The church where I pastor, Christ Church in Lakeland, Florida, has a new website, and it looks really great. Please check it out.Thanks to Beka at WindFarm Marketing for the fantastic work.
For the past year (at least), this blog has mostly been devoted to my sermons. Those will all be at the church’s site. I’m not sure what will become of Wedgewords. I won’t delete it, but I may not add any new content. This site has been a sort of “old faithful” since my days in seminary, and it has helped me grow in a number of ways. I learned a lot, sometimes by mistake. But I think it is probably time to focus my energies in specific places. I will continue to write my more academic-ish stuff at The Calvinist International, and I will probably put all of my other pastoral writings at the Christ Church page.
I don’t think I’ve said a lot about Christ Church on here, but I took the call to be their pastor last July. We are a small congregation in Lakeland, Florida, located nearly midway between Tampa and Orlando. We are Reformed and Evangelical, but our liturgy is a bit more “formal.” We look as much like a Lutheran or Anglican church as we do a Presbyterian one. We are still in the early stages of church life there, and we could definitely use support and word of mouth. The Lord has to build of course, and I have been trying to make a special effort to discern His calling for us. Your prayers would be most appreciated.
We have been discussing relationships, roles, and authority structures in our ongoing sermon series. Thus far we’ve talked about manhood, womanhood, courtship and families, and the relationship between the family and the church. All of these are good, and yet there is a sense in which each of them are challenged by the gospel. Jesus doesn’t actually come for these things. While He can and should make a positive difference in each of these relationships, He is here to proclaim salvation from sin and guilt, and He is here to bring His kingdom. But what is this kingdom exactly?
On the most basic level, the New Testament identifies the kingdom as the Holy Spirit’s work in and among believers. We believe that it will eventually fully manifest itself in the transformation of all creation, the new heavens and new earth, but prior to that point the kingdom is spiritual and not earthly. We can see that this is the case in that striking statement from the Apostle Paul, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The meal, the ritual itself, is not the kingdom. Instead, the kingdom is the spiritual grace that the ritual ought to be creating and promoting. If the meal is not doing that, then it is not the kingdom.
There are two classic errors that come up in any discussion of the kingdom of God. Continue reading →
What if I told you that Jesus asks you to give up your family? What if I said he bids your family to come and die? Well, that’s exactly what he did say: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). And he didn’t talk like this just once. No, he seems to have poked people’s sensitivities on this point a few times. For example:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matt. 10:34-37)
What does Jesus mean by talking like this, and what are we to make of it for our own families today? How does this teaching instruct us to go about making our priorities in life, and what does it mean for the church? Do we always need to put the family first, or are there other considerations?
Hate Your Family?
Hate your family? Those sharp words are meant to grab your attention in order to teach a deep spiritual truth. Jesus doesn’t mean that you have to dislike your family. You don’t have to have especially hostile feelings towards them. You don’t even have to try to do things which will show displeasure towards them. The point is that you have to be willing to put your faith ahead of all of your earthly possessions, commitments, and relationships, even your family. You must “hate” your family in the same way that you must “hate” your own life. Jesus means that you must be willing to sacrifice them if that’s what it takes to follow Him. Continue reading →
The relationship between theory and practice is always tricky, but when it comes to politics it can get so out of whack that you really do wonder what motivates people after all. For instance, why are Southerners all Republican now? It was the Republican party who served as the aggressor (at least in the Southerner’s eyes) during and after the Civil War. My grandfather swore that he would never vote for a Republican, and I’m pretty sure he kept that promise. Even growing up in the 1990s, in my small Mississippi town, I remember that all of the city and county officials were Democrat. There usually weren’t any Republicans even on the ballot. And yet, by some magical twist of history, almost all the Southern states vote Republican on the national level, and almost all conservative-minded Christians in the South believe that the ideals of the Republican party are more or less consistent with a Biblical world and life view and philosophy of governance. Is this change simply because of Civil Rights? It’s hard to say.
Again, there’s the case of my grandfather still voting Democrat late into the 20th century and even until the start of the 21st century, and he was hardly a progressive-minded man, at least when it came to social issues. And most Southerners are not just Blue-Dog Democrats or Dixiecrats, opposing the Civil Rights’ issues but still retaining older Democratic values of labor protection, agrarian values, and suspicion towards unchecked corporate power. Not at all. The Republican transition is mostly complete, especially on the fiscal matters. And yet, Mississippi still manages to bring in more Federal subsidies than any other state (at least I think it’s still #1 in that category). As I said, it’s a very strange world. The moral issues probably have as much to do with the transition as anything, as the Democrats did kind of become the party of revolutionary morality, but even here there are a lot of questions that could be asked.
I should first say that I am not a full-time pro-life activist or counselor. I’m not trained in crisis management. I don’t think I’m even particularly good at “on the street” scenarios. But I have gone to abortion clinics in Jackson, MS and now Lakeland, FL on a semi-regular basis to pray, sing psalms and hymns, and try to speak to the folks in the parking lots and offer them help and other options.
I grew up in a politically moderate household. I won’t tell you how everyone voted, but I was raised to believe that abortion was a pretty tragic situation which women would only ever consider if all other options had been exhausted. I was taught that we needed to be careful not to berate them, judge them harshly, or fail to show them compassion. Based on my experience attempting to follow precisely that advice, however, I have to say that the narrative is all wrong. Abortion, at least today, in the Southern states, is not some sort of last ditch effort to preserve one life, which would be legitimately threatened, at the tragic but necessary expense of another. Instead it is a projection of strength on the part of the would-be mother. Continue reading →
Today marks the first Sunday in Lent, and many Christians who did not grow up practicing the liturgical calendar are now becoming very interested in it. Some are madly in love with all things liturgical, seeing Lent as one way to rediscover lost roots. Others are critical of it as faddishness, a sort of picking and choosing of one’s piety according to whatever seems interesting. And then there’s always the perpetual fear of subtle Romanizing. Lent can be abused in a legalistic way. I would be more than happy to talk about each of those concerns at another time, but it is my belief that each of those conversations actually distract us from the real point of what Lent is supposed to be. Like all forms of liturgy, Lent is meant to be an aid in worship, a way of assisting our thoughts and devotions in focusing on God’s majesty, our sinfulness, and the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.
What would you think if you saw a man staring at his own glasses? He might be adjusting them or fixing something that had broken. That would make sense. But what if he never seemed to finish? What if he just kept staring and commenting on his glasses, asking other folks to admire his glasses, but never got around to actually wearing them? You’d think he probably didn’t know what glasses were for in the first place or that he had some other serious disorder. You certainly wouldn’t be inspired by wonderful blessing of cured vision! Liturgy works the same way as a pair of glasses. You are not supposed to look at it. Instead you are supposed to look through it to see something else, namely Jesus. Lent is a waste of time and spiritual failure unless it points us to Jesus. How should it do that? During Lent, we ought to remember the significance of our sin, the guilt which we bear before God, and the great price paid by Jesus on our behalf. We have no thought of atoning for own sins at this time. That would be insane, an impossibility that would only leave us in perpetual despair. No, instead we remember the death of Christ, the curse which he bore for us, and, in response to that saving act, we put to death the remaining sin within us in order to show our gratitude towards Jesus.
I first heard about the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye when a girl who I was trying to get to go out with me used it as a pious way to say no. “There’s this book you should really read…” I remember her saying. And that was it. I had no chance. Well, I didn’t exactly rush out to get it. The fact that she was dating another guy in a just a few months didn’t make things any better!
Since then, I have read a lot of material on what is called “biblical courtship” or “biblical dating.” I’ve seen strong defenses and harsh criticisms. I’ve met people with every opinion on the matter. My wife and I even “courted,” and it looks like the results were all positive. But people continue to have lots of questions. Is there a biblical way to date? Is there more than one way to do it? How weird is this going to make me, and how much is it going to cost? Those are just the most common ones.
This morning I’d like to talk about this topic of dating and courtship, and I’d also like to talk about how we talk about it. You see, there’s actually not a biblical passage specifically aimed at the question. It might surprise you to hear that, given how popular the topic is. But no, there is no one place in Scripture that singles out courtship and gives direct commands. Instead, what the Bible gives us are moral laws concerning sexual behavior, categories of people-groups and authority, and principles of wisdom. Continue reading →
The previous two weeks have covered what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Today we cover what it means to be a family. I actually had to wrestle a bit with whether to ask “What is marriage for?” since you might think I’ve skipped over that question. But as I thought about the main points of both previous sermons, it became clear that asking “What is man for?” and “What is woman for?” already took up the question of “What is marriage for?” at least in part. In both of those sermons we showed that the Scriptures identify man as “husband” and woman as “wife.” The new element we will add today is precisely the relationship between husband and wife which produces children and creates a miniature society. In other words, we will be discussing what it means to be a family. And so we ask our third big question in this series, “What is the family for?”
What is the Family?
Before we can get to the question of what the family is for, we have to first identify what the family is. This is, once again, controversial. Today’s progressive ideology claims for itself the freedom to define and redefine the family. Primarily, it identifies the family as a wholly voluntary and often temporary arrangement entered into primarily for the purpose of maximizing individual happiness. Continue reading →
Ok, so yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What a weird passage. Why on earth did he pick this one? Well, to quote the 42nd President of the United States: “I feel your pain.” I understand that this is a difficult topic, and I find these verses to be quite challenging myself. They present a good occasion to remind ourselves that the word comes from God, by His perfect inspiration for our teaching. This not some personal opinion of men, nor is it my own special interest. These verses are important precisely because of their discomfort, since they show how our current assumptions about what is obvious and what makes sense are not neutral but themselves come from historical and cultural conditions.
Now, I am not going to talk about the specific question of headcoverings. I have preached on that topic in the past, and if anyone does want to hear more about it, feel free to ask me afterwards. Instead, I want to look at what Paul teaches us about men and women and the logical rationale he uses to find practical application. What we see in this passage of scripture is that, when answering a specific question of how men and women are to dress in worship, Paul moves back to the original creation of Adam and Eve to illustrate the nature of men and women and their original orientation towards God and one another. He explains what men and women are. The big idea is this: As a general rule, women fulfill God’s calling in their lives primarily by being wives to and for their husbands. Continue reading →
It is plain that there is a problem with dominion today. We hear a lot about a “jobs crisis” in America today, but we ought to instead call it a dominion crisis. As of 2013, 26% of men in Polk County between the ages of 26 and 54 were not working. Nationally the percentage is 16%. Something is wrong.
In addition to a jobs crisis, there is another crisis. The marriage rate of Americans is 50.3%, the lowest since official statistics have been kept. The birth rate is also at its lowest ever, lower than both France and Great Britain and no longer at replacement rates. This is particularly striking in light of the fact that American culture is more explicitly sexualized that any prior point in its history. Why is this happening? In some ways marriage is simply not desirable. It often doesn’t make good economic sense, especially in big cities, and concepts like family solidarity, male headship, and female submission strike the modern ear as backwards or even immoral. Yet the evidence also shows that low birthrates make the economy worse not better.
These problems are connected. We do not work, and we do not see fruit. This is not simply because men don’t take initiative. They often do fail to take initiative, but more than that, men are by and large bewildered and confused, not knowing what initiative even looks like and not having a clear desire to seek dominion. Instead of occupying our world, we are occupied by it. Continue reading →