God’s Community

As a child my parents encouraged me to participate in a variety of sports and organizations.  Swimming lessons and t-ball, along with backyard excursions with my neighbor Brett, were some of those childhood summer activities that kept my entire family on their toes.  As I grew I continued to stay involved in a variety of organized activities.  During high school I was a state officer for the Future Business Leaders of America, played basketball for the Graves County Eagles, and even attended a foreign language festival.  Granted, my participation involved dancing the salsa because I wasn’t very good speaking Spanish.  These memorable experiences were fun for me.  However, they weren’t just fun; they were formative.

The Bible teaches that humans are made in the image of God and that we don’t do so well alone.  We are social creatures who thrive in community.  I have found community in teams and organizations during my formative years.  I spent time with people who shared common purposes and goals.  Like most teams and organizations, the church is a created community of people who share common purposes and goals.  Unlike other teams and organizations, we believe that there is something particularly special about the church.  As people of faith, we believe in a meta-narrative –a “big picture.”  We believe that there is a God and that he is working within his creation.  The scriptures give us glimpses into God’s story that include: creation, the fall, Israel, Jesus, and the church.

The church plays a critical role in God’s story.  The church is a family connected through our mutual faith in Jesus and our commitment to following Him.  Being a part of the church makes us a part of God’s redemptive story.  The church isn’t perfect.  She has made mistakes.  She fails in her responsibilities quite often.  In spite of the pain that the church has caused along the way, I maintain that Christ wants us to be active participants in church.  After all, Christ launched this community that we call church.  He gave His life for the church.  He then commissioned the church to be his hands and feet in the world.  What a joy it is to be a participant in God’s redemptive plan in the world!  What joy it brings to be involved in His Church!  I hope you share my enthusiasm, and I hope that you are committed to doing your part to aid in God’s story of redemption through your active commitment to the church.

-Micah

Easter

Easter is without a doubt the most important day in the Christian calendar. The argument for the assembly of churchgoers hinges entirely upon the events of the first Easter morning. On that morning Jesus rose from the dead. While this is a happy ending to the narrative of Jesus of Nazareth – a wrongly accused and convicted man who suffered and died at the hands of corrupt and greedy political and religious leaders – it is only the beginning of our story. In fact, it is the new beginning for our story. Humanity’s fallen state is exposed as we see violence, oppression, and injustice all around us. Like so many people throughout history, many in our world still bear the image of Adam. The problem is that the attributes associated with this image lead to sin and death. God made humanity in his image, but our self-centered actions have distorted what was once incorruptible and immortal.

Instead of giving up on His creation, God rescued his creation. This task involved the divine entrance of God into the human existence through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Unlike Adam, and all others in human history, Jesus perfectly embodies the image of God. Through love, compassion, mercy, and humility Jesus personifies the original intent of the human creation. Moreover, on that Easter morning, we see that Jesus has prevailed and proven Himself victorious over the forces of evil. Not only does Jesus win on Easter, but humanity wins on Easter. Our broken lives are made whole. Our wounds are healed. Our addictions no longer enslave us. Instead, those of us who follow Jesus are transformed into the true Image of God displayed in Christ. This means that we now live by the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. Now that we have been liberated through resurrection we have but one question to ask, what are we going to do now?

-Micah

Susan

The human experience is filled with new challenges at every stage.  I pastored a lady who had served as a caregiver her entire adult life.  Shortly after she married, her husband’s brothers moved in, both with severe physical and developmental handicaps.  She cared for them, bathed, brushed, scrubbed and fed them.

As a young married woman, homemaker, and caretaker, she took on yet another role.  She became a mother to Susan.  Susan, like her uncles, was diagnosed with similar physical and developmental handicaps.  Susan’s mother, Patsy, spent her entire adult life taking care of those unable to take care of themselves.

By the time I met Patsy, her husband and his brothers were deceased.  Patsy was in her 70’s and Susan was over 50.  Faithfully she brought her daughter to church Sunday after Sunday.  Susan would greet me the same way every morning, “How you getting along?”  She would smirk from her wheelchair.  “I’m well, how are you today?” I would respond.

I watched Pasty take care of her daughter those next few years.  Her faithfulness and determination were impressive.  One Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from Patsy that I’ll never forget.  There was panic in her voice.  “We were eating and she just stopped breathing!”  Susan was on her way to the hospital, by way of the ambulance, and Patsy was following closely behind.  Sadly, Susan died that day.  She was a special person who impacted the lives of many people around her, including me.  But I’ll never forget what her mother told me after we returned to her home after the trip to the hospital.  She said with a soft voice and sad eyes, “Brother Micah, I’ve never spent the night alone before.”  I was astonished to hear this confession.  Her life story flashed through my mind.  She left her childhood home to build a life with her husband, Bill.  What dreams she might have once dreamed were quickly squashed by the reality of the needs of her husband’s brothers.  She became a caretaker.  The caretaking role she was nurturing would come in handy as she became a mother to a special needs child.  The role of caretaker consumed her life for the rest of her life, or at least up to this point.  Now she was alone.  She would need to accept this new life and the challenges that would be sure to follow.

The human experience can be summarized as a set of new challenges followed by more new challenges.  Many times, such circumstances we face are completely out of our control.  But it is up to us, no less, to face such challenges with strength and determination.  For that is how we truly measure the success of a life lived.

Micah

Visionary Leadership

I grew up attending church with my family.  I found Jesus in a church.  Moreover, I have encountered some of the nicest people on planet Earth in church.  Over the years I developed a deep love and appreciation for the church, her people, and her mission.  My love for the church led me on a path to become a pastor.  During my pastoral tenure I have become passionate about nurturing and growing the church.    This task is not without difficulty.  Given current social trends it is not surprising that so many churches are struggling to keep their doors open.  Meanwhile, such struggling churches focus almost all of their resources on surviving, thus they lose sight of their mission of service and ministry that had once been such a vital role of the church’s story.  Somewhere along the way, the church has lost its vision.

The arrival of 2019 provides the church a great opportunity to think about her future.  What dreams and goals do we have as a church?  What is it that God wants from us in the years ahead?  And how are we going to get there?  These are the kinds of questions that weren’t answered in seminary.  Being a visionary leader in the church is not a recommendation; it is a requirement!  As the Scripture says, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people perish.”  (Proverbs 29:18)  We must hone in and commit ourselves to the church’s future.  Pray for your church, her leaders, and that the vision becomes crystal clear.  And get ready for a fun and fruitful 2019.

-Micah Spicer

Immaculate Conception or Virgin Birth

As we approach Christmas, I am enjoying my time spent preparing for a sermon series on Jesus’ family tree.  Each week, I examine another woman listed in Jesus’ family tree according to the genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel.  Five are mentioned: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s wife, and Mary.  As we read the introductory verses in the New Testament, the regular drumming pattern of a list of male names is jarred by mention of these women.  Simply put, they do not belong in a formal genealogy of the royal family.  The author purposefully injects these women into this lineage.  Strikingly, these women share a common thread – sexual promiscuity.  Tamer, a widow desperate for a child, purposely got pregnant by dressing up as a roadside prostitute and enticing her own father-in-law.  Rahab was a prostitute.  Ruth was a Moabite woman who crawled into the bed of Boaz after getting him drunk one night.  Bathsheba had an adulterous affair with King David and ended up pregnant, bringing shame on the Great King of Israel.  Mary is an unmarried teenage girl who becomes pregnant.  Such scandal!

Unlike the women whose stories are told in the Hebrew Bible, Mary becomes a focal figure in Christian theology very early in the life of the church.  The earliest creeds affirm, based on Scripture, that Jesus was “conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”  A friend told me that he listened to his preacher deliver a sermon on his belief in the “immaculate conception.”  This friend, a biblical scholar, then had the audacity to correct the preacher by saying, “you do not believe in the ‘immaculate conception;” instead, you support the ‘virgin birth” theory.  It is easy to confuse the “immaculate conception” with the “virgin birth.”  I would like to end by sharing the distinctions with you.  The Immaculate Conception, as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, refers to the conception of Mary by her mother, not to the conception of Jesus.  This teaching holds that Mary was born without “original sin.”  Because she was without sin, she was able to give birth to Jesus in a special state of moral purity.  The “virgin birth,” on the other hand, is the belief that Mary, without a man, became pregnant through the agency of the Holy Spirit.  It refers more to the source of pregnancy than to the birth itself.

– Micah Spicer