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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Central Lie of Pornography

Porn is a sex ed curriculum put together by liars and incompetents. The central wrong lesson (one easily believed by guys, because it flatters them) is that women have men’s brains encased in women’s bodies. Everybody in the whole world is hot to go. Then, when he gets married to a normal woman, and discovers that all the free sex he thought was going to be on tap . . . isn’t on tap, at least not like what he expected, and he thinks he got a dud, or a frigid one, or something. But no, he got a woman instead of the lie he was used to.
-Doug Wilson

(ht: Denny)

Minimizing Comforts for Maximizing Joy

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Power of Community


Basically, the witness of community is more powerful than an individual witness. Loving your neighbors is much easier if you never have to deal with them. Living in light of the gospel is much harder in community where people sin against you. Your neighbors know this and that is why talk is cheap. Experiencing a people who confess their sins against one another, repent, and forgive is foreign to the world. Communities that live in this way, transformed by the gospel, will not only have a good reputation among their neighbors, but also they will point them to hope in Jesus. This is a community that has joined the mission of God.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Is Forgiveness?


"Forgiveness is a promise not to 1) bring the matter up to the other person, 2) bring the matter up to others, or 3) continually bring the matter up to yourself."
 - Tim Keller

Raquel Welch Says Pornography “Annihilates” Men

Raquel Welch recently sat for an interview with Men’s Health in which she commented that pornography is destroying men. I do not recommend the entire article, but I thought it remarkable and insightful that a secular former sex-symbol recognizes the dehumanizing effects of pornography:
I think we’ve gotten to the point in our culture where we’re all sex addicts, literally. We have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in, regardless of where it is that you deposit your love interest…
It’s just dehumanizing. And I have to honestly say, I think this era of porn is at least partially responsible for it. Where is the anticipation and the personalization? It’s all pre-fab now. You have these images coming at you unannounced and unsolicited. It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me. Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real life girl that he cares about? It’s an exploitation of the poor male’s libidos. Poor babies, they can’t control themselves…
I just imagine them sitting in front of their computers, completely annihilated. They haven’t done anything, they don’t have a job, they barely have ambition anymore. And it makes for laziness and a not very good sex partner. Do they know how to negotiate something that isn’t pre-fab and injected directly into their brain?
Pornography hollows out the soul and leaves Gollum in the place of the man. But the “annihilation” that a man risks is worse than the one Welch refers to. Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:28-30 “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

For some practical advice on winning the battle against pornography, I recommend the following resources:
CovenantEyes free e-books
John Piper, “A.N.T.H.E.M: Strategies for Fighting Sexual Lust” (article)
John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Lust” (sermon in manuscript, audio)
David Powlison, “Breaking Pornography Addiction” (article: part 1, part 2)
David Powlison, “Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken” (conference talk: audio, video, and chapter)
Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy (free eBook)
Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Married Guy (free eBook)

(ht: Denny Burk, Hunter Baker, Justin Taylor)

Sins of the Flesh

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong… the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal Self and the Diabolical Self. The Diabolical Self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.” 
-C.S. Lewis

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's All About Jesus



Traditionally, the Old Testament is considered to have three parts — the Law (the five books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature (here referred to by its chief book, the Psalms). Thus Jesus sees himself as the fulfillment of it all. Literally everything in the Bible is about him.
The Bible can only be understood if it is seen to be about him. So, Jesus fulfills the Prophets, who said the Messiah will be God (Isaiah 9), and will suffer and be killed (Isaiah 53). He fulfills all the ceremonial law since he is the sacrifice, the priest, and the temple to which all the ritual pointed. He fulfills the moral law for he alone lived it personally, exemplifying righteousness, and doing it all as our substitute, satisfying it for us. He even fulfills all the history of the Bible: he is the true prophet, the true priest, the true king to which all prophets, priests, and kings point. He is the seed of Abraham, David’s greater son, the true Jonah greater than Jonah, the true Solomon greater than Solomon.
In John 5 when Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders he tells them in verse 39: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” In other words, the Bible in its entirety is all about Jesus, and the basic message of the Bible is that the Messiah has to suffer in order to redeem everything.
So, the Bible is not primarily a set of rules or a philosophy of life. Rather, Jesus is telling us in Luke 24 and John 5 that the Bible is primarily an account of what’s wrong with us, of what God planned to do about it, and about what he has done about it in history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
-Tim Keller

Our Faith - Tested By Fire - For A Purpose


Our faith is tested by the fire for a purpose—that it may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet. 1: 8). Faith is refined so that at the last day, at the final consummation of the kingdom of Christ, it will be the occasion for praise, honor, and glory. God values your faith more than He values your gold or your present comfort. Peter is moved by the fact that the readers of his epistle love Christ, despite never having seen Him. Our Lord Himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” ( John 20:29). After the resurrection when Jesus appeared to the eleven in the upper room, He rebuked them for their unbelief, for their hardheartedness. They had not believed the testimony of the angel and the women who were at the tomb. God places a premium on faith that is the substance of things not seen, as the author of Hebrews indicates (Heb. 11:1).
Inexpressible joy is a reality that human words can never adequately describe. That joy, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is ineffable. It defies description. One commentator on this text likened it to the glory of the Son. He said, “A blind man who has been blind from birth cannot understand the noonday sun. No matter how many times you try to explain it to him, he has no reference point by which to understand its magnitude.” The author went on to say that someone who can see may not be able to express adequately the reality of the brightness of the sun to someone who is blind, but the person who can see knows the sun the moment it shines upon him. We perceive the light. We do not have to reason about it; we see it for what it is. So it is with the Word of God. Many people are blind to the truth of God, but when the scales fall from their eyes and the Spirit of God opens their eyes to His Word, they see the truth of it immediately. We certainly have sound, objective reasons to believe the Word of God, but those reasons are about as necessary as arguments for light to people who can see the sun. Our joy is inexpressible. It is a glorious joy, a weighty joy, not a superficial joy.
R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 38 (Kindle Edition)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I'm Going To Kill You!

Me and Pastor Tesfi in Ethiopia
Angrily the man approached with a two-foot machete in his hand screaming, “Why did you bring Jesus to this place? I keep hearing Jesus in my ears—I am going to kill you!” 

Gopeeleo, the local witch doctor, was the one screaming and the object of his wrath was Pastor Tesfi, a pastor of one of the local churches in Soddo, Ethiopia, as well as one of the chaplains serving at Soddo Christian Hospital. I had the privilege of working with Tesfi in the hospital during my latest CMDA medical mission trip to Ethiopia. Also with me in Ethiopia were a team of 8, which included 5 surgeons from the Atlanta area.

It was during my time in Ethiopia that Tesfi ran into the hospital early one morning, proclaiming that Gopeeleo, that same angry man that had threatened to kill him, was now a believer, and now he’s laid his machete down.

Through multiple conversations that Tesfi had with Gopeeleo over the past several years and then culminating with a showing of the Jesus film, Gopeeleo could resist no longer and finally surrendered his life to Jesus.

Tesfi recounted to me how Gopeeleo was so anxious to tell him how different he now felt—evidenced by his sparkling eyes and his countenance of peace. As soon as Tesfi heard his testimony, Tesfi prayed over him as Gopeeleo stretched out his hands, sang songs to God and proclaimed his love for Jesus.

Immediately Gopeeleo started going to church and repudiated his old ways as a witch doctor. He wanted to be clean physically as well as spiritually, so he cut off his long grey dreadlocks (symbolic of his old craft), asked for a razor to shave off his beard and removed his purple turban (symbolic witchdoctor hat).

These gestures were all physical aspects of repentance for him. He no longer wanted to be known by his old clothes or appearance. So Tesfi went to the open air market and bought him two pairs of pants, two shirts, a coat, some socks and shoes. His face lit up when he tried on his new clothes! He said “I feel like I have had a new birth…much better than the first one! Bravo! Bravo!”

This is a new beginning for him in every way. As of today, he is done with selling tobacco, alcohol and “traditional medicine” (witchcraft) as well. He told us he does not want to make God angry, because God might pick him up and throw him across a field—a still old mindset referring to what had happened before when he was serving demonic spirits. It will take time for Gopeeleo to learn the love and gentleness of the one true God. This of course will all be a process.

This story of Gopeeleo and the ministry of Tesfi is a beautiful example of the extension and impact of Soddo Christian Hospital. The hospital is not only having an impact by treating patients, but it is also building Christ’s church by proclaiming the gospel. Churches planted and the growth and spread of the gospel in Soddo are directly related to the gospel ministry of Soddo Christian Hospital. For me and the CMDA Atlanta team that went, it was an incredible privilege to be a part of that life impacting ministry—as well as serving with incredible men of God like Tesfi.

Arousing Ourselves To Death


The couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot.
The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.
It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?”
From Russell Moore’s profound article on destructive power of pornography in our culture and our churches. (ht: Steve)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The Responsibility of the Church


The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life—no, all the length of human history—is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kindgoms of the earth—no, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.
An unpopular message it is—an impractical message, we are told. But it is the message of the Christian church. Neglect it, and you will have destruction; heed it, and you will have life.

J. Gresham Machen, “The Responsibility of the Church in the New Age,” from J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, p. 376 (as quoted in What Is the Mission of the Church, pp. 248-249)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

How To Listen When Your Pastor Preaches


How should you listen to a sermon?

from Phil Ryken:
So what is the right way to listen to a sermon? With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.
Read the rest for an explanation of each point.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

When Do Good Desires Become Idolatry


[Many] desires are normal and natural and become sinful only by abuse. Good and lawful desires become corrupted when they are desired inordinately. When you want something good (such as desiring your spouse to love you, or your children to honor you, or your boss to treat you with respect) so much that you are willing to sin in order to fulfill your desire (or to sin as a result of your desire not being fulfilled), your desire becomes idolatrous. Such desires are sinful not because some new verse suddenly appeared in your Bible that says, ‘You shall not want your spouse to love you,’ or ‘You shall not desire your children to honor you,’ or ‘You shall not try to please your boss.’ They are wrong because you have longed for them too intently. What may have begun as a legitimate God-given desire has now metastasized and mutated into an inordinate one.

- Lou Priolo, Pleasing People, p. 37

(hT: Joe Crispin)