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.

Worship

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.

Freedom

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.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friendship with God

For prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God.
Saint Teresa of Avila



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Books I am taking to Florida


I am visiting my wife's and my parents for a week. And although we get to spend some good time with the "fam", I also get a great opportunity to read a lot in my break from my normal routine.

Here are some books that I am bringing with me (probably too many books to read all in one week - but one never knows!)

Divine Nobodies - by Jim Palmer

Sex God - Rob Bell (just need to finish it up)

Liturgical Theology - Simon Chan

The Jesus of Suburbia - Mike Erre

Soul Cravings - Erwin McManus

This week will be a book feast!


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A Simple Way to Pray

In light of my previous comments about my day with the Lord, I thought Luther's comments on prayer were particularly interesting.

Luther described prayer as: "The hardest work of all -a labour above all labours, since he who prays must wage almighty warfare against the doubt and murmuring excited by the faint-heartedness and unworthiness we feel within us...that unutterable and powerful groaning with which the godly rouse themselves against despair, the struggle in which they call mightily upon their faith."

One of my favorite and for me the most helpful guide to prayer is Luther's, A Simple Way to Prayer, especially the edition with comments from Archie Parish. A Simple Way to Pray is a collection of his pastoral advice on prayer. It came about when Luther's barber asked him for some guidelines on prayer. Luther's counsel on prayer was that we use the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, and the Ten Commandments as well as the Apostle's Creed as models and guidelines for how to structure our prayers. Luther isn't bound up in rote rituals within these guidelines, but rather Luther believed that there were Biblical patterns of prayer that are helpful for all believers. Luther's guide is extremely helpful especially in it's practicality.

You can order that book here.

Here are some brief overviews of Luther's work, here and here


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Friday, March 30, 2007

Get some sleep!


Interesting new study that says a lack of sleep can hinder a person's moral judgment.

"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Sleep deprivation may lead not only to bleary-eyed mornings, but clouded moral judgment as well, a study suggests.

Army researchers found that when they subjected a group of volunteers to two sleepless nights, the lack of shut-eye seemed to hinder participants' ability to make decisions in the face of emotionally charged, moral dilemmas."


Read the rest here

I think that this is a good word for pastors. Pastors can run themselves ragged. (Read Mark Driscoll's recent post on how he has needed a sabbath rest)

The call of a pastor is a demanding call. The ministry of the church is a ministry of joy and tears.

The Apostle Paul even said in his letter's to the Christ followers, that he was burdened for them and how serving the church and others was a tremendous emotional investment.

Pastors face tremendous burdens, attacks, stress and disappointments.

The call can lead some men to a unbalanced life. Poor diet, no exercise and lack of sleep.

Some pastors will put their time with their family on the alter of "ministry".

Balance. Easier to say than do. But I pray for balance in my life. Good time with my bride and my daughters. Time to exercise. Time with the Lord. And plenty of sleep (this is not a hard one for me, I sleep like a log!).

If I am going to be in this for the long haul, I have got to run this race like a marathon and not like a 100 yard dash!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Had a great day yesterday

It is never convenient to spend time with God. Let me repeat that again! It is never convenient to spend time with God! Every time I want to spend time with God, particularly extended time with him like yesterday, I feel the tension of my busyness. I feel especially busy this week since I am going on down to see Lauren and my parents next week. I was so tempted to want to defer that time for next month. But that is the big lie! It won't be convenient next month or the month after that. I need to spend these extended times with the Lord to listen and hear from Him.

I don't tell you that I took yesterday to pray in order for you to think, wow - what a prayer warrior. Rather, I share this with you to let you know that I struggle, like many of you, to make time to pray. And when it comes down to it, times like yesterday, only happen when I make a clear and determined decision of the will. And when I am willing to fight against any and all things that would try to steal that time out of my schedule.

Ultimately, I know that before I come to those times of prayer, that I am facing spiritual battle. The enemy doesn't want me to pray. But I know that once I am spending that time with Him, it is sweet. Especially afterwards, when I have no regret that I took a pause in my busyness to sit at the feet of my Dad.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Day of Prayer

Going to Day of Prayer at St. Ignatius House tomorrow. I need these times every other month to have an extended time for prayer, reflection and listening to God.





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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New issue of byFaith


I just got my new issue of byFaith magazine. This magazine is a publication of the PCA denomination. I can't tell you enough, I think that this magazine is one of the BEST things that our denomination produces. Great design, provocative articles and compelling subjects.
Here is the overview of this current issue from byFaith.

In our cover story, "When the Will of God is Dangerous," Gary Haugen, the president of International Justice Mission says: "There are two things that are always the will of God and always dangerous-telling the truth and loving needy people." We have a choice, Haugen says: Do we want to be brave, or do we want to be safe? It's an either/or proposition.

Theologian Richard Pratt writes with a complementary theme. In his piece, "Our Life-Consuming Mission," Pratt contends that a deeper vision for life begins with the conviction that we live in the empire of our heavenly, royal Father. That means, Pratt says, that the first priority in every Christian's life should not be to ensure our physical, economic, social, or emotional well-being; it should be to extend God's kingdom...to the ends of the earth.

In "Cultivating a Culture of Adoption," pastor Ray Cortese, tells byFaith writer Carolyn Curtis that adoption [of orphaned children] is the natural result of our redemption-those who are loved lavishly, love lavishly. Those reconciled are given the ministry of reconciliation. Those who have been adopted, adopt...

And in "Turning Collars, Turning Hearts" author Rebecca Clowney Jones shows us that Christ works through both our physical families and our spiritual family, to prove out His wisdom before a watching world. "Your everyday life and words are a part of the heavenly symphony of the Gospel," she says, even when you are "stuck at home."

We also interview Stephanie Hubach about her new book, Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability. The Church, Hubach explains, has just what families affected by disability need-the restorative power of the Gospel. Families with a disabled member have just what the Church needs-the precious image of God packaged in diverse ways that can benefit the entire body.

Sean Michael Lucas, a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary, demonstrates how, within Presbyterianism, we have the resources needed to answer the deep questions that a postmodern generation is asking.

And in "Encouraging Responsibility Instead of Dependency," byFaith writer Bob Tamasy investigates how pastor Wyatt George and members of Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Ill. have designed a micro-enterprise loan program to encourage Ugandan Church leaders.

In every issue of byFaith we encourage readers to become engaged in God's work in the world, we equip them to make earth a little more like heaven-where God's kingdom comes and His will is done-at work, at home, and in the neighborhood. This year we're praying that God will give byFaith a broader audience, that He'll extend the PCA's influence through its magazine and enable us to take the principals of Reformed theology to more people.

Specifically, we're
asking God to increase our circulation by at least 8,000 in 2007. And, while we don't presume, we suspect that He'll use you to answer that prayer.

Here are two ways that might happen:

First, if you're a subscriber to byFaith, you'll receive two copies of this issue. Would you please pass the extra copy on to a friend along with your encouragement for them to subscribe?
And if you're not a subscriber, would you please become one? Our subscribers and advertisers foot a large part of the bill for all we do, including the maintenance of byFaithonline.com. By subscribing, you can join them, doing your part to help further our efforts.

If you'd like more information about group or bulk subscriptions, or if you're interested in having the children in your church sell subscriptions as a fundraising activity, please contact Valerie Ottinger. Valerie will be on vacation next week, but you can reach her at 678-825-1005, or vottinger@byfaithonline.com beginning April 2.


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Monday, March 26, 2007

Big Creek Hero of the Week


Way to go Paul and Peggy Phipps! You guys have rolled up your sleeves and just dived right into to Big Creek. I appreciate your leadership and initiative with your recently formed Life Group. What a great opportunity to connect more families together, some of whom really needed this opportunity to get plugged in. What I always notice is that you both always serve out of an incredible overflow of loving Jesus. And Paul, every time I see you, I can always count on a big bear hug even though you know that I am not a big hugger - because of my German stoicism :-) )


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I am such a nerd!

I want one of these...but I don't think my family would be too happy.







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Some choice quotes

Been reading through Rob Bell's book, "Sex God" and here are just some gleanings.

pg. 40 - "We're severed and cut off and disconnected in a thousand ways, and we know it, we feel it, we're aware of it every day. It's an ache in our bones that won't go away."

pg. 63 - "When we act like angels or animals, we're acting like beings who were created before us. We're going backward in creation. We're going the wrong way. We're headed back toward the chaos and disorder, not away from it." (To put this quote in context, Rob says that we act like angels when we treat sex as something dirty and forget that God created it and it is very good. And we act like animals when we treat sex as common and merely a physical act and forget that God created sex within a certain context to be enjoyed. That context is within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.)

pg. 75 - "We're addictive creatures. We try things, we experiment, we explore, and certain things hook us. They get their tentacles in us, and we can't get away from them. What stared out as freedom can quickly become slavery. Often freedom is seen as the ability to do whatever you want. But freedom isn't being able to have whatever we crave. Freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it."


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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Communion Mediations

At Big Creek Church we celebrate communion weekly, you can read the theological and practical reasons are from this series of posts on the Lord's Supper, part 1; part 2; part 3.

These are this past Sunday's Communion Meditations

The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to every generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.

Helmut Thielicke

"Anything God has ever done, he can do now. Anything God has ever done anywhere, he can do here. Anything God has ever done for anyone, he can do for you."
A.W. Tozer

Twas God the word that spake it, He took the Bread and brake it; And what the word did make it; That I believe, and take it.
Attributed to Queen Elizabeth I on being asked her opinion of Christ's presence in the Sacrament.

The problem with the church today is not corruption. It is not institutionalism. No, the problem is far more serious than something like the minister running away with the organist. The problem is pettiness. Blatant pettiness.
Mike Yaconelli in The Wittenburg Door (Dec./Jan. 1985).


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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Unchurched Population Near 100 Million

Here is one of the latest updates from George Barna and a follow-up to a previous post, "Do Americans Go To Church"

The Barna Group shows that one-third of the population is currently unchurched-meaning they have not attended a religious service of any type during the past six months.

"These results from Barna's research coincide with a book released this week entitled Jim and Casper Go to Church. The book describes the experience of a former pastor and an avowed atheist who together visited a dozen significant churches across the nation. Jim Henderson, who has been a pastor of small and large churches, interviewed the atheist (Matt Casper) during and after each church service they attended to gain insights into what it's like for an outsider to attend such churches (I read Henderson's other book a.k.a. LOST which I really liked). Among the congregations they visited were well-known ministries such as Willow Creek (pastored by Bill Hybels), Saddleback (led by Rick Warren), Lakeside (featuring Joel Osteen), and The Potter's House (home of T.D. Jakes).

What was discovered by 'Jim and Casper' was the relative indifference of most churched Christians to unchurched people; the overt emphasis upon a personal rather than communal faith journey; the tendency of congregations to perform rituals and exercise talents rather than invite and experience the presence of God; the absence of a compelling call to action given to those who attend; and the failure to listen to dissident voices and spiritual guidance to dig deeper in one's faith."

I think that the last paragraph is very interesting containing a lot of truth and good insight. Too often we think that we, the church, have to put on a entertaining, dog and pony show in order to get the unchurched to attend. We often have an attractional approach that argues we have to produce a slick, compelling product for people to come to us. When in essence what they really want is to see and experience is an authentic faith community that really connects with God and connects with others. (i.e. the emphasis on experiencing the presence of God and communal faith) And often times that "connection" isn't seen by the unchurched by merely asking them to come to us, but rather it compels the people of God to go out into the community, and be the people of God among them.

P.S. Some of these insights by Jim and Casper are similar to when the gentleman, Hemant Mehta made national news last year by selling his atheistic attention on Ebay. For the highest bidder, Hemant had agreed to attend a church with an open mind and report his findings.

I posted on 3 occasions on Hemant, the Ebay Atheist, Here, Here and Here. Check them out.

To read more about this Barna report go here:
Unchurched Population Nears 100 Million in the U.S.


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Friday, March 23, 2007

Idols Of My Heart

I always say, you never graduate from the Gospel. The Gospel isn't something you simply believe to get "fire insurance", avoid hell and simply have your soul go to heaven. The Gospel applies to the believers heart and life every moment of every day. It applies to my heart, or at least it should.

I am going through Tim Keller's Luther Project with a couple of men on Friday afternoon. Also, I am going through material with our small group by World Harvest, called Gospel Transformation and I have been reading two books about brokenness and idolatry of the heart. (these books are in addition to these others I just mentioned yesterday - I told you that I read a lot!).


Leading with a Limp, by Dan Allender


Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick

One of the questions from these readings has been, "Name a few things that worry, stress, or frighten you. How have you recently responded in fear like an orphaned child? When you are worried, where do you look for comfort or security, other than to your heavenly Father?"

I didn't need too long to come up with the answer to that question. My heart has been gripped by fear recently over money. That's right stupid money. Yes, I know God will take of us. I know that He is taking care of us. For over 17 years my family and I lived on support having been part of a "faith mission". God has always been good and taken care of us. But my fear isn't in what I know in my head, it is coming from my heart. My fear is about the future. I fear the unknown. I fear that we are one step or crisis away from severe financial problems. It doesn't sound rational, but it doesn't have to - it's FEAR! Fear isn't rational. I hate the fact that my heart and my mind has been gripped by this fear.

The root of this fear is that I have forgotten that I am part of a new family. My fear is rooted in having lived as an orphaned child. Living as an orphaned child I don't believe that God is good. I don't live in the truth that my Heavenly Dad is crazy, head over heals in love with me.

I have needed to apply the Gospel to my heart and life this week. I have needed to know afresh how much God loves me. That He sees me as a dearly beloved son. I am His child, He cares for me.

I needed to come to Him as His child and listen...and this is what He said.

Romans 8:32 "If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he
wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?"
The Message
Security comes not from my money or stuff. Security comes from the loving arms of my Heavenly Dad. The Apostle John says that perfect love casts out all fear. I am His dearly loved child, Lord help me to live like it!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Great Brennan Manning interview


Great podcast now going on at Kindlings Muse. Brennan Manning is the Catholic-priest-turned-itinerant-evangelist who wrote the popular Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba's Child. In his new book, Ruthless Trust "Can God be Trusted," he moves the conversation beyond simple intellectual assent to a deeper experience of joy found in passionately trusting God.

Definitely Worth the Listen, click here!

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Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp is now out on video. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and because this is a movie that I want to see again, I thought I would mention it in this post.

If you don't know, Jesus Camp is a documentary about a summer camp for evangelical Christian kids. Most of the film follows a charismatic teacher, Becky Fischer, as she trains young soldiers in "God's Army" at a camp in North Dakota. (There is a scene toward the end that made my hair stand on end. The movie has a clip with Ted Haggard preaching about homosexuality and talking about other things as well. This movie was made before Ted Haggard's scandal broke in the news. Knowing what we know now about Haggard, makes his comments in the film very eerie.)

I think this film creates an interesting conversation about evangelicalism. Obviously, this film only represents one slice of the very diverse evangelical pie. The fact that I could not see very much of myself or my church in this film, reminds me just how open and ambiguous the label evangelicalism actually is. It is a label that isn't very helpful anymore. The label Evangelicalism is too broad and carries with it too much baggage in today's culture. (see my previous post, Has the E-Word lost it's Meaning). Definitely go rent this DVD, and let it become a good conversation starter with your friends and family.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What books are you into?


I thought you would never ask!

I am never in just one book...here are two books that I started today.

Rob Bell's new book, "Sex God"
(don't let the title scare you!)

Erwin McManus, "Soul Cravings"

Looking forward to digging in!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Turkeys need not apply

One of my responsibilities as Pastor of "Doing Life Together" is our First Impressions team. Our First Impressions team consists of 4 individual teams that are in the Parking Lot, at the Front Door, at our Information Desk and who operate the morning cafe'. The First Impressions team in an integral part of what happens on Sunday mornings at Big Creek Church.

We believe that what happens before people actually step foot in the worship service is as important as what happens during the service. People size up a church in the first 10 minutes. A guest will judge whether a church is friendly, caring and real before the worship band even plucks their first chord. Our First Impressions team is made up of dedicated and awesome individuals. The First Impressions team is so important, that Turkeys need not apply for this ministry team at Big Creek Church.

This story from MSNBC.com illustrates that point:

And in Wales Township in Michigan at Lamb UMC there was a brief eulogy recently for a critter the pastor called a model member of his congregation- a wild turkey! If he was a model member, I am wondering what the slackers looked like. This turkey regularly attended services for over a year and greeted people as they went into the church week after week. He was there when they came out as well, strutting his stuff.

But one day, someone, apparently annoyed with the noise and fuss of the bird ran over him- hence the need for a eulogy. When people would come out of the church, seems he annoyed some folks and caused them to leave in haste and in a huff.
(HT: MSNBC)

The moral of the story is that you shouldn't have Turkeys greeting people at the door - THEY ARE ANNOYING!!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Big Creek Hero of the Week


Caleb Click you are the man. Hanging out with middle schoolers all weekend (on the retreat) means you deserve battle pay. (believe me I know, I have a middle school daughter!). They are great kids and I am sure you had a lot of fun. I want to let you know that your love and service to them is an investment that is hard to measure. Middle school is such a challenging season in the growth and maturity of a young boy and girl. Thanks Caleb for all you do and for leading this team! Also, a shout out to Tim Roberts, Jan Z, and Amy Wood for their tireless commitment to the kids this weekend and on Wednesday nights. Caleb wouldn't look so good if it wasn't for you guys. All Y'all Rock!!! (southern plural)

New Members of the Family

We have adopted two cats to the family. Lauren and I haven't had pets since we were married. But our daughters had adopted these two neighborhood cats, Tiger and Ginger (brother and sister). The family that owned them had to move under unfortunate circumstances and the couldn't take their cats with them. Needless to say, the family wanted Tiger and Ginger to have a good home, so now they are ours.

I am personally not a big "cat" person. But these cats are o.k., they are starting to worm their way into my heart.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Communion Mediations



At Big Creek Church we celebrate communion weekly, you can read the theological and practical reasons are from this series of posts on the Lord's Supper, part 1; part 2; part 3.

Whatever our unique gifts are and whatever skill we have in using them, they are not God's key concern with us. Maturing in our walk as Christians is not helped or hindered by our "special" talents (or lack thereof), save one-obedience. This is one gift everyone has a crack at.

Michael K. Blanchard in A Common Thread

Spiritual things are not to be boasted of. One can boast of worldly riches, and the paper money will not fly away unspent nor will the amount magically decrease, but the spiritual riches you boast of vanish with the telling.
Watchman Nee

He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. Creation seems to be delegation through and through. I suppose this is because He is a giver.
C.S. Lewis


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Happy Birthday!


My daughter is eleven today! You are a wonderful blessing.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Here is the real scoop on St. Patrick -

Patrick Patron saint of Ireland
'Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere.'

Patrick is remembered today as the saint who drove the snakes out of Ireland (not true), the teacher who used the shamrock to explain the Trinity (doubted), and the namesake of annual parades in New York and Boston. What is less well-known is that Patrick was a humble missionary (this saint regularly referred to himself as 'a sinner') of enormous courage. When he evangelized Ireland, he set in motion a series of events that impacted all of Europe. It all started when he was carried off into slavery by Irish raiders.
Escape from sin and slavery

A 16-year-old Romanized Briton, Patrick was sold to a cruel warrior chief whose opponents' heads sat atop sharp poles around his palisade in Northern Ireland. While Patrick minded his master's pigs in the nearby hills, he lived like an animal himself, enduring long bouts of hunger, thirst, and isolation. A nominal Christian to this point, he now turned to the Christian God of his fathers for comfort.

Excerpt from Christian History. Read the rest: Patrick - 131 Christians Everyone Should Know

Friday, March 16, 2007

Unleash reflections

What an awesome conference yesterday. Here are a couple of takeaways from this conference up in Anderson, SC with New Spring Church.

Vision, Vision, Vision!!! Now I should already know this, but as Andy Stanley says, Vision leaks. And so I needed a refreshed infusion of the importance of Vision. But it wasn't just some talking head telling me that I need to be compelled with Vision, Perry Noble was a living demonstration of that. He said if you can sleep, than you don't have a vision. Vision keeps their church focused. They make choices and say Yes or No to many good things, based on a commitment to vision. God speaks to the leader with Vision, not committees. A leader must listen and hear from God. And when he does, he should be driven by that Vision.

Heart for the lost. I love Perry's singular heart for the lost. It reminds me of what attracted me to be with Campus Crusade for 17 years, Dr. Bill Bright had a singular passion for Christ and for people to come to know Him. Perry's passion fires me up.

Heart for pastors. Perry loves pastors. And I know this not because he said it and prayed for them. But just look at the heart of this conference, resourcing and building up churches and their leaders. Perry is not territorial, keeping everything to himself. He wants to give himself away. Perry has a great Kingdom mindset and heart. My lead pastor came because of my prompting. I had heard Perry and was familiar with him, my lead pastor, Jon, wasn't. But at the end of the conference, Jon said that I could sign him up next year in a heart beat. What particularly endeared Jon to Perry was Perry's heart for the senior pastor. Being prayed over at the end of the conference was something, Jon said, he rarely has seen in the heart of another pastor.

So I guess that means, Lord willing, we will be back next year.

Way to go and be used by God, New Spring Church and Perry!

The Georgia Carnival #6



When you rent a DVD, it may have included hidden features which are called "Easter Eggs". These a little surprises that enhance your movie enjoyment and today I have included some of them to enhance your "blogging" enjoyment. Welcome to edition #6 of the Georgia Carnival, and it is my pleasure to host this edition. In this edition there are wonderful blogs from across the state and interesting and provocative posts. Find a comfortable chair, sit back, make a pot of coffee, enjoy reading what fellow Georgians are writing and thinking, and click on the pictures for some special "Easter Eggs".


Terrell presents Sunday Seven: Pics from a Month at School posted at Alone on a Limb.

Who was most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet? That is the question posed and answered by Huffenglish

Want a good laugh? Drifting through the Grift looks south to Florida as he considers the Top Ten Funniest Florida Bills

How would you feel about a new television series
about Neanderthals roaming Atlanta's city streets? Find out more at Article of Faith.

Elementaryhistoryteacher from History is Elementary presents this heartwarming guest post from her mother. "This is a post regarding my mother. She passed away over the summer and she was a writer. The post is a story of hers that she had written. It is concerning a shopping trip to Atlanta in the 40s and I have some pictures of what Peachtree Street would have looked like at the time.

You'll want to update your Amazon wishlist after reading Book Reviews posted by John at Grasping For The Wind

Break out the credit card because Jane from Cozy Reader has a very helpful guide to shopping in My 13 Favorite Online Shopping Sites



Dew on the Kudzu will make your mouth water as the dining at The Old Mill Restaurant is described in vivid detail.

Amy's Random Thoughts
asks the question, Do you think lying is ever acceptable? Is there one lie that is ok to tell?

What does Miga do when her mother-in-law comes to town, what else? Clean the House!

The Girl Next Door is back to blogging and talking about her blossoming relationship.

Radical Georgia Moderate
shows off his design for the Podcamp Atlanta T-Shirts.




I am not sorry to say that Melanie over at Blog for Democracy looks at Apologies

The Chinese are banning homework? Could this be true? Find out as Best Practices in Education examines the question.

GotBible? has some interesting Bible facts for you to ponder.

Read about scalawags and carpetbaggers as David Parker presents Marian Sims and Reconstruction in S.C. posted at another history blog

Edwin at Chicken Fat has a little lesson on The Moravians in Murray County, Ga.



Coming up, The 7th edition of the Georgia Carnival will be hosted by Melanie at Blog For Democracy.
You can contact her by email by clicking here

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Going to Unleash

Leaving early in the morning today to go to Unleash. I will be in Anderson, SC all day. Definitely stoked about this conference!!! Will share some thoughts when I get back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Good Magazine

In the blog title, Good is not a modifier, but rather the name of the magazine. I came across this magazine during a planning session with some Catalyst leaders last week. When you purchase this magazine, you also do some good by giving to charity. (of course the title of the magazine begs the question, who determines what is "good"?)

Check it out!

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Not so simple solutions


Here is an excerpt from Angie Ward in Leadership Journal about the Simple Church.

"Simple Church is a great, easy-to-understand concept that many churches need to hear. But the process of implementing it is not all that simple. My fear is that the difficulty of the process will get lost on readers who are looking for a quick fix for their ministry."

(ht: Christianity Today)

I have been blogging about the Simple Church for some time now and I agree with Angie's critique. She is right to say that the principles in the book are helpful in enabling the local church to accomplish it's mission and purpose. Overall, there are no concerns with the content of the book. For Angie, and I would agree, the problem is the implementation. The concern is that the book will be seen as another quick fix to the church's problems.

I have been in ministry for over 20 years, most of that time in college based para-church ministry. New ideas and ministry paradigms come down the pike every year or so. It is so tempting to just jump on the bandwagon to every new idea and believe that it is going to be the deliverance of the problems that plague the church. Not only is there a tendency to jump quickly on the bandwagon, but also the tendency is for the bandwagon to quickly solve the problems. Working out problems in ministry aren't as simple as implementing a formula. It is often not a step 1,2, and 3 solution. Ministry is messy. Ministry is complex. Therefore, agreeing with Angie Ward, don't let the title the Simple Church fool you. Implementing the principles from the book Simple Church is anything but "Simple"

If we forget that, then you and I will get quickly frustrated with the Simple Church, toss it and then move on to the next thing that comes down the road.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bishop of Rwanda


"This may be one of the most important books you'll ever read. Written by an extraordinary Christian leader in the nation of Rwanda, it tells an amazing story of how a country ravaged by hatred learned to forgive and how the Church played a leading role in making that happen. You'll not only find out more about how God is healing Rwanda, but look close enough and you'll see how God wants to heal your community as well."

(HT: Pastors.com)

I mention this book review because I have posted about Rwanda several times. I posted about the compelling movies about the Rwandan story, also about the coffee we are buying from Rwanda and using at our church.

Buy book here



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Monday, March 12, 2007

Georgia Carnival of Bloggers



Use the Contact tab to send me:
Your blog site, your post's permalink, and any blurb about the post that you would like included.

Thanks,

Bill

Big Creek Hero of the Week


The Big Creek Hero is somebody who wouldn't want me to recognize her. In fact she would get mad at me if I mention her by name. Her spiritual gift of serving is so much a part of her, that any recognition is offensive to her. Therefore I won't mention her name, but only suggest that her hard work at our quarterly community meal after church did not go unnoticed. Thank you for your service and going the extra mile. You know who you are, and so does the Lord.

This MOVIE ROCKS


Just saw 300 Saturday night!

This movie was awesome. I had seen the 1962 movie entitled 300 Spartans a couple of years ago on AMC and loved it. So when I saw the trailers for this movie, I was stoked. Mostly I was excited because of the visual appeal - it was pure eye candy. This movie definitely goes on my favorites with Braveheart and Gladiator.

Ben Witherington has an excellent review of the movie here. Included is an excerpt from his review:

For those of us who grew up reading the Greek and Latin classics, the story of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans was certainly the stuff of legends. 300 men hold off the entire Persian army under Xerxes for a considerable period of time, inspiring all of the Greek city states to rise up and resist the invaders in an even more all out battle later at Platea. I have actually always wanted to see a movie about Spartan culture and its 'warrior; mentality and fierce independence, a culture that defies most modern notions of machismo by having women who were educated and trained to be as athletic and ferocious as the men, in many cases. This culture was so freedom loving and fiercely independent that they had a hard time even co-operating with other Greek city states, even when their independence was on the line. With this story line, Frank Miller (of Sin City fame) brings to the screen an action thriller in comic book style and color (sepia tones and reds, with some scenes reminiscent of Gladiator) with larger than life action and characters and hyperbole. Surprisingly enough it works rather well. The story is only minimally diddled with, and there is very little filler, or unnecessary sub-plotting added. The focus of the movie not surprisingly is on Leonidas, a few stirring speeches he makes, and the battle scenes themselves. There are of course CG action sequences that are larger and more dramatic than life, and we have the usual gargoyles that show up in comic books, but not actually at the battle of Thermopylae. But then this was not intended to be a documentary, but rather a hyperbolic dramatization.

More of this excellent review here:

Caution: Movie is Rated R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity. (I always feel the need to caution people when I make movie recommendations - always know fully the movie you are going to watch!)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Communion Mediatations



At Big Creek Church we celebrate communion weekly, you can read the theological and practical reasons are from this series of posts on the Lord's Supper, part 1; part 2; part 3.

1Peter 4:11 (NIV) If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking
the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength
God
provides, so thatin all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Lord, I crawled across the bareness to you with my empty cup, uncertain in
asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better. I'd

have come running with a bucket.

Nancy Spiegelberg, "Bibles and Buckets," Our Daily Bread (7-10-99)

1Corinthians 12:28 (NIV) And in the church God has appointed first of all
apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also

those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts
of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
There
are too many needful things to be done to wait around for someone to feel
gifted.


Kent Hughes

Ephesians 4:11 (NIV) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be
prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.

Someone can be a good third baseman, but not a good pitcher. If I'm called
to play third base, I'm going to be the best third baseman I can be. It was
a liberating moment when I realized I didn't have to be great at everything.

Max Lucado

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Visuals and Powerpoint


Unashamed Workman has an interesting discussion on the use of visuals and Powerpoint in preaching. As you will see in the post, I get involved in the discussion.

If I have any tendencies, one of them is to be very enamored with technology and gadgets. But, in everything, technology should be soberly examined as to it's implications. Technology is not neutral. It changes the world around it (just read Neil Postman's - Amusing Ourselves to Death). I think Powerpoint can have some blessings and be very helpful to preaching (I use it), but it, like anything else, shouldn't be used uncritically.

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We are truly blessed

Gary Lamb has a interesting comment on Ed Stetzer's report on church planting..

"One of the things that jumped out to me (in the report) is that the average 4 year old church plant is averaging 90 people a week in attendance and baptizing 16 people a year. Wow!"

I truly feel blessed in how God has taken Big Creek Church from a handful of families to 360 people in average weekly attendance in 5 years. May God receive all the glory for what He is doing.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Bible classes -close to the OK

Here is a little news from my home state.

This is from an Associated Press story...

Literature and History of the Old Testament Era and Literature and History of the New Testament Era were on a list of classes the Georgia Board of Education voted to add to the state's curriculum Thursday.

The Bible already is incorporated into some classes in Georgia and other states. But education analysts say last year's legislation made Georgia the first state government to take an explicit stance endorsing, and funding, Bible teaching.

I have to admit, I am not sure how I felt about this story. I certainly think that our schools should allow a honest discussion of ideas and shouldn't deliberately exclude material just because it is deemed "religious" or "Christian". But at the same time I don't feel compelled to fight the battle to put the Bible or Bible-related curriculum in the classroom. Read the whole article and tell me what you think.

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My daughter is happy


Now I know that this post appears to be quite trivial, but the news that the Geico cavemen are getting own ABC sitcom has made my daughter quite happy. She always laughs when those commercials come on the T.V.

ABC Variety reports: "Cavemen will revolve around three prehistoric men who must battle prejudice as they attempt to live as normal thirtysomethings in modern Atlanta." It's unclear if the actors from the TV commercials, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ben Weber and John Lehr, have signed on for the series. I especially like the idea that they are going to set the show in Atlanta. But, I am sure that this kind of series isn't going to last more than 3 episodes. (and it is probably a good thing too!)

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Do Good, Drink Coffee










A couple of weeks ago we purchased a new coffee to serve on Sunday morning. Up till now, we had been serving Equal Exchange, a fair trade coffee. And we had no concerns with Equal Exchange, but we, through a personal contact, developed a relationship with The Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee. They are a local distributor of Rwandan coffee, and because of the relationship, but more particularly because of the Rwandan story, we wanted to be partners with this wonderful work.

This is their story...
Most people will not associate the Republic of Rwanda with coffee, but it is in fact considered to be one of the finest in the world - after all, Africa is where the coffee bean originated. With volcanic soils, abundant rainfall and high altitude mountains, Rwanda has some of the best coffee-growing conditions in the world. But given this nation's recent history, this bag of aromatic coffee beans comes with many a bittersweet story to go with it.
Here is one such real-life story: Thirty thousand independent coffee growers climb the hills, tend the soil, and carry the beans on their shoulders down to cooperative village wash stations. The two best varieties of beans are separated, washed and meticulously tested for export. The destination is miles away in America. The villages are scarred by one of history's worst cases of genocide. 800,000 people were slaughtered ten years ago, but the pride of the dedicated and determined Rwandans has made a miracle happen. There is optimism in the air, and forgiveness and reconciliation can be felt throughout the land. Leaders in reconciliation are Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana and his wife Mrs. Harriet Rucyahana. They bring together widows from the Twa, Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. Known as Inyakurama or Trinity, over 150 of these widows are working hard to restore their lives emotionally, spiritually and economically. Their hard work allows them to receive Microfinance loans to start small businesses, which in many cases mean the difference between a sustainable life and death. As you drink Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee, please keep in mind that you are investing 30% of your purchase in Rwanda. Drink a Cup and Do Good!

Coffee may seem life an inconsequential thing, but our partnership with The Land of A Thousand Hills gives a people and a nation an opportunity to begin to restore their lives and bring about economic justice. Consider serving this coffee at your church on Sunday mornings, "Drink a Cup and Do Good".

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Satan hates Christ's church


LifeChurch.tv has just launched a new ad blitz with billboards and a website. I love it! A great parody of the "God" billboards. And yet there is a very sobering truth behind it. Satan not only hates Life and LifeChurch.tv, he hates Christ's church. He hates Big Creek Church. He hates your church. God has been moving big time at Big Creek Church, and that hasn't been unnoticed by the devil. We have seen a lot more spiritual battle. Particularly what is noticeable has been the accumulative drip, drip, drip of a lot of little things. Little misunderstandings. Little frustrations. Little (and big) illnesses. Little fears and Little discontent. All of this stuff is the enemy coming against God's people and His church. Remember in my sermon around Christmas on Revelation 12, the enemy is real, YES - we can't forget that and we must be constantly on our knees, but the ENEMY IS DEFEATED! He is a defeated foe, and we certainly can't forget that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Letters from Leavers


I have been subscribing to this blog called Letters from Leavers for the past couple weeks. It is a blog where people can post their stories on why they left the church. There is a lot of pain and hurt in the posts. Each story is different, but here is a sample from one of the site's more recent posts:

I couldn't take the condemnation anymore.

That's what Christianity does, makes you hate yourself. To be a Christian, one must believe that their self, their essential self is bad. Christianity takes away the natural exuberance from life. That's what happened to me as a child, and I spent the next 20 years trying to make peace with the angry sky-god I was told about as a young child. Finally something in me snapped, and I said "ENOUGH!". The last 10 years have been a search for self and truth. I will not go back to the mental slavery and self-hate that has so colored my life. I am now trying to get back what was stolen from me years ago.

-robert

When I read that letter, my heart broke for Robert. I don't doubt his experience and the way he felt about his faith. What broke my heart is that his experience is such a perversion of what real and genuine faith is. Christianity shouldn't take away the natural exuberance from life, but rather it should make life more vibrant. Knowing Jesus should be sweet and exciting. Unfortunately too often the church doesn't communicate that. The church communicates rules and legalism. It communicates acceptance based on performance. But Jesus says no to all that. Our acceptance isn't based on what we do or don't do, rather it is found in Jesus and him alone. When God looks at us, he is head over heals in love with us. He is like the father chasing after the prodigal son. In Christ, we are sons and daughters of a great and awesome King. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1)

It is tragic to think that people are experiencing and living a corruption of what Christianity is truly all about. I pray for Robert and men and women like him, that they would be rescued from a religious prison of condemnation and bondage and enter into a faith that experiences freedom and life. And I pray that we at Big Creek would truly be an environment of God's grace that would be safe places for wounded people like Robert.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Suburban need

I am sure that many of you are familiar with Orange County, CA. Perhaps your view of Orange County has been formed by the teen drama, the "O.C." or the reality series, "Real Housewives of Orange County." (By mentioning these shows, doesn't mean that I watch them - that's my story and I sticking to it!) Orange County is one of the more affluent counties in the United States. With that in mind, let these statistics sink in.
  • 10.6% of those living in Orange County live below the poverty line --approximately 315,000 people.
  • There are 456,000 people at risk of missing meals each month in Orange County.
  • According to the Orange County Homeless Assessment, there were approximately 34,000 homeless people in Orange County in 2005.
  • 74,000 children in Orange County receive emergency food assistance each year from Second Harvest Food Bank.
(HT: Awakening)

You don't see these realities portrayed on T.V. shows. Although, some of you may be thinking, especially for those of us who live in suburban Atlanta, what does Orange County have to do with me and where I live?

Of course my county, Forsyth County, is not a carbon copy of Orange County, but we have a couple of things in common. Forsyth County is a fast growing county. We have a great deal of affluence. And those in need are often hidden from our view.

That is the danger with suburbia. People in need are often hidden from view and usually shoved to the margins. Even though we may not be confronted with need in our face every day, the needs exist and they exist all around us. The needs of our community are multifaceted.

There are relational needs. Marriages are in crisis. Children are facing unique pressures and challenges. And people are relationally isolated from each other and living lives of "quiet desperation."

In addition, there are spiritual needs. People in our community have been wounded by the church. God is seen as a commodity to be consumed rather than worshipped. Men and women are in need of life transformation that can only come from Jesus Christ.

And of course people in our community have physical needs as well. These are the needs we often don't see as easily. But this month, in Forsyth County, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ to our community.

Saturday, March 24, 2007 is the Great Day of Service. Hosted by Cumming First United Methodist Church, this service day will involve Christians from many different churches throughout Forsyth County. As we come alongside other churches, Big Creekers need to serve the needs of our community and serve together to meet those needs.

There is real need, yet often hidden, in Suburbia, and we need meet those needs with the love of Christ.

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Big Creek Hero of the Week

The Big Creek Hero of the week is not just one hero this week, but many. In fact too many to name individually. The Heroes are the Big Creek Teachers. Those of you who teach our Lil-K class on Sunday mornings (3yr-Kindergarten) or our Kid-Mo (1st-4th grade) or our 5th graders or our middle schoolers are all to be thanked! Many of you got to attend the teacher appreciation breakfast yesterday morning before church. But we can't you all enough for the time you commit and the investment you all make in the lives of the next generation. Way to GO - TEACHERS!!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Preach your Vision


Eric Geiger (one of the authors of Simple Church) said "When you share your vision, it can't sound like an announcement." And, "You should not share your vision until you can preach it. You have to believe in your church's vision so much that it would be sin if it is not realized."

When Steve Jobs (the Apple guy) presents a new product, like the iPhone, he doesn't just announce it; he sells it. In fact, I would say he preaches it. You can see what the Microsoft guys look like when they are selling a product, they look like someone died. PASTORS, don’t just announce the vision God has given you for your church; PREACH IT!

(HT: Jimmy Britt)

Communion Meditations


At Big Creek Church we celebrate communion weekly, you can read the theological and practical reasons are from this series of posts on the Lord's Supper, part 1; part 2; part 3.

The Communion Mediations from this past Sunday (they are a little different this week because of the context of the sermon).

Do you know Jesus?

...really know Him?

Do you love Him more today than ever before?

Why?

Why not?

Are you surrendering all control and power to Jesus?

Are you willing to do that right now?

Is the focus of your life the cross of Christ?

Think about this:

Galatians 6:14 (NIV) May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Colossians 1:19,20 (NIV) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

In your heart, and perhaps softly whispering to yourself, pray this right now: "Jesus, be the center of my life. I do desire purpose in my life. I want more joy and more peace and more passion. I long to live a life where I can make the best possible contribution to the kingdom of God. I want more gifts and a greater portion of them. But, more than anything else, I want
You. More of You and less of me. Burn away anything in me that distracts me from You as my chief desire and focus. Help me, Lord, to believe what I have just prayed. In the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen."

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Do Americans Go to Church?


This article from Justin Taylor got my attention, here is an excerpt..but you got to read the entire post.

How many Americans go to church regularly?
If you listen to the answers provided by major opinion research firms, the answer usually hovers around 40%. (National Opinion Research Center: 38%; Institute for Social Research's World Values: 44%; Barna: 41%; National Election Studies: 40%; Gallup: 41%.)

But in recent years this consensus has been challenged. It seems that it's more accurate to say that 40% of Americans claim to attend church regularly.

In 1998, sociologist Stanley Presser at the University of Michigan-whose "research focuses on questionnaire design and testing, the accuracy of survey responses, and ethical issues stemming from the use of human subjects"-co-authored a study entitled: Data Collection Mode and Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Attendance, American Sociological Review, v. 63 (1998): 137-145 (with L. Stinson). Comparing diaries with actual attendance, they made the estimate that the actual percentage of Americans attending church from the mid-1960's to the 90's was about 26%.

One of the problem comes in how the question is asked in a poll. Different questions yield different results. For example, in a survey you might ask, "What did you do last weekend?" listing for the person a number of possible activities, including church-going. This will yield a very different response than if you asked, "Did you attend church last Sunday?"

One factor is that people often answer according to what they think someone like them wants or ought to do. So people tend to overreport on the number of sexual partners they've had and how much money they give to charity, and tend to underreport on illegal drug use and the like. Hence, church attendance is often inflated.

In 1998 C. Kirk Hadaway and P.L. Marler published an article in the Christian Century entitled, Did You Really Go To Church This Week? Behind the Poll Data where they examine many of these factors. The authors focused on individual counties in the US and Canada, surveying actual church/synagogue attendance and comparing it with random surveys they were conducting. They found that actual church attendance was about half the rate indicated by national public opinion polls. Their estimate for US actual church attendance is around 20%.

Read the rest here.

(ht: Between Two Worlds)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Carnival of Georgia Bloggers


The new Carnival, hot off the press, is being hosted by "GotBible"

Visit there and check out what Georgia Bloggers are saying...there is some good stuff!

Final Thoughts On The Lord's Supper



Here are some final thoughts on celebrating the Lord's Supper.

(You can catch- up with part one and part two of this series)

One final thought and issue is answering the question, how often should the Sacrament be practiced? These are Calvin's thoughts on the matter,
"As to the time of using it, no certain rule can be prescribed for all. For there are sometimes special circumstances which excuse a man for abstaining; and, moreover, we have no express command to constrain all Christians to use a specified day. However, if we duly consider the end which our Lord has in view, we shall perceive that the use should be more frequent than many make it: for the more infirmity presses, the more necessary is it frequently to have recourse to what may and will serve to confirm our faith, and advance us in purity of life; and, therefore, the practice of all well ordered churches should be to celebrate the Supper frequently, so far as the capacity of the people will admit."
According to Calvin, there is freedom in the frequency of practicing communion, although Calvin's exhortation is to celebrate it as frequently as possible. Here at Big Creek Church, we have chosen to celebrate communion weekly.

One natural concern and question is "If we celebrate the Lord's Supper every week, won't it become rote, become too familiar and loose it's power?". I personally understand the concern behind this question. I came from a traditional church, in which we had communion every Sunday. But it was practiced in a ritualistic way that had no life or real meaning. But I feel as if that experience for me and for others in the church has corrupted the heart of communion.

When we celebrate Communion, we see it as an opportunity to point people to Christ. Christ becomes exalted. I may hit a "single" with my sermon that morning, but Christ hits a "home-run" every time through the sacrament. Communion gives us a natural opportunity to point people and invite them to the cross.

Also, even though we feel compelled to celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly from a theological conviction, what has been so encouraging to hear the feedback, especially from visitors, on how much they appreciate that we do it every week. People are significantly blessed by the Lord's Supper. In order to keep it fresh though, we celebrate it in various ways. Sometimes we pass the trays and elements while people are seated, and then we take all together. Sometimes we have elders at stations throughout the sanctuary, and people walk up to us, take the elements and the elders pray for them. Sometimes when we do stations, we do intinction, where people take the bread and dip it into the wine (we offer juice as well for those who may prefer it). We have done table communion, where families join the elder and receive the elements while seated at a table.

In conclusion, the Lord's Supper is a wonderful means of His Grace in our life, and we choose to celebrate it weekly believing that it will strengthen, encourage and feed our faith and walk with the Lord. How do you celebrate the Lord's Supper? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts, comments or questions on this subject.

These are highly recommended books about the subject of the Lord's Supper:

Lord's Supper by Robert Letham
What is the Lord's Supper? by Richard Phillips
Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper by Keith Mathison