Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Help and My Deliverer

One Saturday morning, when I was around ten years old, my elder brother Stuart and I were running and jumping off the side of our street down an embankment into a white sand pit left by builders. It was a lot of fun. At first anyway!

The object of our game was to see who could jump the furthest. I kept trying to increase my “personal best” even after my brother lost interest and walked back home. In preparation for my final leap, I got myself mentally psyched up, ran as fast as I could, and bounded high into the air to boost my trajectory. But upon landing I hyperextended my left knee. A sharp pain shot through my leg.

I had ruptured several blood vessels. My knee started swelling up like a balloon. I lay there helplessly in the pit. In a state of panic, I cried out to my brother as loud as I could, “Stuart! Stuart! Help me!” But, he was too far away to hear me. Eventually I managed to drag myself up the hill onto the street with my arms. “Help! Help! I can’t move!” I hollered.

My dad happened to be standing in front of our house with my brother and spotted me. At first they thought I was pretending. But—pretty soon—they realized I was actually injured. They ran over to see what was wrong. My dad picked me up and carried me back to the house.

I ended up in the hospital where the doctor inserted a needle to siphon the blood out of my engorged knee. A day later, I was sent home with a blue cast that covered my entire leg. All the sympathy and attention I received upon returning to school was very cool, especially from the girls. But I wouldn’t have chosen to experience this ordeal again.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a pit? Trapped. Hurting. Injured. If not in a literal pit—perhaps an emotional or spiritual one? If you have or are, you’re in good company. In the Bible we read of a number of heroes of faith who landed in such dire circumstances: Joseph, Daniel, and Jeremiah to name just a few.

The biblical character I would like to focus my attention on, however, is David. He writes about his experience of being in the pit and also being delivered by God in Psalm 40. This beautiful Psalm addresses several themes that we can all relate to in our own lives. David describes the emotional agony of being ensnared in the miry bog and how he cried out to the Lord for help.

The “pit” can represent any number of life’s trials. Your pit could be poor health, the loss of your job and financial security, betrayal by friends, an unfaithful mate, rebellious children, or some other overwhelming problem. You may be personally responsible for landing in the pit, or you may be a victim of the sins or mistakes of others.

David models for us what to do when we find ourselves in the pits of life in Psalm 40 (ESV).

My Help and My Deliverer

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

  40 waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.[a]
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance[b]
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.
11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    Lordmake haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God! 

We can break down Psalm 40 into seven points for consideration. When you find yourself in the pit or the depths of discouragement and despair, you should respond in the following ways:

1. Wait. You need to wait intently on God to deliver you from trouble (verses 1-3).

2. Trust. You will be blessed for trusting in the Lord and not men or your own devices (verses 4-5).

3. Obey. You will do well to recognize what God desires from you and what He doesn’t (verses 6-8).

4. Proclaim. You need to remember to share the good news of God’s deliverance and his steadfast love (verses 9-10).

5. Pray. You are the recipient of God’s mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness (verses 11-15).

6. Seek & Rejoice. You should want all people who seek God to find joy and gladness in Him (verse 16).

7. Give Thanks. You are weak and vulnerable, but the Lord sees your struggles and cares about your safety and well-being. Therefore, express to Him your gratitude (verse 17).

Many people either ignore God or view him as being far-removed and disinterested concerning the intricacies or difficulties of their lives. But this is simply not the case at all. God is ever-present and deeply concerned about each one of us.

You can cry out to the Lord to save you from the pits of despair, discouragement and destruction. God will listen and respond to your pleas for help.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

You've Been Called!

Recently at church I said to the adult Bible class: “Raise your hand if you’re a Christian!” Every hand shot into the air with little hesitation.

Next, I asked something a bit trickier: “Now, raise your hand if you’re a minister!” 

People looked around awkwardly to see how others were responding. Eventually about a third of the class raised their hands—and then only timidly so.

How would you have responded? I hope you would have raised your hand with confidence. You see—as Christians we’re all called to be ministers.

The term “minister” has been professionalized in the church. These days only those with the “proper” training and credentials are typically referred to as being ministers. Most laypersons in the church associate the term with full-time preachers, pastors, or other clergy. This is regrettable.

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV) exclaims, You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Wow—what a powerful statement! Peter is telling us that each and every believer is a part of God’s holy priesthood. In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, the apostle Paul says all Christians are called to the “ministry of reconciliation.” Sharing the good news of the gospel is all of our responsibility.

Yes, you’ve been personally called into God’s service. The Lord has prepared a special purpose for you and has provided you with the necessary gifts and talents to fulfill your unique role in the body of Christ.

So, what is God calling you to do? If you don’t already know, pray fervently about it. Ask God to show you. Discover your purpose and ignite your passion. Christ is counting on you!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Power of Words

Words matter to me. I am constantly trying to figure out how to say things better, clearer, and more persuasively. In my role as a husband and father, I have also learned how words can make a big difference.

Our words can heal or damage, build up or tear down, strengthen or discourage, produce confidence or elicit fear, and result in closeness or alienation. Therefore, we must learn to choose our words wisely. But this challenge is easier said than done. If you’re anything like me, so often by the time I realize what I’ve said—and the tone with which I’ve said it—it’s already too late.

In Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV), Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Yes, our choice of words is serious business!

There are a few phrases that can wield a huge impact upon our relationships. These words constitute some powerful, yet brief statements or affirmations. Whether we’re describing interactions in our families between spouses or parents and children, at work between fellow workers, church, school, among boyfriends or girlfriends, or just friends in general, the words I’m about to share are very important.

“I understand you.”

People need to feel understood. It hurts to feel misjudged and misunderstood. So many unnecessary problems could be avoided if people would take the time to get to know each other and seek mutual understanding. Sometimes we jump to conclusions and make faulty assumptions about others.

James makes this statement: “Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (James 1:19-20, ESV). We will only be able to understand people when we carefully listen to them.

“I respect you.”

When we feel respected, we feel better not only about ourselves but also about the other person. This sense of personal validation motivates us to want to “up our game” and become better people.

Peter says, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Pet. 3:15-16, ESV).

“I forgive you.”

At some point in our lives, we find our selves in dire need of forgiveness. We hurt each other, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. We do and say things that damage our relationships.

Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, ESV). Paul writes, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32, ESV). When someone recognizes and acknowledges their mistake or sin, it is our Christian duty to forgive them and put the trespass behind us.

“I need you.”

Deep down, we all want to feel needed. It builds up our self-esteem and self-confidence. After the apostle Paul rebuffed the young John Mark for deserting him and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, Mark must have felt pretty low (see Acts 15:37-41). Therefore, I can’t imagine what it must have meant to Mark when, a few years later, Paul penned the following words:  “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11, ESV). Mark surely felt validated and redeemed.

“I appreciate you.”

A little appreciation goes a long way. When persons feel appreciated, their confidence is bolstered. They feel like they have made a positive difference and therefore have purpose. In Ephesians 1:16 (ESV), Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” We need to remember to tell people and tell God, “Thank you!” It’s important.

“I love you.”

Many children and adults in this world seldom, if ever, hear that they are loved. To feel loved is to feel full inside, joyful, and hopeful. Col. 3:14 (ESV) says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” John instructs, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7, ESV).

I understand you. I respect you. I forgive you. I need you. I appreciate you. I love you. These are powerful words that make a big difference!

Twitter: @RyanNoelFraser
Facebook: His Heart, My Hands

Monday, March 14, 2016

Keys to Raising Faithful Children

I don't know that there is one simple answer—or magic bullet—to achieving success as parents in raising faithful, spiritually minded children. But, instead, I believe there are several factors that may add up to create a greater positive impact in their spiritual lives.

What follows are eight practical ideas and suggestions:

First, demonstrate personal commitment to the Lord and His church that sets a strong example your children. In your own Bible study, prayer-life, evangelistic work, and kingdom service, let your kids observe faith-in-action, which will leave a lasting impression. Make sacrifices of time, energy, and resources for the cause of Christ. This way, your children will see the importance of denying self, taking up their own cross, and following Jesus.

Second, set clear family priorities regarding church attendance for all services throughout the week. There should never be a question of whether or not you as a family will be attending services. Many parents today send mixed-signals to their children regarding the importance of faithful church attendance by their own neglect to do so, and by putting other things ahead of it. It’s up to you to set the right precedent!

Third, provide your children with opportunities to get personally involved in serving within the life of the church, whether it be VBS, teaching, going on life-changing mission trips, leading in public worship assemblies, participating in church building cleanup days, or other such activities. In this way, church work is not just something they observe from the "sidelines." Instead, they will be able to experience the joy, satisfaction, and growth of personally participating in kingdom work.

Fourth, expose your children to spiritual fellowship with other Christians through your hospitality and continual efforts to invite members of the congregation, as well as ministers and missionaries, into your home. In this way, your kids will benefit from being around other faithful adult Christians and will be influenced by their example of love and dedication to the Lord.

Fifth, hold regular family devotionals and home Bible studies. This will leave a lasting impression, because your children will experience the blessing of intimate family worship and grow in their knowledge, faith, and love for God. Later in life, some of their fondest memories will very likely be of the times they spent singing, praying, and studying God's Word within your home.

Sixth, encourage your children on a daily basis to stand up for their Christian beliefs and values at school, with their friends, and elsewhere. Don’t inhibit them from being exposed to other religious groups as well, but always give them the opportunity to ask Biblical questions afterwards, so as to gain a deeper understanding of why your family believes and practices what you do. It’s important that you never leave them with the impression that you expect them to have a "blind faith," but rather one that is well informed.

Seventh, build positive memories connected to congregational life through family participation in church picnics, retreats, summer camps, Bible lectureships, mission workshops, youth rallies, and other activities that occur away from the more formal setting of the church building. These unique opportunities will allow them to experience a wide variety of religious-related experiences and catch a broader vision for the body of Christ. It will also provide them with valuable opportunities to meet other Christian families and young people.

Eighth, if at all possible, encourage your children to attend a Christian college where their faith, knowledge, and exposure to other Christians will be facilitated. Doing so will provide a safe and spiritually nurturing environment in which they can foster life-long friendships with other believers and sit at the feet of great teachers of the Bible, who challenge and inspire them to grow.

While there are no doubt many other helpful ideas to helping your children develop a strong and vibrant faith, I believe these strategies will positively impact your children’s faith in a powerful and lasting way.

Proverbs 22:6 says, Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (ESV)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

SOAP for the Soul

My favorite bar soap is Irish Spring. I’ve liked it and used it for a long time. I like to think it's a "manly-man's" soap unlike those wimpy brands!

The back of the iconic green cardboard box reads as follows:
  • Great, invigorating scent
  • Helps keep you feeling clean and fresh
  • Helps retain your skin’s natural moisture
  • Helps leave skin feeling naturally healthy – not tight and dry
Who could ask for anything more than that? Right?

Soap is a part of our everyday life. It comes in several different forms. We launder our clothes in detergent and wash the dishes with dishwashing liquid. And we clean our hands, hair and bodies with soap, shampoo, or body wash.

We like to be clean, to smell good, and to reduce germs. I can’t imagine what we would do without soap. The world would certainly be smellier, dirtier, and more “germier.” But, I’m more concerned about soap for the soul – spiritual soap: that which refreshes and renews our insides.

David pled with God for a “clean heart” in Psalm 51:1-12. In Isaiah 1:16-17 (ESV), God commands, Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.”

Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocritical and legalistic attitude. They harped more about then ceremonial washing of cups and plates than seeking to be spiritually clean in their souls. On the inside, these religious leaders were greedy and self-indulgent (Matt. 23:25-26). In other words, they were dirty!

The apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian Christians, in light of God’s promises, to cleanse their lives from all bodily and spiritual defilements. In this way, they were to pursue perfection their holiness in godly reverence and fear (2 Cor. 7:1).

The Lord’s brother James challenges us to have clean hands and hearts rather than being fickle or double-minded in our spiritual priorities and faith (James 4:7-8).

The apostle John says, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7, ESV). 

We all sin, but what matters most is how we respond in genuine repentance and seek God’s will in our lives.

If you will indulge me for a moment, I want to use the word “SOAP” as an acrostic:


“S” is for Salvation that is only accessible through the precious name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:11-12). The gospel is the saving power for all who believe in Christ (Rom. 1:16).

“O” stands for Obedience, which is essential if we want to be saved. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, ESV). Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15, ESV).

“A” represents Abide. We are only able to bear spiritual fruit by abiding in the vine, which is Christ (John 15:4). Abiding means doing our best not to sin, but rather to keep God’s commandments (1 John 3:6, 24) and follow Christ’s teaching (2 John 1:9).

“P” stands for Purity. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8, ESV). We must focus our minds on “whatever is pure” (Phi. 4:8). We must flee from youthful passions in order to pursue God’s righteousness and “call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22, ESV).

What type of spiritual SOAP are you using? There's nothing that compares to feeling clean!