Christianity as a Lifestyle

In 1966, The Monkees made famous a song entitled “I’m a believer.”  The song is a typical shallow, yet catchy love ballad.

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace, of doubt in my mind
I’m in love, I’m a believer
I couldn’t leave her if I tried

Christianity, for many Evangelicals, is about being a believer.  Granted, we don’t all claim to believe in love at first sight as this song suggests; instead, we believe in a host of truths.  We believe that the Bible is inspired and authoritative.  We believe that the scriptures speak to the human condition and are relevant today.  Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  We believe that His atoning death and resurrection reconcile us to God and to one another.  These are core beliefs. Moreover, these beliefs are important.  My convictions are important to me, as yours are to you.

Beliefs, however important, are not everything.  I suggest that Christianity is not about the theological correctness of our belief system.  I wholeheartedly doubt that Christ will deny me, or anyone else, access to Eternity because we misinterpreted 1st Thessalonians 4.  It’s a good thing, too.  God knows that misinterpretation is one of my spiritual gifts. Ha!

Instead, Christianity is about the ripe old calling of Jesus who says, “Follow me!”  (Matthew 4:19)  While calling followers, Jesus did not require an A+ on a theology exam to become a disciple.  His challenge was not about believing the right things or understanding deep theological issues.  His challenge has always been about adopting a new way of living.  Christianity is a lifestyle, not merely a system of beliefs.  I hope that you are a believer in Christ, and that you affirm the core tenants of Christianity.  I also hope that you remember to adopt Christianity a part of your lifestyle, and not just a set of thoughts and beliefs.

Life Lessons from Unexpected Places

The human experience is filled with new challenges at every stage.  One of my parishioners was 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 Stephanie.  Stephanie, like her uncles, was diagnosed with similar physical and developmental handicaps.  Stephanie’s mother, Penny, spent her entire adult life taking care of those unable to take care of themselves.

By the time I met Penny, her husband and his brothers were deceased.  Faithfully she brought her daughter to church Sunday after Sunday.  Stephanie 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 Penny take care of her daughter those next few years.  Her faithfulness and determination were impressive.  One Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from Penny that I’ll never forget.  There was panic in her voice.  “We were eating and she just stopped breathing!”  Stephanie was on her way to the hospital, by way of the ambulance, and Penny was following closely behind.  Sadly, Stephanie 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, Brent.  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