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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Christmas in July

Steve McCoy just posted two new Tim Keller sermons. This will make for some good evening listening. (HT:Reformissionary)

These are the two new Tim Keller sermons preached at St. George's-Tron Church in Glasgow.

The Prodigal Sons
Jesus, the Church, and the City


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5 Ways to Spark Creativity


I have been reading some discussions recently about originality in the church. The question has been raised, is it cool to take ideas from other churches? I think that people who say NO, they perhaps don't understand what creativity and innovation is all about and where ideas come from.


How does a pastor or ministry leader cultivate creativity?

1. Understand that creativity doesn't come from creating something out of nothing. Only God creates "ex-nihilo" something from nothing! :-) Often creativity comes from making NEW ASSOCIATIONS. It is about connecting two independent things in a new and fresh way. Creativity comes from applying ideas from other contexts and finding new ways to associate them into your context. Creativity comes from borrowing. For example, I am always borrowing ideas from culture, and making new associations within our context here at Big Creek. That's what my sermon series MythBusters was all about, you realize of course I stole the idea from a T.V. show? :-)

2. Fill the well. You got to be pouring fresh stuff in your life. I am a gatherer type person. I am always reading and talking to others. We should be willing to borrow from others. Reading blogs through RSS feeds, exposes me to ideas from people around the world. For instance, we are trying to decode how to be missional in our suburban context, and there are men and women who are thinking through the same stuff, and I am learning from their learnings, and being provoked by the questions that they are asking.

3. Cross-training. Learn and read and study other disciplines. Often the best ideas come from adapting ideas from other places and professions. You got to get out of the church ghetto! You need to find ways that ideas in the marketplace translate into the church context. That is why books like Good to Great by Jim Collins have been so highly thought of within the church. I often expand my reading to history, business, biography and current affair books. I also try to tap into the wealth of expertise that our professionals have here at Big Creek. Their professional experience makes them one of the best resources to help us innovate.

4. Don't ask limiting questions. Too often we are asking questions that by the very nature of the question puts parameters around the kind of answer we are going to get. For instance, the question might be, "How can we help students grow deeper in their walk with God at our mid-week Wednesday high school large group"? Within that question is the assumption that we should have a large group of students meeting weekly. And within the question we are assuming that only within the large group can effective growth and life change happen.
Are large youth groups the right avenue to help teenagers to grow in their faith? Should we even have them at all? Listen, I am not here to draw any conclusions. But if you are going to be creative, you have go to be WILLING to ask those questions. Don't let the kind of question you ask, box in your answer!

5. Be willing to risk. You gotta to be willing to risk and risk failing. If your church isn't a risk culture, you are going to be conservative and cautious in what you are willing to create and try. Failures are some of the greatest tutors and learning opportunities. Be willing to risk and risk Big!


When someone asked Spurgeon why within his sermons he preached other's ideas, he quickly retorted. "I am like farmer Smith's cow. I graze in others people's pastures, but just like farmer Smith's cow, you can count on the milk that you get being mine."(1) We need to be willing to graze in all the pastures out there - other churches, the culture, other professions. But at the end of the day, our creative ideas will reflect who we are, who our church is and our unique culture and ministry context.



(1) I remember hearing this quote attributed to Spurgeon and it has always stuck with me, but for this post - I tried to find it's reference, but I had NO success. Do I have it correct? Did Spurgeon say this?


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Monday, July 30, 2007

Dale Jarrett Experience

These just in, pics from my buddy Matt's B-day on Sunday afternoon.

He got to ride shotgun, in the Interstate Battery car at Atlanta Motor Speedway as part of the Dale Jarrett Experience.

Matt got such a rush being in a car going 165 mph! It was cool just watching him.

see all the pics HERE!

Strategic Orienteering

Our staff and ministry team leaders spent all day Saturday with Richard and Jeremie from Injoy

This is not the Injoy you are probably familiar with. Yes, it is the Injoy with John Maxwell. But it has gone through some major changes and shifts of late. Jeremie and his partners from a group called, Giant Impact, acquired Injoy and their brands this year. And they are breathing some fresh vision and change into the ministry.

Jeremie and his organization, Giant Impact, work with Fortune 500 companies on how what they call Strategic Orienteering. It is a process to help us re-capture who and what God created Big Creek to be and then to help us determine the decision making filters that will help us move forward in how God has created us.

Too often churches are all over the map. They try to be the one-stop shop for everyone who comes through the door. Churches can be torn in a dozen different ways, they can become schizophrenic.

We are still processing our work product from the day, but suffice it to say, this was one of the best investments of our time. And we are walking out from this Strategic Orienteering not just with a lot of hand holding and good intentions, but rather with a renewed and recaptured vision of who we are, as well as some key and strategic tools that are going to keep us focused on who and what God created Big Creek to be and enabling us to do it with excellence.


A Treasure in the Darkness













This is the second sermon in my MythBusters series


powered by ODEO


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Further Resources from the Sermon

Here are some further resources from my sermon today.

Articles:

Sin, Death, and Grief by Burk Parsons
A Grief Observed by R.C. Sproul
From Grief to Glory by Jim Coffield
Mourn with Those Who Mourn by Archie Parrish
Good Grief? by Anthony Carter
True Shepherding by Joel R. Beeke
Hope by R.C. Sproul Jr.
A Tale of Two Funerals by Gene Edward Veith

Books:

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada
A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff

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.

The edges of God are tragedy. The depths of God are joy, beauty, resurrection, life. Resurrection answers crucifixion, life answers death.
- Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki


It is said of God that no one can behold his face and live. I always thought this meant that no one could see his splendor and live. A friend said perhaps it means that no one could see his sorrow and live. Or perhaps his sorrow is his splendor.
- Nicholas Wolterstorff


Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.
- Frederick Buechner


"Time heals," people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression "time heals" means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. "Time heals" implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Henri Nouwen


The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah as “a man of sorrows.” We see the man of sorrows when He weeps at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus didn’t weep because He was helpless to prevent Lazarus’ death or because He didn’t know what to do now that his friend was dead. At one level, Jesus’ weeping reassures us that God doesn’t keep Himself at a safe emotional distance from the sorrows we experience. His heart is bound up with us. He is moved with compassion. He knows how the story will ultimately end. But He enters into our sorrows now and He weeps with us.
- Carolyn Custis James

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Christian Martyr serves others

The Taliban in Afghanistan has killed one of their twenty-three South Korean, Christian hostages, a 42-year-old pastor named Bae Hyung-kyu. This man and the others were in Afghanistan to do relief work. The other hostages may become martyrs as well.

As Bernard Lewis has pointed out, in Christianity, a martyr is one who is killed on account of one's profession of faith and one's refusal to recant under pressure. In Islam (represented by the Taliban) a martyr is typically one who dies in a jihad. The difference reveals a titanic split in the two worldviews.

Pastor Hyung-ku was in Afghanistan to serve Christ by serving others. What he did, he did in the name of the God of the Bible. For that, he was executed. He joins the legion of martyrs, those who did not love their lives unto death, but who will receive the crown of life from the King of Kings.
(HT: The Constructive Curmudgeon)

The difference in martyrdom between Islam and Christianity is striking. As followers of Jesus we are called not to kill ourselves but rather die to self. It means boldly going in love to show people Jesus. It means willing to risk our reputation, our comfort and even if our lives (if it were to be demanded of us). When I read this story of Pastor Hyung-kyu it reminds me of God's calling on my life, by His power, to give myself away to my King, my family, my church, and to my community.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Simpsonize Me

I am looking forward to the upcoming Simpson Movie.

You can get a Simpson look alike from your photo here:

This is me! Pretty close?




















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Too much noise!





Do you hate noise? I think that we all do. It keeps me awake, it makes it impossible to concentrate and it gives me a headache.




One of the biggest reasons people move out of the cities and into the suburbs is to escape the noise. But some scientists and researchers are beginning to rethink the premise that only the cities are noisy. This is from the New York Times,

Acoustical engineers have found that suburbia is nearly as noisy as urban centers:

Their findings, delivered on June 8 in Salt Lake City at the 153rd biannual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, indicate that the noise level in the average suburb is approaching the noise level in the average city. “The level of noise in the urban and rural areas we tested remained pretty consistent with the 1970 E.P.A. figures” — about 59 decibels in the city and 43 in the country, Mr. Szymanski said. But in the suburbs, the average ambient noise level was 56 decibels — a whisper less than the average noise level in the average city, and 7 decibels higher than it was in 1970. According to a Census Bureau survey, noise is the #1 "neighborhood complaint," ahead of crime, odors and poor public services.

Although, this report is only focused on the sounds that fill the air, I think that there are other "noises" that permeate all around us.

The culture that you and I live in is filled with noise. And yet these noises are more subtle. They don't jar you out of bed in the middle of the night. They don't cause you to cover your ears. They are the noises of busyness, entertainment, pursuit of wealth and pleasure.

These noises distract us. They can anesthetize us to the realities around us.

This Sunday, I am preaching on the second myth that we often buy into, the myth of comfort. Somehow we think that our lives should be pain free. It is a myth that thinks that, as Christians, we shouldn't have any discomfort, loss or grief.

What often happens is that we use the noises around us to buffet and protect ourselves from the pains. We allow our busyness to numb us to the hurts. We distract ourselves with pleasure from movies, the internet and music to drown out the relational brokenness, pain and loss. We allow ourselves to run from one activity to another, so that we don't have the time to think or feel.

C.S. Lewis said that pain and loss are God's megaphone. God uses pain and loss to penetrate through all the noise in order to get our attention and to get hold of our heart.

Pink Floyd performed a song called, "Comfortably Numb". That is often how we choose to pursue living our lives. But rather, God wants to conform and transform us into the image of His Son and He will use whatever means it takes to penetrate the "noise".

This Sunday, we are going to look at pain and loss and how the Gospel gives us real and lasting hope and comfort.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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. Here is some of that stuff, this week is a little lighter than previous weeks.

Take this exam to determine how well you know U.S. History, Can you name all 43 US Presidents?

Read here about the The Seven Habits of Persuasive Speakers

Plans are underway in Nazareth to build the world's largest cross.

Who are the Top 30 Wealthiest Americans Ever?

Nine super powers made real by modern technology. Now I don't have to get bitten by a radioactive spider!

A team of Canadians have solved the game of checkers. Where's the fun in playing a game that has been solved?

1,997 different ways to use WD-40 around the house

Desiring God has created a Facebook group for those attending this year's Desiring God National Conference, they also created two channels for their YouTube videos-one for Desiring God Conferences and the other for Don't Waste Your Life.

God’s Top 5 Practical Jokes on Women

Good news from the National Center for Health Statistics, from 1991 to 2005:
* the percentage of teens that have had sexual intercourse decreased from 54% to 47%
* the teen birth rate decreased from 39 births per 1,000 young women (ages 15-17) to 21 births per 1,000 teen girls, which is a record low

Certainly, teens having sex and getting pregnant is still a major problem. It is still an issue that youth groups will always have to address, but it is very encouraging to see the trend changing towards a positive direction. [HT: Yahoo! News]

"One injury can ruin an athlete's career or a team's season. So it just smarts that much more when they hurt themselves in a ridiculous way. Take the quiz and see if you can match the athlete to their bizarre injury."

These are the 100 Best Reviewed Sci-Fi Movies How many of these have you seen?


SUBSCRIBE to PROVOCATIVE CHURCH and get Information Overload in your inbox every week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Jonathan Edwards and Harry Potter

This is a good article about how, as Christians, we need to neither ignore nor capitulate to our culture.
What Would Jonathan Edwards Say About Harry Potter?

So there we have it. The most engrossing imaginative world created at the start of the 21st century is essentially pagan. Don't get me wrong—I like the Harry Potter series. I've read all of the books. And I'm sure Jonathan Edwards would have done so, too.
(HT:Christianity Today)


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He is a Ginormous God!


For some of you wordsmiths, this is interesting news...
The adjective "ginormous" (now officially defined as "extremely large: humongous", it is a combination of the two words, "gigantic" and "enormous"), has just this year won a legitimate place in the latest update of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary.
(HT: Nothing New Under the Sun )

I like this word. It is the idea of "enormous" on steroids. God is ginormous! Of course, you won't find any translation of the Bible using the word "ginormous", but we are able to see clearly the ginormous splendor and majesty of God throughout His Word.

I was reading Job this morning,
Out of the north he comes in golden splendor;
God comes in awesome majesty.
The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power;
in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
Job 37:22-23

And then as I read on into chapters, 38-40, God reminds Job, as well as myself, of just how awesome, powerful, and in control of the universe He is, and how not in control I actually am. These last chapters of Job are a wonderful picture of the greatness of God. God is truly ginormous.

Although in these chapters, I see this picture of His great transcendence and majesty, God is yet knowable and He has made Himself known. He is not distant, remote or removed. Rather, He entered into our life and into our world. Jesus -Emmanuel, God with us.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Over 1 Billion people read Provocative Church!


Ok, I confess, the headline is misleading. It should say that about 1.1 Billion "could" read Provocative Church, if they wanted to. And since probably only a couple of people and my mother read my blog, I have a long way to go to reach 1.1. Billion!

1.1 Billion is a staggering number. But that's the number of people that the Guardian says are now "online."

Doesn't that number blow your mind! That audience size creates an exposure that provides us, the church, with an unprecedented opportunity to reach vast, unreached audiences with the Gospel.

As a Christian and a blogger, I think the fact that so many people can and may observe what I write, has a lot of implications. It has a lot of implications of how I show people Jesus and communicate the Gospel. Let me just mention a few:

First, since my blog is like a journal, I need to be real and authentic about my faith. People want to see how, as a Christians my faith integrates with real world stuff. A blog should show and illustrate the real implications and applications of my faith in everyday life.

Second, since people are watching, I need to be charitable to those that I may disagree with and not be lighting up fires of controversy with my blog posts. The internet is not a place for intramural mud fights. I need to be charitable toward others that I may disagree with on the secondary issues of faith and life. But in disagreement with fundamental and foundational issues of my faith, I still need to communicate with grace and truth, in the spirit of love. One of the most powerful testimonies of our faith is how we treat others.

Third, as a blogger I need to communicate humility. I don't always have all the answers, in fact I feel most times than I have very few answers. I am on a journey, and I am continuing to grow in my relationship with the Lord. I am still learning and in a process of allowing God to conform me into the image of His Son.

Fourth, as a blogger I need to effectively communicate the transformational power of the Gospel. Also I need to effectively and clearly communicate the essentials of my Christian faith. People who read my blog need to see Jesus. I always need to be pointing people with my life and words to Jesus.

1.1 Billion people are watching. Not at the same time. Not at every blog or post. But nevertheless they are watching. You never know who will stumble upon your blog. If you keep statistics of your blog, you realize that people all over the world stumble upon your blog. You never know, people from Malta or China or Melbourne or Argentina could be reading your blog right now.


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Sunday, July 22, 2007

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.

In his book, The Connecting Church, Randy Frazee makes a similar point, writing that Christian community requires being around each other a lot, living near each other, spending time with each other. In other words, for Christians to truly experience the depth of life that God intends for them, they not only have to hang around, but they have to “hang out.”


When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri Nouwen


This is what the Bible teaches: The Church is God's incarnation today. The Church is Jesus' body on earth. The Church is the temple of the Spirit. The Church is not a helpful thing for my individual spiritual journey. The Church is the journey. The Church is not a collection of “soul-winners” all seeking to tell unbelievers “the Way” to God. The Church is the Way. To be part of the Church is to be part of God—to be part of God’s Communion and to be part of God’s ministry. To belong to the people of God is to enjoy relationship with God and live out the purposes of God. This is why the Church is the only true means to be transformed into the likeness of God. (From, It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian)


“Hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ.” These words describe large numbers of people, especially young people, today. They are opposed to anything which savors of institutionalism. They detest the establishment and its entrenched privileges. And they reject the church — not without some justification — because they regard it as impossibly corrupted by such evils. - Preface to Basic Christianity, John Stott

In Rodney Stark's book, The Rise of Christianity, he writes, “Christianity did not grow because of miracle working in the marketplace (although there may have been much of that going on) or because Constantine said it should, or even because martyrs gave it such credibility. It grew because Christians constituted an intense community…And the primary means of it’s growth was through the unified and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives and neighbors to share the good news.”


More stuff from Sunday's Sermon!

As I promised, here are some additional resources, books and articles that relate to my sermon this morning entitled, "A Beautiful Mess"

This sermon was the first part of a two part series entitled, "MythBusters"

I trust that you will find some of these resources helpful has you do further study.

Articles:


Simon Chan argues that we need to know what the church is before we figure out what the church does. READ HERE

Bob Hyatt writes "I've often wished I could write off church... It certainly would make life easier in many ways and at least I'd get to sleep in on Sundays. But, if I truly understand the Gospel... I just can't." Why I am not done with Church by Bob Hyatt, READ HERE

Listen to this helpful audio podcast by Steve Brown, entitled "The Church is a Whore..." LISTEN HERE

Great overview and synopsis of Philip Yancey's book, "Church, Why Bother?" READ HERE and BUY BOOK HERE

If you want to order any of these additional resources:

"It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian" by Tod Bolsinger
"The Church" by Edmund Clowney
"Liturgical Theology" by Simon Chan

Tammy Faye Messner Dies

This news just broke:

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, a former televangelist who helped lead a huge television ministry before its collapse in a sex and corruption scandal, has died, her Web site reported on Saturday.

Messner died on Friday at age 65 after a long battle with cancer. CNN's Larry King, who interviewed Messner on his "Larry King Live" talk show on Thursday night, said her family had asked him to make the delayed announcement of her death.

- Reuters

I am not surprised of this news, especially knowing of her ill health and how frail and sick she looked on the Larry King show.

Tammy Faye's life and bio

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Renewing the Vows

This evening I get to officiate a renewal ceremony for a couple who has been married 25 years. If you are a Big Creeker, then you know the Brian and Debbie Marciniak. They are such a neat and cool family.

I have never done anything like this before. I do know that it is going to be a fun celebration.

Not too many couples last this long in order to do this. It is a neat testimony to God's grace and work in their life.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Internet Crashes!

This is a good Friday afternoon laugh...




Gotta love fake news! Although as I thought about it further, if something like the Internet crashed, that would be life altering. That says a lot about how dependent I have become on this tool.

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A Beautiful Mess

John Stott, in his preface to his book, Basic Christianity, makes this sobering statement,

“Hostile to the church, friendly to Jesus Christ.” These words describe large numbers of people, especially young people, today. They are opposed to anything which savors of institutionalism. They detest the establishment and its entrenched privileges. And they reject the church — not without some justification — because they regard it as impossibly corrupted by such evils.
I have heard people say, "I love Jesus, but I hate His bride". If anyone said to me, "Bill I love you but I hate your wife Lauren." I might just have to pop them one! You can't diss a man's wife. When you insult my wife, you insult me.

So is the same for the church and Jesus. They are intricately linked. You can't separate the two. But unfortunately many people do.

Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and have made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ. Yet those same people say that although commitment is still important to them, they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.

Maybe you haven't gone so far as to quit the church, but perhaps you don't have a lot of hope in it. Perhaps you are just coming on Sundays and going through the motions, but you don't see how the church is really relevant to your life or see any purpose in going deeper into the Christian community.

If you feel this way, perhaps you feel you have some very good reasons why.

Perhaps in the past you have faced from the church condemnation and judgment. You have seen in the church animosity, back biting and gossip. Or you've witnessed a church split.

Perhaps you've just felt the pain of loneliness or feeling disconnected from the church.

Maybe you've been unsure of where you fit into the church.

Sometimes you might feel confused or overwhelmed by the church's expectations.

Perhaps you've been burned out, felt unappreciated or forgotten.

Maybe you feel as if the church has failed you, the CHURCH just looks like a complete MESS!

Phil Yancey in his book, Soul Survivor; How My Faith Survived the Church, ponders his own disenchantment with church:
I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church. Every writer has one main theme, a spoor that he or she keeps sniffing around, tracking, following to its source. If I had to define my own theme, it would be that of a person who absorbed some of the worst the church has to offer, yet still landed in the loving arms of God.
The church is a Mess. But it is a Beautiful Mess. This is because the church belongs to Christ.

St. Augustine wrote, “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.” Yes, the church is definitely flawed. But we should not give up on it.

In the book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, Tony Campolo urges young evangelicals not to give up on organized religion and the local church in particular.
“Because as Augustine made clear, the church is still your mother,” he wrote. “It is she who taught you about Jesus. I want you to remember that Christ loves the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25) … Christ’s church is called his bride (2 Corinthians 11:2), and his love for her makes him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to him.


Through the ages, God has used the church to keep alive and pass down the story of what Christ has done for us … and has kept the world aware that Christ is alive today, offering help and strength to those who trust in him.
There will be times when your church will fail and disappoint you.
If you are a part of Big Creek Church, we will fail and disappoint you.

But regardless of the church's failures and messiness, Christ will never fail you.

You can't give up on the church, because it is intricately tied to Christ. Cling to Jesus and remember that this is Christ's Church and He is the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20).

Yes, the church can be a mess, but it is a Beautiful Mess.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Watching Tammy Faye on Larry King Tonight


This has been a sobering Larry King interview.  Here is some video of that interview.  What is amazing to me that even though Tammy Faye is on the eve of death and is suffering so much, she seeks to minister to Larry King and whats Him to make peace with God.
I am sure this will confound many who see that, but because she has peace with God through Christ, she can look beyond herself toward others.  She and her family needs our prayers right now.

Some want Jesus and not the Church

Came across this interesting statistic while I was putting the finishing touches on my sermon. This stat illustrates the dichotomy some have of Christ and His Church.
The Barna Research Group reports that in the United States about 10 million self-proclaimed, born-again Christians have not been to church in the last six months, apart from Christmas or Easter...Nearly all born-agains say their spiritual life is very important, but for 10 million of them, spiritual life has nothing to do with church.

"What if...?"


Last night my wife and I sat down for a movie. We rented and watched, Premonition, the Sandra Bullock movie that just came out on DVD.

It was a decent movie, but at the end we were watching some of the special features. While watching, the Making of Premonition, the screenwriter was talking about how they came up with story. He talked about siting in a room and just asking a bunch of "What if...?" questions.

His comments would have gone right past me, but earlier in the day I read this post from Phil Cooke about how screenwriters create and innovate.

Phil Cooke and The Change Revolution
Many writers begin writing a script by doing a technique called “What If?” The writer begins by asking what would the consequences be IF certain things happened. “WHAT IF a boy and a girl from two different cultures, or two different religions, or two different economic classes were to fall in love? What would happen?” Or, “WHAT IF a young man were Jewish, or Christian, in Germany in 1939? How would he react to Hitler?” Or, “WHAT IF God were to ask a modern day man to build an ark?” The question not only leads the writer to some creative ideas, but it also might lead the audience to similar conclusions as they think about their own lives after watching the film.This got me thinking about the church. I need to be asking more "What if...?" questions.

Here are some of my "What if...?" questions.

What if every ministry team had $100,000 to spend and invest in the Kingdom?

What if churches and business leaders came together to help meet the needs of those in our community?

What if God would trust us to be an incubator for 100's of new Christians within our community.

What if 50% of our new members are joining as a result of having crossed over from death to life in the past year as a result of a connection with a Big Creeker.

What if we were to create a separate 501C3 corporation that resources and oversees the hiring and funding of Young Life leaders in the high and middle schools in Forsyth County.

What if we were able to effectively and consistently develop Big Creekers into fully devoted followers of Jesus?

What if we were able to hire and develop church planting interns that work within Big Creek only to launch new works throughout North Georgia.

These kind of "What if...?" questions will cause me and our church to dream big, to dare boldly and pray persistently.

What are the "What if...?" questions that you can ask? What if you started asking them today?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm fixin to learn how to speak Southern

I am a Yankee. There is no way of getting around that fact. I was born in Minneapolis. I was raised in New Jersey (don't ask what exit!), and late in my life I moved to Maryland (which is officially south of the Mason-Dixon but Maryland ain't the south).

So when I moved to Georgia, I needed to learn how to speak Southern. Here are some handy tips:

If you want to put oil in your truck, you have to use the word "all".

In the south, if you want to do something, you have to say, that I'm "fixin" to do it.

If you keep using using your high beams when driving, in the south they will yell at you to turn off your "brats"

For most people a war is something people fight, but in the south it is a question you ask someone,"War ya bin all day?"


No matter how hard I try, I don't think I will never learn how to speak Southern. But there is one word in the southern dialect that actually comes in handy in biblical studies. That's the word "y'all".

This Sunday, I am going to be teaching out of 1 Cor 3, particularly verses 16 and 17.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. (ESV)

When I was doing a study using my Libronix study tools, the word for You in the Greek is a Plural You.

For example, see how the New Living Translation renders it:

"Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple."

Or as they would say in the south, Y'all

Y'all are a temple of God.
Y'all have the Spirit of God in you.
Y'all are to be holy.
Y'all are intricately connected.
Y'all are Christ's church.


There is no single YOU in the church. The church is all of us bound together in Christ, with Him as the chief cornerstone (Eph 2:20).


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.



"Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage. He didn't have to hear about all the men she could have married, and she didn't have to hear about the way his mother cooked."
- Kimberly Broyles


" Love may be blind but marriage is a real eye-opener." -Anonymous


"The basis of marriage is not mutual affection or feelings of emotions and passions that we associate with love, but a vocation, elected to build together a house for God in this world, to be like the cherubs whose outstretched wings sheltered the Ark of the Covenant and created a space for Yahweh to be present." - Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome


Roger Zerbe suffered from early onset Alzheimer's disease. His wife, Becky, remembers a journal entry he left for her after a particularly troubling bout of forgetfulness.

"I picked up the journal on my pillow and read:
Honey,
Today fear is taking over. The day is coming when all my memories of this life we share will be gone. In fact, you and the boys will be gone from me. I will lose you even as I am surrounded by you and your love. I don't want to leave you. I want to grow old in the warmth of memories. Forgive me for leaving so slowly and painfully."
Blinking back tears, I picked up my pen and wrote:

"My sweet husband,
What will happen when we get to the point where you no longer know me? I will continue to go on loving you and caring for you—not because you know me or remember our life, but because I remember you. I will remember the man who proposed to me and told me he loved me, the look on his face when his children were born, the father he was, the way he loved our extended family. I'll recall his love for riding, hiking, and reading; his tears at sentimental movies; the unexpected witty remarks; and how he held my hand while he prayed. I cherish the pleasure, obligation, commitment, and opportunity to care for you because I REMEMBER YOU!"



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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Control is just an illusion

Today was one of those days. I know you've had them. Those days when you don't control the day, but the day controls you. Of course the idea that I actually control anything in the first place is just a stupid illusion.

Today I had my entire day planned out with some clear goals and projects that I needed to accomplish. Late morning, my wife calls me at the local outlet mall, saying that she has a flat tire. She needs help, she has the girls with her and another mom and child. Like Batman flying out of the batcave, I go into Roadside Assistance mode. I get the car over to a tire place, and replace the tire (actually I had to replace all 4 tires, even though this one was flat because of a nail, I have known for a while that these tires had reached their expiration date)

I was glad to serve my wife. I hate it when she has car problems and I am not around to help. Anytime she has a car problem that leaves her stranded, I will drop everything to come help her.

My day took a whole different trajectory. A day like today reminds me again that my days are His. While I was going through the process of getting the car fixed, the Lord brought about a couple of thoughts and learnings:

First, I am a stink'n control freak! I hate being out of control.

I do know that God, you are in control. At any moment that I think I think that I am in control, I am not trusting you and walking by faith.

Little stuff like today is your way, God, of smacking me up side the head to get my attention.

This certainly feels like an inconvenience as it takes me off my schedule, but God, what divine appointment do you have for me in this situation?

And if I ever think that I need to complain, whine or groan I should pull out this picture!


Love Daddy-Daughter Times

Get to go tonight with my oldest daughter to the Braves game.

I hate to admit this, because I live in Atlanta, but I am still warming up to the Braves.

Being from Baltimore, and with my nephew playing single A ball within the Orioles farm system, I am still a Baltimore fan. It is next to impossible to exchange allegiances.

But you know what, it doesn't matter who is playing. It has less to do with the nature of the event, and more to do with just spending time with my daughter.

These are still good times when she isn't yet embarrassed to be seen with me in public. :-)

I am going to milk every moment out of it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

MythBusters



This Sunday, I will be starting the series entitled MythBusters. During the series, I will talk about the myth and misconceptions about our faith we have bought into. This week I will talk about the myth that it is just "me and Jesus". This myth has relegated our faith to being merely privatized and individual, but rather our faith is more communal. We grow and exist in the context of community. We are part of His Church.

Here is my text for this Sunday.

1 Corinthians 3:1-17 "But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? 5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 10According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. "

Friday, July 13, 2007

Swarm Theory


As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I had a great time on our vacation. But there was one incident at Callaway Gardens that will leave an indelible impression on our vacation memories.

While doing the last trail of the day, we decided to cut through the woods to shorten our trip. While walking through the woods, someone in our family stepped on a yellow jackets nest. Needless to say our tired little carcasses all of a sudden got an added jolt of adrenaline as a swarm of very angry yellow jackets starting to indiscriminately sting us.

They are persistent little buggers, doing their worst to us even up to the point of us jumping in our car. The final sting count: Emmy (7); Me (4); Lauren (3 plus 1 unconfirmed); Brenna (0 - all that cotton candy she ate the hour before gave her the needed sugar boost to run like the wind!)

In order to add insult to injury, earlier in the week, my sandal went unknowingly into a fire ant colony and the ants started feasting on my big toe - and boy did that hurt!

Therefore you could reasonably conclude that recently I have become intimately familiar with SWARMS, whether they be ants or yellow jackets.

This past week National Geographic posted an interesting article on how scientists have been studying ants and honey bees to learn about colonies and swarm behavior and intelligence.

Speaking about ants, biologist from Stanford University, Deborah Gordon states:
"Ants aren't smart," Gordon says. "Ant colonies are." A colony can solve problems unthinkable for individual ants, such as finding the shortest path to the best food source, allocating workers to different tasks, or defending a territory from neighbors. As individuals, ants might be tiny dummies, but as colonies they respond quickly and effectively to their environment. They do it with something called swarm intelligence.
Insects like ants, yellow jackets and bees flourish and succeed as a swarm. As individuals they are lost and unable to accomplish anything, but together, well they can sting and bite the H E "double hockey sticks" out of you! There is power and intelligence when they are together.

And in the same way, you and I are not built to function as simply individual Christians in a mere personalized expression of our faith. Christianity is built on Christ and His church. With Christ being the cornerstone, and you and I being built up together as a living stones. We need each other. We only flourish together connected by Christ.

The last two weeks of July, I will be preaching through a series called MythBusters. My desire is to explode the myths and misconceptions that we have bought into as Christians. The first myth that I am going to talk about is the myth that our faith is merely just "me and Jesus" and the assumption that Christ's church is a merely optional volunteer organization. Our faith is not individualized or privatized, it is corporate. We need each other.

Please pray for me these next couple of weeks as I delve into His Word on this subject, hear from Him and heal from my bites and stings.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Working from the coffee hinterlands


This morning I am working on the road at a local coffee shop. Usually when I do this I work at a Starbucks or a Caribou coffee. This morning I am working a coffee shop that is sponsored by a church. I needed to come here this morning because I needed a certain amount of peace and quiet. As much as I needing the quiet is a good thing, it is also a bad thing as well.

Coffee shops shouldn't be quiet, they should be buzzing with activity. I know every time I am in a Starbucks or Caribou there are sometimes lines out of the door.

By why is this coffee shop quiet like a library? Given these following factors, it shouldn't be:

It is situated on the corner of two major thoroughfares.
It has the support and backing of a large, vibrant church.
It is a beautiful and relaxing environment. Big leather chairs and couches, a fireplace, lots of room to work, and free WiFi.

The reason for it's under use lies in it's purpose.

The reason and purpose this coffee house exists is for "inreach" not "outreach". The purpose of the coffee house is to serve the church, not reach out and serve the community. They want this endeavor to be another goods and service for those people in the church, that is their target and audience, not the surrounding community. These are not my assumptions, this comes straight from the horse's mouth. Certainly they are glad when those outside the church come in and get coffee. But there is no effort to bring them in. They have no signage on the road. The coffee house is set back from the road and hard to see. You really don't know it's here unless you go to the church or if someone tells you. Honestly, it is a big shame that this great resource and opportunity is hidden away and only consumed by the church.

This coffee shop has got me thinking about a whole bunch of things about our own church's mission.

Big Creek Church, can't be the sole consumer of the resources that God has entrusted to us.

Big Creek exists not merely for ourselves but rather to reach out to impact the community.

If we are doing something that isn't contributing or helping us impact and serve the community, then we need to stop doing it. It is a waste of our time, energy and money.

Big Creek should not be trying to recreate Christian versions of the culture, but rather we need to be going into the culture to love, serve and transform it.

If Big Creek disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would anyone care?


The only answer to vulnerability

Being honest and vulnerable with others is tough. It is especially tough if you are ministry. But I have experienced the best kind of ministry when I have allowed people into my life in real and honest ways. That is why I appreciated Mark Batterson's thoughts on the necessity of pastors to be vulnerable, honest and real with those in the church. In Mark Batterson's blog, Evotional.com he shared 10 Thoughts on Vulnerability in Ministry.
....I just think that spiritual leaders really struggle in this area. We feel like we have to have this holy persona that is beyond sin. What we really need is the courage to share our failures and foibles!

Here are 10 Random Thoughts on Vulnerability:

#1 People will only be as vulnerable as their leader!
#2 Embrace your imperfections!
#3 The happiest and healthiest people laugh at themselves the most!
#4 The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove!
#5 Cry in public.
#6 The best apologetic is authenticity!
#7 Quit trying to be a pastor and try to be yourself!
#8 Jesus was holy, but he wasn't holier-than-thou.
#9 Be open to correction!
#10 Hang out at wells (Go here to read the entire post)

I appreciate Mark's exhortation on this. As a leader I need to be real. I need to be real in my relationships. I need to be real with my wife. I need to be real with my kids. I need to be real with my friends and with my church. I agree with Mark that I need to be real and authentic, AMEN to everything he said. But I know myself and and I know my heart. Is it really that easy to just "will" it to happen?

What will give me the power to be vulnerable? What will give me the courage to step out of the darkeness? What will give me the freedom to risk showing others my weaknesses?

It has got to be the Gospel. Pure and Simple. I like the way Tim Keller puts in the recent issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling:
The gospel gives you psychological freedom to handle the wrong things that you will do. You won’t have to deny, spin, or repress the truth about yourself. These things don’t make it impossible to know who you are. Only with the support of hearing Jesus say, “You are capable of terrible things, but I am absolutely, unconditionally committed to you,” will you be able to be honest with yourself.
The Gospel allows us to be not only honest with ourself but also honest and vulnerable with others. The only answer to vulnerability is the Gospel.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Needed prayer for a fellow Pastor

Hey I know that many of you get inundated with a lot of prayer requests, and I know that it is even harder to pray for someone you may not know. But even I don't know personally Steven Gibbs, the lead pastor of StoneCreek Church in Alpharetta, Ga, but anytime a fellow servant and brother in the Lord is getting hammered, my heart goes out to pray for him.

I found information out through a Big Creeker. The Gibbs are their neighbors.

Here is a sketch of the details:
Steven Gibbs, Pastor of Stone Creek Church is suffering the tragic accident of his 8yr. old son John. On 7/5, John was involved in a golfing cart accident. He was riding with his two brothers and grandmother when it tipped over a ravine. John was life-flighted to Egleston in Atlanta, where he underwent immediate surgery. He has too many injuries to mention here.
For further info go to www.stevengibbs.org

As you read this would you intercede for Steven and his family right now?

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.

Check out this report on how one cable company deals with people who do not pay their bills. I personally think this strategy may work! (a parody)

Just in case you get a little bored this weekend, ESPN to televise Rock Paper Scissors tournament.

Strange but true, China builds new public restroom that has 1,000 stalls!

Read as Brother Andrews asks "Have you prayed for Bin Laden Today?"

Read about the 10 Strangest Weapons Throughout History

Read about recent reports that America is the most charitable nation on earth.

This is of particular interest to me, a dad with 2 girls. Christa Taylor designs modest clothes for girls and women that avoid the "modesty by wearing burlap sacks" mentality"

Browse as Lifehack offers 14 ways to cultivate a lifetime of reading.

After having visited the Louvre exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta this was very fascinating. Watch the Mona Lisa being painted with MS Paint.

F.F. Bruce comments on the origins of the New Testament.

Learn where to avoid the worst traffic in the U.S. My opinion is that Atlanta should have been listed the winner of this contest.

Not that I am particularly interested in doing this myself, but learn how to quit caffeine.

Read about the Latin You Should Know

How People Find A New Church. Note the increasing importance of church websites!

I recently came across a link to 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know.
How many do you know?


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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brainstorming

How do you theme an event around the idea of a "home"?

We are planning a vision night for the church, and our vision uses the metaphor of a home. I need ideas of how to theme the night using that image of a house (i.e. staging; place settings; published materials etc..). Creativity is a must. All ideas are welcome.

Please leave your ideas in the comments section. Thanks in advance for your help with this.