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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Spirit Must Go Before Us


This morning, our sermon at church was given from the Gospel of Mark.  Here is the verse that was read this morning:
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. 53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. - Mark 6:45-56 ESV
I won't give you a play by play on how my pastor unpacked that text for us this morning, but rather just mention one thing that jumped out at me from the text, vs. 51-52.  After the disciples had witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 (found earlier in the chapter) and Jesus walking on the lake in the middle of the storm - they still couldn't understand, who Jesus is.  Their hearts were hardened.

I like the way my ESV Study Bible notes address this point:
When Jesus calmed the storm earlier, the disciples had struggled with faith vs. fear (4:40); now, they struggled with faith vs. fear plus hard-heartedness. Mark explains that multiplying the loaves should have demonstrated Jesus' true identity to them (cf. 8:18–21), but neither that miracle nor the appearance of Jesus on the water could open their hearts to the reality of his divine nature.
Witnessing these wonderful miracles and demonstration of Jesus' power, wasn't enough to open their hearts.  Seeing isn't always believing.  It truly takes a work of the Spirit to open up our hearts to him.  He must open our hearts and give us the eyes to truly see Him.  There is in this account a definite application to my forthcoming medical mission trip to Honduras.

My team and I can do great works of mercy for the Hondurans.  We can love on them with all of our hearts.  We can share with them the love of Jesus.  But none of what we do will be effectual unless the Spirit of God goes before us and is allowed to work in and through us.

Therefore, it is imperative that we are relying totally on the power of God in our endeavor to Honduras.

Of course what is true for a trip to a foreign land, is no less true in our day to day life.

(artwork, St-Pierre-le-Jeune, Strasbourg. Detail from 14th cent. mural on west interior wall. It's a gothicised version of Giotto's 'Navicella' c1305-1313, Rome. Another example of the account in Matthew 14.23-33)

How to Write Bad Christian fiction

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I just read this quote on the web from Flannery O'Connor in her book Mystery and Manners,

“Ever since there have been such things as novels, the world has been flooded with bad fiction for which the religious impulse has been responsible. The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality. He will think that the eyes of the Church or of the Bible or of his particular theology have already done the seeing for him, and that his business is to rearrange this essential vision into satisfying patterns, getting himself as little dirty in the process as possible. His feeling about this may have been made more definite by one of those Manichean-type theologies which sees the natural world as unworthy of penetration. But the real novelist, the one with an instinct for what he is about, knows that he cannot approach the infinite directly, that he must penetrate the natural human world as it is.”

O'Connor is spot on, that is why she is one of the best writers.

(ht:  Tony)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

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, February 17, 2010

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.


(repost from last year)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Applying the Gospel to Everything



"In order to grow in Christlikeness, we’ve got to intentionally apply the gospel to everything we are and everything we long to do. We’re not to sever our obedience from [Christ's] perfect sinlessness nor disconnect our mortal life from his resurrected life. We’ve got to understand ourselves in the light of our new identity, seeing ourselves as we truly are: sinful and flawed, loved and welcomed. Only these gospel realities have enough power to engender faith, kill idolatry, produce character change, and motivate faithful obedience."

- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me

I remember hearing years ago from pastor and teacher Jack Miller, that, as Christians, we need to "preach the gospel" to our hearts and lives every day. We don't graduate from the gospel. The gospel isn't merely some set of propositional truths that we affirm in order to become Christians and then after that it carries no relevance. Rather the love and grace of the gospel is the reality that we must live in and let permeate us every day.

If you are anything like me, I have short term memory loss. I easily forget. And I can forget at times that I am loves and fully accepted by Jesus. How is that possible? It becomes possible when I allow the stresses., failures and pressures of the day to overshadow Christ's love for me. Or I choose to listen to the voices of the world and the enemy define me by their lies. That is why I must double down on the gospel. Through the Word, I need to press down into my heart that I am accepted and loved by Jesus, and that no circumstance, feeling or failure can change that fact.

Galatians 4:4-7 "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."