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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Kingdom of Twitter


I have a confession to make. I Tweet. I am a Twitter user. If you are a regular reader to Provocative Church, that confession will come at no surprise. But perhaps many are scratching your heads saying what is Twitter? or Why the appeal? You can read my post HERE to understand more of why I Twitter and what Twitter is all about.

But suffice it to say, Twitter is one of the most rapidly growing sites on the internet. The amount of users signing on everyday is staggering. From a recent article post at TechCrunch,Twitter traffic almost doubled in just the month of April. In March Twitter reached 9.3 million, an increase of more than 5 million visitors, or 131%, from February.

That kind of explosive growth of Twitter got me thinking of just how the church grows. The church is meant not to be a static institution but rather it is a dynamic and explosive movement. In the early church, we see examples of that explosive growth.

Luke writes:
"And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls."
-Acts 2:38-41

Throughout Acts and these passages you can see the tangible and exponential growth.

Acts:1:15 = 120 believers
Acts:2:41 = 3000 believers
Acts:2:47 = The Lord added to their number
Acts:4:4 = 5000 believers
Acts:5:14 = more and more... Believed
Acts:6:7 = the number increased rapidly

There is an expectancy that where the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes out -people believe, lives change and the Kingdom grows.

That is what you and I can expect when we go out into the world with Jesus.

When we live our life among our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, filled up with the love of Jesus - an impact is made.

When we serve others with a love and sacrifice motivated by the love of Jesus - an impact is made.

When we winsomely, lovingly and genuinely share with people the love of Jesus - an impact is made.


We may think Twitter's growth is something to marvel at...but it doesn't even compare to the growth, power and movement of the Kingdom of God.

Friday, May 29, 2009

We have a divine story


I was reading these words today from Paul Miller's book, The Praying Life.

"If God is sovereign, then he is control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this. When we put these all together–God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience–we have a divine story."

I love a good story...don't you? Whether that story is in a good book or movie, like Lord of the Rings. What's really cool is that you and I are part of a story. We are a part of God's divine story. God is composing His story with our lives. It is a story with twists and turns. A story with climaxes and dramatic tension. A story with adventure, love and laughter. And it is a story where the author (or creator) becomes near to his characters (or creation). Praise God that He entered into our story:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

He entered in our story in order to change our story from one of spiritual death to a story of spiritual life by going to the cross. And He is with us even today through the work of the Holy Spirit. God is with us, working in us and through us in His story.

As God send us out into the world...remember that God is creating a wonderful story of redemption that you and I get the privilege of being a part of. And because we are a part of His story, believe that no matter what challenges or obstacles we may face that we can trust God in the middle of it.

The Devastating Effects of the Economy

Here is a Friday Funny.

Even the world's most evil tyrant has been effected by the economy...and wait until the end for the punch line.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Have the Courage to Encourage


Today I was at the Georgia campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for their last meeting during the school year. And during the meeting Dr. Lee Jacobs spoke to the students. Dr. Jacobs was a practicing doctor until 2 years ago when he retired and took the position as Missions Pastor with Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA.

Dr. Jacobs spoke to the students from Colossians chapter 1, verses 3-8

"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing--as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit."

These are Paul's encouraging exhortations to the Colossians in beginning his letter to them. And yet later on in this letter to the Colossians Paul has some hard stuff, warnings and some correction for the church.

I always appreciate Paul's willingness to build up those in the church, even those who he is going to eventually correct and rebuke. He always starts with a couple of "attaboys" before he gets to the "gotcha". (Galatians may be an exception to that rule :-) )

Paul understood the power of praise and encouragement. For Paul he wasn't trying to manipulate the Colossions by providing some sugar to help the medicine go down...no he had a real heartfelt love and appreciation for them. Praise and encouragement has the ability to bring out the best in other people. It establishes unity and secures a bond of love and friendship.

For me, praising and encouraging others doesn't always come naturally. I often have to make a concerted effort to do so.

I would encourage you today to think of at least one praiseworthy thing about your spouse, or your parent, or your sibling or a friend....and encourage them in that. That might be saying a thank you...or just saying how much you appreciate that character trait in that person. Let's have the courage to encourage others by actually doing it.

The Fame that Fractures - Jon & Kate plus 8



Last Monday my family and I watched what has been our favorite show, Jon and Kate plus 8. Of course watching this Monday's season premiere, we knew the show had some issues to address considering all the controversy surrounding Jon and Kate's marriage.

Truly my hope was that as Jon and Kate were able to speak for themselves, that they would set the record straight and put to bed all the vicious rumors. I expected to see the family that I was accustomed to watching, not the one as portrayed in the tabloids. Unfortunately, what I saw was hard to watch and I started to wonder what fame and exposure had done to this Christian family.

Jerod Clark wrote an excellent post at ThinkChristian which I want to commend to you to read. Many of Jerod's feeling and thoughts were mine as well, here is an excerpt.

The Gosselins are an openly Christian family. In past seasons they’ve talked about their church and support from the people there in helping take care of a family of twins and sextuplets. As an example, volunteers would help with doing laundry or taking care of the kids. To TLC’s credit, the religious side of the Gosselins life wasn’t completely edited out of the show.

I think that’s why I wanted to watch the season premiere. I thought maybe this would be a chance for a married Christian couple, dealing with the issues of infidelity and fame, to be highlighted in a positive way. But instead it was another example of a family falling apart – just another example people can point to and say, “See Christians are no different than the rest of us.”


Read the whole post HERE

I don't think that I can in good conscience contribute to the very thing that has undermined their marriage - their fame, by watching their show. But what I can do is pray.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Fix Our Eyes On Jesus


I was reading today the words from the writer of Hebrews:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." - Hebrews 12:1-3

What always grabs me and jumps out at me from that text is the picture of "fixing" our eyes on Jesus.

I embarrassed to confess to you all that too often I find myself fixing my eyes on too many other things than Jesus.

When I have or face a problem, I am often tempted to fix my eyes entirely on that problem...or even at times "fixating" on the issue at the expense of everything else.

I also find myself fixing my eyes on ME and my own desires and my own comfort. I'm interested in what will make ME happy and accomplish MY goals?

But the writer of Hebrews says that the only way we can persevere and finish a life of following Jesus is to keep Him as our focus. But how do we do that? The writer of Hebrews gives us the answer when he describes Jesus as the one who endured the cross and humiliation because of the joy and exultation that would eventually await him as he would sit down at the right hand of the throne of God in glory. What is described here is the Gospel - plain and simple.

Reminding and preaching to ourselves everyday the beauty and power of what Christ accomplished on the cross and through his resurrection is what keeps our focus on Him. The Gospel wasn't just for us at a point of time when we came to faith as Christians, but rather the Gospel is for our faith everyday as Christians.

I have been spending a lot time in preparation a trip to Honduras, working on leading a medical missions team to help the people of San Marcos de Colon. It will be easy in the busyness of this upcoming mission trip and in the preparation getting there to end up focusing on everything else but Jesus.

During this medical missions trip, we can end of focusing just on how many patients we see and treat at the clinics, or we could end up focusing on a difficult situation during the trip and our need to be "flexible" and "fluid" amidst it all, we may even end up focusing on the adventure of going to an exotic foreign country - BUT all the time forgetting why we are there - to bring Glory to God.

That is why we need to keep reminding ourselves of the Gospel, what Jesus accomplished for us and who we are as sons and daughters of the King. As we do so, it will keep our eyes fixed upon Him and we will persevere in the race and journey set before us.

Hard Questions About Jesus

This is an excerpt from the British Comedy, Outnumbered. Although the minister looks uncomfortable throughout this interaction...I think the response should be just the opposite. Even though the questions by these children seem silly, they appear to be genuine. And I rather people be asking me questions about God, faith and Jesus, rather than live in indifference and apathy.



If you haven't already checked out this book about handling skeptic's questions, you want to take a look at Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God, now coming in paperback this summer.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day


Memorial Day is more than just the beach, sunburn and BBQ..it is remembering and honoring those who gave their lives so that we could have our freedom.

Here are some fast facts about this holiday:

It started with the Civil War - Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead.

It was first known as Decoration Day - From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.

In 1971, the Monday Holiday Law shifted Memorial Day from May 30, to the last Monday of the month.

It is customary on Memorial Day to fly the flag at half staff until noon, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Read a Novel and Change the World


I believe on sharing the wealth. And so I am going to pass along a free book to all my Provocative Church readers that I believe is worth your read. This book giveaway I'm about to tell you about is kinda like "Read a novel, change the world."

Scared is a novel with a conscience. It's by Tom Davis, the director of worldwide orphanage and relief organization Children's HopeChest.

Scared is a book that doesn't pull any literary punches in depicting what real life is like for kids growing up in Swaziland, and other parts of poverty, war, and pandemic-ravaged Africa. Nor does it gloss over the real struggle the rest of us go through when grappling with these overwhelming realities.

What's even more intriguing - is that Scared is not just a novel, it's a movement. Tom puts his organization's money where its story is: Starting in June, Tom and HopeChest will raise $1 million to support educational projects in Swaziland. They are also running a contest for Swazi orphans! The grand prize? A university scholarship.

Tom feels like Scared and its message are so important that he's giving it all away. For the next two weeks (until June 5, 2009), he is giving Scared away in its entirety, as a digital download. Download it here: http://scaredthenovel.com


Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible

Thomas Nelson had recently released an exciting audio version of the New Testament called the Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible. Too often other audio Bibles come across flat in their narration or either overly dramatic, but this version seems to capture a balance.

The big draw of this audio version are the young stars who do the vocal roles. Some of those stars are Cody Linley from Hanna Montana, Cobin Bleu from High School Musical, Alyson Stoner from Camp Rock, and Jordin Sparks the Americal Idol winner.

These are stars that my two teenage daughters not only will recognize but also connect with. When I think of ways to invest in my kids spiritual formation and encourage their love and appreciation for the Word of God, the Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible is one great resource in helping to accomplish that objective.

Here is a trailer of the audio Bible:



This audio bible is a great addition to not only your child's ipod, but the parent's as well.

You can purchase it HERE.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Official


I finally broke down and got them...braces!

My teeth had become a train wreck with shifting and moving..so I knew I needed to do it...it was just a matter of timing. So this morning I got them, top and bottom. The top are clear brackets, while the bottom are silver.

Now my teenage daughter and I have one more thing in common...at least for the next 12-18 mos.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Learning Spanish

In June I will be traveling to Honduras on two separate trips with CMDA. And one of the biggest goals before I go back is to learn Spanish.

If you are interested in learning Spanish, I have found some great free resources out there:Coffee Break Spanish offers a free 15 minute podcast where you can learn the basics of conversational Spanish.

Out and About Spanish - Audio Spanish lessons with downloadable guides prepared by fellow short-term medical missionaries.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Open Table

Don Miller, author of the book, Blue Like Jazz, has just authored another book entitled “The Open Table.”

This book is a part of a new video series that he’s created with his friends to help engage some of life’s greatest questions. Here’s the write up on “The Open Table” at their main site;

The Open Table: An Invitation to Know God is simply that – an open invitation for discussion about some of life’s greatest questions: what is Christianity, who is Jesus, and how should this affect our lives? Donald Miller, author of best-selling books Blue Like Jazz & Searching for God Knows What, invites you to join him in a conversation infused with humor, truth, history, and above all, honesty. Whether you have never opened a Bible or if you grew up reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the table is open to you.

When completed, JoinTheOpenTable.com will include features such as “Find an Open Table Group in Your Area,” “Sign Up as an Open Table Group Leader,” Videos, and more. Please sign up here if you’d like to be notified when the complete site launches.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Inside the Googleplex

This looks like a cool place to work...it is like an adult playground.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Has the church become a relational crutch?


A little while back I wrote this post discussing that developing relationships within the church isn't something that can be organized, programed or rushed. Rather it is something that needs to develop within the natural, unexpected margins of our life.

But isn't it the church's job to make sure people are connecting within the church...connecting with one another?

Last week I had a conversation with a friend over email, we were discussing this issue when he said this statement that stopped me in my tracks,

"connecting at church is weird to me anyway...it’s like you are expected to meet friends and hang out with people just because you go to church together...seems weird to me...my friends don’t necessarily go to this church and just because you do doesn’t mean I want to go to lunch with you after church"

As a leader in the church and a pastor whose job description it was to "connecting" people within the church - then according to my friend, is that really the church's responsibility and role?

Is the church supposed to create relationships for you just because you are part of the church, and are your relationships supposed to exclusively come from the church? Have we made the whole connecting thing artificial and contrived?

Has all of these church programs and events designed to develop "forced friendships" become a giant, glorified church "dating" service? Isn't it each individual's responsibility to invest in developing relationships? Should people be angry or disappointed at the church if they for some reason haven't "connected"?

Perhaps all the church is required to do is to create "relational spaces" or environments where relationship can easily cultivate and flourish.

As all these thoughts had been tossing around in my mind all week, then I come across today a new post from Tony Morgan that further stoked these ideas.

Tony Morgan ponders the issue, "whatever reason, when it comes to church, we think the church needs to find us a friend." Then Tony goes on to ask...

-Have we made people too reliant on the church for putting them in relationship with other people?

-Have we made people too reliant on the church for “growing them” in their faith?

-Have we pulled people into relationship with other Christians at the expense of their relationships with people who need Jesus?

Tony continues on to make these observations:

It just strikes me as odd that people seem to be very capable of finding friends outside the church. In fact, the social networking craze has made it even easier to connect with people both face-to-face and virtually. I wonder if social networking has any clues for the Church when it comes to biblical community. If we create the right framework for relationships to happen, will people find their own friends? If we create the right environments, will people take that step on their own?

What would happen if we put less attention on organizing relationships and more attention on giving people something to organize around? For example, what if we focused on serving opportunities? Would people naturally gather around those initiatives to serve others? What if we focused on the content we were generating to help people better understand the Bible and its application to our daily lives? Would people naturally organize around that content for conversations together?

Relationships are important, no one is saying otherwise...but is it the church's role to create "friendships" and relationships? Are we just setting up the church for failure and people for disappointment in the church?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day to my mom and my wife. You all do the toughest and yet have the most valuable job in the world. Here is a story told by Mark Batterson on what it means to be a mom:

When Tony Campolo was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, his wife was a stay-at-home mom. At faculty functions, she'd invariably get asked what she did and she'd say she was a full-time mom. The reaction was always the same. She felt patronized by the intelligentsia so she redefined her role.

One night at one of the events someone asked her what she did and she said, "I am socializing two Homo Sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the teleologically prescribed utopia inherent in the eschaton."

She paused a moment and then asked, "And what is it that you do?"

Saturday, May 09, 2009

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, May 08, 2009

A Collison of Lives


Christopher Hitchens (atheist) and Douglas Wilson (reformed pastor) have debated in their writings and through their book, Is Christianity Good for this World?

Now, the entire debate tour was captured on film and the fruit is a forthcoming documentary called Collision. This looks like an intellectually honest and civil debate by two men of equal stature and intellectual caliber. (Certainly a lot better than that embarrassing display of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort debate with the Athiests by trying to offer scientific proof that God exists)