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.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

DragonCon pics and updates throughout the weekend


Meeting Col. Tigh (actor Michael Hogan) was a real pleasure. Along with meeting Sean Astin and Edward James Olmos, it has been a great event.

Check for pics and updates on my experience at DragonCon at http://twitter.com/bigcreekbill

Friday, August 29, 2008

DragonCon pics

Check for pics and updates on my experience at DragonCon at http://twitter.com/bigcreekbill
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Going to DragonCon

I am going to DragonCon this weekend in downtown Atlanta. DragonCon is a scifi/fantasy/comic book convention. I will be posting pictures of my experience. It's going to be a fun weekend as I feed my inner-nerd.

Check out these two videos of probably one of the best SNL skits in history and how William Shatner told a group of trekkies to "Get a Life!" (the first video only has Spanish subtitles)




Facebook helps a candidate win


Here is a story about the power of emerging technology in our culture, in this case politics:

In Tampa, Florida, one of the cities that comprises the megalopolis known as the Tampa Bay area, home to Busch Gardens, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and only minutes from beautiful beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida (oh, and this author's stomping grounds, too), a local politician is giving credit to Facebook for his recent win in the primaries for the local County Commission.

On Facebook, the crowd is still very young, with an average age of 22.96 as of this February. Typically, the youth vote, although coveted, could not be counted on thanks to low turnout of young voters at the polls. However, this small time local election may prove to be one of the first examples of the huge impact Gen Y can have on the political process.

Now that many members of Gen Y are of voting age, their sheer numbers can no longer be ignored by politicians. The biggest generation since the baby boomers, Gen Y has been poorly characterized by some as lazy, unfocused, and self-centered - a generation that would just as soon stay home with mom and dad than go out and climb the corporate ladder. While it may be true that Gen Y has the good financial sense to maximize their time in rent-free accommodations, they are certainly proving themselves the opposite of lazy when it comes to involvement, be it social involvement, community involvement, or political involvement. Considering this recent "Facebook-powered" win, it could be that this generation is all talk and all action, too.

Is the church forward thinking enough and leveraging these new technologies for the Kingdom of God? I am sure that mileage varies on the answer to that question. Some churches like Lifechurch.tv are cutting edge while others are stuck with flannel boards. How about your church?

(ht: ReadWriteWeb)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

And you thought only our Lake Lanier had problems!

The Dead Sea, actually a salt lake between Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan, is dying and scientist are trying to find out a way to make the Dead Sea, … well, live again:

[The Dead Sea] relies on many small tributaries, but its main supplier of water is the Jordan River. Population growth in the region means more and more water is being diverted from its path towards the Dead Sea to other uses such as irrigation and drinking water. Evaporation, which makes the sea special by keeping salinity high, is also putting the Sea at risk, and the hot, arid climate and practices such as mineral extraction only exacerbate the rate of evaporation. Without an ample supply of water from the Jordan, the water level is dropping at an alarming rate (an estimated 1 meter per year).

As the shoreline recedes, sinkholes and mud are left behind. The scenic beauty of the area is scarred; getting to the water proves more and more difficult; tourism suffers. If this trend continues, the allure of the Dead Sea will be lost for future generations.

Read MORE


(ht: Neatorama)

The Faith of Barack Obama

(Disclaimer: This book review is not intended as an endorsement of any political candidate)

We are coming to the end of the Democratic National Convention and Denver. And no matter what you might think and believe politically, the fact is that we have witnessed a historic event. For the first time in the history of our country, a major political party has nominated an African-American as their party’s candidate

Even though Barack Obama has received overwhelming acclamation and support, many people are still wondering, who is this man? And one of the key issues being asked is Barack’s faith. Stephen Mansfield in his newly released book, The Faith of Barack Obama, attempts to address that question. Mansfield has written an honest and balanced account of Barack’s faith addressing the many questions and concerns people have about Barack’s life and faith.

Knowing a candidate’s faith is essential. According to Mansfield, the book is written in the belief “that if a man’s faith is sincere, it is the most important thing about him, and that it is impossible to understand who he is and how he will lead without first understanding the religious vision that informs his life.”

Barack’s story of faith isn’t typical of the American experience. For instance, if Barack ascends to the presidency he will be the first American president to do so having not been raised in a Christian home. Instead, he spent his early years under the influence of an atheist mother, a step-father’s folk Islam, praying at the feet of a Catholic Jesus, and influenced with a humanist’s understanding of the world that sees religion merely as a man-made thing.

In Barack’s adult life, his spiritual journey toward Christianity also defies pattern and refuses to fit in a clean theological box. Although his coming to faith typifies the pattern and process that many Americans have journeyed. He came to faith not so much to join a religious tradition, but rather to find belonging among a people. In Barack’s memoir, Audacity of Hope, he describes his religious conversion as such, “it came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

Barack’s beliefs are tailored to and reflect the diverse religious experience of America. For Barack, “Christianity is but One religious tree rooted in the common ethical soil of all human experience.”

Within the book, Mansfield effectively addresses the lingering questions of Barack’s brush with Islam and whether or not he is a secret Muslim. Mansfield’s answer is a unequivocal NO. Also Mansfield dissects and seeks to understand the religious soil of Trinity United Church of Christ and Jeremiah Wright, the environment where Barack’s faith first took root. Mansfield discovered from first hand experiences Trinity’s a mixture of both good and bad. According to Mansfield, his experience transcended more than just the couple of Jeremiah Wright bombastic video clips on YouTube that have come to define the religious culture at Trinity.

Barack not only forged and developed his faith during his adult years, but he also allowed his faith to intersect his political life. What became distinct of Barack Obama was that he unapologetically brought his faith into the public square and within Democratic politics. Mansfield writes about Obama’s speech to Jim Wallis’s progressive Sojourners organization, “With the speech’s tone of moderation, its welcome of faith into the public square, and yet its insistence that people of faith conduct themselves in public debate according to democratic values, it became what Obama had intended: a call to reform, a redefinition of religion’s role in American political life. Soon, his words were debated on cable news programs, heard by tens of thousands on YouTube, and argued fiercely on Web sites from every political perspective.”

Mansfield’s book takes a fair and balanced tone to the discussion of Barack’s faith. Mansfield is honest with some of the lingering questions and concerns that still swirl around Barack, especially concerning Barack’s view of abortion and his voting record on partial birth abortion.

As you take the time examine both candidates this election year, I would encourage you to pick of a copy of The Faith of Barack Obama, and take the time to get to know a facet of a man that you may have not have already known.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review of Rob Bell's Latest Book


Jesus Wants to Save Christians, by Rob Bell and Don Golden, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), $19.99 (224 pages) Due out in October.

Here is an excerpt of Ben Witherington's review of the latest Rob Bell book:
I thoroughly enjoy the creative material that comes out of Rob Bell’s grace-filled and artistic brain. Even when I disagree with him, there is no denying he is tapping into a deep well of truth and riding the wave of a new movement of the Holy Spirit which the church, especially in America, so desperately needs.

Rob Bell, and until recently, Don Golden have been doing this together at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, and undoubtedly this book comes out of some of their ministry together. This third of the Bell books, this time with collaboration from a partner in ministry has the same bite and passion as the first two, but mostly missing are the personal stories and anecdotes which peppered Velvet Elvis, and Sex God. This book is all business, and it is God’s business the writers are about. Whether the Evangelical world wants to hear this or not, these authors feel it needs to do so desperately. This book deserves a thorough review.


Read the rest HERE

Priest Breaks the Code

Times Online:
"An Anglican priest has unlocked the 270-year-old secrets of Charles
Wesley's coded diary, throwing light on the turbulent relationship that
he had with his brother John in the early years of the Methodist
movement they founded."

(ht: Ben Witherington)

Please pray for my alma-mater RTS in Orlando


The RTS Newsletter reports:


RTS/Orlando closed Wednesday and Friday of last week due to strong winds and flooding rains from Tropical Storm Fay. Remarkably, on Thursday night a water leak in the Pamplin Chapel set off the seminary’s fire alarm. The Orlando Fire Dept. responded and found a large roof leak and water pouring into the instrument Room. RTS/Orlando Director of Operations Christina Greenawalt, her husband Dale and the Maintenance Supervisor Gary Miller drove through the worst night of the storm to check on the seminary. They quickly moved instruments out of the room, and positioned tarps to prevent further damage where possible.

A very expensive projector used for chapel was a total loss, the ceiling tiles were heavily damaged and the carpet was soaked. They are not sure about the organ as the electronics of the organ were wet as well. In another building, the seminary’s main hallway to the faculty conference room was damaged by another water leak. Also three a/c units were damaged by water infiltration in the control cards and water leaked into the bookstore. The storm brought approximately 10+ inches of rain to the area with more excessive amounts in the surrounding areas flooding many homes and streets. The Florida Disaster Recovery Fund assists in situations such as these. If you wish to assist the storm victims, click here to give to this fund. You can also assist the seminary by donating here.


Pray for the people of that area and the school as they recover from this storm.

(ht: In Light of the Gospel)


Went to a day of prayer


Today, went to the St. Ignatius house for a day of prayer and fasting. I go about every other month for a time to unplug and listen to Papa.

In light of where I spent the day, here is a prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola


"Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever
Amen"

- St. Ignatius of Loyola


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Follow-up: Benediction on YouTube

Thanks to Darrell who pointed out that Don Miller's Benediction was on YouTube.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don Miller's Benediction

As soon as Michelle Obama left the stage, the talking heads began their analysis and Don Miller's benediction wasn't covered. So for all of us not in Denver and who didn't hear the prayer, here it is:

Please join me for the next few moments in our Benediction.

"Father God,

This week, as the world looks on, help the leaders in this room create a civil dialogue about our future.

We need you, God, as individuals and also as a nation.

We need you to protect us from our enemies, but also from ourselves, because we are easily tempted toward apathy.

Give us a passion to advance opportunities for the least of these, for widows and orphans, for single moms and children whose fathers have left.

Give us the eyes to see them, and the ears to hear them, and hands willing to serve them.

Help us serve people, not just causes. And stand up to specific injustices rather than vague notions.

Give those in this room who have power, along with those who will meet next week, the courage to work together to finally provide health care to those who don't have any, and a living wage so families can thrive rather than struggle.

Hep us figure out how to pay teachers what they deserve and give children an equal opportunity to get a college education.

Help us figure out the balance between economic opportunity and corporate gluttony.

We have tried to solve these problems ourselves but they are still there. We need your help.

Father, will you restore our moral standing in the world.

A lot of people don't like us but that's because they don't know the heart of the average American.

Will you give us favor and forgiveness, along with our allies around the world.

Help us be an example of humility and strength once again.

Lastly, father, unify us.

Even in our diversity help us see how much we have in common.

And unify us not just in our ideas and in our sentiments—but in our actions, as we look around and figure out something we can do to help create an America even greater than the one we have come to cherish.

God we know that you are good.

Thank you for blessing us in so many ways as Americans.

I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice.

Let Him be our example.

Amen."

(ht: Donald Miller)

Donald Miller Prays at the DNC

Unlike Cameron Strang who declined a DNC invitation, Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, will give a benediction tonight at the Democratic National Convention.

CT has an interview:

Why did you choose to accept the invitation?

Somebody calls you and asks you to pray, you do.

Where do you stand on issues like abortion and gay marriage?

Miller answered: The issue of abortion is a very sensitive one and it’s an important issue. I look at from a perspective of, what’s the best that we can do. As we elect a Republican House and Senate, and as we elect Republican leadership in the executive branch, we see very little changes on that issue. We’re electing someone who agrees with us on abortion, being sort of a tragedy in our country, and yet can’t get anything done. It’s kind of like saying, I want a pilot on my plane who feels this way about abortion, but he can’t fly the plane. The executive branch doesn’t have that much power, it has some power, but it doesn’t have much power.

You look at the reality of that and say, what can I do to defend the sanctity of all human life, including the living, and the marginalized and the oppressed and the poor? What can we do to better social conditions so that less women are put in situations where they feel like they need to have an abortion. What does looking at the issue holistically look like. I hope the Democrats will listen to those of us who lean toward pro-life and those changes can be made........

Read the rest here.

Hi-tech Coffee

If Starbucks and Staples got married, they might birth this latte printer machine. Recently featured at a graphics trade show in Los Angeles, the OnLatte repurposes your standard inkjet printer to use caramel syrup instead of ink. Nothing says good coffee like a foamy recreation of the winged Pegasus. (via the Kitchn)


Related Posts:
Latte Art
Coffee Art
They make a beautiful cup of coffee

Saturday, August 23, 2008

History of the word - Missional

I am sure if you've been around church for the last couple of years, you've heard your church, or a church say, "We are missional".

What is missional? Unfortunately that word has been overused, and misused by many well-intentioned Christians.

Geoff Hsu, an old friend of mine, found an old post by Ed Stetzer on the history (and I suppose the development) of the term “missional.” It is worth reading as worthwhile summary of the development of this critical terminology.

People of Faith are Rethinking Their Preference


A new survey from Barna research says that the Presidential Race Tightens as Faith Voters Rethink Their Preference of Candidates.
A new nationwide survey of people's candidate preference conducted by The Barna Group some movement over the past two months, with Sen. Obama maintaining a substantial 43% to 34% lead among those who are likely to vote in November, with 5% selecting minor party candidates. That lead is a decline for Sen. Obama's since early June, when he led his Republican rival 50% to 35% among likely voters. In the past two months, more voters have gravitated to third-party candidates (5%) and a higher proportion is now undecided (up from 15% to 21%).

Sen. McCain has struggled to ignite widespread interest in his candidacy, as evidenced by the fact that a majority of just three out of the sixty voter segments studied would vote for him if the election were held today. In startling contrast, a majority of the likely voters from 16 voter segments would back Sen. Barack Obama. Among the segments in which neither candidate has majority support, Sen. Obama leads among 35 of those groups while Sen. McCain leads among only three.

The bright spots for Sen. McCain in the latest results are the support from evangelicals (among whom he holds a 61%-17% lead), the notable shift away from Sen. Obama among several key faith communities, and the increased share of undecided voters since the beginning of June. However, at this stage most of these realignments reflect a softening of support for Sen. Obama more than a surge of allegiance to the Arizona Republican.

(ht: barna)

Friday, August 22, 2008

To pray or not to pray at the DNC

Relevant Magazine Founder, Cameron Strang on “Why I Accepted, And Then Declined, An Invitation to Pray at the DNC”:

“During this political process, my desire is to keep an open dialogue with both campaigns and talk about the issues that matter to my generation of Christians. If my praying on opening night at the DNC would be perceived as showing favoritism or incorrectly labeling me as endorsing one candidate over the other—rather than being the bridge-building gesture which I intended it to be—then I needed to rethink the decision.”

What do you think? Good decision or not to back out?

(ht: Christ and PopCulture)

Catalyst Vanagon

Meet Jesse, Chris and LV from Catalyst
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Church 2.0

Meeting with Greg Atkinson and ministry leaders at Perimeter Church today.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Human Calendar

Humanize your calendar - and make it more interesting!



Check out the Human Calendar!

WWPD?


What Would Paul Do? How would Paul vote?


Reggie Kidd, one of my seminary profs from RTS, had this to say:

In his letter to Titus, Paul offers forty-six crisp verses on theology, social ethics, and personal morality. The letter is a stunning tour-de-force on how Christians are to impact their pagan world. It includes thoughts, I think, that are worth lingering over in a political season.

Reggie concludes with three things he believes the Apostle Paul would have all Christians consider when voting for candidates

1. Paul would encourage us to consider what policies and what candidates will make us less a nation of religious liars

2. Paul would encourage us to consider what policies and what candidates will diminish social viciousness and encourage social justice.

3. Paul would encourage us to consider what polices and candidates will discourage us from being a citizenry of “lazy gluttons.”

Read the rest HERE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Finding God in our Poverty


When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people's. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others'. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people's pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness.

By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.
- Henri Nouwen

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Smiling Addiction

This powerful video, Smiling Addiction, is a thoughtful addition to my sermon this past Sunday. Too often we choose to live and hide behind our masks before one another - always keeping our plastic smiles. And as a result, we live in our pain within fear and isolation.

Leadership starts with Me and Brokenness

“Repentance and revival cannot start in the building behind me until it starts in the temple inside me. … Leadership starts with us, with our own hearts being broken for broken people.”
—former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, speaking in front of the Capitol at TheCall

(ht: charismamag.com, 8/18/08)

Rob Bell's Latest Video - She


See Rob Bell's latest video.

He is offering a sneak preview HERE (the preview is only available until 8/20 ending at Noon)

Read my friend Tony's thoughts and comments about the video HERE

Monday, August 18, 2008

Franchise Faith


Slate magazine has an interesting article on the growing multi-site/video venue trend that is dramatically changing the face and impact of the church in our American culture. Here are some excerpts:

Can a digitally projected pastor lead a congregation, shepherd believers, create and expand a community? Or is this just business-minded religion run amok? In a blog post, one of Stanley's lieutenants compared the job of running a video venue to operating a franchise of another Christian-led business: Chick-fil-A. "Just like that Chick-fil-A owner/operator, I'm here in Nashville to open up our franchise and run it right," wrote Eddie Johnson. "I believe in my company and what they are trying to 'sell.' "
With video venues, ambitious pastors can think beyond their current geographic boundaries, whether it's across town, across the country, or even across international borders. Oklahoma City's LifeChurch.tv, which also holds services online, has churches in six states. Fellowship Church in Dallas bought out a struggling Baptist church in Miami for its first off-site location. Andy Stanley's North Point has 16 video venues, including a church whose members voted to defect from the Presbyterian Church of Canada last fall. He's gunning for a total of 60 by 2010.
Read the whole article HERE

Pandora may be going away!


You may already know that I (like many others) dig Pandora.

Pandora.com is an internet radio website that learns your music tastes.

Apparently the Record and Music Industry is throwing around their weight and imposing very oppressive usage and listening fees.

Please stop the madness and let's save the music!

(thanks Bob Hyatt for the heads up!)

Do you think these things invent themselves?


In 1978 former high school teacher, Geral Fauss came up
with the #1 foam hand, since then it has become a universal
symbol for the phrase 'we're number one' and is among the
most popular pieces of US sports merchandising.

(read the rest of the story HERE)
I always find it amazing how someone can tap into reservoirs of creativity and be able to turn a foam finger into a national icon.

Celebrate with me the 30 anniversary of the foam finger!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Couple of Resources and Notes from My Sermon Today


Here were the Communion Meditations for this morning:

"I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor."- Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty

"The community which God is forming is forged by the Gospel. The gospel gives us our distinct identity and values. We are to uniquely embody the story of what God has done in Jesus Christ in our life together. Therefore, by the quality of our life together, the church both proclaims the message of the gospel and is the goal of the gospel. Understood in this way, we can say that the church is the good news." -Fellowship Group Handbook, Redeemer Presbyterian Church

"The community is therefore, not only the receiver of the Word of revelation; it is itself revelation...The community is the body of Christ. Body here is not just a metaphor. The community is the body of Christ; it does not represent the Body of Christ." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"We were born into a world, into a condition, of disconnection. things were created to be a certain way, and they're not that way, and we feel it in every fiber of our being…and so from an early age we have this awareness of the state of disconnection we were born into, and we have a longing to reconnect." - Rob Bell

Here is another look at the picture I used as a sermon illustration:


Commentaries:
Galatians - Paul's Charter of Christian Freedom - Leon Morris
The Epistle to the Galatians - Ronald Fung

The opening illustration of Lawrence Lemieux:
One of the most incredible stories coming from the Olympics occurred during the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea. There was a young competitor there whose whole life had been in pursuit of an Olympic medal. The 1988 games represented his best chance. He was a Canadian named Lawrence Lemieux, and his event was in sailing. Off the coast of Korea, he was racing for the Gold. The sea was stormy and rough, but Lemieux was in second place with an excellent shot at first. Suddenly his attention was drawn aside by an overturned boat, and he saw a sailor draped over the hull, desperately trying to hold on. Another sailor was bobbing in the water. The tides and winds were pushing both men further out to sea. They were Olympians, too, and were competing in another event. The man who was draped over the overturned hull of the boat had cut his hand in the accident and was rapidly losing strength. The crewman in the water was drifting away from the boat and going down. Lemieux had a heart-rending decision to make. If he didn't stop to help the men, they would likely drown; but if he did stop and help them he would lose his lifelong dream of winning an Olympic Gold Medal. Well, it might have been a heart-rending decision, but it didn't take the young champion long to make it. He turned his boat toward into the screaming wind and paddled toward the desperate men. As he approached the man who was thrashing in the water, the man gasped, "Please help me! I can't last much longer."

"Grab onto my boat when I come past you," said Lemieux.

"I can't," said the man. "I hurt my back and I can't pull myself up into your boat." Lawrence leaned over and grabbed the man's vest and tried to haul him aboard, but the effort almost capsized the little craft. "Just try to hold on until we get to your boat," shouted Lemieux. Somehow he managed to navigate his boat through the crashing waves and he managed to rescue the other man as well. He held them both until a patrol boat arrived.

But the delay cost him any chance he had of winning an Olympic medal. He resumed the race, but finished in 21st place. In its place, the International Olympic Committee awarded him The Fair Play Award of the 1988 games in Seoul. And when he returned home, the members of Northwood Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, had a special medal cast for him and draped it around his neck while the Canadian National Anthem was played. He told the congregation, "You spend your whole lifetime trying to achieve a goal, and my goal was winning a gold medal. I didn't win a gold medal, but I won something more valuable—the love you've shown me here today."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Vine Community Church

As of Today - our church is no longer going to be called, Big Creek Church. We have a new name and a new look!


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Power of Addiction


This is the power of addiction. Whatever the object of our addiction is, it attaches itself to our intense desire for eternal and intimate communion with God and each other in the midst of Paradise—the desire that Jesus himself placed in us before the beginning of the world. Nothing less than this kind of unfallen communion will ever satisfy our desire or allow it to drink freely without imprisoning it and us. Once we allow our heart to drink water from these less-than-eternal wells with the goal of finding the life we were made for, it overpowers our will, and becomes, as Jonathan Edwards said, “like a viper, hissing and spitting at God” and us if we try to restrain it.

“Nothing is less in power than the heart and far from commanding, we are forced to obey it,” said Jean Rousseau. Our heart will carry us either to God or to addiction.

“Addiction is the most powerful psychic enemy of humanity’s desire for God,” says Gerald May in Addiction and Grace, which is no doubt why it is one of our adversary’s favorite ways to imprison us. Once taken captive, trying to free ourselves through willpower is futile. Only God’s Spirit himself can free us or even bring us to our senses.
from The Sacred Romance

Why are we Building a Church!?

As many of you know, we are in the middle of building our church on a strategic piece of property smack in the middle of our county.

But why should we even bother with building a building? Why should we even go through all the hassle and expense? Especially now that we can simply settle for an inflatable church!


See more HERE about how you can get your own inflatable church.

(ht: notcot)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grab Attention - Tell a Story!

“For centuries our educational system has led us to approach Scripture as a silent text that you are to read and understand, and that is far different from hearing a story. … In a traditional service, the Scripture reading is time to take a quick nap. [With the storytelling approach], you don’t take a nap.”
Lynn White, minister at Eagle’s Landing Christian Church in McDonough, Ga., who participated in the recent National Convention of Biblical Storytellers that aims to enliven oral Scripture reading with storytelling skills.

(ht: ajc.com, 8/6/08)

Read relevant posts on the power of the story:
The Power of Story
Don't Write a Mission Statement - Tell a Story
Do you want to Win a War? - try Telling a Story


Cheat on Ministry

Just ran across this news item...read it and then I want to discuss it.
Evangelist Todd Bentley, who last week unofficially left the Lakeland Outpouring to continue similar meetings around the world, announced to his staff yesterday that he and his wife, Shonnah, are separating. According to the Lakeland Ledger, Bentley filed for separation despite the couple having been in marriage counseling for several months. Bentley and his wife, who have three children, are Canadian citizens and under Canadian law are required to go through a nine-month separation period prior to divorce. On Bentley’s ministry’s Web site, a letter written by the Fresh Fire Ministries board of directors stated that “there has been no sexual immorality on the part of either Todd or Shonnah, nor has there ever been. Undoubtedly the pressures and the burden of the Outpouring, which approaches 144 days on Aug. 23, have helped to create an atmosphere of fatigue and stress that has exacerbated existing issues in their relationship. We wish to stress however, that the Outpouring is not ‘to blame’ for the current chain of events and that in effect we have no interest in blaming anyone, but rather we deeply covet your prayers for Todd and Shonnah and for Fresh Fire Ministries during this time.”
First of all, the point of this discussion is not to discuss Todd Bentley's ministry or the validity of the outpouring that took place in Florida- that is entirely another discussion all by itself.

Rather the questions that popped up in my mind after reading this article were:

Why is Todd continuing to press hard with his ministry and outpourings across the country when his marriage is in shambles?

Shouldn't the fruit of one's own ministry be measured more by the relationships one has with his wife and children, rather than the all the practical and material ways we measure it in the church today? (Titus 1:5-9)

Would God really have wanted Todd to be stretched and stained during this Lakeland outpourings at the expense of his marriage (which was already fragile)?

Is God really honored and glorified when we neglect the "God's covenant of marriage" in order to do "God's work?"

As a pastor, I know that ministry is tough and demanding...but I also know that my ministry isn't one bit successful if I allow my wife and children to be sacrificed on the alter of the ministry in order achieve my goals and successes.

These are questions that are meant to point the finger more at me and my life - more than at Todd, because I know that I am tempted in the middle of white hot ministry to loose sight of the most important things in my life, my relationships with God, my wife and my daughters.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rick Warren Interviews the Candidates

This Saturday, August 16, 2008, on CNN, Rick Warren will interview Senators John McCain and Barack Obama for an hour each at our nationally televised Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. The following morning Rick Warren will be preaching a message entitled “The Kind of Leadership America Needs.”

This will be interesting to watch

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Are you are Fan of Amazon.com?

Bob Hyatt over at PastorHacks reminded me the other day of a great service and opportunity that I took advantage of recently. I posted more about it over at my other blog, Ministry Best Practices

(Read the rest HERE)

Dream BIG Dreams


In N.T. Wright's discussion of Romans 15, from The New Testament for Everyone Series, Wright talks about Paul's desire to go to Spain:
"I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little."
Many commentaries on Romans tend to trivialize or gloss over this fact. Wright doesn't. He points out that although this is the first mention of Paul's ambition to go to Spain, it fits right in with everything we know about this Apostle.

Paul longed to name Jesus as Lord and King to all peoples throughout the entire world.(Spain would in fact represent the western limit of the known world).

It was that desire, according to Wright, that played a large role in Paul's writing Romans. Up to this point, Paul's home base had been Antioch. Paul had faced serious challenges and hardships in Antioch, so now it would make a lot of sense for Paul to now try to get the Roman Christians in on the act, to use Rome as his possible new base of operations in order to bring the gospel "to the ends of the Earth."

It is within and probably based on those hopes that Paul writes Romans, in an effort to sketch out more fully the big picture of God's purposes, stressing particularly the unity of God's family in the Messiah, and how this plays out both for Jews and Gentiles.

Paul never made it to Spain (at least there's no evidence that he did). But he did write Romans. And N.T. Wright has this to say about that:
Perhaps God sometimes allows us to dream dreams of what he wants us to do, not necessarily so that we can fulfill all of them -- that might just make us proud and self-satisfied -- but so that we will take the first steps toward fulfilling them.

And perhaps those first steps (as they appear to us) are in fact the key things that God actually wants us to do. Paul may not have got to Spain. That didn't matter; the gospel got there fairly soon anyway. What mattered then, and has mattered enormously in the whole history of the church, is that, as part of his plan to go to Spain, he wrote Romans. We should never underestimate what God will do through things which we see as small steps to a larger end.

So dream!
Dream BIG!
And go for it!

And at the same time-leave it in the hands of God.

It'll all make sense one day.



(thanks to Raffi for sharing this insight by N.T. Wright)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rick Warren on the cover of TIME


Pastor Rick Warren is on the cover of Time magazine this week along with a full cover story on him.

Here's one opening paragraph from the article: "If Warren is not quite today's Graham, who presided as 'America's pastor' back when the U.S. affected a kind of Protestant civil religion, he is unquestionably the U.S.'s most influential and highest-profile churchman.

He is a natural leader, a pathological schmoozer, insatiably curious and often the smartest person in the room. Like Graham, he projects an authenticity that has helped him forge an exquisite set of political connections — in the White House, on both sides of the legislative aisle and abroad. And he is both leading and riding the newest wave of change in the Evangelical community: an expansion beyond social conservatism to causes such as battling poverty, opposing torture and combating global warming.

The movement has loosened the hold of religious-right leaders on ordinary Evangelicals and created an opportunity for Warren, who has lent his prominent voice to many of the new concerns. "

Rick Warren has broken many barriers and introduced much change to the American (and worldwide) church; and has done so, for the most part, very graciously. Whether you're a Rick fan, or one of his self-proclaimed enemies, you'll want to read this article.

(ht: Synergy)

http://snipurl.com/3er48

Bill Maher's movie "Religulous" is coming out soon.

Here is a trailer for his movie coming out on October 3rd.



Thoughts? How should the church respond? Ignore it? How will the church respond? Will we protest it?

First Day of School



That right, kids in the Atlanta area - today is your first day of school.

Have a blessed day, and there better be no complaining...because...

In my day, I didn't have any fancy shmancy big luxurious school buses...

In my day, we had to go to school on the back of a tricycle...all 50 of us...crammed together...

...And WE LIKED IT!!!!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Being Missional in Suburbia


Check out this audio by Al Hsu (author of the Suburban Christian), go HERE to download both of Al's sessions.

Stop tinkering with your soul

Came across this quote today which resonates perfectly with the sermon series we have been doing on Abiding in Christ.
"While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves - blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very thing he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him."
- A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, Inc., 1993), 85.


(ht: FirstImportance)


Work and the Public Square


The Work Research Foundation is a think tank located in Hamilton, Ontario. According to it’s website,

“The Work Research Foundation’s mission is to influence people to a Christian view of work and public life. We seek to explore and unfold the dignity of work, the meaning of economics, and the structures of civil society, in the context of underlying patterns created by God.”
I would encourage you to read an article entitled The Daily Practice of Public Influence written by WRF senior fellow Jonathan Wellum, who is the CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Canada’s largest private mutual fund company, AIC Limited. In the article Wellum writes:

Over the last number of years, one of my frustrations as a Christian in the Reformed tradition is the lack of involvement in the public square on the part of those who call themselves Calvinistic or Reformed. As a way of correcting this, let me start with three basic presuppositions we need to operate on as we go out into the public square.

I am going to assume the cosmological principle-the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos in all its spheres and kingdoms, visible and invisible. Thus, all of life, including culture, must come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and absolutely nothing is to be extracted from the rule of God. Second, I think we need to emphasize that we are utterly dependent creatures and that all of life is moving forward based on the purposes of God and His sovereign will. Thus, if we are to maximize our influence for Christ in the public square then our purposes should reflect God’s purposes and our values should reflect God’s values. Third, bowing to the Lordship of Christ means living under the authority of God’s Word completely. When Francis Schaeffer talked about the uniqueness of Christianity, he stated that “Christianity is not a series of truths in the plural but rather truth spelled with a capital T - Truth about total reality, not just about religious things.” Biblical Christianity is truth concerning all of reality and the intellectual holding of that truth and then living in light of that truth.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Information Overload

Too much stuff, so little time. Here again is a lot of good material throughout the week that I've come across. I feel the need to share some of the good stuff with you since I don't have time to comment on it throughout the blog.

This stuff shows up in my Google RSS Reader throughout the week and I use the widget from my "shared items" in my Google Reader to post the most interesting information that I've gathered from the web. Enjoy some fun, entertaining and provocative reading. (my shared items have their own individual rss feed that you can subscribe to directly)

Friday, August 08, 2008

Beijing Olympics

Just watched the opening ceremonies this evening with my family - Wow is all I can say! Beautiful, stylish and captivating.




This photo was taken by Jeff Gross (Getty Images) at the Opening Ceremony…see
more amazing opening ceremony images HERE.

Obama Reaching out to Young Evangelicals


In early August, the Obama campaign will launch a new effort through the web aimed at bringing young Evangelicals together in support of Barack Obama.

The Obama campaign says they've had an enormous response from younger Evangelicals when it comes to his faith message. This new site, aimed at younger Evangelicals, will be a gathering place to get them on the same page and start house parties, blog like crazy and organize and volunteer for service projects across America spreading the faith message coming from Obama.

There's no doubt Obama has engaged an eager and energetic younger crowd during this presidential campaign.

Do we wish God's boundless compassion for others?

Today Crossway has posted online the entire book of Jonah in the ESV Study Bible.

This sample will help you look inside and see the notes from start to finish of an entire book. Mark Futato provided these study notes for Jonah. Mark was my professor at RTS for numerous classes such as Hebrew language and a class on the Psalms. For my last Hebrew class, I had to read and translate Jonah from the original language. Needless to say I appreciated all I learned from that experience, and these notes from the ESV Study Bible are a wonderful recapitulation of many of the Biblical gems that I discovered through Professor Futato's instruction.

James Grant, who blogs at In Light of the Gospel, has interviewed Dr. Futato about his work on Jonah. An excerpt of that interview is below..


What particular areas of research have you enjoyed concerning the book of Jonah?

For me the greatest fascination with the book of Jonah is how paying careful attention to the literary features of the book yields tremendous theological insight. For example, a proper understanding of the structure of the book invites the reader to compare and contrast Jonah's grateful prayer in 2:2-9 with Jonah's angry prayer in 4:1-4.

(click to enlarge)

The seventh section (4:5-11) stands apart from this parallel structure, signaling that it is the goal toward which the whole story is driving. The story ends with the Lord asking Jonah for permission to have compassion on the Ninevites. At the heart of the message here is that God's compassion is not just for "us" it is also for "them," whoever "them" may be.

How does that particular message speak to our current historical situation in the church?

It seems to me that "Jonah" is alive and well in the church. The spirit that focuses on "us" without much concern for "them" is not hard to find. We need only ask ourselves how grateful we are for God's grace to us and then honestly look at how begrudging we can be toward God extending his grace to "them."

For example, what is our fundamental attitude toward Islamic terrorists? They are quite the analog for the Assyrians of Jonah's day. Is our fundamental attitude one that wishes for them God's just judgment or his boundless compassion? That is indeed an important message for us.


****




Mark Futato is the Robert L. Maclellan Professor of Old Testament and Academic Dean at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orland, FL. Dr. Futato received his Ph.D. and M.A. in Semitic Languages from the Catholic University of America, and he is a minister in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). Dr. Futato contributed to the ESV Study Bible by providing the study notes for Jonah.



(ht: Between Two Worlds)

Steven Curtis Chapman and Family on Larry King

Last night my family and I watched the Chapman family on Larry King talk about the grief and healing since the tragic death of their daughter. Will, their son who accidentally killed Maria Sue with his car, was also on the show. I appreciate the Chapmans' willingness throughout the interview to be real about their pain and their faith.

Part I


Part II


Part III


Part IV


Part V


Part VI

Cliff Notes on Vision


Here are some quick hits on Vision:
  • Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18)
  • Without vision: family members eat separately in their own rooms; churches argue; companies only have employees
  • "Without vision, people will define their own vision and the loudest voice will prevail."
  • Vision unifies us around a preferred future; a future that can’t be accomplished by myself.
  • Great leaders cast a clear, concise and compelling vision.
  • "If your vision doesn't scare you, then both your vision and your God are too small." - Brother Andrew
  • For vision to to motivate it must connect on 3 levels:
    1) Mind-to-Mind – Vision is strategic. While your vision may be, as Jim Collins says, "big, hairy and audacious," people have to believe that it is attainable. When you connect, it becomes “OUR PLAN” and people give their resources.
    2) Heart to Heart – Vision is passionate. When people see you, they see, feel and taste the vision. It becomes something you were created for and are willing to die for. When you
    connect, it becomes “OUR DESIRE” and people give their life.
    3) Soul-to-Soul – Vision is personal. It comes from God but it permeates your life. A calling. A confidence that IT will be accomplished. When you connect, it becomes “OUR CALLING” and people take responsibility.
  • Winston Churchill believed that leadership's foundation was vision. He had five tools he used when he got ready to communicate vision. Here they are:

    TOOL ONE: STRONG BEGINNING (CAPTURE THEIR ATTENTION)
    TOOL TWO: ONE THEME (STAY FOCUSED)
    TOOL THREE: SIMPLE LANGUAGE (EASY TO UNDERSTAND)
    TOOL FOUR: WORD PICTURES: (STORIES AND ILLUSTRATIONS)
    TOOL FIVE: EMOTIONAL ENDING (A COMPELLING CONCLUSION)
  • And take this poem by Sir Francis Drake to heart:

    Disturb us, Lord, when
    We are too well pleased with ourselves,
    When our dreams have come true
    Because we have dreamed too little,
    When we arrived safely
    Because we sailed too close to the shore.

    Disturb us, Lord, when
    With the abundance of things we possess
    We have lost our thirst
    For the waters of life;
    Having fallen in love with life,
    We have ceased to dream of eternity
    And in our efforts to build a new earth,
    We have allowed our vision
    Of the new Heaven to dim.

    Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
    To venture on wider seas
    Where storms will show your mastery;
    Where losing sight of land,
    We shall find the stars.

    We ask You to push back
    The horizons of our hopes;
    And to push into the future
    In strength, courage, hope, and love.
(cross-posted from Ministry Best Practices)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Presto


If you saw WALL-E then you saw the newest Pixar short, Presto. Now it's online.

I can't embed the video, but follow the link to watch.

Watch Presto, HERE


The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher


The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher
is one of the books that I finished while on summer vacation. I don't usually read much "Christian" fiction, mostly because it is so BAD. But Rob Stennett's novel is an exception to that rule.

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher is a story about a 28 year old agnostic real estate who places an ad in the Christian business directory in search of more business. From that point on, Ryan and his unsuspecting wife are swept up in the Christian subculture of church, potlucks and Bible studies.

Soon into Ryan's new excursion into the church, he goes well beyond the boundaries of merely filling the pews in order to increase his networking opportunities. Ryan decides that he would like to plant a church. Before they know it, Ryan and his wife are involved in the most unorthodox church plant in the history of the Christendom.

Stennett is able through his characters and humorous situations to effectively satirize our evangelical subculture. He knows well what he is poking fun at.

In this novel, Ryan is able to plant and grow a mega-church without even having any belief in God. All Ryan relies on is tenacity, hard work, and some luck thrown in for good measure. As I was reading the book, I couldn't help but think about how many of our churches here are just like Ryan's church.

If God didn't show up in our church, would we even notice? It is so easy to utilize the latest methodologies, programs and tools and forget that all those things are useless unless God goes before us and works in, through and on us. Even though I mocked and laughed at Ryan throughout the book, I fear that his similarity to me is too close for comfort.

Rob Stennett, is Creative Director at New Life Church in Colorado Springs (yes the very same church with their own drama a couple of years ago). When Stennett isn't doing his day job, he is also a screenwriter and playwright.

Live Blogging at the Leadership Summit!


I have posted about this over at my other blog, Ministry Best Practices, but I wanted to alert my ProvocativeChurch readers to make sure to check out my Leadership Summit '08 Live Blogging Site.

The site is a aggregation of bloggers and their thoughts about the Leadership Summit experience.

Enjoy and Leadership Summit '08 Live Blogging Site, it's the next best thing to actually being there.

The Changing Face of America

USA Today recently analyzed the shifting demographics of the 2007 U.S. Census estimates and uncovered some significant shifts in age and race since the 2000 census. Highlights from their analysis on race include:

-White populations have declined in more than half of the USA’s counties since 2000.

-Whites are 66% of the population nationwide, they are growing very slowly.

-In 2007, minorities made up more than half the population in 302 of the nation’s 3,141 counties.

-Hispanics and Asians tend to be younger and are growing very quickly.

The rapid growth of minorities is a dramatic influence on a community’s culture. And therefore it is important to learn how your own church's community is shifting. As well as you must learn what you must do to stay relevant and reach out to this changing culture (and not merely flee from it).


(ht: ChurchRelevance)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

How to Find Your Nuggets


Imagine having a newsstand online - that's what the creators of Alltop have attempted to do. Alltop is the easy way to prospect for the information "gold" from the internet.

Read more about it HERE.

Top Twitters

Catalyst just posted a list of the Top Tweeters and Church Leaders If you are interested how church leaders across the country answer the question, "What are you doing?" in less than 140 characters, then check out the Catalyst post.

Also, Anne Jackson posted 6 Twitter Tips. (a helpful guide for those of you interested in starting to Twitter.)

Also if you are interested in following me on Twitter you can click HERE.

Are you shaking your head, saying "What the heck is Twitter? What are you talking about?!"
If so, then check out my previous post HERE.

Obama's Prayer

The news broke recently about Obama's visit to the wailing wall in Jerusalem and the prayer he wrote to God that was stolen and made public.


Here is the text of his prayer:
"Lord - Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."

No matter what your thoughts are of Obama, we owe it to him (and all men and women in leadership) to pray for him in the way that he desires to pray for himself.

(ht: TerraceCrawford)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Zondervan's New Blog

This new blog looks worthy of bookmarking!

Zondervan Academic has launched a new blog called, “Koin┼Źnia: Biblical-Theological Conversations for the Community of Christ.” Apparently this is going to be blog that will cover a variety of topics like exegetical work and translation and theological issues and publishing. It also seems that Zondervan hopes to have an honest conversation among some of their contributors on the topic of biblical-theology. Some of the contributors include:
  1. Ajith Fernando
  2. Bill Mounce
  3. Bruce Waltke
  4. Chris Wright
  5. Clint Arnold
  6. Craig Blomberg
  7. Daniel Wallace
  8. Darrell Bock
  9. Gary Burge
  10. John Walton
  11. Lynn Cohick
  12. Mark Strauss
  13. Miles Van Pelt
  14. Tremper Longman
  15. Walt Kaiser

(ht: Light of the Gospel)

Pic of the Red Robin and my bride

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

At Red Robin for dinner

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What if Worship Was Like a NBA Game?

Funny stuff from bluefish.tv



(ht: Worship)