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But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor. 15:20

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul addresses the church on an issue where there seems to have been some doubt – resurrection of the dead. I noticed, especially in this passage, Paul’s reference to Christians who have died as having fallen asleep (he does this in other passages in Corinthians as well as the letters to the Thessalonians). He does not shy away from the word death or from talking about death, in fact, part of what stuck out to me is that this passage contains so much repetition and focus of both terms. In John 11 we read how Jesus told his disciples that their friend Lazarus had fallen asleep and that He was going to wake him up. When they misunderstand him, he tells them that Lazarus has died.

When great men die, the world mourns… briefly. When great men sleep, the world mourns… but has been transformed. I will probably not forget how publicly the world mourned for Princess Diana, nor how Mother Theresa’s passing was overshadowed by it. And yet Mother Theresa is still quoted, referenced, and held up as a symbol of loving, humble, sacrificial service in written and oral communication. Our lives have been impacted by these men and women of the Christian faith because they have taught, mentored, shaped, challenged, and provoked us to live more fully in and for Christ. Often we have personal relationships and friendships with these people, but sometimes God uses a humble servant to touch many lives from a distance.

And so it is the case now that a dear brother in Christ, Micheal Spencer (a.k.a. iMonk) is tired and close to sleep. Through his writings and his own walk he has impacted the lives of many toward maturity in Christ. Below some of our writers (past and present) share in memory, reflection, recognition, and in celebration of how this great man connected with them. Due to the cancer and the loss of work, the Spencer family could use financial assistance if you would like to help. Go here and you will see a note from Michael and Denise with a PayPal link for donating. They do ask that you e-mail Denise if you would like to give.

Brendt

About 12.5 years ago, God called home singer/songwriter Rich Mullins. Burned into my mind for eternity are the first four words of Danl Blackwood’s email notifying us of Rich’s passing : The unthinkable has happened. I still get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I hear a hammer dulcimer (an instrument indelibly associated with Rich in many folks’ minds — I personally know of three people who took up the instrument because of him).

Six months after his passing, I sat in a church for a Caedmon’s Call concert, ready to endure two opening acts that I had never heard of, so that we could hurry up and get to the band that we had all come to hear.

The first act was some guy named Andrew Peterson. I liked his music OK at the time. (In retrospect, I probably would have liked it a lot, had I not been predisposed to being a bit ticked that he was delaying Caedmon’s Call from hitting the stage.)

The third song in his set was called “Three Days Before Autumn”. He had written it as a tribute to Rich and as a memory of the whirlwind of emotions that he went through when he found out about Rich’s passing. You can read the lyrics here. It’s a painfully raw song, and I lost it about three lines in. Not a bit misty-eyed, not a few quiet tears, but convulsions of weeping.

I thought I was over Rich’s death. As a friend of mine says, “You know what ‘thought’ done.”

I don’t remember anything else about Andrew’s set, nor anything of the set done by Bebo Norman (the second opening act). When I got home, I looked Andrew up on the web. In those days, he was wholly independent, having never been signed, so some of his music was freely available on his site. I probably listened to “Three Days” about 50 times over the next few days. You may think that maudlin (and maybe you’re right); I found it very cathartic.

I came to realize that, much like Rich had been able to put words to what I was unable to express about God, Andrew had been able to put words to what I was unable to express about Rich.

So why bring this all up now? It’s nowhere near the anniversary of Rich’s passing. Heck, it’s not even too close to Andrew’s birthday. But I’m getting a profound sense of déjà vu.

The opening lines of Andrew’s song say:

Three days before autumn
A cold winter came
Blew in a telephone call when my friend went away
And I swear I heard thunder at the sound of his name
He never even knew me at all, but I loved him the same

It struck me as startling, yet accurate, that Andrew referred to Rich as his “friend” despite the fact that Rich “never even knew [Andrew] at all” and that Andrew “loved him the same”. This is certainly how I felt about Rich, and I’m sure that Andrew and I aren’t the only two people who feel this way.

Now that same feeling (as well as many others expressed in the song) is back with a vengeance, but for someone else. Michael Spencer, dubbed “The Internet Monk” (or “iMonk”, for short) was blogging long before all the cool kids started doing it. And not piddly little “Look at this cute video I found on YouTube” junk — but deep, heavy stuff that often reflected Michael’s own struggles and shortcomings as he tried to live out his faith in Christ as best as he could. If Michael was any more transparent, he’d be invisible.

I’ll be honest — I don’t always read his site as faithfully as perhaps I ought. Sometimes it’s sheer laziness, but sometimes it’s the fear that if I read something that Michael is struggling with, then I’m responsible to deal with it, too. And to be honest, if I had to face down one tenth of what Michael has had to wrestle with, I think I would have bagged this whole Christianity thing a long time ago. But Michael isn’t like that. Even as he recognized severe problems in much of modern-day evangelicalism, he hung on to his faith. Francis Schaeffer may have written a book entitled “How Should We Then Live?”, but Michael is the personification of that question.

Sometimes I have to wonder if what he’s dealing with now “ain’t nothing but a ham sandwich” (as Pancho Juarez is fond of saying) compared to the many issues that he’s written about in the past.

Several months ago, Michael was diagnosed with cancer. He has more recently stopped writing at his site, though a friend has taken over, contributing his own material and recycling some of Michael’s many “greatest hits”. Michael’s wife, Denise, has kept us apprised of his status. Two weeks ago, she told us that the doctor had said that the cancer was too advanced and aggressive to expect a remission from ever occurring, and that he expected the current course of treatment to only give Michael another 6-12 months to live. (I strongly encourage you to read that whole post, as Denise writes about Michael’s faith through this ordeal. It’s encouraging and challenging.)

On Tuesday, Denise told us that that treatment was not helping at all, but actually hurting. So it was discontinued, and Michael is now under hospice care. Denise’s prayer requests have shifted to prayers “for minimal pain and for a peaceful passing”.

As Andrew wrote about Rich, so I feel about Michael. I count him as a friend, even though he “[barely] knows me at all” (I’ve commented several times on his blog, we’ve exchanged a few emails, and I even once was given a derisive nickname by another blogger while in Michael’s defense — a nickname that I wear proudly). And “I love him the same”.

While I’ve learned many things from this guy from a little town in eastern Kentucky, the over-arching theme of what I take from his life and his writings is tenacity. Even in the midst of a lot of insanity swirling around him, Michael holds on to Jesus.

He’ll see Him face to face soon; our loss will be his great gain. Vaya con Dios, my friend.

Tim Reed

I have to admit that I’m a little bit in shock right now. I just got done reading this announcement by Denise Spencer. It is an update on the health of Michael Spencer, who is known as Imonk.

I never met Michael. In fact I only talked to him personally once in an interview I did with him. I remember a few different things about that interview, but what really sticks out was that he warned me that he couldn’t be as witty and entertaining as Brant Hansen, who I had interviewed the week before. Of course, few if any of us can be. That struck me as odd because Michael is undeniably gifted. The idea that he would be intimidated by the performance of someone else on a stage as small as the one I offered was an absurd one, it was a bit like Alex Rodriguez being worried he wasn’t a very good pitcher (somehow the baseball metaphor seems an apt one). The other thing I remember about that interview was realizing how greatly Michael had been gifted by God. I preach once a week. I pour my heart into it, and I am very competent, maybe even approaching excellent at times. However, in order to do that I have to devote 15 hours to crafting a sermon. Michael told me in that interview he sometimes preached as many as 4 in a week. I’d have to work 60 hours to do that, and he maintained a full work load at a ministry in addition to that.

We didn’t talk writing at all in that interview. But I was always amazed at the sheer volume of his writing. He would update Internet Monk several times a week, sometimes with very in-depth writing. I update maybe twice a month. And these days its not terribly in-depth. I’ve started four different novels. I love the concepts behind each of the four of them. None have more than a chapter or two finished. Michael has only officially written a single book that has yet to be released, but I recall how quickly he was knocking out chapters as he kept us updated on the progress of his highly anticipated book.

The man was flat out gifted. Yet, still concerned that he couldn’t entertain as well as others. And its exactly that sort of honest self-reflection that I came to admire and love about him. Because he wasn’t as entertaining as Brant. He wasn’t as good an interview as Brant. And that sort of honest self-assessment was reflected in the body of his work in which he was willing to expose his short comings to the entire world if it meant communicating the gospel in an effective way.

As I read back over what I’ve written I realize that I’ve written about myself a lot. Odd, considering this is supposed to be about Michael. But that’s the kind of person that Michael is. I can’t write about him without writing about myself because the authentically confessional style of writing that Michael was known for draws out the personal journey of each reader into the experience of Micheal’s communication.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first began reading the Imonk, I didn’t like a lot of what I read. If you dig through my blog’s archives I guarantee you that you’ll find uncharitable, angry, and just plain mean posts about Michael. I don’t have the heart to deliberately delete what I was writing at the time, but I don’t like them now. Its probably why he never (rightly) acknowledged my emails asking entrance to the Boars Head Tavern. As time went on I found myself not so much agreeing with the specific point of his writing, but agreeing with the way he was writing. I won’t pretend that Michael’s writing was the driving force behind the growth I’ve experienced, but his writing significantly affected me. In a lot of ways it was a bellwether to where my journey was taking me. The rejection of consumerism and the culture war especially strongly affected the way I would come to think of my faith. He, in conjunction with other mature and intelligent Christians helped to steer me away from these particularly destructive mentalities to the gospel. And for that I’m forever grateful.

The one thing however, that Michael did without question that impacted his readers more than any other was transparently living and teaching the gospel. The emotions he wrote about were real. The issues he was struggling with were real. The apologies he issued were real. And the gospel he articulated so well is real. In a lot of ways you can’t separate the real struggles, and real emotions from the real gospel. Few people are willing to open themselves up to the kind of scrutiny that Michael was. And as a result few were as effective at communicating the gospel as he was.

You’ve probably realized by now that this might be a eulogy. A few weeks ago his wife, Denise, let the world at large know that Michael was struggling with cancer. It looked bad, the doctors gave him 6-12 months. Today she let us know that the treatments had been ineffective and that they had discontinued medical treatment and had contacted hospice. I had always assumed that some day some lucky publisher would give Michael an opportunity, and that opportunity would grow into a second career as he became well known. Now, it looks like that won’t happen as Denise Spencer has asked for prayers for healing to shift to prayers for a quick passing.

I know this is probably a eulogy, but I hope its a prayer answered, as when Michael Spencer passes, the church and myself will have lost something valuable.

Jerry

I have been a reader of the Internet Monk since I first discovered the wide world of blogging. I am a fan. It’s that simple. I have never met him. I have never spoken to him face to face. And the highlight of my friendship with him was when he once left a comment on a rather curious Facebook status update I had posted. That’s it. Even the few times I posted at his blog as a commenter, I was easily ignored because I was small fish in a big pond, a lightweight fighting heavyweights, and, mostly, because I never said anything that would contradict the Monk. That is, I typically agreed with everything he wrote. I wasn’t controversial. (Well, maybe a couple of times.)

What I love the most about the internet is that is makes the world small(er). I have the blessing of knowing people I would never have known if the internet didn’t exist. What I love about blogging is Michael Spencer. He is honest. He gave honor where honor was due. ( ;) ) And he wasn’t afraid of two of my favorite authors and Christians, Eugene Peterson and Thomas Merton.

And you know what? He dealt with the journey. It was a journey for him, I suspect, where each day brought something new to his mind and comforted his heart in some new way or challenged his assumptions in another way or tweaked his understanding of Jesus and made him start all over again. He explored some of this at one of his lesser known sites, Jesus Shaped Spirituality. He’s kept learning, and we are still growing because of it. It is no small thing to suffer as he did. It is no small thing to do so publicly as he did. It’s no small thing to trust Jesus with all of it and to embrace what he so long taught us to embrace. I will miss Michael Spencer, but I’m not sorry. He is blessed, even as he has been a blessing.

“It takes heroic charity and humility to let others sustain us when we are absolutely incapable of sustaining ourselves. We cannot suffer well unless we see Christ everywhere–both in suffering and in the charity of those who come to the aid of our affliction.”–Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, 93-94

Chris L

The continual process of change – “growing” – has always been a painful one for me, since I find so many of my moorings in the past, and when some of those ties are cut, the uncertainty of change creates an uncomfortable feeling of drift without direction.

One of the few items I remember from my high school English Lit class was a poem by Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.  A brief snippet:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And so has it been for me throughout my life, when faced with friends and acquaintances who have left, or are leaving – ever since a classmate of mine, Matt, was killed by a drunk driver back in high school … while I was taking English Lit.  I skip right over Kubler-Ross’ stage one (denial) and jump right to anger.  Whether it was Matt, or my grandparents, or Rich Mullins or my favorite high school teacher, gunned down in the act of playing “Good Samaritan”, my anger at Adam and the mortality he cursed us all with is deep and wide.

And so it was when I learned that our brother in Christ, fellow blogger iMonk, Michael Spencer, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and more recently, that the treatments were not working, and that he would be moving to hospice care.

When I first started reading blogs, particularly Christian blogs, iMonk was one of the first I’d ever read.  At first take, his name seemed awfully “Catholic” (particularly to one who would have agreed with the Ken Silvas of the world just a short time previous to this), but his wit and insight into the conundrums of living out belief kept me coming back.  It wasn’t that I always agreed with him – I didn’t.  And sometimes, he talked about subjects and held opinions that baffled me – on subjects of theology that I didn’t even know were ever debated.

After John at VerumSerum talked me through how to start a blog, iMonk was one of the first links I listed in my blogroll – and he has been on the blogroll on this site (and its various earlier forms) since the very beginning.  On my own site, I had/have two blogroll lists – one for folks that I generally agree with, and another for ones that I really like, but still “proceed with caution”…  iMonk landed on the second list (along with others I’d probably now move to the first one, but haven’t, just to remind myself that I have changed and survived the change) – he still sounded suspiciously Catholic to me (which is really ironic, since he’s from the Southern Baptist tradition).

As time has passed, I have grown to appreciate Michael’s insight more than I did originally, and our podcast interview with him was one of my favorites – the story of the school and community he worked at and how it operated.   His radically different lifestyle and outlook on life was (and is) very challenging to me.  His view of the kingdom, how it is lived out, and about American materialism has always given me pause – and still makes me uncomfortable when I look at how I live.

His voice will be sorely missed, and I would ask that we all say a prayer for Michael and his family, and that you consider a donation to them if you can afford it, and are led to do so.

And as for anger?  I still rage at the changes that we are forced to live with – particularly those like Michael’s.  I don’t think I will ever fully be over with that in this life, but even so, I want to remember how this iMonk lived and what he passionately believed.  I want to remember this far more than the sorrow and anger at his leaving us.

We will miss him here and now, but we have the hope of meeting him, through the Lord and Savior we share, again in the world to come.

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Hey – it’s that time of year where the editor of PPP.Info recognizes the efforts of this year’s writers by drawing attention to some of his favorites of their offerings – hoping that they would not go missed in the grand scheme of things.  So, without any more babbling (and in alphabetical order):

Brendt: This was a close one – I’m not sure I can choose between the giggles in Where Did This Come From or his (as usual) dead-on recognition of idiosyncrasies and hypocrisy in Whenever You Assume, You Make… So, instead of choosing, I’ll just pick both :)   Also, if you’ve not visited his blog before, be sure to go over there, as he’s got a lot more material there (including an interesting and spot on review of Avatar).

Chris: Not Chris L – Chris P.  Not that Chris P – the other one.  The one who, this year, introduced us to the music of Ken Silva.  That Chris (who has had more flat tires than anyone I know) probably challenges my thinking more than any other writer, and this year was no different.  His article Those People! What People? You Know THOSE People is an challenging indictment we all need to consider as we write in the blogosphere.

Christian P: One of our youngest, yet probably most mature, writers is Christian P (brief admission – we rather frequently communicate via IM, and participate in Woot-offs together). His article, entitled You Lie, is a very thoughtful piece on how we often go too far in categorizing items in too inflammatory a manner, particularly “lying” vs. being incorrect.

Eugene: Our newest writer here at .Info, Eugene is also our only non-American.  His life in South Africa has given him a diverse set of experiences, which he drew on in many of his articles, my favorite of which was Apartheid in the Body of Christ.  He also has a heart for Jesus’ parables, and I thought both of his articles on the subject – the first on the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the other on the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son – were incredibly well thought-out and applicable.

Jerry: [Apologies to Jerry for not having this in the initially published version - I must have copy/pasted over it in the page-editor.  Sorry!]  I think no other writer here has had more “thoughts of the day” than Jerry (we should probably make our own tag for them!).  Perhaps it was a product of a tumultuous year, but (as Rob Bell pointed out in “Drops Like Stars”) sometimes our greatest creativity springs from our own times of suffering.  Since we come from a similar church background, I found Jerry’s posts on baptism and grace to be two of the most raw, honest articles I’ve read anywhere this year.

Joe: Mr. Martino, who co-founded this site with me several years ago,  is often rather economical with his words.  However, one of his more lengthy articles, What if a Muslim Street Preacher Showed Up at Your Vacation, is one that has probably had more reverberations since it’s original posting than any other article this year.  I owe Joe a great debt of gratitude for what he – and this blog – have brought me, in terms of my own growth and walk.  Thanks, Joe!

Joe C: Our own active-duty soldier/writer, Joe C, became a dad and had a good deal of travel this past year.  His incredibly-well researched article on Paul and what it means to be truly relevant, Becoming All Things, is the type of writing I wish all of us could produce every day.  He has our prayers for his continued safety.

Neil: One of our most objective writers (and comment-thread peacekeepers), Neil has a special place in his heart for Palestinian believers, and the injustices Western Christians often commit in reflexively siding with the modern State of Israel on any controversial topic.  His article on the current state of the Church in America, an Ode to Chicken Little, is one that I greatly appreciated, particularly in its objective view and wisdom (which, ironically, led to ODM’s channeling Carly Simon in assuming that the article was talking about them).  An excellent read, it was.

Phil Miller: As writers on this site go, I’d say that Phil’s thought processes and organization are probably most in line with my own – even if we do not always agree.  Possibly, it’s because we’re both engineers from the Big Ten, but I suspect it is something more than that.  Phil had quite a harrowing experience this year with his wife’s illness (which we are all so thankful that she has recovered from), and we are all blessed to have him writing with us.  His Easter Article, Jesus is For Losers, especially resonated with me, and the addition of Steve Taylor (one of my favorite “classic” Christian artists) was just icing on the cake.

Zan: My absolute favorite writer at PPP.Info (sorry guys – she’s a lot cuter than all of you, combined.  Plus, she does more to keep me fed, and in line, than any of you.)  She’s probably also the most shy of our writers – often talking to me about things she would want to write, but never does.  Her Esther study has challenged her walk this year, and her “eye-catching title” post, had some excellent thoughts that deserve a second read.

Commenters: To all of our commenters – even more so than my fellow writers, you encourage us to grow more in the depth and strength of our beliefs, and – speaking for myself – have greatly enhanced my walk in challenging my way of thinking, and in encouraging me in a number of my areas of study.  My God bless you all, and bring you a blessed 2010.

Grace and Peace to you,

Chris L.

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It is amazing to me how – just like each of us, as individuals – communities grow, mature and gradually change over time. This is an observation the writers of CRN.Info (once SlicedLaodicea.com) have been making recently. Over the past year, while we have had a number of articles that have focused on countering spurious ODM claims, more and more our writing has focused on higher-order issues – documenting our own struggles, and those of our communities, and how best to apply the lessons taught by Christ and his followers to them.

As such, we’d like to recognize this shift in direction by recognizing the broadening in our focus, in line with the greater items in our site mission, by making a number of cosmetic changes and codifying our change in direction. While we’ve tried to clean up our policies and stuff, remove some of the snarky pages in our design, and to put in some basic recognized debunking (which we will add to over time) to try and cut down on recursive beating of deceased equines.

Prophets

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

In the kingdom of God, we are called to prophesy – to speak the words of God to the people, and to apply them to the issues of the day. All too often, the concept of prophecy is limited to foretelling future events, but when we are called to prophesy, it is to be one of those who remind and challenge the people of God to live up to their calling, and by doing so defend the defenseless and wrongfully accused. Included in this are the ideas of encouragement and iron sharpening iron.

Priests

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

As Christians, we are all called to be priests, and the main calling of a priest is to minister to the people of God and at the most basic level are to be God’s representative on earth. As such, we try to seek ways of pointing out where God’s influence can be seen here, in His world. We are to teach, to learn, and to demonstrate God’s love.

Poets

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

As creatures made in the image of God – whose first action was to create – we have been blessed by Him with this aspect – creation. Creation of works made from His creation. While we, the writers of PPP.Info, may not all be cut out, literally, as poets, each of us has creative abilities granted by Him (as are all talents held by men). As such, we try to create and/or to recognize artistic beauty in our world, and to relay it to our readers.

.Info

Keeping these three roles in mind, we’ve changed the name and address of this site to http://www.prophets-priests-poets.info/ (though it may still take a few days to take effect). We’ve kept the “.Info” to remind us from where we’ve come. We will still defend brothers and sisters in Christ, wronged by the wicked words of “discernmentalists”, but we also want to recognize that this is not our full identity as a blog.  Please be patient as things start to look cosmetically different around here, and please continue to supply iron – as we hope to do, as well – on which to sharpen each other.

Thank you, and bless you, for joining us on this journey.

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FYI – We will be switching servers tonight at 10:30 EST, and will be coming back up as soon as we’re stable.

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Scott over at Verum Serum dropped me a note this morning to let me know about a situation in which a good deal of prayer and support is needed for a fellow brother in Christ and blogger, Ken Silva.

Ken posted a short note this to CRN yesterday:

My family learned yesterday afternoon that my youngest brother made the tragic decision to end his life. Unfortunately, there was no warning or prior indication something like this could occur and he leaves behind two teenage sons.

Whether we agree about issues of big or small import to the church, it is incumbent upon all brothers to have compassion and to be compassionate on those who are suffering.

Please lift Ken, his family and his two nephews in prayer and keep them in your prayers during this time.   If you would like to leave notes of encouragement, you can mail them directly to him at apprising@hughes.net or leave them in the comments to this post.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

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Hey guys!Coop, from While Rome Burns, has posed some interesting questions in a recent article, Buy Black Experiment.  in it, he begins provocatively:

I got the link from a blogger in my home state of Wisconsin, about a couple in Chicago who made a commitment at the beginning of the year to buy only from black-owned businesses. Now, as a white person, if I made the commitment to buy from only white-owned businesses, I’d be called a racist and a bigot, and probably rightfully so.

But lest you think this is a (somewhat accurate) examination of the intellectual inconsistencies involved in racial politics, Coop flips the question through the front doors of the church:

how is this any different than the commitment so many in the church make to buy only from Christian-owned businesses?

This immediately brought to mind Steve Taylor’s 80’s insight in “Guilty by Association” -

So you need a new car?
Let your fingers take a walk
Through the business guide for the “born again” flock
You’ll be keeping all your money
In the kingdom now
And you’ll only drink milk from a Christian cow

Don’t you go casting your bread
To keep the heathen well-fed
Line Christian pockets instead
Avoid temptation

Guilty by association

What do you think?  When I observe my own patterns, I think that where the line is crossed is in the heart.  There are times I shop specific Christian-owned businesses because – a) I know the owners, and I want to help them stay in business during this tough time; or b) I have been their customer in the past and their honesty and values have kept me coming back (thinking specifically about a mechanic that has saved us hundreds of dollars via honest suggestions and estimates, and an appliance repairman with a similar reputation).  This is in line with both good stewardship (loving God) and loving my neighbor.

Where I think the line is crossed is when I either a) judge others for not using Christian-owned businesses; or b) I see myself as somehow ’superior’ for my “lining Christian pockets instead”.

A matter of the heart.

What do you think?

_____________

A slight programming note:  I am taking my wife (and no children) on our first overseas vacation together ever, so I will not be on much – if at all – in the coming week and a half.  You can follow our pics and goings on at my personal blog (if we find a good wireless connection).  In my absence, you can expect that the other .Info guys will “watch the store” and maintain what order we have out here on the frontier.

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Since the very beginning of this blog, we’ve been pretty firm in our “no comments are deleted” policy, with only a couple minor exceptions (with neither an attempt to silence/whitewash voices).  However, it’s becoming apparent that we need to add a little bit more to the way we’ve been managing this.

Some general observations/policies (for those unfamiliar) on this topic:

1) First-time commenters are automatically moderated until their first comment is approved.  We often run down IP addresses and match against some other sources to verify who someone is (or is not), and whether they’ve commented on this blog (or other blogs) before under different names/aliases.

2) For some people, relative anonymity is important (i.e. preventing people from tracking down personal/ID information and misusing it) and understandable.  As such, we do not demand full names.

3) “Moderation” (which puts comments into a queue for delayed approval) is used, rather sparingly for commenters who almost exclusively post items which:

* are consistently  nasty
* are consistently derogatory w/ little/no OP relevance
* ignore warnings on personal attacks against other commenters
* consistently ignore requests from CRN.Info writers

Ch-ch-ch-changes

With these in mind, we’re currently examining some changes in commenting policy (while keeping the “no comments are deleted” policy, as-is). Here are the proposed changes:

1) Commenters who wish to retain relative anonymity may continue to do so.  All that we ask is that you have a valid email address with your sign-in (which is only visible to CRN.Info writers) OR that you have the name of a CRN.Info writer who can verify your identity contained in the email field.  [example: We at least one commenter who is a single female and is concerned with her safety, and only one of our writers knows here and vouches for her as a commenter)]  If you have a regularly maintained blog that you’ve established, that’s good enough, as well.

2) We expect all regular commenters to maintain ONE name/alias by which they post (Example: We know who nc is, and he’s always nc).  If, for some reason (for instance, the overabundance of Chris’s and Nathan’s) you need to change in the future, just clear it with us so that we can keep track of you.

3) We expect that the ONE name/alias by which a commenter posts is not, in itself, purposely offensive or derrogatory toward another commenter/group/pastor/etc.

Comments/Commenters outside of these guidelines will be put in a moderation queue if, after a grace period, things aren’t rectified.

Personally, I hate doing stuff like this – particularly when it’s just a couple of folks currently at issue.  However, this seems to pop up every few months, so we might as well put it out for discussion and act upon it.

Thoughts? Additions?  Subtractions? Division/Multiplication?

Shalom

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OK. So I’m a father. And I am often proud of my children. (Though there have been many times where ‘pride’ would not be the operative word, though love might remain constant). In general, I’ve tried to keep my kids out of my blogging (as often the family photos and stories aren’t that amusing or interesting outside the family).

But I have a son that I am very proud of today (and most every day), who is no longer a child, but a man (and, as such, it’s likely he’ll be a bit embarrassed to have been brought up in the first place).  As of tomorrow morning, he’ll be finishing the last of his Sophomore exams at Purdue, after which he will (technically) be in his Junior year in Acoustical Engineering.

When your kids are growing up, you look at them (or at least I do/did) and wonder how they will ever function on their own.  Will they carry on in the faith in which they have grown up?  When Sunday morning comes, will it just be another day of the week, or will they suffer the inconvenience of waking before the crack of noon and walking (!?!) to the campus church?  When the first bills arrive in their mail and the checkbook needs balancing, will they remember everything they’ve been taught and practiced, or will they fail?  Will their hang-ups and foibles become tragic flaws, or were they just overblown in your own mind?

I have always loved Phoenix, who is so much like me that it’s not surprising that we sometimes bring out the best and the worst in each other.  This past year and a half, he has matured in so many ways, and has become (and is becoming still) a wonderful young man, with enough of his mother’s common sense to avoid being as outspoken as his father.  But you probably don’t really care about that, and would consider me biased, anyway.

So, the part that is relevant to our streams of conversation here:

This past weekend, the musical group he sings in, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club, was part of the 75th annual Purdue Music Organization Christmas Show.  Because Purdue does not have a school of music, the PMO is a club and is not constrained by church/state issues.  They are completely funded by private donations and ticket sales to their events, and they receive no state money (renting practice/performance space from the University).  As such, there is no problem putting on a Christmas show (which they have now done for 75 years) or to do frequent performances of sacred & secular music in churches (several times a month). It is not uncommon for the Christmas Show to sell out of it’s 30,000 tickets, over 6 shows.

Their Christmas Show is comprised of two halves:  The first half brings in members of the community and alumni singing traditional Christmas music (a mix of secular and sacred), followed by an intermission (with singing of carols).  The second half is a cantata of unapologetically sacred Christmas music.

You can only imagine how much time goes into practicing for this show, in addition to their normal shows.  And even then, you’re likely to be underestimating it.

This year, they chose one of my favorite Christmas pieces – In the First Light – as the PVGC’s finale of the first half of the show (see below – no, the soloist isn’t Phoenix and the sound isn’t stereo-quality, but that doesn’t matter to me…)

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And the finale of the show, itself, O Holy Night

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There have been times I’ve been bothered by the idea some folks tend to push on kids in the church that to be a “good Christian”, you ought to attend a Christian school.  When I see things like the Christmas show, and campus ministries like the one where my wife and I were married, I see that this is not the case.

Blessings to you this Christmas Season…

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Phil Miller turns 33 today – Happy Birthday, Phil!

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Congratulations to Christian P on the new addition to his family!

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