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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Update: "Not the Religious Type"

If you haven't had a chance to read my book review on Dave Schmelzer’s “Not the Religious Type”, take a moment and read it.

There is a very special opportunity to chat with the author, Dave Schmelzer, at Abunga.com about his book and views on religion both as a pastor and former atheist. The online chat will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 29, from 2-3 p.m. EDT for anyone who wants to join in. Make sure to goto Abunga.com/AuthorsAtAbunga to find the chat.

More details are available here

One piece of good news - cheap gas!

Gas at the local Kroger is $2.39 and with my Kroger card I can save an additional $.10. At last one good piece of news for my budget. In fact, gas is now so cheap, I can even afford to take a GAS BATH with it!

Thanx Alex for reminding of this scene from Zoolander, one of my favorite movies.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My spiritual journey this past week

Lauren and I just got back from an incredible spiritual retreat in Asheville, NC.

Many people have come up and asked us how our retreat was and it has been hard to put into words. The only way I know how to describe it is through the story of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis.

In the story, sister and brother, Lucy and Edmund along with a new character, Eustace, embark on a new adventure. During their journey on the ship, the Dawn Treader, their ship becomes damaged and they manage to limp to an unexplored island. Eustace, who has been quite disagreeable through the entire trip, is unhappy to learn that their first day on land is to be spent repairing the ship and other work he would rather not do.

Therefore Eustace sneaks away, climbing a nearby mountain and napping at the summit. Later, when he climbs down, Eustace is lost in a mist and finds himself in a hollow where a dragon lives. The dragon appears to die as Eustace watches it. Eustace goes into the dragon's lair and takes a nap on the dragon's treasure. When he wakes, Eustace discovers he has been turned into a dragon himself.

Eustace goes back to his companions; only he cannot speak and explain to them what has happened. Fortunately, the group figures out he is Eustace and do not harm him. Eustace uses his skills as a dragon to help his fellow travelers, having discovered it is better to have friends and to be friendly, than to be mean and be alone. After Eustace recovers a tree for them to make a new mast and has flown the sailors around the island to find fresh water, Eustace has a dream in which Aslan appears and will help him shed his dragon scales to become a boy again.

Now let's pick up at this part of the story:

"I was just gong to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly though that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said-but I don't know if it spoke- 'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know-if you've ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away....

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off-just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me-I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on-and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment....After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me...in new clothes."

That story of Aslan and Eustace was like my experience. Like Eustace, I have been trying to tear "away and at" several major issues in my life, and yet they would still reappear as I would continue to struggle with them. My anger, fear and desperate desire for control have been major issues of struggle for me.

This past week at this Sonship retreat, I let God do what I couldn't - and it was painful. But like Aslan, God waits patiently for me to try and try only to eventually fail and give up trying and then with his loving and yet powerful hand He is willing to strip it all away.

Was this past week painful? Most definitely Yes! Was it good? For certain, Yes! There were no "fixes" this past week(this is a life-long journey) but yet a door opened up. It was a door of new found repentance and grace that by God's grace and help by His Spirit, I was able to walk through.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sometimes It's Impossible to Hide Failure

Many times when we fail in ministry- the mistakes are little and people don't notice, because they don't know what it's suppose to look like. This is a lesson I learned in theater doing plays. I may make a mistake on stage, miss my mark or flub a line...but most of the time the audience isn't going to pick up on that mistake.

But what do you do when you do blow it royally, and your mistake is out there for all to see?

This happened to me when I made a mistake with my leadership that cost our church an overrun in one of our ministry budgets. The mistake tore me up and I had to deal with some raw emotions and come face to face with Jesus and the cross.

What do you do when you make a mistake or fail in ministry?

1. Don't hide - As a leader, you must choose to live transparently. It will be tempting to hide and cover up a mistake because we are embarrassed. But hiding never deals with it, it only pushes it off to be dealt with in the future. God calls us to live in the light (1 John 1:7), so hiding isn't an option.

2. Don't blame - You may not be the direct source of the mistake or perhaps others in your down-line dropped the ball, but that doesn't matter. Whether or not you are in part or whole to blame for the mistake, don't try to shift the blame toward others. Others in your ministry or church won't follow you if you are always throwing them under the bus. If you need to correct and instruct someone in your down-line because of a mistake, then do so with grace, truth and love - privately. Don't ever blame someone else publicly in order to protect your own reputation.

3. Remember the Gospel - Number 1 and 2 can't be accomplished unless you are remembering the gospel. The gospel reminds you that you are accepted based on, not what you've done or haven't done (your successes or failures), but rather what Christ has done for you.

When you remind yourself that you are found fully acceptable in Christ, then you don't have to worry about what other people think - and therefore you don't have to hide.

When you remind yourself that your acceptance and Christ's love for you will never change, then you don't have to worry about your reputation - and therefore you don't have to blame others.

As a leader, I had to remind myself of these these lessons. And if you are leader, a time will come when you will have to apply them as well.

Related Posts:
Preach the Gospel to Yourself
Identifying our Idols

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lake at Ridgecrest conference Center in Asheville, NC

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

The Wisdom of Insecurity

Why are we suddenly a nation and a people who strive for security above all else? In fact, security is essentially elusive, impossible. We all die. We all get sick. We all get old. People leave us. People surprise us. People change us. Nothing is secure. And this is the good news. But only if you are not seeking security as the point of your life.

Here’s what happens when security becomes the center of your life. You can’t travel very far or venture too far outside a certain circle. You can’t allow too many conflicting ideas into your mind at one time as they might confuse you or challenge you. You can’t open yourself to new experiences, new people, and new ways of doing things. They might take you off course. You cling desperately to your identity.

Of course now you can no longer feel what another person feels because that might shatter your heart, confuse your basic thinking, destroy the whole structure. Ideas get shorter — they become sound bites. There are evildoers and saviors. Criminals and victims. Those who are not with us are against us. It gets easier to hurt people because you do not feel what’s inside them.

But all of this offers only a false sense of security. Real security means contemplating death, not pretending it doesn’t exist. It means not running from loss, but feeling it, surrendering to sorrow, entering grief.

Real security is not knowing something when you don’t know it.

Real security cannot be bought or arranged or accomplished with bombs. It is deeper. It is a process. It is the acute awareness that we are all utterly interdependent and that one action by one being in one town has consequences everywhere.

Real security is the ability to tolerate mystery, complexity, ambiguity — indeed hungering for these things.

-Alan W. Watts from his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Battle of the Church Signs

Enjoy this parody of how two churches choose to handle their differences, by battling with their church signs. (I doubt these are real because the backgrounds never change such as the parked cars.)

Unfortunately too many of us really communicate like this with each other. We don't talk face to face or on the phone concerning hard issues, rather we take the easy way and simply shoot back and forth toxic emails.

If you got something hard or difficult to say, handle it biblically, with courage and in person, face to face (or over the phone if that's your only option).

Monday, October 20, 2008

Discipleship Toolbox

At the Vine Community Church, we are taking an intentional, yet relational approach to discipleship. We believe that discipleship is essential to helping people within the church to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

In order to properly equip those in discipleship and to give them certain tracks, we have developed an on-line Discipleship Toolbox.

Check it out.

The toolbox is not static but constantly changing and dynamic as we add more and more helpful resources to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin on SNL

Great show last night! Palin is a natural.

Here are the video clips from the show:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How Rich I Am!

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 55,146,441 richest person on earth!

How rich are you? >>

I think that this is a good follow up to my Blog Action Day post on Poverty.

Go to the Global Rich List
website and type in your income and you see where you place in wealth within the rest of the world.

It says that I am the 55,146,441 richest person in the world! And that I am in the TOP 0.91% of the richest people in the world!

Yes we are definitely going through tough financial times in this country, but when we realize that compared to the world we are extremely blessed, than we shouldn't be tempted to live in fear and despair, but rather joy and thanksgiving.

My family and I still have a roof, clothes on our backs and food on the table. We have much to give thanks for.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Are you the Religious Type?

According to Dave Schmelzer the answer for himself was NO. He grew up as an atheist (or at least it could be more honestly called hard-line agnosticism).

Now, Dave Schmelzer is the pastor of a thriving, hip, intelligent, and artistic church in Cambridge, MA. His church exists under the shadow and scrutiny of the intellectual center of religious skepticism.

And yet it is in this environment that his faith thrives.

In his book, Not the Religious Type, Schmelzer talks about God and his desire for a passionate relationship with His creation.

The deeper the relationship we have with him, the more uncertainty and mystery exists.

Schmelzer highlights M. Scott Peck’s four stages of spiritual/emotional development. He abbreviates Peck's stage four as the “mystical” stage, moving a person humbly, with doubt and mystery toward a "Divine Other":

You can see that stage 4 (mystical) is a stage filled with uncertainty to the same degree that stage two (rules based) is, by definition, filled with certainty. Or, to put it differently, stage 4 [the highest] is about questions; stage two is about answers. In this way of thinking, stage 2 looks at truth from the outside, as if it were a book that can and must be mastered. Stage 4 looks at truth from smack-dab in the middle of it, as if truth is everywhere and will take a lifetime just to begin to traverse (which is the joy of it).

I resonate with this kind of spirituality. When I graduated from seminary I didn't walk away more confident and certain, but rather just the opposite. I came face to face with just how big God is and how little I really "knew" him. What I learned and came to know after seminary was just how little I actually did know.

Not the Religious Type is not meant to be seen as a apologetic polemic defending the faith. Rather the book has a conversational style, almost reads like the author's stream of consciousness, and is meant to give the reader a window into the author's mind and heart.

"I am still amazed at how big, how enormous a love and mystery God is..." - Bono

If you echo Bono's sentiments, like me, then you are going to like this book.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now It's the Mom's Turn

You would have to be living in a hole not to be aware of the antics of Britney Spears or of the public scrutiny surrounding her sister Jamie Lynn's pregnancy. But behind these two girls is a mother, a mother who you may not know much about. Now Lynne Spears sounds off in her new book, "Through the Storm"

A lot of controversy surrounded this book even before it was released. Many billed this book as a parenting book and didn't understand why a Christian imprint, Thomas Nelson, would want to publish it. This book isn't what you may think it is. It isn't a book where either Lynne Spears defends or dishes dirt on her daughters. If you are looking for a tabloid, tell-all book, than you will be disappointed.

Through the Storm is a book by a woman who is a daughter, sister, wife and mother who simply tells her own story. As Lynne states in her introduction,

"It's really the story of one simple, Southern woman whose family got caught in a tornado called fame and who is still trying to sort through the debris scattered all over her life in the aftermath. It's who I am, warts and all, with some true confessions that took a long time to get up the nerve to discuss."

Lynne discusses her childhood and speaks with great detail about her relationship with her now ex-husband Jamie.

According to Lynne, there was no master-plan to get Britney into Hollywood and the music industry. Just like Lynne, we often make small decisions that lead to another and combined with some unexpected opportunities and events we find ourselves at a place we could have never expected or imagined. That is the story for the Spears family.

They were thrust into fame, and were ill prepared to handle it. This coupled with the strained and fractured marriage between Jamie and Lynne, their family didn't have the emotional and spiritual buoyancy to handle all the pressures and influences that fame brought.

Through the Storm
is a candid account of a wife and mother's many regrets and yet through it all Lynne Spears is tenacious to persevere throughout it all and fight for her family.

Through the Storm takes all the sensationalism of Britney and Jamie Lynn and boils it down to an undeniable fact - our shared humanity. Jamie, Britney and Jamie Lynn are part of a family that has made a lot of mistakes, faced a lot of scrutiny and pressures. They need our prayers, not our disdain.

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)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

Check out my contribution to Blog Action Day over at my blog, Ministry Best Practices.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Are you ready for the future?

I laughed so hard watching this!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Catalyst 08 has come to an end

Catalyst is now over, I can't wait until next year

Make sure to check out my Catalyst Live Blogging Site for recaps of all the speakers

(photos by Scott Fillmer)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Catalyst has just begun!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How far does $700 Billion Go?

What will $700 billion buy? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel provides some interesting answers. Some examples:

Gasoline for a year for every adult in America. (175 billion gallons of gas)

You could literally buy the world a Coke. One 2-liter bottle per week for a year.

You could buy a 60-inch HDTV for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

Sounds like Monopoly money? It should. You could buy 10 Monopoly games for each of the 6.7 billion human beings on planet earth.

You could buy everyone in America 2200 McDonalds apple pies. What's more American than that?

You could buy a brand new Hummer for each of the 11 million people on the island of Cuba

You could buy 2 mountain bikes for everyone in China.

You could buy 438 pounds of rice for every single person in Africa.

You could buy a Caribbean Island for every single person in the state of South Dakota.

Entire population of South Florida could cruise around the world continuously for 8.4 months.

(ht: Agora)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ministering to a Culture in Pain

"The problem today is not the breakdown of society. The problem today … is that the church collapses under pressure. We are called to minister to a culture in pain. This culture is in pain on every level, and the pain keeps getting worse. … The gospel is good news in a bad situation."
Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church in Dallas and president of The Urban Alternative

Fallen Angels

Here is my latest article at the site: Christ and Pop Culture. In the indie movie Snow Angels, I find a real, live Christian (not one of those annoying perfect ones)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stephen King

Here is the person who said this Quote from the previous post

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Who said this...??

Do you know who said this? It may surprise you.
“A couple of years ago I found out what “you can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

…We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Not a crying dime. All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex….

So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on…”

If you know (please don't use Google!) or if you want to guess put the answer in the comments section.
I will reveal the answer on Monday.

Digging a drainage ditch

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


Building a dressing room for the thrift store
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Compassion in Action

Vanessa and the crew working on the roof
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Compassion in Action

Today some folks from our Life Group and others will be going to Abba House to participate in a city wide service movement called Compassion in Action.

The primary way to build community and connectedness are for people to be on "mission together".  I am looking forward to joining others today to serve the underresourced in our county.

I will be posting pics throughout the day from my Blackberry.

Friday, October 03, 2008

More Jesus Junk

Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, talks about the many postures the church can have towards culture. One of those postures is "Copying" the Culture.

The culture makes movies, Christians make Christian movies. The culture has gyms, Christians run Christian gyms. The culture make t-shirts, Christians make goofy t-shirts. The culture has amusement parks, Christians have their own safe and sanctified amusement parks. The culture has coffee houses, Christians have their own coffee houses. And so on....

Here is the latest entry into the "Copy the Culture" fray:

Christian Energy Drink, fused with the "Fruits of the Spirit"

Door to Door Evangelist Guy

I know that there has been a lot of disagreement in the church on HOW to do evangelism... Confrontational, or Lifestyle. Acts of service, or "Way of the Master". Four Laws or Bridge.

But I think in this day in age relationships are the most appropriate bridge to bring the love of Jesus to those who don't yet know Him. They need to not only hear the gospel, but they need to see it lived out incarnationally. We need to let our friends, family and co-workers around us see and hear Jesus. We have to show people Christ where we work, live and play and do so with love and a winsome spirit.

That doesn't mean that we have to be perfect, but rather let people see how our faith intersects our life. We need to be willing to give our lives away, serving and caring for those around us. In a world of isolation and cocooning, simply inviting a friend or neighbor into our home for coffee of dinner can go a long way in showing people Jesus.

Knocking on people's doors in the evening or weekend - either for evangelism or even church visitation ain't going to fly anymore in this culture. Invading people's homes unannounced or unwelcomed will only put up walls not build bridges.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

No Atheists in Financial Foxholes

As financial workers suffer through tumultuous times on Wall Street, some are turning to an old source of solace: religion.

Religious leaders said attendance was up at lunchtime meetings in New York’s financial district a couple of weeks ago, with many more people in business attire than usual.

Read the entire story HERE