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, June 30, 2007

Provocative Church on vacation

While on vacation with the family, I need to unplug, that has meant email and the web. So that means no responding to email or writing blog posts. It is family, 24/7!

So during this week, I have loaded my "draft" basket with several posts that will launch throughout the week.

Some of those posts include a guest blogger that will contribute to Provocative Church, and the blog will post a series of "The Best of.." throughout the week.

Talk to you on the other side of the vacation.

Going on Vacation

Our family is taking vacation.

It is a different kind of vacation. We are staying local and playing tourist. We are relatively new to Atlanta and there is so much that we have yet to see in this area. Therefore we are going to take a whole bunch of trips around the North Georgia area.

Also during the vacation we will have the opportunity to visit several others churches. I always look forward to visiting other churches. It stokes my vision when I get to see and experience what other great churches are doing.

I will have two Sunday's off from Big Creek, and therefore our family is going to visit two churches.

The first is Ridgestone Church in Canton, GA. This church is pastored by Gary Lamb. Although this church is a bit of distance from Cumming, I want to see and experience what is going on in Canton. What I have appreciated about Gary is his vision to reach Canton the area. He is not content just "playing church". He is charging the gates of Hell! I want to experience and see for myself the Ridgestone gang that is charging those gates! :-)

The second church is Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, GA. This church is pastored by Shawn Lovejoy. This church is in our backyard and we hear a lot of buzz about it. I read Shawn's blog and appreciate his heart and commitment to plant churches. There are doing some really cool and innovative things at Mountain Lake, and I look forward to catching a glimpse.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The ONE guy who will definitely not buy an iPhone

Yes, this is shaping up to be iPhone Friday at Provocative Church.

Who is that guy who would definitely not buy an iPhone? Seth Godin, tells us a little bit about him in his post, The Verizon guy who turned down the iPhone

Given the mass hysteria, it's probably not so good to be Denny Strigl this week. He's the COO at Verizon quoted with pride about turning down the iPhone deal (Verizon turned down iPhone's advances.)

The reason you need to care about this: Almost everyone is like Denny.

How could Verizon pass up something like the iPhone? Seth Godin, goes on to explain that in some corporate cultures, NO has become the default answer.

When NO becomes the default answer in a corporation, they are not willing to be creative, innovative and challenge the status quo.

What happens when we allow NO to be the default answer at Big Creek?


Has NO become the default at Big Creek? Here are some diagnostic question that I am asking myself:

Is our default answer to new, creative, innovative and different approaches to ministry at Big Creek Church always NO?

Are we more content at Big Creek to manage the status quo?

Do we fear failure more than fear the consequences if we don't try?

Are we reluctant to take big risks at Big Creek because doing so with be too much trouble and cause too many disruptions?

Is NO my default answer?

We need to be willing to risk and risk big at Big Creek Church. God has called us to Build Community for the Community in Forsyth County. God has called us to make a Kingdom impact. That will not happen if we just play it safe, don't rock the boat, manage our systems and have NO as our default answer.

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What might the iPhone undo?


You got to read this!
If you are not subscribing to the Clapham Commentary, you need to. Everything that Mike Metzger writes is provocative and thoughtful.

I am usually reluctant to post an entire article, but since this first came in an email and won't be posted on the website until a few days later, I couldn't have you wait to read the entire thing.




iffect
by Mike Metzger June 29, 2007

Staring at us.
Benedictine monks never imagined that their new technology, designed to help workers unwind, would eventually wrap workers around the axle. William Farish never imagined that his technological innovation would make his profession meaningless. New technologies are wonderful in what they promise to do, yet we are often "incapable of imagining what they will undo," said the late Neil Postman.1 The iPhone has been described (by some) as the greatest technological innovation since the telegraph. What will it possibly undo? The answer is staring at us. Look carefully. It's right there.

Benedictine monks invented the mechanical clock in the 12th century to remind workers to take periodic Sabbath breaks. They never imagined someone like Frederick Taylor, known as the Father of Scientific Management, would use the stopwatch (notice it's called a stopwatch?) to start a movement to increase productivity. Today we "fight" the clock to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of every last second.

William Farish (a Cambridge University tutor) never imagined his idea of numerical grading – unheard of before his time – would eventually marginalize mentoring. Before 1792, students were evaluated through dialogue, not digits. This conversation required a counselor, a tutor. Numerical grading led to cavernous classrooms and computers.

Now consider the iPhone – a wonderful new technology promising us the world. It can do a lot. What might it undo? If we stare long enough at an iPhone (or any mobile technology), the answer is right in front of us. See it? People who putt through life with their nose pressed against a window are called tourists. Sightseers. Yet according to the ancient Judeo-Christian faith, we're supposed to be travelers and sojourners instead.

Our word travel comes from the English travail, meaning "a journey fraught with danger." The Bible is chock full of words picturing this life as a sometimes scary sojourn. A world inhabited by God, gargoyles, devils and demons means we don't simply float down the lazy river of life like fallen autumn leaves. Remember when Mr. Beaver was asked by one of the children if Aslan was safe? "‘Safe?' said Mr. Beaver... ‘Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good.'"2 God is good and God is great. But that doesn't mean life is supposed to be safe.

It was the late Daniel Joseph Boorstin, prizewinning author and the historian who had served as librarian of Congress and director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of History and Technology, who argued that new technologies often turn Americans into tourists rather travelers. They keep us seemingly "in touch" while actually making us more "out of touch." The ease of surfing between Darfur and Dunkin' Donuts (or Paris France and Paris Hilton) is closer to voyeurism than voyaging. In times past, we wouldn't know about Darfur without being present and covering our noses to keep the stench of death out of our nostrils. Now we can simply watch through a window in air-conditioned comfort.

This is not an argument against technological advancements. We can't become Luddites. But we have to remember that technology, according to Paul Goodman of the New Reformation, is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science. In the nineteenth century, science's new attitude was "if something can be done it should be done." It replaced the Judeo-Christian faith, which believed that just because something can be done, it's better to ask whether we ought to do it. Technologies can do – and undo – a lot.

It's hard to imagine the iPhone's "iffect." The problem, as Neil Postman pointed out, is that "once a technology is admitted, it plays out its hand; it does what it was designed to do."3 And undo. It's interesting that a number of coffeehouses are pushing back and unplugging their wireless access. They complain that customers have their faces pressed to the computer screen. No one is present. Coffeehouses are for travelers, not tourists.

Becoming travelers once again includes resolving one of the great ideological conflicts of our modern age. It's between the Judeo-Christian faith, with all its transcendent moral underpinnings, "and a twentieth-century thought-world that functions not only without a transcendent narrative to provide moral underpinnings but also without strong social institutions to control the flood of information produced by technology."4 If one "iffect" of the iPhone is to amuse us to death in a deluge of entertainment, that's not progress. If the "iffect" of the iPhone is to stir travelers, stem the tide of tourism and help people solve real problems, I'm all for it.

_________________
1 Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, (New York: Random House, 1993), p.5
2 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (New York: First Collier Edition, 1970), pp.75-76
3 Postman, p.7
4 Postman, p.83


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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is blackface at church ever appropriate?

You are probably right now yelling back at the computer saying, Are you crazy!? That kind of question is insane. Of course the idea of "blackface" in any context or for any reason is racist and only perpetuates stereotypes. It is wrong! But maybe, this church down in North Carolina should have taken the time to ask that question before they went ahead with this-

This is a story from the Gaston Gazette about a church that used blackface:

Three white men who recently performed at a Gaston County church function dressed in “blackface” while they pantomimed traditional black hymns did so to honor gospel music history, said the pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church. But, was it appropriate to perform in blackface? Is it ever appropriate?

(HT: Cornelius Blog)
Some of you may try to argue that this story is an unusual and an abnormal occurrence. Of course it is true that something like this doesn't happen all the time. But I would point out a couple of things before you dismiss it out of hand and move on to think about something else.

Racism in the church happens more often than we care to admit. Last year I can point out a SC church that had a father/son event which included a target practice time, and their targets included, the Pope, Hillary Clinton and Martin Luther King Jr. No one would have known about it, except that someone posted all the pictures on the internet. How many things like this happen that we never know about?

Also, racism in the church isn't always so visible and obvious like in the previous examples. It remains concealed and hidden. It flies under the radar. We either conceal it or we sweep it under the rug. As a church often times we only address it cosmetically but never deal with the issue at it's root. Are we willing to have difficult and honest discussions about it and are we willing to address the issues of past and present injustice head-on? (I know about this problem first hand, because I minister in a denomination that has it's historic roots with Southern Presbyterianism)

These issues run deep, they are systemic. I am now an assistant pastor in a county that has had a terrible history of racism. It was an all white county for many decades following an event in 1912 that drove out every African-American from the entire county. Their land was taken from them and re-deeded. It was a horrible injustice that lasted many years.

Praise God that our county is changing and being transformed from it’s shameful and sinful past. But what people forget is that those issues are systemic and run deep. Also, there is a spiritual component that we often forget. With our county's past there are spiritual strongholds that need to be demolished.

A friend asked me via this blog, how do I and our church address racism?

First, we are corporately repenting and praying against the spiritual strongholds in our county. I can't overemphasis the importance of prayer and the spiritual nature of this issue. Last year, we took out an ad in one of the county magazines and called out racism and our need for Christ to bring true and lasting reconciliation.

Second, with God's help we are building bridges across racial barriers. Forsyth county is a very affluent county. To move in the county you have to have some degree of wealth. Minorities and Internationals who have wealth move into the county all the time. They appear to assimilate well into the communities that they move into to. But the racism that seems to be the most prevalent is the racism that is tied to economic affluence.

It is a combination of racism and classism. We have a lot of Hispanics in our county (the largest minority in the county) and they are often the new object of people's scorn and racism. It is not until you get to know those in the Hispanic community, just how demeaned and dismissed they are. They are ok to clean our homes and work on our lawns, but we marginalize them and keep them on the fringes of our community. Over the past couple of years, we have built strong relationships with a Hispanic community called Homestead. We have ministered to them and they have ministered to us. We have been invited into their homes, they have been invited into our homes. We are building friendships with them that are crossing over racial, ethnic and language barriers.

Third, I recognize that I have a lot to learn about racism. I was somewhat reluctant to write this post, because I didn't want it perceived that I stand above this issue and understand it completely. I know just how ignorant I am about racism. I have never been the object of racism. In fact, I have benefited all my life from the institutions in this country that have afforded me every opportunity and every privilege.

But what I do know is that when Jesus Christ died, he died for the sins of one race, the human one. God created the entire human race in His own image. Then He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for all of our sins (including racism). Once we accept God's forgiveness through Christ, we can be reconciled to our heavenly Father, regardless of race, nationality or skin color. God is impartial. He says to all who are willing, "Come to Me". And once we have experience reconciliation with God, He give us to power to be reconciled with one another.


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Summer movie recommendations

During the summer it is nice to get out of the crazy heat and pop in a movie.

My family and I have watched a couple of movies this last week that were a lot of fun to watch, and our whole family could watch. Check this out!

Miss Potter

This is the story of Beatrix Potter, starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. I was a little dubious of this movie. The last time I saw these two actors together was with "Down with Love" and that movie didn't impress me. But the bottom line of this movie, this movie was extraordinary. The story was compelling and the acting was excellent. The look and feel of this movie was absolutely charming.

I am certain many of you have read "The Tale of Petter Rabbit" to your children or had Beatrix Potter's stories read to you as a child. The relationship between Miss Potter and Mr. Warne was fascinating to watch develop. This movie is safe for the whole family, and it was so good that we watched it several times. In fact, my wife warned me that this is a movie she wants to buy and put in our movie collection. Rent or buy this movie tonight!

Dreamgirls

It took our family some time to get to this movie, but it was well worth the wait. This movie, based on the Broadway musical, was such a treat to watch. The acting was superb. Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson gave excellent performances. But the key to the movie was the music. The songs and music stuck with us long after having watched the movie. Some of the themes in the movie are adult, so some caution needs to be taken with children. Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable movie and was a lot of fun to watch!


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Soon!

I will have to be just content to drool on the sidelines when the iPhone comes out tomorrow, and just learn to be content with my do nothing Blackberry. :-)

(HT: Chris Elrod)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Church's Singular Purpose


"The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose." -
C.S. Lewis


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Information Overload


This is in my stack of stuff that shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week. I end up filing so much of this stuff away and I never have the ability to comment on it within the blog. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading.

Lifechurch.tv is just about to launch what looks like a cool bible Web2.0 app called YOU Version
Here is the buzz: YOU Version is a revolutionary online Bible that enables community and collaboration like never before. Choose from various translations and read Scripture in a fresh, new way. Take personal study notes, and discover and contribute audio, video, text and images. With YouVersion, you will find communities of people exploring and interacting with God's Word.

This is a repeat from last week, but don't forget that today and tomorrow, Desiring God online store will be selling every book for $5. No limits, so spread the word. (This sale is online only.)

This is important to know as a parent, but the 5-second rule, that old standby of nutrition, is off by at least five times, according to student researchers at Connecticut College.

What would happen if Christian's tithed more? Read this.

Do you love Ferris Bueller or the Breakfast Club? The 80's Movie Rewind is a comprehensive online resources for info, pictures, trivia, soundtrack details, trailers, filming locations and much, much more.

Cool Resource for you theology types, -Kingdom Prologue - by Meredith Kline (PDF format; free online book) A free electronic copy of Meredith Kline's Kingdom Prologue, a massive biblical-theological study of the book of Genesis.

Read about how a Death-Row inmate, wants to go out laughing, very bizarre.

Quantum theory for dummies: In First Things, physicist Stephen Barr makes quantum theory just a bit more understandable.

Before you go to a Hallmark store read about how Dr. Al Mohler says that greeting cards are a barometer of social breakdown.

What's your blog rated?

Say What? "I am both Muslim and Christian" The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding is practicing two religions she says are compatible at the most basic level, but many religious scholars insist the two are mutually exclusive.

Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkies Deconstructed, traveled the world to find out what exactly goes into a Twinkie.

Do you live in one of the top 50 most expensive cities? Find out.

10 Reasons to Drink more Water, Read Here.

Stump the Chump, Trick questions for your PASTOR! (don't use these on ME! :-) )

REALITY CHECK! The things that money can't buy!


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The difference between a dead and live church

This is from Todd Rhoades at MondayMorningInsight quoting Pastor John Atkinson from Bay Area Fellowship
I ran across a quote today from “A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.” It was one of the most profound answers I’ve ever heard for those who criticize how much is spent to keep a church growing, healthy, and life changing.

On June 2, 1980 a little girl was born. She cost money from the moment she was born. As she grew from babyhood to girlhood, she cost even more. Her dresses and shoes were more expensive as well as the doctors for all those childhood diseases. She was even more expensive during her school and teen years. She needed long dresses to go to parties. When she went to college, it was discovered that all college expenses are not listed in the catalog. Then after graduation she fell in love and married. She had a church wedding, and that too, cost a lot of money. Then, five months after her marriage she suddenly sickened and within a week she was dead. She has not cost a penny since the day the parents walked away from her grave. As long as the church is alive she will cost money, and the more alive a church is, the more money she will cost. Only a dead church is no longer expensive! Think about this next time you criticize a church who you think is spending too much on, fill in the blank.

-Pastor John

At times, people ask the leadership of the church, why are you spending money on that? I know personally about this kind of push back. Big Creek Church has even received some sincere and honest questions while we've been in the middle of building a permanent facility.

I understand the concerns of the church building just another building. Too often the church spends all this money on ourselves, at the neglect of impacting our community and culture with the transforming power of the gospel. I addressed some of those concerns in a previous post, HERE.

The issue is not that we spend money, but how? Resources need to be used, but how are we leveraging them? Are we investing in Kingdom building projects? Is the money we spend transforming lives? Is all the money we are investing in the church, impacting the culture around us?

The building is to be a tool. Money to build a building is a means and a tool. It is to be used to accomplish the vision and purpose God has given to Big Creek Church. We want to use all that God has entrusted to us, to Build Community for the Community!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Communion Meditations


I apologize, I forgot to put these up from Sunday:

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

These are this Sunday's communion meditations.



Prov 22:29 (NIV) Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will serve before kings;
he will not serve before obscure men.

Work is brutal. Work is a four-letter word. Most people don't think that work could possibly have anything to do with spirituality.…They assume that these two worlds cannot mesh. But if we bring our souls to work, then we can transform our work. That is when our work can begin to transform us. The problem for most people is that their work transforms them into something bad, something bitter and tired and broken. As seen in Terry Mattingly's Washington Bureau religion column, "Spirituality in the Workplace?" (11-20-02)

Eph. 2:10 (NIV) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Choose that employment or calling in which you may be most serviceable to God. Choose not that in which you may be most rich or honorable in the world; but that in which you may do most good, and best escape sinning. Richard Baxter

Worship is the full commitment of one's life to God. But we have made our work the primary dimension of our lives, so it is little wonder that we experience worship as little more than an occasional pious exercise.... We worship our work. We work at our play. And we play at our worship. Gordon Dahl, "Work, Play and Worship in a Leisure-Oriented Society,"

Psalm 111:1 (NASB) Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all [my] heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the Lord; [They are] studied by all who delight in them.
3 Splendid and majestic is His work; And His righteousness endures forever.
4 He has made His wonders to be remembered; The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever.
6 He has made known to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations.
7 The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are sure.
8 They are upheld forever and ever; They are performed in truth and uprightness.
9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do [His commandments]; His praise endures forever.


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What's the Big Idea?


Late this morning, I had the opportunity to participate in a Webinar to hear from Dave Ferguson, Eric Bramlett, and Jon Ferguson of Community Christian Church talk about their book, The Big Idea.

Their book is about communicating with focus and effectiveness. It is the importance of communicating one Big Idea rather than a lot of little ideas.

Here are a couple of my Big take aways.

- Information isn't bad, but too much information leads to less clarity and less action. Too much information paralyzes people. Too often we throw so much information at people, it is like trying to take a sip from a fire hydrant.

- The key is that we want a community of TRANSFORMATION not just information.

- Any given Sunday, a person can walk away with over 20 separate messages, that doesn't include children and family.

- Great preachers will tell us that a preacher can only effectively communicate one big idea (purpose statement) in their sermon. Too many ideas leave people confused and overwhelmed.

- The ability to communicate a clear and focused Big Idea, means planning. It means planning well enough in advance.

- Communicating the Big Idea isn't just theming a worship service, it is carrying the Big Idea throughout the whole of church. Taking it into the small groups, Children's ministry and youth. The intention is to permeate the church with the Big Idea.

- Planning and focus bring greater freedom and effectiveness for the staff.

What does this mean for Big Creek?

- We do a good job at mapping out our sermon series a year in advance. But what we don't leverage is taking that topic roadmap and using it for advance Sunday service planning. We are currently only out 1 week in advance with our Sunday planning. Being only out 1 week ahead, limits our ability to integrate effective creative elements and permeate the Big Idea through the whole of the church.

- It means also thinking, planning and being intentional with that Big Idea in all facets of ministry. I think the concept of the Big Idea dovetails nicely with our current discussion with Simple Church. Simple Church is about focus and bringing the whole church under a clear and focused alignment. When we begin to operate with a clear and simple focus, implementing the Big Idea becomes easier.

- Bottom line for us. We need to continue to move forward in the discipline of long-term planning. This discipline will allow us to be more strategic, intentional and focused in communicating the most important Big Idea. And once we are Simple and clear on who Big Creek is, that will make it all the more clearer, what our Big Ideas should be.

A shout out to my brother

I am so proud of my little brah (that's bro in Hawaii)

Rick's cake just got featured in People Magazine's Wedding Edition.

His cake was the Hawaiian cake in the "cakes from every state" feature.

See Here!

The print edition is on newsstands NOW!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Feeling Punchy on Monday night

Ok, I am feeling a little punchy tonight...here is some bad Christian humor (if you can call it that!).

Christian Pick up lines that no one should ever, ever use!

"Just looking at you makes me feel all ecumenical inside."

"I've prayed about it and God wants you to go out with me."

"Has anyone ever told you, your eyes are like doves and your neck like the tower of David?"

"My body is a Temple, feel free to worship."

















(HT Buzzard Blog for the picture)


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Saturday, June 23, 2007

A face only a mother could love

Friday, June 22, 2007

Information Overload


Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I come across and I feel the need to share the good stuff with you. Sorry this is a little late, I usually like to put this out on Wednesdays, but I have been a little jammed up. This is in my stack of stuff that shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week. I end up filing so much of this stuff away and I never have the ability to comment on it within the blog. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading.


What a steal! Every book in the Desiring God online store will be $5 on June 27-28, Wednesday and Thursday next week. No limits, so spread the word. (This sale is online only.)

The History and Theology of Calvinism by Dr. Curt Daniel, available free of charge as mp3 or pdf files.

BibleMapper is a really interesting program "that helps you quickly and easily create customized maps of the Holy Lands or study a particular period and aspect of Bible history." It is available for free.

A Memphis church sees Jesus in one of their trees. Hmmm.

Read why San Antonio business owners don't like it when the Baptist Convention is in town?

Discontinued Ben & Jerry's Flavor or Band I Found On MySpace? Take the quiz.

I found this hard to believe, but according to Ray, 58% of Americans do not read a single book after finishing high school.

How do Americans use water? An interesting chart tells you.

Jake Tipton is selling "R is for Reformed" t-shirts. Get em while you can.

Cistine Chapel gets a modern update.

Read this piece which reports that "stressed out" people are more likely to develop memory loss and Alzheimer's

Graph of US Presidential approval ratings since 1946 Although, Bush's ratings are low, he hasn’t reached the unpopularity level of Truman, Nixon, or Carter.

Every pastor should resign!

Grocery prices on the rise, find out the details from Consumer Reports.

The Best Online Research Apps/Sites You've Never Heard About

Also, some interesting facts about Sushi, things you probably didn't know.

Read about planned celebrations for John Calvin's 500th.


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I would like this new job title!

Pastor-Comedian.

You think that I am making this up. Cavman posted this on this site and I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own two eyes.

A church is looking to hire a Pastor-Comedian
Developing new age church. The idea is to use humor and comedy to bring people to Christ. With the right Pastor we plan on becoming a rapidly growing mega church soon. Would like to work with new Pastor to come up with new ideas, so please share what God has put on your heart.



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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kids Say the Darndest Things


At church, one of my daughters was studying and discussing Matthew 10:32-39 in her Middle School youth group.

As an illustration of Jesus' words from Matthew, the quote from Martin Luther was introduced as part of the discussion, "....Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen." - Martin Luther.

Last evening I was chatting with my daughter on what she was learning. The conversation went something like this.

Dad - "What did you talk about this evening?"

Daughter - "I don't know?"

Dad - "You guys must have talked about something."

Daughter - "We learned about Martin Luther King"

Dad - "Hmm, you mean the black civil rights leader?"

Daughter - "No"

Dad - "You mean Martin Luther, the German guy who was part of the Reformation?"

Daughter - "Yes, that's it - the guy who died"

Dad - "Yes, he is dead"

Daughter - "Yeah, he died of worms."

Dad - "Hmm, I think you are talking about the Diet of Worms."

- And the conversation took off from there. Lord give me strength! :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Evan Almighty is opening this Friday


Evan Almighty hasn't opened yet in the theaters and yet is has already created quite a stir, especially in the internet world.

New York Magazine's online Devouring Culture - "Vulture" section picks up on some of the buzz and controversy in their post, "Can Jesus Save Steve Carell".

What is truly fascinating about this online article is that "yours truly" has his Evan Almighty review quoted in the piece. Forgive me if that sounds like shameless, self-promotion but when I saw that New York Mag online picked up on my review, I ran around the office like Steve Martin in the movie the "Jerk", yelling, "I'm published, I'm published!" Ok, I am not that pathetic!

You can read the entire piece here.


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A couple of new blogs

There are a couple of new blogs in the blogosphere that I am excited about:

Bil Cornelius has started blogging. I read his book, Go Big, and I appreciate his innovative and enthuastic heart for Jesus. I have this one going in my Google Reader.

Also, 9Marks has just started a blog. 9Marks is a ministry started by Mark Dever. I have appreciated this ministry and their wealth of resources.




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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Painful Church Experience

I think that this is a worthwhile project and so I am passing this on from

"Barb Orlowski is doing a Doctor of Ministry degree, and her research deals with how people have recovered after a painful church experience.

I think this is an excellent area for research, and I'm looking forward to reading her completed thesis in the future. However, before she can complete her research she needs people like you and I to fill out questionnaires that communicate our experience.

There are two questionnaires, one includes questions relating to the painful church experience and recovery; the second includes questions for pastors who have sought to help people in recovery.

All responses will be kept confidential."

Thanks to those who participate. You can contact Barb directly via EMAIL to participate in this research.


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STOP IT!

I am not sure this would work as a pastoral counseling technique.




(HT: MMI)



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Thanks to all who comment!

I just wanted to say Thank You to all of you that not only read this blog but also comment on it.

I have been reading lately some of my favorite blogs, and some the bloggers recently have had to shut down their comment section because of the outlandish, hostile, mean-spirited and inane comments that they receive.

You all leave comments that are not only generous and kind, but also thoughtful and charitable when you may disagree. That's cool, I don't expect you to agree with everything I post. In fact there are times that I don't even agree with myself (no I am not schizophrenic - just that my opinions do evolve and change occasionally). Healthy discussion and disagreement makes for interesting and provoking conversation, because of course this blog is called - "Provocative Church".

Thank you again!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Psalm 46:10

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

Being still is one of the most difficult things for me. Monday's are especially hard to be still. Monday's are full of meetings. It is the time to prepare and get ready for the week ahead. Also, it is a day to evaluate and look back on what happened yesterday at the Sunday worship service.

Monday's are busy! (of course it could be argued that every day has the potential to be BUSY!)

It is at these times of the most busyness, that I need to be the most still.

Being still means,

Being willing to be silent, pause and listen.
Being willing to slow down and reflect.
Being aware of His presence throughout the day.
Being continuous in my conversation with Him.

Lord help me to be still and to make you Lord over my day. Lord guard me from the tyranny of the urgent and the busyness that pulls my heart astray from you.


Loneliness can kill you


Found this interesting excerpt from Hungry and Thirsty yesterday.

A recent article from the Harvard Medical School says:



Loneliness actually stresses the heart and the entire cardiovascular system, and may harm them as much as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. What helps the heart and blood vessels thrive are social connections, intimacy, and love.

Many of us don’t get enough of these. The average American has just one or two people he or she can talk with about important subjects, and a whopping one-quarter have no one, according to a nationwide survey published in the June 2006 American Sociological Review. As many as 20% Americans classify themselves as lonely.

Meanwhile, heart attack survivors scoring high on tests of social isolation and stress were four times more likely to die during the three years after their attacks than those with dense social networks and little stress. Older people with little or no emotional support who were hospitalized with heart failure had triple the risk of having a heart attack or dying in the next year as those with good support. Blood pressure averaged 30 points higher among lonely people than among those who weren’t lonely. Men preparing for bypass surgery who agreed with the statement “I am lonely” were twice as likely to have died within five years of surgery as those who weren’t lonely.
Does this surprise you? Of course I don't need a scientific study to confirm to me that we are created for community and that it is healthy for our body and our soul. We are created to be in community. After all we are created in the image of God, and within Himself is perfect community. (Gen. 1:26) We reflect His creation, therefore we are hard-wired to flourish, grow and live within community. (Gen. 2:18)

Too often, though, we treat community, especially Christian community, as either optional, disposable or as an inconvenience. We treat the body of Christ like a product to be consumed rather than family to belong.

Yes it is true that in our broken and battered world, community can and is messy. We hurt and ding one another all the time. But the necessity of being with others is essential to our life.

Jesus said to have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) The original Greek has many different meanings and nuances for the same word. For the word "life" there is the word "bios" (meaning mere existence), where we get the word biology, but a richer word is "zoe", it means flamboyant, passionate life. That is the kind of life that God is promising us.

Zoe comes from Christ and it is experienced as we are united with Him. But also, zoe comes from being united with one another in the same Spirit. Zoe comes from real, Spirit-led, authentic Christian community. We need community. We need each other.

Heed the admonition of the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:24,25)

Don't discard community. Don't ignore fellowship. Don't pass by the opportunity to be with His people.

Because loneliness can kill you.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

We are hooked! - Man vs Wild

It is always a good thing to find a show that the whole family can watch.

" Man vs Wild "

This show is on the Discovery channel. It is about a guy who gets dropped in survival situations and has to make it out alive. We saw an episode where he has to get out of the Everglades, and now we are watching an episode where he is marooned on a deserted island.

This show is so freak'n cool! I have learned how to climb a palm tree, eat a turtle and cross a river with alligators.

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Communion Meditations

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

These are this Sunday's communion meditations.

Psalm 79:8 (NIV) Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers;may your mercy come quickly to meet us,for we are in desperate need.9 Help us, O God our Savior,for the glory of your name;deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake.

Malachi 4:6 (NIV) He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

Luke 11:11 (NIV) "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Hebrews 12:9 (NIV) Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Living the Champagne lifestyle...

...on a beer budget!

Last weekend I got to take out my beautiful bride to a fine-dining restaurant (where the bill was over $100 not incl. tip for just two people!) and tonight I get to date my wife again and take her out to one of our favorite steak houses. Here is the kicker - ALL for FREE. My favorite four-letter word.

How?

We are mystery shoppers. We have been mystery shopping ever since our kids were little.

Mystery shopping for us has been fun and it allows us to do new and interesting things, and because you get reimbursed for your evaluation - it doesn't hurt the budget.

Over the years, we have done restaurants, movie theatres, bowling and even Disney World!

If you ever want to get started with this, the best place I know to start is goto to Volition.com and they are a list of all the mystery shopping companies. Most of the work is at the beginning with having to sign up with a lot these companies.

Enjoy and Bon-Appetit!

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Deep Thoughts

How about a little humor for this Friday? No matter how often I see and watch these, they always crack me up.

Deep Thoughts

by Jack Handy


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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ruth Graham dies at 87

Having asked you yesterday to pray for Ruth Graham and her family, I just heard minutes ago that Ruth Graham has gone to be with the Lord.

Ruth Graham, who surrendered dreams of missionary work in Tibet to marry a suitor who became the world's most renowned evangelist, died today, Thursday, June 14th. She was 87. Graham died at 5:05 p.m. at her home at Little Piney Cove, surrounded by her husband and all five children.

Read Ann Graham Lotz's statement regarding her mother's death

Visit the official memorial website of Ruth Graham



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The One Key to Leading Volunteers

Big Creek Church is a volunteer organization. Every church is for that matter. Yes of course there are paid staff at Big Creek, but most of what happens on Sunday and throughout the week is because men and women, boys and girls are stepping up and stepping into opportunities to serve. Leading and operating within a volunteer world is different than any business situation. There is no paycheck (although read my post called Vision is the Paycheck) as an incentive. So how do we lead volunteers? How do we lead those on our Ministry Team? How do I train and lead my Life Group apprentice?

Here is what John Atkinson from Bay Area Fellowship has to say about this.

...In my humble opinion, the answer to leading a volunteer organization is love. The key is loving your volunteers so much that they feel honored and blessed to be a part of your team. This isn't manufactured love that comes from a slap on the back or a nice word now and then, this has to be real love, the kind that can't be faked or manufactured. This has to be real love, the kind Jesus has for us....
(HT: John Atkinson)

I would agree with John wholeheartedly. There is no substitute for love. First, I think people need to captivated by the love of Jesus. The Gospel has to reside, deep down in the soul. And then people need to know that their leadership loves them. I am not talking about some love manufactured to manipulate. But you need to know that I, Jon, the staff and the ministry team leaders genuinely care about you.

But how does love manifest itself in our leadership?

When I love in my leadership, my goal and agenda is for You to shine and flourish. You are not to make me look good, I am here to make you shine like a star.

When I love in my leadership, you are not a tool that I use to accomplish my goals, but rather you are a person that I want to see developed, trained and coached.

When I love in my leadership, I care not about only what you are accomplishing within your ministry responsibility, I care about your life, family and walk with Jesus.

When I love in my leadership, I don't micro-manage the process. YOU become empowered. The accountability comes in measuring the desired outcomes of your ministry responsibility.

When I love in my leadership, you are empowered to love others that you lead. It becomes contagious.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Information Overload




Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I come across and I feel the need to share the good stuff with you. This is in my stack of stuff that shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week. I end up filing so much of this stuff away and I never have the ability to comment on it within the blog. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading.

Watch as God shows his disfavor of Guliani's position on abortion from the recent debate. The timing of this lightning strike is eerie.

I heard Nancy Leigh DeMoss at our Campus Crusade staff conference in 1995. I appreciate her life and ministry. You don't want to miss, the GirlTalkers have completed a multi-part interview with Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4

N.T. Wright writes: We are not saved BY good works, we are saved FOR good works

Read here about how the role faith is playing in the 2008 Presidential elections.

"Christianity Today" has an interesting slideshow that "shows hymnals from around the world, from a medieval codex to a not-yet-written Ghanian composition."

Browse this collection of the top 25 movie soundtracks.

And if you don't mind wasting a lot of time you can visit this site that has complete, TV shows, movies, and cartoons.

Read this interesting post and thoughts about the place of reading in the pastoral ministry.

What socioeconomic class do you fall under? I think you will be surprised, as I found out that I am in the 85th percentile. Take this test by the New York Times on "How Class Works" to find out for yourself.

This is a very sobering fact about the future of Europe. By next year it is likely that Mohammed will be the most popular boys name in Britain.

100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know, by the folks who brought you the American Heritage Dictionaries. How many of these do you know?

Over at Slate, David Plotz has finished his year-long challenge to blog his way through the entire Old Testament. It's the Bible as seen through the eyes of somebody reading it for the first time, with the mixture of confusion, appreciation, and insight you might expect.

Read this Psychology Today article about suburban teens and their relative propensity for depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Interesting post at The Culture Beat about college student plagiarism and cheating, and whether or not Christian colleges are better equipped to curb it.

When I preached a couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the biblical story behind the text. To be able to do this, it becomes necessary to know the customs, traditions, economics, politics, and religion(s) of the day. Follow the Rabbi has a wealth of easily accessible and practical information and teaching points. I go to this site regularly.

John Beckman has begun a website with helpful free resources for studying the languages of the Bible.

Here is a Virtual Tour of Dante's Inferno



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Pray for Ruth Bell Graham

And pray for her family.

Sad news from Montreat, North Carolina today: Ruth Graham in coma, reportedly near death:

Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, is reported to be critically ill and near death. A. Larry Ross, longtime spokesman for Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said at 12:40 p.m. today that Ruth Graham slipped into a coma this morning. She was treated for pneumonia two weeks ago and rallied, but her condition has deteriorated.
The Billy Graham Evangelical Association (BGEA) issued a statement from Billy Graham earlier today regarding the burial site for himself and his wife:
Earlier this spring, after much prayer and discussion, Ruth and I made the decision to be buried beside each other at the Billy Graham Library in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. We have held this decision privately and only decided to announce it now that she is close to going home to Heaven. Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side. I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College. Ruth and I appreciate, more than we can express, the prayers and letters of encouragement we have received from people across the country and around the world. Our entire family has been home in recent days and it has meant so much to have them at our side during this time. We love each one of them dearly and thank God for them.
What an encouraging example of a man's love for his wife. Keep them in your prayers.

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You are worth $215,000!



What is the price or value of a soul? $215,000. That’s the price that Wal-mart has put on each of their customers. Wal-mart has done extensive research into their business. If, for example, you go into your local Wal-mart store and get bad service; can’t find what you need; have to wait in the checkout line too long; or anything else that really makes you upset, Wal-mart knows that they have a lot to lose. In fact, they’ve calculated the value of what you're worth to them. If you get mad at Wal-mart and never return, you have just cost the company (on average) $215,000. That’s how much sales they have figured they will lose from the average customer over their lifetime if they don’t come back...

(HT: MMI)


Now I know that it easy to argue that people are more than the sum total of their buying power. People matter to God. Each person matters to God and therefore they should matter to us, the church. That is why it is even more important we value and treat each person around us as "priceless".

Here are a couple of implications for us:

Every person that walks through the doors of Big Creek Church matters to God. Everything we do and every way we serve is designed to communicate that people matter. Our First Impressions team is designed to welcome and care for our first time guests. Our children's ministry is designed to care, teach and train the next generation. a parent's priceless possession. The Worship and Art's team is to create an environment that prepares and welcomes the heart and soul into worship of our great and majestic King. What happens on Sunday morning is important. That includes every facet and every detail.

Another implication is that every person that we encounter on our child's soccer team, in the coffee shop, the cashier in the grocery store, our neighbor...they matter to God. Jesus came to rescue the least, the last and the lost. How are we as a church and a people of God reaching out into our community? Lauren and I desire to have an impact in our community. We understand that it is hard and often times very difficult to do so. But we must remember that our church doesn't exist for ourselves. We exist to make a impact in the community we live. We are called to love and serve our neighbors and go into the community. People need to hear and trust in Jesus. Do you believe that? I mean, really believe that!?

Wal-Mart doesn't have anything on the church. Wal-Mart is in the business of selling junk, half of which will end up in the $0.25 bin at the next yard sale. Christ's church is in the business of bringing hope and healing to broken and lost people. People matter to God. How much are you worth? More than you could ever imagine!


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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What would Jesus say to Paris Hilton?


I know that some news programs have tried to make their show "Paris" free zones. But I felt it necessary to comment briefly on Paris Hilton on my blog today.

Most people would agree that Paris Hilton is over-covered, over-hyped and over-exposed. She is the most famous person known in the world for doing nothing of real substance to earn or merit that fame. She has been revered by some. Scorned, mocked and sneered by many others.

Over the past weeks you and I have seen and heard the coverage of this Pop-culture icon. The coverage and attention she garners is motivated by a certain voyeuristic curiosity with a mega-dose of schadenfreude.

But as other have taken delight in her recent misfortunes, my heart has broken over a person who seems lost and lonely.

The press has had a field day reporting that Paris has been seen sporting a Bible around town in the weeks and days leading up to the eventual incarceration.

Also, another news account said that prison will be especially hard for Paris, because she is not used to being alone. In prison Paris will have 23 hours of stillness and quiet. The only person that will be in the room with her is her. And yet Paris' life is filled with clamor, glamor, chatter, noise and sycophants that distract and divert her from any meaningful introspection. This will be an opportunity for God to speak into her life and for her to allow Him to be heard.

What would Jesus say to Paris Hilton? I think that He would say...
Dear one, I love you and you were created for so much more. You are not the sum total of your parent's money, the photographer's cameras, the drugs, alcohol, parties and meaningless sexual encounters. You were created for so much more. You feel great hurt and hopelessness right now. In fact you have been covering up and running away from your hurts, loneliness and pain your entire life.

I am here. I have always been here. I have come to rescue you. I have come not to merely rescue your soul, but to rescue your life. The whole of your life can find wholeness where there is now brokenness, healing where there is now hurt, hope where there is now despair, acceptance where now you feel discarded, real-life where there now is emptiness.

Come to me, as I draw near to you, remember, no pit is so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.

Pray for Paris Hilton. Pray that she comes to know the deep and lasting love of her heavenly Father.


The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. - Psalm 145:9



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