welcome. why "weak on sanctification"?

this accusation is often made about lutheran christians. because we focus so strongly on god's justifying grace in christ, and our continual need, as "sinner-saints," to receive god's gifts of grace through word and sacrament, people say we are "weak on sanctification." i prefer to say we are strong on jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. i would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything i might do.

the weekly discussion

each week I set forth a topic to promote discourse about some aspect of Christianity, the church, or the spiritual life. i would love to hear your perspective and thoughts on each week's subject. these discussions are usually posted on mondays, so if you missed this week's post and would like to catch up on the conversation, just scroll down and join us.

March 9, 2010

update on my friend, michael spencer

I received this update from Denise Spencer about her husband and my friend Michael (the Internet Monk):

It is with a heavy heart that I bring my latest update on Michael. We have learned that his cancer is too advanced and too aggressive to expect any sort of remission. Our oncologist estimates that with continued treatment Michael most likely has somewhere between six months and a year to live. This is not really a surprise to us, though it is certainly horrible news. From the very beginning, both of us have suspected that this would prove to be an extremely bad situation. I don't know why; perhaps God was preparing us for the worst all along by giving us that intuition.

The combination of the cancer and the chemotherapy is keeping Michael in a very weakened state. He is in bed all day, getting up once or twice only to eat a "meal." His meals consist mostly of Ensure, with occasional mugs of soup, dishes of ice cream and milkshakes. He's still taking fluids well, currently preferring Sprite and ginger ale. His tastes do change slightly from time to time, and I try to be ready to jump in whatever direction they seem to be moving. He is in no pain at all, for which I am unspeakably grateful.

Michael went through a period of depression, as I'm sure you would expect. He seems to have come through that now, for the most part. He knows he is dying, and he says he is at peace. Though he will still say with unashamed honesty, "I don't want it to all be over at age 53!" he has the confidence of knowing that he has run the race God set out for him. He believes he has done the work our Lord intended for him to do, and if the last task God has for him in this life is dying, then he will do that to the best of his ability.

Through all of this, in every phase of illness, diagnosis and treatment, Michael's faith has not wavered. I know most readers love Michael for, among other things, the transparency of his writings. If I may be allowed such honesty for just a moment, I will confess that I have been amazed at how strong Michael has been spiritually and emotionally from the very beginning of this ghastly journey. Day by day I continue to see the Holy Spirit at work in him, molding him, softening him, giving him a more childlike faith than I believe he has ever known. When the moment comes, I am assured Michael will be ready. I am the one who doesn't want to let go.

Words can never express our gratitude for every thought, every gift, every note, every prayer you have blessed us with. Please pray for continued peace and strength for Michael, for me, and for Noel and Clay. This is the most difficult thing we have ever been through, and only with God's help can we make it.

michael has been a unique and extraordinary voice for the christian community for many years now. if you have not read his writings, i encourage you to go to internet monk and peruse the archives. you will be encouraged.

and as god brings him to mind, pray for peace for michael and his family.

today's van gogh
the end of the day (after millet)
november, 1889

February 11, 2010

choose joy

i continue to concentrate my blogging efforts these days on michael spencer's site, to help him while he undergoes treatments for cancer.

i know he would appreciate your continued prayers.

thank you for understanding my relative neglect of this site. i encourage you to check out internet monk to keep up with what i'm thinking and writing about these days, as well as the contributions of others.

you're especially invited to join the new discussion on a post i put up today, entitled, "choose joy."

February 7, 2010


A Prayer of Martin Luther

Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.

I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.

I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you.
In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.

I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.

I am a sinner; you are upright.

With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.

Therefore I will will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.


February 6, 2010

Join the Conversation at Internet Monk

I am hosting an ongoing conversation on Eugene Peterson's new book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ, over at Internet Monk.

Please join us!

February 1, 2010

Farewell to a Faithful Friend


we tearfully said goodbye to our family dog, terra nova, today. she has been with us for nearly 15 years, 
our children grew up with her, and she has been a faithful friend and companion. 

i will be posting pictures of terra throughout the years on this shutterfly share page.

January 30, 2010

available now for pre-order

michael spencer, aka "imonk," has written a book, and now the publisher and amazon.com has posted it for pre-sale. 
it will be available to purchase in september, 2010. 

i am convinced this will be one of the best books of the year, filled with insightful commentary on the impoverished state of american evangelicalism and wise counsel for better ways forward.

i encourage you to pre-order it today!

January 24, 2010

something special...

View this gallery at The Indianapolis Star: AFC Championship: Colts vs. Jets game action

I am first of all a chicago bears fan. secondly, I am a fan of football in general. I am not an indy "homer." 


but i have never seen a team like the colts that is so businesslike, so precise, so able to adapt within the game to what the other team is bringing, so able to execute when it matters. and this year, you can say that about the defense as well as the offense. 


this is something special to behold.



January 6, 2010

a joyful epiphany!

today is epiphany. the epiphany, called "theophany" in the eastern churches, celebrates the manifestation of christ to the gentiles and the visit of the wise men to the christ child.
o god, on this day you revealed your son to the nations by the leading of a star. lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives, and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory, through your son, jesus christ our lord, who lives and reigns with you and the holy spirit, one god, now and forever.
one of the great pieces of music celebrating epiphany is bach's christmas oratorio, part VI. enjoy these excerpts as you join the Magi and believers all over the world in worshiping christ today.

I stand here at your crib
O Little Jesus, my life;
I come, bring and give you
What you have given to me.
Take it! It is my spirit and mind,
Heart, soul and courage, take it all
And may it be pleasing to you!

Chorale, J.S. Bach, Christmas Oratorio VI

January 5, 2010

praying for the imonk...

good friend michael spencer begins radiation treatments today at the markey cancer center in lexington, ky.

michael, aka "the internet monk," was diagnosed with colorectal cancer recently and had a brain tumor removed. today he returns to the cancer center to begin follow-up treatments.

you can read michael's latest update on his condition here.

please pray for michael and denise and their children at this time. and lift up all who feel the burden of his illness—friends, co-workers at their ministry, and those who have come to appreciate michael's "voice of sanity in the midst of the evangelical wilderness".

o god, 
the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers:
mercifully accept our prayers, 
and grant to your servant michael 
the help of your power, 
that his sickness may be turned into health, 
and our sorrow into joy; 
through jesus christ our lord.  amen. (bcp)

January 1, 2010

happy new year!

Note: this post also appears at Internet Monk, where I continue to serve as guest blogger.

Happy New Year.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…
(Eph 1:3)

On the calendar, today is the beginning of a new year and a new decade. I can’t think of a better text of Scripture upon which to meditate than this one from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.