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.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Be my Prince of Peace

Well, sometimes my life just don't make sense at all. When the mountains look so big, and my faith just seems so small. So, hold me, Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my Glory. Won't you be my Prince of Peace?
from Hold Me, Jesus by Rich Mulllins

I love these lyrics, they are good medicine for my soul. As you have read in previous posts (here and here), I have been wrestling with fear. I need Christ's peace today!

Big Creek Hero of the Week


There were a team of heroes week. This week has been an example of the body of Christ loving and caring for one another. A team of people helped move Deborah P. from Marietta to Cumming, GA this week. Deborah is dying of cancer, and she needed to be closer to work and friends, and we needed to be closer to her, so that we can more effectively minister to her during her final months. Without going into all the details, the move required a lot of time and sacrifice of many people within the body of Big Creek. Thanks to all of you that helped Deborah, and will continue to help her in the many months to come. Often times, care for others isn't just "one and done". It requires us to persevere and be faithful to go the long haul. A special thanks to Debbie Smith and Les Miller who gave leadership and countless hours of service to make this move possible. You guys rock!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good exhaustion

Two weekends, back to back, doing our Spiritual Gifts workshops with 109 people in attendance!
Throw in a touch of the flu
Mix it with two rockin' Sunday morning services
Stir in a church-wide ministry fair this afternoon
And gently sprinkle in mowing my yard all afternoon today.

With all that you get a cool and comfortably numb exhaustion.

It feels good to relax Sunday evening and just chill out.

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 our communion meditations that we post on the screen to provide an opportunity of meditation and contemplation during the Lord's Supper.



Matthew 7:1 (NIV) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4 How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

He that lean only upon the bosom of Christ, lives the highest, choicest, safest, and sweetest life. Miseries always lie at that man's door that leans upon anything below the precious bosom of Christ; such a man is most in danger, and this is none of his least plagues, that he thinks himself
secure. It is is the greatest wisdom in the world to take the wise man's counsel: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).
Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices.

Romans 14:3, 10, 13 (NIV) The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

The eleventh remedy against this device of Satan is, TO BE MUCH IN SELF-JUDGING:
1Cor 11:31 (NIV) But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. Ah! were Christians' hearts more taken up in judging themselves and condemning themselves, they would not be so apt to judge and censure others, and to carry it sourly and bitterly towards others that differ from them.
Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices.

Matthew 6:15 (NIV) But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Man, Mission and Message

Here is a way cool video from Mark Driscoll that was delivered last week at the National New Church Conference. I am not posting the video because of the controversy that it engendered. (Bill Hybels came up stage after the video and poked at the video some. He basically didn't like Driscoll's male-centered approach to church planting and let that be known from the platform.)

Driscoll's emphasis on men isn't meant to diminish women, but to give men a big kick in the seat of their pants. My sin, men's sin, is that we have a tendency toward passiveness. Men need to be bold and broken Christ followers. The video that Driscoll has made is a Braveheart-esque call to leadership, faith and courage.

No matter if you are a church planter or not, this video will get the juices flowing. Enjoy.



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Friday, April 27, 2007

Reading Challenge


My friend John Ottinger has started a fun reading challenge. And I can never turn down reading or a challenge.

Here is the information

The Challenge:
The challenge is to pick 5 books that you believe will challenge your thinking about any topic. The book that may be chosen might be tackling a political viewpoint, a stance on a social issue, and notions about a color of skin, a creed, or an “ism”. You might challenge your notions about science, the world, or economics. You might want to read a book about something you already agree with that presents a whole new take on it. Anything that YOU believe is outside your normal viewpoint or that will make you rethink your preconceptions or assumptions is fair game.

When:
The challenge will take place from May 1 till September 30, 2007.

Here the books that I have chosen:

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience:
Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?

by Ronald J. Sider (Author)

Londonistan

by Melanie Phillips (Author)


The End of Faith:
Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

by Sam Harris (Author)


Fasting:
Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites

by Lynne M. Baab (Author)

Nation of Rebels:
Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture

by Joseph Heath (Author), Andrew Potter (Author)


You can see the books of others who have joined the challenge by going to John's blog.

Worldview and way of life

I am catching up with some reading today, and I came across this great commentary by Mike Metzger that illustrates the point that beliefs and ideas do have real consequences. I have included a small excerpt from the commentary, that you can find on-line. I recommend that you read the whole article, and even subscribe to his weekly commentaries. I always find Metzger's commentary thoughtful and provocative.

Unending Horror
by Mike Metzger
April 20, 2007

Worldview and way of life.
Today is the anniversary of the Columbine Massacre of 1999. Now the Virginia Tech slaughter dwarfs it as the worst massacre in U.S. history. Today also marks the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler in 1899. Hitler, Columbine and Virginia Tech share a common ancestor – Friedrich Nietzsche. But who cares what a German philosopher said?

Too many Christians dismiss Nietzsche because he wrote "stuff." We see no connection between philosophy and terrorism – between worldview and way of life. Yet Nietzsche predicted unending horrors like Hitler and Columbine and Virginia Tech. He said people cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a God who points at us with his fearsome forefinger and says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not." Yet God is dead, Nietzsche said. Our problem is not seeing the inevitable consequences. Without God, life has no meaning or morality. Might makes right. Whoever has the biggest gun wins.

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50 Top Religious Films


If you know me, you know that I like, no love, movies. So needless to say, I found this list very interesting. The Church Times has published a list of the top 50 religious films (PDF), with a bit of commentary explaining why each film was chosen. It looks like a really well thought-out list, covering movies both U.S and foreign—of the list, there are quite a few of my favorites (The Mission and The Apostle) and some movies that I honestly never heard of before.

One of my favorite, but a more obscure Religious Film, is "Project Greenlight's Stolen Summer". It reminded me a lot of my childhood, growing up Catholic in the 70's

This list could make for a great summertime film discussion group at your church or Bible study. I did one of these last fall on the films of M. Night Shyamalan. You could use the list to pick a couple of the films and discuss them. A discussion like this is a great environment to invite friends who may not necessarily share our Christian beliefs and the movies will create opportunity for some good discussion. (But be aware of course that some of the films won't be appropriate for all audiences)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Georgia Carnival of Bloggers in Up.


My friend, John Ottinger over at Grasping for the Wind is hosting edition number eight.

Go one over there and check out what's cooking!

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Some sad news

I just received this information from my Campus Crusade friends, 3 students from CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ at VTech) were killed last week. The 3 Campus Crusade students killed were:

  • Lauren McCain
  • Mary Read
  • Jarrett Lane

Of course we mourn every student and teacher killed in that senseless tragedy last week, but please pray for the CRU ministry, the staff and their students has they mourn the loss of their friends who were near to them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Getting the Word Out


We have been working hard here at Big Creek Church on applying the principles of the "Simple Church" to our vision and process. We have been wrestling through a lot of issues on how we communicate clearly "who were are" and the process of "how people get connected" within the church. The good news is that we haven't had to totally whiteboard previous work and foundations of the church to do this entire process. We had some really good foundations to build upon, but even so, there was a lot of clutter and ministry barnacles that needed to be stripped off. Even though this part of the process has been challenging, I am convinced that the make it or break it part is going to be our communication to the congregation.

This is the part of the process that we often fall short in. We have great ideas, wonderful creativity, faith filled initiative, but it then it ends with poor communication. Effective communication is hard in our culture. I know that many people find themselves confronted with information overload but that fact is exponentially true in North Georgia. There is so much information clutter, it is hard to cut through it all. And to often we think we have communicated by simply telling people information. But information and communication are not the same.

Harold Davis, the elementary children's pastor at Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK), makes this distinction between information and communication:

Information and communication are often interchanges, but they have two distinctly different meanings.

  1. Information is giving out.
  2. Communication is getting through.
Too often we think that we are communicating by ticking off a bunch of bullet points in front of a church on a Sunday morning. But communication has to penetrate and get through the noise and static that people face.

We need to leverage as much energy and forthought on how we communication our vision and process as we spent time developing it in the first place.

I think that this is where Mark Batterson has a helpful contribution on how we communicate.

Mark Batterson recently posted
the six communication keys.

#1 The Law of Scope: less is more
#2 The Element of Surprise: violate expectations
#3 The Picture Principle: a picture is worth ten million words
#4 The Law of Metaphors: say old things in new days

#5 The Authenticity Test: you are the message
#6
The Law of Emotion: stronger emotion equals longer memory

How do you communicate more effectively within your church?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Wake Up Call!

Students have returned to VTech on Monday hoping to bring about healing and find continued support in dealing with the incredible tragedy and loss that they endured last week. Although many of students want to go back to "normal" and begin to move on from the events of last week, it will be hard to escape the culture that they, and you and I live in.

George Barna, has some new information posted on his website this week illustrating the corrosive elements in life and culture that are eating away at the moral fabric of our youth. Barna’s studies on parenting and child development led him to offer this series of facts and observations related to the Virginia Tech situation. Barna is calling the VTech tragedy a wake up call to parents. Here are some of the trends and cultural realities facing our youth today.

  1. By the time an American child is 23 years old, as was the killer in Virginia, he will have seen countless murders among the more than 30,000 acts of violence to which he is exposed through television, movies and video games.
  2. By the age of 23, the average American will have viewed thousands of hours of pornographic images, which diminish the dignity and value of human life.
  3. After nearly a quarter century on earth, the typical American will have listened to hundreds of hours of music that fosters anger, hatred, disrespect for authority, selfishness, and radical independence.
  4. The typical worldview of a person in their early twenties promotes self-centeredness, the right to happiness and fulfillment, the importance of personal expression in all forms, the necessity of tolerating aberrant or immoral points of views, allows for disrespect of other people and use of profanity, and advances forms of generic spirituality that dismiss the validity of the Judeo-Christian faith. Largely propelled by postmodern thought, the typical worldview of young people does not facilitate respect for life, acceptance of the rule of law, or the necessity of hard work, personal sacrifice, paying the dues or contributing to the common good. Barna noted that only about 2% of today’s teenagers possess a biblical worldview that acknowledges the existence of God, Satan and sin, the availability of forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ, and the existence of absolute moral principles provided in the Bible.
  5. The average adolescent spends more than 40 hours each week digesting media, and the typical teenager in America absorbs almost 60 hours of media content each week. For better or worse, the messages received from the media represent a series of unfiltered, unchaperoned worldview lessons.
  6. It appears that as many as one out of every five young people is or has been under the influence of mood-altering medications, some of whose long-term side effects are not fully understood by the medical community. Drugging children has become one of the ways in which we have coped with other issues.
  7. Stress levels have been steadily rising among young children over the past couple of decades. A variety of factors have contributed to such stress, including parental acrimony and divorce, household financial troubles, media-fed expectations regarding materialism, overscheduling of children, bullying, physical abuse within the home, and excessive peer pressure.
  8. One-third of the nation’s teenagers report having been in a physical fight at least once in the last year. Nearly one out of every five 9th through 12th grade students has carried a gun, knife or club in the past month.
  9. Education, both in the home and outside of it, provides diminishing emphasis upon the development of character, and increasing emphasis upon meeting academic performance standards, especially through standardized testing.
  10. Growing numbers of children seek to make their way through an increasingly complex life without the traditional safety net comprised of a loving and supportive family, a stable circle of supportive peers, teachers who know and help nurture the child, and a community of faith that assists in giving meaning to life and a sense of belonging.
  11. Most young people admit that they feel as if they do not receive sufficient attention from their parents; do not have enough good friends whom they can count on; are unsettled about their own future; have personal spiritual perspectives but not much of a sense of spiritual community; lack role models; and do not feel that they have intrinsic value.
You can read his entire study here

These facts should sober us, I know that they sober me as a father of a 13 and 11 year old. These cultural realities provide the fertile soil and catalyst in producing other Cho's in the future. Of course not every kid who grows up in this culture is going to act out in an evil way such as committing senseless murder, but for those kids who are already psychologically fragile, these trends are very alarming. And even if our children aren't driven to commit heinous acts, these cultural realities nevertheless have a deleterious impact on our children's lives.

Also, for more posts about this subject:

A picture of my friend hugging his daughter, a VTech freshman
A quote from Tim Keller on Tragedy and Suffering
Why I don't want to remember the killer



Monday, April 23, 2007

Big Creek Heroes of the Week


This weekend we had the Zone Workshops. And a big shout out to Randal and Kim Espey as the Big Creek Heroes of the Week. They made the workshops a fun, relaxing and warm environment as they provided all the food for the weekend. They bought all the food, and not only set up, but also cleaned up late at night. This was a big commitment, because they are giving up this upcoming weekend to actually attend "the Zone" themselves. That is two weekends in a row! Randal and Kim (and Mimi and Grayson their children) did a wonderful job this weekend and definitely went way beyond the call of duty. But their service best illustrates what we are doing with the Zone Workshops and helping people discover and implement their gifts, personalities and ministry passions. They were working out of their giftedness and that is why they were passionate to serve us this weekend.

Getting into the Zone


This is a little inside baseball for those who are part of Big Creek Church. But this weekend was the first of two weekends where we are taking people through a 6 hours personality, gifts and ministry passions workshop- which we call "The Zone"

The response has been enthusiastic and very humbling. Since this whole project was new and unseen and we were asking people to give up their weekend, we definitely had to make a big withdrawal of relational capital and ask people to trust us that it would be time well spent.

For the total two weeks, we have just over 100 people participating in this workshop. This is an exciting time for the church. We just came out of a capital campaign, when people were asked to give, out of faith, their money and resources. Now we are challenging people, to give and serve out of their gifts. It has been a season of challenge and has been faith stretching for the entire congregation.

Big Shout out to Matt Brinkley for doing an incredible job and really investing a ton of time into this. We did some evaluations at the end, and we have a lot of areas to change, adapt and improve upon.

But here is a sample of some of the comments from this weekend.

I liked adding the right path to the spiritual gift inventory. It made the process more complete.
It has been a while since I have worked in my gifts. This worship has given me hope that God is working to open doors for me to serve.
I am so excited that Big Creek wants to follow the Lord in working as a WHOLE body to use their gifts.
The Spiritual Gifts Inventory brought out somethings new that I hadn't seen before.

Thanks to all of you who spent the weekend with us, and for all of you who will be doing so this coming weekend, all I can say is buckle up, hang on and get ready for a fun, exciting ride!


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Sunday, April 22, 2007

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.

These are our communion meditations that we post on the screen to provide an opportunity of meditation and contemplation during the Lord's Supper.

Exodus 34:6 (NIV) And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." 8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.

However strong a castle may be, if a treacherous party resides inside (ready to betray at the first opportunity possible), the castle cannot be kept safe from the enemy. Traitors occupy our own hearts, ready to side with every temptation and to surrender to them all.
-Theologian John Owen (1616-1683) John Owen, Sin and Temptation

Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

1John 3:1 (NIV) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Ephesians 3:17 (NIV) And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sin is not the whole story

Paul Marshall in his book Heaven is Not My Home

Sin is not the story, it is the blight on the story. Sin distorts everything, perverts everything, corrupts everything. It is not sin that makes us bear children, but it is sin that makes childbearing painful. It is not sin that attracts men and women, but it is sin that fills our relationships with control and suspicion. It is not sin that makes music, but it is sin that fills our music with vanity and lust. It is not sin that makes us construct cities and towers, but it is sin that makes those towers symbols of pride and power. It is not sin that calls human beings to live and love, to make music and art, to work and create, to plant and harvest, to play and dance. But it is sin that undercuts and perverts them all. Sin does not create things. It has no originality, no creativity, no being in itself. Sin lives off that which is good. It is a parasite, feeding greedily on the goodness of what God has made. No relation is of itself sinful, but sin corrupts every relation. No area of life is in itself out of the will of God, but we defy God's will in every area of life.

(HT: Jollyblogger)


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Friday, April 20, 2007

Keller on Tragedy and Suffing

This is an excerpt from Tim Keller's message to the grieving families after 9/11. His words are true today as they were then.

Here are his concluding remarks,

Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”

That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.


Read the whole message here.

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The Way I See It

Starbucks has been putting quotes on their coffee cups (called "The Way I See it") to make their coffee more interesting.

This is the quote that was on my cup this week.

"Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can't wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They're basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell." - Joel Stein, Columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

Have you read Revelation 21 and 22 lately! Heaven is going to ROCK!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Send it to the Cross!












Mark Begly,of Blacksburg, Va. prays during a vigil held at the Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Monday, April 16, 2007, in Blacksburg, Va. A gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times,Jared Soares)


Here is an African Benediction, which the pastor of Grace Covenant in Blacksburg, VA blessed the congregation with:

Minister: All our problems . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!
Minister: All our difficulties . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!
Minister: All the devil's work . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!
Minister: All our hopes . . .
People: We set on the risen Christ!
Minister: Christ, the Son of Righteousness, shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path: and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you, forever and ever. Amen.

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I don't want to remember him.


Remembrance is a powerful thing. It evokes reflections, sober thought and powerful emotion. At the time the school massacre happened at VTech, we were on the eve of remembering those who endured and suffered through the Holocaust. I have been to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. The museum's message to those that visit is that we never forget. We are never to forget that behind the huge and mind-numbing number of 6 Million killed, that there are individual faces, with individual stories. Certainly at the museum there is information about the Nazi's, who they were and what motivated their cruel and evil intentions. But ultimately the focus isn't on them. Their evil doesn't overshadow, the humanity, courage and sacrifice of those whose lives were either lost or irrevocably changed forever.

With Cho's picture, face, video and writings all over the news these past 24 hours, I fear that his evil will overshadow those whom he victimized. Yes, his evil acts irrevocably changed the lives of families, a school, a community and a nation forever. But he is not the focus of the story. Evil never is!

When you read Revelation 12, you get an interesting picture of two facets of evil. The first is that evil exists. Plain and simple, we can't ignore that, we see it all the time. But secondly, evil is not victorious. It is not the final word. It is not on par with all that is good and holy. Evil only exists as a corruption of what is good. And the final word is that evil, although defeated on the cross, will be ultimately and finally be vanquished. Ultimately, every tear will be wiped away, evil will be forgotten. With no remembrance of it. So let us not give evil it's remembrance today. Let us remember the courage and loss of those who died. Let us pray for the families and friends who grieve and mourn.



P.S. With a different look at this, Tim Sander's has some interesting comments about the media's responsibility in covering this story. Check out Tim Sanders' comments here

Also, for more posts about this subject:

A picture of my friend hugging his daughter, a VTech freshman
A quote from Tim Keller on Tragedy and Suffering
Alarming cultural trends that shape our children's lives



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gotta love Lewis

He puts things like no other!
"When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

- C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (8 November, 1952)

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Big Creek Hero of the Week

The Big Creek Hero of the Week is Travis Howe. What a dude. I needed his help with a project this Sunday, and even though it was last minute and inconvenient, Travis stepped up without blinking an eye. No reluctance. No grumbling. Just pure joy as he willing served and helped. Thanks Travis!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Words will come later...

This is a picture of my friend Dan Flynn who works with Campus Crusade at James Madison. He is consoling his daughter Lauren, who is a freshman at VTech.

I know that you all are joining with me in praying for the students, parents and facility of VTech.

Monday, April 16, 2007

We are broken puppies

Our life is full of brokenness - broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God's faithful presence in our lives.

Henri Nouwen

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Divine Nobodies


Finished "Divine Nobodies" by Jim Palmer over vacation.

Wow! What a great book. Jim writes his memoirs and reflections in a style that is easy to read like Don Miller's book, "Blue Like Jazz".

Jim writes with such honesty and candidness, that I was immediately drawn in. Particularly there were several struggles in Jim's spiritual journey that I could identify with. When Jim went through a season of trying to discover His purpose and identity apart from vocational ministry, I could connect with those raw emotions of feeling put on the shelf, when I went through that wandering period as I struggled with my calling in 2004.

What I like about Palmer is that throughout the book, he brings to the forefront the power and reality of the Gospel.

I am recommending this book to the men that I know and encouraging them to read this book.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

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 church wants "renewal." Renewal does not mean changing a habit and a few prayers. Renewal is faithfulness to the spirit of the constitutions, a spirit which seeks holiness by means of a poor and humble life, the exercise of sincere and patient charity, spontaneous sacrifice and generosity of heart, and which finds its expression in purity and candor.

Mother Teresa in Jesus, the Word to Be Spoken.

Theologians use a phrase to talk about how Christ-followers are already redeemed, but will not experience the fullness of redemption until we live with God in heaven. The phrase is very theological sounding. Ready? It's called, "The already and the not yet." How does that work exactly? A little girl in England, Josie Caven, was born profoundly deaf. Growing up,she often felt isolated because of her inability to hear, but that changed after receiving a cochlear implant during the Christmas season. At the age of 12, she heard clearly for the first time. The first sound she heard was the song "Jingle Bells" coming from the radio. Was Josie's hearing restored? Yes—completely. Was she hearing well immediately? Not exactly. Her mother said, "She is having to learn what each new sound is and what it means. She will ask, 'Was that a door closing?' and has realized for the first time that the light in her room hums when it is switched on. She even knows what her name sounds like now, because before she could not hear the soft 'S' sound in the middle of the word. Seeing her face light up as she hears everything around her is all I could have wished for this Christmas." Josie's hearing was restored, but that restoration introduced her to the daily adventure of learning to distinguish each new sound in the hearingw orld. It's the already, and the not yet.

There can be no restoration of the marriage without genuine forgiveness. Unfortunately forgiveness doesn't usually occur until the anger has been dealt with first.
Richard Exley

One of the main characters in the movie Seabiscuit is a broken-down, unemployed cowboy named Tom Smith. Millionaire Charles Howard, who is about to engage in a horse racing enterprise, has a campfire interview with Smith, and asks why he bothered rescuing an old, lame horse that was sentenced to death because of a broken leg. Tom replies, "You don't throw a whole life away just 'cause it's banged up a bit." Every horse is good for something, Tom claims. This devotion to horses convinces the millionaire that Tom should be his trainer. Together they find and purchase Seabiscuit, a horse whose physical shortcomings and temperament make it an unlikely prospect for racing success. Tom's method of training, while unorthodox, is tailored toward curing the horse of its inner demons?a byproduct of the neglect shown by its previous owners. Tom hires a second-rate jockey named John "Red" Pollard to ride Seabiscuit. At 5'7", Red is considered too tall to be anything but a bush-league jockey and a bad match for this undersized horse. But Tom notices a mystical connection between Red and Seabiscuit. Red has another handicap. He is blind in one eye, and he has concealed the handicap fearing that track officials would no longer allow him to race. During a crucial race at Santa Anita, Red's limited vision allows a competing horse, Rosemont, to overtake Seabiscuit on Red's blind side, costing them the victory. Tom, trainer, is outraged that the jockey failed to urge Seabiscuit to keep the winning pace. He presses the jockey to explain how he could let this happen. Finally, in a burst of emotion, Red shouts, "Because I'm blind!" Stung by the loss and betrayal, Tom scornfully urges Mr. Howard to fire Red. To Tom's surprise, Mr. Howard requests that Red remain as his jockey. Dumbfounded, Tom demands a reason. Mr. Howard states, "You don't throw awaya whole life just because it's banged up a bit."


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Saturday, April 14, 2007

After Easter

Having just come through Easter, Easter is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning.

Here is a compelling and thoughtful Easter message by N.T. Wright on Easter.

When Easter stops being a surprise, it stops being Easter. The trick Christians pull off year after year is to so immerse ourselves in Lent and Holy Week that we actually screen out what we know comes next.

We reflect on, and mourn, the ruin of the world and the folly of humankind. We look in the mirror and see our own shame and sin. And then we contemplate Jesus's suffering and death at the heart of the whole thing: the place where the arrogance of empire, the frenzy of religion and the betrayal of friends all rush together and do their worst. Faced with all that, it's not hard to bracket out Easter. After all, that's what most of the world does anyway.

"Wait without hope," wrote TS Eliot, "for hope would be hope for the wrong thing." If you frame Easter in the terms of the perceived problem, you belittle it. Whether you think in terms of pie in the sky (at best a thoroughly subChristian concept) or a better society, all you get is a happy ending after a sad or sinful story.

And whatever Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were doing in writing the final sections of their books, they were not telling the story of Jesus's resurrection as a happy ending. They were telling it as a startling new beginning. Easter morning isn't a slow, gentle waking up after the difficult operation. It's the electric shock that brings someone back to life in a whole new
way.

Read the rest of it here:

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The Starbucks Experience



As many of you know, I love a good coffee. I will be wherever coffee is, in fact I will conduct many of my appointments at coffee shops, ala Starbucks, Caribou, or Coffee-Lodge.

I was reading this blog the other day, and this book as been on my wish list, so I was particularly interested in these five principles.

Here is the post from Out of the Box Ministry:

The other day I discovered a book written about The Starbucks Experience. There are five principles that transformed the company that can be beneficial to any church or ministry. They are:

Principle 1: Make It Your Own
Principle 2: Everything Matters
Principle 3: Surprise and Delight
Principle 4: Embrace Resistance
Principle 5: Leave Your Mark

How would you apply these principles to your situation (i.e. church, ministry or business)?

This post got me thinking, so I thought I would share with you my comments that I made at the post.

Here were my comments:


Here is how the Five Principles relate to our ministry here at Big Creek.

1. Make it our own, is knowing our unique target audience. We need to exegete our community and be intentional of doing ministry that is relevant to our context. Too often a church sees the next great thing and simply wants to plug it into their context without taking the time to contextualize it.

2. Everything matters, is about excellence for our church. We need to not ignore the details. The little stuff matters as well.

3. Principle 3 is like our motto with our first impressions team, we call it the "Wow" factor. We focus on the first ten minutes of the a guests experience at Big Creek and make it worth remembering.

4. Embrace Resistance...I guess I would process that as being willing to have holy discomfort. As a church we need to be constantly moving forward and never being complacent.

5 Leaving our Mark-At Big Creek Church we want to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel. That is all about leaving a mark. We don't want to simply play church-we want God to use us and be used by Him for His Kingdom.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Georgia Carnival of Bloggers #7

This Carnival of Georgia Bloggers is here again. Go check out what Georgia bloggers are saying.

Yours truly has a post there, as well as John Ottinger from Big Creek.

Chaplain in Iraq


I just got an audio file from the wife of my friend in Iraq.

Mike Stephan is a chaplain in the Army and is currently stationed in Iraq. Mike and his wife Barb were both students involved in the ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ when I was the CCC Director at Towson University. I had the privilege of discipling Mike, watching him grow and mature in his faith and watch him propose to his wife at one of our Campus Crusade meetings. That was an awesome evening!!!

He was interviewed earlier in the week for the Point of View radio show. Definitely listen to this interview. The audio file is for the entire two hour show, Mike's interview is in the second hour, so just skip ahead to the second half of the audio.

It is good to know that there are men like Mike shepherding and caring for the men and women in Iraq.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't forget to check out...

Big Creek's Uth Pastor's blog:



Revolution



Good stuff today about the serving and the washing of feet.





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Dolly's Dixie Stampede





















This photo is from our vacation last week. Enjoy!

Identifying Our Idols



I would like to do a follow up from a previous post on the Idols that Drive Us and respond to some very thoughtful comments from the post made by my friend John. Here are his comments,
I like the categories mentioned here. But one thing I have always been disappointed in is people's lack of pointing out specific things in a person's life as an idol.

Even with self-examination we don't always see it and we need others to point it out to us. That doesn't mean saying it from the pulpit, but friends, spouses, even one's own children should make it obvious to us.
John makes a good comment here. We certainly need others to "meddle" in our lives in ways that they speak grace, love and truth into our life and heart. Often others will help us expose those idols of our heart. I often say that God has given to me my wonderful wife for many reasons. One big reason though is for MY sanctification. Marriage is hard and she will say things about me that I don't like to hear, but God uses her to speak into my life.

We must also be willing to listen and hear from God in addition to listening to other people. We need to ask Him to reveal to us those idolatries in our life.

It is Tim Keller's (pastor of Redeemer Church in NYC) "Luther Project" that gives us some specific tracks in order to guide us while we hear and listen from God.

Here are examples of idol/based lifestyles direct from the Luther Project
Power idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I have power and influence over others.

Approval idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am loved and respected by ___________________."

Comfort idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life."

Image idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I have a particular kind of look or body image.

Control idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of ___________________.”

Helping idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--people are dependent on me and need me."

Dependence idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--someone is there to protect me and keep me safe."

Independence idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone."

Work idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am highly productive getting a lot done."

Achievement idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am being recognized for my accomplishments, if I am excelling in my career."

Materialism idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.

Religion idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am adhering to my religion's moral codes and accomplished in it activities."

Individual person idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--this one person is in my life and happy there and/or happy with me."

Irreligion idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and with a self-made morality."

Racial/cultural idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior."

Inner ring idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in."

Family idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--my children and/OR my parents are happy and happy with me."

Relationship idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless- Mr., or Ms. Right is in love with me."

Suffering idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--I am hurting, in a problem--only then do I feel noble or worthy of love or am able to deal with guilt."

Ideology idolatry: "I am irritated, discontented or unsatisfied unless--my political or social cause or party is making progress and ascending in influence or power."


Dealing with the idols of the heart is an ongoing process. It is not "one and done". We must always remember that the human heart is never neutral - it must worship something. And the heart is an idol factory constantly elevating and worshiping other things/people above God. Also we must always ask the "whys" and "reasons" behind our attitudes, actions and sin. What is the sin behind the sin. Too often I want to address only the symptoms at the neglect of the root cause.

In a previous post I share how I de-constructed my own sin, trying to find and discover the sin behind the sin.

When we are willing to do those things, we will expose our idols. And then the real solution is to apply the healing medicine of the Gospel to bring about healing and wholeness. Applying the truth of the Gospel to our idols is the most important part of the process.

I recommend reading the entire study, "the Luther Project" for a complete treatment of the idols of the heart and Gospel-centered living. You may use the Contact Form on the sidebar to request a copy and I will gladly send you one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Missional Tattoos


I don't have a tattoo, although I did get an earring in college. But when I was working with college kids, tattoos were are still are all the rage. Christian kids would get tattoos with religious symbols, as a way to both identify with Christ and provide a way to share their faith.

Here is an interesting excerpt found on Breakpoint about that issue...

But are tattoos merely a matter of taste? Is it possible that there is a redemptive, missional use for tattoos that I may have completely overlooked?

This article from the Columbus Dispatch got me thinking.

"We want to speak the language of the culture," said the Rev. Nathan Feathers, 26, a pastor at the CrossLink church in Grandview. "Our culture speaks in tattoos. That's a great way to speak about God."

(HT: Breakpoint)

What to you think? Do you have a tattoo? If so, why did you get it and do you think tattoos speak the language of the culture.


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Idols That Drive Us

A couple posts back I talked about the idols of my heart. I saw this post on Drew Goodmanson's blog and I want to share it in it's entirety. A great little summation on the idols that drive most of us. I have to say, I see all of these idols in my life. But the one that I most struggle with is Control. Control drives my anger and my fear. Here is Drew's Post:

There are four idols that drive most people. These are:

  • Power
  • Control
  • Approval
  • Comfort

Which one do you seek? Kaufmann said a good way to find out is to see which one you'd give up to 'earn' another. Meaning, would you give up people liking you (approval) in order for them to respect you (power)?

The danger with these idols is that idols always disappoint.
They are weak: They can't deliver when you succeed; they can only raise the bar. They can't forgive you when you fail; they can only lower the boom.

They are harmful: They hurt you spiritually, emotionally and physically. They hurt others by undermining your ability to love.

They are Grievous: Most importantly, by going after these idols/other lovers you are saying to God: "Jesus is not enough. I also need _________ in order to be happy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Being Vulnerable


This picture was sent by my neighbor today. It had been on his camera phone since Halloween when it was taken over at is house for a party.

Where did I get my Star Trek custom? I would like to tell you that I borrowed it from a friend, but I can't - I actually OWN it!!

Well what about the phaser? OWN it!!

Certainly this is the first time I have worn this in public! Not a chance...do Star Trek conventions ring a bell?

So I am a nerd at the core. But before you judge me, consider this, at least I am not living in my parent's basement having never kissed a girl.

In an attempt to take away a little attention off of me, let me suggest that there are some people who are so into StarTrek, they make their own movies. Certainly they need to get a life! :-)

You gotta check these three sites out.

Hidden Frontier


Starship Exeter


Star Trek New Voyages



Whack A Mole

When our kids were smaller we always would take them to Chuck E' Cheese. And one of their most favorite games was Whack A' Mole. You know the game? Moles peek their heads out of holes quickly and some little, sugar induced, hyperactive kid tries to whack as many moles right on the head within a certain time.

That is what many of the Big Creek Staff are feeling. Many of us were on vacation last week and now as we are peeking our heads out of our vacation "holes" and getting back to work, we are getting WHACKED right on head!

For example: A car accident.

A major car repair - transmission.

Other car problems.

The enemy is attacking our cars!

Coming off vacation is hard enough as it is, but many of our staff have been facing all kinds of hits. Some big, some little...but regardless they have a cumulative effect - and it becomes wearisome.


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Sunday, April 08, 2007

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.

In September of 2004, on the 25th anniversary of their first record release, the rock group U2 became eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although aware of the significance of such an honor, the band members decided not to become caught up in the accolades and accomplishments of the past. "I suppose if people want to shower you with honors, the only reasonable thing to do is accept them," said bassist Adam Clayton. Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. then added: "But it does feel premature. We're trying to stay focused on the big prize."
Josh Tyrangiel, "Mysterious Way," Time (11-22-04)

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without faith.
Augustine of Hippo

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned by Hitler during World War II, writes to his fiancee on one lesson learned from life in prison: A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Letters and Papers from Prison; in a letter to his fiancee, Maria von Wedemeyer from Tegel Prison in Germany, November 21, 1943

It is not the way we deal with our human situation that is the basis for hope--hope is thebasis for how we deal with our human situation.
Arden K. Barden in a paper, "Spiritual Aging."

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Birthday

We celebrated my in-laws Birthday yesterday.

Check this out, their birthdays are on the same day!

We took them to the beautifully historic Lakeside Inn at Mt. Dora.


We had a wonderful lunch at their restaurant and got a chance to stroll around the quaint shops downtown. Mt. Dora is one of our favorite towns alongside WinterPark, FL.

We always enjoy our visit there.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Orlando


Yesterday we went to the Dixie Stampede with the family. The Dixie Stampede is one of those dinner and show events in Orlando.
We had a lot of fun, entertaining show and lots of good food! We always enjoy visiting Orlando on vacation. Our family lived there for 2 years while I was finishing seminary and also working with Campus Crusade for Christ.

Here is an interesting article from National Geographic on Orlando. Fascinating history on the city's growth, especially if you have ever lived or visited there. But it is also a great look into the growth and impact of Suburbs upon our culture. Something we are facing up here in Atlanta as well.

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Legos

One of my most favorite things to do as a kid was to play with Legos. I used to create all kinds of cool stuff every day. And so it is always very cool to watch my daughters play with my old Lego set when we visit my parents. Their creativity always blossoms when they get their hands on a pile of Legos.

Yesterday our "fam" went to downtown Disney to the shops, free Disney! And they have some cool life sized Lego displays, which are always cool to see.

Also, I came across this site which is cool, the Bible story told in Legos, check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

And now for something completely different

Monty Python used to say when they wanted to shift gears, "And now for something completely different!"

This blog is not a tech blog, so this is a little bit off subject. But when I go to visit my parents, my dad and I always talk computers. He worked for Control Data Corporation for over 30 years (back in the day they built the super computers) and I was a Computer Science student in college, before God put a call on my life for vocational ministry.

Anyway, he gave his back issues of PC Mag, and in one issue were listed the "101 top freebies for your computer". And since I like free and computers I was glad to take the issue home.

Anyway, the coincidence was that one of my blogs, had them all listed with the necessary links.

Wisebread - 101 Freebies for your PC.

These freebies are wonderful.

What I currently use from the list are:

AVG anti-virus; Gmail for me; Thunderbird for the family; All things Google!; Backpack; VLC Media player; Paint.net and Audacity

Just wanted to share the wealth to my readers.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Evening Walk at Flagler Beach



Monday, April 02, 2007

This looks worth the read.

A God Debate

"Rick Warren is as big as a bear, with a booming voice and easygoing charm. Sam Harris is compact, reserved and, despite the polemical tone of his books, friendly and mild. Warren, one of the best-known pastors in the world, started Saddleback in 1980; now 25,000 people attend the church each Sunday. Harris is softer-spoken; paragraphs pour out of him, complex and fact-filled—as befits a Ph.D. student in neuroscience. At NEWSWEEK's invitation, they met in Warren's office recently and chatted, mostly amiably, for four hours. Jon Meacham moderated."

Here are some excerpts. Here is Meacham's overview.

(HT:
Between Two Worlds)


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Playing Tennis

Played tennis this morning with my Dad and with his 60+ crowd of guys. One guy was 81 years old!

I need to play more tennis, I suck! Enough said.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

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.

These are this past Sunday's Communion Meditations

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans and Democrats. The real difference is between the aware and the unaware. When somebody is aware of that love-the same love that the Father has for Jesus-that person is just spontaneously grateful. Cries of thankfulness become the dominant characteristic of the interior life, and the byproduct of gratitude is joy. We're not joyful and then become grateful-we're grateful, and that makes us joyful.

-Brennan Manning

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

Eighteenth century American pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards writes in Charity and Its Fruits: It is not contrary to Christianity that a man should love himself or, which is the same thing, should love his own happiness. That a man should love his own happiness is as necessary to his nature as the faculty of the will is.

At the end of a long letter, C. S. Lewis wrote: "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving toward the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

C. S. Lewis

Your behavior is a reflection of what you truly believe.

Hyrum W. Smith, author of The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management, chairman and CEO of Franklin Covey Company


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April Fools