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, September 29, 2011

We Are the Pharisees of the New Millennium

"The spirituality of America is Christian in name only. We desire experience more than knowledge. We prefer choices to absolutes. We embrace preferences rather than growth, faith must come on our terms or we reject it. We have enthroned ourselves as the final arbiters of righteousness, the ultimate rulers of our own experience and destiny. We are the Pharisees of the new millennium."
~ George Barna

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How We See Each Other

(click on the image to enlarge)

I particularly find it funny how the Evangelicals see those who are Reformed (Calvinists)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Good Samaritan

Vincent van Gogh - The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Crazy Hotel Suite


Is this what they mean when they say that "You'll be sleeping with the fishes!"?

An Oldie But Goodie




This is an old joke, but it always makes me laugh!
A guy dies and goes to the gates of heaven where he meets God. God says to him, "I have looked at your book of life and you are welcome in heaven under one condition."

The man said, "Yes, God. And what is that condition?"

God says, "You must spell the word: love."

The man spells the word and God lets him into heaven.

As the man walks in, God tells the man to watch the gate until he returns, and reminds him that he must ask whoever comes to spell the word. After a short period of time, the man's wife shows up at the gate.

"What are you doing here?" he asks her.

"Well," she snorts, "on the way home from the funeral, there was an accident and I died."

"Alright, but before you enter heaven you have to spell one word," he told her.

"What word is that?" she asks.
"Czechoslovakia," he says.

Following Jesus Is Not Easy



G.K. Chesterton wrote this very insightful thought:
 “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Following Jesus though isn't about trying harder or striving, rather it is resting in Him, with complete surrender and trust. This is why I appreciate Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

That's My King!

Our unique and central calling

“The church is sent into the world to witness to Jesus by proclaiming the gospel and making disciples of all nations. This is our task. This is our unique and central calling.”
— Kevin Deyoung and Greg Gilbert from What is the Mission of the Church?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Truly You and I Are Blessed


Martin Luther And Prayer


David Powlison explains how Martin Luther used the Bible in prayer as a textbook, a hymn book, a book of confession, and as a prayer book. (See also R. C. Sproul’s forthcoming delightfully illustrated retelling of the true story of Luther and The Barber Who Wanted to Pray.)
  

(ht: Justin)

Francis Chan - Jesus More Than a Savior

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Clever Anagrams


And now for something completely different - let's have fun with anagrams!

An anagram, as you all know, is a word of phrase made by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. The following are exceptionally clever (although I have no comment on the Mother-in-Law one).

Dormitory = Dirty Room
The Morse Code = Here come Dots
Slot Machines = Cash Lost in 'em
Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler
Snooze Alarms = Alas! No More Z's
A Decimal Point = I'm a Dot in Place
Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one
Astronomer = Moon Starer

Visual Quote of the Day


Live your story in light of God's story.

How Can We Trust That Which Is Unseen?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jesus Is NOT My Religion


What does this mean? It means Jesus is a living person, who was raised from the dead, and who personally guarantees eternal life to all who put their trust and faith in Him.

Jesus said this:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." - John 5:24
and He left everyone this invitation:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  - Matthew 11:28-30
Put aside mere "religion" that is too often our human attempt to be found acceptable and pleasing to God but rather come and cling to Jesus and the real life He has to offer.

A Cookie Chart

Wired magazine recently released this great chart of the most popular flavors of Girl Scout cookies and while it’s interesting and looks great, more than anything else, it just makes me want some Samoas. Is your favorite in the top 5 or in the “other varieties” section?

(ht: Laughing Squid)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Theology Matters

Don't Worry - I am with you


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Being Content


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why The Missional Movement Will Fail


Here is an excerpt from a thoughtful post by Mike Breen:

It’s time we start being brutally honest about the missional movement that has emerged in the last 10-15 years: Chances are better than not it’s going to fail. That may seem cynical, but I’m being realistic. There is a reason so many movements in the Western church have failed in the past century: They are a car without an engine. A missional church or a missional community or a missional small group is the new car that everyone is talking about right now, but no matter how beautiful or shiny the vehicle, without an engine, it won’t go anywhere. So what is the engine of the church? Discipleship. I’ve said it many times:
If you make disciples, you will always get the church. But if you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples.
Read the whole post HERE

What are your thoughts?  Agree with his argument?  Any push back?

(ht: Mike Breen)

Purpose of the Church



Michael Frost speaks about the purpose of the church likening it to being a movie trailer that reveals the reign of God.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Missional Community Could Look Like


What Missional Community Could Look Like: A great story of how to go about sharing your faith in community from Seth McBee. His conclusion:
I’m no saint. I’m nothing special. I’m not paid by the church. I’m not paid by by community. But, God pays me money through my business, not to hoard it, but so I can be making disciples who make disciples in the neigbhborhood I live in.
This story isn’t crazy. This story isn’t outlandish. It’s pretty normal. My family is pretty normal. That’s the beauty of it. I will also say that this is a small taste of what has been happening in our neighborhood and also in our own spiritual development. You’ll notice as you live this out, that life, as usual, isn’t perfect. There are times of much difficulty and, as a dude in our MC put it, “You only get really irritated with people if you actually get to know them. It’s hard to get irritated at others if you merely wave at them when putting your garbage at the curb.”
If you’re reading this, what is holding you back from going to your knees tonight and just asking God, “what’s next?” But, be careful, because once you let this Lion of Judah out of the cage, he’ll take over the neighborhood.
Read the rest.

(ht: Vitamin Z)

Dealing With Conflict Among Friends

"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don’t send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: “Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?” You don’t have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don’t have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend.” – Henri Nouwen

Connected - The Movie



This documentary looks really great:
 Have you ever faked a restroom trip to check your email? Slept with your laptop? Or become so overwhelmed that you just unplugged from it all? In this funny, eye-opening, and inspiring film, director Tiffany Shlain takes audiences on an exhilarating rollercoaster ride to discover what it means to be connected in the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Church From Scratch

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How To Become A Christian Hipster

The Difference Between Repentance and Remorse

How do we respond after we sin? This chart above illustrates the difference between remorse and biblical repentance.  They can have similar external expressions, but at their core they are fundamentally different.

Repentance is significantly different than remorse. Repentance is a change of direction: a confession of sin, followed by the desire to make restitution, rebuild relationships and, in general, make everything right. The evidences of repentance will be:
  • acknowledging his sin honestly (Ps 51:2-3; 1 Jn 1:9);
  • discontinuing the sinful behavior which initiated the discipline (James 5:19-20);
  • seeking biblical counsel, if needed, to gain victory over sinful patterns of behavior (Acts 26:20);
  • making financial restitution, if necessary (Luke 19:8);
  • initiating confession and asking forgiveness from all parties involved (Matt 5:23-24);
  • exhibiting a spirit of humility and brokenness, revealing a true work of God’s Spirit (Ps 51:17).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are You A Smartphone Addict?

You'll know if your baby/child starts wearing this -

The End of All Religion?!



What if two ad agencies competed to produce the ultimate ad that could put an end to all religion?  -These are their ads.

The issues they raise, aren't uncommon and are often leveled against people of faith.  My question to you is how would you address the arguments made in these ads?  What would you say to someone who would raise these objections.  Give me your opinions in the comment section.

(ht: 22 Words)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Memorial Sermons


From Tim Keller’s 9-11 Memorial Sermon:
One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff!
But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in – suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

From John Piper’s 9/11 Sermon:
The way I want to strengthen your hope this morning is not by glossing over how utterly vulnerable we are in our earthly existence, or by deflecting your attention away from the Biblical truth that God’s judgments fall on believer and unbeliever alike – purifying in some cases and punishing in other cases, depending on whether we repent and make Christ our Treasure instead of the idols of this world. I want to stare those realities of vulnerability and judgment square in the face with you and give you real, solid, Biblical hope. Not just hopeful feelings based on naive notions of earthly stability or escape from painful, purifying, disciplinary judgments.
So then, what is this hope and what is the basis for it? I’ll give you my answer, and then show you where I got it from the Word of God.
· Our hope is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not suffering and not even death.
And the two foundations for this hope are the death of Jesus and the sovereignty of God.
· Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ, died and rose again to bear our sins, become our curse, endure our condemnation, remove our guilt, and secure our everlasting joy in the presence of the all-satisfying God.
· And the sovereignty of God over all persons and events guarantees that what Jesus Christ bought for us by his own blood will infallibly become our inheritance.

(ht: Trevin)

9/11 Prayer On This Anniversary


Lord as we gather,
celebrating your glory and goodness,
we acknowledge the shadow of today’s anniversary.

Together, we remember September 11, 2001.
We mourn for the lives lost in New York City,
Washington D. C., and on Flight 93.

We lament death’s reign,
the visible and invisible forces of evil,
the principalities and powers of this dark world,
and the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men . . . including our own.

With the Psalmist, we cry:

“How long, Oh Lord?
How long will your enemies scoff?
How long will you withhold your justice
from a world that is desparate to see it?”

We lament a world at war, and we ask you for peace

In Afghanistan
in Iraq
in Libya
in Israel and Palestine
in Egypt and Syria, and all of the nations of the earth that long for freedom from oppression.

We ask for protection over our loved ones and families who serve overseas,
we pray for the fatherless and the widow,
for the poor and oppressed.

We lift up our global leaders
that by your grace they might lead with wisdom and justice
and work for peace.

And we acknowledge that all such hopes and longings point us to one who will soon return and bring an everlasting peace and justice.

Together we proclaim:

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 146:2-10)

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Today We Remember


Click on image to watch video

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Going Against the Grain

“The apostle Paul writes to the Romans: “Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them. … Never pay back evil with evil. … Never try to get revenge. … If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink. … Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21). These words cut to the heart of the spiritual life. They make it clear what it means to choose life, not death, to choose blessings not curses. But what is asked of us here goes against the grain of our human nature. We will only be able to act according to Paul’s words by knowing with our whole beings that what we are asked to do for others is what God has done for us.
 – Henri Nouwen

(ht: JR)

Outside the Camp – David Platt

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

100 Years of Fashion

This certainly isn't a blog on fashion, but this video is very creative and cool, and I think you'll get a kick watching it.

Manners and Customs from Around the World

I travel around the world and I always try to be aware of the different cultures and customs around me. Needless to say, I thought this list was interesting, especially trying to figure out how many times I've violated these customs.

(ht: 22 Words)

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Patron Saint of Coffee


As many of you know, I am a big fan of coffee.  It is a comfort drink and I love relaxing while enjoying a good french press.  So needless to say, I was excited to learn recently that coffee even has it's own patron saint!  Here is what I've discovered:

Saint Drogo (1105-1185) was a Flemish nobleman.  Drogo's mother died during childbirth, something he felt responsible for the rest of his life and because of this he practiced the extreme penance of self flagellation. At age 18 he disposed of all property and became a pilgrim, devoting his life to God.  Drogo was "reportedly" able to bilocate, maintaining his presence in two locations at once. Witnesses claimed seeing Drogo working in fields simultaneously, and going to mass every Sunday. (I am sure there are some guys who would like to bilocate being in church and on the golf course at the same time.)  

He is the patron saint of coffee and coffeehouses, I suspect because of his peculiar talent for multitasking. Drogo is also the patron saint of those whom others find unspeakably repulsive.  I suspect being associated with those drinking coffee and being unspeakable repulsive are not related...although before I've had my first cup of coffee, I've been told that I am hard to look at and be around.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

What If We Sang...What We Really Meant?

Sometimes when we worship, we don't really mean it. We go through the motions or sing words without any engagement of our heart. This is what it would look like if we were to sing what we really meant..

Saturday, September 03, 2011

How Does the Gospel Speak to the Hard Issues in Life?



I am looking forward to ordering and reading this new book edited by Bryan Chapell, The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times.  This book has to be put on the must reading list for pastors, and I trust it will also make it's way into homiletic classes within seminaries.

Here is the product description from Amazon:

Cancer. Suicide. The death of a child. As much as we wish we could avoid tragedies like these, eventually they will strike your church community. When they do, pastors must be ready to offer help by communicating the life-changing message of the gospel in a way that offers hope, truth, and encouragement during these difficult circumstances. Those asked to preach in the midst of tragedy know the anxiety of trying to say appropriate things from God’s Word that will comfort and strengthen God’s people when emotions and faith are stretched thin. This indispensable resource helps pastors prepare sermons in the face of tragedies by providing suggestions for how to approach different kinds of tragedy, as well as insight into how to handle the theological challenges of human suffering. Each topic provides a specific description of the context of the tragedy, the key concerns that need to be addressed in the message, and an outline of the approach taken in the sample sermon that follows.

Topics addressed include:
  • abortion;
  • abuse;
  • responding to national and community tragedies;
  • the death of a child;
  • death due to cancer and prolonged sickness;
  • death due to drunk driving;
  • drug abuse; and
  • suicide. 
Bryan Chapell, author of Christ-Centered Preaching, has gathered together messages from some of today’s most trusted Christian leaders including:
  • John Piper,
  • Tim Keller,
  • Michael Horton,
  • Jack Collins,
  • Dan Doriani,
  • Jerram Barrs,
  • Mike Khandjian,
  • Robert Rayburn,
  • Wilson Benton,
  • Bob Flayhart, and
  • George Robertson. 
Each chapter provides you with the resources you need to communicate the life-giving hope of the gospel in the midst of tragedy. In addition, the appendices provide further suggestions of biblical texts for addressing various subjects as well as guidance for conducting funerals.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

This Will Move You

How To Destroy A Culture In Five Easy Steps


Step #1: From Unthinkable to Radical

Step #2: From Radical to Acceptable
— This shift requires the creation and employment of euphemism. Want to kill a child exiting the womb? Call it "dilation and extraction” and infanticide becomes a medical procedure. Want to include sodomitic unions under the banner of “marriage?” Redefine the term “marriage” to mean the state-endorsed copulation of any two(?) people who want to share a bed and a tax form. Be sure to say it is about “love”—in our culture, eros excuses everything.

Step #3: From Acceptable to Sensible

Step #4: From Sensible to Popular

Step #5: From Popular to Policy

Read the whole piece HERE


(ht: First Things)

The History of Hell


There have been a lot of books and conversation about the subject of hell recently - Rob Bell and his book and Francis Chan's book in response.

Here's a great resource on hell recommended by Pastor Mark Driscoll  -found via Christian History Magazine - Download PDF