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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Regrets?

Here is a new video from Barton Damer for Igniter Media.


Regrets from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

As we look ahead to a new year we anticipate a fresh start and new beginnings. Looking forward though often times forces us to take inventory of our past. As you examine this past year of your life, place your regrets at the the foot of cross and know that you are not bound by your past and that your failures are not fatal.

“Christ’s death to sin and His satisfaction of God’s justice opened the way for the reign of grace in our lives.” - Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace

(ht: Already Been Chewed)

Get your financial house in order

As we enter the new year with the wind of economic uncertainty at our backs, you definitely want to check out Christian Personal Finance. This is a website that has been an invaluable resource to me and more than ever Christian's need biblically sound finanical help. (and right now CPF is giving away an iPod nano and other great stuff, what a bonus! - so make sure to check it out)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A man who stayed alive with Hope


“On this side of eternity, Christmas is still a promise. Yes, the Savior has come, and with him peace on earth, but the story is not finished. Yes, there is peace in our hearts, but we long for peace in our world.

Every Christmas is still ‘a turning of the page’ until Jesus returns. Every December 25 marks another year that draws us closer to the fulfillment of the ages, that draws us closer to . . . home.

When we realize that Jesus is the answer to our deepest longing, even Christmas longings, each Advent brings us closer to his glorious return to earth. When we see him as he is, King of kings and Lord of lords, that will be ‘Christmas’ indeed!”

- Joni Eareckson Tada, “A Christmas Longing” in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
I love this thought by Joni Eareckson Tada. It reminds me of the wonderful hope found in Christmas. Just as the season of Advent reminds us of the expectancy that the nation of Israel had of the promised Messiah, we, as the Church, have an expectancy as well.

It is an expectancy that Christ will come again and set all things right. The first time Christ came, He came as a Lamb, yet when Jesus comes again, He will come as a Lion. Knowing that Christ will come again as conquering King to rule, bringing with Him justice and peace, gives us tremendous hope.

Christ's return gives us hope, that despite our current circumstances, this is not the whole nor the end of the story. You may be going through tough circumstances right now. Perhaps it's a job transition like us, or maybe it is a health concern or even a troubled marriage. Even as tough as it is right now, there is HOPE.

Hope is a powerful thing. And on Sunday, December 28th when I preach, I will be preaching on a man who stayed alive on HOPE. I will be preaching on the story of Simeon in Luke 2.
May God fill you with His love and give you hope this Christmas,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Three Trees


Today, let me share with you a story. It's called the Parable of the Three Trees

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods. They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, 'Someday I hope to be a treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.'

Then the second tree said, 'Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take Kings and queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. Everyone will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.'

Finally the third tree said, 'I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest Tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill and look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me.'

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, 'This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter, 'and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew that the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree the woodsman said, 'This looks like a strong tree. I should be able to sell it to the shipyard.' The second tree was happy Because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the woodsmen said, 'I don't need anything special from my tree, I'll take this one,' and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals.. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying kings had come to an end.

The third tree was cut into large pieces, and left alone in the dark.

The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and He stood and said 'Peace' and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined.

We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His Ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best. This truth is what our family is clinging tightly to during this time of transition.

Our God is great and He is good, you and I can trust Him!


(source: unknown)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is Bad News, Good News?

A study last year by economics professor David Beckworth showed that during each recession cycle between 1968 and 2004, the rate of growth among evangelical churches grew by 50 percent. With the economy sinking, more churches are now verifying this trend and seeing remarkable growth.

"It's a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us," said A.R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York. "When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors."

The key, many pastors say, is staying relevant with the average churchgoer's biggest concern today-which means offering more insight, guidance and hands-on assistance on money matters. To that extent, churches nationwide have begun financial management classes and opened food pantries, and started job networking and placement ministries. All this while pastors are delivering more sermons on what the economic downturn means.

(ht: nytimes.com, 12/13/08)

Being Intentional in our Marriage


If everyone was this intentional with their marriage as they were with their money or job, I think relationships in our culture would look different.
"We did a business plan," Smith says. "Listen, everyone should do a marriage business plan. Why are you together? What's the point? Because he's cute? That's not going to hold up. It can't just be sex and somebody can cook. That's a really good purpose, but not for 40 years. Jada and I have connected to the purpose of our relationship, to teach and to continually learn about human interaction. Our marriage will have purpose for other married people."
-Will Smith


(ht: VariousParables)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Brought into the Feast


“Jesus, unlike the founder of any other major faith, holds out hope for ordinary human life. Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. We will not float through the air, but rather will eat, embrace, sing, laugh, and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory, and joy that we can’t at present imagine.

Jesus will make the world our perfect home again. We will no longer be living ‘east of Eden,’ always wandering and never arriving. We will come, and the father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be bought into the feast.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

Friday, December 12, 2008

What is Sin?


Recently there has been a change in the official dictionary for the next generation:
Oxford University Press' latest edition of its Junior Dictionary includes some culturally relevant additions such as MP3 player, blog and biodegradable. But it's the ones these words are replacing that have academics and clergy alike up in arms.

For its new release the British publisher omitted words such as minister, chapel, sin, altar, disciple and devil, as well as dozens of terms it believed were outdated because of their predominantly rural use. By nature of the product, the dictionary is restricted in size (10,000 words), meaning words are regularly being culled and replaced. The latest round of edits, according to Oxford representatives, reflect a modern, multifaith, multicultural society.
Among many other words, "sin" was omitted from the dictionary. Is this any surprise? Pope Benedict XVI said during the last Easter that in the contemporary world, "the notion of sin" is in jeopardy. Certainly the word sin doesn't resonate with young people, but that doesn't mean that the concept is totally irrelevant.

In fact, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church, a hip, young congregation in New York City still preaches about sin. But nevertheless he has to do so with lots of explanation "because the word is essentially obsolete," Keller says.

One starting place for Keller that is understanding what qualifies as sin these days, especially within his context. Tim Keller says, "Around here sin means self-centeredness, the acorn from which it all grows. Individually, that means, 'I live for myself, for my own glory and happiness, tearing the net of interwovenness, the fabric of humanity.'" The pathway to proclaiming salvation in Christ alone is helping people to understand that sin is a self-centered posture.

Keller's challenge is everyone's challenge. We all need to be able to define and explain the notion of sin in a way that is accurate and resonates and connects with our audience in order to appropriately provide the backdrop for the sacrificial love and grace of Christ.

(ht: telegraph.co.uk, 12/8/08 & leadership journal fall 2008)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Temptation of the Unemployed

When you are unemployed (or "transition" as we are now to call it) it can be easy for some days to look like this:




"If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done."
- Ecclesiastes 11:4 NLT


Monday, December 08, 2008

A New Kind of Conversation


Take a large portion of theology, with a dose of conversation and a pinch of blogging and you would have the recipe for the book entitled, "A New Kind of Conversation"

This book is an experimental book that enters into a conversation about Post-Modernism with five evangelical leaders and academics acting as the primary bloggers (authors).

The book is basically a distillation of an conversational exchange at the website, anewkindofconversation.com. So if you have visited the website, you are going to be very familiar with the content of "A New Kind of Conversation"

I certainly appreciated the attempt to take the conversations and contents from the website and put it into book form. The book's theological content is easy to access for the theological novice. Throughout the book there are pop-outs explaining terms and offering definitions when necessary.

If you are curious about what is Post-Modernism and it's implications to the church, then definitely grab yourself a copy of this book.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

God as an angry boss!?

“How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father.”
- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, p. 86.

How do you see God?  


Friday, December 05, 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)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Finding Hope in Troubled Times


“Christian hope is not about wishing things will get better. It is not about hoping that emptiness will go away, meaning return, and life will be stripped of its uncertainties, aches, and anxieties. Nor does it have anything to do with techniques for improving fallen human life, be those therapeutic, spiritual, or even religious. Hope has to do with the knowledge of ‘the age to come.’ This redemption is already penetrating ‘this age.’ The sin, death, meaninglessness of the one age are being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other. What has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it.

More than that, hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, that endures. It knows that evil is doomed, that it will be banished. This kind of hope has left behind it the ship of ‘this age,’ which is sinking. And if this other realm, this place where Christ is even now ruling, did not exist, Christians would be ‘of all people most to be pitied’ (1 Cor. 15:19). Their hope would be groundless and they would have lived out an illusion.”

- David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

(ht: First Importance)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

How is Pop Culture Influenced by Technology?


I wanted to share this thought provoking post from a friend of mine, Jason Locy, which was posted on the Q website and blog. Enjoy.

"We live in an inflated society. Individuals and cultural influences are coated with a thin layer of veneer. This thin shiny coating makes everything seem better than it is. Inflated.

At the heart of the problem is that we are living in a time where perceptions have become reality and reality is dismissed with a dose of Prozac. We huff and puff and blow ourselves up, making meaning out of our existence through what others think of us. Or, more accurately, what we tell them to think of us. Meanwhile, our televisions and computers and magazines tell us what we should think, what we should look like, and what we should buy. All the while, we eat our hot dogs, peanuts and apple pie, oblivious to the cultural ramifications of this existence.

As individuals, we make choices about how we consume, how we engage with technology or what we believe with very little thought. Each morning we wake up and systematically put on our veneer - our outlet mall pants, our dyed hair, our white teeth - we then turn on our phones, crank up our blogs, and update our statuses. "Good morning world. I am perfect. I have more friends than you."

However innocent these choices may seem, they carry sincere ramifications. Let's take Facebook or Twitter as an example. We log in and update our status with what we are doing that day. We tweet about a cup of coffee we are having. Outside of being pure digital pollution (i.e., noise that offers no value) these nonchalant actions imply that what we are doing is important and that someone cares to know. These actions feed our ego, a form of narcissism.

Blogging is another example of this (ironic, I know). It seems as if everyone with an Internet connection is starting one. Some statistics report that more blogs are being written than being read. With obvious exceptions most blogs are adding to the digital pollution. That is, they are saying nothing to an audience of zero. With blogging, the name of the game is quantity. Not quality. In order to be relevant, a blogger needs to post with great frequency. Frequency leads to greater traffic. The more traffic there is the more the more important the message is perceived. Veneer."

(read the REST HERE)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

One Job that I'm Not Interested In

Being a live tester for bulletproof glass



I am currently be transition, but I think I'll let this job pass me by!

Monday, December 01, 2008

On the Side of Angels

Many of us just finished celebrating Thanksgiving this past week with our family and friends. Of course we all have so much to be thankful for. Many of us have a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs. And yet there are many people around the world facing significant hardships and persecution at the hands of unjust governments and authorities.

That is the issue that this new book, On the Side of Angels: Justice, Human Rights and Kingdom Mission, seeks to address. In the opening pages of the book, authors, D'Souza and Rodgers address the concern:

The Spirit is inviting the church into a new era of advocacy that is as a significant as the global missions movement of the past 150 years and the relief and development movement of the past 50 years. The need is no less great, nor the biblical mandate any less fundamental.

But and this is a big "but" - too many Christians are still shockingly apathetic. They have either failed to hear of chosen to reject the Spirit's invitation.

Dr. Joseph D'Souza and Benedict Rogers are calling the church to their God mandated mission. They are encouraging the Church and people of faith to see involvement in justice and human rights issues as a biblical imperative.

This book has a bold and prophetic voice. Not only do D'Souza and Rogers give us the biblical imperative, but they illustrate it with real life stories of real injustice throughout the world. On the Side of Angels doesn't just inform the mind, but it moves the heart.

The issues addressed in this book are real and occurring every day. In fact, just the other day I read this story about persecution and injustice happening in India.

Hindu extremist groups are offering money, food and alcohol to anyone who murders Christians and destroys their homes. The going price to kill a pastor: $250.

According to a spokesperson for the All-India Christian Council, ""People are being offered rewards to kill, and to destroy churches and Christian properties. They are being offered foreign liquor, chicken, mutton and weapons. They are given petrol and kerosene."

One Christian woman named Jaspina was told by neighbors, "If you go on being Christian, we will burn your house and your children in front of you." She and her family were forced to eat cow excrement to "purify" themselves of Christianity...read the whole article here...

It is remarkable and shocking that this kind of thing is happening even now in our world!

The key ingredient of this book is that the authors don't just tell us what we SHOULD be doing but they also show us HOW to do it. D'Souza and Rodgers are committed to help the church take seriously their responsibility by giving several practical tracks and next steps in order for Christians to combat injustice and address human rights.

It is time that, as Christ-followers, we look outside of ourselves and look to bring about goodness and justice to the world.

Recently Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright spoke at Harvard University during an outreach event sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. His topic was, “Why do good in what seems to be a hopeless world?” Wrights words give us the biblical foundation on why we are called to do good.

In a post-September 11 world where the AIDS crisis and now the credit crisis are ailing millions, why should we try to make a difference at all? Why should we try to do good … to create good things out there in the world when in fact all the hope that our society has lived on seems to be imploding all around us? Contrary to popular belief, heaven is not the end of the world or the ultimate goal. It’s just phase one. Further down, there’s a new heaven and new earth – in other words, a renewal or recreation of the cosmos. It is a “world put to rights.” And humans are a part of that remaking.



And of course Bishop Wright's words simply resonate the admonishment that the prophet Micah gave thousands of years ago,

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

How much to give?

In light of Jack's birthday this past Saturday and our tough economic times...these words are timely.
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.” - C.S. Lewis

(ht: Andy Naselli)