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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kind of Silly, Don't You Think?

Here is a video of a person who has never seen the Star Wars movie (they've just seen a couple of bits and pieces) but yet they try to explain the story and plot.




After watching that video, that person's rendition of Star Wars sounds kind of silly, doesn't it?

Now think for a moment, people you know at work or friends who tell you what the Bible says and means, and yet they have never read it (or just read a few bits and pieces).

Kind of silly, don't you think?

Of course the issue boomerangs on us, those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. How much of God's Word we have digested and meditated upon will inform and influence what we know and believe about Him and dictate how we live.

You can't trust God if you don't know and haven't discovered that He is trustworthy and faithful.

You can't know that God loves you deeply and unconditionally if haven't experienced that love firsthand.

You can't have any real hope for the future if you haven't digested the promises of God.

You can't have a real and vibrant faith in God if you are ignorant of the object of your faith, God himself.


Monday, January 26, 2009

I am because we are


I came across, while reading the other day, the South African word - ubuntu. Have you ever heard that word? I know that I hadn't until then.

Ubuntu, means literally - "I am because we are." Isn't that word so cool! That word carries with it a beautiful thought and connotation. It says that my identity is such that it includes you and others. In other words, I would be a different person today without you. The people that you and I meet, befriend and who come in and out of our lives - change us.

People make an impact on us and we on them as well.

Why this idea was so cool to me is because I was able to thank God for all the people that God brought in my life over the years. Because of all the people God has put into my life over the years in New Jersey, Baltimore, Orlando and Atlanta, I am not the same person because of it. Who I am today has been fashioned by the people that God has put in my life (Proverbs 27:17).

Not only has this thought caused me to reflect back but to look forward as well. God is orchestrating new opportunities and new places to put new people in my life. And as a result, I won't be the same person tomorrow that I am today.

Be encouraged by the people that God has put in your life - you will not be the same again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

God's Megaphone


“We confess before Thee that if life were all smooth, there would be no patience; were it all easy, no courage, no sacrifice, no depth of character. We acknowledge before Thee that what is most admirable is the child of adversity and of courageous souls unafraid to face it.”
-Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick

One of the basic truths that Lauren and I have been clinging onto is that despite the whole issue of finding a "job", God ultimately wants to use this time to move us closer toward Jesus.

Our situation, which at times feels like a crucible, is the very means to which God wants to bend my heart and will to His. He wants to drive me to the cross and to be surrendered in utter and complete dependence.

C.S. Lewis said that God uses pain and trials as a megaphone to get our attention and speak to us. God has certainly been speaking.

God has been exposing the idols of my heart and how I have been responding to God like the older brother in the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. At times I have responded to the Father, just like the older brother, with anger, fear and frustration. Because, like the older brother, I was saying to God- "I've obeyed you!...I've done what you've asked!...God you owe me!...I don't deserve this!"

What foolishness and arrogance. I have been on my knees in repentance for my heart that was treating God like a giant vending machine. That kind of "older-brother" thinking suggests that if I put in a dollar's worth of piety, obedience and holiness then the divine vending machine, who is God, needs to cough up the product that I paid for.

God can't be controlled, rather He is to be loved. Our relationship with God is a relationship built and bound in love. I pray that during this time, my love and affection for God would go deeper even still.

"We love because He first loved us" -1 John 4:19

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's Inauguration Prayer


Almighty God, our Father:

Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone.

It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory.

History is your story.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama,

the wisdom to lead us with humility,

the courage to lead us with integrity,

the compassion to lead us with generosity.

Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans--united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you--forgive us.

When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone--forgive us.

When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve--forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.

And may we never forget that one day, all nations--and all people--will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, 'Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,

for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Recap of 24

Love the show, 24. I had to miss it last night, but I caught it on Hulu.com later today. But if you don't want to spend 60 minutes watching last night's episode..you could watch this 1 and a half minute recap..it will give you the essentials of the episode. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hope is knowing that Life is in good hands


“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. They all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.”
- Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Origins of the Internet

I know that this isn't a tech blog and so this post may be a bit off point..but if you know me, you know that I am a bit of a tech and computer geek. Therefore I appreciated this video which explains how the internet started. What I like about this video is not only it's clear and concise explanation but also it's attractive graphics. Even if you are not a "geek" like me, I think you will not only be fascinated but also have a better understanding of how this whole internet "thing" came about.

By the way, one interesting thought about the history of the internet that I pulled away was how the whole thing didn't develop from one BIG master plan. Rather it was a series of adaptations, responses to certain needs, and happenstances. Isn't that often true of how most things happen. We may make plans in our life, or in our jobs or at our churches. And even though we may see some of those goals and objectives come true...isn't most of what we see happen not so much of what we "achieve" but rather what we "receive". And isn't God the one moving us into those new and unexpected directions, often times surprising us with the eventual outcomes? I know that that is true in my life and ministry!

Watch the video below and enjoy!



History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What is love?

Here are some interesting statistics about the internet:

There are 1,463,632,361 total estimated internet users in the world (as of the second quarter 2008.) That is approximately 21.9 % of the total population of the world.

Of the world usage there is an estimated 240 million internet users just in North America.

According to Google, the top
‘What is’ search in America is ‘What is love?’

That is the burning question of millions and millions of people (I would suggest whether searched for or not on the internet, it is the burning question of all of humanity's heart). And yet the very nature of this question points us ultimately to God our creator.

The answer is not "what" but "who". God is love. (1 John 4:8) This statement goes well beyond just God demonstrating acts of love, His very essence is love. And yet the very fact that we are asking the question, "What is love?", exposes our relational need and the distance we have toward our loving Father. It was a truly sacrificial act of love by God the Father (who is love) , by sending His very own Son as a sacrifice and substitution for us (John 3:16), in order to reconcile us relationally to Him again.

Since people are asking "What is love?", we have a tremendous responsibility to not only proclaim that wonderful message of love but also live that out, incarnationally, in our life as well.

The world is asking about love and they are watching us. And unfortunately what they are seeing too often coming from the church does NOT look like love. We fight. We gossip. We bicker. We alienate and ostracize others.

How can we as the church demonstrate love to a world hungry to know what love is? I would love to hear your comments!

References:

(http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/zeitgeist2008/mind.html)

(http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Repenting of our good works


I have been reading and discussing with a friend Tim Keller's latest book, The Prodigal God

In discussing the difference between the younger brother and the older brother with the parable of the Prodigal in Luke 15, Keller mentions that we must repent of our good works.

Keller says it is easy to think of repentance, like the younger brother toward the father, as merely acknowledging and turning away from a list of sins. But repentance is much more. If repentance is merely getting out our list of sins, than repentance doesn't address the elder brother's condition. The elder brother had no conscience acknowledgment of sins. He thought that he had lived and behaved perfectly toward the father. He was self-righteous.

In order for repentance to address the elder brothers condition (which is the condition of many of our hearts, I know it is mine), it must go beyond the things that we have done wrong. Keller says, "We must repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. We must repent for the very roots of our righteousness. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness - the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord." (pg. 78)

We must repent of our good works.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cringe Video of the Week



After watching this video, I've had to rethink my call as a Pastor :-)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wounded Healers


Nobody escapes being wounded. We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not "How can we hide our wounds?" so we don't have to be embarrassed, but "How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?" When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God's wounded healer: through his wounds we are healed. Jesus' suffering and death brought joy and life. His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love. As followers of Jesus we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.
- Henri Nouwen

Rethinking Retirement


You are never too young to think biblically about retirement. Thank you John for this helpful resource:


Click here for the free PDF.

Click here for a hard copy.

(ht: Take Your Vitamin Z)

Friday, January 02, 2009

My LifeStream

I am having a little fun with the social networking thing these days. I have been able to mash together my blog posts, bookmarked websites, twitter tweets, music I'm listening to and all kinds of information about my online world.

The following are the last 30 items I have published, bookmarked or shared on various web sites. This is my Lifestream which is a snapshot of some of what is going on in my life. It is constantly updated.

You can, at any time, visit My Lifestream, by clicking on the link on the sidebar.

The Lifestream is brought together by a service called FriendFeed.






Here is my Lifestream in a Timeline View

Thursday, January 01, 2009

How to Make Resolutions Stick!


Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church, reminded me of an important fact the other day on his blog by recalling a study that was done in the 1960's on the campus of Yale University.

The subjects were Yale seniors who were educated about and encouraged to get a tetanus shot. Most of the students were convinced by the lecture that they needed to get the shot. But only 3% actually went and got the shot.

Another group of students were given the same lecture, but they were also given a copy of the campus map with the location of the health center circled. Then they were asked to look at their weekly schedules, make a plan for when they would go and take the shot, and look at the map and decide what route they would take. 28% of that control group got the shot. That is nine times as many! Why the radical increase? Because they identified how, when, and where?


Today is the beginning of a New Year. And many of us have made New Year's Resolutions. I am sure that all of us know that only a small fraction of our New Year's Resolutions will ever become a habit and lifestyle unless we go beyond our good intentions. It is imperative, if resolutions are to stick, that we identify the how, the when and the where. This is true not just for resolutions, but for any goals and objectives that we want to accomplish.

Certainly this has been true with my transition. I have been very intentional and specific with my plans, goals and efforts. And yet I know that even the best efforts and laid plans won't accomplish anything, unless God is in it.

One of my favorite verses is from Psalm 127. which says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

As this new year starts, let us all, of course work hard with plans and purpose (working unto the Lord - Colossians 3:17), but let us do so with a heart's posture of trust, our ears attuned to His voice and feet willing to go where ever He may lead and direct. Happy New Year!