In the News

Michael Spencer: 1956-2010

128989091_44448341efI found the Internet Monk website of Michael Spencer years ago. His words about Jesus and His Church, spirituality and truth have been deeply encouraging and helpful in my discipleship and as I work as a pastor. We soon connected and I had the privilege of speaking at his school in 2006 and my family enjoyed the Spencers & the whole experience. Michael Spencer died today in the presence of his family in his home in Oneida, Kentucky. I have this picture with Michael (left) and Matthew Smith (center) from our time there. The photo below is the bridge I took from the home we stayed in to the the school where iMonk served.

I thought it would be fitting during National Poetry Month and the day after Easter to give you a poem from Michael's wife, Denise, posted in 2007.

For Holy Week - Denise Day Spencer


Let me share with you His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

– Stations of the Cross, St. Ann Roman Catholic Mission

He stumbles ‘neath the load.
It is not heavy, yet it crushes.
Merely a mangle of thorns
Woven as a crude crown.
Thorns that boldly dare to mock their Maker.

He stretches out His hands,
Ready to embrace, but not fondly.
Only the ore of iron
Hammered into soiled spikes.
Iron dares to agonize its Author.

He writhes upon the tree.
Alone, and utterly forsaken.
Simply a structure of wood
Fashioned as a cruel cross.
Splintered wood now dares murder its Master.

He gazes on the crowd.
Mankind, pinnacle of creation.
One whispered word could destroy
Thorn, iron, wood, mad men.
Yet the Savior dares to speak:


The End of an Era

Doc491d069217a4c916832454Mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, Scott McCoy, will not be seeking a second term.

As a small-business owner, I am the business,” he said. “I have a lot of flexibility owning my own business, but with the massive time I’ve put in [as Mayor] with the very important and demanding situations this year, it has severely impacted my business. And I have an obligation to my employees and my family.


I’ve never considered myself a politician. And all I see are politicians working hard to keep their jobs instead of doing their jobs. So, I’ll give up my job in order to be aggressive and do my job. It’s not about me, it’s about Pontiac and saving this prison!

Read the entire article.  Scott, the perks of having my brother as Mayor (that were never realized, honestly) will be sorely missed.  Glad to see you focus on what's important in your life and for our hometown.

Lots-o-Links 2.13.08

I have two orders pending (Amazon and Westminster) for Tim Keller's The Reason for God.  I have a book and audio copy coming for me, and several copies to give away. Amazon's is on the way!

The WGA writer's strike is over.  I've been following the strike online and through some podcasts, and was hoping the writer's would get a fair shake.  It appears they are content, and now we can get back to watching some well-written new TV and movies.

Al Hsu has enjoyed Juno and reflects on the movie's suburban flair.

I recently rented The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a documentary of one man's effort to beat the high score of Donkey Kong from a guy who you want to see lose it.  It's a very entertaining movie that I highly recommend.  Rent it and then tell me what you think.  Here's the trailer...

I met Jonathan Dodson, an Acts 29 church planter, at the Chicago boot camp.  Good guy.  Check out two recent articles he has online on Community and Missional Discipleship.

Pitchers and catchers reporting today for the Cubs.  Very good news.  I've briefly visited HoHoKam Stadium, where the Cubs have spring training, in Phoenix a few winters ago when on a golf trip with my dad and uncles.  My rabid-sports-nut-7-year-old, Elijah, reported as a pitcher last Sunday here in Woodstock.  They have a handful of pitcher's and catcher's training sessions at our local rec center.  He's shorter than most kids his age, but has an arm on him.  AND he is accurate.  I often have to encourage him to throw harder because he's afraid the kid across from him will not catch it and get hurt, or something.  And since I'm helping to coach his team this year, I'm considering trading him to another team for a case of Schlitz!

Some of you know I have an autistic son.  My wife enjoyed this video recently, so I thought it was worth sharing...

Pray for Union University & Jackson, TN

From my friend Scott Lamb...

Just got a call about my nephew, a freshman at Union University. Notsure if it was a tornado or severe wind, but he was in a dorm building that had its roof lifted off and some sheet rock walls fell on he and the other students. I haven't found any "official news" on the Jackson-area storms yet, but word on the ground is that there were funnels. As you probably know, Jackson is a magnet for such storms.

Please be in prayer for the students (Katie, David) parents who live away and are very concerned (Mohlers, Clays) and administration (Dockery, Thornbury, Kahler, Ellsworth, Van Neste, many other friends).

I have some good friends and acquaintances at Union including the Thornburys, Tim Ellsworth and family, Ray Van Neste and family, I just had an email exchange with musician Joe Garner last week, a handful of students, and more.  My wife and I are stopping to pray for Union and the Jackson area.  If you can find a minute, I ask you to as well.

Lots-o-Links 12.7.07

Al Mohler is writing about how more and more hotels are not putting Gideon's Bibles in their drawers (BP picked it up).  While I like the idea of knowing that it's there for those who need it, I think Mohler overstates his case...

...there will be no Bibles available in those hotelrooms when travelers need them, and that is a tragedy by any measure.

A "tragedy?"  9/11 was a tragedy.  Pearl Harbor was a tragedy (the awful event we remember today AND the movie).  Abortion is a tragedy.  The Bears are a tragedy.  Some hotels not carrying Bibles?  Not so much.  Sure it means culture is changing.  Sure it means that some travelers who may have picked it up won't have it readily available.  But where was that ever the main ministry to people staying in hotels anyway?  It was a bonus that a few people are now eliminating.  People are the front line of ministry, not books.

Ben Arment is encouraging us to strip.  He's also continuing to reveal a killer conference line-up for the Whiteboard Sessions.

Dever and Ferguson lectures on preaching.

CNN interview with Gabe Lyons...

Ariel Vanderhorst interviews church planter Hunter Beaumont (dude I met at Reform & Resurge Conference in Seattle).

Publishers Weekly reviews Tim Keller's The Reason for God.

Joe Thorn on Leadership Development, Suburban Evangelism, and his new laptop.

Persecution in India

Please pray for an Acts 29 Network international pastor in India who is facing persecution for converting Hindus.  From Mark Moore's blog...

Please pray for my friend Pastor Sudhakar.

Pastor Sudhakar is a church planter/pastor in India who is planting churches in the "slums" of India amongst the poorest and most outcast. God has been very gracious and has blessed the ministry of Pastor Sudhakar so that many have come to Christ. I had the privilege of spending some time with him a couple of years ago. Over the course of our meal together I sensed that I was sitting with a man who has an unwavering commitment to the gospel and an unquestionable love for the people that he serves in his church. This, I thought, is a real man of God.

Pastor Sudhakar's work in India is now a part of the Acts 29 Network and we are working to help him with training his pastors, funding, etc. It is a privilege to be in gospel partnership with him.

This week, very concerning news came from India to us from Pastor Sudhakar.  I am going to let you read it in his own words:

"On 9th( Sunday) of this month a group of 20 young people came while we were worshipping and beaten me and some women of our church and in return they have lodged a counter complaint on me putting allegation on me by saying i am converting lot of Hindus into Christianity. Kindly pray for me as the case is in the court."

Then, yesterday, we received this update via a letter from him to Mike Gunn:

Dear pastor Mike Gunn, 

I am very much comforted by seeing your letter. I know there are some people who love me and pray for me which is my strength to push forward in times of trouble and persecutions.

Today the Judge will decide wether i will get anticipatry bail or not.  Please pray.

Four anti- communial groups called RSS, VHP, Bajarangdal and Hindu Vahini together attacked me and our church people.

Hindu Vahini is the worst among these groups who killed two pastors brutually three years back in our city. They poured acid, cut the pastors into peaces and put them in a gunny bag and thrown thier bodies in the outskirts of the city.

These days the persecutions are increasing and as many non christians in my area are turning into christianity now they have targetted me.

I know without Gods will nothing will happen to me and at the same time i am trying to be careful and vigilant.

I really appriciate your prayers and concern for me. I will let you know the court proceedings as time goes on.

- Pastor Sudhakar

I'm posting this for three reasons. First, awareness. The idea of persecution is often times out of sight and out of mind for Christians living in the west. We must be aware of the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted for their faith everyday while we sit around and gripe and complain over the "time commitment" of being involved in a small group. Second, I post this in order to implore you to pray. Please pray for Pastor Sudhakar and his church. Pray for God's grace and mercy to him during this trial and with the continual persecution of his church. Pray that in his suffering Christ would be glorified and made to look beautiful to the people of India. Finally, pray for the four groups listed -- RSS, VHP, Bajarandgal, and Hindu Vahini. Pray that the gospel would convict them of their sin and the supremacy of Jesus and that they would turn to Jesus and repentance and faith. Pray especially for the Hindu Vahini group who is responsible for the brutal execution of at least two pastors. Pray the leader of the Hindu Vahini group would be converted to the gospel like Saul of Tarsus. Pray that he would be used to reach India with the gospel.

As I receive any updates on Pastor Sudhakar I will be sure to let you know. For those of you who are pastors, would you please have your churches join our church tomorrow in praying for Pastor Sudhakar.

The Simple Way, 7 Alarm Fire

Please pray for The Simple Way community is Philadelphia (Shane Claiborne and the rest) who are suffering from a fire that leaves several families homeless as well as possession-less.  Read more at  More...

This morning, a 7-alarm fire consumed an abandoned warehouse in ourKensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. The Simple Way Community Center at 3200 Potter Street was destroyed as well as at least eight of our neighbors’ homes. Over 100 people were evacuated from their homes, and 400 families are currently without power. Despite this developing tragedy, we are incredibly thankful to share that all of our community members and every one of our neighbors is safely out of harm’s way.

This fire will forever change the fabric of our community. Eight families are currently homeless, and in many cases have lost their vehicles as well as their homes. One of our neighbors, the Mahaias Family, lost their three cars as well as the equipment one family member uses for her massage therapy business. Teenager Brian Mahaias is devastated not because he has lost his belongings, but because he fears that this fire will force him to move away from this neighborhood that is his family as well as his home.

The Simple Way has lost a community center that was home to our Yes! And… afterschool program, community arts center, and Cottage Printworks t-shirt micro-business as well as to two of our community members. Community members Shane Claiborne and Jesce Walz have lost all of their belongings, Yes! And…’s after school studio and library were ruined, and community member Justin Donner’s Cottage Printworks equipment and t-shirts were destroyed.

We are thankful that we are able to help each other during this time of need, and we will continue to keep your informed about today’s events.

We have established funds to support the families who have lost their homes, the Yes! And… afterschool program, and the Simple Way community.

A fund to support the families has been established through a partner organization, EAPE. Tax-deductible donations can be made at Please make sure to put “Kensington Families Fund” in the memo section.

Donations to the Rebuilding Fund can be made via PayPal to

-The Simple Way Community

Notes on a Busy Day

A couple of important things in my life at the moment...

Jack_hospital_1 - My 8 year old, Jack, had surgery today.  He had tubes put in his ears and his adenoids removed.  It has been a long day for us and longer for my son.  He's resting now, my wife is off helping our local school find a new principal, and I'm preparing for a funeral tomorrow morning. 

- Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, and (by default) many younger leaders in the SBC are under attack from a Missouri guy named Roger Moran.  Marty Duren has the details and Joe Thorn adds some helpful thoughts.  Joe writes...

This appears to be a case of guilt by association. The gist of this man’s argument is that when we work with other evangelical bodies outside of the SBC we are endorsing everything anyone does or thinks who is also a part of that organization. Were this true it would create serious problems for many of our best leaders and professors who work with other groups who differ from the SBC but remain evangelical. The whole thing would be funny if this guy wasn’t serious, and wasting everyone else’s time.

Geez it's easy to hate us.  Stetzer just nailed it at the Baptist Identity Conference and then we have to get this kind of crap.  No wonder I get emails weekly from disgrunted young guys who either want to leave the convention because of stupid stuff like this or who thought about joining up with the SBC but have decided they aren't wanted for various silly reasons.  I will post an email soon from one of those guys.

By the way, Union U has modeled something that much of the rest of the SBC doesn't get.  Instead of screaming at and snubbing bloggers they embraced us, gave opportunities for their students to meet us, and made us feel welcome and appreciated.  Maybe Union should secede from the Convention? ;)

- I just received three different packages in the mail today.  One dude bought me a book from Amazon, Crossway sent me a book to review, and a well-known emerging church guy just sent me a pile of books (from commentaries to the very practical).  I got 14 books in all today, all for free from generous friends.  Thanks much guys!

Pray for Alistair Begg

Please pray for Alistair Begg, one of my favorite preachers, who has prostate cancer.

During the week of January 22, after a series of tests and finally abiopsy, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although this is not what I had hoped for, my doctors seem confident that this is very curable. We are presently discussing different treatment options.

Interestingly, we have just begun a new series of studies in James at Parkside Church. Immediately I have been entrusted with the privilege of not simply teaching, but in a particular way, living verses 2-4 of chapter one.

(HT: David Price)

Beer, Darrin Patrick & The Journey

JourneyWow.  Very interesting article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about The Journey Church in St. Louis and their pastor, Darrin Patrick.  It's called, ahem, "Beer and the Bible."  Darrin is a friend and someone who I think is doing an unbelievable job pastoring.  They are associated with the SBC as well as Acts29 (Picture credits to the StLP-D).

It seems, according to the article, that there are some frustrations in the Missouri Baptist Convention because they loaned The Journey money to buy a building and then found out some at The Journey drink (like Jesus).  The Journey has a regular theology event called Theology at the Bottleworks where they discuss all sorts of issues, and yes, some drink a beer there. 

Theology at the Bottleworks is run by a wildly successful congregation of young St. Louisans called The Journey. The Schlafly program is part of the church's outreach ministry. And it works.

Every month dozens show up at the brewpub to drink beer and talk about issues ranging from racism in St. Louis to modern art controversies to the debate about embryonic stem cell research. First-timers are invited to check out the church on Sunday, and Journey leaders say many have. Theology at the Bottleworks is just one of The Journey's ministries, but it has helped the church grow from 30 members in late 2002 to 1,300 today.

Read this article.

Jesus Christ: The Talking Doll

Jesus2For crying out loud...

A talking Jesus doll has been turned down by the Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program.

A suburban Los Angeles company offered to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall dolls, which quote Bible verses, for distribution to needy children this holiday season. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia- based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co., based on Biblical figures.

But the charity balked because of the dolls' religious nature.

Toys are donated to kids based on financial need and "we don't know anything about their background, their religious affiliations," said Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va.

As a government entity, Marines "don't profess one religion over another," Grein said Tuesday. "We can't take a chance on sending a talking Jesus doll to a Jewish family or a Muslim family."

Michael La Roe, director of business development for both companies, said the charity's decision left him "surprised and disappointed."

"The idea was for them to be three-dimensional teaching tools for kids," La Roe said. "I believe as a churchgoing person, anyone can benefit from hearing the words of the Bible."

According to the company's Web site, the button-activated, bearded Jesus, dressed in hand-sewn cloth outfits and sandals, recites Scripture such as "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." It has a $20 retail value.

You can learn more about this amazing product here, including the fact that this Jesus has "realistic eyes."  I like my version better.

My observations...

1. Jesus is worth way more than $20.  Hence, this cheapens Jesus.

2. I don't see any reference to Jesus saying anything about "hypocrites" or "white-washed tombs" or many other Scriptures.  So this doll misrepresents Jesus.

3. Jesus welcomes all the little children.  So isn't it a bit odd that this doll was only going to be donated to "needy" ones?  Shouldn't every kid get their own free Jesus?

4. [sarcasm]At least the company got Jesus' skin color right.[/sarcasm]

5. Since when does Jesus look like Val Kilmer?Jesus3_cropVal_2_crop