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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Season of Lent


Perhaps some of you aren't familiar with the season of Lent that we have just begun. If that is so, here is a little primer on Lent.

The season of Lent is a season of worship for both personal and corporate spiritual renewal in preparation for celebration of the central event in Christianity, the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a time for intense study of God’s word, for meditation, for prayer, and for self-examination.

It begins quietly with ashes and builds in intensity as the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection grow closer. Ultimately, the purpose of Lent is a pilgrimage to put the Gospel in motion in a convicting and empowering way.

What is it's context within the Church Year?

In the Old Testament, God used feasts and festivals to bring a rhythm and balance to Israelite worship. This was accomplished by providing structure to the recounting of God’s great works, providing seasons of confession and celebration, and looking forward to God’s promises. The Christian Church year gives us some of the same balance and rhythm in walking through the life of Christ in a way that essentially walks us through the Gospel.

So as we enter the season of Lent you might notice the worship taking on the more subdued and reflective character of the season. This will then contrast with the excitement and praise of Easter and Pentecost.

What are some practical things I can do to make Lent meaningful?

One of the best things you can do is be sensitive to the purpose of Lent through intentionally emphasizing positions, actions, moods and disciplines as you go about your normal worship, reading, devotions and prayer times.

Worship Positions: Kneeling, falling prostrate, bowed heads
Actions: Extended time in confession, reflection, prayer, fasting, lament, self examination (spiritual life, family, business, relationships, areas of service, finances, mission)
Moods: quietness, reflectiveness, simplicity, sacrifice, self-examination, in-ward focus extra time in the scriptures, practicing simplicity, prayer and fasting

Do I have to give something up?

Many of us might be familiar with “Giving something up for Lent.” In many cases this has become empty tradition and its deep meaning and context have been lost. The heart of this tradition is twofold.

1. Using the sense of sacrifice as a small way to identify with what Christ sacrificed for us in his incarnation, death and resurrection.

2 The second is for the sake of simplifying your life. By removing some of the external distractions and clutter of our lives to more clearly hear God, spend time with Him, and study the scriptures. In contrast to this being just an exercise in self sacrifice, this is done with the purpose of preparing us for the call to action and mission of Pentecost.



(thanks to my friend Mike Smith who has prepared our church for the season of Lent.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Everything is Amazing, But Nobody is Happy!

I posted this video on my Facebook profile last week, and it got such an incredible reaction..I thought I would post it here as well.



The problem is that we have lost our wonder and awe...and as well, we've have lost our capacity to be thankful.

During this Lent season...we need to reflect on not only the greatest gift given to us...Jesus' atoning death on the cross...but also the many other blessings we receive every day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drawing Near to Jesus


Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 40 day period where we are to reflect on Christ's journey to the cross and his suffering.

As I was reading from David Wayne's blog today (a fellow PCA pastor who happens to be suffering through cancer) I ran across this wonderful quote from
Alister McGrath's book, Luther's Theology of the Cross.

"God is particularly known through suffering. Although this is a reference to the sufferings of Christ, a far deeper spiritual truth is involved: a fundamental contention of the theology of the cross is not merely that God is known through suffering (whether that of Christ or of the individual), but that God makes himself known through suffering. For Luther, God is active in this matter, rather than passive, in that suffering and temptation are seen as a means by which man is brought to God."

Did you get that? A pathway in which you and I are brought near to God is through suffering.
When I first heard about a relationship with Christ in college, that fact about suffering wasn't on the "Come to Christ Membership Brochure".

As His church, to often we prefer to highlight and accentuate the benefits and blessings of Christ's inheritance and downplay the fact that we are also called to share in Christ's sufferings.

You may be going though a hard time right now. Perhaps you are facing the hardship of a job loss, cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, a prodigal son or daughter or some other pain and loss. Know that Christ wants to draw you near to Him through that pain - if you will simply allow Jesus to enter into that pain along with you.

It is through our pain and suffering that we meet Jesus, the lover and shepherd of our soul, who served and saved us through His suffering on the cross.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How to Handle Critics

Given that today is President's Day, I offer you this quote:
"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." - Abe Lincoln

If you have ever been in the ministry, then you understand the wisdom of Lincoln's words.

Todd Rhoades commenting on this quote had these observations:

1. He acknowledged the existence of his critics. Abe knew he had critics. No doubt he knew their names and what their overall beef was with him. But it did not steal his passion for doing what he thought was right.

2. While he acknowledged that there were attacks against him, he didn’t feel the necessity to answer every one of his critics. As Lincoln put it, if he did this, he might as well close up shop. It would consume the time he needed to actually do his job.

3. He realized that all he could do is all he could do. He is motivated by doing his best; not by making people happy.

4. He kept perspective. Lincoln knew that his long-term success was determined, not by his short-term critics, but by the long-term results of his actions.


(ht: MMI)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Don't Live in the Darkness!


Just came across this quote from John Smulo's blog from Ted Haggard:

"The reason I kept my personal struggle a secret is because I feared that my friends would reject me and abandon me and kick me out, and that the church would exile me and excommunicate me. And that happened and more."
-Ted Haggard

Wow, what a sobering quote. As I reflect on this quote I feel remorse in two ways.

I feel remorse that too many people live lives hidden and secret because of fear of judgment from those in the church. As Christians, we are suppose to be the people who can love and accept others with the love of Jesus. Our faith shouldn't produce shame and fear, but rather freedom. I am sad that the church's performance culture enables and helps keep people in hiding. As a leader in the church, this makes me sad.

Second, I feel remorse for Ted and his faulty understanding of sin and the church. His sin, failings and temptations weren't about him, they were and still are about God. It is the difference between worldly and godly sorrow/repentance.

Worldly sorrow only produces shame from sin. Worldly sorrow exclaims, "I blew it - again!", "I am such a bad person!". Worldly sorrow puts the focus on myself. It becomes all about me. From this and other quotes from Ted that I've read, I get the sense that he still thinks that it is all about him.

Rather, our sin is about God. Godly repentance, says, "I have sinned against YOU Lord - and You ALONE!" (Psalm 51) It understands and sees our sin in light of a majestic, glorious and holy God.

And lastly, I feel remorse for Ted because I don't think he understands the nature of the church and church discipline. I am not going to argue or dispute whether or not discipline was practiced perfectly and without fault. But Ted should understand that his dismissal wasn't because he was being banished, excommunicated and thrown into exile. First, he should know that because he was a leader in the church that his responsibility and the consequences for his sin were much more weighty. It scares me to say that, because I am a pastor, but that is the truth. Ted, I believe, has forgotten that a pastor who has committed sexual sin no longer meets the qualifications of an elder since he is no longer above reproach and blameless (I Tim 3:2). So it was the right, and dare I say loving, thing to do to remove him from office. Certainly one of the motivations of church discipline is to restore. What Ted received was not a punishment, it was meant to restore him in order that he would be whole again.

Unfortunately I believe that Ted's view of the Christian life , of a life of reward and punishment, is a view held by too many in our churches. If we hold on to that view and belief, we will push ourselves to live in the darkness.

Please don't live in the Darkness!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Tim Keller Wiki


If you have read this blog for any period of time, you know that I am, as well as many others, a big Tim Keller fan. Apparently the "fandom" is big enough to generate two Tim Keller Wikis.

(if you are asking, What is a Wiki? Then go HERE)

The first is much more well known in the Wikipedia dbase

The second wiki is considered the "unabridged" version and was created by DJ Chuang.

This Wiki is your non-stop shop of getting your Tim Keller fix. Plus, if you are ambitious, you can even add and contribute to it as well.