns we regularly sing, you’ll find that these three themes are woven into many of them.  Kevin DeYoung points this out in his post What You Can’t Sing Without Penal Substitution.  He lists some key passages that justify our view of substitutionary atonement.  Then he lists some favorite hymns that are laden with this idea, before concluding “Without penal substitution there is no salvation. And there isn’t nearly as much to sing about.”  Here is a sampling of these hymns:

Man of Sorrows! What a Name
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned he stood,
Sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah! what a Savior!

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
What thou, my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinner’s gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with they favor, vouchsafe to me thy grace.

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended
Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Was it for crimes that I had done he groaned upon the tree!
Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted
Tell me, ye who hear him groaning, was there every grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distres;
Many hands were raised to wound him, none would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

What Wondrous Love is This
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

Many of these excellent hymns have been put to new music by Indelible Grace.  If you’ve never heard of Indelible Grace, here is a quick intro:

Free Book: 50 Crucial Questions about Manhood and Womanhood

Pastor Tom is preaching through 1 Peter 3, which includes instructions for husbands and wives.  Several years ago, Wayne Grudem and Jon Piper edited a book entitled: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Ligon Duncan, D.A. Carson, Elisabeth Elliot and many others contributed articles.  Grudem and Piper have also released an excellent book (also much shorter . . . and free!) on the same topic.  It presents the material in question and answer form.  You can download the book from Desiring God.  Here are is a quote from the first question:

1. Why do you regard the issue of male and female roles as so important?

. . . God’s gift of complementary manhood and womanhood was exhilarating from the beginning (Genesis 2:23). It is precious beyond estimation. But today it is esteemed lightly and is vanishing like the rain forests we need but don’t love. We believe that what is at stake in human sexuality is the very fabric of life as God wills it to be for the holiness of His people and for their saving mission to the world.

And here are two questions relevant to this week’s sermon regarding the way in which husbands should love their wives:

4. What about marriage? What did you mean (in question 1) by “marriage patterns that do not portray the relationship between Christ and the church”?

We believe the Bible teaches that God means the relationship between husband and wife to portray the relationship between Christ and His church. The husband is to model the loving, sacrificial leadership of Christ, and the wife is to model the glad submission offered freely by the church.

12. Isn’t your stress on leadership in the church and headship in the home contrary to the emphasis of Christ in Luke 22:26, “. . . the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves”?

No. We are trying to hold precisely these two things in Biblical balance, namely, leadership and servanthood. It would be contrary to Christ if we said that servanthood cancels out leadership. Jesus is not dismantling leadership, He is defining it. The very word He uses for “leader” in Luke 22:26 is used in Hebrews 13:17, which says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as ones who will have to give an account.” Leaders are to be servants in sacrificially caring for the souls of the people. But this does not make them less than leaders, as we see in the words obey and submit. Jesus was no less leader of the disciples when He was on His knees washing their feet than when He was giving them the Great Commission.

This Week: He Entrusted Himself to the One Who Judges Justly

Pastor Tom 2009This week Pastor Tom will preach on 1 Peter 2:22-25:

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Here are some questions to consider in preparation for Sunday:

  • Read Psalm 82.  What is the plea of the Psalmist here?  To whom does he make his plea?  Why?
  • Read Isaiah 53.  Is this an accurate prediction of the sufferings of Christ?  How so?
  • Read Mark 8. Was Jesus aware of his coming suffering?  Why this sharp rebuke of Peter?  How might this exchange have informed Peter about unjust suffering?

If you’d like to review last week’s sermon To This You Were Called, here are a few questions:

  • Read 1 Peter 2.  Review your sermon notes.  How do these ideas about slavery apply to us?
  • Read Philemon.  What insights do you gain about slavery and how the people involved were to deal with one another?
  • Read Romans 6.  Why are believers called slaves here?  What does that mean for you?

If you missed the sermon, you can listen to it here:

That you might proclaim God’s mighty work

Pastor Tom preached on 1 Peter 2:9-10 a couple weeks ago.  In that sermon, he underscored Peter’s point that our appropriate response to our being called out of darkness and into light is to proclaim God’s mighty work:

    Expand your praise!  Look for things to praise God for: they’re all around you.  Look for his great works in the record of redemption that we have in his Word.  As you’re reading the Old Testament, do you stop and say, “Wow! This is amazing!  Look at what God did.”  Have you ever praised God (I haven’t until i put this sermon together) for Boaz redeeming Ruth?  Shouldn’t we?  Wasn’t that a great thing that occurred?  How about causing the fire to fall from heaven when Elijah called for it before the prophets of Baal?  What a great act!  Isn’t God worthy of our praise today for doing that so many years ago?

    Since we just came through the Christmas season, here’s a challenge for you.  You might have to look up some of the people to find the point of praise, but I would challenge you to read one or the other or both of the genealogies of Christ that we find in Matthew and Luke.  And as you go through that list of names, ask yourself, “Who is this person and why should I praise God for what happened in this person’s life?”  It will take you a while . . . and when you get to Shealtiel, you may wonder, “Who in the world is this?” . . . and you might not find much.  But there’s a whole long list of things that you could praise God for in the lives of that list of people that led either from Adam or Abraham, right up to Christ.

God is indeed worthy of our praise for His mighty work.  And if you’d like actually like to use one of the genealogies to praise God, here is a helpful resource from Tim Challies’ Visual Theology series called Awaiting the Messiah:

Tim Challies’ Visual Theology: Awaiting the Messiah

Or listen to Andrew Peterson sing Matthew’s genealogy from his album Behold the Lamb of God:

To this you were called

This Sunday Pastor Tom will preach on 1 Peter 2:18-21:

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (NIV)

Here are some study questions to help prepare for the sermon:

  1. Read Leviticus 25.  How do these rules about redemption of slaves pre-figure our condition in Christ?
  2. Read Ephesians 6.  Compare what Paul says here to what Peter says in this week’s text.
  3. Read Romans 14.  What application does Paul make for all of us using slave and master?

God Has Not Forgotten About Russian Orphans

Here is an article written by Wendy Lankford of MissionICare.  Wendy and her husband Shane will visit Pasadena EP Church on Sunday, January 20 to discuss their work connecting churches to opportunities to care for orphans, widows, and vulnerable children.

Her tired, chapped  face appeared contented as she rolled through baggage claim in her new umbrella stroller with her exhausted, relieved, and overjoyed parents.  Little Lina had endured a 2 hour car trip from her orphanage to the nearest major city, a 12 ½ hour train ride to Moscow, and a 10 ½ hour plane ride to Baltimore.  Lina has Down Syndrome and her adoptive family found her through Reece’s Rainbow, a non-profit organization that advocates for special needs children around the world.   Amy and Mike Livingston, her adoptive parents, were among the American families to take placement of one of the close to 1,000 Russian children welcomed into American homes last year.

How should we react to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent signature of a bill effectively eliminating American adoptions of Russian orphans like Lina?  How should we respond to the disruption of the 46 nearly finalized U.S. adoptions of Russian children?  How can  we take action when it appears that American hands are tied?

While the immediate implications are significant and disheartening for Russia’s more than 650,000 orphans waiting for families, the possibly hundreds of American families seeking visas for immigration of Russian orphans, as well as thousands more who might consider Russian adoption in the future, there are three things we, believers called to care for the orphan, must remember:

First, the media focus on the Russian orphan crisis may bring needed attention to the plight of orphans in Russia, as well as orphans worldwide.  Observers have credited the impetus for Russia’s new legislation as politically-motivated retaliation against the The Magnitsky Act, an act signed into law by President Obama in December to impose restrictions on Russian human rights violators.  However, in its efforts to react to American foreign policy, and in its willingness to use its own children in an act of political retribution, Russia has effectively turned the spotlight on its own domestic policies and priorities .  In a Christmas address, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill appealed to congregants.  “And as we celebrate Christmas I would like to appeal to everyone with a request: If you can take this important step in life aimed at adopting children, supporting orphans, take this step,” Kirill said. “There should be no orphans in our country.”  The media exposure of Russia’s overburdened orphanage system, which is acknowledged by American and Russian adoption agencies alike, as well as by Russian legislators, could result in a greater legislative emphasis on non-institutional and family-based solutions domestically for Russia.

Secondly, the shift away from American “solutions” allows us to focus on and support the growing efforts by Christian Russian nationals to stem the tide of the orphan crisis.  In April of 2012, The CoMission for Children at Risk and the Russian National Network for Children at Risk partnered with other Russian organizations to host The Alliance for Russia Without Orphans in an effort to cultivate a culture of orphan care.  This Christian summit provided information and helpful resources to prepare Russian Christians to care for the most vulnerable in their country.   Organizations like the Risk Network, provide resources to the Church to meet the needs in the community.  The Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund is an organization that helps orphans in orphanages and prepares them to transition by giving them life skills.   We can use this opportunity to begin to pray for, partner with, and financially support Russian domestic ministries that are caring for orphans in Christ’s name.

Finally, as Christians, the uncertainty and powerlessness we are tempted to feel in response to perceived setbacks can be potent reminders that our Sovereign Creator God is the same God in Russia that He is in America.  While we cannot dictate the foreign policy direction taken by Russian leaders, we know that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.”  And while we cannot control the fate of the many vulnerable Russian children waiting for homes, we know that our God “hear[s] the cry” of the orphan.  God has not forgotten about the Russian orphans, and His church is alive and working on behalf of the fatherless.  We need to create partnerships with Russian churches to serve them as they live out the biblical mandate to care for the fatherless.  We must pray and look for practical ways to help our brothers and sisters in Russia.  Russia’s new orphan care legislation is a great limitation, humanly speaking, but it does not limit the power and passion of our God, “the Father to the fatherless,” for the orphan.

Seven Years of Advent sermons

Each year Pastor Tom preaches a short Advent series.  This year he preached on the three offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest, and King.  The last sermon focused on the uniqueness of Christ as the God-Man like no one else.  Here is a quick run-down of the last few Advent series.  Click on the links to see the sermons associated with each series.

Pick one of these sermons and give it a listen!

Review: The Creedel Imperative

A couple of months ago I read Carl R. Trueman’s new book The Creedel Imperative (Crossway 2012).  What a delight!  Trueman is a church historian; he earned a PhD at Aberdeen and is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia.

He is well qualified to author this book.  He begins with a brief study of the current anti-creedal culture in which we live, exposing the weakness and even disingenuousness of those who say, “We have no creed but the Bible.”  He points out that every church has a creed.  It is either written and public or not.  Those that are written are open to biblical scrutiny.  Others can challenge the propositions that are stated in it.  When it is unwritten and private it cannot be scrutinized appropriately.

He argues for the adequacy of human language to convey truth.  God used words to speak to his people, and we use words to talk to one another about God.  In Ex 12:26-27 the Lord tells the Israelites the very words to use when talking to their kids about the Passover.  In this same chapter he argues for creeds from the numerous creedal type statements in the New Testament, and the idea that there was a “pattern of sound doctrine” that was to be embraced and believed.

There is an enlightening review of  the creeds of the early church and the classic protestant confessions – well worth your time.

In his final chapter Trueman discusses the usefulness of creeds.  It too, is well worth your time.  He points out again that all churches have some sort of creed either written or a private understanding.  With a good written creed a church is limited in its theological power and direction.  After using the example of the importance of a vision for an institution.  He says:

A confession functions in an analogous way for the church: it describes the message which the church is to preach, and it limits the church’s power to what is contained within that document. Take, for example, a minister who decides that the Bible teaches that all Christians should wear clothes of a certain style. Such a case might be bizarre, but how would the church where the minister has “no creed but the Bible” handle this situation? Hermeneutical issues and church power issues would combine in a most awkward manner. Of course, while certain churches do seem to encourage a certain aesthetic when it comes to dress, there are probably very few where the eldership engage in an explicit and high-handed approach to congregants’ fashion sense. More likely in the current climate will be an eldership that issues edicts about where one should send one’s children to school, for whom one should vote, whether couples should use contraception and even, in some case, the specific person one should marry. Some of these issues are more debatable than others but all represent a direct intrusion of the church into areas of life which, generally speaking, are not matters in which the church should directly concern itself.  (p. 165)

A confession gives us a succinct summary of doctrine.  This summary is useful both for leadership and the members of a congregation.  Among other points he goes on to say that a creed or confession relativizes the present.  A Creed that stands the test of time over the centuries helps to immunize us to the passing fads of today.  It will also help to define and discriminate between one church and another.  Good creeds then become the foundation for unity.

There is so much more in this book of 200 pages that I did not touch on, but I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

Pastor Tom Wenger, Sr
Pasadena Evangelical Presbyterian Church  (PCA)

Intergenerational Sunday School

This Sunday we’ll be starting a new Sunday School series called The Righteous Shall Live by Faith: A Study for Children and Adults on the Ten Commandments.  This is an intergenerational curriculum produced by Desiring God.  Pastor Tom will be leading the study.

So what does it mean for a Sunday School curriculum to be intergenerational?  Here’s how the folks at Desiring God describe it:

Intergenerational teaching consciously takes into account the fact that there are learners of different ages and experiences, and it seeks to teach the hearts of all. Intergenerational teaching benefits both adults and

children. It even provides opportunities for both generations to understand the material differently and benefit from a different perspective. It is a unique opportunity for the young to learn from the old, and for the old to learn from the young.

So please join us at 9:30 am this Sunday.  Children (and adults) of all ages are encouraged to attend!

To find out more about the study, Starr Meade wrote a nice review for Modern Reformation.  You can find it here.


This Week: The Stone the Builders Rejected

This Sunday’s sermon will be on 1 Peter 2:7-8:

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”

Here are some questions to consider this week to prepare for the sermon:

  • Read Psalm 118.  Who is the Stone that the builders rejected?  How does the Psalmist respond to this idea?
  • Read Isaiah 8.  Who is the Stone in this chapter?  What is the context of this chapter?
  • Read Matthew 21.  What is the context?  How does Jesus apply the stone prophecy?

Ministering Christ to the World Through Our Families