New Website for Christ Church Lakeland

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.

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What is the Kingdom of God?

Text: Romans 14:14-18

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

The Family, the Church, and the Kingdom: What Comes First?

Text: Luke 14:25-33

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