Dear Friend, Faithful Believer to the End

UPDATE: The memorial service for Michael will be Saturday, April 10, at 2:30pm in the chapel of Oneida Baptist Institute, Oneida, KY.  Visitation will begin at 12:30 and continue until the time of the service.

Michael Spencer (1956-2010)

Last night at about 7:00 a dear friend and fellow laborer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ was ushered into the presence of our Lord.  Most people who know Michael know him as the Internet Monk, where he has written for the past 10 years.  He was always provocative and deeply insightful.  Michael and I became friends some years back and from the first meeting it was as though we had been lifelong friends.  Many who read his blog would think Michael to be a very opinionated man . . . and to some extent they would be right.  But to know him was to know a man who deeply loved Jesus and desired to see His church be faithful to the call of Christ.  Because of that love for Jesus he had a Biblical humility when you were in his presence.  I loved the way he described himself in his BIO on his blog:

Michael is much more opinionated on paper than in person. He describes himself as a New Covenant, Reformation-loving, post-evangelical Christian in search of a Jesus shaped spirituality. He has great appreciation for the ancient church, missions, Christian community and theological underdogs.

Some of my best memories since moving to Kentucky involve sitting across from Michael, eating Mexican food, and talking theology.  Those times will be missed greatly!!

I was with Michael and Denise a few weeks back when the doctor informed them that the chemo was not working, the cancer was too advanced and too aggressive.  I wept that there was really no treatment nor would there be any remission, short of a miracle.  My prayer, and I admit it was a selfish one, was that without the chemo attacking his body that he  might regain some strength for a season and we could have some of those Mexican dinners and theological discussions again, at least for awhile.

But as we are all painfully aware, God’s ways are not our ways, and we rest in the knowledge that His ways are perfect.  Michael is perfectly healed today. No cancer, no pain, no struggles, just glorious worship in the presence of His Lord.  The iMonk may have left the earth, but he is alive . . . for one reason, Jesus is alive.

Prayer for his family, wife Denise, children Noel and Clay, as well as their spouses.  The funeral/memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 10, in the chapel of Oneida Baptist Institute in Oneida, KY.

Good Theology in the Strangest Places

Since we live in a world (even churches)  that tends to downplay “theology” and “doctrine” as something of a bother, it is good to run across it, even in the most unusual places.  A few weeks back I read an interview of one of the “new atheists”, Christopher Hinchens.  The interview was conducted by a Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell and was published in the Portland Monthly Magazine.  For most of the interview it was pretty much what you would expect — religion is not good, God is a tyrant, Christianity was not founded by Jesus but by Paul, etc.  But there was one very brief exchange that caught my eye.  In this Q&A the atheist schools the “minister” in a bit of truth:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

I used this exchange to end my Easter sermon yesterday.  It applies . . . the Apostle Paul said in Romans 10:9, ” . . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;” He also told the Christians at Corinth, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain . . . and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor 15:14, 17).

The resurrection of Christ is central to all Christian truth.  To deny it is to deny the atonement.  To deny these matters is of great peril to your soul.

Crucifixion & Resurrection — A Puritan Prayer

More for  your preparation for this coming Sunday’s worship.  I shared this prayer (slightly modified) as the pastoral prayer this past Sunday at Grace Baptist.  It speaks the truth about what we should be seeking as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s atonement and resurrection:

Oh LORD,

We marvel that You should become incarnate,
be crucified, dead and buried.
The sepulcher calls forth our adoring wonder,
for it is empty and You are risen;
the Gospel attests it,
the living witnesses prove it,
our hearts’ experience know it.
Give us the grace to die with You that we may rise to new life,
for we wish to be as dead and buried
to sin, to selfishness, to the world;
that we might not hear the voice of the deceiver
and might be delivered from his lusts.
O LORD, there is much sin about us – crucify it,
much flesh within us – mortify it.
Purge us from selfishness, the fear of man, the love of man’s approval,
the shame of being thought old-fashioned,
the desire to be cultured or modern.
Let us reckon our old life dead because of crucifixion,
and never feed it as a living thing.
Grant us to stand with our dying Savior,
to be content to be rejected,
to be willing to take up unpopular truths,
and to hold fast despised teachings until death.
Help us to be resolute and Christ-contained,
Never let us wander from the path of obedience to Your will.
Strengthen us for the battles ahead.
Give us courage for all the trials, and grace for all the joys.
Help us to be a holy, happy people,
free from every wrong desire,
from everything contrary to Your mind.
Grant us more and more of the resurrection life:
may it rule us,
may we walk in its power, and be strengthened through its influence.