18 February 2020

When God says "Get up and go . . . "

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH. . . You probably remember the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. God told Philip to go and wait on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, in the desert. The Ethiopian comes along in his chariot, reading from Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand. Philip comes alongside the chariot and joins him, and told him about Jesus. The Ethiopian trusts Christ, is baptised, and then God picks Philip up and drops him somewhere else.
There are some details about this story that the Lord has been bringing to light for me recently. First, Go back and look at what had been happening in Philip's ministry immediately prior to this event. Philip had been preaching Christ in the city of Samaria, and had been seeing a very fruitful ministry, where people were listening carefully, God was working miracles, people were being saved and "there was much joy in that city." (Acts 8:8) There had also been some concern over Simon the magician, and Peter had to confront him. This is what Philip left . . . to go wait by the side of a desert road some 80 miles away.
Humanly speaking, it didn't make sense for Philip to leave--things were just getting exciting! And what about Simon?! Did he truly repent, or was there trouble coming? And yet God knew that there was a job for him to do elsewhere, and that He could continue what He was doing in Samaria with or without Philip. As a friend recently reminded us, there is no waste in God's economy. That lone Ethiopian official had come to Jerusalem searching, and had left--still searching.
Second, The text doesn't tell us that Philip even knew what he was waiting for, or even exactly where on the road he was to go. His orders were: "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. . . . and he rose and went." No mile markers or exit numbers, and no name or picture of a person to watch for. Just "Go." As Philip obeyed, God made the next step clear through His Spirit. I imagine that leaving a fruitful ministry so suddenly was probably hard for Philip to do, but God had made His plan clear.
My family and I are going through a transition right now much more difficult than any we've ever had. It's one that doesn't make sense humanly speaking, because exciting things are happening here. We've seen the Lord save. 5 are getting baptised just over a week before we're scheduled to take off--Oh, and one of those getting married just 3 days before! There are "loose ends" that we want so badly to tie up and "what-if's" that play on our minds. We want to ask: "Why now??? Things are just getting really exciting! The Lord is really working here in Buckley; momentum is building!"
South Carolina is hardly a "desert," but it's not Buckley. It's not where God has placed our hearts for the last 3 years. It's not Wales, where our hearts have been for closer to 20 years. But God is clearly leading us to "Rise and go." We don't know much of anything beyond that, but I have to trust that God will make the next steps clear as we're obedient to what He's already instructed. Another good friend once told us: "It's hard to steer a parked car." If we want God to direct us, we've got to be willing to move with Him.
Did God still have work to be done in Samaria? Yes. Did God stop working in Samaria when Philip left? No. Does God still have work to do in Buckley? Absolutely. Will God stop working in Buckley when we leave? Absolutely not. Like Philip, and like Paul, we must be content wherever God chooses to plant us and willing serve Him, even if He decides to transplant us along the way as He looks at His harvest--Even when it doesn't make sense to us.

19 October 2017

#MeToo and the Christian.


I've heard a lot of opinions circulating with regard to this hashtag. For most, it appears to be--as it was intended--a call for awareness, a call for unity, and for some a call for courage. For some, however, it appears a mystery as to why a simple hashtag is garnering so much attention. This lack of understanding has even led some to openly ridicule, belittle or try to over-spiritualise its intent, or lack thereof. This same lack of understanding, though sincere, has moved some to dismiss the hashtag and simply call on fellow Christians to do more in challenging victims to act immediately and not hide behind their hashtags.

The problem is, a lot of the folks who are calling out the #metoo movement as frivolous haven't actually been there, and cannot begin to fathom the depth of shame the victims are dealing with. Cannot begin to fathom the depth of courage it took to type those two words for the world to see.  Cannot begin to fathom what the hashtag is accomplishing inside each of the victims who have posted. Will it change the problem on a global scale? Probably not. Will it change one, two or a multitude of victims and give them the courage to say, “I’m not living in silent shame anymore.”?  Yes.  So, please stop referring to it as a “failure” or “frivolous.” 

Christians want to help. I sincerely believe that. But they want to be the hero that swoops in and captures all the bad guys. They want to be the movers and shakers in the conversation of how to fix the problem. And I get that. I would love to do the same. But  can I tell you something? Even if every Christian were to rise up against this evil--the evil would still exist. We, as Christians in this life, cannot hope to expel this evil--that day will come when the Lord builds a new heaven and earth.

I would argue that the real heroes to most using this hashtag (or are working up the courage) are those people who, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, held them in the dark while they cried. Who held the punching pillow for them. The ones who pried the broken glass from their hands as they screamed to just feel alive again and whole. Those are the heroes. Those who showed these men and women love when they felt so dirty and unlovable.

As Christians, more often than not, the best we can do is offer love, understanding, a listening ear at first. Will we introduce them to the every lasting hope found in Christ?  Sure we will -- but that will take time before they are ready to listen.  But right now, we have this opportunity to be the encouragement to those who--maybe for the first time in their lives--moved through the shame to find their voice -even if for two words only: #metoo. It is the very first step in the healing process. That is HUGE. It's not a "fix"--that was never its intent. It's a step. A small one to those looking from the outside, but a HUGE step for those taking it.

Sexual abuse is so different from other crimes. It's not like a robbery, where you view a line-up, call them out, send them for a jury to convict and hope to get your stuff back. It's not that easy. You are changed for the rest of your life. There is a part of you that you will never get back. Healing comes, yes, but not without scars that weren’t your own doing. I’m convinced that most victims do not name names mostly because of fear, shame and/or false-guilt.  Sexual abuse victims are NOT just like other victims of crime and cannot be expected to simply follow a protocol. This was not a crime done against them. This was a crime done to them, to their very person. And if I could be so bold, the Church has played a role in discouraging victims from speaking up: 

  • "First we need to address your bitterness."
  • “PTSD? You can't have that. You're a Christian.”
  •  "What did you do to cause the perpetrator to stumble?"
  • “Are you trying to ruin a man of God?” 
  • and the list goes on.

Truth is, if Christians are looking for real change and a call to action in this movement, it may not come from the victims.  It may have to come from them. It may not be in the bold confrontation of perpetrators either, it may be a call to the dark and quiet corners with the hurting. Look around. See this for what it is and start helping by loving, listening and caring.  Please do not try to move in and tell a victim how to handle their grief, or what needs to be done. Be a hero to that one friend you know, not by “doing” but by simply “being.” Nothing more. They don’t want fixed. They want to be heard. They want to be validated. Sometimes, if they are further along in the healing process, they may just want to be held and allowed to fall apart, unhindered and unjudged. Love them.

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, 
if you have love for one another." John 13:35

What will their next step look like? For some, it may be in the form of seeking a therapist or counsellor. For some it may be seeking justice. For others it may take some time to sort out a next step, or even see if they have the strength to take it just yet. But it’s not your step to take. It’s theirs. It's a journey. And no two journeys are alike.

Thank you Jonathan for being my hero.  Thank you for encouraging me in the baby steps and loving me when I was too weak to even take those. 

~ Michelle (#metoo)

28 April 2016

I Know Him! I Know Him!

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies. (I purposely ommitted the word "Christmas", since we have been known to watch Elf in the dead heat of summer.....several times......a day. -- Yeah, it's that good.) But seriously, that is one of my favorite lines. And every single time I watch it, I think of how wonderful it would be if Christians were that excited about knowing their Creator. (Okay, so maybe not hopping-up-and-down-in-yellow-tights excited, but genuinely excited.)
We live in a culture today where Christianity is equated with extremism. We shy away from any titles or buzzwords that would identify us with ideals that are less than socially acceptable. It's sad. Where did those buzzwords come from? From a society who knows little about my God. I do have a relationship with my Creator. I do know Him.  
One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Psalm 119. No, not just because it is the longest, but because for me, it's one of the most encouraging! I was reminded again this week of David's love for the word of God. Take what you know about David -- his life, his victories for the Lord, his courage and even his failures, his shortcomings and doubts. Take them all and you see a real authentic follower of Christ. Not a perfect man -- an authentic man. You see a man broken in one chapter of his life, and shouting the glories of God from the mountain top in the next, only to be chased by his enemies in the chapters following. How did he keep his sanity, let alone his faith? What gave him that confidence; that even when enemies pursued, doubts came and guilt swallowed him whole, he still managed to fight his way back to the reality that God is God, the only God, the real God?  How? Psalm 119 I believe holds the answer. He knew his God. 
Not of Him.
Not about Him. 
He knew Him.
Look at Psalm 119, and what do you see? I see a Psalmist who didn't just read the Bible for a quick minute to start his day. I see a man who walked in the truths of Scripture, focused on them, delighted in them, remembered them and even sang them. During those difficulties in life he tells us in this Psalm that he clings to God's promises, runs to his precepts and meditates on his truths. Always learning, always seeking. This is a man who wants to know his God -- and often in this Psalm he states that he delights in His Word (Bible). The more he learns, the more he delights and hopes in the truth of who God really is.
God isn't an impersonal force of nature, He is not a dictator or puppet master in the great beyond. He's my God. He's my Creator. We have the opportunity to know Him....really know Him - personally. What a privilege and opportunity! What a joy. As David says in verse 14 "In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches."

01 March 2016

The Art of Listening

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. As someone who has both counseled and been counseled, I would say that some of the toughest situations are when you have someone in front of you, you have so much to say, and God says "No, just listen."

As counselors, we're trained to take Scripture and help folks apply it to all aspects of life. We are taught how to effectively walk people through all kinds of situations. We've memorized the top-ten Scripture passages for anything life has to dish out--in alphabetical order.

It's how we think.

It's how we process. 

So, it would stand to reason that when someone approaches us with an issue, a crisis, or a situation, we immediately whip out our mental concordance and start searching for the right verse, the perfect Bible story or name for God. (Sometimes, I have found myself doing these mental gymnastics while the person is still talking!) We have, in our sincere eagerness to help people, lost the art of listening. Not listening with the intent of teaching--listening with the intent of .....well, listening.
We have somehow convinced ourselves that the world "needs" us. Our wisdom, our strengths, our knoweldge and experience. Who else is going to impart the spiritual truths of God's Word to their breaking hearts? But I submit to you that, if we're not careful, we begin to look at ourselves as "fixers" instead of friends. People become projects, and sadly relationships become mere trophies of a "successful" ministry. I've been on both sides of this dichotomy and it's heart-wrenching from both ends.
"Yeah, but.....I had the perfect verse."
That may be true. But the fact of the matter is that sometimes the hurting person in front of you may not be in a place to even hear it . . . not yet anyway. Grief, trauma, loss -- it can be so overwhelming at times that processing any outside information becomes impossible, no matter how well-intended. God may give you that opportunity later, or He may have someone further along life's path to share these truths.
But I don't believe that is the only reason that God may ask for quietness. Maybe God will not give me liberty to speak because He has something for me to learn in their story.
"Um...yeah right. You don't know how messed up they are. They don't have any part of their life together. I don't even know if they are Christians. What could they possibly teach me??"
You don't think God can use an unbeliever to help this missionary lady learn a thing or two?? He used Rahab to help the spies. Men of Israel, God's people - going to a harlot for help. (True story!) Sometimes I need to listen because I'm not the one to teach that person anything. Sometimes, I'm the one learning.
Reading this quote today reminded me of this truth: There are times when the best thing we can do is not do anything but simply listen. I know it's been true for me. I've been blessed with a husband and a few close friends who have taught me the art of listening. They've helped me through the darkest valleys of my life. Sometimes with Scripture -- sometimes with silence. (To those dear folks, I say thank you. You know who you are.) In turn, I've had God impress on my heart to share with hurting folks truths from His Word. However, I've also had Him impress on my heart to listen, hug, hold, and not to talk. It's harder than it sounds!! But I can say I've definitely seen the benefits in my life and in others.
When James said to be swift to hear and slow to speak, he was not talking to fool-hardy, unsaved, annoying people. He was talking to Christians. God doesn't always need our mouths--sometimes He wants to use our ears too.

23 February 2016

Choosing for Myself?

This verse really struck me today. "Then Lot chose for himself..." Five words. Five -- and then Lot's life changed forever (and not for the better, I might add). From what we know of Lot, and from what the Scripture says - it was an informed decision.  He didn't hastily eenie-meenie-miney-mo which land to take. He made, what appeared to be, a good decision.. based on man's standards. He chose what was in his best interest.

I can't tell you how many times God could have written "Then Michelle chose for herself..."  My decisions are generally analyzed and researched to death.  And sadly, usually based on what is in my best interest, or my family's best interest. And what is wrong with that?  Well, nothing, if you want to remove Philippians 2:3 from the Bible.  Nothing at all.  But God didn't tell us to put our needs/wants first.  He told us "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."

This goes against every ounce of common sense. That doesn't make it any less true or any less a directive from our God. It's imperative that we put others first. We must love others more than ourselves, and when we do that love will drive our actions.

Why is this so important?  Let's answer that question, with a question -- How will people spot a follower of Christ?  (Hint, it's not your "Sunday best," your selection of music or extensive knowlede of Greek and Hebrew)  It's your love! "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another." (John 13:35)  People are watching.

Sometimes we like to picture Lot as this good-for-nothing grifter who lived off of the generosity of a rich uncle.  But I do not know if that is accurate.  Lot was a human being, with a choice.  He chose what was in front of him. He chose what he deemed best. He chose instant gratification.  Do I not often do the same?  Do I not often make decisions based on what's in it for me?  What's best for my family? What will make life easier?

I needed this reminder today.  It's not about us. It's about Him. And how I choose to love Him, will affect how I choose to love others.

19 April 2014

When I Survey . . .

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast save in the death of Christ, my Lord; 
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; 
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

How do these words strike you as you read them? Perhaps you immediately put them to a tune in your head. Perhaps you skimmed down to this point because you know the words so well. Perhaps you paused to reflect on the occasion the hymn describes. Perhaps you cringed at the thought of the pain Christ must have endured. Perhaps you even wondered why it was necessary. 

This week of the year brings with it much meaning, much reflection, and even much controversy, but the events that we recall this week really came about to bring one primary thing. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ were necessary for sinful people like us to have eternal life with Him. It's like this . . .

All have sinned, and fall short of God's glory. There is no one that has ever come close to pleasing God on his or her own merit. As self-sufficient as we all like to think we are, there is no means of gaining access to God because of who we are or what we've done. Our inherent desire to please ourselves rather than God only drives us further from God's standard of holiness and toward a very real place called Hell. And that place is far worse than any human being can possibly imagine. Before we can really even think about why Christ's death is significant, we must accept the fact that we are utterly hopeless to achieve God's standard of holiness to enter His Heaven.
"As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one;' . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." -Ro. 3.10, 23

That could be the end of the story, but it doesn't have to be. You see, God loved us in spite of ourselves. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, in an act of love to take upon Himself the penalty of our sin--death. Because He was sinless, He was the only possible candidate. Jesus allowed Himself to be run through a mockery of a trial, beaten beyond recognition, and crucified on a cross--a death of ultimate shame in that culture. A Roman soldier ensured that He was dead. He was laid in a borrowed tomb, and guards were placed around the tomb to ensure that nothing happened to the body. On the third day, Jesus returned to life. Not His ghost, but His human body. He proved His power to deliver from death by delivering Himself! If there is no resurrection, there is no Good News!

"He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross" -Php 2.8
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins acording to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures . . ." -1 Co. 15.3-4

And here's one of the most beautiful parts of the Gospel--its simplicity! God knew that if we were left to figure this out for ourselves it would quickly become so complicated as to become unintelligible (just look at our idea of a tax code!). So He offers us an exchange--Our sin for His righteousness. He offers to free us from bondage to sin that condemns us to Hell, by accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. 
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Ro. 6.23
Once we have accepted the fact of our sin and chosen to turn from the sin that has characterized our life (that's repentance), we are in a place to ask God to forgive our sin, accepting His gift on our behalf through Jesus Christ. God's Word, the Bible, offers a standing invitation to all who will simply turn from their sin and call upon Him. We do this through prayer. 
". . . that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." -Ro. 10.9

I was 6 years old in the living room of my home when I trusted Christ for my salvation. My wife came to Him in a parking garage at 23. Location doesn't really matter. Age doesn't matter. What you've done with your life up to that point doesn't even matter! The one thing that really matters in this life is whether you choose to continue to live for yourself for this short life and spend eternity in Hell, or whether you turn from your sin and pursue Him and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. 

So if you've wondered what Easter is really all about, or maybe if you've lost sight of it amid the bunnies and busy-ness, there it is in a nutshell. It's really about the completion of the first ever Christmas gift--Jesus Christ and our eternal life through His death and resurrection. Kind of gives fresh perspective when we "survey the wondrous cross, doesn't it?! If you'd like to know more about Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation, you can contact me through my family's website.


28 March 2014

An Open (and Desperate) Letter to God

Hear my prayer, O Lord, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, and in Your righteousness.  Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead.
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed.  I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land.
Answer me speedily, O Lord; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.  Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; In You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul;
For I am Your servant.

      -- David

I am not sure what all David experienced in his life - but from his writings, I think it is safe to assume he knew of fear, doubt, guilt, discouragement, and depression.  His writings are raw and authentic. He holds nothing back when communicating his inner turmoil.

As you just read in Psalm 143 David is struggling. His feelings are on his sleeve, open for the world to read:

For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground;  He has made me dwell in darkness; Like those who have long been dead…my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart within me is distressed…My spirit fails.

Wow.  If I didn’t know any better I would say that David was reading some of my journal entries.  Have I not cried out to God with those very same fears and weaknesses?! David is desperate.  I can relate.  I’ve been there. Maybe you have too.  Is your enemy pursuing? 

When I began to study this portion of scripture I came across various opinions as to whom David was talking about here. Whom did he mean by enemy? He could have been speaking of King Saul as he did just chapters before.  Maybe he was speaking of his son Absalom.  Or maybe he was speaking of the enemy within: his thoughts, his doubts, his guilt, those voices in his head that wouldn’t leave him alone.   Whatever his enemy, it is obvious here that they are in heavy pursuit.

I tend to think his enemy was the latter.  It’s a common enemy--one that had preyed on David before; one that preys on us today.  A battle seemed to be raging in his inner being.  Here was a man who truly wanted to follow God, trust God, and love God.  Here was a man who failed in pursuit of righteous living and failed hard.

Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous. 

It’s obvious pretty quickly in verse one that David realizes his standing with the Lord.  David knew that on his own he was nothing.  He wasn’t comparing himself to anyone here but the one true holy God, and he obviously did not measure up.  His eyes were on his own failures; his focus on his shortcomings and sins.  But thankfully that is not where his focus stayed.

Had the chapter ended with verse seven, we would close the book in utter hopelessness.  After all, David has just stated how he had remembered the days of old, when life was good, and God’s work evident.  And now?  Now he feels alone. Now he feels his spirit crushed before his enemy.

Been there. Done that.  I know what it’s like to live on the mountain top.  As David, I have seen His works evident in my life, His protection, His hand guiding my every footstep.  But between every two great mountains is one deep valley.  Yes, I’ve been there too. I have begged God not to turn His back on me, the reality and awareness of my own sin bearing down on me mercilessly. I know what it is like to make a conscious effort to trust God, yet falter at the first sign of fear finding its way to my soul.  Sin is a familiar to me, sometimes more than God is. 

The easy way out is to stay in the valley--to embrace my hopelessness and stay in the mire. “Woe is me, I will never get this right.  I can’t live victoriously, look at me!  I’ll just keep plugging along...defeated.”    Sometimes, it’s easier to give up than to get up.  I believe it’s one of Satan’s cruelest tactics – to keep a Christian in that continual state of defeat.  Guilt is a powerful weapon.  If David were to have closed this chapter right after verse seven, his eyes would have stayed on his own sin, his guilt and Satan would have claimed the victory. 

David yearns for righteousness. His heart is in the right place.  He wants to do right, but he messes up. David fails, yes. We all do.  But he doesn’t stay down. Rather than proverbially beat himself over the head, he looks up and gets up. 

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; in You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

His focus is now upward. Not on his own failures, but on God’s goodness, direction and forgiveness.  David doesn’t take shelter in his own holiness, but in the Lord’s.  He is not safe from his unseen enemies because of a miraculous and immediate perfection in his own willful flesh, but he takes shelter in Christ.

My righteousness isn’t in my determination not to fail, but in Christ’s blood when I do. Even with the best of intentions, if Satan can take my eyes off of Christ's grace and forgiveness and keep them focused on my failures and sins - then he's accomplished his goal.   

Are you struggling? Is guilt slowing you down in your pursuit of Christ?  Is the reality of your sin ever before your eyes? Don’t keep them there.  Take your eyes off of your failures and put them on the One who has forgiven you.  Don’t let the enemy weigh you down with a misplaced guilt.  When Christ died for you, He died for all of your sins—past, present and future.

David failed, but did not stay down.  He wrapped himself in God’s forgiveness.  That wasn’t pride; that was gratefulness.  David wasn’t trying to forget what he did wrong and shrug it off.  He was dealing with it by taking it to the Lord.

Revive me, O Lord, for Your name’s sake! For Your righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble. In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul;

Posted by: Michelle McPeters (@mammamcp)          Don't forget to subscribe above!