Welcome to Provocative Church

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


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

The Church

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

Ancient Future

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


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

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Faceball Time!

Please indulge this recent faceball obsession.

As a follow-up to my earlier post on Faceball, here are two videos.

One of the videos is a promo and the other is a documentary.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


There is the new game that is sweeping the nation. FACEBALL! Here is an brief overview and explanation of this new "sport" - soon to be an Olympic sport I hope!

Do you work in an office? Do you like wasting time? How about hitting people in the face with beachballs? If you answered yes to any of these, I hereby command you to investigate Faceball, invented at Flickr, but now sweeping offices worldwide. The game is pretty simple — two people sit in office chairs, ten feet from each other, and throw beachballs at each other’s faces. No ducking is allowed. If you score a face-hit, you keep throwing until you miss, gaining points all the while. After an agreed-upon number of rounds (generally five), the player with the most points wins. (If this explanation isn’t enough, check out the video introduction on the Faceball site - scroll down.)

(HT: mental_floss magazine)

We need to start a Faceball league at the Big Creek Church offices!

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The Fun-factor

According to an article in the Associated Baptist Press, college students aspiring to ministry not only have an aversion to the local church, but they also have a preference against pastoral ministry in particular. For this reason, many aspiring ministers opt for positions with less leadership responsibility within the church:

In part, students have observed pastors dealing with conflict and pressure, and they want no part of it, Summers said. In contrast, they see youth ministers in shorts and T-shirts having a good time with teenagers. “They don’t see any ‘fun factor’ in being a pastor,” he said.
(HT: Denny Burk)

The rest of the article is very interesting, but I am conflicted with that last statement. Students don't want to be pastors because they don't see in it a FUN FACTOR. The reason that I am conflicted is that I would AGREE and DISAGREE with that statement.(I sound like a politician!)

I agree that being a pastor doesn't always seem "fun". There are real challenges, frustrations and disappointments. Expectations aren't always met. A pastor becomes vulnerable and susceptible to criticism. Also a pastor, being on the forefront, becomes the target of spiritual attack from the enemy. A pastor can feel the temptation and pressure to give up, quit and leave it all behind. When a pastor feels those pressures and attacks, YES, I agree it doesn't seem fun.

That is why calling is so important. I wouldn't be a pastor for two seconds if I didn't feel called. Calling is the only thing that will keep you in the game. It is the anchor. It is the only thing I can hang onto when ministry doesn't feel "fun". (see more from my previous post on calling HERE)

But here is where I disagree -being a pastor is FUN. It is fun being a part of people's lives. It is fun to know and work along side so many creative and energetic people at Big Creek. It is fun to head toward a Big Hairy Vision together. It is fun to lead others toward that vision! It is fun to watch God show up in people's lives and bring about life transformation. This is the coolest job anyone could ever have.

I love what I do.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Information Overload

My computer is smoking hot with all kinds of stuff that shows up in my inbox. Here I am to share the wealth every Wednesday. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy some interesting, funny and provocative reading.

I have seen a fried Twinkie and fried Snickers bar but fried Coke? Here is the guide to all things fried.

Did you know that CS Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke conducted a friendly correspondence/debate about the moral significance of space travel?

Now THIS is a fish story!

Also, some fish will kill you.

Here are the world's weirdest hotels.

Here are the top 10 least religious countries.

Read about scientists struggling to define “life.”

I have some good friends who are redheads, so I was sad to hear the news that scientists predict redheads may become extinct as early as 2060.

See the world’s largest Pez dispenser.

Stephen Altrogge follows up other articles on reading by suggesting 5 tips for better book reading

The "Real" Saving Private Ryan heads home.

Strange but true, Jihad, The Musical.

China's news agencies are reporting that the country's gender gap will only worsen by 2020. Men now outnumber women by 18 million in the 20-25 age range, and experts project that number will grow to 30 million.

Read how pigeon's dung was probably a contributing factor to the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

59 year old grandfather plays college football. Way to Go!

Master these 15 simple techniques and hacks, and Jason Bourne will have some serious competition! Knock someone out with a matchbox; create a complete new identity; burn holes through one inch thick steel; open any door; listen to conversations hundreds of yards away... Real Bourne Identity stuff which has been tried and tested.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Conspiracy of Silence

The conspiracy of silence as one of the reasons people do not change. Change happens when we break the conspiracy of silence...I am reminded of Jack Miller’s comments on the idol of reputation. The fact is that our reputation is an illusion for it is based on only some of the data about us. The fact that we refuse to acknowledge ourselves as the “biggest sinner we know” means that we pretend trials don’t tempt us with great sin. We focus on the evil “out there” and avoid the evil within our own hearts (James 1). This is stuff that stifles the spiritual life of churches, not just individuals. It is time to break the conspiracy of silence if it exists in your small group, family or church.
(HT: Steve Cavallaro)

Memo to self: Real authenticity and transparency starts happening in others when they see me living in light of the gospel and then willing to break the conspiracy of silence. When that conspiracy of silence is broken, then real change and life transformation can be released. First though, the only power to really break the conspiracy of silence is to apply the gospel to my life daily.

The gospel tells me that as a Christ follower, I am not defined by what I do or don't do! I am not defined by what others may say or think about me! Rather I am defined by Jesus and His righteousness reckoned to my account! When the Father sees me, He sees Jesus.

Pastor/leader, You want others to be willing to risk transparency....then you need to risk it first!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

How to get others to do what you want

I like the title of this post. You perhaps like this title as well, since you are reading it. I like the way this post sounds, because I like control.

I am a control freak. I wrestle with control. You probably wouldn't know that if you met me for the first time, I am good at hiding it.

One area, that I am often tempted to control, are my relationships. Too often I want to control those around me. I want to control my wife, kids, those in my church and those around me. I want them to do the things that I want. I want them to produce the desired outcomes that I want. I want them to behave a certain way. I want them to believe certain things. Even though my success rate of controlling people is 0%, I still try anyway!

I am learning more and more that control is an illusion. And controlling people to do what I want not only never works, but is just plain wrong.

I need to relinquish control and rather I need to desire to cultivate. Cultivate people. Cultivate relationships. This is the idea of farming. A farmer doesn't control the seed, the soil, the weather and the crop. All he can do is tend to his crop and cultivate.

As I was thinking through this idea of cultivate, I came up with several areas to cultivate relationships.

see - People are people not tools (Gen. 1:26). People are not instruments to control and manipulate. People don't exist just to serve me. People have value and worth regardless of what they do or don't do.

spirit - Pray for God to work in and through them. If you want certain outcomes in a relationship, you need to pray (Eph. 3:14-21). Let the Spirit work in and through their heart. When you pray, you relinquish control.

serve - Desire their best interests (Phil 2:2). You want to serve others not out of a desire to get in return.

speak - Affirm others verbally. There is great power in words. Words can either tear down, or they can build up (Pr. 16:24). Cultivate people and relationships by word and deed.

People need to be cultivated not controlled.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

D. James Kennedy is retiring

American evangelicals know him as the author of Evangelism Explosion. Reformed believers know him as a driving force behind the resurgence of reformed theology in recent decades. His people know him as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—a church which he founded in 1949, 48 years ago.

Dr. Kennedy, 76, preached his last sermon from the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve 2006. He suffered a cardiac arrest four days later and has since been unable to return to the pulpit. A tribute worship service honoring the extensive ministry of Dr. Kennedy will be held in the main sanctuary of the church at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 23.

“Dr. D. James Kennedy Retires” – ALR News Release

(HT: Denny Burk)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Share the Love

Go here to get a free Chick-fil-A sandwich and a coke.

Free is my favorite four letter word!

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Saturday Lite Fare

Here is a fun little video in anticipation for the new Indiana Jones now filming.

This is an award-winning 2001 Lego stop-motion animation that recreates the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with an added surprise ending. (HT: Neatorama)

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Window Into A Soul

Time magazine is currently running an article consisting of excerpts of letters that Mother Theresa wrote to her confidants over the course of 50 years. These letters are comprised in a new book, about to be released, entitled Mother Theresa, Come be my Light. What is fascinating is that these letters candidly open up a window and enable us to look into her life and soul.

The excerpts from these letters are brutally honest in their longing and agony. I suspect though that these letters will cause much dissonance for many Christians. Many are going to ask, how can a woman who lived with such sacrificial love and service could at the same time go through a 50 year, dark night of the soul?

Although these letters may make many people squirm, her honest doubts, longings and pains are found in the lives of men and women of God throughout the centuries. Mother Theresa joins the ranks of such people as the prophet Elijah, Jeremiah, Sister Teresa of Avila, C.S. Lewis, St. John of the Cross, and even Jesus himself whose life and faith included the absence of God.

Mother Theresa's earthy honesty reminds me of the paradox of our faith. We all live with the tension of this paradox. This paradox was aptly communicated by Brennan Manning in his book Ragamuffin Gospel,
When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good. I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games.
As difficult as it is to read Mother Theresa's pain and anguish, I am thankful and blessed by her honest confession.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Solitude and Silence

Yesterday I had an opportunity to go to the Ignatius House and spend a day with the Lord.

To guide my time, I went through materials based on Ruth Haley Barton's book, INVITATION TO SOLITUDE AND SILENCE

Barton draws out from Elijah's life some principles of Solitude and Silence and in addition makes some good application of how to cultivate that time with the Lord. She addresses several "Sacred" components to a time of Solitude and Silence.

Sacred Place - Prepare your room to meet with God. (Barton suggests that you prepare a sanctuary in your home or office using these same ideas.) Place your chair where you want to focus your eyes; e.g., toward the window looking outside or toward the cross, etc. (Again you can prepare a room in your home using symbols such as a cross, a lit candle, etc.) Sit comfortably but so you will be alert.

Sacred Time - Dedicate the time to God and say with Paul, “I want to know You Lord.” (Phil. 3:10)

Sacred Desire – Ask the Lord to increase your desire and passion for Him.

Sacred Prayer- Pray words out loud or silently to invite His Presence such as “Come Lord Jesus” or “Here I am Lord, please meet with me.”

Sacred Purposes – Don’t evaluate your experience as you go through this time. Just be with God and trust Him to work in you. (Phil 2:12-13)

This kind of time with the Lord isn't easy. I found it extremely difficult and yet an incredible blessing. Listen to this paraphrase of Barton's comments of the struggle that she faces just sitting still before the Lord.

Am I really worth anything if I’m not out there proving myself? Why is it so hard to stop the frantic pace of life even when I know it is hurting me and those I love? What is true in my relationship with God and what is merely an illusion? Is God really enough to satisfy the loneliness, emptiness and longing in my soul?

(if you want to see all my pictures from that day, go here)

thanks to Len Sykes and his thoughts and organizing the time together and the study guide.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Information Overload

My cup runneth over with stuff that shows up in my inbox, so here I am to share it with you. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax and enjoy some interesting, funny and provocative reading.

This isn't a joke or science fiction, people are talking seriously about a TIME TRAVEL Machine.

This woman
is not going to pass her driving test!

Read about the death of the world's oldest person.

And in opposite news....

Read about the delivery of the world's "youngest" baby

Read about the Russians who have declared a national holiday, setting aside a day for its citizens . . . to procreate, it is patriotic procreation.

This pastor has urged his congregation to pray imprecatory prayers against some folks that blew the whistle on his violations of the separation of church and state laws. Should Christians pray cursings upon people?

Big news flash? August hottest month on record for Hotlanta.

Read this article examining the mental problems of several superheroes.

Unearthing new Jonathan Edwards stuff! Don Kistler's Northampton Press has just announced its first title: "Sermons on the Lord's Supper" by Jonathan Edwards. It is a compilation of sermons, only two of which have ever been published before.

Sure a glass desk can look pretty cool but here's at least one compelling reason why you may want to avoid buying a glass desk.

Check out these really cool aquariums!

Hey, do you got a couple hundred extra mousepads laying around the house? Then you can build yourself a new couch.

Read why many professors are considering banning laptops from classrooms.

What your food cravings might be telling you!

"What You Can Learn from Calvin and Hobbes about the Message and the Medium." This is a must read!

Check out this article where Rowling admits to some of the Christian basis for her Harry Potter novels.

Read about 4 Utopian Communities That Bombed Miserably -All attempts to bring heaven to earth.

And in keeping with the theme of this post....Read this piece in which Alan Jacobs argues that the idea of "information overload" is not as new as we might think.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Missional Diagnostic Questions

I read this the other day in the "The Gospel According to Starbucks" by Leonard Sweet.
Anglican write Ester deWaal, a specialist in Celtic spirituality, asks two simple questions: "Do people see Christ in me?"; "Did I see Christ in others?"
I think that these two simple questions effectively diagnose our "missional' temperature.

The first question measures my "missional' impact.

The second question measures my "missional" heart.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keeping up Appearances

I was reading this article the other day about Wikipedia.com. If you are not already familiar with Wikipedia, it is an online encyclopedia edited by it's users. Wikipedia is one of the most popular web portals on the internet. The focus of the story wasn't about the merits of Wikipedia but rather an unknown person named Virgil Griffith. Virgil Griffith came up with a program recently that was able to reveal who edits the articles on Wikipedia. What he discovered exposed and uncovered the seedy underbelly of this popular program. Companies and countries were editing their own pages in an attempt to smear the competition or cover-up criticism. Here are a few examples:

- Apple edit Microsoft entries, adding more negative comments about its rival

- Bill Gates revenge? Microsoft edits Apple entries, adding more negative comments about its rival

- Exxon Mobil edits spillages and eco-system destruction from oil spillages article

- FBI edits Guantanamo Bay, removing numerous pictures

- Scientology removes criticism and negatives article from Scientology page

- Al Jazeera TV station adds that the foundation of Iraq was just as bad as the Holocaust

- Dell Computers deletes negative comments on customer services and removes a passage how the company outsources work to third world countries

- Fox News removes all controversial topics against the network from the Fox News page

- Portuguese government removes entries about Prime Minister’s scandals

- Walmart removes criticism of outsourcing work. The retailer also changes negative paragraphs of underpaid workforce

- Coca Cola removes negative content about its effects

- Boeing edits from “Boeing is a leading American aircraft and aerospace manufacturer” to “Boeing is the leading American aircraft and aerospace manufacturer”

(HT: maltaStar.com)

After reading this article, my mind was brought to this interchange in the Gospel in the Matthew between Jesus and the Pharisees:

25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. - Matthew 23

In the world of Wikipedia, companies and governments are engaging in P.R., spin control, lying and deceit. Changing an entry on Wikipedia might feel good in the short term, but it doesn't change reality!

Jesus wasn't all about appearances. He didn't have any patience for the Pharisees. He isn't interested in massaging the externals. Christ is interested in real change.

Being a Christ follower means actual LIFE CHANGE - 2 Cor. 5:17 "We are made brand new!"

Being a Christ follower means AUTHENTICITY - 1 John 1:5,6 "We are to be walking in the light"

Being a Christ follower means HEART CHECKS-Psalm 139:23-24 "We are to have Christ constantly examining our hearts"

The Christian life isn't about external performance! When Christ invades your life, He shakes up your life. Jesus is all about real, deep, and abiding change.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fabulous Facebook

Now that you've had a good laugh, see also this thoughtful post by Timmy Brister

Also see my post about the use of Facebook in the church

Pastoring with your feet up

Pastoring and ministry can feel many times like being swept down a torrid river.

I can feel as if I spend more time reacting and responding.

But as a pastor I need to spend time during the day with my feet up on my desk.



Go ahead, put your feet up!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The Well Curve

Do you believe in coincidences? I don't. Something strange has been happening in my reading and discussions as of late. I have been constantly confronted with this main idea - the necessity for our church to be clear and to identify who were are and then to excel in that.

This idea has popped up in different forms and has been said in different ways.

The Blue Ocean, The Long Tail, The Dip, and now in my reading of the Gospel According to Starbucks by Leonard Sweet.

The thrust of the book are Sweet's observations about Starbucks and then drawing applications from the world of Starbucks into the life of the church. One of the interesting topics Sweet discusses in the third chapter is the “disappearance of the middle” in our culture. Sociologists suggest that most of the population is clustered near the middle or the average, they call this a bell curve due to its shape. As you move further away from the middle you find less and less population. The values out on the wings are called extreme values or outliers.

Sweet suggests that our society is moving away from a bell curve society to a well curve society. He argues that “all middles are in trouble”. He suggests that there are no longer very many “happy mediums” in our society. Sweet asserts that people tend towards the extremes in their preferences. The distribution now in our society resembles a well—with most of the population out on the wings and increasingly less population in the middle.

Back in the day, companies catered and defined themselves by the middle. There were "General" companies. General Mills, General Motors and General Electric. But that trend is changing and companies like Starbucks reflect and have tapped into that change. As an example, every drink that is served at Starbucks is customized to match the individual customer’s specific desires. If you have ordered a drink at Starbucks, you know what I am talking about. Sweet proceeds then to discuss the implications of this emerging well curve society for our churches.

Sweet's argument is a confirmation of all that I have been hearing and reading recently-the middle is rapidly disappearing in our culture, and we will have to rethink the way we do church in light of that.

God is calling Big Creek to not be satisfied with the fat middle. "Everybody" is hanging out in the middle. Unlike the businesses of the "General", we are not called to be a "General Church". We are not called to be all things to all people. Unfortunately the gravitational pull of church is to try to be all things to all people, and we have been sucked right into that vortex.

This means we need to identify and be clear on this main point-what is our distinctive? Then we need to be faithful to live out of that distinctive. We need to live and operate on the edge of the curve and not in the crowded middle.

What makes Big Creek Church, Big Creek Church?

What are we going to be known as excelling at?

How are we going to be remain faithful to our distinctive and fight the temptation of being "General" church?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Missional Anger

Anger has been given a bad rap. Rightly so. On a subject like anger I tread lightly. For me, the problem is that I give into anger too much. I get angry when I feel powerless. I get angry when my goals are blocked. I even get angry when someone in my family eats the last chocolate chip cookie!

The church needs to be careful about anger as well. Too often the church appears angry. Too often the church is only known by the culture as merely angry. We are always seen as reacting "against something". And the problem is that the church's anger isn't often a righteous anger toward sin. It often stems from a frustration that comes from a loss of prominence and influence within the culture. It stems from a feeling of powerlessness against the crashing tide of culture.

Anger is often misplaced and misused. Even though that is true, it doesn't mean that we cease to be angry. Correct anger has a place. Listen carefully to this excerpt from Peter Kreeft's book Back to Virtue:
"John Chrysostom says, “He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices.” As a more contemporary source has it, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” To be angry at the lawyer who got the drug pusher free on a technicality is not sinful, especially when your son is lying in a coffin after an overdose from that pusher. Not to be angry in this case would be more sinful than almost any conceivable anger. To be angry at the religious huckster and hypocrite who uses God’s name to sucker na├»ve young people, their money, their loyalty, and perhaps their souls, into his power-hungry cult is not a sin. It is holy. To be angry at a doctor who makes a fortune running an abortion clinic and pressuring distraught mothers to let him kill their unborn babies is not a sin. It is a crusade. To see a crippled or retarded child and not to be angry at the doctor whose gross negligence was responsible is not a sin. It is godlike." (HT: JDGreear)

We need to be angry. Angry about the right things. Angry at injustice. Angry at exploitation. Angry when others abuse power. Our anger must be born out of love and not self-protective instincts. The problem is that we are often confused about anger. Actually when you read the Bible, it seemingly appears to be confused and conflicted as well (notice the emphasis on the word seemingly!). For instance, in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives seemingly conflicting commands. He commands us to "be angry" (Eph. 4:26) and then tells us to tells us to put away all wrath (Eph. 4:31). How do we reconcile this?

Although at first glance it may appear to be a conflict, these commands are actually not. Paul is making a distinction. Paul is correct when he asserts in Eph. 4:31 that our natural, reflexive anger is very likely self-motivated and fleshly. But even though that is true, there is something called righteous anger.

Righteous anger is God-anointed, Spirit-filled, and love driven anger. This is the kind of anger quoted by Peter Kreeft. This kind of righteous anger toward injustice propels us into action. This kind of anger motivates us to love and service. Righteous anger is ungirded with the love of the gospel. Righteous anger is rightly motivated and rightly applied This kind of anger causes us to be a "missional people". This kind of anger is in desperate need today!

(thanks to JDGear for his thoughts on this subject)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Jesus Film Surpasses 1,000th Translation

I was excited today when I read this new story. This news is of particular interest to me, having been connected with Campus Crusade for Christ for 17 years, one year of that being attached with the Jesus Film. I have shown this film overseas and I have seen first hand the effectiveness of this tool.
Jesus Film Surpasses 1,000th Translation The 1970s-version "Jesus Film" produced by Campus Crusade for Christ has been translated into its 1,000th language, with plans to translate it into an additional 500 languages—including every language with more than 100,000 speakers. Lanka Kol became the latest language translation of the film, which has been viewed by more than 6 billion people, with over 200 million decisions for Christ as a result. "Lanka Kol is a language many Americans have probably never even heard of, but there are more than one million people in India who speak Lanka Kol—and now we have the opportunity to begin sharing the gospel story with them in their own language," says Jim Green, executive director of The Jesus Film Project.
The really cool thing about this film is that, although it might be "dated" by Western standards, it is still such a powerful medium throughout the world. This is true especially when you can bring unreached people groups a film, and in addition bring it in their own language.

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Information Overload

Wednesday is Information Overload DAY. So here again I download to you a ton of good material throughout the week that I come across and I feel the need to share 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 sobering, fun, entertaining and provocative reading.

The Delaware County couple with a divine slice of eggplant could put the vegetable up for sale on eBay. Felicia Teske of Boothwyn says she was preparing fried eggplant for dinner Sunday evening and noticed that the seeds in one slice seemed to spell out the word "GOD".

If God is Sovereign, than why pray? Read Here

Did you catch the news story last week about the woman from Germany who has lived with a pencil lodged in her brain for 55 years?

Top Ten Most Expensive Paintings Of All Time.

Read this piece which points out that "energy" drinks really pack no more "punch" than a good cup of coffee. Coffee wins again!

The huckster who claims to be the second coming of Jesus has been served with divorce papers by his wife. She cites adultery, gambling, and physical and verbal abuse as reasons. His followers support him, of course, because in this cult's belief system, there is no such thing as sin. (Video news report)

Read about the man who was arrested for driving erratically, who turned out to be blind.

Know what made Dorothy's house spin, or Norman Bates' shower stall so scary? Test your knowledge of Movie Magic with The Special Effects Movie Quiz

Read the article today is about Baby Einstein videos turning babies into baby Homer Simpsons.

This is amazing, if true:

Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by the National Catholic Reporter's veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history.
News from IRAQ: Bible Stopped Sniper's Bullet

Take the Simpson's Bible Quiz

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Waffle House Theology

Jim Palmer's book "Divine Nobodies" was one of my favorite reads this year. And so I was excited to see that Next-Wave Ezine had published a sample chapter from his book. This chapter alone will give you a taste of the honesty and the brokenness that Jim shares.

What I particularly like about this chapter is how it focuses on the ordinary opportunities that we have during our day to show people Jesus. Being missional isn't merely a program or event but rather allowing God to show up in our ordinary occasions. Enjoy this quote, go to the link to read the whole chapter and then go buy the book, "Divine Nobodies"

God has been trying to free me from the burden of doing something spectacular for him. It has a way of distracting you from the opportunities to be salt and light right where you are. I’m starting to see that the “cup of cold water given in Jesus' name” sometimes means running the register by yourself during lunch so your heartbroken coworker can cry in the break room, or volunteering to reshelf all the returns in your area so a worn-out coworker twice your age won’t have to. A kindness shown here, a listening ear offered there, a caring hug as you go might be the case for Christ a cynical waitress most needs. I’m starting to recognize that I am immersed in a sea of hurting people every day. If I simply pay attention and follow the promptings of the Spirit in all these little ways, my life is “ministry.”

Read the rest here

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Monday, August 13, 2007

The "thin places" in life

In Celtic spirituality certain locations were called "thin places". These "thin places" are considered places or perceptions where the division between heaven and earth are said to be at its narrowest. In other words, "thin places" are a metaphor for those times or places when the boundary between the sacred and the everyday feels “thin,” when God’s presence is more strongly felt.

I had a moment and time last week that was a "thin place". My family and I were the recipients of tremendous generosity last week. (I have to be cryptic with details in order to protect their wish of anonymity, but suffice it to say, we are still in shock concerning it.)

In that moment God showed up, and these generous friends of ours showed us Jesus.

In that moment I was reminded of God's goodness to me that is never failing.

In that moment I was reminded how little faith I have and how my view of God is way too small.

In that moment God whispered to my heart and reminded me that He is faithful to me even though I may be unfaithful and wavering in my faith.

Celtic spirituality calls them "thin places", I often refer to them as "times when God shows up". By saying that I don't mean that God was absent and then He suddenly appeared. He is always there with us. Rather, God showing up, is more about me recognizing and being in touch with his presence. It is more about MY awareness of Him. Regardless of what you and I may call it, they are times of sweet intimacy with God.

That moment, when His presence was more strongly felt, wasn't a moment that I contrived. It was unexpected. God is continually in the business of showing up unexpectedly and surprising me.

(picture is of St Martin's Cross on the Isle of Iona)

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Alive with the Love of God

Often we are preoccupied with the question "How can we be witnesses in the Name of Jesus? What are we supposed to say or do to make people accept the love that God offers them?" These questions are expressions more of our fear than of our love. Jesus shows us the way of being witnesses. He was so full of God's love, so connected with God's will, so burning with zeal for God's Kingdom, that he couldn't do other than witness. Wherever he went and whomever he met, a power went out from him that healed everyone who touched him. (See Luke 6:19.)

If we want to be witnesses like Jesus, our only concern should be to be as alive with the love of God as Jesus was.

-Henri Nouwen

(HT: Prodigal Daughter)

The key for us being a missional people is not merely a program or a strategy but loving Jesus with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and letting that love shine. Seeing lives and communities transformed with the Gospel has to come from a life that is provocative. A provocative life is a life that is captured by the love of God.

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.

Psalm 90:2 (NIV) Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Acts 1:7-8
7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

The Holy Spirit is not a luxury meant to make deluxe Christians, as an illuminated frontispiece and a leather binding make a deluxe book. The Spirit is an imperative necessity. Only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds. A. W. Tozer; Man: The Dwelling Place of God

"Man, having put himself rather than God at the center of the universe, constantly tends to turn inward instead of outward. He has made himself the last integration point of the universe. This is the essence of his rebellion against God. Now with God this does not make a problem, for when God turns to himself, he is Trinity, and the members of the Trinity have been having love and communication among themselves before the creation of the world. So when God turns to himself as the center of the universe, there is still communication and love. But when I turn inward, there is no one to communicate with. And so each man in himself is exactly like the bullheaded minotaurus, shut up in his personal solitude in his labyrinth at Crete. This is the tragedy of man. He is not adequate and there is no one there to answer." -Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality

John 21:17 (NIV) The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things . . .

Matt 3:16 (NIV) As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.
17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

Psalm 139:7 (NIV) Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, {[8] Hebrew Sheol}you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

You might be addicted to email if...

...you are checking it during church!

One in Ten people say they check email during church.
Think You Might Be Addicted to Email? You're Not Alone July 26, 2007 If you're sleeping with a portable device next to your pillow so you will not miss an email during the night, you are not alone. According to AOL's third annual "Email Addiction" survey, more Americans than ever before are using portable devices to keep tabs on their email throughout the day and night, and from virtually anywhere – bed, cars, bathrooms and even church.

Read the rest here: Think You Might Be Addicted to Email?

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A Friday Funny

(click the picture for a bigger view!)

Read this sample dialogue and then do the opposite.

For another counseling funny see this PREVIOUS POST.

(HT: PastorHacks)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Missio Dei

A couple of weeks ago I received a book from Fred Peatross called Missio Dei. I was asked if I would read it and give a review. Initially such a request could have been seen as me simply doing a favor for Fred but just the opposite was true. Fred did a wonderful favor for me.

My church's vision is that we are a "community based missional church". And yet even though that vision has been at the heart of the church when it was started 5 years ago, we have over the past 2 years experienced mission drift.

We have gotten distracted from that initial vision and mission. The gravitational pull of the "business" of the church doesn't go easily in the direction of mission. We have been so easily distracted by so many "good" things, that we were forgetting why Big Creek Church existed.

Recently God has been bringing me, Jon and the leadership of the church to repentance. We have repented of not being true to God's call on this church. That is why Fred's book couldn't have come at a more appropriate time.

Missio Dei is an excellent primer on the "missional" call of the church.

Missio Dei follows the pattern of the ABC show, "Extreme Makeover Home Edition". On the show, they have to demolish and deconstruct a home, before they are able to build a new one.

Fred spends the first half of the book deconstructing the current and most popular model of how churches do church. After the deconstructing is completed, Fred then constructs the missional model.

The book addresses to models of the church, attractional and missional. These two models are juxtaposed to each other. Simply put, the attractional model often emphasizes the Sunday morning experience and the programs/events that happen at the church. The attractional model asks the community and culture to "come to us". People coming on our turf is the emphasis of the attractional church. The missional church is entirely different.

In a missional church "Mission becomes the very essence of the church as opposed to one function of the church." Mission becomes the air that we breathe. Mission permeates the entire fabric of the church and community. Instead of asking people to "come to us", the missional approach goes out into the community.

The question is, how do we change course? Can we change course from attractional to missional? Fred believes the church can, and in fact must do so if we are going to effectively influence and transform the ever-changing culture that we live in.

What I appreciate about Missio Dei is that it isn't merely a theoretical book. Missio Dei gives practical thoughts and ideas on how to move from attractional to missional. The book outlines practical applications without crossing over into the programmatic. This is a hard balance to strike, but I believe Fred does this well.

Being missional can feel messy, but people are messy. We are not neat little packages that can come to a salvation decision in 4 easy steps. Fred reminds us that being missional and seeing people become Christ followers doesn't come in a nice, neat program. Rather it is a process. Also Fred makes a good point about the "intentional but ordinary" nature of missional. It is a challenge to keep both of those principles in their dynamic tension. And lastly, following Jim Henderson's lead, Fred reminds us of the attitude and posture that we are to have toward those who are still missing.

Fred has done a wonderful favor to the church for writing this well communicated, brief and yet powerful book. This book is what most books should be.

I am glad that I read it. Now I need to apply.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Divine "Moreover"

Last night before going to bed, I was reading through Ezra, chapters 5 and 6.

This is the account of the Jewish people coming back to Jerusalem after their Babylonian captivity.

They come back to find a city destroyed and a temple in ruins.

Picking up in Ezra, chapter 5, verse 2

"Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them."

This was an exciting and glorious project, to rebuild the Temple. Just as they are about to begin the work, there arrives on the scene a fly in the ointment. It is the big "But" in the story. It is Tallenai, the regional governor. When he arrives on the scene he begins to fuss and ask, who authorized this building project?. Just like a good bureaucrat, he takes everyone's name and sends a letter off to the King in an attempt to stop the building of the temple cold in it's tracks.

King Darius gets the request and looks up in the records whether or not there was an order and decree by the previous king, King Cyrus. Yes, there was!

The King sends a letter back to Tallenai saying, "Don't interfere anymore with this project!", "Back off!"

What I like about this story is the word, "Moreover".

Not only are the Jews vindicated in rebuilding the temple, but God pours out additional blessing.

The person who brings the complaint doesn't get off scott-free. King Darius says to Tattenai to not only stay out of their way, but "MOREOVER" he is to:

1. Pay for the full construction costs out of his tax coffers.

2. Give whatever is needed by the priests, whether that be livestock, grain, wine or oil.

3. Any attempt to ignore or not fully comply with this decree will receive a harsh punishment!

Tattenai should have kept his mouth shut in the first place!

What I love about this story is that God not only brings about justice, but He accompanies it with additional blessings. This is such a cool picture of the character and work of God.

I am reminded of a time in college when our Campus Crusade ministry was in hot water because we were being unjustly accused of various things. We were in real risk of being kicked off campus, and yet at the end of the day, not only were all charges were dismissed as unfounded but were viewed in higher esteem by the administration and given and entrusted with MORE opportunity.

God is in the business of divine "Moreovers"!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

3 Tips for Better Meetings

I don't know if you have every read the book by Patrick Lencioni called "Death by Meeting", but too often in the church world we kill everything with a meeting.

People are busy. Time is a precious commodity. People are more likely to give you chuck of money out of their wallet, than a chuck of time out of their schedule.

And yet meetings can and are necessary . Meetings do have value, if used properly. Here are 3 tips from Behance.com with my comments in italics.

1. Beware of "Posting Meetings." A meeting to “share updates” should actually be a voice-mail or an e-mail. Rule of thumb: if you leave a meeting without action steps, then it questions the value of the meeting (especially if it is recurring).

There are so many effective ways to broadcast information in the church using technology (email; Pinger.com ; Facebook.com etc..). Meetings shouldn't be just about communicating information. That should be true of every meeting. For instance, even when we have a Vision Night at our church, which during that night we communicate a lot information, it still involves an action step - we challenge people to do something with what they have heard.

2. Abolish Monday Meetings. Gathering people for no other reason than "it’s Monday!" makes little-to-know sense, especially when trying to filter through the bloated post-weekend inbox. Automatic meetings end up becoming “posting” meetings.

In principle I agree, we can't have meetings just for the sake of having a meeting. But for us, Monday is a strategic time to debrief Sunday and position ourselves for the week ahead and for next Sunday.

3. End With A Review of Actions Captured. At the end of a meeting, go around and review the action steps each person has captured. The exercise takes less than 30 seconds per person, and it almost always reveals a few action steps that were missed. The exercise also breeds a sense of accountability. If you state YOUR action steps in front of YOUR colleagues, then YOU are likely to follow through.

This is the key point. When I preach, I ask the "so what" questions. Good preaching drills down application for the congregation. The same is true for a meeting, the question needs to be asked, so what? What action steps do people need to walk away with? The questions that we ask with every action step are, "What are we asking to be done?", "Who owns it?" (in other words, who is responsible for it?) and specifically "What is the deadline for completion?"

(HT: Behance via LifeHacker)

Better meetings will guard us from wasting time and energy and will release the church to do and be on the mission to which we are called.

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I am a gold medalist in this event

"...I hold Olympic records for procrastination. I can procrastinate thinking about my procrastination problem. I can procrastinate dealing with my problem of procrastinating thinking about my procrastination problem."

-Robert McKee

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Mullet Motivation

You've seen the mullet cut!? It is a haircut that has been described as , "all business up front, with a party in the back!"

The Big Creek Church staff team is just like a "mullet".

I know that I am biased, but I think that we have the best staff team around. Our team is major league in every facet.

One of the best things about our staff is their competency. They know how to get the job done - "we are all business up front". Our team is motivated, creative and passionate about what they are doing. Our team is aligned to our vision and mission and they are getting the job done.

But in addition to competency, is our chemistry. We all like one another. We laugh and we play together - "with a party in the back". We have fun with one another.

We are a Mullet! That is what staff teams need to be. If you have all competency with no chemistry - the ministry becomes lifeless and all corporate with no sense of joy. It also becomes a recipe for a lot of hard to resolve conflict. But if the team is all chemistry with no competency, then all you have is a bunch of "nice" people who are doing work that they shouldn't be doing. The mission of the church never gets accomplished.

You need both competency and chemistry. You need business and a party. You need a mullet!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Waiting for the Spring

I know that it is strange to be talking about waiting for spring since we are in the dog days of summer, but I was reading Song of Solomon recently....

Song of Solomon, chapter 2

My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

I love this picture of how the winter is passing with the expectancy of spring beginning to dawn. I love spring. I like when the cold chill of the winter disappears and the warmth and sunshine of spring envelopes the day. In spring, the air smells fresh and crisp and all of creation awakes from it's slumber.

The expectancy and hope of spring goes beyond just the mere seasons of the earth, it also goes to the seasons of life.

My wife and I have had a tough 5 years. More challenges and changes have poured into these past 5 years than within our entire lifetime.

For 5 years, it has been winter but spring is beginning to blossom. There is hope. Sunshine is filling our lives and new opportunities are busting forward. Spring is upon us!

But perhaps you are in a winter. Life feels dark, bitter and cold. May God give you hope. Hope to persevere through your winter while clinging tightly to Jesus. Hope to long for spring. And a hope to long for a spring that is even greater and more marvelous than anything we will have here.

No matter how much we hope for spring, in this life it is a mere shadow of an ultimate spring that will eventually burst forth. We all eagerly await for the day when Jesus returns to usher in a new creation. A place of justice, wholeness, joy and celebration. Spring is coming!

Friday, August 03, 2007

United Countries of Baseball

I thought this was a cool map. If the United States reflected the teams we root for....
click here for the full picture

(HT: Strange Maps)

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Losing Faith

Former LA Times religion writer William Lobdell tells a sad and moving story about how his job as a religion reporter wore down his faith.
As a relatively new Christian, he was thrilled at the opportunity to “write about religion for The Times and bring light into the newsroom.” But after years spent writing about sex abuse in the Catholic church, predatory televangelists, and countless other examples of evil perpetrated by representatives of Christianity, he found his own faith being slowly eroded.

Lobdell’s loss of faith was gradual, not the result of a single experience. Furthermore, he’s familiar with the usual Christian responses to sin within the church, but in the end didn’t find them sufficient. As he puts it:

I understood that I was witnessing the failure of humans, not God. But in a way, that was the point. I didn’t see these institutions drenched in God’s spirit. Shouldn’t religious organizations, if they were God-inspired and -driven, reflect higher standards than government, corporations and other groups in society? (read the rest here)
(HT: Think Christian)

Great question from Lobdell. Shouldn't our faith be provocative? Shouldn't it look different? It was a provocative and counter-cultural faith demonstrated in the early church that turned the world upside down.

In fact in the fourth century, Emperor Julian the Apostate complained that Christians rejected Roman gods—but worse than that, they undercut reliance on the empire. They "not only feed their own poor, but ours also," he wrote. "See their love feasts and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them and causes a contempt for our gods."

Julian complained the Christians were demonstrating something better than what the Roman Empire had to offer. These Christians faced mockery and ridicule. But they didn't waver or back away from how they lived. Their way of life set them apart from their neighbors. They lived out a provocative faith.

Lobdell couldn't find much that set us, the American church, apart from everyone else. I don't think that Lobdell's concerns are ultimately a valid rationale to give up on his faith. But it does go to show the power of our life. The way we incarnate our faith has just as much to do with how and what we proclaim.

The world has heard all the apologetics. They have read all the tracts. They have observed and experienced our religious events and services.

Now they want to see.

They want to see what REAL difference it all makes.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Uncertainties in Life

I was born and lived in Minneapolis, but I was too young when I lived there, to remember the city.

Regardless of any connection to the city, I still have a connection that spans across humanity. My heart broke, and I prayed for those on that bridge last night as I watched the reports on Fox News. Last Sunday I spoke about Hope-filled grief, and how and where that comes from. You can listen to the sermon HERE.

Also, Al Mohler has weighed in with a wonderful contribution from the words and thoughts of Jonathan Edwards. This is worth your time to read.
The people who drove onto that bridge had no advance warning of its collapse. They made no conscious decision to embrace danger or to put their lives on the line. Experience and reason have trained us all to trust what looks solid and stable -- and that bridge looked solid and stable up until it fell.
(HT: Al Mohler -- The Tragedy in Minneapolis)

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More about creativity...

It is always cool after writing a post, you see others tackling the same subject. I thought Brian Clark's post at Copyblogger is a great addendum to what I wrote HERE.

How to Steal Great Content Ideas

by Brian Clark

Great Content Ideas

Bad artists copy. Great artists steal. ~Pablo Picasso

“There’s nothing new under the sun,” is a saying I’m sure you’re familiar with. Yet how is it that we’re dazzled daily by the exciting and unique perspectives of emerging new voices?

The truth is, outside of cutting-edge theoretical science, there is nothing new. And even then, one might argue that scientists are merely discovering relationships amongst things already known.

And that’s the key to stealing great content ideas—discovering a relationship between your subject matter expertise and things already known. Don’t worry… it’s not really stealing, but the instant improvement in your content is almost like cheating.

Understand first that a unique perspective simply means you see a connection that others do not. So, you can still cite your sources and yet speak in a truly new voice, because the connection makes all the difference.

Henry Makes Some Money

It’s not plagiarism - I’m recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do. ~Uniek Swain

Henry is a businessman who takes a tour of a meat-packing plant in Chicago, and is keenly interested in the established practice of dividing up the entire process into small specialized tasks. While this is common in the meat-packing field, no one does this in Henry’s industry. Henry Ford goes on to make a lot of money.

A guy named Gutenberg alters the course of human history by looking intently at a coin maker’s stamp and the way wine makers squeeze juice from grapes. His observations result in the printing press, and the Chinese, who at the time are the world technology leaders, are only now starting to catch up after that massive boost the Western world received.

Seth updated the 60-year-old unique selling proposition and the age-old practice of referral marketing by calling it a “purple cow” (a phrase borrowed from a poem) because he realized that in an inter-networked world, other people could sell remarkable stuff better than the seller could. And yet the fundamentals of uniqueness remain the same.

Your “New” Idea Most Likely Isn’t

All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s often a shock to the thinking person when they find that their revolutionary new idea is not new at all. Most likely, someone in a robe thought of it thousands of years ago.

No worries, it just means you’re on the path to greatness. For a shortcut, read stuff written by smart people throughout history—from Socrates and Jesus to Anne Frank and Dorothy Parker.

Read the rest here....How to Steal Great Content Ideas | Copyblogger

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