April 16, 2020

How Precious is Jesus' Blood?


"The precious blood of Christ." 1 Peter 1:19

Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands, and feet, and side, all distilling crimson streams of precious blood. 

It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it the sins of Christ’s people are atoned for; they are redeemed from under the law; they are reconciled to God, made one with him. 

Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it “cleanseth from all sin.” “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer, no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood, which makes us clean, removing the stains of abundant iniquity, and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved, notwithstanding the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God. 

The blood of Christ is likewise “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember it is God’s seeing the blood which is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same. 

The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood which justifies by taking away sin, does in its after-action, quicken the new nature and lead it onward to subdue sin and to follow out the commands of God. There is no motive for holiness so great as that which streams from the veins of Jesus. 

And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood, because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “They overcame through the blood of the Lamb.” How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus, fights with a weapon which cannot know defeat. The blood of Jesus! sin dies at its presence, death ceases to be death: heaven’s gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! we shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!

Charles H. Spurgeon, (1896). Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster.

March 25, 2020

Why are We Going Through this Trial?


Throughout our life we will experience various trials that will yield personal, spiritual maturity if we persevere through them and do not give up.

It's never pleasant to go through any time of bad experience and for everyone it's quite difficult in a number of different ways.

Many people who are now working from home are facing a new trial of how to productively work from home.

Some are facing a trial of how to teach their children while schools remain closed during the Stay-At-Home directives by state governors. That's quite a challenge if someone has never taught school subjects before.

And we're all facing an economic, financial and employment trial unlike any time in our history. It's a global trial that can either be viewed as an obstacle to growth, or an opportunity to grow further.
What should our attitude be?

TRIALS ARE AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ENTHUSIASTIC. What?? We’re to have joy in our lives when a trial happens to us??? Are you serious? Yes, I am. It's not easy to do, but it must be our attitude if our faith is in Christ alone. Is it?

While Christians are not excluded from expressing emotions of sadness, frustration, discontent, or feeling unhappy overall, we should have a feeling of joy that God is giving us an opportunity to praise Him in the trial that has now come.


Trials should be an occasion of genuine rejoicing in, and to God because He will not allow anyone to go through a trial without the benefit of growing stronger and more mature because of it.

Other translations might use the word 'consider' instead of count and it means that we should think closely, or regard it, but more importantly not to dismiss what is happening.

So pay attention to what’s happening and think carefully and thoughtfully about it too. Don’t be reclusive about the trial, rejoice in it that you will grow stronger spiritually and personally, you’ll mature more too because of it.

What should we realize about trials?

TRIALS ARE TO BE EXPECTED. It is important to note that James says that trials are not a possibility in our lives. He didn't say they might happen. They are an expected certainty. They may surprise us, but they are not a surprise to God.

Surely, maybe you have been part of an occasion where someone was being surprised for a birthday party, or bridal shower, and those are certainly joyous moments.

But when it comes to trials, no one actually thinks that they are going to get themselves ready for the diagnosis of a terminal disease.

No one expects to go through an incredibly distressing time that impacts them financially like a foreclosure on their home, or when the stock market crashes and more than half of their retirement savings is gone.

How many people expected that our economy and social interactions with others would become so restricted as they are now, and even to where our financial lives have been completely upended. Who ever expected that to happen?
What is the purpose?

TRIALS ARE A TEST OF OUR FAITH. Who has really ever enjoyed taking tests? Taking tests in high school were worrisome for most, but not for those who have prepared for the upcoming exam.

The purpose of going to college, graduate school or beyond is to, in the end, be tested on what has been taught throughout the semesters and pass the final exam.

Reading the Bible is like studying for an exam and when the tests come will a person be rooted firmly in the knowledge of Scripture, trusting in the sovereignty of God and trust that His will is being done for a purpose that may not be fully understood, yet God will still be praised anyway?

Will a person abandon their faith because difficult times have come. Loss has occurred. Or, will a person see that this is an opportune time for their lives, to seek God and understand His sovereign will?

Since trials are eventually going to happen, as it is happening right now to everyone, it is important to prepare our faith when it is tested through the continued reading and study of Scripture. A disciplined life of prayer goes right along with reading and studying Scripture too.

Just as we must persevere through current trials, and future trials, we must also persevere in prayer and the reading and study of Scripture.
He's waiting for Jesus 
In closing, approximately four years ago, I was visiting with a man from the church I was pastoring and he did not have a good prognosis about the cancer that had taken hold of his health and his body.

He had been given very little chance of survival, yet his attitude was unlike any I had witnessed from many of my past pastoral hospital visits to those who were sick, or who were sick and dying at home.

The cancer had affected his strength significantly and he held himself up by holding on to the sidebar of the hospital bed in his home. Scripture was still the anchor of his soul though.

When his wife and I had informed him that someone else had just died from cancer and had gone home to be with the Lord, Dennis turned and looked at me and said, “I can’t wait for Jesus to come and get me.”

I couldn’t help but smile, laugh a little bit, but also cry because this man’s faith was so secure in Jesus and he wasn't afraid of dying, but happy that he would soon meet his Savior. His joy was Jesus despite the cancer that taken hold of his body.

He didn’t expect to get cancer, but he held on to Scripture to carry him through and he was certainly carried through the gates of heaven on December 26, 2015.

I'll never forget Dennis, or how his faith was secure despite the trial he and his family faced.

His faith was tested greatly and so were others because we had wanted to see a miracle from God, yet we did not realize that such a trial was not for Dennis alone, but for everyone who knew him and had their faith exclusively in Jesus Christ.

It's a short season that we all have to go through. This trial won't last forever though it may feel like it. Eternity is forever, but not this. This is only a season and seasons change.

It's a trying time for all of us and if there is anything I can pray for you about, please send an email to me at kurtmichaelson@gmail.com.

March 24, 2020

Thoughts on Leading in a Lockdown

Six Thoughts on Leading Your Family in Isolation

TGC will be publishing an edited version of this article. Let me know your thoughts. ~ Chap Bettis



For twelve years, our family of six would make a 22-hour, 1200-mile, two-day van ride from New England to Alabama to see grandparents. Buying airline tickets for all of us was not in our budget. As we strapped ourselves, astronaut-like, into our beloved minivan for our 22 hours of forced confinement, the question lingered, “Would we survive?”


Reminiscing now, my children in their twenties would tell you we not only survived but we thrived. They look back on that long trip and “forced fellowship” with fond memories.

When we started our trips, our highest motive was to keep the children occupied, keep ourselves sane, and arrive safely at the grandparents. Only later did I realize our trip was a unique opportunity to build family identity and togetherness.

Many families are in a similar situation today. This hard shutdown of activities is forcing us into an extraordinary situation. We are quarantined like we are sick but we are not. We are isolated from others but together as a family.

As we approach this unusual crisis, each household has a unique opportunity to disciple our children and grow relationally stronger. Too often our families rush from activity to activity, functioning like Airbnb and Uber services. This unexpected situation gives us a chance to love our closest neighbor – our family member.

Journeying together in confinement yielded good fruit in our family years later. But it required intentionality and work. The following are six principles that may serve to guide your family.

We have an opportunity to grow in leading our family well. Driving our family down to Alabama, it was vital that Sharon and I keep the right perspective. Establishing new routines in the car would challenge our patience. How would we respond to the stress?

Often we want to parent on autopilot. During this time of turbulence, we have a time to grow in patience, active encouragement, wisdom, and leadership skills. The first place we live out the gospel is in our homes. Our children are watching us. Do they see us trusting the Lord or anxious? Are they seeing peace in us?


We have an opportunity to teach service. When our children were young, of course, Sharon and I did the heavy lifting. But as the children grew older, they were called upon to serve. Some could pack the car. Others could occupy the youngest. Everyone had a way to contribute.

In a similar way, we need to think of ways our children can serve. Perhaps this is the time to learn to teach them to cook. Or maybe it is a good time to clean out the basement. Perhaps the oldest doesn’t like playing with the younger ones. This is a perfect time to train him in this.

Our child-centered culture rarely asks children to serve. But Jesus said it was more blessed to give than to receive. If we want to give our children the best, we need to give them chances to serve the family. And of course, all of us should look for opportunities to serve others in medically appropriate ways. We should not ignore the household of God during this time. Checking on neighbors, calling those who live alone or are especially vulnerable are just a few ways to teach the virtue of service.



We have an opportunity to get to know the heart. While you can’t have private conversations in a van, traveling together did slow me down. With Sharon driving, I could crawl into the backseat and hang out with the kids. I could look over their shoulders at the books they were reading. It forced me to enter into their world.

Similarly, this crisis can also give us quality time with each family member. Quality time happens when quantity time happens. And it looks like we have lots of quantity time coming our way in the near future. Make sure you carve out time to connect with a family member. Ask good questions using The Donut Date Journal.If you have a teen that has grown distant, take some time to learn about his or her world. Serve or learn a skill together for the purpose of connecting to the heart.

We have an opportunity to balance fun and learning. There is no doubt about it, 22 hours in the car is trying for anyone, especially a young energetic child. We wanted to capture some of that time for learning in many different forms.

There was devotional time, silent reading time, singing time, read-aloud book time, audiobook time, handheld electronics time, and TV time. Yes, it took effort to prepare those resources, but offering lots of defined “times” throughout the day, gave structure to the day while providing variety.

Similarly, we can put structure in our day. We need both routine and variety; but these are not planned mindlessly. They come from goals we have for our children. Rotate through different activities with purpose. Set a time limit to keep things fresh. Use screen time sparingly and as a reward.

Our Heavenly Father both teaches us and delights in us. Joy is essential to our homes. The current crisis is a good reminder that teachers teach in loco parentis – in place of parents. And it reminds us that as dads, we should be the chief encouragement officer in our households. In five years, will they look back on this crisis with positive thoughts? Teaching, order, routine, joy, and fun are all ingredients of that mix.



We have an opportunity to create family unity. On his final night, Jesus prayed for unity for his disciples. By our love, he told us, all men would know we were his disciples. On our long trips, I gradually came to realize that this forced closeness was an opportunity to bend the natural selfness of each child toward the greater good of the family.

This new isolation is going to put strain on family relationships. But we have an opportunity to cast a vision for family unity. Don’t let screens continue isolating individual family members during your isolation. Do what you need to do to detox your teen from her device to connect with and love the whole family.

Finally, we tried to be sensitive to the morale of the troops. The trip back was always the hardest! And the end of the day was also difficult. What treats could we save for the time when they were most down? We brought out the screens and the candy necklaces for when they—and we—were at our limits.

Though our children can handle more than we think, they do have their limits. A good leader takes responsibility for the morale of his sheep. Even as he was facing the cross, Jesus thoughtfully prepared his disciples for the coming shock.

Conclusion

There is no doubt these will be rough days. Yet, we also have a unique opportunity to reconnect, rediscover, and rejoice in the family the Lord has given us. Good leadership is vital to any group of people. And that includes our family.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to reach out and let me know how I can serve you! Blessings during these uncertain times.


Chap Bettis is the author of The Disciple-Making Parent: Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. He also is a frequent conference speaker and the executive director of The Apollos Project, a ministry devoted to helping parents disciple their children. For the previous 25 years, he was lead pastor in a New England church plant. He and his wife Sharon, have four adult children and reside in Rhode Island.

September 29, 2019

Prove it

The fruitfulness of our life is seen by the growth in becoming more like Christ on a daily basis, which is the proof of our relationship with Him that we are growing in our understanding of Scripture, and God's redemptive work in our lives as a result of the justification of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ for our sins.
  • How well can you prove that you're growing as a Christian?
  • How is the Fruit of the Spirit growing in your life?
  • What have you learned more about God through the study of His Word?
  • What is your daily walk with Christ like? Is it casual, or a growing intimacy with Jesus?

September 5, 2019

Who is the man that fears God?

The man who fears God, and desires truly to know him, has some little measure of godliness. 

The man who has begun to trust the Saviour whom God has set forth as the great propitiation for sin, has a blessed measure of godliness. 

The man, whose communion with God is constant, whose earnest prayers and penitential tears are often observed of the great Father, and who sighs after fuller and deeper acquaintance with the Lord, - this man is godly in a still higher sense. And he who, by continual fellowship with God has become like him, upon whom the image of Christ has been photographed, for he has looked on him so long, and rejoiced in him so intensely, - he is the godly man. 

The man who finds his God everywhere, who sees him in all the works of his hands, the man who traces everything to God - whether it be joyful or calamitous - the man who looks to God for everything, takes every suit to the throne of grace, and every petition to the mercy-seat, the man who could not live without his God, to whom God is his exceeding joy, the help and the health of his countenance, the man who dwells in God, - this is the godly man. 

This is the man who shall dwell forever with God, for he has a God-like-ness given to him; and in the Lord's good time he shall be called away to that blessed place where he shall see God, and shall rejoice before him forever and ever.

Charles Spurgeon

An excerpt from the sermon: Prayer, The Proof of Godliness

Psalm 32:6, For this shall everyone that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.

July 20, 2019

Don't Underestimate Your Spiritual Enemy

“A thorough knowledge of the enemy and a healthy respect for his prowess are a necessary preliminary to victory in war. Similarly, if we underestimate our spiritual enemy, we shall see no need for God's armor, we shall go out to battle unarmed with no weapons but our puny strength, and we shall be quickly and ignominiously (embarrassingly) defeated.” John Stott, The Message of Ephesians, regarding Ephesians 6:10-18.
If you knew that your enemy had 3 characteristics as being powerful, wicked and shrewd, you would not fight against this opponent without assistance, or the proper gear.
Notice also that the descriptions of whom is in this spiritual war are not in singular form but plural - rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil.
There is more than one opponent against the believer, which is why we are to be praying at all times, for all the saints (Christians) requesting help from God.
The military doesn’t enter a combat situation without a strategy, weapons, or protective gear, and it’s never a one man show. The same is true for the believer: our strategy is Scripture, our weapons are prayer and the Body of Christ collectively praying for each other, and our protective gear is wearing the armor of God.
If you don’t think you’re in a spiritual battle now, you might be either blind, or in a spiritual coma, but there’s a spiritual war going on in everyone’s life and they need prayer.
Who are you praying for that’s going through a battle right now? How often will you pray for them? Will you pray until the enemy is defeated?
Don’t go into battle alone or unprepared.

July 15, 2019

I thought God had not kept His promise

Roger Simms was hitchhiking his way home and would be a date that would never be forgotten. The date: May 7. His heavy suitcase made him tired and he was anxious to take off his Army uniform once and for all. Flashing the hitchhiking sign to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek, new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped. The passenger door opened. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back, and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat.

“Going home for keeps?” the driver asked.

“Sure am,” Roger responded.

“Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago.”

“Not quite that far.  Do you live in Chicago?”

“I have a business there.  My name is Hanover.”

After talking about many things, Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to witness about Christ to this man who appeared to be in his 50s and apparently a successful businessman. But he kept putting it off, till he realized he was just thirty minutes from his home. It was now or never.

So, Roger cleared his throat, “Mr. Hanover, I would like to talk to you about something very important.” He then proceeded to explain the way of salvation, ultimately asking Mr. Hanover if he would like to receive Christ as his Savior.

To Roger's astonishment the Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road, and Roger thought he was going to be ejected from the car. But the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger saying, “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

Five years went by, Roger married, had a two-year-old boy, and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a business trip to Chicago, he found the small, white business card Hanover had given him just five years before. 

In Chicago he looked up Hanover Enterprises and a receptionist told him it was impossible to see Mr. Hanover, but he could see Mrs. Hanover.

A little confused as to what was going on, he was ushered into a lovely office and found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.

She extended her hand. “You knew my husband?”

Roger told how her husband had given him a ride when hitchhiking home after the war.

She asked, “Can you tell me when that was?”

Roger replied saying, “It was May 7, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the Army.”

“Anything special about that day?” she asked.

Roger hesitated.  Should he mention giving his witness?  Since he had come so far, he might as well take the plunge.

“Mrs. Hanover, I explained the gospel. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel and he gave his life to Christ that day.”

Explosive sobs shook her body and after what seemed like a few minutes, she composed herself, she spoke through her sobbing and said, “I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him.”

“And where is your husband, Mrs. Hanover?” Roger asked her.

“He's dead,” she wept, struggling with words. “He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept His promise.”

Sobbing uncontrollably, she added, “I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought He had not kept His word!”

-----------------------


Even in that extreme case, God was faithful and He will be faithful to us too! Rest in Him. Trust Him. Serve Him. Believe Him. He is who He claims to be, and He will do all that He has promised to do. He is The Faithful God!

The greatest thing that you can remember concerning the faithfulness of God and what He has done for you is when your sins were atoned for on the cross that Jesus Christ was crucified on.

The greatest promise that God can give to a person who repents of their sins and who puts their faith exclusively in Christ alone is the promise of eternal life.

Who are you praying for to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? God is faithful.