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.


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.


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.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Expulsive Power Of The Gospel On Our Idols

Because the idolatry of our hearts is not just a failure to obey God rather it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God.  Idolatry can’t just be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently. This past Sunday we talked about how we need the expulsive power of a higher affection to address our idols - that higher affection is the beauty and power of the gospel.

Here is how the expulsive power would work in terms of the 4 core idols we discussed - Power, Approval, Comfort and Control.
  • Your idol of approval will melt away and be overshadowed by the expulsive power of the gospel which tells you that you are deeply loved by Jesus and that you are fully accepted by Him.
  • Your idol of control will evaporate and be diminished by the expulsive power of the gospel which reassures you that you need not fear failure - that you can live with abandonment and complete trust - because you know that what Jesus accomplished on the cross was complete and sufficient.
  • Your idol of power will disappear and be overtaken by the expulsive power of the gospel which tells you that you need not have to strive anymore, Jesus strived for you. Jesus fully and completely obeyed where you and I could not.  
  • Your idol of comfort will dissolve and be forgotten by the expulsive power of the gospel which invites you into His rest and has taken all your cares, fears and burdens upon his shoulders on the cross.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What Is An Idol of the Heart?

Love this definition by Martin Lloyd-Jones:
“An idol is anything in my life that occupies a place that should be occupied by God alone. An idol is something that holds such a controlling position in my life that it moves and rouses and attracts me so easily that I give my time, attention and money to it effortlessly.” 
– Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones

How Our Idols Impact Each Other

Our idols aren't merely personal and private - they impact others.

Mentioned in my sermon this Sunday were two quotes about the impact of our idolatry upon others:

N. T. Wright  in Surprised By Hope (HarperOne, 2008):
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. (p. 182)
In other words, idolatry—while at root a heart issue—not only affects the sinner but also the community. Idols dehumanize the heart and cause us to act inhumanely towards others.

This idol-projecting point is also made Mark Driscoll’s latest book Doctrine (Crossway, 2010):
If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches. This explains the great polarities and acrimonies that plague every society. If something other than God’s loving grace is the source of our identity and value, we must invariably defend our idol by treating everyone and everything who may call our idol into question as an enemy to be demonized so that we can feel superior to other people and safe with our idol. (350-351)

X-Ray Questions

Mentioned in my sermon this past Sunday were the 35 X-Ray questions by David Powlison

"The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their heart. These questions reveal 'functional gods,' what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations."

Here's all 35 of Powlison's X-Ray questions:

1. What do you love? Hate?

2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?

4. Where do you bank your hopes?

5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?

6. What do you feel like doing?

7. What do you think you need? What are your 'felt needs'?

8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?

9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?

10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

11. What or whom do you trust?

12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?

13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?

14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?

15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?

16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?

17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?

18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?

20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?

22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?

23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?

24. What do you pray for?

25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?

26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?

27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?

29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?

30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?

31. How do you live for yourself?

32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?

33. How do you implicitly say , 'If only...' (to get what you want, avoid what you don't want, keep what you have)?

34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?

35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Anatomy Of Church Conflict

photo from Ben 

Over at the 9Marks blog Michael McKinley has a great piece on the anatomy of a church conflict from Mike Minter‘s seminar he attended. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. An offense occurs.
  2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
  3. Friends take up the offense.
  4. Sides begin to form.
  5. Suspicion on both sides develop.
  6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
  7. Exaggerated statements are made.
  8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
  9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
  10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
  11. Integrity is challenged.
  12. People call each other liars.
  13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
  14. Many are hurt.
Have  you ever been involved in serious church conflict?  Were you able to pull it out of it's tailspin and bring reconciliation and healing? 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Here is an excellent article in The Atlantic. Here’s a couple of memorable quotes:

“A considerable part of Facebook’s appeal stems from its miraculous fusion of distance with intimacy, or the illusion of distance with the illusion of intimacy.”

“The real danger with Facebook is not that it allows us to isolate ourselves, but that by mixing our appetite for isolation with our vanity, it threatens to alter the very nature of solitude.”

“What’s truly staggering about Facebook usage is not its volume—750 million photographs uploaded over a single weekend—but the constancy of the performance it demands.”

The article's conclusion is profound:

“What Facebook has revealed about human nature—and this is not a minor revelation—is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity. Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-reinvention. But now we are left thinking about who we are all the time, without ever really thinking about who we are. Facebook denies us a pleasure whose profundity we had underestimated: the chance to forget about ourselves for a while, the chance to disconnect.”

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Jesus Was Truly Free

Jesus was truly free. His freedom was rooted in his spiritual awareness that he was the Beloved Child of God. He knew in the depth of his being that he belonged to God before he was born, that he was sent into the world to proclaim God’s love, and that he would return to God after his mission was fulfilled. This knowledge gave him the freedom to speak and act without having to please the world and the power to respond to people’s pains with the healing love of God. 
That’s why the Gospels say: “Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:19)”

 - Henri Nouwen

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Failure Of Moralism

Too often, more than I would like, when visiting other churches I hear sermons that strike the wrong chord. The tone and texture of the sermon preached relies more upon moralism (living and behaving the right way) and being less concerned about trust and dependence in Jesus - who already lived the "right"eous way for us!

Moralism is like kudzu.  It is insidious. It creeps, covers and suffocates the light and life of the gospel within the church.  I came across this quote from an interview with Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales.  Even though Phil Vischer sold the franchise and moved on into other ventures, he gave an interview to World Magazine and the lessons and failures from his work with Veggie Tales.

He says how he realized that the “Christian” message of those talking vegetables was not Christianity at all.
I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .
And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.
So even though we think we are doing "good" by throwing in a Veggie Tales DVD for our little kiddos, the fact remains we are feeding them (and ourselves) a message built more around externals, behavior and creating the veneer of Christianity, and less about a faith that is about being a committed disciple whose heart and life has been captured by the love of the Savior.

(via WORLDmag.com)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Finding Church

Just a quick announcement that I will be a contributor in the upcoming book, Finding Church, by Civitas Press.

You can discover more about the book project HERE.

The book is due out in November, and as it gets closer to publication, more information will be available.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Faithful Is The New Radical

Daniel Darling:

If there is anything that marks my generation of leaders, it’s the desire to be “radical”—to violently overthrow old paradigms. We want to shake up the status quo in the church, in government, in business, in philanthropy. And this is good.

By and large millennial Christians want offer lives in service to God and others by offering new and creative solutions. This is good.

But if I could speak a word of caution, from one rabble-rouser to another, I would say that sometimes the most radical thing you can do with your life is to simply be faithful.

Yes, you heard that right. By consistently doing the same thing every single day you might be more radical than you think. I know that doesn’t sound very sexy, but it’s the stuff that gives weight to significant social movements.

Talented quitters are a dime a dozen, but people with marginal talent who commit to hard work in the day-to-day grind always stand out as radical.

Read the rest.

(ht:Vitamin Z)