Welcome to Provocative Church

As you browse, read and share the many articles, our hope is that you may find this site an encouragement to your faith and Christian life.


We were created to worship. And we are to worship God with every aspect and area of our lives - presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.

The Church

The bride of Christ can often times be difficult and messy - but it is Christ's beautiful mess - to which He is the head and chief cornerstone.

Ancient Future

Our faith comes out from a rich heritage and history. It was during the formative years of our faith that creeds, confessions, traditions, and liturgies were developed. These practices and traditions recaptured will not only anchor us but move us forward in our faith.


There is freedom in the gospel as it proclaims that in Christ we are sons and daughters of the King. The importance is learning to preach those truths to our heart and life everyday.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Celebrating The Lord's Supper

Through an examination of Scripture and from some very useful help by John Calvin, I would like to explain why there is great value for the church to celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly. I will be drawing on Calvin's view of the Lord's Supper found in "Calvin's Short Treatise on the Supper of Our Lord." All of the quotes will come directly from that writing unless otherwise noted.

John Calvin asserts three purposes for the institution of the Lord's Supper.

"Our Lord, therefore, instituted the Supper, first, in order to sign and seal in our consciences the promises contained in his gospel concerning our being made partakers of his body and blood, and to give us certainty and assurance that therein lies our true spiritual nourishment, and that having such an earnest, we may entertain a right reliance on salvation.

The second benefit of the Supper is, that it admonishes and incites us more strongly to recognize the blessings which we have received, and receive daily from the Lord.

The third advantage of the Sacrament consists in furnishing a most powerful incitement to live holy, and especially observe charity and brotherly love toward all."

I want to examine these three reasons more closely.

The first reason for the institution of the Lord's Supper is to give us assurance and certainty in the grace of the Gospel. In essence, The Lord's Supper fortifies our faith. It helps in delivering us from doubt and uncertainty. It visibly signifies and expresses the spiritual union that we have with Christ. According to Calvin,
"the singular consolation which we derive from the Supper. It directs and leads us to the cross of Jesus Christ and to his resurrection, to certify us that whatever iniquity there may be in us, the Lord nevertheless recognizes and accepts us as righteous-whatever materials of death may be in us, he nevertheless gives us life-whatever misery may be in us, he nevertheless fills us with all felicity. Or to explain the matter more simply-as in ourselves we are devoid of all good, and have not one particle of what might help to procure salvation, the Supper is an attestation that, having been made partakers of the death and passion of Jesus Christ, we have every thing that is useful and salutary to us."
Through the Lord's Supper we take and enjoy the promises of our salvation. The promises that remind us that we are His children. They also remind us that we have His righteousness and forgiveness of sins. Also taking part in the Lord's Supper, reminds us of the Gospel of grace. It allows us to enjoy and reflect on the cross of Christ and how it now applies in our ongoing, daily sanctification. According to Calvin, the Lord's Supper takes the complex and makes it simple to us. It is the Lord accommodating the somewhat incomprehensible mysteries of our union with Christ to our small, finite minds.

In the Institutes, Calvin phrases it this way,
"But as this mystery of the secret union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine."
The second benefit and reason for the institution of the Lord's supper, according to John Calvin, is
"that it admonishes and incites us more strongly to recognize the blessings which we have received, and receive daily from the Lord Jesus, in order that we may ascribe to him the praise which is due. For in ourselves we are so negligent that we rarely think of the goodness of God, if he do not arouse us from our indolence, and urge us to our duty. Now there cannot be a spur which can pierce us more to the quick than when he makes us, so to speak, see with the eye, touch with the hand, and distinctly perceive this inestimable blessing of feeding on his own substance. This he means to intimate when he commands us to show forth his death till he come. (1 Cor 11:26.) If it is then so essential to salvation not to overlook the gifts which God has given us, but diligently to keep them in mind, and extol them to others for mutual edification; we see another singular advantage of the Supper in this, that it draws us off from ingratitude, and allows us not to forget the benefit which our Lord Jesus bestowed upon us in dying for us, but induces us to render him thanks, and, as it were, publicly protest how much we are indebted to him."
We have been bought with a price, a very precious price. The price was the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We belong to Christ. Our lives are not our own. As Paul states in Romans 6, we are no longer slaves to sin. We need not consider sin our master. But rather, we are slaves to righteousness. Jesus Christ is our Lord and master. We are without reservation, His. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper reminds us of this.

The third advantage and benefit of the sacrament consists in:
"furnishing a most powerful incitement to live holy, and especially observe charity and brotherly love toward all. For seeing we have been made members of Jesus Christ, being incorporated into him, and united with him as our head, it is most reasonable that we should become conformable to him in purity and innocence, and especially that we should cultivate charity and concord together as becomes members of the same body. But to understand this advantage properly, we must not suppose that our Lord warns, incites, and inflames our hearts by the external sign merely; for the principal point is, that he operates in us inwardly by his Holy Spirit, in order to give efficacy to his ordinance, which he has destined for that purpose, as an instrument by which he wishes to do his work in us. Wherefore, inasmuch as the virtue of the Holy Spirit is conjoined with the sacraments when we duly receive them, we have reason to hope they will prove a good mean and aid to make us grow and advance in holiness of life, and specially in charity."
Through the sacrament we recognize that we are reconciled to God and therefore we are prompted to obedience toward our loving redeemer. Not only are we reconciled to God but also we can and should be reconciled to one another. Therefore our obedience leads us not only to obey and love God, but also to love our neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ.

Next time, I will talk about the issue of the spiritual presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Confession is good for the soul

I just read this story the other day.

Man confesses to 1953 hit-and-run

February 25, 2007

A man received a suspended jail sentence after confessing to running down an elderly churchgoer with a car, then leaving the scene more than half a century ago.

Verlyn Brady, 77, pleaded guilty yesterday to reckless driving in the 1953 hit-and-run death of George Lewis Dalton in this small, southwest Virginia town.

Brady said he wondered for years whether it was a deer or a person he struck one October night. He waited until last summer, just before he underwent open heart surgery, to contact authorities.

Dalton, 74, and his wife were crossing a road in front of their home about 3 kilometres south of Hillsville on their way to church when he was killed. The driver disappeared into the darkness.

This story reminds me of one of my favorite movies by Christian Bale, The Machinist

(SPOILER ALERT: The text in red reveals the major twist at the end!)

The Machinist is about a guy,Trevor Reznik, who hasn't been able to sleep for an entire year. I don't just mean that he had a little insomnia, but rather for a whole year, Trevor hasn't gotten one minute of sleep! The movie depicts Trevor's life at a place where reality and fantasy become hard to separate. Trevor is a man whose soul and life are tormented. The question that keeps coming up throughout the movie is - why can't Trevor sleep? Trevor's lack of sleep has ravaged his body and his mind. (The actor Bale actually starved himself to look the way he did - absolutely incredible!) It is not until the end of the movie that you discover that Trevor can't get any peace through sleep, because of the bondage of his own guilt. Trevor killed a young boy a year ago in a hit and run, and he has been living with that guilt during the entire year. Trevor eventually finds release from his guilt and finds sleep when he recovers several repressed memories of the crime and eventually confesses to the authorities.

The Machinist is a powerful picture of the bondage of guilt through unconfessed sin. When I read the above article about Verlyn Brady, I thought, how could he live with this guilt for so long? Part of his ability to live with it was to rationalize it away. He said that he thought he may have hit a deer. But that was a lie. He knew he didn't hit a deer, because why then would he have been so hesitant to come forward and wait until he was 77 to confess to the authorities. There is no doubt that Brady chose to live with that guilt for many years.

During this season of Lent, we are called to reflect on what Christ has done for us. We are to allow this season to become a time of reflection. We should allow God to search our heart and life and to allow the Spirit to bring brokenness and repentance.

We ask the Lord to search our heart and life:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24

As God reveals sin, we are to confess, acknowledge our sin to God. But why do we confess? God already knows our sin, we aren't telling him anything He doesn't already know. Confession isn't about enlightening God with certain information. God doesn't need to know, but rather we need to tell.

When we conceal our sin, it wounds and disrupts our fellowship with our heavenly Father.

David describes how his concealed sin virtually destroyed Him. (just like the character from the Machinist)

1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:1-5

Confession is exposure. When we confess, we allow the light of Christ to shine brightly on and into our heart. Confession also means applying the truth and the reality of the Gospel to our sin. We acknowledge not only our sin, but also the cleansing work of Christ's shed blood on the cross. By Christ's atoning work on the cross, we are FORGIVEN! Confession draws us to the cross.

During this season of Lent, allow God to search your heart, and confess your sin to God as He reveals it, not because He "needs to know", but we "NEED" to tell. And let the beauty and majesty of the Gospel bring healing and restore hope.

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Unleash Conference Update

Jon, Trey and I are going to the Unleash Conference on March 15th. And we are looking forward to the time. I am partically stoked having just heard that Tony Morgan is going to lead a breakout session which will be a question and answer session on "Blogging Communications".

As I said in a previous post about why I blog, I am definitely growing in my love of writing and blogging. I look forward now to meet other pastors who blog and be able to take advantage of Tony's breakout session.

By the way, this book is definitely on my must read list and I should get busy reading it before the conference!

The Blogging Church by Bailey and Storch

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Amazing Grace" on Saturday

Lauren and I saw the movie "Amazing Grace" on Saturday night. We loved it!

I totally disagree with the review that I read the other day, after seeing the movie I wondered if that reviewer saw the same movie that I did.

You can get more information about the movie here and here.

Definitely go and see it.

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Big Creek Hero of the Week

This week's hero is Dave Graves. Dave is our Connecting Ministry Team Leader. Dave's ministry team is a bridge ministry. What I mean by a bridge ministry is that they are the bridge that connects people from their first visit to Big Creek toward becoming connected at the church. The Connecting Team follows up with our visitors and provides clear channels to help people and families make significant connections. This is a new team and Dave has done a wonderful job pulling this all together. Dave and his team are dreaming up new and innovative ways to help people make that transition. I have appreciated Dave's heart and passion for this ministry, as well as his initiative. Thanks Dave for all your hard work and for GOING FOR IT!!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Communion Meditations

In the later months of 1862, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was angered by General George B. McClellan's inactivity despite superiority in numbers over the Confederate forces. In the end, he wrote McClellan a letter consisting of only a single sentence: "If you don't want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while. Yours respectfully, A. Lincoln."

Christianity is the proclamation that God gives Christians a gift that they don't know they need. The gift then transforms their lives so that they are trained to want the right things rightly.
Stanley Hauerwas, interviewed in U.S. Catholic (June 1991).

All too often we regard stewardship simply as a matter of our giving to God, but this aspect is secondary. Before we can give, we must possess, and before we possess we must receive. Therefore, stewardship is, in the first place, receiving God's good and bounteous gifts. And once received, those gifts are not to be used solely for our own good. They must also be used for the benefit of others, and ultimately for the glory of God the giver. The steward needs an open hand to receive from God and then an active hand to give to God and to others.
Murray J. Harris in Voices

Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.
Garrison Keillor in Lake Wobegon Days.

A whale is as unique as a cactus. But don't ask a whale to survive Death Valley. We all have special gifts. Where we use them and how determines whether we actually complete something.
Max DePree, Leadership Is an Art.Leadership

There are too many needful things to be done to wait around for someone to feel gifted.
Kent Hughes

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hollywood Jesus

This article from Time.com, just in time for Lent, is another feeble attempt to "try" to poke holes and undermine our faith.

Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's sinking is Christianity.

In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.

I must confess, this kind of hubris really hacks me off.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

What is Lent all about?

This past Sunday, I preached on Exodus 3, on how God uses Broken people. One of the main points of my sermon, was that God will work on us. He desires to use brokenness to transform us. God leads us to and in new and unexpected places that will often bring us to brokenness and repentance. The Church has just entered the season of Lent this week. This time of Lent is an opportunity for us to allow God to do His transforming work in our life.

Perhaps some of you have never given much thought to Lent. Perhaps you were never exposed to it in the church or you just don't understand much about it. I grew up in a church where I was exposed to Lent throughout my youth. But later in life, after coming to Christ, I didn't hear anything about Lent through my involvement in evangelical churches. I think we need to capture the heart of Lent again. What is Lent? Lent is the 40 days that come before Easter. It is a time to focus on our union with Christ in his death and resurrection, and to focus on our daily practice of repentance. Too often though Lent is misunderstood,

"Lent is supposed to be a time when we review our spiritual life, think again about what it means to be a follower of Christ, reset the compass of our discipleship and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival. But often we just merely give up junk food (emphasis mine)" (Stephen Cottrell, I Thirst, p. 12)

Or misrepresented, like some churches in England that want to lighten up Lent.

May God allow this season of Lent to be used by God to work on you in fresh ways that will grow you deeper and closer with Him.

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What the new movie covers up about William Wilberforce

This provocative article caught my attention.

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I blog therefore I am

Seth Godin asks the philosophical question: "If no one reads our post, does it exist?" Here is what he says...

What do most people get out of blogging? After all, most blogs are virtually unread by outsiders...

The act of writing a blog changes people, especially business people. The first thing it does is change posture. Once you realize that no has HAS to read your blog, that you can't MAKE them read your blog, you approach writing with humility and view readers with gratitude. The second thing it does is force you to be clear. If you write something that's confusing or in shorthand, you fail.

Respectful and clear. That's a lot to get out of something that doesn't take much time.

(HT: Seth Godin)

Good thoughts from Seth. Why does Provocative Church exist? Why does a pastor, who is busy enough, spend time doing a blog?

I have said this before, but I don't mind repeating this- the reasons I blog are several fold. The first reason that got this whole thing started was that I wanted to learn how to write more effectively. I wanted to learn how to communicate my thoughts articulately and clearly, and one of my profs at seminary (Steve Brown -RTS), said that blogging was an excellent way for a pastor to hone their writing skills. I wasn't sure if people would be reading my blog or if I had anything profound to say, but that didn't matter - I needed to learn the discipline of writing. Therefore the blog was initially for "me".

Over time, another reason eventually evolved. I wanted to communicate with the people in my church. Even if no one in the world ever reads my blog, if people at Big Creek read it - then it would be of great value. I wanted the blog to be an opportunity for them to see my heart and thinking and give them a window into my life.

Blogging hasn't been easy. It is a discipline. But I believe that I have grown personally from the discipline of writing. And it has been important to document my thoughts and opinions. Also I have been surprised that people do actually read my blog. Yes people at Big Creek read it, but the blog has been a wonderful opportunity to communicate with people all around the world. I don't get mega-hits like Tim Challies, but it's fascinating (especially after installing the Google Analytics code) to see who is reading my blog from around the world.

I guess I would answer Seth's philosophical question with a philosophical statement tongue in cheek, "I blog therefore I am"

I thank God for all you who read Provocative Church.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Too often in our Evangelical circles, we have ignored these important remembrances within the church calendar. We merely dismiss it as tradition or ritual. But there is a significant and important motivation for us to remember Ash Wednesday and Lent..Tod Bolsinger's thoughts on this subject are worth reading.

The focus of Ash Wednesday and Lent is repentance. Again, many of us are confused about repentance. Some of us think of it as 'penance', that is, atoning for our sins with acts of contrition. But that is not repentance. We can't atone for what we have done and need not try. Jesus' work on the cross is our atonement. Some of us think of repentance as sorrow and shame for what we have done, but that is also inaccurate. Indeed,the bible has a different Greek word for sorrow.

Repentance is literally to 'change your mind.' In the famous words of Dallas Willard, 'To reconsider your strategy for living based on the news of God's Kingdom that is available in Jesus.' And that is what Lent is for, to reconsider your strategy for living. To begin a new process of deep consideration and reflection about your life. To reconsider what it means to follow Jesus, to plumb the mystery of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. To reconsider what your strategy for living should be, based on this good news.

(HT: It Takes a Church)

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Sermon from Sunday

This was my sermon this Sunday from Exodus 3:11-15
God Uses Broken People

powered by ODEO

Don't forget that the Communion Meditations are posted and the closing illustration from Psalm 86 as well.

How unique are you?

We are all uniquely and specially made by God. But have you ever wondered how many people in the U.S, have your exact name? I have always been curious, since my last name isn't a common name, and yet while living in Baltimore, there was one other William Reichart listed in the Baltimore/Metro phonebook. Here is what I've found out from this website...
  • There are 3,686,614 people in the U.S. with the first name William.
  • Statistically the 6th most popular first name.
  • There are 810 people in the U.S. with the last name Reichart.
  • Statistically the 32512th most popular last name. (tied with 1841 other last names)
  • But the results of people with both the first and last name, William Reichart are...
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Big Creek Hero of the Week

This week's Big Creek Hero of the week is Mark Martore. Mark is one of the key guys who is faithfully here early on Sunday mornings setting things up. Mark puts together communion and oversees and coordinates the ushers. We are a church that does communion every week, therefore his responsibility is a weekly, ongoing one. I was watching him yesterday, preparing the communion elements, setting up the table and making sure everything was ready. As I watched him I prayed and thanked the Lord for Mark. The Lord blesses us during Sunday worship with the privilege of coming to His table. But it is the faithfulness of men like Mark, who by doing simple and ordinary acts of service, bless us all. Thanks Mark!

To view past Heroes of the week.
Go Here
and Here

Happy Chinese New Year

I thought that I would get into the festivities. And like Stephen Colbert said, to the celebrate the Year of the Pig, I will eat bacon every day for the entire year.

(HT: Cute Overload - one of my daughter's favorite websites!)

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Psalm 86

This is from my sermon this past Sunday. These are highlights from Psalm 86. It was from the end of the sermon and some of you asked that I post it (thanx to my wonderful wife who developed this for her Psalms study on Wednesday). Also don't forget to check out the communion meditations as well.


God hears me

God answers me

God is worthy of devotion

You are my God

You save me

You are trustworthy

You are merciful

You hear persistent prayer

You give me joy

You are the caretaker of my soul

You are forgiving

You are good

You abound in love towards all who call on you

You hear my prayer

You listen to my cry for mercy

You hear and answer troubled prayers

You are like no other God

Your deeds far exceed all others

You made all the nations

You will receive worship from all the nations

Your name will be glorified by the nations.

You are great

You do marvelous deeds

You alone are God

You teach me your way

You enable me to walk in your truth

You can give me an undivided heart

You are to be feared

You are worthy of wholehearted praise

You, O Lord, are my God

Your name will be glorified forever

You have great love for me

You are my deliverer

You have delivered me from the depths of the grave

You hear my cry for help from evil men

You are compassionate

You are gracious

You are slow to anger

You are abounding in love

You are abounding in faithfulness

You turn to me

You have mercy on me

You grant me your strength

You save

You show me signs of your goodness

You put my enemies to shame

You help me

You comfort me