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, November 22, 2012

Stop The Madness!!!



Black Friday.

It's called that for a reason-Black Friday darkens the soul of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, which is a holiday to remember and reflect on God's blessings is followed by a ritual that turns normal, respectable people into something resembling Lord of the Flies. 

Disgust. Embarrassment. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness.

These are some of the emotions that I experience every year when I see people on the evening news as they are filmed piling into the stores early Friday morning. All week before Thanksgiving, I see the hype. I can't ignore the television commercials that tell everyone that we need to wake up early Friday morning to take advantage of the unprecedented savings. "Run, don't walk!" is the mantra of every television commercial and newspaper insert. If I hurry, stores will happily open early (some as early as 4am!!) so that I can take advantage of buying their cheap crap now.

What continues to amaze me is that this ritual gets bigger and bigger every year.  In fact now stores are feeling compelled to encroach into the very day of Thanksgiving and open their stores that very evening.  Every year the local news camera's get in place to capture all the action. Reporters are sent to the stores. It becomes a big party, the stores stoke a carnival-like atmosphere.

But nothing changes, I see the same thing every year -people pushing, running and screaming. People pushing over their fellow man in order to save $20 on a digital camera, or $50 on an Mp3 player or 1/2 off the latest Smartphone or GPS system.  Sure the savings are good, But at what cost?

Here, I believe, are a couple of the costs:

People sacrifice their time. Thanksgiving is a time for family. It is a time for reflection and giving thanks. Thanksgiving is a time to look beyond one's self and give thanks to God, our wonderful creator and source of all blessings. In contrast, Black Friday is all about self.

Many of these sales demand that if you want to save you have to be there now on the VERY day of Thanksgiving!  But, then of course, you'll need to get there even earlier than the scheduled store opening in order to secure your place in line.  People sacrifice their sleep and they take time away from their families and from their homes. Family members split up to divide and conquer in order to maximize the amount of stores they can visit.  Some families approach this shopping day with more planning and preparation than the Allies did for D-Day.

People sacrifice their dignity. Every year I feel the craziness and energy come through the television as I watch people shove and squeeze their way through the small, narrow portal doors of large department stores. People get worked up into a feeding frenzy. All social considerations are thrown out the window. No more is it women and children first, rather it is every man for himself.

Other people are to be seen as important and valuable and to be treated with kindness and consideration. But not on Black Friday. Black Friday says that people are obstacles who are now in my way of getting the $400 LCD flat panel big screen T.V. If you have to trample over someone's fallen body, then DO IT! If you have to throw an elbow in order to grab a Nintendo Wii or Xbox, then DO IT! Do whatever it takes because they don't call this day Black Friday for nothing. Disgusting!

People sacrifice their souls. Is this what we are? Is who I am defined as merely being a consumer. Is that my sole identity? Is that my sole purpose? NO, God tells us that we are more than consumers. Our purpose goes well beyond mere consumption. We are to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism question #1)

Look!-let it be known that I like getting a good deal more than anyone. I rarely buy anything full price and will often wait for something to go on sale. But what I am angry about is how many of us are being led around by the nose by these stores and their contrived, manufactured sales.

They create artificial scarcity to build up need and angst. They manufacture hype and buzz. They tell us that we need to be there. They tell us we need to sacrifice everything to get it, our time, dignity and soul. And in return they will sell us stuff, already marked up 400%+, at a token discount, letting us believe that we smartest and luckiest people in the whole world.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I would encourage you to choose not to take part in this ritual.  Don't rush out after the Thanksgiving meal and certainly sleep in and use the time on Friday to rest and rejuvenate.  Enjoy the time with your family.  Continue, from Thanksgiving day, to remember your blessings.  Your life can feel frantic every other day of the year, why make this day like all the rest.


(this post adapted from a previous post at Provocative Church on Black Friday)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't Waste Your Life

In light of eternity, the years we live on this earth are relatively small. Therefore we should want our life to count.

As John Piper says in his book, Don't Waste Your Life - "God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives."

This infographic below illustrates just how our time is spent and the ways we can reclaim time and the opportunities wasted.

Don
by Andi.M.. Browse more data visualization.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gospel Renewal Preaching


From Tim Keller's Center Church. Chapter 6 from the book is called "The Work of Gospel Renewal." and in it Keller lists five characteristics that define preaching for gospel renewal. He explains all five in greater detail, but here is an overview:

  • Preach to distinguish between religion and the gospel
  • Preach both the holiness and the love of God to convey the richness of grace
  • Preach not only to make the truth clear but also to make it real
  • Preach Christ from every text
  • Preach to both Christians and non-Christians at once

(Center Church by Tim Keller, pages 77-79)

(ht: Steve )


Is It All About Me?!


I think about myself. Actually I think about myself a lot! Thinking about ME is my default setting. I don't have to work hard to think about me and to focus on my own needs, agendas or wants. And yet even when I am serving others, the temptation in my heart is to still make it all about me.

I imagine that you aren't too different than me. So then how do you and I inoculate ourselves from believing and behaving in ways that are self focused, self centered and selfish?

At the risk of oversimplifying a solution, we are able to die and abandon ourselves when we fix our eyes on Jesus and the cross. When the gospel and all that Christ accomplished for us becomes a daily reality, it opens our hearts to be captured and comforted by His great love for us. Therefore giving us the freedom and power to take our eyes off of ourselves.

Yet how do we make the gospel a daily reality? One way is by being a "repenting repenter". Turning away from my sin, selfishness, pride and the "idols of my heart", and turning to Christ and the cross. Repentance must mark our life. This was the great discovery of the Reformation.

"So began the Reformation, and at its heart lay Luther’s great discovery: Repentance is a characteristic of the whole life, not the action of a single moment.” Sinclair Ferguson, The Grace of Repentance

When we live out repentance, it propels us to Jesus and the reality and beauty of the gospel, and therefore makes what Paul said to the Philippians a reality for us.

Philippians 2:1-11
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.